Tag Archives: Marijuana

“Can a debtor in the marijuana business obtain relief in the federal bankruptcy court? No.”


August 27, 2015

No Relief: Ruling Highlights Lack of Options for Marijuana Companies Seeking Bankruptcy Protection

 

By John Schroyer

“Can a debtor in the marijuana business obtain relief in the federal bankruptcy court? No.”

That’s a line in the first paragraph of a recent court ruling against Frank Arenas, a Colorado marijuana grower and wholesaler who tried to win federal bankruptcy protection. A U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge initially ruled that Arenas can’t claim such protections because marijuana is still illegal, and an appellate panel affirmed that decision last Friday.

It’s the latest in a string of court decisions on cannabis-related bankruptcy cases dating back to at least 2012, when a judge involved in the Arenas decision issued a similar ruling involving another marijuana company. There have been at least four other such decisions as well in Colorado and California – all with the same outcome as Arenas’ case.

So what can distressed marijuana companies do if they’re on the verge of bankruptcy? The answer may depend on which state a company is in, and how it’s structured.

Arenas, for example, made a big mistake in not keeping his personal assets separate from his business, said Arizona attorney Gary Michael Smith. That’s evident, Smith said, because Arenas tried initially to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection and then convert it into Chapter 13, which is only doable if it’s a personal – not a business – bankruptcy.

“The mistakes he made makes it pretty clear that he conducted business in his personal name, and/or he was personally guaranteeing the debt that his business was assuming, which is horrible,” Smith said. “One should not do that, particularly with those amounts of money.”

Sean McAllister, a Denver attorney who also works closely with the cannabis industry, said one of the best and most obvious ways to avoid such pitfalls is to be careful when setting up a marijuana business at the outset.

“The most important thing for any cannabis company is to be really thinking about this as you make agreements, as you borrow money, as you enter into partnerships, because there are things you can do to limit your liability,” McAllister said. “The lack of bankruptcy protection is a problem, but it’s more of a problem if people have exposed their personal assets.”

As Marijuana Business Daily wrote about last year, there are a number of ways that cannabis companies can prepare for financial hardships and possibly avoid even having to consider bankruptcy.

There may be some additional steps companies can take, depending on the state where a given business is located, Smith said.

For example, a possibly unique precedent was set in Arizona several years ago when a court sided with a cannabis company that owed creditors $500,000, Smith said. The judge tossed a lawsuit brought by two creditors, saying the loans were illegal in the first place because they were given to a business handling cannabis, which is illegal under federal law.

“If that guy walked into my office and had this problem, what I’d probably suggest is he go into a federal lawsuit to have the debt related to the marijuana operation deemed void for illegality,” said Smith, referring to the owner of the Arizona business seeking relief from creditors. That would mean “nobody could enforce those debts against” the company, he added.

That probably wouldn’t work everywhere, said Colorado attorney Rachel Gillette. She said the state put in place protections for such deals, so under Colorado statute such an argument wouldn’t apply.

Still, there are other potential state laws that businesses might be able to take advantage of, said New York attorney Hanan Kolko. Some states have their own versions of bankruptcy protections, he said, that wouldn’t have the same conflicts as federal bankruptcy laws.

“To an extent that a state has that, a cannabis business could use that,” Kolko said.

But that underscores the need for business owners to do their homework and talk to legal counsel, both before companies are founded and if they ever run into financial hardship. And it highlights a need for further reforms.

“It’s just another example which illustrates why we need substantive reform at the federal level,” Gillette said. “It doesn’t work to operate in this sort of quasi-legal arena. The federal law needs to change.”

John Schroyer can be reached at johns@mjbizmedia.com

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For some in the South, defying medical marijuana laws is the Lord’s work


By Quint Forgey, News21 August 19 at 6:30 AM

Image result for For some in the South, defying medical marijuana laws is the Lord’s work

Editor’s note: This is one in a series of articles on the legalization of marijuana, produced in partnership with the 2015 Carnegie-Knight News21 national student reporting project.

CHESTER, S.C. — She lives in the wooden house her grandfather built more than a century ago in Chester, S.C., a rural community about a two-hour drive southeast of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The cluttered home is dimly lit and not air-conditioned, with the low hum of floor fans filling in rare lulls in conversation. Two chihuahuas, Cricket and Joe, scuttle around Ada Jones’s feet as she peers down through her eyeglasses at the iPad in her hands.

The tablet looks conspicuously out of place among the black-and-white photos hanging on the walls and the dangling, beaded divider into the next room. It serves as her connection to the outside world, as well as the outside world’s connection to Jones.

If someone needs medical marijuana, they contact her over the Internet.

Jones encourages those who reach out to her to purchase marijuana illegally and make their own cannabis oil. If they’re unsuccessful, she puts them in contact with a supplier who can sell them a more refined product.

“It’s almost like playing God,” Jones said. “If somebody contacts me, I have to look at them and wonder. I wonder if that’s police first, not if I can help their kid. I try not to do that, but you have to because you’re scared.”

Jones helps everyone she can, whether they be young mothers of epileptic children or older patients suffering from chronic pain. Her specific brand of civil disobedience, like so many other facets of Southern life, is captained by her faith.

“They talk about the South being the Bible belt, and praise the Lord we are,” Jones said. “I cannot not help somebody. I have to. As a Christian, that’s what I’m here for.”

Many Southern states have a long and failed history with medical marijuana, mired deep in forgotten statutes and a lost generation of patients. Only recently, as the marijuana movement sweeps through statehouses, have those laws become political tinder for a new debate in the Old South.

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drew curtis (Independent) for governor has said he would sign into law a measure allowing the use of recreational marijuana in the state of Kentucky if the legislature approved it.


By Jack Brammer

jbrammer@herald-leader.comAugust 10, 2015

FRANKFORT — Digital entrepreneur Drew Curtis and his wife, Heather Curtis, paid $500 and submitted more than 9,000 signatures Monday morning to enter the race for Kentucky governor and lieutenant governor as independents.

The secretary of state’s office said a few hours later that the husband-and-wife team from Versailles had submitted at least 5,000 valid signatures of registered Kentucky voters, as required by law, and therefore would appear on the Nov. 3 ballot.

The major party names on the ballot are Democrat Jack Conway and running mate Sannie Overly, and Republican Matt Bevin and running mate Jenean Hampton.

Tuesday is the deadline for independent candidates to enter the race.

Drew and Heather Curtis, both 42, are not the first married couple to run for the state’s two highest elective offices. Steven Maynard and his wife, Bonnie, of Inez ran for governor and lieutenant governor in the 1995 Democratic primary. Paul Patton won the nomination.

The Conway campaign said it had nothing to say about the Curtis campaign. The Bevin campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Speaking at a news conference in front of the Capitol, Drew Curtis said he and his wife were citizen candidates, not politicians.

Curtis said he didn’t know from which political party he would draw more votes, but he predicted he would win the race and not be a spoiler. He was a Democrat before changing to an independent last year.

Curtis said that Conway has yet to say no to any question that begins with “would you fund this?” and that Bevin can’t remember his policy positions “20 minutes after he says them.”

As governor, Curtis said, he would consult with his friends in Silicon Valley and try to use his digital entrepreneurship background to bring broadband Internet access to all parts of Kentucky.

Curtis is founder of Fark.com, a news aggregation website. He described it as a combination of The Daily Show and the Drudge Report.

He said he would “use a lot of social media” to win the race and would not accept campaign contributions from special interests.

To participate in some of the upcoming debates, Curtis said, he would need to attract at least 10 percent of the vote in public polling. In a recent Bluegrass Poll, Curtis stood at 8 percent.

On issues, Curtis said he thought the state has enough money to continue funding an expanded Medicaid program in 2017, but he wasn’t sure about 2020.

He said he would sign into law a measure allowing the use of recreational marijuana in the state if the legislature approved it.

He also said county clerks should “do their job” and issue marriage licenses to all qualifying couples.

Curtis said he voted for Democrat Barack Obama for president in 2008 but had forgotten his presidential preference in 2012.

Of this year’s down-ticket candidates for other state constitutional offices, he said he liked lieutenant governor candidate Hampton, saying they had talked about popular fictional characters “Batman” and The Walking Dead.

Curtis declined to be pegged as a liberal or conservative, calling himself “an ultra-pragmatist.”

He said he chose his wife to be his running mate because they have operated a company together for 16 years and make “a great team.”

Heather Curtis said her husband was “brilliant” and that “he moves mountains.”

Heather Curtis acknowledged that she first said no when her husband told her he would like to run for governor and wanted her to be his running mate.

Curtis’ campaign manager is Andrew Sowders. His campaign communications director is Heather Chapman.

Jack Brammer: (859) 231-1302. Twitter: @BGPolitics. Blog: bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com.

Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2015/08/10/3982402/farkcom-founder-drew-curtis-files.html#storylink=cpy

“Somebody bring me weed. I’ll pay for it,” Twitter user @Rosa_Sparkz said


GoddessA careless marijuana procurer who goes by the name @Rosa_Sparkz received a shock, when her quest to buy the drug online was met with a keen response from the Palm Beach County’s Sheriff’s Office (PBSO), and then went viral.

“Somebody bring me weed. I’ll pay for it,” Twitter user @Rosa_Sparkz said.

In just minutes, PBSO’s Twitter account responded with a joking "Where should we meet you?" The tweet spread like wildfire, and has since received over 30 thousand shares.

“My first reaction was that I thought it was a troll account. That was until I saw the verified check mark and all of the retweets started coming in,” Sparkz told the Deep Commotion blog.

Rather than being scared by the unexpected respondent, Sparkz embraced the moment, also calling out for vodka, and later confessing that she was “high laughing.”

“When it went viral I got really excited. I was having a pretty boring night after work but this definitely sparked some life [in]to my night!” said Sparkz.

“I definitely don’t regret it. I am relishing … these five minutes of internet fame!”

Sparkz said the police made no attempt to contact her in the aftermath, despite possession of up to 20 grams of marijuana being a misdemeanor with a possible jail sentence of up to one year in Florida.

While most approved of the light-hearted exchange over a crime that is quickly disappearing from the US legal landscape, due to a raft of legalizations, others were not amused.

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Funtown Mountain owner tells his side of the story (arrested for Marijuana in Louisville, Ky)


Will Russell drives a trolley away from Funtown Mountain on Thursday

 

Posted: Friday, July 17, 2015 12:01 am

BY GINA KINSLOW / Glasgow Daily Times

CAVE CITY — Police were called to Funtown Mountain on Thursday, after responding to two separate calls there Wednesday.

The police received a 911 call around 11 a.m. Thursday regarding a disturbance.

“When we arrived there wasn’t one,” said Police Chief Jeff Wright. “Everything seemed to be normal.”

All three calls were regarding Will Russell, owner of Funtown Mountain, who was allegedly damaging property in the attraction’s gift shop.

Russell spoke to media on Thursday as he sat in a red, white and blue lawn chair in front of the gift shop.

He told members of the media from the Glasgow Daily Times and WDRB – a television news station in Louisville – he had been detained most of the week in handcuffs.

He indicated he sustained injuries when he was arrested last weekend during The Lebowski Fest in Louisville.

Russell was charged with possession of marijuana, menacing and resisting arrest Saturday. He was arrested at Executive Strike & Spare, a bowling alley where the fest was celebrated, the Daily Times previously reported.

On Thursday, Russell said he broke 19 years of sobriety during the weekend event when he accepted a beer from someone in the parking lot of the bowling alley.

He also said police found him smoking a corn cob pipe.

When asked if he was smoking marijuana, Russell said he didn’t know what the substance was.

“It was green and it smelled a little bit like cotton candy. It was probably bluegrass, you know Kentucky bluegrass or hemp or something like that,” he said. “There’s a lot of names for it.”

Russell said he suffers from a bipolar condition and is taking medication. He also told reporters he was under the care of a psychiatrist and had been seeing the same physician for 20 years.

He said he had been hospitalized last year.

“I was given electric shock therapy. I have no short-term memory,” he said. “It’s been fine. I’ve got a lot of people to help me keep track of things.”

On Wednesday, after the second time police were summoned to Funtown Mountain, Russell was taken to a facility in Bowling Green.

Russell wrote about the incident on his personal Facebook page, and talked about it on Thursday with reporters.

“They interviewed me. They determined I was not a threat to myself or anyone else,” he said. “So, they let me go.”

Russell said he was dropped off at the White Squirrel Brewery in Bowling Green, where he was given a free hot dog and French fries, before being sent on his way.

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D.C.’s State Fair will have a marijuana growing competition this year


By Perry Stein July 16 at 9:34 AM

 

It’s been five months since marijuana was legalized in D.C., and now there’s a public opportunity to show off, if you’ve been letting that liberty take root.

The DC State Fair — a seemingly Pinterest-inspired event showcasing the culinary, artistic and agricultural talents of the District — is adding a marijuana growing competition to its lineup of events this year. The “Best Bud” category now joins the fair’s growing list of competitions, which already includes the honey contest, the homebrew contest, the knit and crotchet contest, the funkiest-looking vegetable contest, the pickled food contest and more. The fair also added a pet parade for the first time this year.

“Now that it’s legal for residents of the District to grow their own plants, we wanted a way to highlight this new freedom while also showing off the agricultural talents of the District’s people,” Anna Tauzin, a board member and outreach director for the fair, wrote in an e-mail. The event is held each year in September. DC State Fair is a nonprofit run by residents.

Each submitted marijuana plant will be judged based on four categories, according to the competition forms:

  1. Appearance: Is it well-manicured? Does it have Trichomes (sparkling crystals)?
  2. Odor: What does it smell like? Does it have a sweet, spicy, or murky smell?
  3. Touch: Is it sticky? Does the stem snap or bend?
  4. Your Story: Did you grow your plant organically? Did you use artificial light, natural light, or a combination? Was the plant grown hydroponically or in soil? All of this information and anything else you would like the judges to know should be included in the Your Story category below in the registration from.

Participants must submit one small bud, about 1 to 2 grams, from their plant in a small Mason jar.

The buds, however, will not be judged on how effectively they can get someone high and what type of high they trigger. Judges will not be sampling them because, Tauzin said, the fair will be adhering to the law. and it’s still illegal to smoke marijuana in a public space. The DC State Fair will be held Sept. 12 at Shaw’s Old City Farm and Guild, a public space on the 900 block of Rhode Island Avenue NW.

[Read more: How to stay out of jail now that pot is legal in D.C.]

The judges have not yet been selected, but Tauzin assures they will all be experts of the product. Adam Eidinger — the chair of the DC Cannabis Campaign who spearheaded efforts to legalize marijuana in the city — is the volunteer coordinator for the bud event.

D.C. isn’t the only place to try to showcase marijuana at its fair. The Denver County Fair added cannabis-themed competitions to its fair last year. But, it canceled the competitions and marijuana exhibits amid controversy this year: More than a dozen people claimed they were unknowingly served chocolate-infused marijuana and sued, even though actual pot was prohibited on the premises. (The fair organizer, according to the AP, said marijuana was not dropped because of this incident, but because sales at marijuana-related vendors were slow.)

Entry forms for the “Best Bud” competition must be submitted by midnight Sept. 5, and participants will be capped at 50. The judging will begin, of course, at 4:20 p.m. the day of the fair.

And what will the winner of D.C.’s first sanctioned growing competition go home with? “A beautiful blue ribbon and lots of glory, but also likely some swag items from local businesses,” Tauzin said.

Perry Stein covers the happenings in D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

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Marijuana could be a $35 billion market by 2020


Published: July 15, 2015 1:36 p.m. ET

 

If all 50 states were to fully legalize pot, it could generate big sales

 

By

KathleenBurke

Reporter

If all 50 U.S. states were to approve the consumption of marijuana for medical and recreational use, it could become a $35 billion market by 2020.

That’s according to GreenWave Advisors, an industry research firm that tracks retail sales in the four states and the District of Columbia that have already legalized it. Those markets have experienced explosive growth since marijuana was approved, demonstrating the strong opportunity for industry players and state governments eager to gather the tax on sales and replenish their coffers.

The sale of recreational marijuana in Washington began July 8, 2014, and has steadily grown to $31.9 million in June from $2 million in that first month, or a total of nearly $180 million for the first 12 months, according to an analysis by Marijuana Business Daily of data from the state’s Liquor Control Board.

The Washington market is catching up on recreational sales in Colorado, which began in January 2014. Colorado state retailers brought in about $305 million in sales in 2014, according to GreenWave Advisors.

See also: Get marijuana on demand for $95 a month

Analysts attribute the growth in sales to a variety of factors, primarily the conversion of a long-existing black market to a regulated one.

“We’ve never had an industry that was a black market industry of this size,” said Leslie Bocskor, founder of cannabis industry consulting firm Electrum Partners.

Steve Gormley, chief business development officer at OSL Holdings, Inc. (OSLH), a company focused on consumer advocacy and social activism, compared legalization to the repeal of alcohol prohibition in 1933.

“As was the case in advance of the federal repeal of alcohol prohibition, there is a landscape of opportunity in states that allow for the use of recreational or medical marijuana,” Gormley said.

Analysts identify California as the watershed state that would lead to the rest of the country approving full legalization. State voters will decide on the issue on the November 2016 ballot.

“California is the big kahuna,” said Matt Karnes, founder of GreenWave Advisors.

Gormley agreed. “…It is a tremendous market, with its proximity to Washington and Colorado, there is an advantage from a revenue standpoint of legalizing recreational, and we will start to see other states moving rapidly in the same direction.”

As the recreational industry grows, there will be increasing opportunities for businesses to enter the market.

“This is an industry that is allowing people to come in and start businesses that they otherwise might not have been able to start,” Bocskor said. “The events and pressures—pressure for regulation of markets, federal legality versus state legality—create a unique business environment never seen before.”

See also: Marijuana moms shatter the grass ceiling

Though the budding market might seem attractive to potential investors, Gormley advises careful research before dedicating funds.

“The reality is you want to make investments in companies with solid fundamentals rather than concepts, specifically publicly traded companies in the space,” Gormley said. “If investors are going to go in privately, you need to have a well-developed network of people inside the industry. There are a lot of crooks out there, and investors can get fleeced. ”

Despite the potential risks, analysts expect the market to continue its upward trajectory for the foreseeable future.

“It will eventually plateau, but we still have a few years of growth,” Bocskor said. “Growth begets growth.”

More from MarketWatch

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Marijuana Opponents Using Racketeering Law to Fight Industry


DENVER — Jul 13, 2015, 4:20 PM ET

By KRISTEN WYATT Associated Press

Associated Press

A federal law crafted to fight the mob is giving marijuana opponents a new strategy in their battle to stop the expanding industry: racketeering lawsuits.

A Colorado pot shop recently closed after a Washington-based group opposed to legal marijuana sued not just the pot shop but a laundry list of firms doing business with it — from its landlord and accountant to the Iowa bonding company guaranteeing its tax payments. One by one, many of the plaintiffs agreed to stop doing business with Medical Marijuana of the Rockies, until the mountain shop closed its doors and had to sell off its pot at fire-sale prices.

With another lawsuit pending in southern Colorado, the cases represent a new approach to fighting marijuana. If the federal government won’t stop its expansion, pot opponents say, federal racketeering lawsuits could. Marijuana may be legal under state law, but federal drug law still considers any marijuana business organized crime.

"It is still illegal to cultivate, sell or possess marijuana under federal law," said Brian Barnes, lawyer for Safe Streets Alliance, a Washington-based anti-crime group that brought the lawsuits on behalf of neighbors of the two Colorado pot businesses.

Lawyers on both sides say the Colorado racketeering approach is novel.

"If our legal theory works, basically what it will mean is that folks who are participating in the marijuana industry in any capacity are exposing themselves to pretty significant liability," Barnes said.

The 1970 Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act sets up federal criminal penalties for activity that benefits a criminal enterprise. The RICO Act also provides for civil lawsuits by people hurt by such racketeering — in this case, neighbors of the two businesses who claim the pot businesses could hurt their property values. If successful, civil lawsuits under the RICO Act trigger triple penalties.

Filed in February, the Colorado lawsuits have yet to go before a judge. But one has already had the intended effect.

In April, three months after the RICO lawsuit was filed, Medical Marijuana of the Rockies closed. Owner Jerry Olson liquidated his inventory by selling marijuana for $120 an ounce, far below average retail prices.

"I am being buried in legal procedure," Olson wrote on a fundraising Web page he created to fight the lawsuit. The effort so far has brought in just $674.

The closure came after the pot shop’s bank, Bank of the West, closed the shop’s account and was dismissed as a plaintiff.

"Its policy is never to offer accounts to recreational marijuana businesses," the court order said.

And just last week, a bonding company in Des Moines, Iowa, paid $50,000 to get out of the lawsuit.

"We are out of the business of bonding marijuana businesses in Colorado and elsewhere until this is settled politically," said Therese Wielage, spokeswoman for Merchants Bonding Company Mutual.

The case of the mountain pot shop shows that racketeering lawsuits can affect the marijuana industry even if the lawsuits never make it to a hearing.

"This lawsuit is meant more to have a chilling effect on others than it is to benefit the plaintiffs," said Adam Wolf, Olson’s lawyer.

In the other Colorado lawsuit, against a dispensary called Alternative Holistic Healing, the pot shop isn’t going down so easily.

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Big Court Defeat For Marijuana Despite Record Tax Harvests


 

 

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Should marijuana businesses pay tax on gross profits or net profits? It sounds like a silly question. Virtually every business in every country pays tax only on net profits, after expenses. But the topsy-turvy rules for marijuana seem to defy logic. And taxes are clearly a big topic these days under both federal and burgeoning state law.

Many observers and legislators suggested that legalizing marijuana would mean huge tax revenues. With legalized medical marijuana now giving way to more and more states legalizing recreational use, the cash hauls look ever more alluring. Washington state regulators say the state collected $65 million in first-year taxes from recreational marijuana sales in just 12 months on cannabis sales of over $260 million from June 2014 to June 2015. In Colorado, the governor’s office estimated that it would collect $100 million in taxes from the first year of recreational marijuana.

In the end, Colorado’s 2014 tax haul for recreational marijuana was $44 million, causing some to say that Colorado’s marijuana money is going up in smoke. Still, that isn’t bad for the first year. Colorado was first to regulate marijuana production and sale, so other governments are watching. Colorado also collected sales tax on medical marijuana and various fees, for a total of about $76 million. Still, not all sales are going through legal channels.

Now, in another blow to the budding industry, is the IRS has convinced the influential Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that marijuana dispensaries cannot deduct business expenses, must pay taxes on 100% of their gross income. The case, Olive v. Commissioner, was an appeal from a U.S. Tax Court decision. Martin Olive sold medical marijuana at the Vapor Room, using vaporizers so patients do not even have to smoke.

But even good records won’t make vaporizers or drug paraphernalia deductible. The Ninth Circuit upheld the Tax Court ruling that §280E prevents legal medical marijuana dispensaries from deducting ordinary and necessary business expenses. Under federal tax law, the Vapor Room is a trade or business that is trafficking in controlled substances prohibited by federal law.

Indeed, the New York Times had stressed that legal marijuana faces another federal hurdle when it comes to taxes. The problem is major, for federal law trumps state law. Even legal medical marijuana businesses continue to have big federal income tax problems. It is a classic Catch 22–tax evasion if they don’t report, and a risk of criminal prosecution if they do. More imminent, though, is the risk of being bankrupted by their IRS tax bill.

On the question whether marijuana businesses should pay tax on their net or gross profits, the tax code says the latter. Indeed, Section 280E of the tax code denies even legal dispensaries tax deductions, because marijuana remains a federal controlled substance. The IRS says it has no choice but to enforce the tax code.
One common answer to this dilemma is for dispensaries to deduct expenses from other businesses distinct from dispensing marijuana. If a dispensary sells marijuana and is in the separate business of care-giving, for example, the care-giving expenses are deductible. If only 10% of the premises is used to dispense marijuana, most of the rent is deductible. Good record-keeping is essential, but there is only so far one can go. For example, in the case of the Vapor Room and Martin Olive, with only one business, the courts ruled that Section 280E precluded Mr. Olive’s deductions.

Recently, the IRS issued guidance about how taxpayers “trafficking in a Schedule I or Schedule II controlled substances”—by which the IRS means Marijuana dealers–can determine their cost of goods sold. After all, you have to report your profit, but how do you do that? If you buy goods for $10 and resell them for $20, your profit is $10. Your cost of goods sold is $10.

The IRS guidance (ILM 201504011) is complex, but tries to answer how dealers can determine cost of goods sold, as well as whether the IRS auditing a dealer can make them change. There is considerable tax history in the IRS missive. The IRS is clear that you can deduct only what the tax law allows you to deduct. The trouble started in 1982, when Congress enacted § 280E. It prohibits deductions, but not for cost of goods sold.

Most businesses don’t want to capitalize costs, since claiming an immediate deduction is easier and faster. In the case of marijuana businesses, the incentive is the reverse. So the IRS says it is policing the line between the costs that are part of selling the drugs and others.

Sure, deduct wages, rents, and repair expenses attributable to production activities. They are part of the cost of goods sold. But don’t deduct wages, rents, or repair expenses attributable to general business activities or marketing activities that are not part of cost of goods sold.

2013′s proposed Marijuana Tax Equity Act would end the federal prohibition on marijuana and allow it to be taxed–at a whopping 50%. The bill would impose a 50% excise tax on cannabis sales, plus an annual occupational tax on workers in the field of legal marijuana. Incredibly, though, with what currently amounts to a tax on gross revenues with deductions being disallowed by Section 280E, perhaps it would be an improvement. More recently, Rep. Jared Polis (D-Co.) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Or.) have suggested a phased 10% rate here, ramping up to 25% in five years.

For alerts to future tax articles, follow me on Forbes. You can reach me at Wood@WoodLLP.com. This discussion is not intended as legal advice, and cannot be relied upon for any purpose without the services of a qualified professional.

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As marijuana attitudes ease, workplace drug testing companies brace for fight


July 12, 2015 12:00 AM

Jeff Fox, of Finleyville, Pa., signs off after his drug testing with Kelly Wilhelm at a construction site in the Uptown section of Pittsburgh. Fox is a carpenter with Easley & Rivers Construction of Monroeville. Wilhelm is with Mobile Medical Corp., a Bethel Park drug-testing company.

 

By Daniel Moore / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

As attitudes toward marijuana become more lenient and states authorize its use for medicinal — or even recreational — purposes, a long simmering debate over the efficacy of workplace drug testing has found a new flash point.

Marijuana accounts for more failed workplace drug tests than any other substance, and the new laws have the potential of decreasing or eliminating employer testing for it.

Defenders of drug testing maintain that employees who use drugs, including marijuana, have been found to miss more work, cause more accidents, change jobs more frequently and ultimately cost employers more money.

Many of those defenders happen to be part of the drug test industry, comprising large diagnostic laboratories and smaller third-party companies, which has mobilized to oppose the wave of legislation and litigation that it expects to rise from the conflict between workplace policies and changes in laws.

But voters in four states and the District of Columbia have voted to legalize recreational marijuana, and nearly half of states allow it for medical treatment. This month, Oregon’s recreational pot laws went into effect.

 

Employers typically give drug tests as part of the hiring process, immediately after a workplace accident or at random times. “No single drug test is going to detect all use,” acknowledged Dr. Barry Sample, director of science and technology at Quest Diagnostics Employer Solutions.

A Pennsylvania bill that would allow medical marijuana use has passed the state Senate and is under debate in the House. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has signaled support, and a Quinnipiac poll in March showed six out of of seven registered voters in Pennsylvania support it.

“No one is following the marijuana issue more closely,” according to the Drug & Alcohol Testing Industry Association’s website. The association has assembled pamphlets to assist businesses in defending their drug testing programs, complete with talking points that bust “the top 10 marijuana myths.”

It has also aggregated all U.S. state bills attempting to change marijuana’s legal status and is soliciting donations to fund its own research to help businesses understand the risk of abandoning drug testing programs.

The association’s Executive Director Laura Shelton tells business clients to follow federal regulations, which list marijuana as a Schedule I drug — an illegal substance with no acceptable medical use in treatment and a high potential for abuse.

“Our advice at that if you want to maintain a safe and drug-free workplace, test for those drugs” outlawed under federal regulations, Ms. Shelton said.

Effectiveness debated

Experts and researchers have disagreed on the effectiveness of drug testing since the 1980s, when it began in earnest after President Ronald Reagan, a Republican, signed an executive order requiring it for federal employees. A separate U.S. Department of Transportation rule shortly thereafter added certain safety-sensitive jobs, such as truck drivers, railroad operators, pilots and pipeline workers.

The standard test collected urine samples and flagged those that showed use of any one of five drugs: marijuana; cocaine; amphetamines and methamphetamines; opiates; and phencyclidine or PCP.

Private sector employers outside of those requirements soon followed suit. In a 1987 survey, the American Management Association found 21 percent of major U.S. firms had testing programs. By 1996, that had risen to 81 percent.

In 2014, one of the largest clinical laboratories, New Jersey-based Quest Diagnostics, tested 9.1 million urine samples — 6.6 million for employers who chose to institute drug testing programs. That compares with 7.6 million tests in 2013, with 5.6 million from workplaces who instituted drug testing policies.

It is difficult to tie drug testing numbers directly to employers’ appetites for such services because the number of tests given is most dependent on hiring trends; the more people that businesses are hiring, the more drug tests are typically done.

The number of failed drug tests has fallen nearly every year from a rate of 13.6 percent in 1988 to 3.9 percent in 2014, according to Quest. Most of that decline happened in the early years of drug testing; in the past decade, the rate has stayed mostly flat.

Barry Sample, director of science and technology at Quest Diagnostics Employer Solutions, said the fact that federal data shows that workplaces without testing programs have seen a bigger increase in current drug users confirms the deterrent effect.

That “really reinforces for those employers why they should continue to remain vigilant and not relax,” he said.

Dave Daquelente, director of labor management & operations at Mobile Medical Corp., a Bethel Park drug testing service, said Pittsburgh-area businesses are demanding the tests more than ever and asking for expanded tests for opiates and amphetamines to counter a trend of prescription drug abuse involving substances such as Vicodin and Oxycontin.

But privacy groups have questioned whether businesses are realizing the promised results.

The American Civil Liberties Union criticized much of the data the drug testing industry has cited, instead backing a 1994 National Academy of Sciences study that found no evidence that marijuana use was any more of a workplace detriment than alcohol.

Michael Frone, senior research scientist at the State University of New York at Buffalo, said there has been no credible evidence that testing programs deter workers from using drugs. Rather, heavy drugs users may go to workplaces without testing programs and others may simply use less frequently to avoid detection.

Mr. Frone, who wrote the 2013 book “Alcohol and Illicit Drug Use in the Workforce and Workplace,” also said little research has directly assessed the effect of testing programs on productivity and attendance. Even if employees fail a test, he added, it doesn’t prove that they were unproductive on the job.

“A positive drug test provides no information on when an illicit substance was used, how often or how much is typically used or if the person was or has ever been impaired at work,” he said.

Legal Confusion

Drug testing’s supporters and critics both agree that changing marijuana policies pose a threat to the practice.

“For an employer who has facilities in several different states, it makes it difficult to have a uniform policy when you have multiple state with different laws,” said Clare Gallagher, a labor and employment partner at Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott, a Downtown firm that last November created a regulated substances practice group.

Mr. Daquelente said business clients of Mobile Medical Corp., particularly those spread across the country, are confused.

“They’ve had real concerns about their employees who may visit somebody or go to work in Colorado and Washington,” he said. “What happens if someone goes away for the weekend and smokes marijuana and comes back to the job site Monday morning?”

Under Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana bill now being considered, employers would not be allowed to fire employees who are using marijuana off work hours and with a valid doctor’s recommendation. Employers would retain the right to fire marijuana patients if they are intoxicated on the job.

Robert DuPont, president of Rockville, Md.-based Institute for Behavior and Health Inc., thinks the U.S. Supreme Court will ultimately have to reconcile the disagreement between state and federal laws.

“There’s a conflict issue around privacy and productivity and concern about worker’s health,” Mr. DuPont, who was a director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse in the 1970s.

Policy analysts and lawyers said, at least in the short-term, employers can expect the courts to rule in favor of federal law. Last month, the Colorado Supreme Court unanimously affirmed that Dish Network, as a private employer, had the right to fire an employee for failing a drug test, despite that employee’s legal right to use the drug in that state.

A hiring hurdle?

In Pennsylvania workplaces that have federally regulated jobs, such as manufacturing plants and energy production, some employers have said they struggle to find enough applicants who can pass drug tests.

A survey last year commissioned by the Pennsylvania Manufacturing Association found as many as a third of all applicants either fail drug tests or fail to show up for them. “The fact that 19 percent refuse to take drug tests as a condition of employment and 16 percent fail these tests raises a red flag,” it read.

“It’s a problem. It’s a real thing,” David Taylor, president of the manufacturer’s association, said. “It’s a great source of frustration.”

Unemployment advocates have denied that there is a hiring issue.

“You know, it’s funny how much I don’t hear about this anymore,” said Tim Styer, jobs developer for the Philadelphia Unemployment Project. “I think people out there looking for work, they clean their stuff up as much as they can.”

Daniel Moore: dmoore@post-gazette.com, 412-263-2743 and Twitter @PGdanielmoore.

CONTINUE READING…

Bipartisan marijuana banking bill introduced in the Senate


By Burgess Everett

7/9/15 4:41 PM EDT

Updated 7/9/15 5:24 PM EDT

 

Reflecting growing public support for changing the nation’s drug laws, a bipartisan group of senators on Thursday introduced the chamber’s first bill that would legalize banking for recreational marijuana companies.

Introduced by the Senate delegations from Oregon and Colorado, two of the first states to legalize recreational marijuana, the bill would prohibit the federal government from penalizing banks that work with marijuana businesses.

Though four states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana, the drug is still illegal under federal law. That makes it difficult for businesses operating in those legalized states to access financial services through the banking industry. Instead, those companies have to run all-cash operations that the senators say invite crime.

The entire legal landscape that legal marijuana currently faces is “insane,” said GOP Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado in an interview.

“If you’re an employee or a store owner you can’t put money in the bank, but if you’re a municipality collecting tax you can collect the tax, you can put it in the bank and you can spend it. This is insane,” Gardner said. “It solves a public safety issue, it clarifies a regulatory nightmare and it clears up a pretty blatant hypocrisy.”

Indeed, Congress has been extraordinarily hesitant to address the nettlesome issue of marijuana law. Another landmark bill for the Senate from Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) that would legalize medical marijuana in states that have approved it has run into opposition from the Senate’s old guard.

But the upbeat Gardner noted that Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) now supports a bipartisan bill that would exclude cannabidiol, which has more medicinal uses, from the definition of marijuana in federal law. He said Congress will come along, eventually.

“Now, does it have a chance? I think there’s a lot of work that has to be done to give it that chance, but I also think that in 10 years most every other state in the country is going to be facing this question,” Gardner said. “People are coming on board and people are starting to realize we have a policy that’s kind of out of step.”

Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2015/07/bipartisan-senate-recreational-marijuana-banking-bill-119924.html#ixzz3fSmDCAX1

Conflicting Federal Laws beg to differ on Marijuana enforcement


It Is interesting to follow the news on Marijuana/Cannabis/Hemp these days.  It seems that the law enforcement agencies have a really hard time deciphering which laws they can enforce and which ones to “not” enforce.

The Federal Government has previously issued  “policy guidelines” to help “guide” the differing agencies through the process of elimination but they still seem to be confused.

To refresh their memory I am inserting the link to that information HERE. 

Prior to that the “Guidance Regarding Marijuana Enforcement” was issued on August 29, 2013 to help ease enforcement issues as well.  The link to that information is HERE as well.

It is documented fact that they did “raid” an Indian Reservation yesterday where the Federal Government seized 12,000 Marijuana Plants along with some Marijuana packaged for sale.

 

A surveillance photo taken June 19 from the northbound shoulder of Highway 395 in rural Modoc County shows part of a large marijuana manufacturing site on the XL Ranch, which is American Indian land belonging to the Pit River Tribe. The white pickup truck belongs to a private security firm contracted to guard the site.

“By Denny Walsh

dwalsh@sacbee.com

Law enforcement officers from at least four agencies on Wednesday swooped onto American Indian land occupied by two tribes in Modoc County and seized at least 12,000 marijuana plants and more than 100 pounds of processed marijuana.

In a release announcing the raids, Benjamin Wagner, the U.S. attorney in the Sacramento-based Eastern District of California – which includes Modoc County – emphasized, “Other than contraband marijuana and items of evidentiary value, no tribal property was seized and no federal charges are pending.”

Warrants signed Tuesday by U.S. Magistrate Judge Carolyn K. Delaney authorized federal agents to search “two large-scale marijuana cultivation facilities located on federally recognized tribal lands at the Alturas Indian Rancheria and the XL Ranch in Modoc County.” The county forms the northeast corner of California, with Oregon on the north and Nevada on the east.

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/article26834551.html#storylink=cpy  “

While surfing the WWW for further information about this the following article was found regarding enforcement of “Federal Law”.  Published April 2, 2015 in a Press Release by Drug Policy Alliance (DPA),

“Press Release | 04/02/2015

U.S. Justice Department Says It Will Ignore Federal Law and Prosecute People for Medical Marijuana Despite Congressional Spending Ban

Congress Passed One-Year Amendment in December Prohibiting Justice Department from Undermining State Medical Marijuana Laws; Members of both Parties Sought to Stop Prosecutions and Let States Set Their Own Medical Marijuana Policies

Drug Policy Alliance Calls on President Obama to Rein in Out-of-Control Prosecutors

A spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) told the Los Angeles Times that a bi-partisan amendment passed by Congress last year prohibiting DOJ from spending any money to undermine state medical marijuana laws doesn’t prevent it from prosecuting people for medical marijuana or seizing their property. The statement comes as the agency continues to target people who are complying with their state medical marijuana law. This insubordination is occurring despite the fact that members of Congress in both parties were clear that their intent with the amendment was to protect medical marijuana patients and providers from federal prosecution and forfeiture.

Read more here:  http://www.drugpolicy.org/news/2015/04/us-justice-department-says-it-will-ignore-federal-law-and-prosecute-people-medical-mari   ”

All of this only serves to prove the theory that the only way to “make marijuana lawful” for everyone to grow and consume is to fight for the REPEAL OF THE PROHIBITION LAWS which have enslaved us for so long.

Of note, I found this article: 

“PREEMPTION UNDER THE CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES ACT  ROBERT A. MIKOS

States are conducting bold experiments with marijuana law. Since 1996,

eighteen states and the District of Columbia have legalized the drug for medical

purposes, and two of them have legalized it for recreational purposes as well.

1

These states have also promulgated a growing body of civil regulations to replace

prohibition. The regulations cover nearly every facet of the marijuana market.

Colorado, for example, has adopted more than s

eventy pages of regulations governing just the distribution of medical marijuana.”

The link to this journal article is HERE.

Moving right along, I am going to input an article written by JackieTreehorn on a Forum concerning repeal of the CSA because, well, I could not have written it better myself – so I am inserting his wisdom here:

Lawmakers, sign on now, to repeal the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 (CSA). Without this authority, the ill-conceived War On Drugs (WOD) stops in its tracks. No one has talked about the War On Drugs for a long time. It has not gone away. We still squander scarce resources on the fight against ourselves, at a time when foreign enemies are at the gate. Enough is enough, too much is too much, and more of this futile war would be the height of fiscal irresponsibility. Do now, for the War On Drugs, what the 21st Amendment did for the 18th, and with it, alcohol prohibition. Stop throwing good money after bad.
We should have learned a lesson from alcohol prohibition, namely that it doesn’t work.

Isn’t there enough blood in the streets already, without continuing to shoot ourselves in the feet? Do we really need to ruin the lives of so many of our own children, perhaps on the theory it is for their own good?
The CSA is unconstitutional. The CSA never had a constitutional amendment to enable it, like the 18th amendment enabled alcohol prohibition. The drug warriors have, so far, gotten away with an end run, subverting the lack of constitutional authority.

An authority over Interstate Commerce provides a pretext of constitutionality. Any excuse is better than none. So, how is that interstate commerce going, these days? Why would a bankrupt treasury distain to derive revenue from its number one cash crop? The anti-capitalist policy inhibits small farmers from cultivating for a taxed market, and gifts a tax-free monopoly to outlaws, some of whom may be friends of our enemies. This is not what the founders had in mind when they authorized meddling in interstate commerce. Lets bring the underground economy into the taxed economy. The Supreme Court got it wrong in Gonzales V Raich. Good on Clarence Thomas for noticing that the so-called constitutionality of the law is a mockery.   www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/03-1454.ZD1.html

How did we get this CSA? Was there an informed debate on the floor? Did the substances ever get their day in court? What congressman then, or now, would admit to knowing a thing or two about LSD? The lawmakers have never wanted to know more than it is politically safe to be against it. Governments around the world ignore fact-checkers and even their own reports. Forgive them, Lord, they make it their business to know not what they do. Common sense tells us that personal experience deepens the understanding of issues. Personal experience is a good thing. But we herd the experienced to the hoosegow. We keep them out of jobs. The many who avoid detection must live double lives.

congressmen who passed the CSA probably don’t even get it that they deny freedom of religion to those who prefer a non-placebo as their sacrament of communion. Congress shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise of religious freedom, says the First Amendment. But they did.

Many of the prohibited substances provide access to unique mental states. You can’t say your piece, if you can’t think it up. You can’t think it up, if you are not in a receptive state of mind. Neither the Constitution, nor its amendments, enumerates a power of government to prevent access to specific states of mind. How and when did the government acquire this power, to restrict consciousness and thought? Congress shall make no law abridging freedom of speech, says the First Amendment. But they did.

What would happen if the CSA was enforced one hundred percent? What if all the civil disobedient turned in notarized confessions tomorrow? That is a double digit demographic. Even after years of spending more on prisons than on schools, the prisons don’t have that kind of sleeping capacity. Converting taxpayers into wards of the state mathematically increases the tax burden on the remainder. Higher tax burdens are not what the doctor is ordering at this time.

None of these substances are alleged to be as harmful as prison is. Granny’s justice is a saner benchmark. A kid caught with cigarettes must keep on smoking them, right then and there, until he or she has wretched. Drugs are sometimes accused of causing paranoia, but it is prohibition’s threat of loss of liberty, employment, and estate, that introduces paranoia. Apparently it is true that some of these substances do cause insanity, but the insanity is only in the minds of those who have never tried them. There shall not be cruel and unusual punishment, says the Eighth Amendment. But here it is, in the CSA.

In the 1630’s, the pilgrims wrote home glowingly that the native hemp was superior to European varieties. Now, the government pretends it has a right to prohibit farmers from the husbandry of native hemp, but it so doesn’t. Could an offender get a plea-bargain, by rolling over on someone higher up in the organization? The farmer does nothing to nature’s seed that God Himself does not do when He provides it rain, sunlight, and decomposing earth. How can it be a crime to do as God does? Is the instigator to get off scot-free, while small users are selectively prosecuted? God confesses, in Genesis 11-12, it was He who created the seed-bearing plants, on the second day. Then, He saw they were good. There you have it, the perpetrator shows no remorse about creating cannabis or mushrooms. Neither has He apologized for endowing humans with sensitive internal receptor sites which activate seductive mental effects in the presence of the scheduled molecules. Book Him, Dano.

Common Law must hold that humans are the legal owners of their own bodies. Men may dispose of their property as they please. It is none of Government’s business which substances its citizens prefer to stimulate themselves with. Men have a right to get drunk in their own homes, be it folly or otherwise. The usual caveats, against injury to others, or their estates, remain in effect.
The Declaration of Independence gets right to the point. The Pursuit Of Happiness is a self-evident, God-given, inalienable, right of man. The War On Drugs is, in reality, a war on the pursuit of happiness. Too bad the Declaration of Independence is not worth much in court.

Notwithstanding the failure of the Supreme Court to overturn the CSA, lawmakers can and should repeal the act. Lawmakers, please get to it now, in each house, without undue delay. Wake up.
Who has the guts to put America first and not prolong the tragedy?

We don’t need the CSA. The citizenry already has legal recourse for various injuries to itself and its estate, without invoking any War On Drugs. We should stop committing resources to ruin the lives of peaceful people who never injured anyone. If someone screws up at work, fire him or her for the screw-up. The Books still have plenty of laws on them, without this one.
Without the CSA, the empty prisons could conceivably be used to house the homeless. Homeland security might be able to use the choppers that won’t be needed for eradication. Maybe the negative numbers that will have to be used to bottom-line our legacy to the next generation can be less ginormous.

Cannabis has a stronger claim to the blessing of the state than do the sanctioned tobacco and alcohol. Cannabis does not have the deadly lung cancer of tobacco, nor the puking, hangover, and liver cirrhosis of alcohol. To the contrary, cannabis shows promise as an anti-tumor agent. Nor is cannabis associated with social problems like fighting and crashing cars. Cannabis-intoxication is usually too mellow for fighting, and impaired drivers typically drive within the limits of their impairment. The roads will be safer, if slower, for every driver that switches from drink to smoke. Coffee drinkers cause more serious accidents by zipping in and out of traffic and tailgating. To assure public safety on the road, cops need a kit to assess driving competence and alertness objectively. Perhaps science can develop a virtual reality simulator. Hopefully it could also detect drowsy, Alzheimer’s, and perhaps road-raging, drivers.

John McCain should recuse himself on the CSA repeal issue, due to the conflict of interest of potential competition for his family beer franchise. Both candidates have promised to end ‘failed programs’, but neither has issued a timetable, or a roadmap, for standing down on the WOD.

The debate how a crippled USA can manage ‘the two wars’ is blind. Hello, there are three, not two, wars. The War On Drugs has not let up, after 38 years of failure. Its costs are in the ballpark of the foreign wars. There is no lower-hanging, riper, or higher yielding budgetary fruit than to stop this third war, cold turkey. We are making new enemies faster than we are killing the old ones. We are losing old friends. In this national crisis of global humiliation, we should cut a little slack to those who still love the United States of America, no matter what they may be smoking. Stave off national meltdown, by repeal of the CSA, this week, if possible. TIA.

Without the War On Drugs, Americans can come together as a people in ways that are not possible with so many of our best and brightest under threat of disenfranchisement.”

The LINK to the above “Forum post” is HERE.

 

In conclusion I must reiterate what I have said before that if we want to end the war on drugs we must start by “repealing” the statutes which gave the Government and law enforcement agencies the power to enforce an unconstitutional statute to begin with.

http://www.justice.gov/iso/opa/resources/3052013829132756857467.pdf

http://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/tribal/pages/attachments/2014/12/11/policystatementregardingmarijuanaissuesinindiancountry2.pdf

http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/article26834551.html

http://www.drugpolicy.org/news/2015/04/us-justice-department-says-it-will-ignore-federal-law-and-prosecute-people-medical-mari

http://digitalcommons.law.umaryland.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1287&context=jhclp

http://www.ar15.com/forums/t_1_5/773950_Call_for_Repeal_of_the_Controlled_Substances_Act_of_1970.html

Heroin use and addiction are surging in the U.S., CDC report says


Heroin use

Rate of heroin use in the U.S. has climbed 63% in the past decade, according to experts at the CDC and FDA

The rate of heroin abuse or dependence has jumped 90% between 2002 and 2013, new CDC report says

Heroin use surged over the past decade, and the wave of addiction and overdose is closely related to the nation’s ongoing prescription drug epidemic, federal health officials said Tuesday.

A new report says that 2.6 out of every 1,000 U.S. residents 12 and older used heroin in the years 2011 to 2013. That’s a 63% increase in the rate of heroin use since the years 2002 to 2004.

Opioids prescribed by doctors led to 92,000 overdoses in ERs in one year

The rate of heroin abuse or dependence climbed 90% over the same period, according to the study by researchers from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Deaths caused by heroin overdoses nearly quadrupled between 2002 and 2013, claiming 8,257 lives in 2013.

In all, more than half a million people used heroin in 2013, up nearly 150% since 2007, the report said.

Heroin use remained highest for the historically hardest-hit group: poor young men living in cities. But increases were spread across all demographic groups, including women and people with private insurance and high incomes — groups associated with the parallel rise in prescription drug use over the past decade.

The findings appear in a Vital Signs report published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

"As a doctor who started my career taking care of patients with HIV and other complications from injection drugs, it’s heartbreaking to see injection drug use making a comeback in the U.S.," said Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC.

Overdoses fell after 2 narcotic painkillers were taken off the market

All but 4% of the people who used heroin in the past year also used another drug, such as cocaine, marijuana or alcohol, according to the report. Indeed, 61% of heroin users used at least three different drugs.

The authors of the new study highlighted a “particularly strong” relationship between the use of prescription painkillers and heroin. People who are addicted to narcotic painkillers are 40 times more likely to misuse heroin, according to the study.

Once reserved for cancer and end-of-life pain, these narcotics now are widely prescribed for conditions ranging from dental work to chronic back pain.

“We are priming people to addiction to heroin with overuse of prescription opiates,” Frieden said at a news conference Tuesday. “More people are primed for heroin addiction because they are addicted to prescription opiates, which are, after all, essentially the same chemical with the same impact on the brain.”

 

Frieden said the increase in heroin use was contributing to other health problems, including rising rates of new HIV infections, cases of newborns addicted to opiates and car accidents. He called for reforms in the way opioid painkillers are prescribed, a crackdown on the flow of cheap heroin and more treatment for those who are addicted.

Follow me on Twitter @lisagirion and "like" Los Angeles Times Science & Health on Facebook.

CONTINUE READING…

Cannabis myths: Kentucky senator speaks out


 

 

Sen. Perry Clark talks at Mensa event at Galt House in Louisville

By Brad Bowman, Published: July 3, 2015 8:09AM

Democratic Sen. Perry Clark spoke at the Mensa Annual Gathering in Louisville on Wednesday in an effort to clear the smoke about myths surrounding cannabis.

Clark was one of several presenters invited to the four-day Mensa event at the Galt House.

The organization asked Clark to speak about the myths beginning in the early 1900s surrounding cannabis, hemp and the continued propaganda from opponents of cannabis legislation.

With the 2016 legislative session less than six months away, Clark said he hopes to have meaningful conversations about legalizing cannabis with fellow lawmakers where baseless propaganda has kept a stigma on the plant and hindered support for his past bills.

“We don’t understand why it has been criminalized under a mountain of lies for the last 90 years,” Clark said. “We do know that alcohol and tobacco companies have funded the opposition to cannabis legislation in other states. We talked about the roots of the opposition from the early 1930s and ’40s.”

Clark said the discussion on his topic among Mensa members, a nonprofit organization open to people who score in the 98th percentile on an IQ test, brought out similar concerns he had with legalizing cannabis or medical marijuana.

“We all agreed we were concerned about teen use and kids getting their hands on edibles (cannabis products marketed like popular candy brands in states where recreational marijuana is legal),” Clark said.

“But it’s time to drop the fear surrounding this plant. We’ve spent billions of dollars over the years fighting it in the War on Drugs and really there is no moral justification.”

Hill to climb

The hill cannabis legislation has had to climb in Kentucky, Clark said, includes the continued opposition from critics who have said there are no medical studies proving the medical benefits of cannabis.

“The cover story on National Geographic this month shows there are several government studies on marijuana,” Clark said. “The big change (for Kentucky and other states) will come in 2016 when the U.N. votes on its drug policies. The worst thing that can happen to someone who uses marijuana is they get arrested and it ruins their life. Where has all the War on Drugs money gone?”

Clark has long been an advocate for medicinal marijuana and has updated bills for the last four years mirroring states where medicinal and medical marijuana have become law.

During the 2015 legislative session, Clark almost daily brought up topics relating to the benefits of medical marijuana to fellow senators including a study showing a reduction in opiate addiction where medical marijuana had been legalized.

40 provisions

Clark’s Senate Bill 40 contained provisions for the cultivation and dispensing of cannabis to patients in the commonwealth.

Currently, in Colorado where medicinal and recreational marijuana have been legalized the state government has brought in $96 million in tax revenue.

According to information from Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office, the state has three taxes on recreational marijuana and one on medical marijuana.

Medical marijuana has a 2.9 percent sales tax. Recreational marijuana has a 15 percent excise tax when it is transported from a cultivation site to a processing site or retail location. An additional 10 percent special sales tax on recreational marijuana is added to an existing 2.9 percent sales tax.

A spokesperson from the governor’s office said the state uses the 15 percent excise tax to pay for the construction of public schools and since those taxations have been put in place has collected $40 million.

CONTINUE READING….

Is Marijuana A Benefit Or A Bad Idea For Autism And Schizophrenia?


 

 

When Jim Carrey co-opted the image of a distressed boy with tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) in an effort to reinforce the actor’s views about vaccines, he inadvertently brought attention to TSC, which is, unlike vaccines, associated with autism. In using the image of Alex Echols, for which he later apologized, Carrey may also have brought attention to another topic of discussion in autism circles: the use of marijuana as a therapeutic.

Alex’s parents have a blog where they’ve written about Alex and his needs for many years. Among those needs, they argue, is therapeutic marijuana, which they say helps Alex with his self-injurious behaviors. They have published their clear agenda for accomplishing this for their son, who currently lives in a group home.

The Echols are not alone in their belief in and urgency about marijuana as an intervention for neurological conditions. Many other parents and some clinicians also have suggested that the plant—and its active compounds—might offer an effective treatment for some of the intense behaviors related to autism and for schizophrenia, as well. But what do we really know about marijuana and its therapeutic possibilities?

Like so many sources of neuroactive compounds, pot has dual potential to be beneficial or damaging, depending on which ingredient is the focus. One of its active compounds, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, acts through a signaling system that involves some of the same components associated with atypical signaling in schizophrenia. According to Tori Rodriguez, writing at Psychiatry Advisor, studies have shown interesting parallels between altered brain function measures in people with schizophrenia and people who were marijuana intoxicated.

Thus, THC, it seems, is ‘pro-psychotic’ (although that’s controversial), and there’s a chicken–egg question about whether or not it contributes to the development or onset of psychosis-related conditions like schizophrenia or if people with such conditions might be more prone to reach out for it as self-medication. The age at which one reaches for it might also be a factor, but studies show a “consistent” association between pot use during the teens and risk for developing a psychotic disorder.

The only US Food and Drug Administration–approved marijuana-related drug currently available is a synthetic version of THC, for treating nausea and vomiting related to cancer chemotherapy and weight loss associated with AIDS. Not much on the approved drug table for people with schizophrenia.

But marijuana is one of those two-faced offerings from nature that can help or hinder. Now that pot has become legal in various parts of the US, these issues of help or hinder become more critical and will start to settle into some form of commonly accepted wisdom that likely belies the complexities.

As an example of that complexity, another physiologically active compound in marijuana (there are dozens) is cannabidiol, which might act as an antipsychotic, in contrast to its pot-plant partner THC. Plants, you see, are complex organisms just like we are, and banning the entire plant ends up banning every possibility each of its hundreds of active compounds might hold.

So far, the studies of cannabidiol in schizophrenic populations are small, but at least one suggests head-to-head effectiveness against one atypical antipsychotic with less in the way of negative side effects compared to the approved drug. Cannabidiol is one of the target substances that the Echols want to be able to give to their son to reduce his distress and distressing episodes of self-injurious behaviors. Parents of children with epilepsy and other neurological conditions also would like cannabidiol oil to be available as a treatment for their sons and daughters.

In good news for these families desperate to find some therapeutic relief for their children, in late June, the Obama administration removed a bureaucratic obstacle to research into these compounds. Also on tap with some promise of bipartisan support is the proposed CARERS Act, which has 11 co-sponsors and would open up all kinds of legal avenues to applying marijuana medically.

And what about marijuana for autism? Compared to the studies done for schizophrenia, which number more than 1000, autism and marijuana has gotten almost no research attention. That hasn’t stopped a grassroots movement from growing up around using pot as an autism therapeutic, with a Facebook group, MAMMAS (Mothers Advocating Medical Marijuana for Autism), boasting almost 5000 followers, or one writer and autism parent from advocating for its use from a public pulpit.

But as the authors of a recent review note—and PubMed searches bear out—no studies exist suggesting clinical benefit for autism. Indeed, in a news release publicizing the review, the first author, Scott Hadland of Boston Children’s Hospital, is quoted as saying:

in using medicinal marijuana (parents) may be trading away their child’s future for short-term symptom control.

These authors also call for more research into cannibidiol’s effects and more emphasis on developing high-cannabidiol/low-THC products. Perhaps these compounds, rather than the plant, should be what we mention when we talk about these neurological therapeutics. After all, no one brings up using willow trees for pain or blood thinners, even though they originated the active compound in aspirin, and no one says they take ’foxglove’ as a heart medication–they take digoxin instead.

I am a science writer, editor, and educator with a background in developmental biology, physiology, and English literature. Read more about me here and find me (too often) on Twitter.

CONTINUE READING…

The Cannabiterians and the cops


dsc00950.jpg

THE COPS

Charlie Doss stood outside his house on South Rural Street and watched the cops rumble by on their motorcycles.
“You’d think they were gettin’ ready for World War Three,” he muttered. The police presence in his neighborhood was making Charlie cranky.
“What’s the big fuckin’ deal?” he announced.
Roughly two dozen patrol cars and a mobile IMPD unit sat at the ready in the parking lot of the Carpenters Local Union building two blocks from the First Church of Cannabis. Officers seemed to be everywhere; on foot, on bicycles — like so many other cities in America in recent years, Indy’s police department looked less like a group of peacekeeping constables and more like an occupying force.
IMPD was out in strength for the opening services of Bill Levin’s brainchild, the First Church of Cannabis, an “unintended consequence” of Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration law. After gaining tax-exempt status from the IRS, Bill had planned his inaugural ceremony for the day the law went into effect — July 1, 2015.
Bill had initially stated that his congregants would partake of their sacrament — weed — at the end of the service.
Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry had responded to Bill’s intentions with a press conference. Curry expressed monumental frustration with the Indiana legislature, but made it clear IMPD would have all the plastic cuffs it needed: “Anyone caught in possession of marijuana will be subject to arrest … anyone caught giving marijuana to another individual will be subject to arrest for dealing.”
And further, as NUVO’s Amber Stearns reported on June 26:
Curry outlined all of the potential causes for arrest at the church service. Anyone attending the service, if marijuana is present, could be subject to arrest for probation violation or for visiting a common nuisance even if they choose not to partake in the church’s “sacrament.” Anyone who tries to drive away from the church while high is subject to arrest for operating under the influence. Any and all possible criminal code violations will be enforced. He also stressed that no minor child should be in the vicinity of the church.

Worried about a mass bust — including those who simply might’ve shown up to sing and not smoke — Levin prohibited weed at the church for the July 1 services. 

CONTINUE READING…

 

City-County Councilor voices concern over city’s response to First Church of Cannabis
Posted By Amber Stearns @AmberLStearns on Thu, Jul 2, 2015 at 4:00 PM

IMPD was present in large numbers at the inaugural service of the FIrst Church of Cannabis. - PHOTO BY ED WENCK

Indianapolis City- County Councilor Zach Adamson issued a statement calling into question the actions of the city and specifically the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department in their response to the First Church of Cannabis.

The church held their first service Wednesday at noon following the enactment of the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Adamson says the views expressed in his statement are his own and are not meant to reflect the sentiment of the entire council.

Adamson’s statement reads as follows:

Yesterday, as Hoosiers watched as several new state laws took effect, one issue of particular local interest has been a bit more high profile in the news. Specifically, The First Church of Cannabis, as they push the limits of the liberties the state says they wanted to protect.

Sadly, more than the reaction of the state, the OVER-reaction by local authorities has been of greater disappointment. Indianapolis residents have watched over the weeks as the media wars on both side of the issue have battled it out on both mainstream and social media.

“I’ve been very troubled by the reaction by our city and the by and large overreaction by our police chief, who actually compared this religious institution’s leader to Jim Jones. That’s a jaw-dropping comparison to a horrific crime and it is an insult to the lives that were lost in that tragedy. It is even more disappointing to see this overreaction using scarce public safety resources during a time of great need in our neighborhoods”, said City-County Councilor Zach Adamson.

Adamson continued, “Many residents have rightfully raised concerns about the city’s inappropriate use of taxpayer resources to fund harassment of this minority religious group. After reading several media reports of selective enforcement of municipal ordinances, the undue installation of police surveillance cameras – at a time when so many of our areas hardest hit by crime don’t have such attention – and the literal recruitment of opposition protesters by the mayors IMPD chief, many fear that Chief Hite’s actions have exposed the City of Indianapolis to expensive and preventable civil liabilities for violations of Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, among others.

As our city saw with yesterday morning’s homicide on the near northwest side, we need more officers on the streets and more dollars for neighborhood policing strategies – not unwarranted harassment.”

The Council intends to take all possible actions to give IMPD the necessary tools they need to prioritize enforcement and we hope that we can pull back this encroachment onto the religious freedom of our residents. We call on the public safety agencies to allocate the officers and cameras where our residents have, for years, been begging for them and stop this highly inappropriate use of scarce taxpayer resources. We also call on Chief Hite to issue an immediate apology for the inappropriate invoking of the Jonestown Massacre.

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115 years of marijuana coverage


 

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To mark the anniversary of recreational-marijuana stores opening in Washington, we look at The Seattle Times’ coverage of pot over the past 115 years.

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By Paige Cornwell

Seattle Times staff reporter

Cannabis made one of its first appearances in The Seattle Daily Times in 1911, in a recipe to cure corns. An extract of cannabis, along with sodium and collodion, would form a paste. Readers were instructed to “paint over the corn once or twice a day and scrape away superficial growth in three or four days.”

Later stories journeyed from a portrayal of marijuana as an illegal, dangerous drug used by dirty hippies to a legal drug purchased at a regulated store.

The corn remedy is one of hundreds, if not thousands, of mentions of marijuana, also referred to as pot, weed, mary jane, cannabis, reefer, that have appeared in The Seattle Times pages since 1900.

To mark Wednesday’s one-year anniversary of recreational-marijuana stores opening in the state, we took a look at our cannabis coverage over the past 100-plus years.

A look back

Marijuana turned musicians in Chicago into “laugh addicts,” according to a 1928 account. A 1940 dispatch from New York recounted that “Harlem Negroes” had invented a new lexicon related to marijuana. Other stories recounted drugs coming in from Canada, China and the Middle East.

“There’s always some demonized group,” said Bruce Barcott, a Bainbridge Island journalist who co-wrote a Time cover story in May about pot research and legalization.

And oh, won’t someone think of the children?

Echoing films such as “Reefer Madness,” marijuana was often portrayed as a gateway drug to narcotics, debauchery and a life of crime. In 1953, The Seattle Times interviewed parents of teens arrested for stealing cars. The parents of one 13-year-old said their son “got in with a tough Queen Anne High School gang,” who would get marijuana, then steal cars “for the thrill of it.” A year later, a dealer was sentenced to 15 years in prison for selling dope to minors.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the drug became more associated with counterculture, with hippies wandering around in a “sea of mud, sickness and drugs,” as Woodstock was described in a 1969 story.

In 1981, The Seattle Times ran a 10-part series (yes, 10) called “Marijuana and Your Child.” There was a marijuana epidemic among America’s children, an Associated Press reporter wrote, that didn’t kill, but maimed.

“The media’s portrayal has, in some instances, contributed to accurate public knowledge and marijuana’s effects on behavior, how popular it was, who was using it,” said Roger Roffman, a University of Washington professor emeritus and author of “Marijuana Nation: One Man’s Chronicle of America Getting High.” “In other instances, the media pretty grossly contributed to stereotypical views of marijuana users and marijuana policy.”

Feb. 26, 2015: From artisan glass blowing to grow operations and retail, Kush Tourism takes curious guests through various facets of the marijuana industry. (Steve Ringman and Lauren Frohne / The Seattle Times)

Only recently have the mainstream media covered marijuana as something that might have value, Barcott said. One of the first Seattle Times stories about medical marijuana was published in 1975, when a drug expert testified at a Drug Enforcement Administration hearing.

And last year, The Seattle Times wrote about Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes buying two packages of marijuana, one for posterity and one, he said, for “personal enjoyment.” The reporters even noted what strain he bought: “OG’s Pearl.”

“It will be very interesting to see how that coverage changes,” Barcott said. “Not just year to year, but week to week, month to month. It’s such a fast-moving story.”

CONTINUE READING…

Marijuana makes mother nature cry: report


06/26/15 05:17 PM

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By Tony Dokoupil

 

 

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If you consume cannabis this weekend, you might also be killing fish, clear-cutting forest, and poisoning some cute-faced and endangered members of the weasel family.

That’s one takeaway from new report in the journal BioScience, which details the water-guzzling, land-destroying, pollution-spreading reality of the marijuana farming today.

The work is the most comprehensive effort to date to quantify the environmental costs of serving the country’s millions of regular marijuana users. Among the degradation recorded: diverted streams, displaced plant-life, spilled diesel fuel, reckless use of fertilizers, and dead Pacific fishers (those cute weasels).  

RELATED: Beyond coal and environmentally friendly pot

Because most marijuana consumed in America is grown here, the research adds a green front to the moral and social battle over broader legalization. Because marijuana growers are understandably secretive, however, the scope of their work is hard to measure, and easy to get wrong.

The only certainty is that this research—which did not distinguish between illegal and state-sanctioned growers—won’t be the last word on their impacts, or its relevance to the push for legalization. Softer pot laws have already swept through 23 states in one form or another, and attitudes are changing fast.

For the moment, people tend to argue over what’s best for kids, minorities, sick people, drivers, and the economy at large. Now, they might also have to consider the policy that favors fish, furry animals, forests, streams, and the majesty of nature. 

Predictably, both the pro-and-anti legalization sides see the study as an ally.

Kevin Sabet, for example, is the president of Project SAM, a campaign to keep marijuana illegal and address the failings of the drug war through other means. He instantly turned the study into a new weapon and let fire.

“Everyone thinks that weed is harmless to use, when in reality our earth is very much affected by its production,” he told msnbc. “The only answer to this environmental problem is to reduce our hunger for pot. And that doesn’t happen under legalization.”

RELATED: Are these pot farmers sucking up all California’s water?

Marijuana growers (and, one imagines, marijuana consumers) can just as easily fold the research into their own point of view. They don’t deny that marijuana is a growing threat to the environment, but they attribute that destruction to the perversions of prohibition.

Hezekiah Allen is executive director of the Emerald Growers Association, a trade group that represents state-sanctioned growers in northern California.

“Unregulated commercial agriculture is bound to have more significant impacts than regulated agriculture,” he told msnbc. “The simple solution is that 18 years after California has a legal medical cannabis industry, it’s time for the state to regulate that industry.”

The research was led by the Nature Conservancy, with help from environmental scientists at UC Berkeley and California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife. Their own conclusions tended to the growers point of view. They noted “inherent trade-offs and tension between marijuana cultivation and ecosystem needs,” but also pointed out that new policies could “prevent and mitigate” the current level of damage. 

Earlier this spring, msnbc visited a pot farm in northern California to see a model of sustainable growing, in an industry that suddenly needs one. Casey O’Neill and his brother Nathaniel are third-generation cannabis growers in the famed Emerald Triangle, and co-owners of Happy Day Farms.

Before the drought, the O’Neill brothers invested their life savings in two artificial ponds, which now hold about 2 million gallons of captured rainwater. They also installed solar panels, which power their whole grown, and they continued to rely on only natural fertilizers.

Now they’re trying to spread the good word. They believe that the quickest way to clean up the trade may be to legalize it. That would allow farmers to openly trade best practices, and regulators to easily find those who don’t adopt them, they argue.

“We can be fish-friendly and still produce this incredible economic bounty that comes from the sun through human labor,” said Casey. “It’s the translation of solar dollars into real dollars. And that’s something that we are very honor to participate in.”

Explore:

California, Drug Policy, Drugs, Environment, Green and Marijuana

CONTINUE (VIDEO)

Marijuana and Your Job: What You Need to Know


Carolyn Buppert, MSN, JD

Disclosures June 26, 2015

 

To submit a legal/professional nursing question for future consideration, write to the editor at syox@medscape.net (Include "Ask the Expert" in subject line.)

Question

Can I be fired for using marijuana at home or for using recreational marijuana on my day off, when recreational use is legal in my state?

Response from Carolyn Buppert, MSN, JD
Healthcare attorney

Fired for Use of Medical Marijuana at Home?

May an employer fire a healthcare professional for use of marijuana for a medical reason, when the employee has a medical marijuana card, medical marijuana is legal in the employee’s state, and the employee uses it off-site and on his or her own time?

It looks like the answer is "yes." An employee may be fired for legal use of medical marijuana. On June 15, 2015, the Colorado Supreme Court upheld Dish Network’s firing of a technology worker who was using marijuana for a medical purpose and tested positive on a random drug screen. Use of medical marijuana is legal in Colorado.

In that case, the employee, who is paralyzed from the chest down, uses marijuana at night to treat spasms and seizures. He was tested at work, was positive for marijuana, and the employer fired him, in keeping with the company’s drug-free workplace policy. The employee sued the employer, saying he wasn’t accused of being high on the job, he had good job reviews, the testing was random, and the firing violated the state’s "lawful activities" statute. Colorado’s lower courts held that the firing was legal, and the case went to the state Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court said, "Employees who engage in an activity such as medical marijuana use that is permitted by state law but unlawful under federal law are not protected by the lawful activities statute."[1]

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Marijuana addiction drug research gets $3 million grant as Obama encourages legalization


By Kelly Riddell – The Washington Times – Thursday, June 25, 2015

 

 

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The National Institutes of Health is dedicating $3 million to fast-track the development of drugs to treat marijuana addiction — an estimated 4.2 million Americans are hooked on cannabis — even as the president encourages its legalization and more states look to enact laws for its recreational use.

“Cannabis use is an increasing public health concern in the United States that requires immediate attention,” reads the government’s grant proposal, issued in May. “Given the high prevalence of marijuana use and its associated disorders and the large number of people who seek treatment, there is a critical need to discover and develop safe and effective treatments for [cannabis use disorders].”

The National Institutes of Health and the National Institute on Drug Abuse plan to award $3 million to fund three projects aimed at fast-tracking research on drugs to help curb marijuana abuse, and the Food and Drug Administration has not approved any medications to treat pot addiction.

In its proposal, the National Institute on Drug Abuse states that marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug, with an estimated 2.4 million people trying it for the first time last year, and has the highest number of Americans dependent on or abusing it.

The institute’s call for research seems to divert from policies touted by the Obama administration, which has been the most progressive in history allowing for marijuana use.

In March, President Obama said he was “encouraged” by efforts at the state level to allow greater access to marijuana. In an interview with The New Yorker last year, he said, “I don’t think [marijuana] is more dangerous than alcohol.”

During Mr. Obama’s tenure, the Department of Justice said it would not prosecute or enforce laws against the production and sale of marijuana at the state level. To date, 23 states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws allowing pot to be used for a variety of medical conditions. Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Alaska and the District of Columbia have permitted recreational use of pot.

The administration’s most recent move loosening the federal restrictions on weed was made Monday, when it lifted a bureaucratic requirement for those wishing to conduct scientific research on the drug.

For committing $3 million in taxpayer money to find a treatment to a drug that the administration is looking to make more accessible, the National Institute on Drug Abuse gets this week’s Golden Hammer, The Washington Times’ weekly distinction highlighting waste, fraud and abuse — or in this case hypocrisy — in the federal government.

“The public discourse has shifted in recent years to only want to talk about the benefits of marijuana. But addiction is the huge elephant in the room that many lawmakers want to sweep under the carpet,” said Kevin Sabet, who served in the Obama administration as senior adviser at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. “The problem is huge and, as marijuana becomes more legal, we’re going to be seeing it more often.”

According to a study by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, the number of heavy marijuana users has increased sevenfold in the U.S. since its lowest point in 1992. Although the heavy marijuana users represent only about 2 percent of the U.S. population, daily and near-daily marijuana users consume 80 percent of the marijuana in the country.

“The entire medical community is aware of marijuana addiction and how big a problem it is,” said Dr. Stuart Gitlow, a former president at the American Society of Addiction Medicine. “If we go back to the time of Prohibition — from a public health standpoint it was an enormous success, there was a per capita drop in the consumption of alcohol, in accidents related to alcohol, and liver disease was reduced by two-thirds. After it ended, all of these stats went back to where they were before.”

He predicted similar results as marijuana prohibition eases.

“Ending the prohibition of marijuana, what we’ll see is a dramatic increase in its use and the total number of people affected by issues like intoxication and addiction,” he said.

Mr. Gitlow estimates that 15 percent to 20 percent of youths and 10 percent of adults who try marijuana will become addicted to it. Qualities commonly associated with pot addiction are apathy, loss of concentration, paranoia and increased likelihood of psychosis, which leads to increased psychiatric admissions, he said.

Story Continues →

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This Mom Faces Prison For Medical Marijuana. Now Her Attorney Has Declared War On The Drug War Itself.


Matt Ferner Become a fan Matt.Ferner@huffingtonpost.com

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A 38-year-old Kansas woman who lost custody of her 11-year-old son and faces charges that could send her to prison for 30 years over her use of medical marijuana was released on bail last week.

Shona Banda, who has a severely debilitating case of Crohn’s disease, now prepares for the fight of her life — one that her attorney is hoping will not just keep her client out of prison and restore custody of her child, but one that she hopes will cripple “absurd, archaic and outdated marijuana laws that should have been changed decades ago” in Kansas and the rest of the United States.

Here’s how a mother of two using a plant to self-medicate found herself, and her family, being targeted by authorities in her home state. And just how she’s planning to fight back.

‘She Was Barely Functioning, Barely Living.’

Banda had been suffering from what she calls a “terminal case” of Crohn’s disease for nearly a decade.

Crohn’s is a chronic bowel disease that causes inflammation of the intestinal tract and produces an intestine that can no longer adequately absorb food and water. This can result in mild to severe diarrhea, abdominal cramping, blood loss and anemia, as well as joint pain and swelling, according to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America. Its exact cause remains unknown, and while death from Crohn’s is rare, a multitude of complications that can arise when living with the disease can be fatal.

Banda says she was “bedridden” and “walking with a cane for help” due to the severity of the joint pain she was experiencing.

“With Crohn’s disease, it’s like having a stomach flu that won’t go away, and my body’s recognizing that something’s wrong and it’s attacking itself so it’s in overdrive,” Banda said in a 2010 YouTube video interview.

She said she frequently was so weak and in so much pain that she raised her kids “from a couch.”

To combat the disease, Banda had numerous surgeries, long hospital stays, difficult recoveries and dozens of prescription medications that she was forced to take daily — and even with all of that, she was "barely functioning, barely living," Banda’s attorney Sarah Swain told The Huffington Post in an interview.

“If we were to place her disease on a spectrum, I would place it on the far end as something that could have killed her and I believe, very strongly, still could,” Swain said. “If the end result of this case is that she gets sent to prison, I believe there is a real chance that this is the equivalent of a death sentence.”

Shona’s ‘Miraculous’ Recovery

Desperate for an effective treatment, Banda began looking outside of traditional medicine. After watching a documentary about the benefits of cannabis oil, Banda said she started to make her own oil in her kitchen and would consume it around meals.

“Literally within days her Crohn’s was in full remission,” Swain said. And after several months of continued treatment, her health had improved so dramatically that “she considered herself cured from Crohn’s disease.”

“I’m not in my deathbed, I’m working for the first time in four years, I’m hiking, I’m swimming, I’m able to play with my kids, I’m able to do things — I love it,” Banda said in the YouTube video.

Banda was public about her health crisis, as well as her use of medical marijuana, and detailed it all in a 2010 memoir, Live Free Or Die, which recounts her brutal battle with Crohn’s disease for years.

She also recorded a YouTube video the same year her book was published to help further spread her message about the medical benefits of cannabis.

“When you decide to take your life into your own hands and realize that you can do this with a $50 machine, a $5 spatula and a plant that you can grow for free in your backyard, you can do this — and it’s awesome,” Banda says in the YouTube video. “This stuff is amazing, it’s miraculous.”

A ‘Drug Education’ Discussion Sparks An Investigation

Banda made no secret about her cannabis oil use around her two children, 11 and 18, and they watched firsthand for years as their mother’s strength, and health, returned as she continued to self-medicate.

That’s why during a March 24 “drug and alcohol education” presentation at Banda’s 11-year-old son’s school in Garden City, Kansas, her son pushed back against some of the information he was being told about marijuana’s dangers — it didn’t ring true to his personal experience.

“So he raised his hand and essentially said, ‘No, that’s not accurate,’” Swain said.

But his nuanced understanding of the plant inadvertently set in motion a series of events that would turn his family’s life upside down. Banda’s son was quickly called into the principal’s office, where the fifth-grader was questioned at length about his mother’s marijuana use, Swain said. That meeting triggered a call to Child Protective Services. The agency notified local law enforcement, which obtained a warrant and then searched Banda’s home shortly thereafter.

Inside Banda’s home, police found a little more than 1 pound of marijuana, along with equipment Banda had been using to manufacture her cannabis oil in the kitchen. They also found various items related to ingesting marijuana throughout the house that tested positive for THC, the main psychoactive ingredient found in marijuana associated with the “high” sensation and well-known for its medicinal properties. The police also said that the items taken from the house were “within easy reach of the child.”

Banda’s son was immediately removed from her custody and placed into state custody, where he remains. He has been temporarily placed with Banda’s husband, from whom she is separated.

Kansas, A State Of Prohibition

To date, 23 states have legalized marijuana for medical purposes, 20 have decriminalized possession of small amounts of the plant and four have legalized recreational marijuana.

However, marijuana, be it medical or recreational, remains illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act. Within the CSA, the U.S. has five categories for drugs and drug ingredients, with a Schedule 1 categorization reserved for what the Drug Enforcement Administration considers to have the highest potential for abuse and no medical value. Marijuana has been classified as such for decades, alongside other substances like heroin and LSD.

The states that have legalized marijuana or softened penalties for possession have only been able to do so because of federal guidance urging prosecutors to refrain from targeting state-legal marijuana operations.

But those protections don’t extend to states like Kansas that have continued to prohibit marijuana, similarly to the federal government.

Banda was aware of the risks of using medical marijuana in her home state. Twice she had tried to relocate to Colorado, where both medical and recreational marijuana are legal, as so many people have done — becoming “marijuana refugees” — but for financial reasons, she was forced to return to Kansas.

“Shona Banda is not a rich woman, she is a lower-middle-class woman who does not have a lot of money or financial support in the world,” Swain said. “And at multiple times while she was attempting to live in Colorado and use cannabis legally, she found herself homeless, her and her family. It was very difficult.”

Swain said Banda was forced to choose between a state that was too expensive for her to live in but provided legal access to the medicine she so desperately needed, or move back to Kansas, where she could afford to pay her bills and provide a more stable living environment for her children, knowing that the medicine that was keeping her alive and well could land her in prison.

The state of Kansas has charged Banda with five felonies: possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, manufacturing THC, child endangerment and two counts of drug paraphernalia possession.

She faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison, an extreme sentence that has outraged advocates for reforming the prohibition policies in states like Kansas.

“Punishing someone for using marijuana to treat a medical condition is ridiculous,” Mason Tvert, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project, told HuffPost. “Taking away their child for it is legitimately evil. Kansas’ draconian marijuana laws have caused far more harm to this woman and to her child than marijuana ever could.”

Banda turned herself in Monday. She immediately posted the $50,000 bond the state had set and was released from jail just a few hours later. She was only able to do so thanks to a GoFundMe account in her support that has garnered tens of thousands of dollars more than the $15,000 it was initially set up to raise.

Next: A War On The War On Drugs

“Law enforcement messed with the wrong person,” Swain said with ferocity.

Of course, first and foremost, Swain wants to see all charges dropped against her client and for custody of her son to return.

But she has a secondary goal. It’s lofty, but it’s one she says is long overdue and one that doesn’t end with changing just Kansas’ marijuana laws.

“The goal is to change the law for everyone, to make sure that this drug is classified as something less than a Schedule 1 drug, something that, if changed, would benefit millions of people,” Swain said. “We are filling our prisons with poor people and minorities, because, let’s be honest, the war on drugs is a war on poor people and minorities, it’s a pipeline for mass incarceration — and it needs to end."

Swain says that she is prepared to take Banda’s case every step of the way to achieve those goals — including before the Supreme Court, if that’s what it takes.

"Too many people are being forced to choose between dying or violating a law and facing going to prison — it’s totally unacceptable," Swain said. "It’s time to end these absurd, archaic and outdated marijuana laws that should have been changed decades ago.”

Further hearings in Banda’s case are set to be scheduled on Aug. 24.

CONTINUE READING…

Man hid marijuana in ‘Mary Jane’ candy wrappers at airport: cops


By Philip Messing and Chris Perez

June 22, 2015 | 2:36pm

 

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This dope must of been high on his own supply.

A passenger at Newark Airport tried to sneak a stash of marijuana past the TSA — disguising it in Mary Jane candy wrappers, authorities said.

Gregory Murphy’s “bad trip” started Friday at around 5pm when he heard his name being paged over the loudspeakers as he prepared to board a plane at Gate 85, according to Port Authority police.

The 49-year-old Toms River, N.J. resident was confronted by TSA officers after they discovered Zig-Zag rolling papers and “a green leafy vegetation” inside of his checked luggage.

Murphy later admitted to Port Authority police that the greens — which was wrapped in seven Mary Jane candy wrappers and concealed in a plastic zip-lock baggie — was in fact marijuana and that it and the rolling papers belonged to him, authorities said.

Murphy was arrested and issued summonses for possession of marijuana under 50 grams and possession of drug paraphernalia. He has been released and is due in court on July 7th.

 

CONTINUE READING…

Until today if you wanted to conduct marijuana research, you’d need to do the following:


In this photo taken Tuesday, May 5, 2015, marijuana plants grows at a Minnesota Medical Solutions greenhouse in Otsego, Minn.  (Glen Stubbe/Star Tribune via AP)

 

A long-standing bureaucratic obstacle to privately-funded medical marijuana research has just been removed, effective immediately.

Until today if you wanted to conduct marijuana research, you’d need to do the following:

  1. Submit your study proposal to the Food and Drug Administration for a thorough review of its "scientific validity and ethical soundness."
  2. Submit your proposal to a separate Public Health Service (PHS) board, which performs pretty much the exact same review as the FDA.
  3. Get a marijuana permit from the Drug Enforcement Administration.
  4. Finally, obtain a quantity of medical marijuana via the Drug Supply Program run by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), which maintains a monopoly on medical marijuana grown for research in the U.S.

As you might imagine, this can be a complicated, time-consuming process. Step 2, the PHS review, has been a subject of particular consternation among researchers and advocates. That step is not required for research into any other drug, including cocaine and heroin. The PHS review is nearly identical to the one performed by the FDA. Sometimes, it can take months to complete.

In recent years, advocates of overhauling marijuana laws, researchers, members of Congress, and even marijuana legalization opponents have called for the PHS review to be eliminated in the name of streamlining research. This week, the Department of Health and Human Services agreed, determining that the PHS review process is redundant with the FDA review, and that it is "no longer necessary to support the conduct of scientifically-sound studies into the potential therapeutic uses of marijuana."

"The president has often said that drug policy should be dictated by unimpeded science instead of ideology, and it’s great to see the Obama administration finally starting to take some real action to back that up," said Tom Angell of the Marijuana Majority, a pro-legalization group.

Even those who oppose legalization agreed.

"I think it’s a sensible change; but people are being delusional if they think this will result in a flood of research on the drug," said Kevin Sabet of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, an anti-legalization group. "But it’s a step in the right direction as the development of a non smoked cannabis medication goes forward."

I’ve reached out to some researchers for reaction too, and will update when I hear from them.

There are still more bureaucratic hurdles to marijuana research than to research in any other drug. NIDA’s monopoly on legal marijuana production doesn’t exist for any other drug, meaning that heroin and cocaine remain easier for researchers to work with.

"The next step should be moving marijuana out of Schedule I to a more appropriate category, which the administration can do without any further Congressional action," said Angell. "Given what the president and surgeon general have already said publicly about marijuana’s relative harms and medical uses, it’s completely inappropriate for it to remain in a schedule that’s supposed to be reserved for substances with a high potential for abuse and no therapeutic value."

Christopher Ingraham writes about politics, drug policy and all things data. He previously worked at the Brookings Institution and the Pew Research Center.

Continue Reading…

Marijuana cash is problem for Illinois tax collection


Updated: Jun 19, 2015 10:22 AM CST

CHICAGO (Associated Press) – The state of Illinois is having trouble finding a bank or financial company to process the large amounts of cash it anticipates receiving for taxes and fees from its new medical marijuana industry.

The state received no response to a solicitation published last fall. Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs has started a formal process to find out why.

The legal marijuana industry tends to operate with cash only. Experts say banks and credit card companies are wary because the federal government considers marijuana an illegal drug.

The Illinois treasurer is asking the financial industry for input by June 29. An armored car services requirement has been deleted from the new draft because it was "believed to be a deterrent to proposals."

Continue Reading…,

Ohio election officials warned about pro-marijuana group’s voter registrations


Marijuana leaves

By Jackie Borchardt, Northeast Ohio Media Group
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on June 17, 2015 at 2:38 PM, updated June 17, 2015 at 7:02 PM

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted on Wednesday advised election officials to "carefully analyze" new voter registrations being submitted by The Strategy Network, which is collecting signatures for pro-marijuana legalization group ResponsibleOhio.

County boards of elections have reported an increase in errors and registrations that appear to be fraudulent turned in by the group, Husted said.

"As the state’s chief elections officer, I have a duty to work with our local boards of elections to ensure fairness at the ballot box and a primary component of that responsibility is to maintain clean voter rolls and establish safeguards against fraud," Husted said in a news release. "ResponsibleOhio’s suspicious voter registration efforts seem to be simply another step in a growing trend of irresponsible behavior."

According to Husted’s office, counties have reported:

  • Registrants who report non-existent addresses;
  • Signatures that are illegible or do not match the signature on file for the applicant in the voter’s existing registration record;
  • Multiple applications submitted on the same day for a single applicant at different addresses;
  • Applicants who are underage and will not turn 18 before the next general election; and
  • Multiple registration forms that appear to be completed in the same handwriting.

ResponsibleOhio announced last week it had collected more than 550,000 signatures and about 10 percent of those also completed new voter registration forms. ResponsibleOhio Executive Director Ian James also owns The Strategy Network, a well-known Columbus consulting firm that specializes in collecting signatures for ballot issue campaigns.

James said Husted’s letter was the first the campaign had heard of problems with its voter registrations. James said petition circulators follow the law for voter registrations, which allow them to complete portions of the registration form.

"[My company] has collected 5.6 million signatures  and we’re registering tens of thousands of people to vote. We take the responsibility of compliance with Ohio election law very seriously," James said.

James said Husted’s warning is the latest move by elected politicians to thwart ResponsibleOhio’s effort. State lawmakers are considering their own constitutional amendment targeted at ResponsibleOhio that would nullify amendments that benefit an economic interest .

"There is somewhat of a concern that we’re going to qualify for the ballot, that voters are going to be able to vote for the issue that they overwhelmingly support, that voters are going to legalize marijuana in Ohio," James said. "And there are some who don’t want to have that happen and are pulling all the stops to try to stop voters from having their say on this matter."

ResponsibleOhio wants to legalize marijuana for personal and recreational use for adults over age 21 and limit commercial growing to 10 sites promised to campaign investors. The group must collect more than 305,591 valid signatures of registered Ohio voters by July 1 to qualify for the November ballot.

Signatures are sent to county boards of election for verification, and groups often register signers to vote in Ohio in hopes of increasing validity.

In at least two counties, Husted wrote in a letter to James, registrations were turned in for 16-year-old applicants. One of those applicants told the county elections board director he was advised to complete the form even after explaining he was not old enough to vote.

Husted spokesman Joshua Eck said the office didn’t have a total number of irregularities but boards in Cuyahoga County and 12 others have reported suspicious registrations: Butler, Clermont, Delaware, Erie, Fairfield, Franklin, Hamilton, Meigs, Paulding, Ross and Scioto counties.

Earlier this year, Husted joined fellow Republican statewide elected officials in denouncing the amendment. At that time, Husted said it was offensive to ask Ohioans to give a constitutional monopoly to the marijuana industry and he would "vigorously" ask voters to defeat it.

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