Saturday 28 February 2015

NEWS: Colorado pot sales hit $700M in first year of full legalization

Consumers in Colorado bought more than 17 tons of recreational marijuana during the first year of the state’s new retail market, but sales of medicinal pot still outstripped that at almost 50 tons, officials said on Friday.
In a national first, voters in Colorado and Washington state opted to legalize recreational marijuana use by adults in landmark twin ballots in 2012. The first retail stores opened in Colorado on Jan 1, 2014.
States such as Oregon and Alaska also have voted to legalize recreational pot, and others where lawmakers face proposals to do so, are watching the Colorado results closely.
State tax officials say sales hit nearly $700 million last year, with medical marijuana ac
counting for $386 million and recreational pot bringing in $313 million.
In its first annual report, the Colorado Department of Revenue’s Marijuana Enforcement Division said 109,578 pounds (49.7 tons) of medical marijuana were sold in 2014, while 38,660 pounds (17.5 tons) were sold on the retail market.
But recreational sales of pot-infused edible products, such as candies and cookies, outstripped medical sales by about 2.85 million units to 1.96 million.
The report said 322 retail stores were licensed at the end of last year, while 833 licenses were issued to retail businesses in general, and 1,416 medical-marijuana businesses were approved by the state.
It said medical businesses were cultivating about 300,000 marijuana plants on average each month during 2014, while the number of retail plants rose steadily from fewer than 25,000 in January to nearly 217,000 during December.
Sixty-seven jurisdictions allow medical and retail licensees, 21 permit only medical and five only retail, while 228 jurisdictions prohibit them both.
The state’s marijuana laws have been challenged in federal court by neighboring Nebraska and Oklahoma, which argue that weed is smuggled across their borders.
Some Colorado residents also are challenging them, saying the pot industry has hurt their families, businesses or property values.
Supporters say voters have chosen to take the trade out of the hands of criminals, and a Quinnipiac University Poll this week showed 58 percent of Colorado residents support marijuana legalization, versus 38 percent against it.

Wednesday 25 February 2015

NEWS: Dan Haslam, the young man who changed the minds of politicians on medical marijuana, has died

One of the key campaigners behind the bid to legalise cannabis use for terminally ill people in New South Wales has died.
Dan Haslam, 25, was surrounded by friends and family when he died at his home in Tamworth on Tuesday, after a five-year battle with bowel cancer.
Mr Haslam came to national attention in 2014, when he and his family went public with the story of his experience using medicinal cannabis as a way to manage the effects of his cancer treatment.
The Haslam family has since been campaigning for the medicinal use of the drug to be made legal.
NSW is now running three medical trials that allow children with severe epilepsy, adults with terminal illnesses and people with nausea caused by chemotherapy to use medical cannabis.
Mr Haslam's mother Lucy Haslam told the ABC New England North West Morning program that her son did not stop fighting until the end.
"He just became the champion of the cause for so many people that didn't feel they could use their own voice to come out in support for medical cannabis," she said.
"He was very easy to love, I don't think he had any enemies."
Mrs Haslam said her son had helped thousands of people.

Last year NSW premier Mike Baird announced clinical trials into the use of medical cannabisfollowing lobbying from Haslam and his family.
The Premier also directed police to not prosecute terminally ill people using the illegal drug.
Baird paid tribute to Haslam on news of his death saying “I was struck by Dan’s conviction and bravery from the moment I met him”.
“His determination, not just to beat his disease, but also to make a difference for others, is an inspiration to all, and certainly was to me. I will never forget the look in his eyes the first time I met him and it will stay with me forever.”

Haslam’s campaign continued to gather momentum last year, especially when the state and federal governments signed an agreement in October that saw NSW take the lead on medical cannabis research. Victoria is hoping to legalise medical cannabis by the end of the year.
NSW is currently running three medical trials involving adults with terminal illness, patients with nausea from chemotherapy, and children with severe epilepsy.
Baird was deeply moved by Haslam, whom he met in July last year. The Southern Cross University student was just 20 when he was diagnosed with stage 4 colo-rectal cancer. A friend suggested he use cannabis to treat his nausea and pain when he was struggling with the side effects of the opiates traditionally used.
To the surprise of the fiercely anti-drugs family, they found it worked. A campaign to allow him to legally use cannabis included a petition signed by more than 195,000 people, which was presented to the premier last year.
Haslam’s campaign received support from some unlikely sources. His father, Lou, was a former drug squad policeman with 35 years in the force. Local Nationals MP Kevin Andrew also came out in support of the family and a change to the laws.
His mother Lucy told ABC Radio today that Dan became a champion for the many who felt they couldn’t speak out in support of medical cannabis and had helped thousands of people.
“He was very easy to love, I don’t think he had any enemies,” she said.
Three weeks ago, the NSW government granted Haslam just the second licence to use medical marijuana under its Terminal Illness Cannabis Scheme, which protects licence holders from prosecution for possessing up to 15 grams of cannabis leaf, 2.5g of resin or 1g of cannabis oil.
His parents also received licences to protect them from prosecution for possession of their son’s cannabis.
So far 11 people have applied to the Premier’s Department for licences.
He went to Oxley High School in Tamworth before his university studies in sports science in Lismore were delayed by his illness. He met his future wife Alyce at university and the pair became engaged in 2011 and married in 2013.
Dan Haslam is survived by his wife Alyce, parents Lucy and Lou, and brothers Billy and Luke.
A public memorial for him is planned in Tamworth next week.
Here is NSW premier Mike Baird’s statement on his death.
I am deeply saddened by the passing of Dan Haslam.
I was struck by Dan’s conviction and bravery from the moment I met him.
His determination, not just to beat his disease, but also to make a difference for others, is an inspiration to all, and certainly was to me.
I will never forget the look in his eyes the first time I met him and it will stay with me forever.
Dan made a lasting impression on everyone he met, but, more than that, he left a legacy in NSW that will be felt across the nation, and I believe the world.
Every step we take on medical cannabis will be built on the footsteps he left behind.
My thoughts at this sad time are with Dan’s parents Lucy and Lou, his wife Alyce and his brothers Billy and Luke, as well as his many friends.
RIP Dan, we will all miss you.
Rest in Peace Dan. Thank you for your amazing help in legalising this amazing medicine, Your sacrifice means Australia moves one step closer to being able to help thousands of other terminally ill patients, And for that your country is grateful.

Tuesday 24 February 2015

NEWS: How Portugal Brilliantly Ended its War on Drugs

In the 1990s, Portugal was faced with a drug epidemic. General drug use wasn’t any worse than neighboring countries, but rates of problematic drug use were off the charts. A 2001 survey found that 0.7 percent of its population had used heroin at least one time, the second highest rate after England and Wales in Europe. So, in 1998, Portugal appointed a special commission of doctors, lawyers, psychologists, and activists to assess the problem and propose policy recommendations. Following eight months of analysis, the commission advised the government to embark on a radically different approach.

In the 1990s, Portugal was faced with a drug epidemic. General drug use wasn’t any worse than neighboring countries, but rates of problematic drug use were off the charts. A 2001 survey found that 0.7 percent of its population had used heroin at least one time, the second highest rate after England and Wales in Europe. So, in 1998, Portugal appointed a special commission of doctors, lawyers, psychologists, and activists to assess the problem and propose policy recommendations. Following eight months of analysis, the commission advised the government to embark on aradically different approach.

Rather than respond as many governments have, with zero-tolerance legislation and an emphasis on law enforcement, the commission suggested the decriminalization of all drugs, coupled with a focus on prevention, education, and harm-reduction. The objective of the new policy was to reintegrate the addict back into the community, rather than isolate them in prisons, the common approach by many governments. Two years later, Portugal’s government passed the commission’s recommendations into law.
Just as important as the specific policies recommended by the commission is an entirely different philosophy. Rather than treating addiction as a crime, it’s treated as a medical condition. João Goulão, Portugal’s top drug official, emphasizes that the goal of the new policy is to fight the disease, not the patients.  
Decriminalization doesn’t mean legalization.
Legalization removes all criminal penalties for producing, selling, and possessing drugs whereas decriminalization eliminates jail time for drug users, but dealers are still criminally prosecuted. Roughly 25 countries have removed criminal penalties for the possession of small amounts of certain or all drugs. No country has attempted full legalization.
When Portuguese authorities find someone in possession of drugs, the drug user will eventually go before a three-member, administrative panel that includes a lawyer, a doctor, and a psychologist. In dealing with the drug user, the panel has only three choices: prescribe treatment, fine the user, or do nothing. 
Portugal also invested heavily in widespread prevention and education efforts, as well as building rehabilitation programs, needle exchanges, and hospitals.

How did it work?
Levels of drug consumption in Portugal are now among the lowest in the European Union.No surprise, the decriminalization of low-level drug possession has also resulted in a dramatic decline in drug arrests, from more than 14,000 per year to roughly 6,000 once the new policies were implemented. The percentage of drug-related offenders in Portuguese prisons decreased as well -- from 44 percent in 1999 to under 21 percent in 2012.
HIV infection is an area where the results are clear. Before the law, more than half of Portugal's HIV-infected residents were drug addicts. Each year brought 3,000 new diagnoses of HIV among addicts. Today, addicts consist of only 20 percent of HIV-infected patients. 
Portugal’s drug control officials and independent studies caution against crediting Portugal's’s decriminalization as much as its prevention and rehabilitation efforts.
Prospects for ending the U.S. Drug War.
Drug policy in the United States could not be more different. In the U.S., law enforcement still takes center stage, and the war on drugs is defended by vested interests -- from police unions to private prison companies -- that command billions in resources. While the top drug control official in Portugal is a doctor, the U.S. has a drug czar who specializes in law enforcement.
But advocates hoping to change the system have something they don’t: scientific evidence and popular support.
In early 2014, the U.K.'s government conducted an eight-month study comparing drug laws and rates of drug use in 11 countries, including Portugal. Published in October, the report concludes that “[w]e did not in our fact-finding observe any obvious relationship between the toughness of a country’s enforcement against drug possession, and levels of drug use in that country.” It was the U.K.’s first official recognition that its war on drugs has been a complete failure since Parliament passed the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act.
Another sign of hope is the near universal view among Americans that the drug war is not working. A Pew poll from April 2014 revealed that two out of three Americans think people shouldn’t be prosecuted for drug possession. Sixty-three percent support eliminating mandatory minimum sentencing, and 54 percent support full marijuana legalization. States have made more progress changing drug laws than the federal government, particularly when the decision is left to voters, who have passed recreational marijuana legalization or medical marijuana legalization by referenda in several states.

STUDY: Study Reveals Smoking Weed Is 114 Times Safer Than Drinking Booze

It's a long-held belief, not just among stoners, that marijuana is the safest drug. A new scientific study comparing the risks associated with various drugs backs this up, and proves that weed might even be safer than we thought.
The study looked at alcohol, heroin, cocaine, tobacco, ecstasy, meth, and cannabis; the way they appear in that sentence is the order in which they ranked, highest to lowest risk. Reports theWashington Post:
At the level of individual use, alcohol was the deadliest substance, followed by heroin and cocaine.
And all the way at the bottom of the list? Weed — roughly 114 times less deadly than booze, according to the authors, who ran calculations that compared lethal doses of a given substance with the amount that a typical person uses. Marijuana is also the only drug studied that posed a low mortality risk to its users.

In other words, it's pretty darn difficult to fatally OD on pot.
The study's findings, the Post points out, emphasize how arbitrary drug laws are, since the substance that carries the highest risk of death is legal, easily purchased, and a socially-acceptable part of culture. The findings may also give some ammo to the marijuana-legalization cause.
Given the relative risks associated with marijuana and alcohol, the authors recommend "risk management prioritization towards alcohol and tobacco rather than illicit drugs." And they say that when it comes to marijuana, the low amounts of risk associated with the drug "suggest a strict legal regulatory approach rather than the current prohibition approach."
Of the seven drugs included in the study, alcohol was the deadliest at an individual level, followed by heroin, cocaine, tobacco, ecstasy, methamphetamines, and marijuana. Previous studies consistently ranked marijuana as the safest recreational drug, but it was not known that the discrepancy was this large.

The researchers determined the mortality risk by comparing a lethal dose of each substance with the amount typically used. Not only was marijuana the lowest of the drugs tested, but there was such a gap between its lethal and typical doses that they classified it as the only "low mortality risk" drug..

Thursday 19 February 2015

NEWS: Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg "Let people smoke cannabis if it helps them cope with medical problems"

People should be allowed to use cannabis to help treat their medical conditions, The UKs deputy PM Nick Clegg said today.The Deputy Prime Minister said cannabis should be available in a 'straightforward legal way' to help people alleviate their symptoms.

Mr Clegg's remarks came after new academic research revealed users of super-strength cannabis, known as 'skunk, are three times more likely to suffer psychotic mental illness than people who don't take the drug.Overall, a quarter of new cases of psychosis can be blamed on the super-strength strain of cannabis, according to research published in the Lancet medical journal.Mr Clegg this morning insisted he did not want to legalise 'skunk' and other dangerous drugs and insisted it was 'bone-headed' to lump all substances together.Speaking on his weekly call-in on LBC, the Lib Dem leader said it 'strongly' agreed that cannabis for medicinal use should be given the go-ahead.


The Home Office has consistently rejected calls for cannabis to be legalised for medical use – pointing to 'clear evidence cannabis can damage people's mental and physical health'.

Opponents of allowing cannabis for medical purposes insist it could be used as a back door to decriminalising the drug more widely.
Campaigners say cannabis can be used to help conditions such as MS and glaucoma, as well as the side-effects of treatment for cancer, Aids and Crohn's disease.

It came after a caller to his weekly phone-in on LBC said cannabis helped alleviate his MS.
The caller said cannabis was a 'medicine' which helped thousands of people.
He asked Mr Clegg: 'Why are you not doing more about it? I would like to get your word – I would like to get an agreement from you – live on LBC that you are going to do more to make this a big issue because this really does affect people's lives. We need access to legal medical cannabis.'
Mr Clegg replied: 'Basically agree with you. I strongly agree with you that where there is a proven medicinal use for cannabis for instance we should make that easier for those to have access to it in a straightforward legal way in order to alleviate the symptoms that you clearly have that you know as a user are alleviated by the use of cannabis.'
He said Skunk was very different, because it had a link to psychosis.
Mr Clegg: 'If you are anti the harm drugs do you should be pro-reform.'
'This slightly bone-headed approach which says you treat all drugs in exactly the same way, you treat everyone who's ever had access to drugs in exactly the same way – you chuck them in jail.
'We chuck 500 people a year for using cannabis for personal use into jail. Yet, we allow the Mr Biggs who paddle the really nasty drugs, we let them walk scot free?
'Let's take a more intelligent approach – where there is a clear medicinal use, make sure you have access to that in a regulated way.
'Come down much, much more heavily on the people who paddle the really harmful drugs – bring drugs out from the shadows.'
Mr Clegg's remarks come just days after bombshell academic research revealed the true damage caused by cannabis abuse.
According to research carried out by King's College London the potent form of the drug – known as 'skunk' – is so powerful that users are three times more likely to have a psychotic episode than those who have never tried it.
Skunk is thought to account for around for 80 per cent of the UK drug market and is believed to be more addictive than normal herbal cannabis or its solid form, hash.
According to Crime Survey figures for England and Wales, more than a million youngsters aged 16 to 24 smoke cannabis.
Regular users are most at risk of a psychotic episode, prompting experts to warn that youngsters need to be aware of the dangers of skunk, which has been cultivated to be four times as strong as cannabis smoked by previous generations.
The researchers, led by a team at the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London, conclude there is an 'urgent need… to inform young people about the risks of high-potency cannabis', despite a worldwide trend towards relaxing drug laws.
They will reveal there is a key difference between potent skunk strains and ordinary 'hash'. Those who used these 'weaker' forms did not seem to suffer the same increase in risks.

Psychosis is defined as a form of mental illness where people experience delusions, hallucinations, or both at the same time.
Associated with conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, some victims are so badly affected that they end up committing suicide or seriously harming others because they believe they are being ordered to do so by voices in their heads.
The findings will add substance to a 2012 report by the Schizophrenia Commission, which recommended the need for 'warnings about the risks of cannabis' to mental health.
Last year Mr Clegg pledged to abolish prison terms for users caught with any drugs, including class A substances such as cocaine and heroin.
It was 'utterly senseless' to lock up the 1,000 people a year convicted of possession, he said.
The law currently allows drugs firms to develop medicines based on cannabis under a licence granted by the Home Office. One such medicine, Sativex, is already authorised for use in the UK for the treatment of MS.
However, a Home Office spokesman said: 'This Government has no plans to legalise cannabis or to soften our approach to its use as a medicine.

'There is clear scientific and medical evidence that cannabis is a harmful drug which can damage people's mental and physical health. Our cross-government strategy remains clear.
'We must prevent drug use in our communities, support users through treatment and recovery, and tackle the organised criminals behind the drugs trade.
'There has been a long-term downward trend in drug use over the last decade.
'Drug-related deaths in England and Wales have continued to fall during the past three years and people going into treatment today are more likely to free themselves from dependency than ever before.'

NEWS: Parents’ plead for legal medical marijuana to help sick son

AN epileptic boy turned blue and nearly died after his medical marijuana supply ran out.

Cooper Wallace’s parents are desperately urging the Government to fast-track legalising the drug, to save their son and thousands more patients who claim to rely on cannabis.

Mernda couple Cassie Batten and Rhett Wallace have joined calls for an amnesty so they can avoid police prosecution until the Government changes the law later this year. “It’s great that governments are trying to come to a resolution but it’s still months away,” Ms Batten said from Cooper’s bedside at the Northern Hospital in Epping.
The boy’s parents said they would be willing to undergo strict drug testing to ensure the cannabis was being used only for medical purposes. They had been treating Cooper with cannabis oil, which they claimed lessened the severity of fits and relieved pain caused by his disabilities. But six weeks ago the daily seizures returned when their supply ran out. Their pot doctor doesn’t have enough of the specially bred plants to meet demands nationwide.

Ms Batten said that she watched her four-year-old lose consciousness and turn blue as he began having seizures late on Tuesday. “He wasn’t himself — we knew something wasn’t right,” Ms Batten said. “He started to have smaller fevers and then he wasn’t coming out of them, he was unresponsive ... he was going blue.” Premier Daniel Andrews has promised to legalise the drug. But families will have to wait until at least August, when the Victorian Law Reform Commission reports on how the law could be changed.

 Until then, the drug remains banned. Ms Batten said families were prepared to grow their own but needed a guarantee from authorities that they would not be punished. “We need the law changed now, we can’t wait,” she said.

Wednesday 18 February 2015

STUDY: What causes the munchies and how can it help us medically?

According to a new study published in Nature this week, the munchies are partly driven by neurons that, oddly enough, normally work to suppress your appetite. “It’s like pressing a car’s brakes and accelerating instead,” Yale’s Tamas Horvath says in a news release. “We were surprised to find that the neurons we thought were responsible for shutting down eating, were suddenly being activated and promoting hunger, even when you are full. It fools the brain’s central feeding system.”

Previous studies have found that a group of brain cells called pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) neurons play key roles in preventing you from overeating. Researchers suspect that the signals that promote feeding must result in a reduction of POMC neuronal activity -- turns out, it’s not so clear cut. To monitor the brain circuitry that promotes eating, Horvath and an international team of researchers manipulated the pathway that mediates marijuana’s actions on the brains of mice. Unexpectedly, the hunger-suppressing neurons showed enhanced activity during the mice's cannabinoid-induced feeding. "By observing how the appetite center of the brain responds to marijuana," Horvath explains, "we were able to see what drives the hunger brought about by cannabis and how that same mechanism that normally turns off feeding becomes a driver of eating." The feeding signals triggered by CB1R activation, they found, promote the activity of POMC neurons, causing them to release chemicals that are different than those taht are normally produced to promote satiety, that feeling of being full. Feeding behavior driven by these neurons is just one mode of action that involves CB1R signaling, Horvath adds, and his team is looking into whether this mechanism is also the key to getting high. Understanding why we become hungry when we’re comfortably satiated could also help researchers who are looking for a ways to suppress hungriness as well as to stimulate it -- for example in patients who lose their appetite during treatment.