2018

NFL player makes medical marijuana history: ‘I have a life to live’

(CNN)NFL running back Mike James calls it his medicine for pain management, but league officials call it a banned substance. Now, James’ athletic career is hanging in limbo because he chose pot over pills.

In 2013, James was prescribed opioid painkillers after injuring his left ankle in a Monday night football game. Within weeks, he developed a dangerous dependency on the drugs.
To get off of the opioids, he turned to medical marijuana for his pain.
    Suddenly, “my pain subsided,” James told CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta in an exclusive interview in the documentary “Weed 4: Pot vs. Pills,” which aired Sunday night.
    “I never had something where I could be coherent and still have pain relief,” he said.
    He turned to the sport that both he and his mother loved to help overcome his grief. “For him to be all right and mentally deal with this, he was going to lean on football,” said his wife, Aubrey James.
    Three years later, James was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. As a Bleacher Report headline put it, James proved that he had the talent to enjoy a “promising future” with the Buccaneers, but then he injured his ankle, and his life changed.
    Doctors prescribed a cocktail of opiates to deal with the pain, a common prescription among professional athletes for sports-related injuries.
    A study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence in 2011 found that more than half — 52% — of former NFL players reported using opioids during their career, and 71% of those players reported misusing opioids.
    The prevalence of current opioid use among those players was 7%, according to that study: about three times the rate of use among the general population. The study included 644 retired players who answered questions in a telephone survey about their opioid use.
    James never worried about developing an opioid addiction, “because I was getting them from a doctor,” he said, but Aubrey worried.
    Within weeks of his injury, James joined the about 2.5 million Americans who struggle with opioid use disorder.
    In an effort to help him stop using pills, his wife suggested that James use pot to treat his pain.
    James, a 27-year-old father of two, knew that he needed to stop using opioids whenever he thought about “the notion that I would do what my father did to me, to my boys,” he said. His sons are 4 and 1.
    He remained skeptical, however, about using marijuana to make that change.
    “I thought, ‘Weed? No, that’s a street drug.’ I didn’t even want to hear what it had to offer,” he said, but after more convincing, he finally tried marijuana in February 2014, and it helped him get off the opioids.
    “I felt like I was beginning a new life,” he said.
    Yet since cannabis is banned in the NFL and James was unsure how he could get more, he said, he didn’t use it again until last year.

      Goodell addresses NFL ban on marijuana use

    Then, in August, James took a drug test as part of the NFL’s routine testing program. In October, he learned that the test was positive for marijuana, leading to his filing of the therapeutic use exemption for cannabis.
    “This is the first active player who’s been willing to put their professional career on the line, to openly admit that they not only have been using this cannabis but need it to function at the highest level,” said Dr. Sue Sisley, an Arizona-based physician who is a board member of the nonprofit Doctors for Cannabis Regulation and has been helping James with his exemption application.
    “Mike’s case is such a perfect example of why cannabis needs to be made available, because he’s really not a candidate for opioids,” she said. “So this is a safe alternative for him.”

    ‘I’m not ashamed of it. … I have a life to live’

    Twenty-nine states, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico have approved some form of legalized cannabis. The first state in the US to legalize marijuana for medicinal use was California, in 1996.
    As it turns out, 69% of Americans say they approve of a professional athlete using marijuana for pain, and 67% saythat using a doctor’s prescription for an opioid is a greater health risk than using a doctor’s prescription for marijuana, according to a Yahoo News/Marist Poll released last year.
    The stance of the NFL remains somewhat unclear, and the league did not respond to a request for comment.
    In 2016, the NFL Players Association formed a committee to investigate all pain management options for players, including cannabis.
    “Our job is to find the best medical science to support your therapeutic use exemption,” DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFL Players Association, told Gupta.
    As for James’ case, “what I would say to him and every NFL player: Our job is to figure out, how do we build the best medical support for the best treatment for you?” Smith said.

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    James never would have guessed that he would make history due to a therapeutic use exemption, but if, 30 years from now, his biography states “medicinal marijuana advocate,” he would be fine with that.
    “I’m not ashamed of it,” James said. “I’m not embarrassed about it. It is something that I will continue to use, because I have a life to live.”

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    Mary JaneNFL player makes medical marijuana history: ‘I have a life to live’
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    Getting off opioids with medical marijuana: Patients turn to pot over pills

    (CNN)In 2016, opioids killed more Americans than breast cancer. The drug overdose epidemic has become one of the most concerning public health issues of recent time, and in an effort to stem the tide, moreg and more patients and doctors are turning to pot over pills.

    Watch Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s CNN Special Report “Weed 4: Pot vs. Pills” on Sunday, April 29, at 8 p.m. ET.
    For much of the past two decades, 51-year-old Angie Slinkertook a cocktail of narcotics, antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications to manage the pain stemming from a car accident in 1998. She had between 50 and 60 surgeries, but her pain persisted, and doctors kept giving her more pills.
    “It was just a vicious cycle,” she told CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. “You started taking something for pain, and before you knew it, you were into another surgery. Which brought on anxiety.” To treat the anxiety, doctors prescribed more pills. And when she felt depressed, they added even more medications.
      All the drugs left in her a fog. She spent most of her days in bed. When Slinker woke up, she was in pain and looking for immediate relief.
      By 2012, she was taking up to 25 pills a day. She weighed close to 350 pounds, and she didn’t want to move, because the medications sapped whatever will or desire she had. “I can’t do this anymore. It is killing me from the inside out,” she told her doctors.
      And so she stopped cold turkey.
      The withdrawal symptoms were severe. Slinker said she was moody and irritable from the pounding headaches and constant nausea. Without any medications, her hands began to spasm and freeze.
      Her then 22 year-old sonsuggested cannabis. The relief was quick. “I realized immediately that there are medicinal properties within cannabis,” she said.
      It didn’t completely eliminate her pain, but pot allowed her to live again, she says. She was able to play with her granddaughter and participate in life. “I’m never going to be pain-free, ever. But cannabis has given me a reason to live,” Slinker said.
      But it is also illegal in her home state of Indiana. “I could have bought cannabis off the street. But that was not me. I wanted to do it the right way. I wanted to do it legally,” she said. So in July 2012, Slinker moved to Maine.

      Treating patients with weed

      Medical marijuana has been legal in Maine since 1999. The state has one of the top ten highest rates of opioid overdose in the country. In 2016, the rate of overdoses from opioid drugs in Maine was nearly double the national rate. The number of heroin related deaths has jumped more than fourfold since 2012.

        This is your brain on pain

      For a state deeply embedded in the opioid crisis, Dustin Sulak believes that medical marijuana could be part of a solution. “There’s no pill, there’s no spray, no drop, no puff [that] can completely solve this problem,” Sulak told Gupta. “But cannabis, when it’s used in the right way, can take a big bite out of it.”
      Sulak is a doctor of osteopathic medicine. He says he has treated hundreds of people with marijuana to wean them off opioid painkillers. He runs two outpatient clinics in Maine and started looking to marijuana as a potential solution when he noticed that a number of his patients were able to sustain their opioid dosages for years, never asking for more.
      Production of natural opioids is triggered when the body experiences pain. But opioid medications can act as a signal to the body to stop producing endorphins; it instead becomes more and more reliant on the drugs. When the person takes more opioids, that increases the risk for overdose.
      Sulak was curious as to why some of his patients didn’t need to increase their opioid doses, so he asked them what was different. “The answer was that they were using opioids in combination with cannabis. And they felt that it made the opioids stronger.”
      Sulak’s review of the medical literature resulted in the same conclusion. He points out that when opioids are used in combination with cannabis in animals, marijuana can boost an opioid’s effectiveness without requiring higher dosages.
      Slinker is now a patient of Sulak’s integrative health practice. Instead of taking 25 pills a day, she supplements smoking a gram of marijuana every three or four weeks with marijuana tinctures, oils and vapor. She also uses a drug called naltrexone to help with her autoimmune-related issues.
      She credits her life now to cannabis and wants others to know about it. “I want people to know that they have options. Do not be afraid to tell your doctor that you do not want these chemicals in your body,” she said.

      ‘I don’t think I would be alive today if I didn’t have it’

      Doug Campbell, another patient of Sulak’s, agrees that cannabis is a real alternative. “I don’t think I would be alive today if I didn’t have it,” he said.
      Like Slinker, Campbell said he started off using narcotics to manage pain. He was 18 years-old when he fell off a roof and fractured three vertebrae in his lower back. But it wasn’t until he started getting involved in a more party lifestyle that opioids became more than just therapy.
      After 32 times in and out of rehabilitation, he finally found a way to stop using opioids. “I have no cravings. I have no desire. I do not have any thought about it at all,” he told Gupta.
      Dr. Mark Wallace, a pain management specialist and head of the University of California, San Diego Health’s Center for Pain Medicine, is seeing similar results in his patients. Wallace began investigating cannabis in 1999, when he received a grant from the state of California. He looked at the literature and realized that pot had a long history of therapeutic use for many disorders including leprosy, epilepsy and pain.
      Within a decade, there were enough studies to convince him that marijuana was a real alternative to use in his practice. He estimates that hundreds of his patients, like Marc Schechter, have been weaned off pills through pot.

      40,000 pills over 10 years

      In the past 10 years, Schechter estimates, he took almost 40,000 opioid pills, all prescribed to him by his doctors. Percocet, fentanyl and OxyContin — they all worked, but when the dosage wore off, he needed more.
      Schechter had a rare condition that flared up while he was playing golf in 2007. At the 17th hole, pain began radiating from his back. By the time he got back to his room, he couldn’t move his left leg at all.
      Schechter was diagnosed with idiopathic transverse myelitis, an inflammation of the spine. He was eventually able to walk again, but the pain persisted.
      Without the drugs, it felt like his leg was burning with pins and needles, as if it had fallen asleep. “It’s like that 24/7. Not a second of relief,” he said. He needed the drugs just to live.
      “Were you addicted to them?” Gupta asked.
      “Physically, yeah,” Schechter said.
      The drugs never interfered with his work as an attorney, but Schechter kept needing more and more of them. He started to question their effectiveness. Schechter told his neurologist, “I really am starting to doubt whether this is even having any effect because I’m in so much neuropathic pain.”
      His neurologist had heard of Wallace’s work and referred Schechter to the clinic. The first night Schechter used marijuana, he took a puff or two from a vaporizer. “Within a minute, I had immediate pain relief. … [The pain level] was so tolerable that I was, like, in heaven.”

      ‘We need objective data’

      Patients and doctors across the country have told similar stories. But Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said anecdotes are not enough.
      “We cannot be guided by wishful thinking. We need objective data,” she told Gupta.

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      And a growing number of doctors and researchers like Wallace and Sulak are ready to provide those data. They say federal regulations are standing in the way of getting people the help they need.
      According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, marijuana is a Schedule I drug, meaning it has no medical use and a high potential for abuse.
      “We have enough evidence now that it should be rescheduled,” Wallace said.
      Sulak wonders, “When will the medical community catch up with what their patient populations are doing?”

      Read more: http://edition.cnn.com/

      Mary JaneGetting off opioids with medical marijuana: Patients turn to pot over pills
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      Gupta to Jeff Sessions: Medical marijuana could save many addicted to opioids

      (CNN)Dear Honorable Jeff Sessions,

      Watch Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s CNN Special Report “Weed 4: Pot vs. Pills” on Sunday, April 29, at 8 p.m. ET.
      I feel obligated to share the results of my five-year-long investigation into the medical benefits of the cannabis plant. Before I started this worldwide, in-depth investigation, I was not particularly impressed by the results of medical marijuana research, but a few years later, as I started to dedicate time with patients and scientists in various countries, I came to a different conclusion.
      Not only can cannabis work for a variety of conditions such as epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and pain, sometimes, it is the only thing that works. I changed my mind, and I am certain you can, as well. It is time for safe and regulated medical marijuana to be made available nationally. I realize this is an unconventional way to reach you, but your office declined numerous requests for an interview, and as a journalist, a doctor and a citizen, I felt it imperative to make sure you had access to our findings.
        Mr. Sessions, there is an added urgency, as we are in the middle of a deadly opioid epidemic that has been described as the worst self-inflicted epidemic in the history of our country.
        The drug overdose scourge claimed about 68,000 US lives in 2017, just over 45,000 of them from opioids alone. Every day, 115 Americans die from opioid overdoses. It has fueled a decline in an entire country’s life expectancy and will be remembered as a sad and tragic chapter in our collective history.
        These are desperate times, and while some may consider making medical marijuana widely available to be a desperate measure, the evidence has become increasingly clear of the important role cannabis can have.
        We have seen real-world clues of medical marijuana’s benefits. Researchers from the Rand Corp., supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, conducted “the most detailed examination of medical marijuana and opioid deaths to date” and found something few initially expected. The analysis showed an approximately 20% decline in opioid overdose deaths between 1999 and 2010 in states with legalized medical marijuana and functioning dispensaries.
        It’s not the first time this association between medical marijuana and opioid overdose has been found. Though it is too early to draw a cause-effect relationship, these data suggest that medicinal marijuana could save up to 10,000 lives every year.

        The science of weed

        Cannabis and its compounds show potential to save lives in three important ways.
        Cannabis can help treat pain, reducing the initial need for opioids. Cannabis is also effective at easing opioid withdrawal symptoms, much like it does for cancer patients, ill from chemotherapy side effects. Finally, and perhaps most important, the compounds found in cannabis can heal the diseased addict’s brain, helping them break the cycle of addiction.
        Mr. Sessions, there is no other known substance that can accomplish all this. If we had to start from scratch and design a medicine to help lead us out of the opioid epidemic, it would likely look very much like cannabis.

        A better, and safer, way to treat pain

        The consensus is clear: Cannabis can effectively treat pain. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine arrived at this conclusion last year after what it described as the “most comprehensive studies of recent research” on the health effects of cannabis.
        Furthermore, opioids target the breathing centers in the brain, putting their users at real risk of dying from overdose. In stark contrast, with cannabis, there is virtually no risk of overdose or sudden death. Even more remarkable, cannabis treats pain in a way opioids cannot. Though both drugs target receptors that interfere with pain signals to the brain, cannabis does something more: It targets another receptor that decreases inflammation — and does it fast.
        I have seen this firsthand. All over the country, I have met patients who have weaned themselves off opioids using cannabis. Ten years ago, attorney Marc Schechter developed a sudden painful condition known as transverse myelitis, an inflammation of the spinal cord. After visiting doctors in several states, he was prescribed opioids and, according to our calculations, consumed approximately 40,000 pills over the next decade. Despite that, his pain scores remained an eight out of 10. He also suffered significant side effects from the pain medication, including nausea, lethargy and depression.
        Desperate and out of options, Schechter saw Dr. Mark Wallace, head of University of California, San Diego Health’s Center for Pain Medicine, where he was recommended cannabis. Minutes after he took it for the first time, Schechter’s pain was reduced to a score of two out of 10, with hardly any side effects. One dose of cannabis had provided relief that 40,000 pills over 10 years could not.

        Using marijuana to get off opioids

        For Schechter, as with so many others, the seemingly insurmountable barrier to ending his opioid use was the terrible withdrawal symptoms he suffered each time he tried. When a patient stops opioids, their pain is often magnified, accompanied by rapid heart rate, persistent nausea and vomiting, excessive sweating, anorexia and terrible anxiety.
        Here again, cannabis is proven to offer relief. As many know, there is longstanding evidence that cannabis helps chemotherapy-induced symptoms in cancer patients, and those symptoms are very similar to opioid withdrawal. In fact, for some patients, cannabis is the only agent that subdues nausea while increasing appetite.

        Why we can’t ‘just say no’ to opioids

        Finally, when someone is addicted to opioids, they are often described as having a brain disease. Yasmin Hurd, director of the Addiction Institute at Mount Sinai in New York City, showed me what this looks like in autopsy specimens of those who had overdosed on opioids. Within the prefrontal cortex of the brain, she found damage to the glutamatergic system, which makes it difficult for neural signals to be transmitted. This is an area of the brain responsible for judgment, decision-making, learning and memory.
        Hurd told me that when an individual’s brain is “fundamentally changed” and diseased in this manner, they lose the ability to regulate opioid consumption, unable to quit despite their best efforts — unable to “just say no.”
        It is no surprise, then, that abstinence-only programs have pitiful results when it comes to opioid addiction. Even the current gold standard of medication-assisted treatment, which is far more effective, still relies on less-addictive opioids such as methadone and buprenorphine. That continued opioid use, Hurd worries, can cause ongoing disruption to the glutamatergic system, never allowing the brain to fully heal. It may help explain the tragic tales of those who succeed in stopping opioids for a short time, only to relapse again and again.

          Your brain on marijuana

        This is precisely why Hurd started to look to other substances to help and settled on nonpsychoactive cannabidiol or CBD, one of the primary components in cannabis. Hurd and her team discovered that CBD actually helped “restructure and normalize” the brain at the “cellular level, at the molecular level.” It was CBD that healed the glutamatergic system and improved the workings of the brain’s frontal lobes.
        This new science sheds lights on stories like the one I heard from Doug Campbell of Yarmouth, Maine. He told me he had been in and out of drug rehab 32 times over 25 years, with no success. But soon after starting cannabis, he no longer has “craving, desire and has not thought about (opioids) at all, period.”
        For the past 40 years, we have been told that cannabis turns the brain into a fried egg, and now there is scientific evidence that it can do just the opposite, as it did for Campbell. It can heal the brain when nothing else does.
        I know it sounds too good to be true. I initially thought so, as well. Make no mistake, though: Marc Schechter and Doug Campbell are emblematic of thousands of patients who have successfully traded their pills for a plant.
        These patients often live in the shadows, afraid to come forward to share their stories. They fear stigma. They fear prosecution. They fear that someone will take away what they believe is a lifesaving medication.

        Where do we go from here?

        Mr. Sessions, Dr. Mark Wallace has invited you to spend a day seeing these patients in his San Diego clinic and witness their outcomes for yourself. Dr. Dustin Sulak could do the same for you in Portland, Maine, as could Dr. Sue Sisley in Phoenix. Staci Gruber in Boston could show you the brain scans of those who tried cannabis for the first time and were then able to quit opioids. Dr. Julie Holland in New York City could walk you through the latest research. All over the country, you will find the scientists who write the books and papers, advance the science and grow our collective knowledge. These are the women and men to whom you should listen. They are the ones, free of rhetoric and conjecture, full of facts and truth, who are our best chance at halting the deadly opioid epidemic.

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        Making medicinal marijuana available should come with certain obligations and mandates, just as with any other medicine. It should be regulated to ensure its safety, free of contamination and consistent in dosing. It should be kept out of the hands of children, pregnant women and those who are at risk for worse side effects. Any responsible person wants to make sure this is a medicine that helps people, not harms.
        Recently, your fellow conservative John Boehner changed his mind after being “unalterably opposed” to marijuana in the past. If you do the same, Mr. Attorney General, thousands of lives could be improved and saved. There is no time to lose.

        Read more: http://edition.cnn.com/

        Mary JaneGupta to Jeff Sessions: Medical marijuana could save many addicted to opioids
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        A Marijuana-Based Drug Is On Track For FDA Approval For The First Time Ever

        A 13-person expert panel unanimously recommended the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve a new drug derived from cannabis as a treatment for two severe and rare types of childhood epilepsy, making drugs containing cannabinoids (CBD) one step closer to federal approval.

        If the FDA follows the group’s recommendation, UK-based GW Pharmaceuticals’ syrup will be the first drug made from cannabis to win federal approval.

        The recommendation comes after the company presented to an independent panel of experts a three-phase series of clinical trials showing the experimental medication – which does not get the user high – significantly reduced seizures in children with severe and early-onset forms of epilepsy. Both Lennox-Gastaut (LGS) and Dravet syndromes begin in infancy and cause sudden stiffening of the body, arms, and legs. More than 90 percent of patients with LGS or Dravet Syndrom have multiple seizures a day, according to GW Pharmaceuticals

        It’s not clear how the medicine, Epidioleax, reduces seizures, but a briefing document published April 19 suggests CBD is “clinically meaningful and statistically significant” in doing so. The company advises parents to monitor children for potential liver damage and lists common side effects as diarrhea, fatigue, vomiting, and sleep problems. In the report, the drugmakers concluded CBD has a negligible abuse potential.

        More than two dozen states allow medical marijuana, but federal approval has not been granted for any medical use. Despite its prohibition, some parents have been using cannabidiol, or CBD oil, to treat children with the condition. CBD is one of more than 100 chemicals found in the cannabis plant. It doesn’t contain the psychoactive tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) ingredient. Earlier this year, a 36-study review confirmed evidence for the effectiveness of cannabinoids in managing epileptic seizures, showing consistent evidence that compounds from cannabis “often reduce the average frequency of epileptic seizures” where conventional drugs have failed.

        As much as 10 percent of the world’s population live with active seizures, according to the Epilepsy Foundation, 60 percent of whom don’t know the cause.  

        A decision is expected from FDA regulators by the end of June. If approved, Epidiolex would be available for prescription in child patients two years and older with hard-to-treat forms of epilepsy. Doctors could have the option to prescribe the oil for other uses, potentially spurring new pharmaceutical research and interest in other cannabis-based products.

        The kicker, as always, is the price. The company declined to comment on the price of the drug, reports USA Today. The publication says Wall Street analysts estimate it could cost more than $25,000 per year.

        Read more: http://www.iflscience.com

        Mary JaneA Marijuana-Based Drug Is On Track For FDA Approval For The First Time Ever
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        Am I Stoned? New App Tells You How High You Really Are

        Want to know how high you are? There’s an app for that. Or rather, there could be very soon.

        While it is now perfectly legal to light up a spliff in nine US states (29 if you count medical marijuana), there is no accurate way to tell how stoned a person is. A drunk driver can be assessed with a breathalyzer but for several reasons, a similar device cannot be used to test for marijuana intoxication. 

        So instead, the government is funding the development of an app, which they’ve simply called Am I Stoned?

        Right now, it is just a prototype and there are still a few glitches to figure out (more on that later) but the results so far have been promising.

        The app has been designed to work out how high a user is based on their performance on a series of digital tasks that can be completed on mobile or desktop. The tasks test the user on their cognitive speed, reaction time, fine motor ability, and memory, which the app then compares to the user’s baseline (created when they weren’t high).

        In a double-blind study, researchers tested both the mobile and desktop versions on 24 volunteers. Some had been given a placebo, others a mild dose (7.5 milligrams) of THC, the psychoactive compound found in cannabis, and the rest were given a higher dose of THC (15 milligrams). 

        The results were not perfect. The mobile app was able to accurately assess whether the user was impaired in just one of the four tasks. The desktop version did a little better and correctly predicted whether or not a user was high in three of the four tasks.

        “The effects of THC on performance may be subtle, so we need highly sensitive tasks to detect impairments,” explained Elisa Pabon, a doctoral student at the University of Chicago who presented the results at the American Society for Pharmacology and Therapeutics on Tuesday.

        “It is likely that the computer tasks, which took 15 to 20 minutes to complete, were more sensitive to THC impairment because they provided more opportunity to detect a drug effect.”

        Aside from the obvious, there are a few other issues the researchers need to smooth out. For example, there are certain effects of marijuana, including vigilance and judgment planning, that are not currently being tested for and which would help the app accurately assess how high the user is. It also does not consider the fact that with a little practice a user could improve their performance over time and outsmart the app. 

        For now, it seems, the users themselves might be the best measure of how stoned they really are. The study found that users were “generally aware” of whether they were high or not. 

        Read more: http://www.iflscience.com

        Mary JaneAm I Stoned? New App Tells You How High You Really Are
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        Meet Permit Patty, The Newest White Lady Getting Meme’d For Calling The Cops On An Eight-Year-Old Black Girl

        Behold, we’ve got a BBQ Becky 2.0! An Oakland woman named Alison Ettel recently called the police on an eight-year-old girl who was selling water bottles outside of her apartment building on the grounds of her “not having a permit.” The internet immediately jumped all over the situation as a golden meme opportunity when it was released that Ettel is the CEO of a medical marijuana company for dogs. The most hilariously ironic detail of the whole situation is that she has reportedly been operating her business without the proper permit herself.

        Let the Permit Patty memes commence!


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