February 2018

Fitbit Could Prove a Mans Innocence. Google Could Send Another to Prison for Murder.

GREEN BAY, WisconsinIn the murder trial of a young substitute teacher and mother of three, FitBit could prove one mans innocenceand Google might send another to jail.

Almost two years after Nicole VanderHeyden, 31, was found strangled and beaten to death, a Virginia man named George Burch is now on trial for her murder in Brown County. Friends say Burch, who was released from a Southern jail in January 2016, moved north for a fresh start. Yet within the first months of his freedom, he allegedly killed VanderHeyden and dumped her body in a farm field.

But Burch, 40, isnt the only man under scrutiny in the slaying.

While prosecutors named Burch as the sole perpetrator in the murder, the first week of testimony largely focused on cops original suspect: VanderHeydens live-in boyfriend, Doug Detrie.

Burchs lawyers are claiming Detrie is the real killer. Police originally arrested Detrie, a 36-year-old building contractor and father of VanderHeydens baby, in connection with her death but released him 18 days later. He was never charged.

Now, the district attorney is using high-tech datafrom Google Dashboard, Fitbit trackers, and cellphonesin hopes of proving that Burch was with VanderHeyden in her final moments, and that Detrie was an innocent man, asleep in his bed, unaware that hed never see his girlfriend again.

So, What B*tch Ya With?

It was supposed to have been Nicole VanderHeydens night out on the town.

Known as Nikki to those who loved her, VanderHeyden had given birth to her baby, Dylan, just six months before. Shed only let loose a few times since.

On May 20, 2016, she attended a Steel Panther concert at the Watering Hole bar with Detrie and nearly a dozen of his friends. VanderHeyden didnt know his pals well, but the outgoing mom could get along with anyone.

VanderHeyden and Detrie arrived around 8 p.m. Greg Mathu, one of Detries close friends, said the couple made last-minute plans and found a babysitter.

I had encouraged Doug, Mathu testified in court last week. Im sure that Nikki would like to get out of the house and we could go out and have a fun time. Im sure she hadnt really gone out since New Years, so this is five months later.

Detrie testified that his girlfriend drank heavily that night. She had two down and I was still on my first one, Detrie added. She was chugging them down.

When the concert ended at 11 p.m., Mathu and Detrie caught up with some high school friends and got separated from VanderHeyden and the larger group. The two agreed to meet everyone at the next bar, the Sardine Can.

According to Detrie, VanderHeyden told him she was heading to the Sardine Can with his buddies. Detrie said he wasnt concerned about VanderHeyden and that she was with friends Ive known a long time and trusted.

But around 11:12 p.m., Detrie received a barrage of angry texts from VanderHeyden. So what bitch ya with? one message said.

Fuck u, abusive ass hole, another read.

Wow, what slut are u with, bc none of your friends know, VanderHeyden wrote Detrie at 11:18 p.m.

Detrie testified that he didnt know why VanderHeyden was so angry. I wasnt upset, Detrie said. There really wasnt a reason for it. So he replied to her with, LOL stop, and Be good. Ill see you at the Sardine Can?

Later, his text messages to her became more urgent. Hello? Tried calling 10 times, Detrie wrote.

Mathu and Detrie lost track of time, they both testified. Detrie bought his buddies a round of shots and soon it was around 12:20 a.m. I told Doug, you know, we need to leave. Its been longer than we thought it was, Mathu testified.

Detrie testified that he was drinking pretty heavily at the Watering Hole, and Mathu agreed to drive them to their next destination.

While en route, Detrie called VanderHeyden. He testified she was upset and slurring. She wasnt making any sense, so I handed the phone to Mathu and said, Here, talk to Nikki. Shes not making any sense to me, Detrie testified.

The call was around 12:36 a.m., and VanderHeyden had stormed out of the Sardine Can and was wandering the streets.

[Detrie] was telling her, Were on our way. Just go back to the Sardine Can. Well be back in five minutes. Where are you? Well pick you up. He kept repeating that, Mathu testified.

But while Mathu was speaking with VanderHeyden, her phone died. Detrie tried calling her several more times, but her phone went straight to voicemail. The men drove around the bar looking for VanderHeyden but didnt see her.

None of their friends heard from VanderHeyden after that.

Detrie said he and Mathu went into the Sardine Can around 1 a.m. and asked if anyone had seen VanderHeyden. Detrie testified he wasnt particularly worried because one of her texts indicated shed run into a friend there.

Mathu parked his car and found Detrie inside at the bar with two shots. Detrie didnt have his wallet and asked Mathu to pay the bartender, who was annoyed. Nikki is being stupid, what the fuck, Detrie griped, according to Mathus interview with police.

They left the bar around 2:15 a.m. and headed to Detries house.

Youre a Babe in the Woods

Something had set VanderHeyden off that night, and she was crying. Detries friends were worried about her.

Aaron Kulinski, a friend of Detries, testified that his group planned to depart the Watering Hole after the concert, but he didnt want to leave VanderHeyden alone. I think I suggested to her that she should just come with us, Kulinski told jurors.

Around 11:30 p.m., they arrived at the Sardine Can, where a live band was performing. VanderHeyden danced with other girls in the group and gabbed with the bartender and a male customer, Kulinski testified.

Kulinski said the friends wanted to find a bar closer to home, but Detrie and Mathu hadnt yet appeared. VanderHeyden tried phoning Detrie, but he didnt answer. Detrie picked up, however, when another friend in the group, Angela Delfosse, called.

I could tell [VanderHeyden] was just baffled as to why he answered Angelas phone call and not hers, Kulinski testified.

Delfosse called Detrie a loser, Kulinski testified, and VanderHeyden rushed out of the pub. Kulinski ran after her. I could tell she was crying. I was like, Its okay. Dont worry about what other people are saying or what just happened. Lets just get you back to your child, Kulinski testified.

VanderHeyden was inconsolable and fell to the ground before crying, screaming, and hitting Kulinskis legs. Kulinski saw people gathering across the street, so he helped her up and let her go, apparently to avoid a confrontation.

Kulinski watched VanderHeyden use her phone as she walked off into the night. He shouted to her that the group had called an Uber and could get her home faster.

I yelled, Youre a babe in the woods! Kulinski testified.

VanderHeyden didnt turn around.

Is She in the Trunk of Your Car?

Detrie and Mathu were loud and woke the babysitter when they got home.

Dallas Kennedy, a friend of VanderHeydens, had agreed to watch little Dylan that night. He slept in a bassinet upstairs in Detrie and VanderHeydens room, while Kennedy dozed on the living room sofa. The men arrived around 2:40 a.m.

Kennedy testified that she felt scared because shed only met Detrie a few times and didnt know Mathu, who paced around the hallway. The three of them discussed where VanderHeyden might be. He said to keep calling her, Kennedy recalled of Detrie, but VanderHeydens phone was off every time.

Detrie showed Kennedy the texts on his phone. He appeared concerned about VanderHeyden, Kennedy testified.

We proceeded to go over Where could she be? What happened? Where is she? Kennedy said under questioning by the defense. Kennedy asked the men if VanderHeyden was with her sister or with friends, and whether she made it to the second bar.

I pretty much spouted off everything in my head to him, Kennedy testified. I finally said, Is she in the trunk of your car? He looked at me and said no.

Mathu left and as Kennedy got ready to go, Detrie asked her for marijuana. She gave him some weed but declined to smoke herself. When she got up to leave, Detrie asked her for another hit. Next time, Kennedy said, before running to her car.

I locked my door. I looked around the cul-de-sac. It was quiet. I stared into the garage. It was open, the light was on, and I just asked, Where are you Nikki? Kennedy testified. She left the Detrie residence around 3 a.m.

He Pretty Much Lost It

Detrie testified that he fell asleep drunk around 3 a.m. on May 21 without hearing from VanderHeyden. He woke at 6:30 a.m. to feed Dylan some pre-pumped breast milk, then returned to bed. Dylan roused him again at 11 a.m.

Detrie told jurors he figured VanderHeyden was sleeping off a hangover elsewhere. But he messaged Mathu, Kennedy, and VanderHeydens sister, Heather Meyer, asking if theyd seen or talked to her. Detrie testified that he also tried sending VanderHeyden a Snapchat photo with Dylan to see whether her phone was on and whether shed just been ignoring him.

Meyer testified that Detrie sent her a Facebook message, as he didnt have her phone number, around 1 or 2 p.m. I normally wouldnt communicate with Doug, she told jurors. Weve never really talked before that.

By 2 p.m., Detrie grew worried. At Meyers suggestion, Detrie called the local jail and hospitals looking for VanderHeyden. He decided to call the Brown County Sheriffs Office to report a missing person around 4:30 p.m.

By then, police were swarming a farm field on Hoffman Road. Two teenage boys working the land that afternoon spotted what they thought was a dead deer. They quickly realized it was a womans body, and an adult had called cops around 1:54 p.m.

Deputies arrived at Detries house after 5 p.m. They testified that Mathu, Detries parents, and VanderHeydens family were there.

Sgt. Tracy Holschbach testified that when Detrie descended his stairs, he looked pale and hungover. She searched for but didnt see any scratches or marks on his arms and hands. This was not a typical missing persons report, Holschbach told jurors, when asked whether she was suspicious of Detrie. I knew there had been the ability for this to be something more.

Deputies knew that the anonymous dead body, which was naked save for a sock and concert wristband, resembled VanderHeyden but they didnt tell that to Detrie.

Holschbach testified that she sat across from Detrie at his kitchen table and secretly recorded their conversation using a key fob camera. Jurors were presented with video stills, which showed a Fitbit on Detries wrist.

The sergeant said Detrie was cooperative and volunteered his phone for forensic analysis. She asked Detrie why VanderHeyden called him an abusive asshole in a text message. She gets that way sometimes if shes drinking or gets something in her head, Detrie replied, according to Holschbach.

After law enforcement left, Meyer received a text about a body found in the nearby village of Bellevue. The discovery made the 10 oclock news, Detrie testified, and both the Detrie and VanderHeyden families began to panic.

Deputies returned around midnight and asked Detrie to go to the sheriffs office. Once there, Detrie denied any involvement in VanderHeydens disappearance and gave deputies permission to search his house.

Investigators told Detrie the body had a pink wristband, like those given out at concerts. Deputy Jason Katers testified that Detrie pretty much lost it when he heard this. He was crying, sobbing, seemed to be hyperventilating, Katers recalled.

I was trying to hold out any hope that that wasnt Nikki, Detrie testified. That pretty much confirmed it for me.

Detries parents picked him up at 3 or 4 a.m. and took him to their house. Later that day, deputies called seeking a DNA sample from Detrie. At the advice of his familys lawyer, Detrie denied the request and awaited a warrant.

Detrie recalled thinking, Oh, my God. They think I did this.

Im Not Cut Out for This Life One Bit

Detrie is not the man on trial for Nicoles murder this weekbut defense attorneys for George Burch have tried to emphasize the alleged instability and toxic nature of Detries relationship with VanderHeyden in the months before her death.

The couple met at a bar and restaurant called Jimmy Seas in January 2015. Weeks later, VanderHeyden was pregnant with Dylan. By the end of the summer, she and her two kids from a previous marriage moved into Detries Ledgeview home.

It was a house built by Detries family, which runs a contracting firm. Detrie works for his parents as a subcontractor, he testified.

He told jurors that he envisioned marrying VanderHeyden someday. The couple talked about their son walking with them down the aisle.

One of Burchs lawyers, Lee Schuchart, asked Detrie if he was closer to breaking up with or marrying VanderHeyden in May of 2016. In between, Detrie answered, adding they argued over minor things but always talked it out.

In court, Schuchart read aloud texts between Detrie and his mother. When this house sells we are going separate ways Im sure, Detrie wrote. (Its unclear if Detrie actually planned to sell his home.)

Im very seriously thinking about telling Nikki and the kids they have to move. Im not cut out for this life one bit, Detrie added. (Court filings indicate Detrie sent these messages on May 10, just 10 days before VanderHeydens death.)

When questioned about the texts to his mother, Detrie testified, I was having a downer day and sent it to my mom without truly meaning it. Detrie said hed been on leave after Dylan was born and was getting back into a normal routine.

Other texts between the couple seem to suggest a troubled union, too, according to a motion filed by the defense last August.

Yelling at Dylan this morning and talking about moving out. He is just baby and feeling your hatred it makes me want to cry all day, VanderHeyden wrote on May 16. Detrie replied that he didnt remember yelling and added, Im so sorry Nikki and Dylan!

On the morning of May 8, VanderHeyden wrote, Ne thing i even say u just snap at me, so i dont say much and Thanks for making me feel like a piece of shit everyday.

Last year, Burchs attorneys asked to present evidence on Detries past romantic relationships, which they claimed were rife with alleged abuse. They also focused on Detries internet activity in the days before VanderHeyden died, as well as statements from her family, including one suggesting she didnt want to have Detries child and considered having an abortion. Judge John Zakowski ruled the testimony inadmissible.

In court papers, the defense claimed VanderHeydens murder was the culmination of a toxic and abusive relationship. They highlighted statements from one ex-girlfriend, who dated Detrie in 2012 and claimed he put software on her phone to track her location. The woman claimed Detrie would appear at her job unannounced and wait outside for her. (Detries attorney did not return a message left by The Daily Beast.)

After their relationship ended, Detrie allegedly continued to contact his ex on Snapchat and via text and called VanderHeyden crazy. He also tried hooking up with her while he was dating VanderHeyden, the court filings claim.

On the day before VanderHeydens death, Detrie visited numerous ads on Backpage.com for Green Bay escorts, Burchs attorneys claimed. And he allegedly researched how to tell if backpage escort is undercover.

Throughout April and May, Detrie was allegedly texting women saved in his phone as Erika NY and Quonetta. Quonetta and Detrie exchanged sexually explicit material, while Erika NY and Detrie discussed exchanging photos and videos that were destroyed, court papers allege. Detrie allegedly asked Erika NY why she deleted them.

On May 12, Detrie texted his mother to gripe about VanderHeyden. Nikki is absolutely no help with trying to motivate me or get me going whatsoever, he wrote. Shes nothing but negative and is just making my bad situation worse. Detrie added that he could hardly muster the resolve to wake up and do anything.

The is going to be nothing but hell for 18 years, Detrie wrote. I feel bad for Dylan whoever hes with.

I Didnt Even Think It Was as Crime Scene

The morning of May 21, Matthew Petersen was mowing his lawn when he saw a pool of blood at the grassline.

Petersen, who lives across from Detrie on Berkley Road, figured the blood belonged to an animal. Their neighborhood lies near a shrub- and tree-lined creek and is home to a variety of wildlife, he testified.

Then Petersens mower hit a piece of black cord, which he assumed fell off a vehicle. He tossed it on the curb but forgot to throw it away. I didnt even think about the possibility that it was a crime scene, Petersen told jurors.

He called police two days later, when his wife informed him of news reports identifying VanderHeyden as the dead woman found miles from her home.

Monica Janke, a now-retired sheriffs detective, secured the scene around 5:45 p.m. on May 23. She remembers it being hot and muggy, and with the wind picking up, she was concerned rain would wash away the evidence.

Cops found dried blood splatters in the street, with hair stuck to them. Janke covered the spots to prevent the strands from blowing away. Police also found clumps of blonde hair and bobby pins, along with two pieces of cord. They sent the items to be tested for DNA.

As a result of the discovery, authorities searched Detries home for the second time and took Detrie into custody that day.

Sgt. Brian Slinger, the lead detective on the case, testified that Detrie was arrested based on investigators initial information and evidence.

Slinger knew that when VanderHeydens body was found, she had herringbone shoe-prints on her back that may have matched shoes found in Detries home. The soles had possible blood spots. There was also blood on the garage floor, near VanderHeydens vehicle, which was covered in smudges.

Prior to May 23, cops werent sure where VanderHeyden had died, Slinger said. Now they figured the crime scene was just outside Detries house.

Still, Detrie was released on June 10. All these pieces of evidence that we thought we had, turned out to have answers for them, Slinger testified.

The smudges from VanderHeydens car were not her blood; the blood on the garage floor likely belonged to a turkey Detrie shot weeks before; and spots on the bottom of Detries shoes didnt test positive for blood, Slinger said.

Meanwhile, DNA analysis also confirmed the blood and hair found in the neighbors yard belonged to VanderHeyden, and that VanderHeydens DNA was on the pieces of cablealong with DNA from an unknown male.

Then, in August of 2016, police got their big break.

Kevin Scott, an analyst with the Wisconsin State Crime Lab, called Slinger and said hed extracted a DNA sample from VanderHeydens sock. Scott entered the sample into a national database. It matched with a Virginia man named George Steven Burch.

After receiving the DNA match, Slinger checked a local police database for Burch. He determined that Burch indeed lived in the area, and that the Green Bay Police Department had been in contact with him on June 8, 2016, over an unrelated incident.

A police report reviewed by The Daily Beast shows that Burch was suspected in the theft of a red Chevy Blazer. The vehicle belonged to the wife of his friend Edward Jackson, with whom he was staying. The couple reported the SUV missing on June 8, 2016, and learned it was suspected to be in a hit-and-run the night before.

The SUV was found on fire around 2:52 a.m. that day, a few blocks from Jacksons residence. Burch was never charged with a crime.

Edward Jackson knew Burch, a 6-foot-7, 250-pound felon who goes by his middle name Steve or his nickname Big Country, when they lived in upstate New York a decade ago. His wife told cops that Burch had moved to Wisconsin to start over and get his life straightened out.

He Is Consistently Very Curious About This Case

Within months of moving to Wisconsin, Burch was apparently a suspect in two separate, serious crimes.

The divorced dad was released from jail around January 2016, after pleading guilty to grand larceny in York County, Virginia, court records show. Burch received a suspended sentence for the crime, which occurred in October 2015. On May 24, 2016, he was charged with violating the conditions of his release and listed as a fugitive.

Burch was also indicted for heroin possession in Hampton Circuit Court, and a trial was scheduled for March 2016, according to court records.

Years earlier, when he lived in Newport News, Virginia, a 19-year-old Burch was accused of shooting a gang leader and rival in the head in 1997. At the time, jurors told a local newspaper that the prosecutions case wasnt strong enough. Five shots were fired from at least two weapons, and the fatal bullet was never recovered. Burch was acquitted.

In early 2016, after his jail stint for grand larceny, Burch called up his old buddy Edward Jackson, who was now living in Wisconsin. In September 2016, Jacksons wife, Lynda, told police Burch phoned her husband and told him he had just gotten out of jail and wanted to start somewhere new. The couple offered to give Burch a vehicle and a place to stay.

On Monday, Edward Jackson testified that Burch told him that he and his wife were on the outs and he had nowhere to go. The couple bought Burch a train ticket from Newport News to Chicago, and Edward Jackson picked him up on Feb. 29, Lynda Jackson testified.

Edward Jackson said he charged Burch $100 in weekly rent but that Burch fell behind on payments. (Under questioning by the defense, Lynda Jackson said Burch made back payments after he moved out.)

Shortly after arriving in Green Bay, Burch got a job at a restaurant, then a new gig at a landscaping firm. We told Steve [Burch] that the vehicle was for getting to and from work and not going out drinking, Lynda Jackson told the Brown County Sheriffs Office.

On May 20, Burch told Lynda Jackson that his ex-wife was removing him from her cellphone plan. That day, Jackson took Burch to get a new phone. That mobile would apparently end up tracking Burchs activity on the night of VanderHeydens murder.

The Jacksons testified that on May 21, hours after VanderHeyden vanished, Burch joined Edward on a fishing trip to Racine.

According to Edward Jackson, he and Burch left for Racine around 1:30 p.m. on May 21. Jackson testified that he didnt remember anything unusual that morning, and that Burch napped most of the 2.5-hour drive.

Later that day, they sent Lynda Jackson a photo of Burch hoisting the Coho salmon he caught. Lynda Jackson told police she didnt recall anything out of the ordinary from that weekend. On Monday, she testified that she reviewed the snapshot after Burchs arrest and believed it showed dark areas on Burchs right hand.

The men returned to Green Bay the next day. Jordan Schuyler, Burchs ex-girlfriend, testified that she saw Burch hours after he returned from the fishing excursion. She didnt notice any injuries on his head, hands, or body.

Not long after they returned, Edward Jackson and Burch watched a Fox 11 report on VanderHeydens death.

I said, The scumbag that did it ought to be taken down, Edward Jackson testified.

Deputy DA Mary Kerrigan-Mares asked Jackson if Burch reacted to the TV news. Jackson replied that Burch was intensely looking at the TV but didnt say anything. At the time, Jackson wasnt suspicious and didnt see injuries on Burch.

Weeks later, Burch was suspected of crashing the Jacksons SUV and setting it ablaze. Lynda Jackson told police Burch wouldnt admit to the wreck, but she was suspicious because of a gash on his head and his knee. She also found a gas can in her Jeep.

On June 8, 2016, a Bader Street resident reported a hit-and-run involving Lynda Jacksons Chevy Blazer at 2:11 a.m. The Blazer hit a parked vehicle and nearly smashed into a light pole, a police report stated.

About 40 minutes later, a resident of South Maple Avenueabout 4 miles awaycalled cops saying the Blazer was on fire, police records show. Lynda Jackson reported her Blazer missing at 7:31 a.m.

Burch claimed he drove the Jacksons Blazer to a bar called Richard Craniums the night before, and said it had been stolen, a police report shows. He denied being involved in a hit-and-run accident and said he drove the vehicle straight home. When Green Bay police questioned Burch about the accident, he gave them consent to search his cellphone, the report indicates.

Meanwhile, the Jacksons decided their trust in Burch was frayed. Edward Jackson testified that on June 19, he asked Burch to leave and got him a bus ticket back to Virginia. Lynda Jackson told investigators she believes Burch never left town that summer and that a 22-year-old girlfriend picked him up instead.

Indeed, Burch bunked with his Richard Craniums buddies.

Jeffery Hemmen testified that Burch said his mother died and he couldnt return to Virginia because he ran out of funds. Hemmen agreed to let Burch sleep on a basement couch and help him land a job at Bay Area Plastering, where Hemmen worked. Hemmen said he asked Burch to move out for personal reasons that had nothing to do with him, and continued to give Burch a lift to and from work.

Burch then crashed at the one-bedroom pad of Matthew Wassenberg. Wassenberg hoped Burch would move in with his girlfriend but instead he spent money on other things, like new Air Jordan sneakers. I asked him why he was looking to buy a brand-new pair of Jordans when I thought the other ones looked fine, Wassenberg testified.

Burch stayed with Wassenberg until he was arrested in September.

The June vehicle probe was briefly mentioned in Burchs trial last week. Sgt. Janke testified that after cops identified Burchs DNA in the VanderHeyden case, cops wanted to search the SUV for evidence. But the vehicle had already been shredded by a metal scrapyard and the pieces would be impossible to find.

Yet Green Bay police did retain one key piece of evidence from that June run-in with Burch: the data they extracted from Burchs Samsung Galaxy phone.

Investigators reviewed this data when Burchs DNA was found on VanderHeyden. They noticed he repeatedly viewed a news story on VanderHeydens death after her body was discovered. There were no other web searches on his phone except for pornography.

In opening arguments, Lasee said Burch searched for news on VanderHeyden on May 22, 24, 25, 26, and June 5 and 6.

He is consistently very curious about this case, and no other case, Lasee said.

No Reason to Be in Front of Nikkis House

Richard Craniums bar was Burchs local haunt. Later, after police arrested Burch in connection to VanderHeydens murder, his defense team claimed he met the young mother there on the night of her death.

In court papers, Burchs attorneys claimed VanderHeyden entered the pub and struck up a conversation with their client. The prosecution hasnt disclosed whether they believe VanderHeyden was at the bar, or how she got there from the Sardine Can.

The Sardine Can is on a quiet stretch of North Broadway, toward the end of a retail district. Richard Craniums is a 13-minute walk, under an overpass and onto the seedier and more industrial South Broadway. The dive bar sits next to a sex shop.

Defense attorneys didnt say what time Burch encountered VanderHeyden, who was still walking and talking to Detrie around 12:36 a.m. Phone data shows Burch was at Richard Craniums from 11:54 p.m. to 2:32 a.m., according to the criminal complaint.

Burchs DNA was found on VanderHeydens body, one of her socks, and the cord used to strangle her.

District Attorney Dave Lasee says Google Dashboard data also proves Burch was at all three crime scenesVanderHeydens home, the Bellevue farm field, and the on-ramp where her clothes were discoveredin the early hours of May 21, 2016.

VanderHeyden was murdered sometime between 3 and 4 a.m.just 118 feet from her front door, prosecutors say.

At that time of night, prosecutors claimed in court filings last year, Detrie was asleepand that his FitBit activity tracker proves his alibi, as The Daily Beast previously reported.

This evidence has been ruled inadmissible at trial, because of lawsuits FitBit is facing over alleged inaccuracies of its sleep data, which is reportedly off by as much as 45 minutes.

However, the judge ruled that Lasee can present evidence on FitBits step-counting data. The DA claims Detries FitBit showed few steps on May 21, around the time VanderHeyden was killed, and argues the data is at odds with the defenses narrative.

Meanwhile, data from Burchs cellphone reveals he was outside the Detrie-VanderHeyden residence during that critical time frame.

Hes there for 52 minutes, Lasee said in opening arguments. No known relation with Nikki. No known relation with Doug Detrie. No reason to be in front of Nikkis house. No reason for his DNA to be on her body.

Follow the evidence, follow the facts, it will lead you to truth, Lasee added.

Everyday technologies appear to play a vital role to the murder case.

While Detrie has apparently been exonerated by his FitBit, prosecutors say Burch will be incriminated by the movements tracked by his Android cellphone.

Lasee told jurors Burch took an odd route home after allegedly discarding VanderHeydens body and tossing her clothing off a highway on-ramp. The Google data charting his whereabouts indicate hes unfamiliar with the area, Lasee said.

The tech evidence has yet to be presented in further detail at the trial.

There Can Be No Doubt as to Intent to Kill

In opening arguments, Burchs defense team claimed theres a completely innocent explanation for his curious movements that night.

The lawyers havent presented their case yet, but the narrative was detailed last year in a motion seeking to introduce evidence that Detrie allegedly killed VanderHeyden.

This explanationwhich prosecutors dismissed as a fantastic tale in court filingsbegins with Burch meeting VanderHeyden at Richard Craniums bar, stopping by his house for a condom, then driving to the home she shared with Detrie for a hookup.

They stayed in the car because a light was on inside the house, Burch claims. He says Detrie came outside, discovered them having sex and knocked Burch out. Burch claims he later woke up to find VanderHeydens lifeless body. He claims Detrie then forced Burch, at gunpoint, to haul VanderHeydens corpse to a field 3 miles away in Bellevue.

Once they dumped VanderHeyden, Burch says he pushed Detrie down a ravine and drove off. Panicked, he flung VanderHeydens clothes out the window.

For the most part, we agree with all of the states evidence, said public defender Scott Stebbins in opening statements. That evidence, once you have all the pieces of the puzzle, is consistent with Georges innocence.

Stebbins said VanderHeydens slaying wasnt a random act.

The evidence will show you that Doug had the motive to murder Nicole. The state didnt offer you one reason why George would have any reason to kill Nicole. Doug did have that motive, Stebbins told the jury.

Stebbins shared one of VanderHeydens texts to Detrie: Youre an abusive asshole, she wrote in the hours before she died. Why do you always hurt me?

On the night VanderHeyden was killed, Stebbins told jurors, Detrie left VanderHeyden with his friends, chatted up other women at the bar, and snorted amphetamines with a friend. (Detrie testified that he didnt remember snorting Adderall that night but assumed he did. He also said he only recalled speaking to married acquaintances at the Watering Hole.)

Youre going to hear at first that everything went smoothly, Stebbins said of the couples night out at a glam-rock concert. They were drinking, laughing, dancing and having a good time. What the state didnt tell you is that changed.

Last week, medical examiner Agnieszka Rogalska, testified to the extent of VanderHeydens gruesome and fatal injuries. VanderHeydens face was beaten to the point of being unrecognizable, and she was identified through dental records.

The cause of death was ligature strangulation and blunt force trauma to the head, and she had injuries consistent with sexual assault, Rogalska said.

These are substantial repeated physical injuries, Lasee told jurors. There can be no doubt as to intent to kill.

One thing the jury wont learn, however: that George Burch was acquitted of murder once before.

Burchs murder trial resumes today.

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

Mary JaneFitbit Could Prove a Mans Innocence. Google Could Send Another to Prison for Murder.
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But, some good news. For one, science only has more to learn about how marijuana works on the human body. And two, companies making cannabis devices are figuring out ways to tackle the dosing problem.

Take the Resolve One smart inhaler (formerly known as Breeze) for medical marijuana users who also happen to be data nerds, coming out in May. Think of it like the Keurig of cannabis: Insert a “Smart Pod” of marijuana and the device administers a precise blast of vapor. The device pairs with a smartphone app, where users begin by inputting their pain level. The inhaler calculates the right dose, followed by a drag. Ten minutes later, once the cannabis has kicked in, the app pings them to rate their pain again. This helps the user determine how effective the dose was.

And it helps Resolve One's maker, Resolve Digital Health, do the same: By gathering more and more data, it can build pain profiles. Some folks wake up in pain, for instance, while for others the pain builds throughout the day. So how might cannabis help mitigate these different experiences? How might the drug interact with other medications the person is taking? (Users are encouraged to log these in the Resolve One app.) How do other medical conditions factor into the pain problem? (You log these too.)

Resolve’s goal is to use data from Resolve One to help not only individual users, but to build a better understanding of how cannabis can treat pain. “I think patients of the future, and we're seeing it right now with cannabis patients, are data-empowered patients,” says Rob Adelson, president and CEO of Resolve. “They want information, they want to collect it, they want to share it, they want to compare it.”

Now, it’s clear that accumulating more and more data hasn’t cured cancer or helped humans figure out how to stop aging. But in the case of cannabis, scientists have so little detailed information about user responses that it makes sense to start looking. Especially because the effects of cannabis can vary wildly from user to user. Some people, for instance, can handle higher THC content than others without having a conniption. And how marijuana affects you can even vary based on how much food you’ve had that day, especially if you’re consuming edibles.

“It's going to take a long time for us to get to the level of knowledge that we all need to be at to understand how this plant works, specifically for very specific health conditions,” says Adelson. “But what we'll do is collect that data, and then put some of those insights and findings into clinical studies where we can go deeper into it.”

dosist

The uncertainty is especially challenging given how potent cannabis has become. One study found that THC levels have gone up three-fold since 1995, thanks to selective breeding. But patients may be more interested in high levels of CBD, the non-psychoactive component that could help treat ailments like epilepsy.

“Our focus is on mitigating the intoxicating effects of cannabis, which is a very different mindset than a lot of cannabis brands,” says Gunner Winston, CEO of Dosist, which makes dose pens. “A lot of people don't want to be intoxicated.”

The trick may be something called the entourage effect, the idea that the plant’s various compounds interact with one another to put a check on the psychoactive effects on THC. Specifically, you’d want a lot of CBD in there. Yet science hasn’t proved out this effect.

“I think the anecdotal mountain of evidence says that it does exist,” says Jeff Raber, CEO of the Werc Shop, a lab that tests cannabis. “But we don't know why or how or which ones are doing what.”

And that’s just when it comes to ingesting and inhaling cannabis. “We actually know very little about other modes of administration,” says UC San Diego researcher Igor Grant, who studies cannabis. “People talk about having skin patches and various kinds of gels. The work just hasn't been done to show whether that actually delivers the cannabis in the way that you would want in an effective dose.”

But as far as inhaled marijuana is concerned, companies like Resolve Digital Health and Dosist are starting to tackle the quantification problem, the former catering to patients and the later to a more general audience. And they’re betting that demand for a more predictable cannabis experience is only going up.

“People are asking for this,” says Winston of Dosist. “We can debate all day how much science has been done and should be done, but when you look across the country people are demanding cannabis for therapeutic purposes.”

Remember: Until there’s a fool-proof system for accurately dosing inhaled cannabis—and there may never will be—go low and slow. Your brain will thank you.

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

Mary JaneWhy It’s So Hard to Dose Weed
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Two Controversial Claims About Medical Marijuana Have Been Debunked

A pair of papers published today in the journal Addiction have poured some cold water on certain claims about medicinal marijuana.

Medical marijuana is now legal in 29 US states, leading some people to argue that this will increase recreational marijuana use. However, the first paper from Columbia University in New York says that is not the case.

Conducting a meta-analysis of 11 studies from four ongoing large national surveys dating back to 1991, the team found no evidence for increases in recreational use. They said that current evidence “does not support the hypothesis that US medical marijuana laws (MMLs) until 2014 have led to increases in adolescent marijuana use prevalence.”

They did note, however, that as states begin to legalize recreational marijuana – as has been happening in the last few years – the situation may change somewhat.

“Although we found no significant effect on adolescent marijuana use, we may find that the situation changes as commercialized markets for medical marijuana develop and expand, and as states legalize recreational marijuana use,” senior author Professor Deborah Hasin, from Columbia University, said in a statement.

“However, for now, there appears to be no basis for the argument that legalising medical marijuana increases teens’ use of the drug.”

The second paper dealt with the claim that medical marijuana could lead to a drop in the use of opioids. A study in September 2017, for example, said that medical marijuana could be used to relieve pain, and help stop opioid overdoses.

In 2015, more than 33,000 people died in the US from opioid use. Some studies, though, have shown the rate is dropping, and attributed it to the legalization of medical marijuana.

However, this paper in Addiction, from the University of Queensland in Australia, said that medical marijuana was not necessarily responsible. It said there was no evidence to suggest one caused the other.

“There is very weak evidence to support the claim that expanding access to medical cannabis will reduce opioid overdose deaths in the United States,” the researchers noted.

They added that although some studies do show a correlation between the increase of medical marijuana use and the reduction of opioid deaths, there was no evidence to suggest it was the cause. Correlation does not always equal causation.

So, good and bad news for medical marijuana. While it doesn’t seem to be causing an increase in recreational use, some of its purported benefits cannot be proven – just yet, anyway.

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

Mary JaneTwo Controversial Claims About Medical Marijuana Have Been Debunked
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California ‘weed fortress’ had 35,000 marijuana plants inside, cops say

Southern California police seized 35,000 marijuana plants from a weed “fortress” and shut down an operation they believed was bringing in millions of dollars a month.

San Bernardino Police said they detained eight people Wednesday when police and federal agents raided a warehouse that was converted into a multi-level grow house. They said the once-abandoned warehouse was recently outfitted with a 12-foot fence, “fortified doors” and surveillance cameras.

Investigators also raided three properties all owned by Stephanie Smith, 43, of Pacific Palisades, and found marijuana plants in each residence.

THOMAS FIRE IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA JOINS LIST OF DESTRUCTIVE BLAZES IN THE STATE

Smith was being investigated but she was not arrested or charged with a crime, police said. The eight people detained at the warehouse were also not charged.

CBS Los Angeles reported Smith was taking in millions of dollars per month. 

Police found marijuana plants in three properties owned by Stephanie Smith.  (San Bernardino Police Department)

Authorities began investigating the operation after they received complaints from neighbors beginning two months ago, CBS News reported.

Police said the four-story warehouse contained thousands of marijuana plants. The property’s electric bill was a staggering $67,000 a month, police said.

San Bernardino Police Lt. Mike Madden called the operations “the biggest grow” he has ever seen in his 26 years on the force.

CALIFORNIA MAN GETS LIFE IN PRISON FOR SUFFOCATING 3 KIDS 

Although marijuana was legalized in California, the state required people who grow the plants to have the necessary licenses and permits, Madden explained. Smith did not have the proper requirements needed to grow
marijuana. 

“Marijuana has been legalized, but there are stringent requirements,” Madden said. “It’s not that you just get to set up shop where you want to set up.”

Recreational marijuana sales in the state begin on Jan. 1 but medical marijuana has been legal in California for decades.

Police told CBS Los Angeles the marijuana discovered “would go up in smoke.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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

Mary JaneCalifornia ‘weed fortress’ had 35,000 marijuana plants inside, cops say
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Teen Drug Use In Canada And The US Show Different Patterns

Despite the scary headlines, the use of most drugs by North American teenagers is falling. Differences in use by country, however, represent a great opportunity to hone in on the local factors that might be responsible. The release of two sets of data on drug consumption among teenagers in the US and Ontario offers one such example, although it is somewhat impeded by the two studies’ differences.

To start off with the good news, American teens are far less likely to be using opioid pain medications than they were 10 years ago, offering hope that the devastating opioid crisis hitting middle-aged America might have an end. According to the Monitoring the Future survey of US 8th, 10th, and 12th grade students, just 2 percent are using Vicodin – the lowest since 2002 when the survey started measuring its use. In 2003, Vicodin was used by an astonishing 10.5 percent of students in those grades.

Nor has there simply been a shift to other opioids. Among 12th graders, overall pain medication abuse was 4.2 percent. More predictably, cigarette use continues its long decline, from its 1997 peak of 24.6 percent among 12th graders to 4.2 percent. There have also been big drops in the use of cocaine, heroin, and even “synthetic marijuana”.

On the other hand, real marijuana use is up, albeit moderately at 23.9 percent across all three grades. Interestingly, a fairly small increase in marijuana use (from 22.6 percent) coincides with a much larger decrease in disapproval of its use, from 68.5 percent to 64.7 percent. Just because teens are less likely to think it is bad, doesn’t mean they are rushing to use the drug. Medical marijuana laws were not associated with large differences in its use among teenagers between states, but are affecting the form of consumption. Edibles are twice as heavily used among 12th graders in states that have medical marijuana than those that do not.

The one big increase for Americans is in vaping, and while many younger users claim to be using just flavored smoke, both nicotine and marijuana become more common with age.

On the other side of the border, however, there has been a similar dramatic fall in consumption of tobacco cigarettes, but cannabis use is also way down, the Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey reports. Just 19 percent of Ontario high school students used it, compared to 28 percent 20 years ago. Non-medical use of opioids has fallen in the north as well, but are still at 10.6 percent, far above the American rate, even with a younger average sample.

Meanwhile, American misuse of ADHD drugs such as ritalin has dropped dramatically, while in Ontario it has more than doubled in the last decade, creating an opportunity to explore what policies account for the difference.

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

Mary JaneTeen Drug Use In Canada And The US Show Different Patterns
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Study Suggests Marijuana Could Help HIV Patients Maintain Their ‘Mental Stamina’

No, marijuana doesn’t solve everything. There is data to suggest it helps with chronic pain, and low enough doses help to relieve stress, but it’s safe to say that far more research needs to be done before any firm conclusions are made.

A brand new study, published in the journal AIDS, that looks into such links has made a rather striking suggestion. Namely, the anti-inflammatory properties of components of medical marijuana may help HIV patients retain their mental stamina for longer periods of time.

According to the work led by Michigan State University (MSU), a decline in cognitive abilities occurs in up to 50 percent of HIV patients. If more work does happen to corroborate this finding, this particular application of the erstwhile drug will be indisputably substantial.

“It’s believed that cognitive function decreases in many of those with HIV partly due to chronic inflammation that occurs in the brain,” lead author Norbert Kaminski, the Director of MSU’s Institute for Integrative Toxicology, explained in a statement.

“This happens because the immune system is constantly being stimulated to fight off disease.”

Taking blood samples from 40 HIV-positive patients, who varyingly did or did not use marijuana, the team isolated selections of white blood cells, before directly studying the effect marijuana had on them.

Monocytes are the largest type of white blood cell. cenksns/Shutterstock

Specifically, they looked at monocytes, a type of white blood cell that originates in bone marrow before quickly entering the bloodstream. Monocytes can turn into two different types of cell, those that mark foreign bodies that need to be destroyed, or those that actually do the destroying.

So-called CD16+ monocytes often release certain proteins during their responses to infection, which can lead to inflammation within the body. This self-defense measure is often useful, but sustained inflammation can cause some damage. With no way to destroy the virus, these monocytes keep up this pro-inflammation response.

As the MSU researchers found, though, those that didn’t smoke marijuana had a far higher level of inflammatory cells compared to those who did imbibe, suggesting the substance has an anti-inflammatory property. In vitro experimentation using THC and isolated white blood cells seemed to confirm this.

“In fact, those who used marijuana had levels pretty close to a healthy person not infected with HIV,” Kaminski added.

Less inflammation in the brain could potentially help them maintain normal brain functions for far longer, they suggest.

Some caveats are needed, though. This was a small population size, so it’s too early to definitively describe a relationship between marijuana’s tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and the behavior of the immune system. It’s also noted that elevated numbers of CD16+ monocytes are “implicated” in HIV-linked inflammation of the brain, but a concrete cause-and-effect link appears to remain elusive.

Additionally, this wasn’t a longitudinal study, so you can’t yet say with confidence that those that smoke marijuana – which itself comes with some health risks in some cases – did have a better cognitive state after the fact.

Still, it’s definitely an interesting study, and one that more research will shed additional light on.

HIV is currently incurable – but contemporary anti-viral treatment does allow many of those afflicted by it to live an essentially normal life. In fact, it is now possible to produce (proof-of-concept) functional cures for the virus.

As is often apparent, most of the research that makes the headlines involves the hunt for a cure. The sort of work featured in this new study, which looks at how to mitigate the dangerous effects of the virus on the patient during their lifetime, is not often focused on as much – so novel work, like that conducted by MSU, is always welcome.

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

Mary JaneStudy Suggests Marijuana Could Help HIV Patients Maintain Their ‘Mental Stamina’
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Medical Marijuana Should Not Be More Strictly Controlled, Says The World Health Organization

A lot of outlets today are reporting that the World Health Organization (WHO) says medical marijuana has no health risks. While that’s not quite true, a report from the organization does say that it should not be put under stricter control.

That report yesterday suggested “scheduling” certain drugs, including carfentanil, which is an analogue of the prescription opioid fentanyl.

Scheduling means that strict drug control measures can be put in place on certain drugs. It seems that medical marijuana will not be put on this list.

The recommendation comes from the Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD), which met in November to review several psychoactive substances. The WHO has endorsed the latest report.

“There is increased interest from Member States in the use of cannabis for medical indications including for palliative care,” the WHO writes. “Responding to that interest and increase in use, WHO has in recent years gathered more robust scientific evidence on therapeutic use and side effects of cannabis and cannabis components.”

They said that the ECDD have conducted an initial review of the cannabis compound known as cannabidiol (CBD). Recent evidence from animal and human studies have shown “that its use could have some therapeutic value for seizures due to epilepsy and related conditions.”

They added that it was “not likely to be abused or create dependence as for other cannabinoids,” unlike other cannabinoids like Tetra Hydro Cannabinol (THC). However, they did not go so far as to say there are “no health risks”, as some places are reporting.

As a result of this study, the ECDD said that current information did not justify scheduling cannabidiol. A more comprehensive review of how cannabidiol should be handled has thus been postponed to May 2018, when a more detailed review of cannabis and cannabis-related substances can be undertaken.

The ECDD did recommend, however, that a drug called carfentanil should be placed under the most stringent level of international control, which is Schedules I and IV. This drug is intended for animal use only, not humans, but it is sometimes taken with heroin or by people who believe they are taking heroin.

“Carfentanil can produce lethal effects at extremely small doses equivalent to a few granules of salt, and has potential use as a chemical weapon,” the WHO writes. “It can thus be highly toxic and has been associated with hundreds of deaths and intoxications, notably in North America,” they added, noting that 64,000 people died from overdosing in the US in 2016, most of which were from synthetic opioids similar to carfentanil.

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

Mary JaneMedical Marijuana Should Not Be More Strictly Controlled, Says The World Health Organization
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Im a pot evangelist: meet America’s dope queens

As more US states legalise marijuana, more women are stepping up to meet the need for weed. Meet the entrepreneurs cutting through the stigma

Like most other American industries, marijuana has traditionally been dominated by men. Overwhelmingly they grew it, they dealt it and they smoked it. Hopes that the legal marijuana industry would be more egalitarian than others have largely deflated. According to a 2017 survey, women hold 27% of executive positions in cannabis, only slightly more than in the country at large. Nevertheless, the plants status as a quasi-legal drug has created an opportunity for women to forge groundbreaking careers.

Cannabis businesses are obsessed with tearing down the stigma that continues to dog the plant. Many of the most ambitious companies want to make inroads with affluent adults and parents who dont use, or no longer use, cannabis; if the prevailing stereotype is that weed is a drug used by low-achieving men, the thinking is that women will be better at getting their husbands and boyfriends to use pot.

Thirty US states have legalized medical marijuana and it is among the countrys fastest-growing industries. Sales rose 33% last year, topping $10bn, even though only a few states, including California, Colorado, Nevada and Oregon, have robust industries, and product cant be transported across state lines. But compared with other lucrative industries, such as tech, it is far more open to people who lack highly specialised education and have lived unconventional lives.

There is immense interest in marijuanas potential as a medicine, but in most cases the evidence is more anecdotal than confirmed by mainstream science. Its far easier for a pot business to enter the more nebulous wellness category. Today, in every dispensary in the US, there are cannabis products packaged like high-end personal care products; and even pharmaceuticals, designed to convince women its OK to try cannabis.

Female entrepreneurs believe legalization will bring immense medical and social benefits. The five women who share their story here all photographed by Pietro Chelli in recent years are a doctor, a mother of a young child with cancer, and three very different entrepreneurs. Each in her own way is cutting through the stigma.

Cheryl Shuman, 57, Beverly Hills Cannabis Club, Los Angeles, California

I first tried cannabis in 1996, after I was sexually assaulted. Doctors had put me on anti-anxietals and antidepressants and they turned me into a zombie. I had got to the point where I didnt want to get out of bed. Eventually, my therapist said to me: Cheryl, with all due respect, you just have to smoke a joint. Only in LA, right? Until then Id been a good girl. Ive still never had a beer, never had a cigarette.

My therapist had his plants in his back yard and kept his stash in mason jars. He rolled a joint. I was impressed he could roll it with only one hand. I took the first puff and almost coughed my lungs up. By the second puff, I said: You know what, this is really great. I felt instantly better.

Instead of taking pills, I would just roll a joint every day. I told my kids, as I didnt want to lie to them. It was an entry to an underground society of professional, smart, dynamic, educated people, who use this for wellness. Who knew?

Today Im a pot evangelist. Ive spoken all over the world Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Mexico. Last year, I was only home in Beverly Hills for 16 days, and those were for events. My business now is basically being a matchmaker, pairing investors with exciting opportunities, ranging from biotech companies to branding, to a music festival. Its like being a real-estate broker I make things happen: What do you need?

Back when I first got involved in cannabis it was largely used by gay men to deal with the nausea and wasting of Aids. Ultimately, cannabis was legalized because of love for them. Many in the cannabis community have also had an experience similar to coming out of the closet the grass closet. Now we can hold our heads up high and lead an authentic life.

Tracy Ryan, 42, CannaKids, Los Angeles, California

Tracy
Tracy Ryan with her daughter Sophie: This wasnt a secret we could keep to ourselves. Photograph: Pietro Chelli/Institute

I got into this four and a half years ago, when my daughter Sophie was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor. She was eight and a half months old. The doctors told us Sophies only chance to survive was a 13-month course of chemotherapy. Confronting this extremely difficult situation, my husband and I began to research ways to save our daughter. We decided that cannabis treatment was something we wanted to do alongside chemotherapy.

Sophie took her first dose of cannabis at nine months. It was on camera for a documentary, Weed the People, which premieres at the SXSW festival in Texas this March. Over the first 13 months, a tumor that wasnt supposed to shrink shrank by 95%. Thanks to the shrinkage, much of Sophies vision has been saved.

My husband and I knew this wasnt a secret we could keep to ourselves. Today, our company CannaKids has provided medical-grade cannabis to more than 2,000 children and adults in California. We dont look like what people imagine stoners to be. We love our kid and take care of her, and people listen to us.

Weve also partnered with Cure Pharmaceutical to fund cannabis and cancer research at the Technion Institute in Israel. We still dont know the right formula of cannabis and chemotherapy to address cancer. But research we support in mice has eliminated one type of pediatric cancer with cannabis alone. We hope to finalize the human tissue phase soon, then advance to human trials.

Since she was first diagnosed, Sophie has had several recurrences of her cancer. She has taken concentrated cannabis oil for four and a half years now. When her doctors at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles put her on an experimental drug that required her to stop additional supplements and medications, they advised that she continue taking cannabis.

She still receives chemotherapy, once every two weeks. She never fully lost her hair, but now has a full head of it. Shes in the 81st percentile for height and weight, and is in kindergarten with healthy kids her age. She has her own business cards and is a networker, like her mother.

Forget about the word weed, forget marijuana: these children are taking medical cannabis. We dont want kids stoned. We want them happy, healthy and ready to go to school.

Kristi Lee Kelly, 40, Marijuana Industry Group, Denver, Colorado

Kristi
Kristi Lee Kelly: When we started, patients rights were not clear. Photograph: Pietro Chelli/Institute

In 2009, I left Maryland and a career in advertising and marketing to join Colorados cannabis industry. I thought it would be a way to participate in something early on that would really make a difference in peoples lives.

Its been so long since then. Someone a long time ago likened cannabis to dog years a year in cannabis is like seven years doing anything else. At first, investment options were extremely limited, and politicians were unwilling to address the issue. Ive had 23 bank accounts closed.

I started as an owner, operator and investor in a vertically integrated group of medical cannabis businesses. This meant we grew the plants, manufactured them into vaping oil and other products and sold them at our dispensaries. Eventually we accomplished what we set out to do, and I sold my shares in the company. I have since turned to helping others actualise their cannabis aspirations.

When we started, patients rights were not clear. Could you have a card, consume cannabis and work? How did a doctors recommendation interact with the other aspects of your life? Now we have thousands of patient stories. The growing body of scientific and state data has demonstrated that this plant isnt causing the harm that some people said it would.

When we look at how this plant has come and gone over centuries, this is a 3,000-year-old journey, not one that is necessarily sensitive from one administration to the next. The long-term contribution this plant can make to humankind has been documented.

In cannabis, Ive worked with aspiring business owners, policymakers and investors. Im also working with a hemp technology company. In the gold rush, some of the most successful people were the ones who sold picks and shovels to prospectors. Part of what Im doing is figuring out what the picks and shovels are.

Colorado is the most mature policy environment in the world. We tend to confront business challenges first; we continue to expand the conversation around cannabis; were looking at the social impact. Last year, the Marijuana Industry Group forged an agreement with the state Department of Transportation and Lyft [a ride-share company] to offer discounted rides to impaired cannabis users. Our goal is to reduce the number of people who are dying as a result of impaired driving, no matter the substance.

Bonni Goldstein, 53, Canna-Centers and Weedmaps, Los Angeles, California

Bonni
Bonni Goldstein: Doctors are finally opening their eyes to the fact that cannabis is safe. Photograph: Pietro Chelli/Institute

My background is in pediatric emergency medicine. Its high-stress work. I was working the night shift at a major Los Angeles hospital and being a mother during the day. Eventually I got burned out and took some time off.

About 10 years ago, a friend asked me about medical marijuana. I wasnt for or against it it just wasnt on my radar. But as I looked into it, it became clear to me that it was valid science.

I watched my friend get a medical marijuana card. She was struggling with the side-effects of chemotherapy; shed take the nausea medicine and throw it back up. But she got a vaporizer and it helped. I dont feel high, I feel better, she said. The cannabis let her participate in her life. She could sit at dinner and talk to her children.

I was really intrigued, and started working part-time in another doctors medical marijuana practice. It was an established office, very nice and professional. The patients were everyday people who have problems. The vast majority had been prescribed prescription drugs for anxiety, depression, insomnia and chronic pain and struggled with the side-effects. They all said the same thing: cannabis was giving them the benefits of the drugs without the side-effects. I now have my own practice in a suburb of Los Angeles.

In August 2013, CNN journalist Dr Sanjay Gupta told the story of Charlotte Figi, a little girl with a severe seizure disorder. Gupta was convinced she had benefited from taking cannabis. It generated a lot of interest. The parents of children with disorders like Charlottes wake up every day knowing their child could have 45 seizures and end up in hospital.

Earlier in my career, I was the chief resident at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles; today, children with intractible epilepsy are a large part of my practice. The goal is seizure freedom for the child: we dont always get that, but the vast majority are seeing seizures reduced by 50% or more.

There is a change under way in the medical community. Doctors who listen to their patients are hearing these people stop asking for Vicodin, sleeping pills, benzodiazepine. I think doctors are finally opening their eyes to the fact that cannabis is safe; in a lot of cases it reduces or eliminates the need for prescription medicine.

Julie Berliner, 31, Sweet Grass Kitchen, Denver, Colorado

Julie
Julie Berliner: Cannabis is the most exciting industry. Photograph: Pietro Chelli/Institute

I graduated from the University of Colorado Boulder in 2009 with a degree in education. It was tough looking for a job in the middle of the recession, but dispensaries were opening up in town. It really was the wild, wild west back then: there were no rules for who could open a shop, or where they could open it.

A friend who had a dispensary tried some chocolate-chip cookies I made and asked if Id be willing to turn them into cannabis cookies for him to sell. When I said OK, he handed me five pounds of weed and said, Here you go.

Id never made cannabis cookies before, but decided to use the traditional method of infusing butter in a crock pot. I started baking fresh cookies and walking them over to the store for packaging. Today, with all the rules, its impossible to sell cannabis cookies the day they were baked, but back then you could.

I also worked at the shop as a receptionist, to better understand the industry. I liked helping people to feel better, or have a great time.

In the summer of 2010, it became necessary to have a license. It cost $1,000; but more significant than the money was that I knew if I went down this road I wouldnt be able to go back. There were no school principals who would be intrigued by my time baking weed cookies.

It also became necessary to create a commercial kitchen. Very few property owners were willing to lease their space to cannabis, and I decided to build a transportable kitchen in a race-car trailer. It still needed a fixed address. When I met with a potential landlord he was an older man with big bushy eyebrows. I could tell it was going to be a hard conversation, but he agreed to rent me space for our cherry red mobile kitchen. He has come to be one of our strongest supporters. We now lease the entire building and use the trailer as a smoking room and an inspiring part of the tour for visitors.

Cannabis is still the most exciting industry, but its starting to slow down. In many ways thats a good thing: were all settling in rather than hanging on.

Alex Halperin writes a fortnightly cannabis column, High Time.

Commenting on this piece? If you would like your comment to be considered for inclusion on Weekend magazines letters page in print, please email weekend@theguardian.com, including your name and address (not for publication).

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Mary JaneIm a pot evangelist: meet America’s dope queens
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Overall teen drug use stable, but marijuana edging up, survey finds

(CNN)Teen drinking, smoking and drug use overall are stable, but the percentage of teens using marijuana is increasing, according to a new report from the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research.

This year’s edition of the Monitoring the Future report, an annual survey of drug and alcohol use and attitudes among Americaneighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders, found that the percentage of students who had used pot in the previous year increased to 24%, up 1.3% from 2016.
Nearly 40% of all 12th-graders surveyed had used some sort of illicit drug in the past year, while 55.7% of them had used alcohol. Nearly 28% of 10th-graders had used an illicit drug, and 37.7% of them had alcohol in the past year. For eighth-graders, the percentage who had used illicit drugs in the previous year was just 12.9%, while 18.2% had had a drink.
    The study, which is in its 43rd year, assesses about 45,000 students from 380 public and private secondary schools across the country.

    Fewer teens see pot as dangerous

    The increase in marijuana use was enough to boost the percentage of teens who used illicit drugs overall. This is the first time in seven years that there has been a statistically significant increase in marijuana use, said Richard Miech, lead author of the studyand a research professor who studies drug use trends at the University of Michigan.
    However, rates for both marijuana and illicit drug use overall are still lower than their peak in 1997, when 42.7% of 12th-graders had used any illicit drug and 38.5% had used marijuana in the previous year. In fact, overall drug use has generally been trending downward for all three grades since 2013.
    Miech said the increases in marijuana use aren’t surprising.
    “Typically, as adolescents see less risk of marijuana use, the prevalence (of use) increases,” he said. “And today, levels of perceived risk from marijuana use are at the lowest levels we’ve ever seen in decades. “
    Last year’s survey found that 68.5% of 12th-graders disapproved of regular marijuana use. This year, that percentage dropped to 64.7%. Miech and his colleagues also found that high school seniors from states with medical marijuana laws were more likely to have vaped marijuana and consumed marijuana edibles than those in states that had more restrictive laws.
    Eight states and the District of Columbia have loosened laws on recreational marijuana use, according to NORML, a nonprofit geared toward marijuana law reform.
    The perception that marijuana is not dangerous has been driven in part by society, said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a part of the National Institutes of Health. Volkow’s group funded the study.”Certainly, that leads to the idea that the marijuana can not be so harmful.”
    In fact, more high school seniors now use marijuana on a daily basis than smoke cigarettes. When asked how frequently they had used in the past month, just 4.2% of 12th-graders said they smoked cigarettes every day, but 5.9% said they used marijuana.
    Both Miech and Volkow said increased marijuana use was somethingto be on the lookout for. “My fear is that we may be seeing the start of a long-term increase in marijuana use among youth,” Miech said.

    Vaping trends

    The survey also noted that while cigarette use continued to decline, nearly one in three 12th-graders had vaped over the past year. Vaping involves using an electronic cigarette, hookah or similar device and inhaling the vapors or aerosols. When asked what they had inhaled, over half of the seniors surveyed (51.8%) said they had used only flavored vaping liquids.
    What was even more striking was that 11.1% of high school seniors said they had vaped with marijuana or hash oil, and nearly a third had vaped with nicotine.
    “We are especially concerned, because the survey shows that some of the teens using these devices are first-time nicotine users,” Volkow said.
    Miech agreed: “There is considerable concern that vaping can led to use of cigarettes.” He pointed to a recent analysis published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics of nine studies that found that even when controlling for factors like impulse and perceived risk of smoking, teens who vaped were more likely to experiment with cigarettes in the future.

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    The rate of students vaping overall remained relatively the same as in 2016. However, 2017 was the first year the survey asked detailed questions about what substances students vaped.
    Though much of the larger national conversation about drugs has focused on opioid overdoses, teen use of heroin and prescription narcotics like oxycodone remains low, the survey found.

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    Mary JaneOverall teen drug use stable, but marijuana edging up, survey finds
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    Berkeley declares itself a sanctuary city for cannabis

    (CNN)Berkeley City Council members have passed a resolution declaring the city a sanctuary for recreational marijuana.

    The move may be the first of its kind in the country, tweeted Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin, who proposed the measure.
    Under the new resolution, which passed Tuesday night, no Berkeley department, agency, commission, officer or employee “shall use any city funds or resources to assist in the enforcement of federal drug laws related to cannabis.”
      The city will also oppose attempts by the US Drug Enforcement Administration to close cannabis businesses. “The city of Berkeley does not support cooperation with the Drug Enforcement Administration in its efforts to undermine state and local marijuana laws,” the resolution states.
      California voters approved a proposition in 2016 to allowing the use of recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older, which went into effect this year.
      “In light of threats by Attorney General Sessions regarding a misguided crackdown on our democratic decision to legalize recreational cannabis, we have become what may be the first city in the country to declare ourselves a sanctuary city for cannabis,” Arreguin tweeted Tuesday.
      His tweet referred to a move last month by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who rescinded a federal stance of non-interference with marijuana-friendly state laws. Sessions made the announcement January 4, just days after laws went into effect allowing recreational marijuana use and commercial sales of pot in California.
      While California and many states have decriminalized or legalized marijuana use, the drug is still illegal under federal law.
      This isn’t the first time Berkeley city officials have used a sanctuary approach when it comes to marijuana.
      Ten years ago, the Berkeley City Council adopted a similar resolution that applied to medical marijuana, declaring the city a sanctuary for medical marijuana patients and providers.

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      Mary JaneBerkeley declares itself a sanctuary city for cannabis
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