April 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

Marissa SafontFitbit 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/

Marissa SafontWhy It’s So Hard to Dose Weed
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What’s coming to (and going from) Netflix in May

Spring can be a blessed time for the entertainment fan’s TV and movie backlog. Sure, you can catch new stuff at the movies or go outside or whatever, but we say let’s treat spring like any other season and relish it as an opportunity to bond with Netflix. Dear White People returns at the beginning of the month, as do several CW shows that just ended their on-air seasons. And come Memorial Day Weekend, there’s a perfect family film waiting for you.

Here’s what’s coming to Netflix in May.

Top pick: Coco

If you made the egregious mistake of missing Disney and Pixar’s breathtaking family film in theaters, your redemption is at hand. You may choose to watch on a mobile device, but for the full effect, we recommend watching on the biggest screen possible to take in the stunning visuals of Miguel’s (Anthony Gonzalez) heartwarming journey.

Movies

27: Gone Too Soon (5/1)
The 40-Year-Old Virgin (5/16)
89 (5/16)
A Life of Its Own: The Truth About Medical Marijuana (5/1)
Amelie (5/1)
Anon (5/4)
Beautiful Girls (5/1)
Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story (5/31)
The Bourne Ultimatum (5/1)
Bridge to Terabithia (5/19)
Cargo (5/18)
The Carter Effect (5/1)
Catching Feelings (5/18)
The Clapper (5/1)
Disney·Pixar’s Coco (5/29)
Darc (5/1)
Desolation (5/8)
Dirty Girl (5/9)
End Game (5/4)
Evil Genius: the True Story of America’s Most Diabolical Bank Heist (5/11)
Explained  (5/23)
Faces Places (5/5)
Forgive Us Our Debts (5/4)
God’s Own Country (5/1)
Hachi: A Dog’s Tale (5/1)
Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay (5/1)
Hellboy II: The Golden Army (5/1)
High School Musical 3: Senior Year (5/1)
Ibiza (5/25)
Jailbreak (5/2)
The Kingdom (5/16)
The Kissing Booth (5/11)
A Little Help with Carol Burnett (5/4)
Lo más sencillo es complicarlo todo (5/4)
Mamma Mia! (5/16)
Manhunt (5/4)
Mr. Woodcock (5/1)
My Perfect Romance (5/1)
No Estoy Loca (5/4)
Only God Forgives (5/15)
The Phantom of the Opera (5/14)
Pocoyo & Cars (5/1)
Pocoyo & The Space Circus (5/1)
The Reaping (5/1)
Reasonable Doubt (5/1)
Red Dragon (5/1)
Sara’s Notebook  (5/26)
Scream 2 (5/1)
Shrek (5/1)
Sliding Doors (5/1)
Small Town Crime (5/19)
Some Kind of Beautiful (5/20)
Sometimes (5/1)
The Strange Name Movie (5/1)
Survivors Guide to Prison (5/24)
Wanted (5/16)

TV

Ali Wong: Hard Knock Wife (5/13)
Arrow: Season 6
Barbie Dreamhouse Adventures: Season 1 (5/1)
Bill Nye Saves the World: Season 3 (5/11)
The Break with Michelle Wolf (5/27)
Busted!: Season 1 (5/4)
Dear White People: Volume 2 (5/4)
Dynasty: Season 1
Fauda: Season 2 (5/24)
The Flash: Season 4
The Game 365: Seasons 15 – 16 (5/15)
Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce: Season 4 (5/15)
Grand Designs: Seasons 13 – 14 (5/15)
Hari Kondabolu: Warn Your Relatives (5/8)
Inspector Gadget: Season 4 (5/18)
The Joel McHale Show with Joel McHale (Streaming every Sunday until May 13) (5/6 – 5/13)
John Mulaney: Kid Gorgeous Live at Radio City (5/1)
Kong: King of the Apes: Season 2 (5/4)
Mob Psycho 100: Season 1 (5/22)
My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman: Tina Fey (5/4)
My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman: Howard Stern  (5/31)
Queens of Comedy: Season 1 (5/1)
The Rain: Season 1 (5/4)
Riverdale: Season 2
Disney’s Scandal: Season 7 (5/19)
Señora Acero: Season 4 (5/21)
Shooter: Season 2 (5/22)
Simon: Season 1 (5/1)
Spirit Riding Free: Season 5 (5/11)
Steve Martin and Martin Short: An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life (5/25)
Supernatural: Season 1
Terrace House: Opening New Doors: Part 2 (5/22)
Tig Notaro: Happy To Be Here (5/22)
The Toys That Made Us: Season 2 (5/25)
Trollhunters: Part 3 (5/25)
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Season 4 (5/30)
The Who Was? Show: Season 1 (5/11)
Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc-V: Season 2 (5/1)

Expiring

Bridget Jones’s Diary
Casper
Chappie
Charlotte’s Web
Field of Dreams
GoodFellas
Ocean’s Eleven
Sahara
Silent Hill
The Exorcism of Emily Rose
The Hurt Locker
To Rome With Love
To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar
12 Dates of Christmas
Beauty & the Briefcase
Cadet Kelly
Camp Rock
Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam
Cow Belles
Cyberbully
Disney’s The Cheetah Girls
Disney’s The Cheetah Girls 2
Disney’s The Cheetah Girls: One World
Frenemies
Geek Charming
Good Luck Charlie: It’s Christmas
Hello Sister, Goodbye Life
High School Musical
High School Musical 2
Jump In!
Lemonade Mouth
Little Einsteins:
Seasons 1 – 2
My Fake Fiancé
Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension
Phineas and Ferb:
Seasons 1 – 4
Princess Protection Program
Princess: A Modern Fairytale
Read It and Weep
Revenge of the Bridesmaids
Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure
Special Agent Oso:
Seasons 1 – 2
StarStruck
Teen Spirit
The Secret Life of the American Teenager:
Seasons 1 – 5
Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior
Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie
The Host
Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
Disney’s The Jungle Book

Read more: http://mashable.com/

Marissa SafontWhat’s coming to (and going from) Netflix in May
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Coco Cocoming To Netflix! See Everything Coming & Going In May!

Netflix giveth and Netflix taketh away…

Starting May 29, you’ll be able to watch the wonderful Oscars winning Disney/Pixar Coco and sob your eyes out from the comfort of your couch!

The month also brings classics like Mamma Mia!, Sliding Doors, and Amelie — and the chance to revisit Stormy Daniels‘ performance in The 40-Year-Old Virgin.

Photos: Finding Nemo In Coco — And 60 Other AMAZING Disney/Pixar Easter Eggs!

Sadly, that also means many films are leaving, including Bridget Jones’s Diary, The Jungle Book, and all of Phineas And Ferb.

See everything coco-ming and going in May (below)!

Coming May 1

27: Gone Too Soon
A Life of Its Own: The Truth About Medical Marijuana
Amelie
Barbie Dreamhouse Adventures: Season 1
Beautiful Girls
Darc
God’s Own Country
Hachi: A Dog’s Tale
Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay
Hellboy II: The Golden Army
High School Musical 3: Senior Year
John Mulaney: Kid Gorgeous Live at Radio City (NETFLIX ORIGINAL) – A new stand-up special from John Mulaney.
Mr. Woodcock
My Perfect Romance
Pocoyo & Cars
Pocoyo & The Space Circus
Queens of Comedy: Season 1
Reasonable Doubt
Red Dragon
Scream 2
Shrek
Simon: Season 1
Sliding Doors
Sometimes — NETFLIX FILM
The Bourne Ultimatum
The Carter Effect
The Clapper
The Reaping
The Strange Name Movie
Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc-V: Season 2

Coming May 2

Jailbreak

Coming May 4

A Little Help with Carol Burnett — NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Anon — NETFLIX FILM
Busted!: Season 1 — NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Dear White People: Volume 2 — NETFLIX ORIGINAL
End Game — NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Forgive Us Our Debts — NETFLIX FILM
Kong: King of the Apes: Season 2 — NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Lo más sencillo es complicarlo todo
Manhunt — NETFLIX FILM
My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman: Tina Fey — NETFLIX ORIGINAL
No Estoy Loca
The Rain: Season 1 — NETFLIX ORIGINAL

Coming May 5

Faces Places

Coming May 6

The Joel McHale Show with Joel McHale (Streaming every Sunday – Season 1 Finale on May 13) — NETFLIX ORIGINAL

Coming May 8

Desolation
Hari Kondabolu: Warn Your Relatives — NETFLIX ORIGINAL

Coming May 9

Dirty Girl

Coming May 11

Bill Nye Saves the World: Season 3 — NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Evil Genius: the True Story of America’s Most Diabolical Bank Heist — NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Spirit Riding Free: Season 5 — NETFLIX ORIGINAL
The Kissing Booth — NETFLIX FILM
The Who Was? Show: Season 1 — NETFLIX ORIGINAL

Coming May 13

Ali Wong: Hard Knock Wife — NETFLIX ORIGINAL

Coming May 14

The Phantom of the Opera

Coming May 15

Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce: Season 4
Grand Designs: Seasons 13 – 14
Only God Forgives
The Game 365: Seasons 15 – 16

Coming May 16

89
Mamma Mia!
The 40-Year-Old Virgin
The Kingdom
Wanted

Coming May 18

Cargo — NETFLIX FILM
Catching Feelings — NETFLIX FILM
Inspector Gadget: Season 4 — NETFLIX ORIGINAL

Coming May 19

Bridge to Terabithia
Disney’s Scandal: Season 7
Small Town Crime

Coming May 20

Some Kind of Beautiful

Coming May 21

Señora Acero: Season 4

Coming May 22

Mob Psycho 100: Season 1 — NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Shooter: Season 2
Terrace House: Opening New Doors: Part 2 — NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Tig Notaro Happy To Be Here — NETFLIX ORIGINAL

Coming May 23

Explained — NETFLIX ORIGINAL

Coming May 24

Fauda: Season 2 — NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Survivors Guide to Prison

Coming May 25

Ibiza — NETFLIX FILM
Steve Martin and Martin Short: An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life — NETFLIX ORIGINAL
The Toys That Made Us: Season 2 — NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Trollhunters: Part 3 — NETFLIX ORIGINAL

Coming May 26

Sara’s Notebook — NETFLIX FILM

Coming May 27

The Break with Michelle Wolf — NETFLIX ORIGINAL

Coming May 29

Disney·Pixar’s Coco

Coming May 30

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Season 4 — NETFLIX ORIGINAL

Coming May 31

Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story
My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman: Howard Stern — NETFLIX ORIGINAL

Also In May

Arrow: Season 6
Dynasty: Season 1
Riverdale: Season 2
Supernatural: Season 1
The Flash: Season 4

And leaving…

Leaving May 1

Bridget Jones’s Diary
Casper
Chappie
Charlotte’s Web
Field of Dreams
GoodFellas
Ocean’s Eleven
Sahara
Silent Hill
The Exorcism of Emily Rose
The Hurt Locker
To Rome With Love
To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar

Leaving May 2

12 Dates of Christmas
Beauty & the Briefcase
Cadet Kelly
Camp Rock
Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam
Cow Belles
Cyberbully
Disney’s The Cheetah Girls
Disney’s The Cheetah Girls 2
Disney’s The Cheetah Girls: One World
Frenemies
Geek Charming
Good Luck Charlie: It’s Christmas
Hello Sister, Goodbye Life
High School Musical
High School Musical 2
Jump In!
Lemonade Mouth
Little Einsteins: Seasons 1 – 2
My Fake Fiancé
Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension
Phineas and Ferb: Seasons 1 – 4
Princess Protection Program
Princess: A Modern Fairytale
Read It and Weep
Revenge of the Bridesmaids
Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure
Special Agent Oso: Seasons 1 – 2
StarStruck
Teen Spirit
The Secret Life of the American Teenager: Seasons 1 – 5
Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior
Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie

Leaving May 7

The Host

Leaving May 12

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

Leaving May 30

Disney’s The Jungle Book

Read more: http://perezhilton.com/

Marissa SafontCoco Cocoming To Netflix! See Everything Coming & Going In May!
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Top Senate Democrat Endorses Decriminalizing Marijuana at the Federal Level

The push to decriminalize marijuana has picked up another high-profile backer — Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer — just a week after President Donald Trump endorsed letting states decide how to regulate the drug.

"I’ll be introducing legislation to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level from one end of the country to the other," Schumer, of New York, told Vice News in an interview airing Thursday evening. "I’ve seen too many people’s lives ruined because they had small amounts of marijuana and served time in jail much too long."

Schumer’s backing of decriminalization adds to what has become a bipartisan effort in the Senate, led by Republican Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado, which was the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. Marijuana currently is legal for medicinal use in 29 states and for recreational use in eight.

Trump’s promise to let states handle the issue caused pot-related stocks to spike. It also eased the threat that the Department of Justice under Attorney General Jeff Sessions — a staunch foe of legalization — would step up enforcement of federal prohibitions on sales and use of marijuana in states like Colorado.

Gardner separately said in an interview Wednesday he is 80 percent finished with legislation he is writing to ensure states don’t run afoul of the federal prohibition on marijuana and to allow marijuana businesses access to the financial system.

It’s not clear, however, when or if such a bill might move. In the meantime Schumer’s backing could help Democrats, given that polls have increasingly shown a strong majority backing legalization.

Previous efforts to expand an existing appropriations rider protecting state-licensed medical-marijuana operations failed.

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

Marissa SafontTop Senate Democrat Endorses Decriminalizing Marijuana at the Federal Level
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My Son Pioneered an Epilepsy Drug Derived From Marijuana. An FDA Panel Just Approved It

Yesterday morning a tall, lanky 16-year-old boy in a red polo shirt stood at a podium in front of a roomful of doctors, scientists, and regulators and told them about how a drug they were considering for approval had changed his life. “I had seizures for 10 years,” he said. “My parents tell me there were times I had seizures 100 times a day.” Now, he said, he has been seizure free for nearly two and a half years.

“I can understand what goes on at school,” he said. “And I can have adventures that never would have been possible before.” He told them about how seizure freedom enabled him to study to be a Bar Mitzvah in 2016. He told them about a school trip he’d just taken without his parents to South Africa—12,000 miles from home. And he said that he hoped to become a neurologist one day so that he could help other people with epilepsy. The audience, despite being told not to applaud speakers until the end, clapped anyway.

About an hour later, after about a dozen parents of epileptic children spoke of their struggles with the disease, the Food and Drug Administration panel of scientists and doctors voted 13-0 to recommend approval. The FDA is expected to render a final decision on the drug, Epidiolex, by June. One of the panelists John Mendelson, an addiction treatment executive and a UCSF professor said, “This is clearly a breakthrough drug for an awful disease.”

The whole event, which I watched on a live stream from my home office in Berkeley, was one of the thrills of my life. Sam is my son. He and my wife Evelyn both testified because Sam was the first person in the US to take Epidiolex back in December 2012. After trying more than two dozen medications, a crazy sounding diet, and corticosteroids that made Sam look like a cancer patient, Epidiolex—which didn’t even have a name when Sam tried it—was truly our last option to help him.

The author’s son, Sam Vogelstein, testified Thursday in Washington DC before the FDA’s advisory committee.

Evelyn Nussenbaum

I should mention that Epidiolex is derived from cannabis. Its active ingredient is cannabidiol, aka CBD, which is a chemical in the plant that doesn’t make you high.

The manufacturer, GW Pharmaceuticals, knew little about epilepsy back then. But Sam’s response was so extraordinary, their executives decided they needed to learn more about the disease, and quickly embarked on clinical trials. Sam actually tried the medicine in London under a doctor’s supervision. Such a trial in the UK was straightforward, whereas conducting it in the US would have been impossible because of our cannabis laws. Since then nearly 1,800 patients have tried it at US hospitals, with about 40 to 50 percent seeing greater than 50 percent reductions in seizures. That sounds small until you consider that admission to the trials required patients to have exhausted all other medicinal options. Officially, Epidiolex will be approved only to treat two of the most severe types of epilepsy, Dravet and Lennox Gastaut syndromes. But doctors will likely have the flexibility to prescribe it for other epilepsies too. Many epilepsy drugs are prescribed this way, known as off label. (Many patients, including Sam, are on more than one drug.)

The pending approval of Epidiolex isn’t just a big deal for me and my family. It’s a big deal for 3 million people in the US who have epilepsy, and, if approved elsewhere, 73 million people worldwide. Epilepsy affects about one percent of the world’s population, more than Parkinson’s and Multiple Sclerosis combined. And yet for all humanities’ scientific prowess, only about two-thirds of people who take epilepsy medicines become seizure free. The imminent approval of a medication that might shrink the number of unresponsive patients is a major, even historic, development.

It’s also a big deal for cannabis research and by extension the cannabis legalization discussion. Epidiolex will be the first FDA approved drug derived from a cannabis plant. It can’t get anyone high because the manufacturer extracts all the THC during production.

To manufacture CBD, GW maintains tens of thousands of cannabis plants in hothouses all over the UK. It extracts the CBD from the plants in a lab, ending up with a 100 milliliter bottle of strawberry flavored sesame oil that it ships to the US.

A common refrain from cannabis opponents has long been that there is no scientific evidence that anything associated with cannabis can be medicine. And that’s been true because regulators and police worldwide make studying illegal substances like cannabis nearly impossible.

But to get this far in the FDA approval process, GW had to marshal the same scientific evidence of safety and efficacy that every other drug manufacturer must present. It created a medicine that was consistent from dose to dose, bottle to bottle, and batch to batch. It conducted all the required placebo controlled trials, administered by doctors in hospital settings. And those doctors published peer reviewed research in top medical journals like the New England Journal of Medicine. “It’s an honor to be participating in a (cannabis) decision based on science instead of politics," said panelist Mark Green, professor of neurology and anesthesiology at the Icahn School of Medicine in New York, after the vote.

Indeed, it doesn’t require too much imagination to see how Epidiolex’s pending approval forces a public reckoning on how we think about cannabis nationally. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has made no secret of his virulent opposition to the legalization of cannabis in any form. He has said that “good people do not smoke marijuana.” Yet, assuming Epidiolex gets formal FDA approval, he will have to weigh in through his supervision of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

At the moment, CBD is a Schedule 1 drug like cannabis. Its medical use—except in the specially approved trials that proved its effectiveness—is not allowed. The DEA must reschedule it before it can be sold. Technically, the DEA could refuse. But it would have to explain how it—a police agency—was in a better position to make that call than the FDA, an agency of scientists and doctors. An explanation would also be needed for neurologists, and the parents of millions of very sick children. The DEA can’t delay its decision either. By law it must rule within 90 days.

All that maneuvering would be moot, of course, if Congress decides to pass a law legalizing cannabis entirely, as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer proposed last night. He is not the first senator to propose such a law, but he is by far the most influential to do it. “If smoking marijuana doesn’t hurt anybody else, why shouldn’t we allow people to do it and not make it criminal" he told Vice News.

By now you are probably wondering what a family from California like us was thinking when it traveled to the UK to have their kid try a drug derived from a cannabis plant. Remarkably, that’s where you had to go to get pharmaceutical grade CBD back then. We tried to procure it from artisanal producers here for six months. Everything we tried turned out to be ineffective and sometimes fraudulent. Getting the CBD out of cannabis plant is complicated, expensive, and time consuming.

The artisanal CBD market is more robust today. There are some good, reliable preparations that are helping epilepsy patients who could not get into the GW trials. Hopefully they will force GW to keep Epidiolex affordable. But many parents have told me that in a perfect world they'd just go to the pharmacy to treat their kids' seizures. They have complicated lives, but simple needs. They want the same experience they get when they fill a penicillin prescription: a cure.

All of this made yesterday one of the best days in Sam's young life. Other parents thanked him for speaking for all the kids who were too sick to speak for themselves, and he felt like he was part of something bigger than himself. “And when I suggested that we made a good team as speakers," Evelyn said, “he said with a big grin, ‘You set ’em up. And I knock ’em down.’ ”

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

Marissa SafontMy Son Pioneered an Epilepsy Drug Derived From Marijuana. An FDA Panel Just Approved It
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Marijuana’s effects on young brains diminish 72 hours after use, research says

(CNN)Marijuana is notorious for slowing certain cognitive functions such as learning, memory and attention span (maybe that’s why they call it “dope”?). But new research in young people suggests that these cognitive effects, while significant, may not persist for very long, even among chronic users.

The meta-analysis, published Wednesday in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, combines data from 69 previous studies that look at the effects of heavy cannabis use on cognitive functioning in adolescents and young adults. It found that those young people who identified as heavy marijuana users scored significantly lower than non-users in a variety of cognitive domains such as learning, abstraction, speed of processing, delayed memory, inhibition and attention.
“There have been a couple of meta-analyses done in adult samples, but this is the first one to be done specifically in adolescent and young adult samples,” said Cobb Scott, assistant professor of psychiatry at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and a lead author of the study.
    “We looked at everything from learning and memory to different aspects of executive functioning such as abstraction ability,” Scott said. “And we basically showed that the largest effects — which was around a third of a standard deviation — was in the learning of new information and some aspects of executive functioning, memory and speed of processing.”
    But when the researchers separated the studies based on length of abstinence from marijuana use, the difference in cognitive functioning between marijuana users and non-users was no longer apparent after 72 hours of marijuana abstinence. That could be an indication “that some of the effects found in previous studies may be due to the residual effects of cannabis or potentially from withdrawal effects in heavy cannabis users,” Scott said.
    The study comes as America continues to debate the merits of marijuana legalization. Recreational marijuana use is legal in nine states. Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have legalized some form of medical marijuana use, with at least three additional states potentially deciding on the issue in the upcoming November election, according to Melissa Moore, New York deputy state director for the nonprofit Drug Policy Alliance.
    Studies on the long-term cognitive effects of marijuana use among adolescents and young adults have shown inconsistent results. A 2008 study reported that frequent or early-onset cannabis use among adolescents was associated with poorer cognitive performance in tasks requiring executive functioning, attention and episodic memory.
    A 2014 study also warned against the use of marijuana during adolescence, when certain parts of the brain responsible for executive functioning — such as the prefrontal cortex — are still developing.
    “There have been very important studies showing evidence for irreversible damage (from marijuana use), and so there needs to be more research in this area,” said Kevin Sabet, assistant adjunct professor at the Yale School of Medicine and president of the nonprofit Smart Approaches to Marijuana, who was not involved in the new study.
    “I hope they’re right. We want there to be little effect after 72 hours. But given the other studies that have had very large sample sizes that have been published over the past five years in prominent journals, I think we need to look into that more,” added Sabet, whose group is focused on the harms of marijuana legalization.
    But a number of recent studies have also shown that the association between marijuana use and reduced cognitive functioning disappears after controlling for factors such as psychiatric illness and substance use disorders, according to Scott.
    In an attempt to make sense of these discordant results, the new research combined data from 69 previous studies, resulting in a comparison of 2,152 frequent marijuana users with 6,575 non-users. Participants ranged in age from 10 to 50, with an average age of 21.
    The researchers found that, overall, the cognitive functioning of frequent marijuana users was reduced by one-third of a standard deviation compared with non-frequent marijuana users — a relatively small effect size, according to Scott.
    “It surprised, I think, all of us doing this analysis that the effects were not bigger than we found,” Scott said. “But I would say that the clinical significance of a quarter of a standard deviation is somewhat questionable.”
    But according to Sabet, even a relatively small effect size could be important, especially in a large meta-analysis such as this one.
    “The small effect size may be meaningful in a large population, and again, all (cognitive) measures are worse for those using marijuana,” Sabet said.
    “The study is pretty bad news for marijuana users,” he added. “Overall, I think this is consistent with the literature that marijuana use shows worse cognitive outcomes among users versus non-users.”
    In an effort to identify other potential factors that could have affected the relationship between marijuana use and cognition,the researchers also separated the studies based on the length of marijuana abstinence, age of first cannabis use, sociodemographic characteristics and clinical characteristics such as depression.
    Of these, only the length of marijuana abstinence was found to significantly affect the association between chronic marijuana use and reduced cognitive functioning. Specifically, cognitive functioning appeared to return to normal after about 72 hours of marijuana abstinence — a threshold identified in previous studies, according to Scott.
    “The reason we chose the 72-hour mark is that in looking at the data on cannabis withdrawal effects in heavy cannabis users, 72 hours seems to be past the peak of most withdrawal effects that occur,” he said.
    However, the 69 studies included in the review did not have a uniform definition for “chronic” or “frequent” marijuana use, one of the study’s main limitations, according to Sabet.
    “When you put all of these studies together that have different definitions of marijuana users and are from different times, it’s not surprising that you’d get a smaller effect size,” Sabet said.
    The studies also relied on a variety of tests to determine cognitive functioning, including the Trail Making Test, the Digital Span Memory Test and the California Verbal Learning test, according to Scott.
    “The other thing that’s important to highlight is that we’re only looking at cognitive functioning. We’re not looking at risks for other adverse outcomes with cannabis use, like risk for psychosis, risks for cannabis use problems or other medical issues like lung functioning outcomes,” Scott said.

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    But the results still suggest that the negative cognitive effects of marijuana use, while significant in the short-term, probably diminish with time. They also shed light on the need for more research in this area, particularly as cannabis policy in the United States continues to change at a rapid pace.
    “As attitudes change about cannabis use and cannabis use becomes a little bit more accepted in terms of policy and government regulation and medical cannabis use increases, I think we need to have a real understanding of the potential risks and benefits of cannabis use,” Scott said.

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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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    San Francisco To Dismiss Or Reduce Thousands Of Past Marijuana Convictions

    Prosecutors in San Francisco are reducing and dismissing thousands of past marijuana convictions, an extraordinary move that will retroactively apply California’s recreational marijuana legalization policy for cases stretching back decades.

    “While drug policy on the federal level is going backwards, San Francisco is once again taking the lead to undo the damage that this country’s disastrous, failed drug war has had on our nation and on communities of color in particular,” San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón said in a Wednesday statement about the effort.

    Gascón announced that his office will be applying the law to all misdemeanor and felony cases in San Francisco dating back to 1975. In total, his office will be reviewing, recalling and resentencing up to 4,940 felony marijuana convictions, as well as dismissing and sealing 3,038 misdemeanor cases that were sentenced prior to the ballot measure’s passage. 

    The process could end up helping thousands of people whose lives have been disrupted or derailed over activities that became legal as of Jan. 1. Criminal convictions can have devastating consequences long after the offense was committed, making it difficult to obtain employment, bank loans and housing.

    Voters approved Proposition 64 in 2016 to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes and reduce criminal penalties for various marijuana-related offenses for adults and juveniles. But the law did more than legalize marijuana, it also authorized a new process for individuals in the state to get previous marijuana-related convictions retroactively reduced, reclassified as lesser offenses or cleared altogether.

    And while the relief for past convictions is a component built into California’s new marijuana laws, the process is not automatic or well-known. Individuals with past marijuana convictions must know the relief exists, petition the courts themselves to file the appropriate paperwork and may need to retain an attorney to do so. The process can be time consuming and costly. Gascón’s approach, however, is novel because no action is required from eligible individuals with past marijuana convictions to take advantage of the law. His office is applying the relief process on its own.

    California produces vast amounts of marijuana and has done so for years. In 1996, it became the first state to legalize medical marijuana. And despite the passage of more permissive laws, there were still thousands of marijuana-related arrests annually. From 2006 to 2015, there were nearly 500,000 people arrested for marijuana offenses, a recent Drug Policy Alliance report found. And Rodney Holcombe, a legal fellow at DPA, said that there may be close to 1 million people in the state who have convictions that could now be eligible for relief.

    Across the state, only about 5,000 people have so far applied to have their marijuana sentences reviewed for possible relief, according to data compiled by the Judicial Council of California. In San Francisco specifically, only 23 petitions for reduction or sentencing clearing have been filed over the past year, according to Gascón’s office (the office has no active marijuana prosecutions).

    San Francisco city and county officials have found that the black community has been over-represented in marijuana-related arrests in the region. In a study from the city’s Human Rights Commission on the effects of marijuana policy in the region, between 1999-2000, arrests of African-Americans for marijuana-related offenses jumped from 34 to 41 percent, despite black San Franciscans comprising of less than 8 percent of the population in 2000. In 2011, after penalties for marijuana possession was downgraded from a misdemeanor in San Francisco, 50 percent marijuana-related arrests were of African-Americans, while they represented just 6 percent of the region’s population in 2010.

    “This example, one of many across our state, underscores the true promise of Proposition 64 ― providing new hope and opportunities to Californians, primarily people of color, whose lives were long ago derailed by a costly, broken and racially discriminatory system of marijuana criminalization,” Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom said in a statement. “This isn’t just an urgent issue of social justice here in California – it’s a model for the rest of the nation.”  

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    John Boehner Now Lobbying For Medical Marijuana

    Make no mistake: John Boehner’s career after serving as speaker of the House has really gone to pot.

    Really.

    The former Ohio congressman has signed on to the advisory board of Acreage Holdings, a cannabis company that cultivates, processes and dispenses marijuana in 11 U.S. states.

    The decision to support weed comes nine years after the Republican claimed to be “unalterably opposed” to legalization, according to Bloomberg.

    “Over the last 10 or 15 years, the American people’s attitudes have changed dramatically,” he said the website. “I find myself in that same position.”

    Boehner said his position on pot evolved after he saw the positive effects the plant had on a friend dealing with serious back pain.

    He said marijuana has great potential for helping veterans with PTSD and reversing the opioid epidemic. He also believes de-scheduling marijuana from the Drug Enforcement Agency’s controlled substances list, saying the move would help ease problems with the criminal justice system.

    “When you look at the number of people in our state and federal penitentiaries, who are there for possession of small amounts of cannabis, you begin to really scratch your head,” Boehner said. “We have literally filled up our jails with people who are nonviolent and frankly do not belong there.”

    Former Massachusetts Governor William Weld (R), who has supported medical marijuana since the early 1990s, has also just joined the Acreage advisory board.

    Like Boehner, he believes pot is the key to reversing the opioid epidemic.

    “Cannabis could be perceived as an exit drug, not a gateway drug,” he told Bloomberg.

    However, both politicians insist they’ve never tried marijuana in any of its forms.

    Although President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions are no fans of marijuana, Boehner’s decision ― as unexpected as it may seem on the surface ― is actually mainstream.

    A Gallup poll from October shows that 64 percent of Americans favor making marijuana legal. The same poll found that 51 percent of Republicans favored legalization, an increase of nine percentage points from the 2016 survey.

    Acreage Founder and CEO Kevin Murphy believes having the two former politicians on the board will advance U.S. cannabis policy.

    “The addition of [former] Speaker Boehner and [former] Governor Weld to our Board will lead to even greater access for patients by changing the conversation overnight,” Murphy said in a release. “These men have shaped the political course of our country for decades and now they will help shape the course of this nascent but ascendant industry.”

    Some people in the cannabis industry believe Boehner’s budding involvement is a good thing.

    Eddie Miller, Chief Strategy Officer for GreenRush.com, a business that is like GrubHub or Amazon for weed, thinks Boehner will lend new credibility to the whole cannabis industry. 

    “It will help [us] by bringing a new wave of support from conservative politicians that have never considered cannabis to be a legitimate industry,” he told HuffPost.

    Erik Knutson, CEO of Keef Brands, which manufactures cannabis-infused cola and sparkling water, said Boehner’s pro-pot stance harkens the end of an era.

    “With the majority of Republicans favoring legalization and states rights, it is no surprise that mainstream right-leaning politicians are beginning to gravitate towards Cannabis,” he told HuffPost by email. “Luckily for all of us, the Reagan era drug warrior platform is dying.”

    However, attorney Perry N. Salzhauer, who specializes in cannabis industry law, worries Boehner’s involvement is a sign that big business could drive out the little guy.

    When a powerful political figure with ties to the tobacco industry makes a public move like this, it certainly raises fears among the smaller operators that their days may be numbered,” he told HuffPost. “Despite this, we believe that there will always be room for a craft cannabis industry similar to what we’ve been seeing in the beer and spirits industry.”

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