Gupta to Jeff Sessions: Medical marijuana could save many addicted to opioids

(CNN)Dear Honorable Jeff Sessions,

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

    The science of weed

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

    A better, and safer, way to treat pain

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

    Using marijuana to get off opioids

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

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

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

      Your brain on marijuana

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

    Where do we go from here?

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

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

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    Marissa SafontGupta to Jeff Sessions: Medical marijuana could save many addicted to opioids
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    Getting off opioids with medical marijuana: Patients turn to pot over pills

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

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

      Treating patients with weed

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

        This is your brain on pain

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

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

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

      40,000 pills over 10 years

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

      ‘We need objective data’

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

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

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      Marissa SafontGetting off opioids with medical marijuana: Patients turn to pot over pills
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      NFL player makes medical marijuana history: ‘I have a life to live’

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

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

          Goodell addresses NFL ban on marijuana use

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

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

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

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

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        Marissa SafontNFL player makes medical marijuana history: ‘I have a life to live’
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        A Marijuana-Based Drug Is On Track For FDA Approval For The First Time Ever

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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        Marissa SafontTwo Controversial Claims About Medical Marijuana Have Been Debunked
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        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 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:

        Marissa SafontFitbit Could Prove a Mans Innocence. Google Could Send Another to Prison for Murder.
        read more

        Why It’s So Hard to Dose Weed

        Cannabis is a notoriously finicky drug. Take the right amount and you get relaxation or euphoria, but take too much and it’s a long ride of paranoia. Which makes marijuana tricky for casual users, and potentially problematic for new users who want to use cannabis to treat ailments like pain.

        It's difficult to quantify just how much of the drug you’re inhaling through a bong or vaporizer—especially because marijuana contains some 500 chemicals that interact in ways scientists are just beginning to understand. And really, how you end up feeling depends as much on your physiology and state of mind as it does on the plant.

        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.”


        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:

        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.


        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)


        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)


        Bridget Jones’s Diary
        Charlotte’s Web
        Field of Dreams
        Ocean’s Eleven
        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
        Disney’s The Cheetah Girls
        Disney’s The Cheetah Girls 2
        Disney’s The Cheetah Girls: One World
        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
        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:

        Marissa SafontWhat’s coming to (and going from) Netflix in May
        read more

        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
        Barbie Dreamhouse Adventures: Season 1
        Beautiful Girls
        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
        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


        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

        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

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

        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
        Charlotte’s Web
        Field of Dreams
        Ocean’s Eleven
        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
        Disney’s The Cheetah Girls
        Disney’s The Cheetah Girls 2
        Disney’s The Cheetah Girls: One World
        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
        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:

        Marissa SafontCoco Cocoming To Netflix! See Everything Coming & Going In May!
        read more