May 2018

What is CBD? The ‘miracle’ cannabis compound that doesn’t get you high

The cannabis-derived chemical is non-psychoactive, and while federally illegal has been hailed as a cure for disease

In early May, a federal court declined to protect cannabidiol (CBD), a chemical produced by the cannabis plant, from federal law enforcement, despite widespread belief in its medical value.

The ruling was contrary to existing evidence, which suggests the chemical is safe and could have multiple important uses as medicine. Many cannabis advocates consider it a miracle medicine, capable of relieving conditions as disparate as depression, arthritis and diabetes.

The perception of its widespread medical benefits have made the chemical a rallying cry for legalization advocates.

The first thing to know about CBD is that it is not psychoactive; it doesnt get people high. The primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). But THC is only one of the scores of chemicals known as cannabinoids produced by the cannabis plant.

So far, CBD is the most promising compound from both a marketing and a medical perspective. Many users believe it helps them relax, despite it not being psychoactive, and some believe regular doses help stave off Alzheimers and heart disease.

While studies have shown CBD to have anti-inflammatory, anti-pain and anti-psychotic properties, it has seen only minimal testing in human clinical trials, where scientists determine what a drug does, how much patients should take, its side effects and so on.

Despite the government ruling, CBD is widely available over the counter in dispensaries in states where marijuana is legal.

CBD first came to public attention in a 2013 CNN documentary called Weed. The piece, reported by Dr Sanjay Gupta, featured a little girl in Colorado named Charlotte, who had a rare life-threatening form of epilepsy called Dravet syndrome.

At age five, Charlotte suffered 300 grand mal seizures a week, and was constantly on the brink of a medical emergency. Through online research, Charlottes desperate parents heard of treating Dravet with CBD. It was controversial to pursue medical marijuana for such a young patient, but when they gave Charlotte oil extracted from high-CBD cannabis, her seizures stopped almost completely. In honor of her progress, high-CBD cannabis is sometimes known as Charlottes Web.

CBD has been sought for its healing properties. Illustration: George Wylesol

After Charlottes story got out, hundreds of families relocated to Colorado where they could procure CBD for their children, though not all experienced such life-changing results. Instead of moving, other families obtained CBD oil through the illegal distribution networks.

In late June, the US Food and Drug Administration could approve the Epidiolex, a pharmaceuticalized form of CBD for several severe pediatric seizure disorders. According to data recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the drug can reduce seizures by more than 40%. If Epidiolex wins approval it would be the first time the agency approves a drug derived from the marijuana plant. (The FDA has approved synthetic THC to treat chemotherapy-related nausea.)

Epidiolex was developed by the London-based GW Pharmaceuticals, which grows cannabis on tightly controlled farms in the UK. It embarked on the Epidiolex project in 2013, as anecdotes of CBDs value as an epilepsy drug began emerging from the US.

While parents treating their children with CBD had to proceed based on trial and error, like a folk medicine, they also had to wonder whether dispensary purchased CBD was professionally manufactured and contained what the package said it did. GW brought a scientific understanding and pharmaceutical grade manufacturing to this promising compound.

Fortunately, like THC, CBD appears to be well tolerated; as far as I can tell, there are no recorded incidents of fatal CBD overdoses.

Since Weed first aired, GWs stock has climbed 1,500%.

GWs first drug Sativex, which contains both CBD and THC, is available as a treatment for MS-related spasticity in Canada, Australia, and much of Europe and Latin America. The company is also studying cannabinoid-based drugs as a treatment for autism spectrum disorders, an aggressive brain tumor called glioblastoma, and schizophrenia.

Other industries, not subject to the strict regulations governing pharmaceuticals are eager to develop their own CBD products, everything from joints and vape pens to skin creams and edibles which may or may not have valid medical use.

In Los Angeles, its among the latest wellness fads. It can be found in cocktails, and an upscale juice shop will even add a few drops of CBD infused olive oil to a beverage for $3.50.

  • High time is the Guardians column about how cannabis legalization is changing modern life. Alex Halperin welcomes your thoughts, questions and concerns and will protect your anonymity. Get in

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Parents Treating Kids With Cannabinoid Oil Could Lose Them

In April, a committee at the Food and Drug Administration took the unprecedented step to recommend for approval Epidiolex, an epilepsy drug containing a plant-sourced cannabinoid, cannabidiol (CBD). In June, the FDA will vote on approving the drug, which has been shown in limited studies to be effective for those suffering from severe epilepsy.

Maria Selvas seven-year-old daughter, Aliana, has epilepsy and has found relief from seizures with CBD.

But treating her daughters seizures with CBD has put Selva at significant risk, and she has mixed feelings about the FDAs potential approval of Epidiolex. In October 2017, Child Protective Services charged Maria and her husband with severe medical neglect, and removed Aliana from her parents care.

Aliana Selva was six-years-old and on vacation with her family in Los Angeles when she had her first tonic-clonic seizure. She had experienced a few mild seizures as an infant, but the doctors assured Maria and her husband, Jo Selva, that these seizures were common and she would likely grow out of them. For nearly four years, the Selvas thought the doctors were right.

Then, on March 31, 2016, Aliana had two seizures.

The Selvas rushed Aliana to the emergency room, where she was examined and released. The doctor said the hospital would forward the exam notes to a neurologist in the Bay Area, where the Selvas lived. When they returned home, a neurologist called and said Aliana needed to be put on the anticonvulsant drug, Keppra.

I remember asking her, so, is there a diagnosis? Maria says. It just seemed so strange, we didnt even know what was wrong but we were already putting her on medication for it.

Within a few minutes of giving Aliana the first dose of the drug, Alianas personality transformed dramatically.

Alis normally a very sweet, gentle little girl, Maria says, After giving her that first dose of Keppra, she was super aggressive and irritable. She went from jumping on the bed, saying she wanted to have a dance party to sobbing and banging her head against the wall. She didnt care that she was hurting herself. It was completely outside her personality. It was insane. It wasnt Ali.

Keppra rage, Dr. Bonni Goldstein, former Chief Resident at Los Angeles Childrens Hospital, said immediately when she heard Alis story (Aliana goes by both her full name and the nickname). Goldstein hasnt treated the Selvas and wasnt previously familiar with their case, but she has dealt with her share of children with epilepsy, both on and off Keppra. She practiced pediatric emergency medicine for thirteen years before switching gears to focus on cannabinoid therapies. Goldstein has seen Keppra work well for many patients, and shes seen many others have precisely the reaction Maria described.

The possible behavioral side effects of Keppra in children are well documented, including hostility and aggression.

Maria took Ali off of the drug after a week. I was uncomfortable with the whole thing, Maria said. We didnt have a diagnosis, no one explained to me how this medication was supposed to work, how long she needed to be on it, anything. They hadnt even met the doctor who prescribed it.

Over the next year, Ali had a handful of absence seizures (characterized by brief lapses in attention, absence seizures usually last 1-2 minutes). A neurologist diagnosed Ali with epilepsythe first diagnosis shed receivedand ordered an MRI. The results were normal (Normal results for MRIs and/or EEGs are not uncommon in cases of epilepsy).

In May 2017, the Selvas moved to Southern California. That summer, there was a slight uptick in the frequency of Alis absence seizures. This development worried the Selvas, but Keppra seemed like an extreme response. Years earlier, they had heard about treating seizures with CBD oil, a non-psychoactive compound found in cannabis. But Maria said, as soon as I heard it had to do with marijuana, I brushed it off.

Now, however, desperate for alternatives to Keppra, they started looking into CBD. It had been covered in the national media in 2013 when Charlotte Figi, a six-year-old with a severe form of epilepsy, dramatically improved after using the oil. There was so much research about how CBD was non-psychoactive and helpful for kids like Ali, Maria said. And crucially, there were no significant side effects. A veterinarian friend told Jo about the success shed had treating epileptic animals with CBD oil. A health store near their home sold CBD oil, so they decided to give it a try. It wasnt FDA approved, they understood that. But it was better than their child banging her head against the wall in rage.

In July of 2017, Ali started a very low dose of CBD oil, administered orally. We were really cautious, Maria said. For the first few weeks, we only gave her two drops per day. We found out later that the dose was too low to have any impact, but we wanted to start slow.

At the end of the first week of school, Ali had a brief absence seizure in class. A few after, , Ali had a much more extreme (tonic-clonic) seizure. Maria brought Ali to the emergency room, where she seized a second time. She wet herself; she may have been biting her tongue, Maria recalls. It was awful.

Frightened by this sudden escalation, the Selvas reluctantly consented to a restarting a daily dose of Keppra IV to stop the seizing. At the same time, they also increased Alis dose of CBD.

Once again, the Keppra rage returned; Ali was, according to Maria, hyper, aggressive, clumsy. Within a week, the Selvas decided to stop administering Keppra. When the Selvas met with a neurologist the following week, they asked about alternatives to the medication; he refused to discuss alternative treatments with them. This [Keppra] is what she should take; if you don't like it and you want something natural, you need to go somewhere else, Maria later texted a friend.

Dr. Julie Griffith, a neurologist in San Rafael, California, isnt familiar with the Selvas case and therefore couldnt comment on it directly, but she stresses that if one medication doesnt work for a patient, a neurologist could suggest several other medications that might be better tolerated. According to the Selvas, no such offer was made.

Intent on finding someone who could talk to them about alternatives, the Selvas switched insurance companies. The Selvas also met with school administrators and agreed on a plan regarding Alis seizures: If she had one that lasted less than five minutes, the school would call her parents to come pick her up. If it lasted more than five minutes, theyd call the Selvas and an ambulance.

Two weeks later, the plan was enacted. Ali had an absence seizure in class and Jo came to pick his daughter up from school, telling staff they were using CBD oil and looking for a new neurologist after switching insurance plans.

Several days later, Maria received a call from Loretta Lopez of Child Protective Services.

CPS wanted to do a home inspection and assess the safety of Alis home environment. It didnt sit well with us, Maria says, but we also thought, lets invite them in and show them that we have nothing to hide.

During the inspection, the Selvas recounted Alis medical history and Lopez asked to see the medication Ali was taking. The Selvas produced both the Keppra and the CBD oil, and informed Lopez that they were only using the CBD oil. (The Daily Beast tried to contact Lopez for this story, but the County of Orange Social Services Agency declined on her behalf due to state confidentiality laws.)

Maria thought it went well. She [Lopez] seemed like she was on our side. She kept saying, I know theres a reason for everything youre doing, I just want to help you make that clear. She told us that shed get back to us Tuesday or Wednesday with a report. Maria signed a form saying CPS could access Alis medical files as well as a safety plan affirming that they would take Ali to the hospital if she had a seizure.

It was an unsettling experience, but the Selvas were more confused than scared. I figured she was just going to call Tuesday or Wednesday and say everything you said checks out, case closed.

Maria was wrong. The following Wednesday, Lopez called Maria saying they needed to have an urgent, in-person meeting. Maria was confused: In her mind, theyd done everything to be accomodating:Theyd given permission for CPS to view Alis medical records and to speak with her doctor; theyd allowed CPS into their home, shown them the kids living environment, and met both parents. How could Lopez still have concerns about her kids safety?

The Selvas agreed to meet, but said they wanted an attorney present. This, they were told, was against CPS policy. You can bring anyone you want, a senior social worker told the Selvas, just not an attorney.

The policy of prohibiting attorneys at team meetings is standard in California. Orange County Social Services wouldnt comment on any particular case but directed The Daily Beast to their policy regarding attorneys at team meetings here.

Without the protection of a lawyer, the Selvas felt like they needed more time to understand what they were potentially up against. Could they have the meeting over the weekend or the following Monday instead?

That wont work, Maria recalls the social worker saying, Were just going to go ahead and get Juvenile Dependency Court involved.

For what? Maria recalled asking. We dont even know what the results of your investigation are or what were being charged with.

The meeting was supposed to be when they found out all that information, the Selvas were told. But by refusing to meet that day without an attorney, the social worker told them, they were choosing not to participate and CPS had no other choice but to move forward with getting a warrant and Juvenile Court.

When the call ended, Jo and Maria immediately started contacting lawyers. We were so in the dark, Maria says. They said they were going to get a warrant, but for what?

In retrospect, Maria sees her confusion as naivete. In this perfect world you picture, you have to be a bad parent to get your child taken away.

The following evening, Maria and Jo Selvas child was taken away.

The knock came just after 8 PM on Saturday, October 28. Through the peephole, Maria saw three police officers outside her door. They said they were doing a welfare check.

Thats when Maria started streaming the incident on Facebook Live. In the video, Jo speaks to the police officers through the closed door. He asks what a welfare check entails, and asks if they have a warrant. The officer explains that they dont need a warrant for a welfare check. Jo says he and Maria will come outside to talk, but are going to close the door behind them. The police agree. The video is dark, but seconds after opening the door, Jo is handcuffed.

Once in handcuffs, the police tell Jo that they do have a warrant, one that allows them to take Ali into protective custody. The officers read the warrant to the handcuffed Jo and he pleads, shes going to freak out if she doesnt have us by her side. Shes epileptic and everytime she gets anxiety she has seizures.

The video is over an hour long and concludes with Maria asking Ali, who appears unperturbed and smiling, dressed in Strawberry Shortcake pajamas, what she wants to bring with her to go spend the night somewhere really nice.

Ali spent the next three nights at Orangewood Childrens Home in Orange County. Her parents were allowed one supervised 30 minute visit per day. On the second day, Ali started asking to go home. It had stopped being this adventure for her, Maria said. Her hair wasnt brushed and her breath was stinky. I wanted to ask if she was brushing her teeth and everything, but its hard.When you only have 30 minutes with your child, are you really going to talk about brushing teeth? She kept asking why she couldnt come home. I kept saying, Im sorry; Im working on it.

Epidiolex, the drug which is set for FDA approval, is a product of GW Pharmaceuticals. The FDA was impressed with positive results from three randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials. The drug will likely be approved for patients with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome, two severe, rare forms of epilepsy. While Aliana's epilepsy is not severe enough to meet the expected criteria for the drug, the studies indicate the therapeutic potential of cannabidiol in treating seizure disorders.

Allison Ray Benavides, a social worker in San Diego and mother of an epileptic child believes that CPS is targeting vulnerable families with these cases. She told The Daily Beast, in San Diego, theres a group of us moms who have kids with seizure disorders and use CBD oil. Theres only one mom in our group who has had a problem with CPS: the single mom whose husband is in prison. She believes the Selvas were vulnerable in a different way, you can draw a clear line from CPS to this young, hispanic family living in a very conservative county (Orange County). If they were white and living in Newport Beach, this never would have happened.

This rings true to Ursula Kilmer, of Redding, California. Shes been battling CPS for the same reason as the Selvas. Kilmers son has Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome (a severe form of epilepsy). When she was able to use CBD oil in lieu of other anticonvulsants, His seizures stopped completely. But CPS alleges medical neglect, and Kimler has been ordered to put her son back on drugs that do not prevent his seizures and, she believes, makes them worse.

Kimler has spent the last nine months trying to appease CPS and have the courts condone her use of CBD oil. Im exhausted, she says, I just want to be able to give my kid the stuff that helps him.

On November 1, three days after she was taken, the Selvas were granted temporary custody of their daughter and saw, for the first time, what the official charges against them were: Severe medical neglect.

Griffith is among the neurologists who think CBD is promising for many cases, but has concerns about the unregulated market and quality control. She also believes more research needs to be done on the effect of CBD on developing brains. That said, when presented with a hypothetical situation in which a parent is treating their childs seizures with CBD oil, Griffith said, If theyre trying to treat the seizures, that certainly doesnt sound like neglect.

On December 5, 2017, the Selvas case was dismissed by Juvenile Dependency Court.

To this day, the Selvas dont know for sure who reported them to CPS. Goldstein understands the confusion that mandated reporters like school nurses and social workers have about cannabinoid therapies. Its one of the reasons shes started an educational program for people who are in a position to intervene.

Goldsteinwho stressed that she is a physician unassociated with the cannabis industry adamantly believes that [cannabis] must be treated the way youd treat any other prescription drug; if a family is being responsible and has medical supervision, and is using cannabis to treat a medical condition, you should not call Child Protective Services on them because that is absolutely not neglect.

As for Aliana, shes seeing a new neurologist who understands the efficacy of CBD for seizure disorders and is monitoring her closely. Emotionally, however, the trauma of the ordeal lingers. She gets scared at night now, something that never happened before.

Maria understands how she feels. I thought as a parent, I had rights, Maria said., Now theres this fear that CPS could just come through the door and take my kids away.

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Joint effort: cannabis lobby heads to Washington to woo US lawmakers

Industry leaders descended on the capital this week amid hopes the country at large is slowly embracing legalization

More than 200 cannabis industry leaders descended upon Washington this week in the hopes of persuading the US Congress to embrace the growing movement for marijuana legalization.

The marijuana business owners and advocates bustled between the hallways of the House and Senate, meeting with hundreds of congressional offices and rallying on the Capitol lawn over a three-day lobbying tour organized by the National Cannabis Industry Association.

The event, which brought members representing 23 states and the District of Columbia, was not the first of its kind. But the advocates hailed a new front in the battle for federal marijuana reform against the backdrop of a rapid evolution on how the issue is perceived in the nations capital.

Theres an air of legitimacy around our group that makes me hopeful that the stigma is going to fall away, said Blake Mensing, a cannabis attorney from Massachusetts who helps clients obtain local permits and state licenses for adult use cannabis businesses.

With public opinion polls showing record support among Americans for marijuana legalization, its little surprise that the high has spread to Congress.

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have taken a flurry of actions in recent months that signal the shifting tides.

Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate majority leader, fast-tracked a bill in April that would legalize industrial hemp. The historical ban on hemp, which is derived from the cannabis plant, has long imposed barriers on the agriculture industry.

McConnell found an ally in his daily sparring partner Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader, who announced his support for the proposal this month.

The marijuana industrys efforts include pushing for legislation that would grant legal marijuana businesses access to financial services, among other measures to prevent the federal government from prosecuting businesses that are in compliance with state laws.

The states have already proven that replacing the criminal marijuana markets with tightly regulated and transparent small businesses is working, said Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA). Now the responsibility falls on Congress to reform federal laws so that the legal cannabis industry can be treated fairly, like any other legitimate business sector.

The National Cannabis Industry Association points to economic benefits for states which tax and regulate marijuana. Photograph: Mark Leffingwell/Reuters

To further its case, the NCIA released a report highlighting economic benefits in the five states Alaska, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon and Washington that taxed and regulated the commercial production and sale of marijuana in 2017.

Those states collected more than $790m in state tax revenue that year, the report found, with tax revenue reaching $247m in Colorado alone. The analysis also cited a 445% increase in the number of marijuana industry job postings in 2017, according to the job placement firm ZipRecruiter, compared with an increase of 18% the year before.

Even longtime foes of marijuana legalization efforts have joined the bandwagon.

Last month the former House speaker John Boehner sent shockwaves through Washington by joining the board of Acreage Holdings, a firm that cultivates, processes and dispenses marijuana in 11 US states. The move marked a stunning reversal for the Ohio Republican, who once said he was unalterably opposed to decriminalizing marijuana.

In a statement provided to the Guardian, Boehner said there were a number of issues that had prompted the change. My thinking, like that of millions of other Americans, has evolved as Ive learned more about the issue, he said, pointing to the use of medical marijuana to treat patients of opioid addiction and the countrys veterans.

Descheduling the drug, Boehner added, will reduce the conflict between federal policy and state programs.

Even Donald Trumps administration has shown signs of easing its proposed crackdown on states that have legalized marijuana.

The US attorney general, Jeff Sessions, rescinded an Obama-era policy of non-interference with marijuana-friendly state laws, raising alarms of a forthcoming federal crackdown.

The move prompted Senator Cory Gardner, a Republican from Colorado, to block all of Trumps nominees to the justice department in a bid to compel the administration to reverse course. Last month, the president agreed his administration would not target the marijuana industry in Gardners home state, ending a three-month standoff.

Sessions even acknowledged the potential for some benefits from medical marijuana in a recent Senate hearing.

Charles Smith, a New York attorney and cannabis regulatory and compliance consultant, said the Trump administration had largely maintained the status quo on the drug.

The rescinding of the [Obama-era] guidance did cause a chilling effect, he added. There were deals lost, there were investors that backed out.

But we havent seen it on the ground where theyre carrying out enforcement actions, despite what the attorney general has said.

Some critics nonetheless view the evolution of Boehner and other former proponents of so-called tough-on-crime policies as cashing in on what is now a burgeoning industry.

Shanita Penny, president of the board of directors at the Minority Cannabis Business Association, said: Its not enough to just participate in this industry from a stance of wanting to make money.

Penny reiterated a similar message to lawmakers this week as she implored action on criminal justice reform.

Pennys group is focused on removing barriers that prohibit those with previous marijuana convictions from participating in the industry as a patient, employee or operator. Among the most pressing issues, from their vantage point, is reinvesting in the communities that have been disproportionately affected by the mandatory sentencing laws of years past.

You have to be willing to look at the harm that was done to communities that were over-policed, that were over-sentenced, that was destroyed because of the war on drugs and be ready to do some of the work to heal, Penny said.

We need the industry to start thinking about social responsibility and not let this be something that we address in hindsight.

  • This article was amended on 24 May 2018 to correct Shanita Pennys name and to remove a reference to pins marijuana business owners and advocates wore.

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NYC Mayor de Blasio tells police to end arrests for marijuana smoking

NEW YORK (CNN)New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has told top brass at the city’s police department to stop arresting people who are caught smoking marijuana in public, according to a City Hall aide.

This weekend, the mayor told the NYPD to issue summonses for smoking pot in public, instead of making arrests.
The NYPD has already begun a working group to evaluate its marijuana enforcement procedures and present its recommendations within 30 days, at the mayor’s request. The mayor made it clear this weekend that ending public marijuana smoking arrests is one of the changes he wants.
    Any changes to NYPD’s policy on smoking in public would not take effect until the end of the summer.
    NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Public Information Phil Walzak told CNN that the 30-day working group is already underway, and that the issue is “certainly part of that review.”
    “The working group is reviewing possession and public smoking of marijuana to ensure enforcement is consistent with the values of fairness and trust, while also promoting public safety and addressing community concerns,” Walzak said.

    Manhattan to end prosecution

    De Blasio’s call to end arrests comes after both the the mayor and Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance made big announcements about marijuana enforcement on May 15.
    The mayor publicly called on the NYPD to come up with a plan to make changes to its marijuana enforcement policies in the next month, and Vance said he would end prosecution of marijuana possession and smoking cases, starting August 1.
    Under the current policy in Manhattan, people are arrested, fingerprinted and have to appear in court.
    Last year, cops in Manhattan arrested people for smoking or possessing small amounts of marijuana a little more than 5,500 times. A disproportionate number of those arrested were minorities.
    “The dual mission of the Manhattan DA’s office is a safer New York and a more equal justice system,” Vance said Tuesday. “The ongoing arrest and criminal prosecution of predominantly black and brown New Yorkers for smoking marijuana serves neither of these goals.”
    Vance, a Democrat who is in his third term, said his office was discussing with New York City police and de Blasio what exceptions there should be to the policy.
    New York Police Commissioner James O’Neill said that, while the department doesn’t target minorities, “there are differences in arrest rates, and they have persisted going back many years, long before this current administration. We need an honest assessment about why they exist … “
    O’Neill said NYPD officers should not make arrests that don’t impact public safety.
    Under the DA’s new policy, people who violate the law would be issued summonses. The NYPD does this in cases where possession is the most serious charge a person would face, O’Neill said.
    According to the New York State courts system, police officers issue a criminal court summons when certain laws have been violated. “Most people who receive a summons are not arrested and fingerprinted unless they fail to show identification,” its website says.
    Marijuana is a Schedule I drug under federal law and is illegal. Some states, like New York, have decriminalized marijuana, making it a violation and not a crime to possess small amounts of cannabis.
    Medical marijuana is legal under New York law, but cannot be smoked.

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    Jeff Sessions Will Lose the GOPs Battle Over Weed

    In the year-and-a-bit since Donald Trump took office, Americans have witnessed a neck-wrenching 180-degree turn on an array of policy topics. One of the biggest has been with regard to drugs.

    Between anti-marijuana moves by Trumps attorney general, Jeff Sessions, and apparent interest by the administration in making passing a drug test a condition for receiving food stamps in states that request it, Trump and key figures in his administration seem eager to jump back to a time in history when drug use that has become more or less accepted in society is again disqualifying and indeed criminal. And where Trump goes, the GOP often follows.

    But is the Trump administration truly set on achieving this? Those of us watching drug policy debates in the era of Trump are feeling a little (OK, a lot of) whiplash.

    The direction in which Sessions wants to take the country is clear. So too are Republicans views with regard to food stamps and drug testing.

    With Trump, things are a bit murkier. He generally cultivated an anti-drug message with his death penalty for heroin dealers chat. Hes pushed that message in other ways too, such as the little noticed controversy in February, when Israel put the brakes on a plan to export marijuana to the U.S., apparently because Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu didnt want to piss off Trump. Trump also claims never to have smoked pot, something that some pot advocates view as inherently likely to predispose him against cannabis.

    But during the campaign, Trump was pot-neutral. He exclaimed that he was for letting states decide their own pot and medical marijuana policies. And just weeks ago, he voiced support for Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO)s bill codifying states rights with regard to pot. Reportedly, his campaign manager is making that position a selling point to Colorado voters ahead of 2020.

    Outside of Trump, the GOP itself seems to be in the midst of an evolution on pot. Or, at least, a process of self-discovery. Gardner was so adamant that states rights on the matter be respected that he threatened to hold up any nominees to the Department of Justice until Sessions and Trump backed down. Weve also learned that John Boehner is joining the board of a cannabis companya pretty big turnaround for a former speaker of the House known more for his love of wine than weed.

    So what the heck is going on with the GOP and pot? The short answer is: a lot. But though much of it seems contradictory, there is still an obvious, ultimate direction. The GOP will, in the end, follow Gardner and Boehners path, even if that feels like an Olympic gymnast-level flip-flop for a lot of voters.

    It used to be that the only pro-decriminalization or pro-legalization Republicans were Libertarians who voted GOP because they wanted tax cuts and a tiny bit more fiscal restraint (with the exception, perhaps, of some prominent figures at National Review who always took a surprisingly pro-decriminalization line on marijuana).

    More recently, however, the pro-decriminalization ranks have been joined by the Koch brothers, especially Charles Koch, who champions criminal justice reform and sees issues like pot decriminalization and mandatory minimums reform as obviously related.

    There are also Republicans from states where marijuana laws have been liberalized, leading to a booming new sector of the economy.

    Gardner is one such figure. But more Gardners are on the way. While Sessions may believe the War on Drugs has failed because it has been prosecuted with insufficient zeal, youve got a whole raft of states represented by Republican officeholders who manifestly believe that the anti-pot aspect of it, at least, is stupid.

    Its certainly economically unhelpful. Nine states have fully legalized recreational pot (including Alaska, a deep red state, and Colorado, Nevada, and Mainepurplish ones with GOP elected officials). Twenty-nine states have legalized medical marijuana (including the magenta-ish states of North Dakota, Arkansas, Montana, and West Virginia, and swing state New Hampshire).

    Rank-and-file Republican voters are becoming much more opposed to the War on Weed too, according to an October 2017 Gallup poll. Maybe thats because veterans (who Republicans love to champion) claim marijuana helps them with physical and psychological battlefield injuries. Maybe its because of claims that legalization could help combat the opioid epidemic, which is ravaging Republican areas. Maybe its because Republicans are hearing from unlikely marijuana advocates like Michelle Malkin.

    Or maybe its because Republicans still tend to consider themselves pro-business, and the pot business is growingfast. According to a report last year from Arcview Market Research, across North America, legal pot sales in 2017 were on pace to hit $9.7 billion. Thats 33 percent growth against the previous yearevidence of a booming market. Many Republicans may oppose pot use personally. But basically all Republicans love making and keeping money.

    Whatever it is, the reality is this: The ranks of pro-legalization Republicans, like plants on weed farms, will continue to grow over time, while those sharing Sessions views will shrink and shrivel and decline. Thats a good thing, in terms of achieving limited government goals, and expanding personal libertysomething todays GOP could do with getting back to focusing on.

    The debate may seem muddied now. But its heading in a very clear direction.

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    Cannabis tourism in California a womens wellness retreat with puff love

    At the Ganja Goddess Getaway, yes, there are yoga classes and spiritual talks but the mother lode comes from the spliffs, edibles and pot-infused mocktails that aid the healing

    Wearing a T-shirt with the slogan Mary Jane Smokewear, a woman with long, grey pigtails crawled towards me, offering a hit off a balloon bag inflated with marijuana vapours. I was sitting cross-legged under a Ganja Goddess Getaway-branded gazebo on a perfect California afternoon and it was the umpteenth time that day that a stranger had come over, unprompted, to share their weed.

    The bag was just one way my fellow ganja goddesses were getting high. Plates piled with spliffs, giant blunts, laced caramel-pecan candies and fruity mocktails enhanced with pot-infused tinctures also made the rounds. At one point, I was handed a wizard pipe packed with a tiramisu. Where a domestic goddess might use cream and ladyfingers, a ganja goddess gets baking with alternating layers of green and hash.

    This is a canna-holiday, California-style. After new laws permitting recreational marijuana use came into effect in the state on 1 January, canna-visionaries wasted little time integrating their product into the regions aspirational aesthetic. You can tour the sun-grown, craft cannabis fields of the norths Humboldt County while in Los Angeles marijuana chef Chris Sayegh plans to open the citys first high cuisine cannabis restaurant (working name: Herb).

    Mama Sailene Ossman, one of the getaways co-founders serves a weed-laced sweet treat.

    The women-only Ganja Goddess Getaway bills itself as a wellness retreat with a (herbal) difference. The retreat itself is in the woods near the coast at Pescadero, about an hours drive south of San Francisco. At the end of a long dirt track, in a meadow surrounded by redwoods, I found about 135 goddesses engaged in a ritual of puff and pass. Twentysomething girls sporting cannabis-leaf-motif leggings shared bongs with middle-aged women dressed in loungewear. Others passed spliffs around the hot tub, lined up for henna tattoos, or got cannabis oil massages. Two friends who had followed the pungent aromas all the way from Chile snored peacefully through a Laughter Yoga class.

    The getaways five co-founders are a diverse mix: CEO Deidra Bagdasarian is also the entrepreneur behind award-winning cannabis confection company Bliss Edibles, while event co-ordinator Trish Demesmin was an administrator at Oaklands cannabis business college, Oaksterdam, and is now president of a medical cannabis delivery company. Mama Sailene Ossman is the companys head of public relations and attributes her nickname to being famous for bringing the food and the weed, while married couple Kelli Valentine and Ciera Lagges complete the quintet, the former as in-house filmmaker, the latter as chief creative officer. Together, they all preach cannabis as a meditative and spiritual plant.

    Bagdasarians vision for the getaway has changed since it launched in 2016 (when only women with a medical marijuana card could attend).

    In the beginning, I just wanted it to be a good vacation, like a stoner-girl slumber party, she told me. Soon, however, she noticed the women were undergoing transformational experiences, So I wanted to foster a space where women can use cannabis as a tool for self-improvement.

    Deidra Bagdasarian, co-founder and CEO of Ganja Goddess Getaway

    This makes the retreat less a group slump in front of Netflix and more a series of wellness seminars wherein the crowd passes weed around while listening to talks with topics such as Give Plants A Chance. During this, Bagdasarian recounted the inability of Prozac to assuage her depression. She railed against accepted norms of big pharma, sugar and a culture of chemicals. But cannabis, Bagdasarian said, was a healer. Everyone was paying attention until a butterfly flapped into the gazebo, drawing an en masse, distracted woooah.

    Its true the women I met here werent just in it for the giggles. They all talked about how cannabis had helped them with ailments and conditions, such as depression, anxiety and insomnia. Many had travelled solo, from non-legal states including Nebraska, New Jersey, Georgia and Florida and they formed fast bonds, sharing in-jokes over breakfast and doing morning meditation together.

    No ones judging, said a 35-year-old from Sacramento, when I asked what the appeal was. This is two days where I get to just be myself and focus on me. Like the majority of women I spoke to, she asked to remain anonymous, for fear of what her workplace, family and friends would think.

    Organisers must also be dextrous around legalities: they cant sell cannabis but they can give it away. Hence the getaways all-inclusive ticket, encompassing unlimited food and weed.

    A lot of Americans are in the cannabis closet, Bagdasarian said. But here, they can meet their tribe. And cannabis, she added, is a useful facilitator. It lets you take your mask off. Women like being vulnerable and connecting. We give them a safe space where they can do that.

    Safe, however, is a relative term given the United States tangled cannabis laws. In January, attorney general Jeff Sessions announced he was giving federal prosecutors carte blanche to go after cannabis growers, sellers and users who are violating the nations rule of law. The shock memo defied Obama-era policy to leave states that had legalised the drug alone. President Trump, however, recently promised to respect states rights on legal pot. More states are discussing going recreational this year, including Michigan, Rhode Island and Connecticut.

    Such ambiguity has stalled many California cities from writing rules that would grant cannabis tourism a green light. Its frustrating for Bagdasarian, who cites finding venues as her biggest challenge. Few places permit open consumption and cannabis businesses are blocked from promoting themselves on social media. Ticket seller Eventbrite recently cut ties with the getaway, citing federal law.

    For this reason, the getaway is limited to private retreat centres, where camping is the most practical accommodation. In Pescadero, attendees shared 12-person bell tents or brought their own; there were also more comfortable, though higher-priced options, of a shared yurt with wood-burner and cots and dorm-style rooms in the main lodge. Organisers must also be dextrous around legalities: they cant sell cannabis but they can give it away. Hence the getaways all-inclusive ticket, encompassing unlimited food and weed.

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    Mary JaneCannabis tourism in California a womens wellness retreat with puff love
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    Manhattan to stop prosecuting most low-level marijuana cases in August

    (CNN)Last year, cops in Manhattan arrested people for smoking or possessing small amounts of marijuana a little more than 5,500 times. A disproportionate number of those arrested were minorities.

    “The dual mission of the Manhattan DA’s office is a safer New York and a more equal justice system,” Vance said. “The ongoing arrest and criminal prosecution of predominantly black and brown New Yorkers for smoking marijuana serves neither of these goals.”
    Vance, a Democrat who is in his third term, said his office was discussing with New York City police and the mayor what exceptions there should be to the policy.
      New York Police Commissioner James O’Neill on Tuesday announced a working group will take the next 30 days to look at the enforcement measures by the department.
      He said that, while the department doesn’t target minorities, “there are differences in arrest rates, and they have persisted going back many years, long before this current administration. We need an honest assessment about why they exist … .”
      O’Neill said NYPD officers should not make arrests that don’t impact public safety.
      Under the DA’s office new policy, people who violate the law would be issued summonses. The NYPD does this in cases where possession is the most serious charge a person would face, O’Neill said.
      Under the current policy in Manhattan, people are arrested, fingerprinted and have to appear in court.
      The DA’s office said this creates enormous costs for the legal system and alienates too many people.
      “Such arrests can significantly impact job searches, schooling, family members, immigration status, and community involvement,” the DA said. There are often no punitive, rehabilitative or deterrent purposes in these cases, the DA said.
      CNN reached out to the offices of district attorneys in other boroughs to see whether they are considering similar measures. Brooklyn already has a similar policy.
      Queens County wants to wait to comment until after the 30-day NYPD working group analysis.
      “It is our understanding that Mayor Bill de Blasio has directed the New York City Police Department to review its policy and practices. We will await the results of that review,” a spokesperson for Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown said.
      Marijuana is a Schedule I drug under federal law and is illegal. Some states, like New York, have decriminalized marijuana, making it a violation and not a crime to possess small amounts of cannabis.
      Medical marijuana is legal under New York law, but cannot be smoked.

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      Mary JaneManhattan to stop prosecuting most low-level marijuana cases in August
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      23 Science-Backed Health Benefits Of Marijuana

      States around the country — 29 of them, plus Washington DC — have legalized medical marijuana. 

      The American public largely supports the legalization of medical marijuana. At least 84% of the public believes the drug should be legal for medical uses, and recreational pot usage is less controversial than ever, with at least 61% of Americans in support.

      Even though some medical benefits of smoking pot may be overstated by advocates of marijuana legalization, recent research has demonstrated that there are legitimate medical uses for marijuana and strong reasons to continue studying the drug’s medicinal uses.

      Even the NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse lists medical uses for cannabis.

      There are at least two active chemicals in marijuana that researchers think have medicinal applications. Those are cannabidiol (CBD) — which seems to impact the brain without a high— and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — which has pain relieving properties and is largely responsible for the high.

      But scientists say that limitations on marijuana research mean we still have big questions about its medicinal properties. In addition to CBD and THC, there are another 400 or so chemical compounds, more than 60 of which are cannabinoids. Many of these could have medical uses. But without more research, we won’t know how to best make use of those compounds.

      More research would also shed light on the risks of marijuana. Even if there are legitimate uses for medicinal marijuana, that doesn’t mean all use is harmless. Some research indicates that chronic, heavy users may have impaired memory, learning, and processing speed, especially if they started regularly using marijuana before age 16 or 17.

      For some of the following medical benefits, there’s good evidence. For others, there’s reason to continue conducting research.

      Jennifer Welsh contributed to an earlier version of this story.

      The best-supported medicinal use of marijuana is as a treatment for chronic pain.

      A recent report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine said there was definitive evidence that cannabis or cannabinoids (which are found in the marijuana plant) can be an effective treatment for chronic pain.

      The report said that is “by far the most common” reason people request medical marijuana.

      There’s also strong evidence medical cannabis can help with muscle spasms.

      That same report said there’s equally strong evidence marijuana can help with muscle spasms related to multiple sclerosis.

      Other types of muscle spasms respond to marijuana as well. People use medical marijuana to treat diaphragm spasms that are untreatable by other, prescribed medications.

      It doesn’t seem to harm lung capacity, and may even improve it.

      There’s a fair amount of evidence that marijuana does no harm to the lungs, unless you also smoke tobacco. One study published in Journal of the American Medical Association found that not only does marijuana not impair lung function, it may even increase lung capacity.

      Researchers looking for risk factors of heart disease tested the lung function of 5,115 young adults over the course of 20 years. Tobacco smokers lost lung function over time, but pot users actually showed an increase in lung capacity.

      It’s possible that the increased lung capacity may be due to taking a deep breaths while inhaling the drug and not from a therapeutic chemical in the drug.

      The smokers in that study only toked up a few times a month, but a more recent survey of people who smoked pot daily for up to 20 years found no evidence that smoking pot harmed their lungs, either.

      The National Academies report said there are good studies showing marijuana users are not more likely to have cancers associated with smoking.

      It may be of some use in treating glaucoma, or it may be possible to derive a drug from marijuana for this use.

      One of the most common reasons that states allow medical marijuana use is to treat and prevent the eye disease glaucoma, which increases pressure in the eyeball, damaging the optic nerve and causing loss of vision.

      Marijuana decreases the pressure inside the eye, according to the National Eye Institute: “Studies in the early 1970s showed that marijuana, when smoked, lowered intraocular pressure (IOP) in people with normal pressure and those with glaucoma.”

      For now, the medical consensus is that marijuana only lowers IOP for a few hours, meaning there’s not good evidence for it as a long term treatment right now. Researchers hope that perhaps a marijuana-based compound could be developed that lasts longer.

      thematthewknot via Flickr

      It may help control epileptic seizures.

      Some studies have shown that cannabidiol (CBD), another major marijuana compound, seems to help people with treatment-resistant epilepsy.

      A number of individuals have reported that marijuana is the only thing that helps control their or their children’s seizures.

      However, there haven’t been many gold-standard, double-blind studies on the topic, so researchers say more data is needed before we know how effective marijuana is.

      It also decreases the symptoms of a severe seizure disorder known as Dravet’s Syndrome.

      During the research for his documentary “Weed,” Sanjay Gupta interviewed the Figi family, who treated their 5-year-old daughter using a medical marijuana strain high in cannabidiol and low in THC.

      The Figi family’s daughter, Charlotte, has Dravet Syndrome, which causes seizures and severe developmental delays.

      According to the film, the drug decreased her seizures from 300 a week to just one every seven days. Forty other children in the state were using the same strain of marijuana to treat their seizures when the film was made — and it seemed to be working.

      The doctors who recommended this treatment said the cannabidiol in the plant interacts with brain cells to quiet the excessive activity in the brain that causes these seizures.

      Gupta notes, however, that a Florida hospital that specializes in the disorder, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Drug Enforcement agency don’t endorse marijuana as a treatment for Dravet or other seizure disorders.

      A chemical found in marijuana stops cancer from spreading, at least in cell cultures.

      CBD may help prevent cancer from spreading, researchers at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco reported in 2007.

      Other very preliminary studies on aggressive brain tumors in mice or cell cultures have shown that THC and CBD can slow or shrink tumors at the right dose, which is a strong reason to do more research.

      One 2014 study found that marijuana can significantly slow the growth of the type of brain tumor associated with 80% of malignant brain cancer in people.

      Still, these findings in cell cultures and animals don’t necessarily mean the effect will translate to people — far more investigation is needed.

      It may decrease anxiety in low doses.

      Researchers know that many cannabis users consume marijuana to relax, but also that many people say smoking too much can cause anxiety. So scientists conducted a study to find the “Goldilocks” zone: the right amount of marijuana to calm people.

      According to Emma Childs, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Illinois at Chicago and an author of the study, “we found that THC at low doses reduced stress, while higher doses had the opposite effect.” 

      A few puffs was enough to help study participants relax, but a few puffs more started to amp up anxiety. However, people may react differently in different situations.


      THC may slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease

      Marijuana may be able to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, a study led by Kim Janda of the Scripps Research Institute suggests.

      The 2006 study, published in the journal Molecular Pharmaceutics, found that THC (the active chemical in marijuana) slows the formation of amyloid plaques by blocking the enzyme in the brain that makes them. These plaques kill brain cells and are associated with Alzheimer’s.

      A synthetic mixture of CBD and THC seems to preserve memory in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease. Another study suggested that a THC-based prescription drug called dronabinol was able to reduce behavioral disturbances in dementia patients.

      All these studies are in very early stages, though, so more research is needed.

      The drug eases the pain of multiple sclerosis.

      Marijuana may ease painful symptoms of multiple sclerosis, according to a study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

      Jody Corey-Bloom studied 30 multiple sclerosis patients with painful contractions in their muscles. These patients didn’t respond to other treatments, but after smoking marijuana for a few days, they reported that they were in less pain.

      The THC in marijuana seems to bind to receptors in the nerves and muscles to relieve pain.

      It seems to lessen side effects from treating hepatitis C and increase treatment effectiveness.

      Treatment for hepatitis C infection is harsh: negative side effects include fatigue, nausea, muscle aches, loss of appetite, and depression. Those side effects can last for months, and lead many people to stop their treatment course early.

      But a 2006 study in the European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology found that 86% of patients using marijuana successfully completed their Hep C therapy. Only 29% of non-smokers completed their treatment, possibly because the marijuana helps lessen the treatment’s side effects.

      Marijuana also seems to improve the treatment’s effectiveness: 54% of hep C patients smoking marijuana got their viral levels low and kept them low, in comparison to only 8% of nonsmokers.

      Marijuana may help with inflammatory bowel diseases.

      Patients with inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis could benefit from marijuana use, studies suggest. 

      University of Nottingham researchers found in 2010 that chemicals in marijuana, including THC and cannabidiol, interact with cells in the body that play an important role in gut function and immune responses. The study was published in the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics.

      The body makes THC-like compounds that increase the permeability of the intestines, allowing bacteria in. But the cannabinoids in marijuana block these compounds, making the intestinal cells bond together tighter and become less permeable.

      But the National Academies report said there isn’t enough evidence to be sure whether marijuana really helps with these conditions, so more research is needed.

      It relieves arthritis discomfort.

      Marijuana alleviates pain, reduces inflammation, and promotes sleep, which may help relieve pain and discomfort for people with rheumatoid arthritis, researchers announced in 2011.

      Researchers from rheumatology units at several hospitals gave their patients Sativex, a cannabinoid-based pain-relieving medicine. After a two-week period, people on Sativex had a significant reduction in pain and improved sleep quality compared to placebo users.

      Other studies have found that plant-derived cannabinoids and inhaled marijuana can decrease arthritis pain, according to the National Academies report.

      Marijuana users tend to be less obese and have a better response to eating sugar.

      A study published in the American Journal Of Medicine suggested that pot smokers are skinnier than the average person and have healthier metabolism and reaction to sugars, even though they do end up eating more calories.

      The study analyzed data from more than 4,500 adult Americans — 579 of whom were current marijuana smokers, meaning they had smoked in the last month. About 2,000 people had used marijuana in the past, while another 2,000 had never used the drug.

      The researchers studied how the participants’ bodies responded to eating sugars. They measured blood-sugar levels and the hormone insulin after participants hadn’t eaten in nine hours, and after they’d eaten sugar.

      Not only were pot users thinner, their bodies also had a healthier response to sugar. Of course, the study couldn’t determine whether the marijuana users were like this to begin with or if these characteristics were somehow related to their smoking.

      While not really a health or medical benefit, marijuana could spur creativity.

      Contrary to stoner stereotypes, marijuana usage has actually been shown to have some positive mental effects, particularly in terms of increasing creativity, at least in some contexts. Even though people’s short-term memories tend to function worse when they’re high, they actually get better at tests requiring them to come up with new ideas.

      Researchers have also found that some study participants improve their “verbal fluency,” their ability to come up with different words, while using marijuana.

      Part of this increased creative ability may come from the release of dopamine in the brain, which lowers inhibitions and allows people to feel more relaxed, giving the brain the ability to perceive things differently.

      Cannabis soothes tremors for people with Parkinson’s disease.

      Research from Israel shows that smoking marijuana significantly reduces pain and tremors and improves sleep for Parkinson’s disease patients. Particularly impressive was the improved fine motor skills among patients.

      Medical marijuana is legal in Israel for multiple conditions, and a lot of research into the medical uses of cannabis is done there, supported by the Israeli government.

      Marijuana may help veterans suffering from PTSD.

      In 2014, the Colorado Department of Public Health awarded $2 million to the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (one of the biggest proponents of marijuana research) to study marijuana’s potential for people with post-traumatic stress disorder. 

      Naturally occurring cannabinoids, similar to THC, help regulate the system that causes fear and anxiety in the body and brain.

      Marijuana is approved to treat PTSD in some states already — in New Mexico, PTSD is the number one reason for people to get a license for medical marijuana.

      But there are still questions about the safety of using marijuana while suffering from PTSD, which this study — which has taken a while to get off the ground — will hopefully help answer.

      Walter Hickey / BI

      Animal studies suggest that marijuana may protect the brain after a stroke.

      Research from the University of Nottingham shows that marijuana may help protect the brain from damage from a stroke by reducing the size of the area affected by the stroke — at least in rats, mice, and monkeys.

      This isn’t the only research that has shown neuroprotective effects of cannabis. Some research shows that the plant may help protect the brain after other types of brain trauma.

      Marijuana might even protect the brain from concussions and trauma.

      Lester Grinspoon , a professor of psychiatry at Harvard and marijuana advocate, recently wrote an open letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. In it, he said the NFL should stop testing players for marijuana, and that the league should start funding research into the plant’s ability to protect the brain instead.

      “Already, many doctors and researchers believe that marijuana has incredibly powerful neuroprotective properties, an understanding based on both laboratory and clinical data,” Grinspoon wrote.

      Goodell said he’d consider permitting athletes to use marijuana if medical research shows that it’s an effective neuroprotective agent.

      At least one recent study on the topic found that patients who had used marijuana were less likely to die from traumatic brain injuries.

      It can help eliminate nightmares.

      This is a complicated one, because it involves effects that can be both positive and negative. Marijuana disturbs sleep cycles by interrupting the later stages of REM sleep. In the long run, this could be a problem for frequent users.

      However, for people suffering from serious nightmares, especially those associated with PTSD, this can be helpful, perhaps in the short term. Nightmares and other dreams occur during those same stages of sleep. By interrupting REM sleep, many of those dreams may not occur. Research into using a synthetic cannabinoid — similar to THC but not the same — showed a significant decrease in the number of nightmares in patients with PTSD.

      Additionally, even if frequent use can be bad for sleep, marijuana may be a better sleep aid than some other substances that people use. Some of those, including medication and alcohol, may potentially have worse effects on sleep, though more research is needed on the topic.

      Cannabis reduces some of the pain and nausea from chemotherapy and stimulates appetite.

      One of the most well-known medical uses of marijuana is for people going through chemotherapy. There’s good evidence that it’s effective for this, according to the National Academies report.

      Cancer patients being treated with chemo suffer from painful nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite. This can cause additional health complications.

      Marijuana can help reduce these side effects, alleviating pain, decreasing nausea, and stimulating the appetite. There are also multiple FDA-approved cannabinoid drugs that use THC, the main active chemical in marijuana, for the same purpose.

      Harrison Jacobs/Business Insider

      Marijuana can help people who are trying to cut back on drinking.

      Marijuana is safer than alcohol. That’s not to say it’s risk-free, but cannabis is much less addictive than alcohol and doesn’t cause nearly as much physical damage. 

      Disorders like alcoholism involve disruptions in the endocannabinoid system. Because of that, some people think cannabis might help patients struggling with those disorders.

      Research published in the Harm Reduction Journal found that some people use marijuana as a less harmful substitute for alcohol, prescription drugs, and other illegal drugs. Some of the most common reasons patients make that substitution are that marijuana has less negative side effects and is less likely to cause withdrawal problems.

      Some people do become psychologically dependent on marijuana, and it is not a cure for substance abuse problems. But from a harm-reduction standpoint, it can help.

      Still, it’s worth noting that combining marijuana and alcohol can be dangerous, and some researchers are concerned that this scenario is more likely than one in which users substitute a toke for a drink.

      Medical marijuana legalization seems to reduce opioid overdose deaths.

      While there are a number of factors behind the current opioid epidemic, many experts agree that the use of opioid painkillers to treat chronic pain has played a major role. It’s very risky to take powerful drugs that have a high risk of causing overdose and high addiction rates. Marijuana, which can also treat chronic pain, is far less risky.

      Several studies have shown that states that allow medical marijuana have fewer opioid deaths. This effect seems to grow over time, with states who pass these laws seeing a “20% lower rate of opioid deaths in the laws’ first year, 24% in the third, and 33% in the sixth,” according to Stat News.

      It’s hard to say that deaths went down because of medical marijuana legalization and not other reasons. But because the effect seems to get stronger the longer marijuana remains legal, researchers think marijuana is a likely cause of the decline in opioid deaths.

      Read the original article on Business Insider. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Copyright 2017.

      Read next on Business Insider: The highest-valued marijuana companies of 2017 reveal 2 key insights about the booming industry

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      Mary Jane23 Science-Backed Health Benefits Of Marijuana
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      Lots of Doctors Recommend Weed Without Understanding It

      If you go to a doctor and ask them to recommend you medical marijuana, don’t expect them to fully understand how the drug works, both for you as an individual patient and in general as a therapy. Because no one really does.

      With more and more states legalizing marijuana for medical or recreational use, cannabis is shedding its stigma and entering the mainstream. That means folks who’ve shied away from the stuff are getting better access, and exploring cannabis as a non-addictive treatment for ailments like pain. But that new interest is running smack dab into a big problem plaguing medical cannabis: The research on what marijuana can actually treat, what components of the plant matter, and how different patients respond to them, is severely lacking.

      Just how much doctors are struggling with it becomes clear today in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. A study reveals that half of surveyed oncologists say they recommended marijuana to patients in the last year. But half of those didn’t think they actually had sufficient knowledge to make those recommendations.

      The biggest question for oncologists is what cancer symptoms cannabis can really treat. The survey found respondents split when it comes to the treatment of pain: A third of oncologists said cannabis is equally or more effective than standard pain treatments, a third said it was less effective, and a third didn’t know. “But there seemed to be clear consensus that medical marijuana is a good adjunct to standard pain treatment, so a good add-on medication,” says Ilana Braun, lead author and chief of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute's Division of Adult Psychosocial Oncology. In fact, two-thirds of respondents said it’d be a good supplemental treatment.

      According to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine—which last year published a massive, big-deal review of cannabis research—“there is substantial evidence that cannabis is an effective treatment for chronic pain in adults.” It’s also been shown to help control nausea and vomiting.

      Now, doctors have long prescribed a synthetic THC called dronabinol, aka marinol, for the treatment of nausea and weight loss. Problem is, side effects include paranoia and “thinking abnormal.” Beyond that, you wouldn’t want to try to get high on it because it’s missing the galaxy of other active compounds in cannabis. “If it worked—it rarely does work—but if it really did work it would be abused on the streets,” says physician Allan Frankel, a pioneer in medical cannabis. “For 15 cents a pill? That's how bad marinol is.”

      The reason, Frankel says, is the so-called entourage effect, the interaction of dozens of other cannabinoids in marijuana like CBD (which is an extremely effective treatment for seizures, by the way) that may produce different therapeutic effects. So by that logic, with marinol, patients aren’t getting the full effect of the cannabis plant.

      And that full effect would be? Well, nobody really knows—in part because the US government makes the stuff very, very difficult to study. In the eyes of the feds, it’s still a very illegal schedule I drug, the most tightly controlled category, and the DEA decides who gets crop to research. Researchers don’t have access to a variety of strains that might produce a variety of benefits, given different levels of CBD and THC and other compounds.

      Even if you could study lots of different strains, it’s not always possible to tell what a patient is going to get at the dispensary. Flowers can be mislabeled, and the THC content of oils doesn’t always match what’s on the label. “Composition standardization is a giant mess,” says Jeff Raber, CEO of the Werc Shop, a lab that tests cannabis. “So for an ultra traditional doctor, I can understand where they're like, Man, we don't really know what that is, is that OK? It's not standardized like a pharmaceutical product.”

      A doctor can’t just say, Take two marijuana pills and call me in the morning. And on a physiological level, we all handle cannabis differently. “Even if I tell everybody, go inhale a tenth of a gram, their inhalation depths and absorption rates are going to be different,” says Raber.

      “Unfortunately, we are going a little bit blind,” says physician Bonni Goldstein, medical director of the Canna-Centers, which provides cannabis consultations for patients. “But what I'm finding in clinical experience is I learn from every patient, and so we try to use the scientific research that we do have.”

      So doctors like Goldstein try to tailor cannabis as best they can for a patient’s needs. Her patients have the luxury of attentive, personalized cannabis consultations. “Someone retired who has cancer who doesn't have to get up in the morning and get somewhere may be able to take bigger doses during the day,” says Goldstein, “versus a mom of four who has kids in and out of activities, who has breast cancer.”

      But your typical oncologist isn’t going to sit down with a patient for an hour to walk through their lifestyle and needs. So patients are left to experiment with dosages on their own, or consult with their local dispensary.

      Because it turns out that dispensaries have some experience dosing cannabis. “Some of the top dispensaries that have been doing this for a while know this better than anybody else,” says Rob Adelson, president and CEO of Resolve, which makes a smart inhaler for medical marijuana patients. “There's still so much about the pharmacokinetics of this plant that we just don't know yet. So asking a doctor to come in to try to solve the problem without any more data than the dispensary has is hard.”

      What Adelson sees cannabis promoting is a new paradigm of medical care. “We've heard this from many doctors, that they might not know about medical cannabis, might not want to promote it, and that a patient comes in and says, ‘I'd like to try it,’” he says. “And patients bring studies with them." That inversion of responsibility has its downsides: An elderly patient might not be aware of side effects like dizziness, for example. But at the same time, it's impossible to overdose. For better or worse, if doctors don't feel they have the knowledge to appropriately prescribe a drug, patients will fill that void.

      More cannabis science

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      Mary JaneLots of Doctors Recommend Weed Without Understanding It
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      How do you move mountains of unwanted weed?

      Oregon farmers have grown three times what their customers can smoke in a year, causing bud prices to plummet and panic to set in

      A recent Sunday afternoon at the Bridge City Collective cannabis shop in north Portland saw a steady flow of customers.

      Little wonder: a gram of weed was selling for less than the price of a glass of wine.

      The $4 and $5 grams enticed Scotty Saunders, a 24-year-old sporting a gray hoodie, to spend $88 picking out new products to try with a friend. Weve definitely seen a huge drop in prices, he says.


      Across the wood and glass counter, Bridge City owner David Alport was less delighted. He says hes never sold marijuana this cheap before.

      We have standard grams on the shelf at $4, Alport says. Before, we didnt see a gram below $8.

      The scene at Bridge City Collective is playing out across the city and state. Three years into Oregons era of recreational cannabis, the state is inundated with legal weed.

      It turns out Oregonians are good at growing cannabis too good.

      In February, state officials announced that 1.1m pounds of cannabis flower were logged in the states database.

      If a million pounds sounds like a lot of pot, thats because it is: last year, Oregonians smoked, vaped or otherwise consumed just under 340,000lb of legal bud.

      That means Oregon farmers have grown three times what their clientele can smoke in a year.

      Yet state documents show the number of Oregon weed farmers is poised to double this summer without much regard to whether theres demand to fill.

      The result? Prices are dropping to unprecedented lows in auction houses and on dispensary counters across the state.

      Wholesale sun-grown weed fell from $1,500 a pound last summer to as low as $700 by mid-October. On store shelves, that means the price of sun-grown flower has been sliced in half to those four-buck grams.

      For Oregon customers, this is a bonanza. A gram of the beloved Girl Scout Cookies strain now sells for little more than two boxes of actual Girl Scout cookies.

      But it has left growers and sellers with a high-cost product thats a financial loser. And a new feeling has descended on the once-confident Oregon cannabis industry: panic.


      The business has been up and down and up and down, says Don Morse, who closed his Human Collective II dispensary in south-west Portland four months ago. But in a lot of ways it has just been down and down for dispensaries.

      This month, WW spoke to two dozen people across Oregons cannabis industry. They describe a bleak scene: small businesses laying off employees and shrinking operations. Farms shuttering. People losing their lifes savings are unable to declare bankruptcy because marijuana is still a federally scheduled narcotic.

      To be sure, every new market creates winners and losers. But the glut of legal weed places Oregons young industry in a precarious position, and could swiftly reshape it.

      Oregons wineries, breweries and distilleries have experienced some of the same kind of shakeout over time. But the timetable is faster with pot: for many businesses, its boom to bust within months.

      Mom-and-pop farms are accepting lowball offers to sell to out-of-state investors, and what was once a diverse and local market is increasingly owned by a few big players. And frantic growers face an even greater temptation to illegally leak excess grass across state lines and into the crosshairs of US attorney general Jeff Sessions justice department.

      If somebody has got thousands of pounds that they cant sell, they are desperate, says Myron Chadowitz, who owns the Eugene farm Cannassentials. Desperate people do desperate things.

      In March, Robin Cordell posted a distress signal on Instagram.

      The prices are so low, she wrote, and without hustling all day, hoping to find the odd shop with an empty jar, it doesnt seem to move at any price.

      Cordell has a rare level of visibility for a cannabis grower. Her Oregon City farm, Oregon Girl Gardens, received glowing profiles from Dope Magazine and Oregon Leaf. She has 12 years of experience in the medical marijuana system, a plot of family land in Clackamas county, and branding as one of the states leaders in organic and women-led cannabis horticulture.

      She fears shell be out of business by the end of the year.

      The prices just never went back up, she says.

      The prices just never went back up.

      Cordell ran headlong into Oregons catastrophically bountiful cannabis crop.

      The Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) handed out dozens of licenses to new farmers who planted their first crop last spring. Mild weather blessed the summer of 2017 and stretched generously into the fall. And growers going into their second summer season planted extra seeds to make up for flower lost to a 2016 storm, the last vestige of a brutal typhoon blown across the Pacific from Asia.

      That storm naturally constrained the supply even though there were a lot of cultivators, says Beau Whitney, senior economist for New Frontier Data, which studies the cannabis industry.

      It kept supply low and prices high in 2017 even though the state was handing out licenses at an alarming rate.

      It was a hot new market, Whitney says. There werent a whole lot of barriers to entry. The OLCC basically issued a license to anyone who qualified.

      Chadowitz blames out-of-state money for flooding the Oregon system. In 2016, state lawmakers decided to lift a restriction that barred out-of-state investors from owning controlling shares of local farms and dispensaries.

      It was a controversial choice one that many longtime growers still resent.

      The root of the entire thing was allowance of outside money into Oregon, Chadowitz says. Anyone could get the money they needed. Unlimited money and unlimited licenses, youre going to get unlimited flower and crash the market.

      As of 1 April, Oregon had licensed 963 recreational cannabis grows, while another 910 awaited OLCC approval.

      That means oversupply is only going to increase as more farms start harvesting bud.

      The OLCC has said repeatedly that it has no authority to limit the number of licenses it grants to growers, wholesalers and dispensaries (although by contrast, the number of liquor stores in Oregon is strictly limited).

      Since voters legalized recreational marijuana in 2014, many industry veterans from the medical marijuana years have chafed at the entrance of new money, warning it would destroy a carefully crafted farm ecosystem.

      The same problem has plagued cannabis industries in other states that have legalized recreational weed. In 2016, Colorado saw wholesale prices for recreational flower drop 38%. Washington saw its pot drop in value at the same time Oregon did.

      The OLCC remains committed to facilitating a free market for recreational marijuana in which anyone can try their hand at growing or selling.

      [The law] has to be explicit that we have that authority to limit or put a cap on licenses, says OLCC spokesman Mark Pettinger. It doesnt say that we could put a cap on licenses. The only thing that we can regulate is canopy size.

      The demand for weed in Oregon is robust the state reeled in $68m in cannabis sales taxes last year but it cant keep pace with supply.

      A cannabis harvest at East Fork Cultivars, Oregon.

      Whitney says its not unusual for a new industry to attract speculators and people without much business savvy.

      Whenever you have these emerging markets, theres going to be a lot of people entering the market looking for profit, he says. Once it becomes saturated, it becomes more competitive. This is not a phenomenon that is unique to cannabis. There used to be a lot of computer companies, but theres not so many anymore.

      Across rolling hills of Oregon farmland and in Portland dispensaries as sleek as designer eyewear shops, the story plays out the same: Business owners cant make the low prices pencil out.

      Nick Duyck is a second-generation farmer and owner of 3D Blueberry Farms in Washington county. I was born and raised on blueberries, he says.

      But last June, Duyck launched Private Reserve Cannabis, a weed grow designed to create permanent jobs for seasonal workers.

      By starting up the cannabis business, says Duyck, it keeps my guys busy on a year-round basis.

      He invested $250,000 in the structural build-outs, lighting, environmental controls and other initial costs to achieve a 5,000 sq ft, Tier I, OLCC-approved indoor canopy.

      Ongoing labor and operational costs added another $20,000 a month.

      Weed prices were high: Duyck forecast a $1,500 return per pound. If Duyck could produce 20lb of flower a week, hed make back his money and start banking profits in just three months.

      A gram of weed was selling for less than a glass of wine.

      Octobers bumper crop tore those plans apart.

      We got in at the wrong time, Duyck says. The outdoor harvest flooded the market.

      By the start of the new year, Duyck was sitting on 100lb of ready-to-sell flower an inventory trickling out to dispensaries in single-pound increments.

      So he turned to a wholesaler, Cannabis Auctions LLC, which holds monthly fire sales in various undisclosed locations throughout Oregon.

      Weed auctions operate under a traditional model: sellers submit their wares, and buyers dispensary owners, intake managers and extract manufacturers are given an opportunity to inspect products before bidding on parcels awarded to the highest dollar.

      Duyck sent 60lb of pot to the auction block in December. He had adjusted his expectations downward: he hoped to see something in the ballpark of $400 a pound.

      It sold for $100 a pound.

      The price per pound that it costs us to raise this product is significantly higher than the hundred dollars a pound, says Duyck. (A little light math points to a $250-per-unit production cost.) Currently, were operating at a $15,000-per-month loss, Duyck says.

      If prices dont improve soon, Duyck says he wont be able to justify renewing his OLCC license for another year.

      The dispensaries that are out there, a lot of them have their own farms, so they dont buy a lot of product from small farms like us Duyck says. If you really want to grow the product, you almost have to own the store also.

      Middlemen store owners without farms are also suffering. Take Don Morse, who gave up selling weed on New Years Eve.

      Morse ran Human Collective II, one of the earliest recreational shops in the city, which first opened as a medical marijuana supplier in 2010. At times, Morse stocked 100 strains in his Multnomah Village location.

      A cannabis crop. I think if we let it be a painful moment, and not try to cover it up, were going to be better off for it.

      Morse lobbied for legal recreational weed and founded the Oregon Cannabis Business Council.

      The shift to recreational was costly. With his business partner Sarah Bennett, Morse says he invested more than $100,000 in equipment to meet state regulations.

      By last summer, new stores were popping up at a rapid pace. Morses company wasnt vertically integrated, which means it did not grow any of its own pot or run a wholesaler that might have subsidized low sales.

      Competition around us was fierce, and the company started losing money, and it wasnt worth it anymore, Morse says. At our peak, we had 20 employees. When we closed, we had six.

      Prices went into free fall in October: the average retail price dropped 40%.

      Morse couldnt see a way to make the numbers work. Human Collective priced grams as low as $6 to compete with large chains like Nectar and Chalice, but it struggled to turn a profit.

      When youre the little guy buying the product from wholesalers, you cant afford to compete, he says. Theres only so far you can lower the price. Theres too much of everything and too many people in the industry.

      So Morse closed his shop: We paid our creditors and that was that. That was the end of it.

      Despite losing his business, Morse stands behind Oregons light touch when it comes to regulating the industry.

      Its just commercialism at its finest, he says. Let the best survive. Thats just the way it goes in capitalism. Thats just the way it goes.

      Just as mom-and-pop grocery stores gave way to big chains, people like Morse are losing out to bigger operations.

      Chalice Farms has five stores in the Portland area and is opening a sixth in Happy Valley. La Mota has 15 dispensaries. Nectar has 11 storefronts in Oregon, with four more slated to open soon.

      Despite the record-low prices in the cannabis industry, these chains are hiring and opening new locations, sometimes after buying failed mom-and-pop shops.

      The home page on Nectars website prominently declares: Now buying dispensaries! Please contact us if you are a dispensary owner interested in selling your business.

      Nectar representatives did not respond to a request for comment.

      Mason Walker, the CEO of East Fork Cultivars.

      Because the federal government does not recognize legal marijuana, the industry cannot access traditional banking systems or even federal courts. That means business owners cant declare bankruptcy to dissolve a failed dispensary or farm, leaving them with few options. They can try to liquidate their assets, destroy the product they have on hand and eat the losses.

      Or they can sell the business to a company like Nectar, often for a fraction of what theyve invested.

      This time last year, it was basically all mom-and-pop shops, says Mason Walker, CEO of Cave Junction cannabis farm East Fork Cultivars. Now there are five or six companies that own 25 or 30%. Stores are selling for pennies on the dollar, and people are losing their life savings in the process.

      Deep-pocketed companies can survive the crash and wait for the market to contract again.

      What this means is, the market is now in a position where only the large [businesses] or the ones that can produce at the lower cost can survive, Whitney says. A lot of the craft growers, a lot of the small-capacity cultivators, will go out of business.

      Oregon faces another consequence of pot businesses closing up shop: leftover weed could end up on the black market.

      Already, Oregon has a thriving illegal market shipping to other states.

      US attorney for Oregon, Billy Williams, has said he has little interest in cracking down on legal marijuana businesses, but will prosecute those shipping marijuana to other states.

      That kind of thing is whats going to shut down our industry, Chadowitz says. Anything we can do to prevent Jeff Sessions from being right, we have to do.

      Ask someone in the cannabis industry what to do about Oregons weed surplus, and youre likely to get one of three answers.

      The first is to cap the number of licenses awarded by the OLCC. The second is to reduce the canopy size allotted to each license Massachusetts is trying that. And the last, equally common answer is to simply do nothing. Let the market sort itself out.

      Up in smoke: opinions vary about what Oregon must do to address its weed surplus.

      Farmers, such as Walker of East Fork Cultivars, argue that limiting the number of licensed farms in Oregon would stunt the states ability to compete on the national stage in the years ahead.

      Were in this sort of painful moment right now, says Walker, but I think if we let it be a painful moment, and not try to cover it up, were going to be better off for it.

      Walker and other growers hope selling across state lines will someday become legal.

      Every farmer, wholesaler, dispensary owner and economist WW talked to for this story said that if interstate weed sales became legal, Oregons oversupply problem would go away.

      Under the current presidential administration, that might seem a long shot. But legalization is sweeping the country, Donald Trump is signaling a looser approach, and experts say Oregon will benefit when the feds stop fighting.

      The thing about Oregon is that it is known for its cannabis, in a similar way to Oregon pinot noir, Whitney says. For those who are able to survive, they are positioned extremely well not only to survive in the Oregon market but also to take advantage of a larger market assuming things open up on a federal level.

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