By Steve Elliott
Marijuana use doesn't cause alterations in brain structure, according to a new study which fails to support past claims about cannabis and brain health.
Scientists looked at the effect of marijuana exposure on brain volume in the hippocampus, the amygdala, the ventral striatum, and the orbitofrontal cortex in groups of exposed and unexposed pairs of siblings. Researchers reported that all the volumetric differences identified "were within the range of normal variation," and that they were attributable to "shared genetic factors," not marijuana use.
"We found no evidence for the causal influence of cannabis exposure on amygdala volume," the authors concluded.
"We found that while cannabis users had lower amygdala volumes than nonusers, that difference appears to be linked to other predisposing factors," said senior author Arpana Agrawal, an associate professor of psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, reports Dennis Thompson at HealthDay
A simple marijuana possession charge in a small Nashville suburb back in 2005 changed the career trajectory of a small business owner and songwriter. When he saw firsthand how the system handles those convicted of what he saw as a victimless crime, Chief Greenbud decided to share his experience.
After writing several songs on the subject and posting them online, he was asked to perform for a local chapter of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Ten years later the Chief is releasing his fourth album and has amassed over 1.7 million followers on his social networks.
Chief Greenbud's latest CD, "Chief Greenbud Volume 4" is set for physical and digital release on August 25.
The Chief said he's especially proud of the title, saying “I've spent a lot of time thinking about it. We've had multiple meetings brainstorming ideas to come up with the perfect name to represent what we're putting on the CD. I feel that we captured its essence,” he noted lightheartedly.
“There are several songs that I am excited for people to hear," Chief Greenbud said. "‘Everybody Gets High’ is an upbeat anthem that every stoner will be able to groove to and sing along with.”
Another song on the disc is 'iBake', about a regular guy who likes to smoke a little weed but is fearful of what may happen if he is caught. As the lyrics state, "I can’t wait for the day when my state says okay, and I won’t waste a single minute being afraid I bake."
Coinciding with the release of the Apple Watch on April 20, a Seattle-based multimedia company, Higher Ground, has created a parody ad to bring attention to marijuana legalization. The ad, “WeedWatch,” features a photo of the iWatch with the simple text, “Time for a Change: Legalize It.” A variety of marijuana-related icons and apps are featured on the device’s face.
One of the most innovative features of Apple’s Watch is the ability for users to customize the face of the device, and add additional information. In Higher Ground’s parody, they have taken the liberty to do just that!
The watch face is full of humorous and advocacy-related apps including NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), SXSW, Leafly (a Yelp-like mobile app for marijuana), 7-11, Cannabis News Network, and Doritos. The time? 4:20.
“The Apple Watch is a revolutionary product, and the legalization of marijuana in states across the country is also a revolutionary movement,” notes Higher Ground Editor-in-Chief Michael A. Stusser. “The message of our parody is as simple as the solution to the War on Drugs: Legalize It. It’s time to end Prohibition, and legalize, regulate and tax cannabis at the federal level.”
By Steve Elliott
A Northern California Native American tribe has announced it is building a $10 million indoor marijuana cultivation facility just north of Ukiah.
"The tribes are just getting out ahead of the game," said Mendocino County Supervisor Dan Hamburg, reports Glenda Anderson at The Press Democrat of Santa Rosa.
"Legalization is coming," said Dale Gieringer, California state coordinator for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). "It looks like it'll be the tribes."
The Pinoleville Pomo Nation has contracted with United Cannabis, based in Colorado, and FoxBarry Companies, based in Kansas, to grow thousands of marijuana plants in greenhouses on its 99-acre rancheria, The Press Democrat reports. FoxBarry -- which, interestingly enough, also invests in tribal casinos -- is bankrolling and managing the project.
This is believed to be the first California tribe to build a large cannabis-growing facility, but at least two more are already planned at other locations in the state -- by the same corporations behind the Ukiah operation. Those two locations are still undisclosed, other that they will be in Central and Southern California.
By Steve Elliott
Rick Steves, the mild-mannered travel guru who was a key supporter of Washington state's flawed but successful marijuana legalization initiative in 2012, arrived in Oregon on Tuesday to kick off a nine-city tour promoting Measure 91, a measure on November's general election ballot which would legalize cannabis in Oregon.
"Marijuana is a drug," wrote Steves, a NORML board member who is seemingly eager to court the anti-pot crowd. "It's not good for you. It can be addictive. But marijuana is here to stay. No amount of wishing will bring us a utopian 'drug-free society.'"
Steves explains that owning his own business has given him the freedom to express his personal views about marijuana without fear of being fired.
"When it comes to America's prohibition on marijuana, I can consider lessons learned from my travels and say what I really believe when I'm back home," Steves said.
The travel writer last year was named one of the 50 most influential consumers by the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP).
By Steve Elliott
Lancaster may soon become the first municipality in Pennsylvania to officially support legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes.
The Lancaster City Council on Tuesday debated a resolution calling for medicinal cannabis, reports Bernard Harris at Lancaster Online. The nonbinding resolution comes in support of bills which are pending in the Pennsylvania Legislature.
A vote could come next week at the council's regular meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, September 9, at 7:30 p.m. in Southern Market Center, 100 S. Queen Street, Lancaster.
City Councilman Tim Roschel said he agreed to bring the resolution before the council for consideration because of the experience of a friend with cancer in Arizona. The friend's husband bought her cannabis with a doctor's authorization.
Roschel said he would not have wanted for his friend to be called a criminal.
Council member Pete Soto recalled both his parents dying of cancer. He said he wished medical marijuana had been available to relieve his mother's suffering after chemotherapy. "The remedy was worse than the disease," Soto said.
Former Mountville Mayor Connie Guy told the council that marijuana can be used for treating rheumatoid arthritis, seizures and fibromyalgia, from which she suffers. "We're not stoner potheads," Guy said. "We're mothers and fathers and children ... and we suffer."
By Steve Elliott
Critics of Nevada's laws on driving under the influence of marijuana want the Legislature to change the test from one which detects cannabis, to one which measures performance.
A state legislative panel on Thursday agreed with a 9-3 vote that a bill draft request be modeled after California's law and submitted for the 2015 session, reports Arnold M. Knightly at the Las Vegas Review-Journal. In California, police must first determine with a field sobriety test that you might be impaired, then request a blood test if they think you are.
If marijuana is found in a person's system in California, the prosecution must prove that the person in question was too impaired on cannabis to drive safely.
State Sen. Tick Segerblom (D-Las Vegas), who chairs the Advisory Commission of the Administration of Justice's Subcommittee on the Medical Use of Marijuana, said if a bill draft isn't submitted by the committee, he will probably propose it himself. Segerblom authored the 2013 law formally legalizing medical marijuana dispensaries in Nevada.
"If it's good enough for 40 million people, it is probably good enough for us," Segerblom said of California's marijuana DUI law.
On Saturday, May 3, nearly 300 cities worldwide, including Portland, will participate in the 15th annual Global Cannabis March. Portland participants will gather in Pioneer Courthouse Square to march at high noon through downtown Portland, accompanied by a police escort.
Oregon NORML, KBOO Community Radio and the publishers of Hemp News, Campaign for the Restoration and Regulation of Hemp (CRRH) are sponsors of this event.
The keynote speaker for the event will be Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer, (District 3). He will be speaking immediately following the march.
Musicians Mack & Dub and the Smokin' Section, The Sindicate, Disenchanter and Justin James Bridges have joined the lineup for the rally, which runs from 11 am to 4 pm in Pioneer Courthouse Square.
Speakers for the rally include CRRH Director Paul Stanford; Paul Loney, Oregon NORML Legal Counsel; Leland Berger, a Portland Attorney; Rowshan Reordan, Oregon NORML; Anna Diaz of the NORML Women's Alliance; Madeline Martinez of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP); and Oregon Attorney John Lucy IV.
"I think it’s game over in less than five years," Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) said, according to an article in The Huffington Post. "There's no question that we're likely to see another state or two this year legalizing [social] use. We're going to see more medical marijuana progress. The crazy prohibitions on bank services and probably the tax disparities -- these are all eroding," Rep. Blumenauer predicted.
Clinical Trial for Veterans with PTSD Has Already Obtained Approval from U.S. Food and Drug Administration, U. Arizona Institutional Review Board, and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Wednesday, April 2: Veterans, Military Family Members and Supporters to Rally at Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza
After 22 years of hard-fought efforts, the nonprofit pharmaceutical company MAPS has finally obtained approval from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for a FDA clinical trial to examine the medical safety and efficacy of marijuana. The trial would study military veterans suffering from treatment-resistant post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Yet the study’s ability to receive Arizona state funding is in jeopardy due to State Senator Kimberly Yee.
Arizona has collected millions of dollars from its medical marijuana program. Under Arizona’s medical marijuana law, that money is reserved for furthering the provisions of the law and should include research and education – but none of it has been spent.
A bill being considered by lawmakers would give the Arizona Department of Health Services discretion to use some of this surplus funding to study the medical benefits of marijuana. On March 10, the bill HB 2333, sponsored by State Representative Ethan Orr of Tucson, passed the Arizona House 52-5, with strong bi-partisan support.
By Steve Elliott
Inhaling whole-plant marijuana provides relief from the symptoms of Parkinson's disease, according to observational trial data published in the March/April 2014 issue of the scientific journal Clinical Neuropharmacology.
Scientists at Tel Aviv University's Department of Neurology looked at Parkinson's symptoms in 22 patients at baseline, and again 30 minutes after inhaling cannabis, reports NORML.
The researchers reported that inhaled marijuana resulted in "significant improvement after treatment in tremor, rigidity, and bradykinesia (slowness of movement). There was also significant improvement of sleep and pain scores," the Israeli researchers noted. "No significant adverse effects of the drug were observed."
"[T]his observational study is the first to report an amelioration of both motor and non-motor symptoms in patients with PD treated with cannabis," the researchers reported. "The study opens new venues for treatment strategies in PD especially in patients refractory to current medications."
Israel has allowed the licensed production, distribution and medical use of cannabis since 2011.
By Steve Elliott
Medical marijuana advocates will rally at the Oklahoma State Capitol in Oklahoma City on Wednesday, February 12, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., as part of a push to reform the state's strict cannabis laws.
Medical Marijuana Day will include lobbying, advocacy and training, according to Norma Sapp, director of the Oklahoma chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), reports Tim Farley at the Oklahoma Gazette.
An advocacy training session is scheduled for 10 a.m. in Room 104 at the Capitol, according to Sapp. The meeting is designed to help advocates effectively lobby their elected representatives and how to fill a bill as it progresses through the Legislature.
NORML volunteers will be on the 4th Floor Rotunda all day to help arrange meetings between voters and their lawmakers, according to Sapp.
According to a 2013 survey from SoonerPoll.com, 71 percent of likely Oklahoma voters support medical marijuana. Other surveys show 57 percent prefer treating minor cannabis violations as noncriminal offenses, with fines only.
A bill was introduced in this legislative session by state Sen. Connie Johnson (D-Forest Park) which would legalize, tax and regulate marijuana in Oklahoma. Two other cannabis-related bills from the 2013 legislative session are still alive, including one proposal which would allow doctors to authorize medical marijuana for patients.
By Steve Elliott
Two lawmakers in Texas have vowed to reintroduce marijuana legislation "as many times as it takes," but drug policy experts say it will be from five to 10 years before the Legislature might change the Lone Star State's cannabis laws.
"I would say within the next decade," said Nathan Jones, Ph.D., with Rice University's Baker Institute, reports Kevin Reece at KHOU 11 News. "If you're looking at the polling data it looks pretty electable. Or it looks almost inevitable."
Recent polls show about 58 percent of Texans supporting the legalization, regulation and taxation of marijuana. An even larger majority -- 61 percent -- supports reducing penalties for possession of small amounts of pot.
State Rep. Harold Dutton Jr. said he's going to try for a fourth time to get a vote on his bill that would lessen penalties for possession of an ounce or less of marijuana. Under current Texas law, possession of two ounces or less is a Class B misdemeanor and get can you up to six months in jail. "I think that's a little overkill for somebody who has an ounce or less of marijuana," Dutton said.
Is it a dangerous thing to be using (marijuana) in your house, for example?" Dutton asked. "Probably not any more so than having a drink in your house."
By Steve Elliott
Marijuana advocates are laying the groundwork for legalization in Massachusetts in 2016, the next presidential election year.
State voters approved decriminalization of small amounts of cannabis in 2008, and legalized its use for medicinal purposes in 2012, both with more than 63 percent support, reports Joshua Miller at the Boston Globe. advocates have launched an effort to get legalization on the 2016 ballot, and to raise enough money to ensure victory.
But some say Massachusetts' strong traditions will make legal marijuana a tough sell.
"To make it available for recreational use, that's going over a very different barrier," said state Rep. Ellen Story (D-Amherst), explaining it was easy for her to support decrim and medical marijuana, but not legalization. "I'm not sure people in the state are ready for that and I'm certainly not sure I'm ready for that."
But the tides of public opinion are shifting on cannabis.
"Opinion is changing very quickly on marijuana," said Steve Koczela, president of MassINC Polling Group. The rapid change, he said, "mirrors, in some ways, the same-sex marriage shift that's taken place over the last few years."
By Steve Elliott
A Democratic lawmaker has filed a bill that would legalize medical marijuana in Tennessee.
"It's just simply a matter of being rational and compassionate," said Rep. Sherry Jones (D-Nashville), who sponsors HB 1385, reports Tom Humphrey at The Knoxville News-Sentinel. "It would apply to only the most severely debilitated people ... children suffering a hundred seizures a day, people on chemotherapy, people with multiple sclerosis ... people with a plethora of diseases."
The Tennessee Legislature passed a bill allowing "marijuana by prescription" under state law in the 1980s, but that bill was unworkable as it required federal permission. Attempts since then have died in legislative committees, most recently in 2012.
But Rep. Jones, along with Doak Patton, president of Tennessee NORML, say times have changed in the state because of the rapidly developing political situation around cannabis.
"This really isn't about marijuana at all," said Patton. "It's about freedom and liberty."
"I think anybody would tell you alcohol is much worse than marijuana," Rep. Jones said. "If you think alcohol should be legal, then you would think that for sure medical marijuana should be legal."
By Steve Elliott
On the first day of legal recreational marijuana sales in Colorado, retailers were selling top-shelf cannabis at prices up to $400 per ounce, not including taxes, according to reports.
"I think people were a little bit surprised at the price," said Rachel Gillette, executive director of Colorado NORML, reports Erik Ortiz at NBC News.
Medical marijuana patients, who have been able to buy their cannabis for medicinal use at Colorado dispensaries since 2010, are used to paying around $250 an ounce, according to Gillette.
Colorado doesn't impose any price restrictions on marijuana, leaving the market open to supply and demand. One shop was selling marijuana on Wednesday for $70 an eighth-ounce -- a markup of $25 from the previous day's price of $45, reports The Associated Press.
"It's a new industry; it's a new market," Gillette said "I think things will work themselves out in a few years. We saw the same thing happen with the medical marijuana industry before the prices came down."
Industry observers also pointed out that while prices may be initially high in Colorado's legal marijuana market, along with that high price comes arrest protection.
A Colorado State University report released last April predicted retail prices ending up around $185 an ounce.