Israel takes step toward allowing export of medical marijuana

An Israeli government committee gave an initial nod on Sunday for the export of medical marijuana in what could be a windfall for companies in Israel, widely regarded as a leader in research in the field.

A government statement announcing the vote said it could take months for the legislation to make its way through parliament.

In the United States, 28 states have legalized marijuana for medical use and since 2012, Colorado, Alaska, California, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, D.C. have also approved marijuana for recreational use. The market there, by some estimates, will reach $50 billion over the next decade.

Israel is widely regarded as one of the world leaders in medical marijuana research, even though the local market is small. Only 23,000 people have Health Ministry permits to purchase medical cannabis from nine licensed suppliers, creating a market of $15 million to $20 million at most.

Saul Kaye, CEO of iCAN, a private cannabis research hub in Israel, said there are about 50 Israeli medical marijuana companies active in many aspects of the industry, from agriculture to delivery devices, such as inhalers.

Kaye estimated that international investments in Israeli companies reached about $100 million in 2016.

Last month, Israel moved toward decriminalizing small-scale personal use of marijuana and authorities are supportive of research. Israeli Health Minister Yakov Litzman supports medical cannabis usage and has introduced steps to ease its prescription and sale.

(Reporting by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Raissa Kasolowsky)

Source:  Reuters

Congress Creates Commission To Study Drug War Alternatives


Congress just ordered a “comprehensive review” of failed U.S. approaches to reduce drug abuse and supply through prohibition-based interdiction programs.

Early on Saturday morning the Senate passed a bill creating a new commission that will be tasked with studying the impact of the war on drugs, with a focus on U.S. policies toward Latin America and the Caribbean.

Among other topics, commissioners are directed to look at “alternative drug policy models in the Western Hemisphere,” which will likely include Uruguay’s legalization of marijuana and the enactment of drug decriminalization and harm reduction policies elsewhere.

The move to create the commission is part of broader House-passed legislation authorizing programs under the U.S. State Department. The bill is now on its way to President Obama’s desk.

The Western Hemisphere Drug Policy Commission will be comprised of ten members appointed by Congressional leadership and the president, and is charged with submitting a report including findings and recommendations within 18 months.

The State Department bill’s language creating the commission closely mirrors standalone legislation long championed by Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY).

“Over the last few decades, we’ve spent billions and billions of taxpayer dollars on counternarcotics programs in Latin America and the Caribbean. The Western Hemisphere Drug Policy Commission will force us to take a fresh look at our drug policy and make sure we have the best strategy moving forward,” Engel said in a press release. “We need to have an honest assessment of what has worked and what has failed as we consider how to spend our counternarcotics dollars in the future. With heroin use on the rise here at home, our children deserve no less than a fair evaluation of our drug policy.”

More Marijuana Moves in Congress

In other Capitol Hill news, it was announced on Friday that legislators leading the charge for marijuana law reform will form a Cannabis Caucus when the 115th Congress convenes next month.

“There needs to be more strategy between us, those of us who are engaged in this. More of a long-term strategy,” Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), a caucus cofounder, told DecodeDC . “We need to have a vehicle in which people on the outside will be able to work through and sort of have a team effort from the inside and the outside.”

Congressmen Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Thomas Massie (R-KY) are also helping to organize the new caucus.

Also on Friday, Congress passed a short-term extension of legislation funding the federal government — and continuing a rider that prevents the Department of Justice from interfering with the implementation of state medical cannabis laws — through April 28, 2017.

Finally, the Senate Judiciary Committee announced that confirmation hearings for the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), an ardent opponent of marijuana legalization who some reformers fear will crack down on state laws, will be held on January 10 and 11.


AUSTIN — Physicians and patients came out in full force Tuesday to support a proposed medical cannabis bill that will be considered in the Texas Legislature next year.

Senate Bill 269, which was filed Tuesday morning, would allow patients with debilitating or chronic conditions to receive medical cannabis under their doctor’s recommendation. The bill would expand on a 2015 Texas law that allows patients to receive certain forms of cannabis if they have intractable epilepsy.

Sen. José Menéndez, D-San Antonio, who authored the proposed bill, said the law is helpful but excludes many Texans who have other conditions that could benefit from cannabis treatment.

Twenty-eight states have legalized medical cannabis, but Menéndez said Texans should not have to leave the state to get care.

“Why are we forcing Texans to become medical refugees?” Menéndez asked. “If that’s what they’ve come to find that works for them, they should be able to live in their state and be able to have access to the medicine that their doctor feels is best for them.”

Debbie Tolany, a mother to a child with autism and intractable epilepsy, said her son has tried multiple different medications that have not worked for him.

“I can assure you that when you witness these things in your child and you know that it is because of the medication that you have given him, you wrestle with many emotions,” Tolany said. “These are harmful band aids and do nothing to address the physiological sources of my son’s pain and suffering.”

 Menéndez co-authored the bill that allowed for limited cannabis use for people with epilepsy, and also filed another bill in 2015 that would have extended medical cannabis use to more health condition

Marijuana Wins Big on Election Night


California, Massachusetts, Maine and Nevada Legalize Marijuana, As Florida, Arkansas, Montana and North Dakota Approve Medical Marijuana Measures

TELECONFERENCE Tomorrow (Wednesday) at 12:30pm (ET) / 9:30am (PT): What Do Election Results Mean for Marijuana Law Reform?

This Election Day was a watershed moment for the movement to end marijuana prohibition, with the results expected to accelerate efforts to legalize marijuana in states across the U.S., at the federal level, and internationally.  Overall, legalization initiatives prevailed in four out of five states, and medical marijuana initiatives prevailed in all four states this year.

Votes are still being counted for legalization initiatives in Maine and Arizona, as well as for a medical marijuana measure in Montana to improve the state’s existing medical marijuana law.  Maine and Montana look headed for victory and Arizona for defeat.  If those results hold, legalization initiatives will have prevailed in four out of five states, and medical marijuana initiatives will have prevailed in all four states this year.

“Marijuana reform won big across America on Election Day – indeed it’s safe to say that no other reform was approved by so many citizens on so many ballots this year,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance.  “But the prospect of Donald Trump as our next president concerns me deeply.  His most likely appointees to senior law enforcement positions – Rudy Giuliani and Chris Christie – are no friends of marijuana reform, nor is his vice president.”

“The momentum for ending marijuana prohibition took a great leap forward with the victories in California and elsewhere, but the federal government retains the power to hobble much of what we’ve accomplished.  The progress we’ve made, and the values that underlie our struggle – freedom, compassion, reason and justice – will be very much at risk when Donald Trump enters the White House.”

The most significant victory was California’s Proposition 64, which legalizes the adult use of marijuana and enacts across-the-board retroactive sentencing reform for marijuana offenses, while establishing a comprehensive, strictly-controlled system to tax and regulate businesses to produce and distribute marijuana in a legal market. Experts are calling Prop. 64 the new “gold standard” for marijuana policy because of its cutting edge provisions to undo the most egregious harms of marijuana prohibition on impacted communities of color and the environment as well as its sensible approaches to public health, youth protection, licensing and revenue allocation.

“With its carefully crafted provisions for helping to heal the damage caused by the war on marijuana to poor communities and people of color, Prop 64 represents the new gold standard for how to legalize marijuana responsibly,” said Lynne Lyman, California state director for the Drug Policy Alliance. “This not only protects youth from accessing marijuana products, it also protects them from being harmed by the criminal justice system. Young people can no longer be arrested for marijuana offenses, which data consistently show us is a primary gateway to the criminal justice system. And with hundreds of thousands of residents eligible to have their records cleared, Prop 64 is a major victory for Californians who care about justice.”

By shifting away from counterproductive marijuana arrests and focusing instead on public health, states that have legalized marijuana are diminishing many of the worst harms of the war on drugs, while managing to raise substantial new revenues. A recent Drug Policy Alliance report found that Colorado, Washington, Alaska and Oregon have benefitted from a dramatic decrease in marijuana arrests and convictions, as well as increased tax revenues, since the adult possession of marijuana became legal.  At the same time, these states did not experience increases in youth marijuana use or traffic fatalities.

Tuesday’s results also have monumental international ramifications, as momentum grows to end marijuana prohibition in Europe and the Americas.  Over the past two years, Jamaica has enacted wide-ranging marijuana decriminalization; Colombia and Puerto Rico issued executive orders legalizing medical marijuana; and medical marijuana initiatives have been debated in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and Italy. In 2013, Uruguay became the first country in the world to legalize marijuana on a national level, and Canada’s governing Liberal Party has promised to do the same.

Among the highlights of Tuesday’s results:

  • California voters approved Prop 64, which allows adults 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and grow up to six plants at home. The initiative also legalizes the industrial cultivation of hemp. The Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation will be renamed the Bureau of Marijuana Control, and will oversee 19 different licenses for businesses and cultivation. The initiative does not allow large-scale cultivation for the first five years, so small farmers have an advantage. A 15% excise tax on marijuana sales and a cultivation tax will be used to pay for the regulatory structure. Additional revenue will go toward youth substance abuse prevention, medical marijuana research, environmental protection and remediation, and local governments. The initiative also allocates substantial resources toward economic development and job placement for neighborhoods most in need, and creates a system for sentences to be retroactively reduced and past marijuana convictions to be expunged.The Drug Policy Alliance and its lobbying arm, Drug Policy Action, played a key leadership role in the California campaign — co-drafting the initiative, coordinating the political mobilization, social media, public relations and more, and raising over $5 million to fund the effort.
  • Massachusetts voters approved Question 4, allowing adults 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana, and grow up to six plants in their home. The initiative establishes a Cannabis Control Commission to oversee the licensing of marijuana retail stores, as well as cultivation, manufacturing, and testing facilities. It enacts a 3.75% excise tax on marijuana sales used to pay for the regulatory structure. Additional revenue will be deposited into Massachusetts’ General Fund. While public consumption of marijuana would not be allowed, if a city or town permits it by vote, this law would allow for the consumption of marijuana on the premises where sold or on a limited basis at special events. The new law provides support for communities disproportionately harmed by the drug war, by requiring the new regulating agency to adopt procedures and policies to promote and encourage full participation in the marijuana industry by people from communities that have previously been disproportionately harmed by marijuana prohibition and enforcement. It also requires the agency to develop policies to positively impact those communities, such as education, job training, and placement programs.  The law also states that a prior conviction solely for a marijuana-related offense will not disqualify an individual from being employed in the newly legal marijuana industry or from getting a license to operate a marijuana business, unless the offense involved distribution to a minor.The Drug Policy Alliance and its lobbying arm, Drug Policy Action, supported this initiative with assistance on the drafting, as well as financial support for the campaign.
  • Maine voters approved Question 1, which allows adults 21 and older to possess up to 2 ½ ounces of marijuana, and grow up to six flowering plants and 12 nonflowering plants. The initiative instructs the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry to regulate and control the cultivation, manufacture, distribution and sale of marijuana.  It also provides for the licensure of retail social clubs where marijuana may be sold for consumption on the premises to adults 21 and older. The initiative enacts a 10% excise tax on marijuana sales that will be deposited into Maine’s General Fund. The Drug Policy Alliance’s lobbying arm, Drug Policy Action, supported Maine’s initiative with financial support for signature collection.
  • Nevada voters approved Question 2, allowing adults 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana. Those who do not live within 25 miles of a retail marijuana store may grow up to six plants in their home. The initiative instructs the Nevada Department of Taxation to oversee the licensing of marijuana retail stores, as well as cultivation, manufacturing, and testing facilities. It also establishes a 15% excise tax on marijuana sales used to fund schools, and the marijuana regulatory structure.  The Drug Policy Alliance and its lobbying arm, Drug Policy Action, supported Nevada’s initiative with assistance on the drafting, as well as financial support for the campaign.
  • A marijuana legalization initiative in Arizona was narrowly defeated. The Arizona opposition raised $1 million from Discount Tire Company and another $500,000 from a pharmaceutical firm that produces the powerful synthetic opioid, fentanyl. Their strategy by and large depended on deceptive messaging designed to stoke fears of change.
  • Florida voters approved Amendment 2, legalizing medical marijuana. The initiative instructs the Department of Health to register and regulate centers that produce and distribute marijuana for medical purposes, and issue identification cards to patients and caregivers. Individuals with cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, PTSD, ALS, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, or other debilitating medical conditions as determined by a physician will be able to purchase and use medical marijuana. Florida requires 60% of the vote to pass – a similar initiative in 2014 was defeated despite winning 57.6% of the vote. The Drug Policy Alliance and its lobbying arm, Drug Policy Action, supported this initiative with assistance on the drafting, as well as financial support for the campaign.
  • Arkansas voters approved the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment, Issue 6, will allow seriously ill patients who have a certification from their doctor to obtain medical marijuana from dispensaries. Patients are prohibited from ever cultivating at home. The program is overseen by a new medical marijuana commission and the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control.  Arkansas joins Florida as the first states in the South to approve medical marijuana. DPA’s lobbying arm, Drug Policy Action, provided financial support for the campaign.
  • North Dakota voters approved Measure 5, which legalizes the medical use of marijuana for conditions such as cancer, AIDS, hepatitis C, ALS, glaucoma, and epilepsy, and other debilitating medical conditions. Patients will be permitted to possess up to 3 ounces of marijuana. The initiative instructs the Department of Health to issue ID-cards for qualified patients and regulate non-profit compassion centers which will serve as dispensaries for patients. Individuals living more than 40 miles from a dispensaries will be permitted to grow up to eight plants in their home. DPA’s lobbying arm, Drug Policy Action, provided financial support for the campaign.
  • A Montana medical marijuana measure was approved. In 2004 Montana passed a ballot initiative to allow for the production, possession and use of marijuana by patients with debilitating medical conditions. But the legislature subsequently restricted the medical marijuana law to make it practically unworkable. I-182 would restore Montana’s medical marijuana law to ensure that patients have meaningful access to their medicine. DPA’s lobbying arm, Drug Policy Action, provided financial support for the campaign.

A nationwide Gallup poll released last month found that a record 60 percent of respondents support legalizing marijuana. In 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first two U.S. states – and the first two jurisdictions in the world – to approve ending marijuana prohibition and legally regulating marijuana production, distribution and sales. In the 2014 election, Alaska and Oregon followed suit, while Washington D.C. passed a more limited measure that legalized possession and home cultivation of marijuana (but did not address its taxation and sale due to a federal law passed by Congress in 2014 that bars D.C. from pursuing taxation and regulation).  After today’s victories, there are now 28 states with medical marijuana laws, eight of which have also approved legal regulation of marijuana for adults 21 and over.

DPA will hold a teleconference tomorrow (Wednesday) at 12:30pm ET / 9:30am PT to discuss the national implications of today’s votes.


Tommy McDonald, 510-338-8827,
Tony Newman, 646-335-5384,

Source:  Drug Policy Alliance

NFL faces shifting views about pot

As a Cowboys veteran and NFL Players Association representative, cornerback Brandon Carr says he often counsels young teammates about accountability.

Show up on time, he tells them. Know the playbook. And make it a priority to learn the NFL’s substance abuse policies, especially in regard to marijuana use.

“We have honest discussions,” Carr says. “And you caution. I just kind of give guys the deadline dates of when they’re supposed to get clean, things like that.”

This is not, Carr stresses, an admission that the Cowboys have a drug-dirty locker room. It’s Carr’s realistic appraisal that marijuana simply is part of the NFL’s culture. Why wouldn’t it be, he asks, given that it has become more accepted legally and socially, especially among millennials?

Do the Cowboys in particular have a pot problem? Perception-wise, yes. Factually, however, the answer is complex.

It certainly didn’t help the Cowboys’ image when No. 4 overall draft pick Ezekiel Elliott on Aug. 25 was photographed browsing at a Seattle weed shop, hours before a preseason game against the Seahawks.

Never mind that Elliott didn’t purchase anything. Or that Seattle and Denver are NFL cities in states that have legalized the recreational use and sale of cannabis.

Without elaborating, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones called 21-year-old Elliott’s decision “just not good.” Coach Jason Garrett said young players “just have to understand that perception can be reality.”

Especially when compounded with the fact that the Cowboys franchise already was reeling from the NFL substance abuse suspensions of projected defensive starters Rolando McClain, DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory.

Though sources told The Dallas Morning News that McClain’s suspension is due to a failed test for opiates and Lawrence’s for amphetamines, McClain and Gregory have in the past reportedly failed marijuana tests.

NFL and NFLPA joint-appointed counselors annually visit teams to, in part, reiterate substance abuse policies, but several Cowboys told The News that the rash of suspensions prompted a late-spring, mostly marijuana-specific meeting.

“We haven’t had to really talk about it in past years,” running back Lance Dunbar says. “It was needed because we had guys [fail] the test.”

Dunbar says it’s immaterial that everyday citizens in two NFL cities are legally allowed to partake in weed.

“That’s only a couple,” he says. “Majority rules. It’s illegal in most states. You’re not supposed to do it.

“Here, it was a problem. We had a problem with it. We talked about it.”

Altering minds

How significant a problem is marijuana for the NFL?

For years it’s been a, yes, hazy issue — quietly acknowledged, but seldom publicly discussed in detail.

In recent months, however, a chorus of mostly retired NFL players has publicly extolled what it believes are marijuana’s medicinal benefits. These players have wondered why the league still takes what they view as a harshly punitive stance toward the drug.

In March, Baltimore offensive tackle Eugene Monroe became the first active NFL player to publicly advocate marijuana for pain relief. He retired four months later, but not before current Tennessee linebacker Derrick Morgan joined him in an interview with Katie Couric to echo his pro-marijuana views.

Jim McMahon, Jake Plummer and Kyle Turley are among retired NFL players who recently have said marijuana use has greatly improved their previously pain- and depression-filled lives.

Just last week, retired offensive lineman Eben Britton told the New York Post that the three NFL games in which he played while stoned were among the best of his career — and former defensive lineman Shaun Smith tweeted that he routinely smoked joints before games.

Now the Cowboys’ Carr is publicly joining the conversation.

“I mean, honestly, I’ve thought about this for a while,” says the 30-year-old Carr. “I’m not really a big believer in prescription painkillers and all those things. I know some guys feel better and more natural and don’t have any complications with just the natural herbs of the Earth.

“I compare it to alcohol. I see guys that partake in marijuana are calmer, cooler than guys that drink. I haven’t really seen too many people get in jams or binds with their emotions or losing their cool off of marijuana.

“On the flip side, you read every other week about guys getting DUIs or in physical altercations or something within their own home due to alcohol.”

NFL vs. other sports

What has brought about this recent surge of candid NFL marijuana dialogue?

Though Cowboys front office officials declined to speak to The News for this story, players and NFL team officials who did speak — some on, others off the record — say they believe the biggest factor is that players increasingly feel singled out and over-disciplined compared with peers in other sports.

NFL sources say there also is frustration among numerous teams’ front offices, and that the marijuana issue has reached a tipping point, increasing the likelihood that the league and NFLPA will negotiate a lessening of marijuana penalties.

Marijuana-use monitoring at the college football level is at best inconsistent, with testing and discipline varying from conference to conference.

A December 2015 investigation by The Associated Press showed that out of 57 Power Five conference schools surveyed, 23 had within the past 10 years reduced penalties for positive marijuana tests, at least in part because of changing legal and societal perspectives on the drug.

But when a prospective NFL player tests positive for marijuana during the scouting combine, as was the case with the Cowboys’ Gregory in 2015, he automatically enters the league’s Intervention Program and is subject to increased testing.

The Intervention Program is administered by league and NFLPA-appointed medical personnel. Teams have lost much of the day-to-day oversight of at-risk players that they had in the 1980s and ’90s, often learning of failed or missed drug tests well after the fact.

Gregory has said he began using marijuana at the University of Nebraska because it helped alleviate anxiety issues. Since joining the Cowboys, he has failed or missed at least four drug tests.

The Cowboys learned Monday that the NFLPA dropped its appeal of Gregory’s 10-game suspension, which is in addition to the four-game suspension he’s currently serving.

It’s unclear how much of Gregory’s plight is marijuana-related, but there is no doubt NFL players face steeper marijuana penalties than athletes in other pro sports.

NFL penalties for positive marijuana tests range from a three-game fine for players during Stage One of the Intervention Program to a four-game suspension during Stage Two to one-year banishment during Stage Three.

NBA players incur a comparatively small fine ($25,000) after their second positive marijuana test and a five-game suspension after a third positive test.

Major League Baseball players are not tested for drugs of abuse, including marijuana, unless they are suspected of abuse. Even if they are tested and produce a positive result, they aren’t subject to suspension and the most they can be fined is $35,000.

“NBA players don’t get tested for street drugs,” Dunbar says. “I’m not sure if that’s true, but that’s what I heard.”

Actually, NBA players get tested four times during the season and twice during the offseason for performance-enhancing drugs and drugs of abuse.

NFL players get tested only once annually, during a period that begins April 20 and ends Aug. 9. But if an incoming NFL player tests positive during the scouting combines, or if a veteran fails a test during the April-to-August period, he enters the Intervention Program and is subject to far more testing.

The NFL is by far the most visible American pro sport, so when a player gets suspended for marijuana use, the news reverberates.

“More people watch football,” Cowboys receiver Lucky Whitehead says. “You definitely don’t hear much about [marijuana] in the NBA and baseball.

“I think that definitely makes it bigger in our sport.”

As one of the Cowboys’ NFLPA representatives, Carr was part of negotiations that resulted in a 2014 amending of marijuana testing guidelines. Players considered it a minor victory when the minimum threshold for a positive marijuana test increased from 15 nanograms of carboxy THC per milliliter of urine to 35 nanograms.

That is still well below MLB’s minimum threshold of 50 nanograms. The World Anti-Doping Agency, which oversees testing of Olympic athletes, set its minimum threshold at 150 nanograms.

“We got the threshold moved up, but it’s crazy because it’s still lower than most sports,” Carr says. “There’s going to be ongoing talks.”

When the new collective bargaining agreement comes up in 2020, he says, “there’s going to be a whole lot of different things changing in this world by that time.”

Along with potential CBA posturing, perhaps another reason NFL players are speaking more freely about marijuana use is the apparent lessening stigma the drug carries in society. Cannabis now is legal for medical use in 25 states.

Texas Heisman Trophy winner and then-Dolphins running back Ricky Williams told 60 Minutes in 2005 that the reason he retired for a year after his second positive marijuana suspension in 2004 was to avoid the humiliation of his test result being made public.

Williams told USA Today in 2014 that had the league’s marijuana-test threshold been 35 nanograms during his playing days, he never would have been relegated to the Intervention Program or been suspended.

“To me, [marijuana use] is not as taboo as it used to be, like when I was growing up and when I first came into the NFL,” Carr says. “With medical advances and studies coming out, it’s kind of pushing it forward and pushing the envelope with the issue.

“I think it needs to be talked about. I think we really need to see some cold, hard facts comparing the use of marijuana to the use of painkillers.”

A local trailblazer

Long before this recent escalation of marijuana discussion, and two years prior to Williams’ first marijuana suspension, one ex-NFL player stood alone in publicly advocating marijuana use.

And he was a Dallas Cowboy: five-time Pro Bowl center and two-time Super Bowl champion Mark Stepnoski.

After his 2001 retirement as a player, Stepnoski made national news by becoming the Texas chapter president of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

On Nov. 15, 2002, Stepnoski appeared on Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor, with the host firing this opening salvo: “I bet you’re getting some stares down there in Texas, aren’t you?”

O’Reilly that night chided Stepnoski and his “fellow celebrity” marijuana advocates Willie Nelson, Bill Maher, Hunter Thompson and Robert Altman. Yet, 14 years later, Stepnoski has been joined in the cause by a seemingly growing number of NFL players.

“I can’t say it surprises me,” Stepnoski says. “It just took this long to get to this point.”

During his 13-year NFL career, en route to being named to the NFL’s 1990s All-Decade team, Stepnoski was known as an avant-garde thinker on matters far deeper than trap-blocking.

Turns out, he had become a lifetime member of NORML in 1998, but didn’t make that public knowledge until he retired and took over the organization’s Texas presidency.

In 2003, Pennsylvania native Stepnoski immigrated to Vancouver, where he and girlfriend Brandi Mollica live with 7-year-old son Sebastian.

“I like the fact that, generally speaking on the West Coast, whether it’s Canada or the United States, attitudes about cannabis seem to be more progressive,” the 49-year-old Stepnoski says. “So I did like that feature of Vancouver.

“Nonetheless, marijuana is still illegal here, too.”

When Cowboys rookie Elliott made national headlines in that Seattle weed shop not far from Vancouver, Stepnoski naturally felt for him.

Twelve days later, on Sept. 6, Elliott again generated unwanted headlines, this time as part of otherwise welcome news.

The city attorney of Columbus, Ohio, announced that his office would not pursue domestic violence charges against Elliott after investigating July accusations made by his former girlfriend.

Court documents obtained by The News contained a text exchange between Elliott and the former girlfriend that seemingly raised questions of possible drug use by Elliott — and might have put him on Intervention Program officials’ radar.

“I know you’re stressed out, if you need me call me,” Elliott’s ex-girlfriend texted. “Just do everything you can to pass your drug test tomorrow. You’ll be okay. I’m here for you.”

“I’m gonna pass,” Elliott responded, adding in a follow-up text, “about to live in this sauna the next 24 hours.”

Stepnoski says he knows little about Elliott and doesn’t follow the NFL closely enough to know whether marijuana is more or less a part of the culture than when he played.

“The thing about it is in the ’90s, just like in the ’80s and ’70s, it was part of culture, period,” Stepnoski says. “It’s been part of youth culture since at least the ’60s.

“Football players are young guys. It’s just part of life. At some point there’s a chance that [marijuana] is going to cross their path and they may feel compelled to try it. Is that something someone should be punished for later in life? I don’t think so.”

Stepnoski says he wasn’t surprised to read that McMahon and Plummer and other former NFL players have credited cannabis-based therapy for not only reducing aches, but improving their post-concussion cognitive abilities.

“That’s really all I ever tried to do, was just educate people,” he says.

How has cannabis helped Stepnoski?

“I feel pretty fortunate, put it that way,” he says. “I don’t take any prescription drugs. I don’t even consume over-the-counter anti-inflammatories or pain relievers. I’m not scheduled for any surgeries. I’m not getting any joints replaced.

“I’m pretty lucky.”

Carr says he is glad to see marijuana become an NFL talking point. Based on what he has seen of the millennial generation, within and outside of football, he expects much marijuana discussion to come.

“The music has changed, even from when I grew up to now,” he says with a laugh. “It’s slow. It’s this weird, zombie-type music.

“It’s not just marijuana. There are more recreational drugs out there that people partake in, I think.”

Carr says one of the reasons he has given the marijuana issue considerable thought is that he wants to coach after his playing career ends.

“I’m going to have to deal with this issue,” he says. “As opposed to trying to ban it, that’s when you get guys doing the wrong thing behind your back. You know, if parents say, ‘Don’t touch it,’ kids are going to find a way to touch it.

“So I think it will be about finding a way to find a common ground. If you’re going to do it, just be responsible. Know your limits. You’ve still got an image to uphold.”


Source: The Dallas Morning News Sportsday

These 5 industries are the reason why marijuana is still illegal

We’ve seen some big, public pushes for marijuana policy reform from certain legislators and pro-marijuana organizations in recent years. But we hear less from the other side —  the groups fighting to keep marijuana illegal. That’s probably because these anti-marijuana lobby groups are interested in preserving the War on Drugs for their own financial interests.

Here are the top 5 anti-marijuana lobby groups:

1. Pharmaceutical corporations

Pharmaceutical companies stand to lose a lot of market share if marijuana is legalized because cannabis would offer a cheap, safe alternative to their products, according to Republic Report.

Howard Wooldridge, a retired police officer who now lobbies the government to relax marijuana prohibition laws, told Republic Report that next to police unions, the “second biggest opponent on Capitol Hill is big PhRMA” because marijuana can replace “everything from Advil to Vicodin and other expensive pills.”

Drug manufacturers gave nearly $21.8 million to various federal candidates and committees as well as the parties in the 2012 elections. And in 2013 alone PhRMA spent nearly $18 million on lobbying, according to OpenSecrets.

2. Police unions

Police unions donate heavily to anti-legalization efforts, probably because ending the War on Drugs would translate to decreased police funding.

Ending marijuana prohibition would not only disrupt federal awards to police departments ($2.4 billion in 2014), it would also cut into marijuana-related asset forfeitures, as reported by The Nation’s Lee Fang.

But this is how Jim Pasco, the executive director of The National Fraternal Order of Police, defends the pushback against marijuana legalization efforts, as reported byPolitico:

“The sentiment within the law enforcement community, which has to deal with the effects of addictive drugs, is that we’re not going to sit on our hands and watch these people misrepresent.”

“The country is going to hell in a handbasket. … People are worried about their Social Security and health care, and these people are worried about getting high.”

3. Private prison corporations

Private prisons are another industry that would obviously be disrupted by legalizing marijuana.

Fewer people being sentenced for marijuana crimes translates directly into fewer bodies private prison corporations can reap incarceration profits from.

OpenSecrets reports that the two largest private prison operators, Corrections Corporation of America and GEO, have been lobbying heavily against policies that would reduce incarceration. Corrections Corporation of America has spent at least $970,000 a year on lobbying since 2008, and GEO has spent anywhere from $250,000 to $660,000 a year on lobbying.

According to The Intercept, private prison companies aren’t just funding conservative politicians’ campaigns, they’re also contributing to campaigns for perceived progressive politicians, like 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

4. Prison guard unions

States that legalize marijuana are more likely to see declines in prison populations, which will reduce the need for the government to utilize private prison companies and correctional officers, according to OpenSecrets.

For example, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association gave $1 million to the campaign that successfully defeated Proposition 5 in 2008, which would have reduced parole sentencing for nonviolent drug offenders as well as emphasizing drug treatment and rehabilitation programs as an alternative to incarceration.

Another politically active labor union representing many prison guards and donating to the campaign against drug reform is the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

More from OpenSecrets:

In the 2012 campaign cycle AFSCME gave more than $13 million to candidates, parties and committees at the federal level. In 2013, AFSCME spent almost $2.7 million on lobbying efforts.

5. Alcohol and beer companies

Alcohol interests are lobbying to keep marijuana illegal because they just don’t want the competition for Americans’ leisure spending, according to Republic Report.

For example, the California Beer & Beverage Distributors contributed $10,000 in campaign contributions to a committee working to prevent Proposition 19, which would have legalized and taxed marijuana, from passing back in 2010, as reported by LA Weekly. Needless to say, Proposition 19 failed to pass.


Source:  Extract



Holocaust survivor Moshe Rute, a resident at Hadarim nursing home, where he smokes cannabis daily to fight chronic pain. (Shira Rubin)

On a recent afternoon in Kibbutz Naan, near the city of Rehovot, Israel, Moshe Rute took a hefty puff from his pot pipe, with the blessing of the government. His hands stopped convulsing, and he drifted into the story of how cannabis had done for him something that no person could—help him forget. A “Holocaust child,” he said the memories of his past—of hiding in a chicken barn in his native France to escape the Nazis, and the later death of his wife—haunted him.

For years Rute, 81, had been silenced by his psychological baggage and unsuccessful at sleep. But in 1988, when he arrived at the Hadarim nursing home in central Israel, where he was prescribed medical cannabis for a cocktail of ailments, he finally “opened up,” he said. “When I was a child my imagination saved me. I was alone, talking to the chickens. What saved me here was the cannabis.”

After the hourlong smoking session on the porch, we retreated into a spartan, ground-floor room, where the creative by-products of his drug use were on display. They included sketches of chickens and of his late wife, as well as black-and-white Pollock-style splatter paintings. He’d already completed three books.

In the United States, marijuana has been approved for medical use in 18 states and the District of Columbia and for recreational use in two states, but with federal statutes still criminalizing the drug, the future of the substance remains unclear. In Israel, meanwhile, the $40-million-per-year medical-marijuana industry has flourished.

Illegal for recreational use, today medical cannabis is prescribed to some 11,000 Israeli patients, up from 1,800 in 2009, according to the Israeli Health Ministry. It is used to treat an extensive list of illnesses including cancer, Parkinson’s, Tourette syndrome, and PTSD. While government attempts to limit use have sparked a heated debate, legislation is still relatively liberal. In May, Health Minister Yael German announced that an additional 11 doctors would be certified to prescribe cannabis—bumping up the number to 19—by the end of the year.

While rabbinic support for medical cannabis has long existed in Israel, government regulation is relatively new. The issue was raised for the first time in 2009, in the wake of a documentary titled Prescribed Grass, directed by Zach Klein. “I made the movie because my mother was suffering from cancer, and she was afraid to take hashish, afraid about the long-term effects,” Klein told me. “It was time that Israel woke up.”

He said the term marijuana has proven a detrimental moniker, conjuring up connotations of street crime, whereas the word cannabis has historical precedent in the Bible. He added that an accurate, shared vocabulary is needed for both politicians and patients to feel comfortable discussing the drug.


Rivke Holop, 85, prefers the yogurt preparation. Photo: Dan Balilty

With chief nurse Inbal Sikorin, Klein built the Hadarim nursing home. Bustling trays of cannabis—in liquid, food, and pill form—for the lunchtime crowd, Klein and Sikorin agreed that the “munchies effect” is one of the drug’s most beneficial perks. Many patients here suffer from chronic pain from chemotherapy or other treatments and are at serious risk of having dangerously low body weight. Thus, Sikorin said, allowing the use of medical cannabis is an issue of medical ethics.

Sikorin remembered that in the days before marijuana was common treatment at Hadarim, “We had learned to prolong life, and we did that very well, but it wasn’t clear to me what we could offer them in terms of quality of life. We would always give them medicines that weren’t completely perfect. So, we would add other medicines, and they had their own side effects. This was, also, not at all cost-effective.” Of the 16 patients receiving medical cannabis, there are a few special cases, like half-paralyzed and wheelchair-ridden Rom (he requested his last name be omitted for privacy), 90 years old. He can’t speak or stay awake for more than a few seconds, let alone swallow a pill, and thus consumes the marijuana via vaporizer.

As Sikorin and I watched him inhale, we saw his eyes immediately light up. He yawned, to the delight of Sikorin. His wife Rachel prodded him to finish his third cannabis balloon, so that he could join her for lunch.

The pot doled out here comes from an organic greenhouse in the Galilee called Tikkun Olam, referring to the Jewish principle of healing the world. The largest of eight other government-sponsored cultivation digs, the cannabis farm supplies about 2,000 patients across Israel and goes by the motto derived from Psalm 118, “This is God’s doing; it’s marvelous in our eyes.”

At Tikkun Olam, crossbred products include a strain that reportedly inspires the most powerful high in the world and another that provides none at all. The latter is achieved by isolating the tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, responsible for the “high,” and upping the concentration of the non-psychoactive cannabidiol, or CBD, which has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. In the 1960s Israel was a world leader in research on marijuana and its components under the so-called grandfather of cannabis, professor Raphael Mechoulam, at Hebrew University, who first isolated the THC component.

Dr. Ruth Gallily, an immunology professor at Hebrew University who has researched CBD for 15 years, said the drug offers still unknown potential in treating neurological and physical illnesses. “Where the THC binds to the brain receptor, giving the high feeling, the CBD doesn’t bind, making it effective without toxicity,” she said. “It can be used for liver inflammation, rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, and even diabetes type 1, which afflicts millions of people.” But the fact that it is a plant, she said, and is therefore harder to control and impossible to patent, makes it an unattractive investment for medical companies.


Another Haradim resident receives cannabis injections directly into his stomach. Photo: Getty Images

Dr. Reuven Or is the director of the bone-marrow transplant department at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, where he said medical cannabis was first used. He said that holes in the bureaucratic system and demands on already overburdened doctors to handle prescription requests are compensated by “independent organizations and a lot of grace.” He maintains, though, that there’s still a long way to go in fully understanding the drug.

At the distribution center at Hadassah Hospital, patients, including young children, attend group classes on how to take the drug. Every patient has a prescription and pays a monthly fee of 370 shekels (about 100 dollars). To register at distribution centers like this, patients must present a green card signed by their doctor, specifying their monthly cannabis allowance. Patients can also petition to have the monthly cost covered by their health-care providers.

Daniel Davis, a 34-year-old yoga practitioner who has salivary gland cancer, attends those classes as both a student and a teacher. A self-declared “former pothead,” he said he has a “calling” to demystify the drug for nervous first-timers. On the other hand, he said, “The kind of sneaky part in me is telling me that I beat the system. Not only am I getting marijuana from the government, they’re also subsidizing three quarters of the cost.”

Davis said marijuana was “a savior” in helping him gain back the 20 pounds lost during intensive bouts of chemotherapy. He maintains a vegan diet and does yoga and meditation when he can muster the strength, though his deteriorating condition has his doctors pessimistic. But even in facing this difficult truth, Davis said, marijuana helped. “It enables me to let go,” he said, “to not fight so much, not to struggle with the current reality.”


Source:  Tablet

Marijuana Could Be the Answer to Curing Alzheimer’s Disease, Study Shows

The clinical failure rate of Alzheimer’s drugs is exceptionally high, yet early data from researchers at the Salk Institute suggests marijuana could provide a cure.

The statistics associated with Alzheimer’s disease are downright depressing.

The disease, which typically affects the elderly and is characterized by a progressive decline in cognitive function, currently afflicts 5.4 million Americans, and the Alzheimer’s Association expects the direct and indirect costs of treatment to reach $236 billion in 2016. Some one in nine people over the age of 65 has Alzheimer’s disease, and within the U.S., it’s the sixth-leading cause of death.

These statistics are even scarier when you consider how much researchers still have to learn about this disease. Though there are medications designed to slow the progression of the various stages of the disease, a cure for Alzheimer’s disease remains elusive for the time being.

A number of big-name drug developers have taken aim at Alzheimer’s, only to have their studies end in disappointment. Drug giants Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer teamed up to develop bapineuzumab, while Eli Lilly developed solanezumab. Both drugs missed their primary endpoints in phase 3 studies. It’s difficult to get medicine through the blood-brain barrier, and the clinical success rate of Alzheimer’s drugs is particularly low.

Biogen (NASDAQ:BIIB) is hoping to change that with experimental therapy aducanumab, which, in early-stage studies, produced reduced cognitive decline and substantial beta-amyloid clearance. (Beta-amyloid is a protein found around the brain that, when clumped together, can form plagues that block neurons and lead to a progressive decline in cognitive function.) Unfortunately, early-stage success stories often miss the mark in later-stage studies, so the jury is still out on aducanumab.

Is cannabis the answer to Alzheimer’s disease?

However, researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies believe the cure to Alzheimer’s disease might come from a readily available substance: marijuana.

In order to test their theory, researchers at the Salk Institute modified nerve cells to produce high levels of beta-amyloid. Researchers then noted that these higher levels of beta-amyloid production led to the expression of pro-inflammatory proteins and eventually nerve cell death. The ongoing death of these nerve cells is what leads to the progressive cognitive decline witnessed in Alzheimer’s patients. This itself was an intriguing finding, as it was long believed that an immune-like response, not the proteins themselves, led to nerve cell death.

Now here’s where things get interesting. As the researchers noted in their findings, nerve cells in the brain contain receptors that are activated by lipid molecules known as endocannabinoids, which are naturally produced by nerve cells. These endocannabinoids are believed to help nerve cells with their ability to send signals relating to appetite, pain sensation, and memory. Marijuana contains the chemical tetrahydrocannabinol (more commonly known as THC), which is similar to endocannabinoids and can activate those same nerve cell receptors. In other words, the researchers at Salk Institute hypothesized that cannabis could block the receptors that lead to the release of pro-inflammatory proteins and prevent nerve cell death.

For their test, the researchers applied THC to nerve cells producing high levels of beta-amyloid. The findings showed that beta-amyloid production was reduced, eliminating the pro-inflammatory protein response and sparing the nerve cells from death.

Understandably, this study would need to be tested in a well-controlled clinical setting to have validity, but it nonetheless offers significant hope that cannabis could hold the key to curing Alzheimer’s disease.

Before you get too excited…

While the findings from Salk Institute’s researchers are eye-opening and exciting from a medical standpoint — and they mark another victory for cannabis enthusiasts who’d like to see medical marijuana legalized throughout the country — the reality is that cannabis’ path to approval as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease could be long and difficult.

If you recall, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration recently issued a ruling that will keep cannabis designated as a schedule 1 (i.e., illicit) substance. Although the DEA appears to be relaxing its stance on marijuana for the purposes of medical research, there are no guarantees that access to cannabis for medical research will improve anytime soon. This also complicates matters for residents living in the 25 states that haven’t legalized medical marijuana.

Furthermore, the Food and Drug Administration’s recommendation on cannabis seemed to coincide with that of the DEA. The stance of both the DEA and FDA is that much is still unknown about the chemical composition of marijuana and that marijuana has no recognized medical benefits. There are also unknowns surrounding its safety that could make it difficult for any marijuana or cannabinoid-based drug to make it past the FDA.

Beyond these restrictions on marijuana’s medical potential, the marijuana business in general faces some inherent disadvantages. Because marijuana remains an illicit substance at the federal level, marijuana businesses struggle to obtain basic financial services ranging from a checking account to lines of credit. Just 3% of the nation’s 6,700 banks are currently working with companies in the cannabis industry.

Marijuana businesses also face disadvantages come tax time. U.S. tax code 280E prohibits businesses that deal with federally illegal substances from taking normal business deductions, leaving them to pay tax on their gross profits instead of net profits.

Ultimately, marijuana has shown flashes of medicinal potential across a number of disease types, including Alzheimer’s disease. However, without controlled and FDA-approved clinical studies, the evidence needed to give marijuana recognized medical benefits just isn’t there. Unfortunately, both Alzheimer’s patients and investors looking to take advantage of marijuana’s potentially expansive growth prospects will have to watch and wait from the sidelines.

Source: The Motley Fool

Low Dose Vaporized Cannabis Significantly Improves Neuropathic Pain

Barth Wilsey, MD, Thomas D. Marcotte, PhD, Associate Professor, Reena Deutsch, PhD, Statistician, Ben Gouaux,Research Associate, Staci Sakai, Research Associate, and Haylee Donaghe, Research Associate


We conducted a double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study evaluating the analgesic efficacy of vaporized cannabis in subjects, the majority of whom were experiencing neuropathic pain despite traditional treatment. Thirty-nine patients with central and peripheral neuropathic pain underwent a standardized procedure for inhaling either medium dose (3.53%), low dose (1.29%), or placebo cannabis with the primary outcome being VAS pain intensity. Psychoactive side-effects, and neuropsychological performance were also evaluated. Mixed effects regression models demonstrated an analgesic response to vaporized cannabis. There was no significant difference between the two active dose groups’ results (p>0.7). The number needed to treat (NNT) to achieve 30% pain reduction was 3.2 for placebo vs. low dose, 2.9 for placebo vs. medium dose, and 25 for medium vs. low dose. As these NNT are comparable to those of traditional neuropathic pain medications, cannabis has analgesic efficacy with the low dose being, for all intents and purposes, as effective a pain reliever as the medium dose. Psychoactive effects were minimal and well-tolerated, and neuropsychological effects were of limited duration and readily reversible within 1–2 hours. Vaporized cannabis, even at low doses, may present an effective option for patients with treatment-resistant neuropathic pain.