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

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

Medical Marijuana is No Laughing Matter for Those Who Need it

ARLINGTON — When we hear about states legalizing medical marijuana, it’s easy to picture situations like this. But for folks like Eric Espinoza, who suffers from spastic cerebral palsy, the need for daily medication is no laughing matter.

“You take 1 to3 a day of various things,” Espinoza told NewsFix.  “Muscle relaxers, painkillers, anti-inflammatories.”

He’s even spent time taking more extreme medications.

“It’s a year of my life I’ll never get back because there is no memory on Oxycontin.”

Espinoza says his search for a better option led him to visit Colorado, where he – and others like him – have experimented with medical cannabis.

“They’re not looking for a good time,” said Espinoza.  “They’re looking for 48-72 hours of relief. I was enjoying my environment and my surroundings, I was not thinking about my condition. And it’s not something that I worry about ‘if I accidentally take another pill, am I gonna die?’

“It’s difficult in Texas to talk about medical cannabis with your doctor. ‘Well, I can’t give that to you because you would just be at a Whataburger drive-thru with the munchies at midnight,'” he said mocking how a doctor might respond.

Hey, the doctors couldn’t prescribe marijuana anyway, since it’s against the law here. But with more than half the country now giving the stuff a green light, who knows what will happen in the future.

In the meantime, Eric says “I’m a patient, not a criminal.”


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

So Far, So Good: What We Know About Marijuana Legalization in Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Oregon and Washington, D.C.

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 D.C. law).

The report’s key findings include:

  • Marijuana arrests have plummeted in the states that legalized marijuana, although disproportionate enforcement of marijuana crimes against black people continues.
  • Statewide surveys of youth in Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Oregon found that there were no significant increases in youth marijuana use post-legalization.
  • Tax revenues in Colorado, Washington, and Oregon have all exceeded initial revenue estimates, totaling $552 million.
  • Legalization has not led to more dangerous road conditions, as traffic fatality rates have remained stable in Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Oregon.

Read the report here.


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

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

The American Legion Wants Marijuana Reclassified to Help Treat PTSD

These aren’t your filthy hippies and stoners looking for an excuse to toke (not that there’s anything wrong with that!): The American Legion is calling for the federal government to reclassify marijuana to acknowledge its potential benefits as a medical treatment.

As Jacob Sullum previously noted, The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is stubbornly refusing to change the federal classification of marijuana as a drug that has no “accepted medical use” until science proves them wrong. Fortunately they’re easing off on the Catch-22 situation that has resulted in this classification making it extremely difficult for researchers to perform the very scientific testing that could determine marijuana’s medical value.

One of the potential medical values of medical marijuana is as a treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). And in what must certainly at this point make it abundantly clear where the majority of Americans stand on marijuana use, the American Legion has just voted at its national convention to support a resolution calling on Congress to legislatively reclassify cannabis and place it in a category that recognizes its potential value.

The resolution, readable here at, highlights a number of important statistics that have helped push the Legion to support it. Across two years, the Department of Veterans Affairs have diagnosed thousands of Afghanistan and Iraq War veterans as having PTSD or Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI). More than 1,300 veterans in fiscal year 2009 were hospitalized for brain injuries. And the resolution notes that systems in the brain can respond to 60 different chemicals found in cannabis.Therefore, the American Legion wants the DEA to license privately-funded medical marijuana and research facilities and to reclassify marijuana away from being lumped in with drugs like cocaine and meth.

Tom Angell over at notes that Sue Sisley, a psychiatrist and medical marijuana researcher, has been lobbying the Legion and their local posts to get their support. Sisley is notable for actually getting federal permission to research marijuana as a treatment for PTSD and then getting dumped by the University of Arizona (where she worked) in 2014.

What does this mean for a legislative effort to give VA docs permission to actually talk about medical marijuana as a treatment for veterans? As I noted in May, there was an amendment to a military appropriations bill that would end a gag order that prohibits VA doctors from recommending or even discussing medical marijuana treatment with patients, even in states where it had been legalized. The amendment would end the gag order, but wouldn’t permit the VA to prescribe or pay for marijuana.

The amendment passed the House and Senate, but as Angell notes, after the two sides went through the reconciliation to hammer out any difference, the language completely disappeared. It is no longer part of the Veterans Administration package.

Legislators return to session today to hammer out last-minute spending bills to keep the government running (and the Democrats and Republicans are currently in disagreement on how long to extend spending authorizations for the incoming administration). Technically the amendment’s language could be restored.



States Voting on Marijuana This Year

With Election Day just around the corner, here’s an update on the status of marijuana legalization efforts around the country.


As many as 12 states could be voting on marijuana-related ballot initiatives this year — six to legalize recreational marijuana, five for medical use, and one that would amend an existing medical marijuana system. As it stands today, 25 states have legal marijuana systems, including four (Colorado, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska) plus D.C. that have already legalized recreational marijuana.

Here are the states that could vote on marijuana-related ballots in 2016.


“Voters in one out of five states will be deciding on marijuana policy this November,” Paul Armentano, the deputy director of NORML, told ATTN:. “This reality is indicative of the unprecedented level of public support that now exists for regulating cannabis, but it is also representative of the failure of elected officials to move forward on behalf of their constituents to support common sense marijuana law reforms.”

1. Arizona (recreational)


The Arizona Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act would allow adults 21 and older to purchase, use, and grow a limited amount of marijuana.

2. Arkansas (medical)


The 2016 Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act would create a medical marijuana system that would allow patients with qualifying medical conditions to obtain marijuana at select dispensing facilities.

3. California (recreational)


The Adult Use of Marijuana Act would establish a recreational marijuana system in California that would allow adults 21 and older to purchase cannabis at for retail sale. A 2016 poll from Probolsky Research found that 60 percent of California voters support the initiative.

4. Florida (medical)


The Use of Marijuana For Debilitating Conditions amendment would allow patients with qualifying medical conditions to purchase and possess cannabis. A statewide poll found that 68 percent of Florida voters back the amendment, which requires 60 percent of the vote to pass.

5. Maine (recreational)


The Marijuana Legalization Act would allow adults 21 and older to posses, cultivate, and consume marijuana for personal use. It would also create a legal retail system for recreational marijuana sales.

6. Massachusetts (recreational)


The Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act would allow adults 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and grow up to six plants for personal use.

7. Michigan (recreational)


The Michigan Marihuana Legalization, Regulation and Economic Stimulus Act would allow adults 21 and older to cultivate, possess, and consume a limited amount of marijuana. It would also establish a system for the commercial production and retail sale of cannabis. A ruling by Michigan’s Secretary of State invalidated a number of signatures for the petition, leading campaigners to request a review from the appellate courts. As such, this proposal is not officially on the ballot.

8. Missouri (medical)


The New Approach Missouri would allow patients with qualifying medical conditions to obtain and use cannabis. It would establish a statewide system for producing and selling medical marijuana and includes a four percent retail tax. All excess revenue (i.e. anything more than the cost of regulating the program) will go toward services that benefit Missouri veterans.

9. Montana (medical)


The Montana Medical Marijuana Initiative would eliminate certain regulations on the state’s current medical marijuana program, including lifting restrictions on the number of patients that each licensed provider is permitted. (The program currently allows only three patients per provider.)

10. Nevada (recreational)


The Nevada Marijuana Legalization Initiative would allow adults 21 and older to grow, own, and use marijuana for recreational purposes. It would also establish a system that would regulate marijuana sales “similar to other businesses,” according to the text of the initiative.

11. North Dakota (medical)


The North Dakota Compassionate Care Act 2016 would allow patients with qualifying medical conditions to possess and obtain marijuana. It would also establish a stateside medical marijuana system.

12. Oklahoma (medical)


State Question 788 (the initiative does not have an official name yet) would establish a statewide licensing system for medical marijuana. Patients with qualifying medical conditions would be allowed to possess and cultivate marijuana, and caregivers would be allowed to grow and dispense marijuana.


Source:  attn: 

Legal Marijuana Is Inevitable – Here’s Why You Should Vote In Favor

Legal Marijuana is going to happen, the only question is when. The most recent polls show 54% of Americans favor legalizing marijuana. Here’s why you should get behind it, too.

Marijuana is packed with medicinal uses we can’t legally exploit here in the United States, but why? Are we still stuck in the Reefer Madness of the 30s? Or is the idea of a pain-curing plant you can grow in your backyard too great a threat to the powerful pharmaceutical industry?

Marijuana is not a gateway drug. The science is overwhelming. While some users do go on to use other drugs, most do not. No significant connection can be made.

The Medicine and the Science

The human body has a vast system of of cannabinoid receptors embedded in cell membranes. When stimulated, cannabinoid receptors respond with a variety of physiologic processes.

Cannabinoid receptors are stimulated by -wait for it- cannabinoids. The two cannabinoids that have been studied most are delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and cannabidiol (CBD).

The medicinal properties of marijuana are well documented. The earliest pharmacopeia documentation shows that marijuana was cultivated for medical purposes in 2,700 B.C. to treat rheumatic pain, intestinal constipation, disorders of the female reproductive system, malaria, and other health issues.

Today, cannabinoids are under study for treatment of:

And many more serious health concerns. But legal issues continue to impede the progress of scientific study, and much of the science is contradictory.

Cannabinoids and Mental Health

In addition to the physical health benefits, cannabinoids in the form of CBD oil have been used to treat mental disorders like schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, and the debilitating effects of chronic stress…without the psychoactive side effects of THC.

Nora D. Volkow, Director, National Institute on Drug Abuse, is cautiously optimistic on the subject of CBD. In a presentation to the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, she said, “Rigorous clinical studies are still needed to evaluate the clinical potential of CBD for specific conditions. However, pre-clinical research (including both cell culture and animal models) has shown CBD to have a range of effects that may be therapeutically useful, including anti-seizure, antioxidant, neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-tumor, anti-psychotic, and anti-anxiety properties.”


Marijuana is a hardy plant that can grow almost anywhere. While it naturally adapts well to outdoor conditions, most commercial crops are grown and CBD oil is manufactured in greenhouses for faster maturation, using light deprivation techniques in a carefully controlled environment.

Small crops for personal use can be grown in a very small area. Laws vary; in the most lenient states like Colorado (for example), anyone 21 and older can grow up to six marijuana plants, with three at a time in the flowering stage. Even though it’s easy to grow, most people opt for commercially grown product, making legal marijuana a $1 billion industry.

The Opposition

With all this evidence about the positive aspects of legalized weed, low price, popularity, ease of access and use, you might be wondering who is against it. To answer that, it’s a good idea to follow the money. If chronic conditions can be managed with a plant you can grow in your yard, who loses profits? Pain management is roughly a $300 billion dollar industry that affects 100 million Americans. It’s not hard to imagine why the powerful pharmaceutical industry would put up big money to oppose a free treatment.

The Opioid Crisis

In 2014, 28,647 people died from opioid abuse. That’s 78 people every day. Tens of thousands of Americans are addicting and killing themselves with prescription drugs. In the same year, the number of marijuana deaths was…zero.

The opioid epidemic is significant in this discussion because the deadly addiction usually starts with a prescription for pain management. Marijuana is a viable and far less destructive option for people in chronic pain.

The Changing Tide

For the first time in history, the tide has begun to change. Legal Marijuana legislation is proposed in many states and voters are speaking up. Colorado collected $88 million in marijuana taxes last year, and used it to fund schools.

The reality is that people smoke pot – 49% say they’ve tried it. It’s easy to grow, easy to find, and relatively cheap. Decriminalization would give science the opportunity to study its medicinal properties and growers the leeway to produce marijuana’s relative, hemp, a fast-growing fibrous plant with tons of uses.

Keeping outdated marijuana laws on the books is simply insane. Decriminalization is inevitable. The only question is how much longer we’re going to let money-grubbing lobbyists spread false information – and stand in the way of higher quality of life for people with dozens of conditions that might be better managed with cannabinoids.


Source:  Sherry Gray, Huffington Post