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media :: news - Tue, 06 Jan 2015 04:20:21 PST
MEDICAL MARIJUANA A CHALLENGE FOR LEGAL POT STATES
SEATTLE ( AP ) - A year into the nation's experiment with legal, taxed marijuana sales, Washington and Colorado find themselves wrestling not with the federal interference many feared, but with competition from medical marijuana or even outright black market sales.
In Washington, the black market has exploded since voters legalized marijuana in 2012, with scores of legally dubious medical dispensaries opening and some pot delivery services brazenly advertising that they sell outside the legal system.
Licensed shops say taxes are so onerous that they can't compete.
Colorado, which launched legal pot sales last New Year's Day, is facing a lawsuit from Nebraska and Oklahoma alleging that they're being overrun with pot from the state.
And the number of patients on Colorado's medical marijuana registry went up, not down, since 2012, meaning more marijuana users there can avoid paying the higher taxes that recreational pot carries.
Officials in both states say they must do more to drive customers into the recreational stores. They're looking at reining in their medical systems and fixing the big tax differential between medical and recreational weed without harming patients.
And in some cases, they are considering cracking down on the proliferating black market.
"How can you have two parallel systems, one that's regulated, paying taxes, playing by the rules, and the other that's not doing any of those things?" said Rick Garza of the Washington Liquor Control Board, which oversees recreational pot.
The difficulty of reconciling medical marijuana with taxed recreational pot offers a cautionary tale for states that might join Washington and Colorado in regulating the adult use of the drug.
While legalization campaigns have focused on the myriad ills of prohibition, including racial discrepancies in who gets busted for weed, the promise of additional tax revenues in tight budget times was in no small part of the appeal.
Weed sales have so far brought in some revenue, though less than officials might have hoped.
Colorado brought in more than $60 million in taxes, licenses and fees for recreational and medical marijuana combined through October of this year, and more than half of pot sold was of the lesser-taxed medical variety.
In Washington, where supply problems and slow licensing hampered the industry after sales began in July, the state collected about $15 million in taxes this year.
The latest states to legalize marijuana -- Oregon and Alaska -- have different concerns, but officials there are nevertheless paying attention to Colorado and Washington as they work on rules for their own industry.
Alaska doesn't have commercial medical dispensaries, so licensed stores there won't face direct competition. And in Oregon, taxes on recreational pot are set at just $35 an ounce, which officials hope will minimize competition from the medical side.
In Seattle, however, six licensed recreational stores face competition from medical pot shops that are believed to number in the hundreds.
"Am I afraid about medical marijuana dispensaries taking my business? They have all the business. They are the industry," said James Lathrop, the owner of Seattle's first licensed pot shop, Cannabis City.
He said the dominance of medical marijuana and the black market is obvious in his clientele: It's mostly tourists and professionals who use pot occasionally and don't mind spending a little extra at a legal store.
Regular pot users have stuck with their old dealers or continue masquerading as patients, he said.
Reining in medical marijuana will be a top priority when the legislative session begins in Olympia next month.
The question, lawmakers say, is how to direct people into the regulated system -- maximizing state revenues -- without hurting legitimately sick people who use marijuana.
Ideas under discussion include reducing pot taxes to make recreational stores more competitive and eliminating medical dispensaries, which have been largely tolerated by law enforcement even though they aren't allowed under state law.
The state could lift its cap on the number of recreational stores and license dispensaries to sell pot for any purpose.
Seattle officials have signaled that they intend to start busting delivery services that flout the law and recently sent letters to 330 marijuana businesses warning them that they'll eventually need to obtain state licenses or be shut down.
Tacoma has also announced plans to close dozens of unregulated pot shops.
Officials have less leeway to alter the medical marijuana system in Colorado, where it was enshrined in the state constitution in 2000. But lawmakers are nevertheless set to review how it is regulated next year because the state's 2010 scheme is expiring.
Taxes will be a large part of the discussion. Medical pot is now subject only to the statewide 2.9 percent sales tax, one-tenth of the taxes levied on recreational pot.
Colorado's medical marijuana registry has grown from 107,000 people in late 2012 to about 116,000 this year, though marijuana patient advocates dispute that the growth is tax-driven.
State health officials, who oversee the registry, are planning to better scrutinize doctors who recommend large numbers of medical pot patients or who recommend more than the baseline of six plants for a patient.
The challenge for lawmakers will be countering perceptions that they're trying to squeeze sick people for cash.
"I don't want to wind up cracking down on people abusing the system in a way that negatively impacts the patients and the people who help them," said Teri Robnett, founder of the Cannabis Patients Alliance.
Full Report @ https://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v15/n013/a07.html
COLORADO TO DEBATE ROLE OF MEDICAL POT IN 2015
DENVER - Just as Colorado is settling in for a second year of recreational marijuana sales, state lawmakers have some big decisions to make about its older cousin, the medical marijuana market.
The state's medical-pot regulations are due for automatic renewal in 2015. That means that all the rules about growing, processing and selling medical pot are open to change.
Colorado's 2010 marijuana regulations were the template for the rules that now govern the recreational market. But there are some important distinctions between the two, and Colorado's Legislature will have to consider whether the medical system needs some changes.
The biggest fight will likely be how to squeeze more taxes out of medical pot.
Lawmakers from both parties, along with large for-profit marijuana producers, complain that wide holes in Colorado's medical marijuana framework have led to a still-thriving unregulated market for pot.
Some caregivers grow large quantities of untaxed pot, with none of the seed-to-sale tracking required of commercial growing operations.
Officials predicted that Colorado's medical patients would stop paying annual fees for so-called "red cards" and join the recreational market once dispensaries opened to all over 21.
That hasn't happened, and taxes are the likely culprit. Medical pot is subject only to Colorado's statewide sales tax, 2.9 percent. That's about one-tenth of the taxes levied on recreational pot.
The tax differential has helped create a patient base that has grown, not shrunk.
Colorado's medical marijuana registry has grown from 107,000 people in late 2012 to about 116,000 this year. Pot shops have sold a greater volume of medical marijuana than recreational marijuana products.
"There's enough of a price differential between recreational and medical to offer people an advantage" to pay $15 a year to stay on the medical registry, said Dr. Larry Wolk, Colorado's chief medical officer.
But lawmakers can't raise medical pot taxes without going back to voters. Instead, they may try to winnow the medical patient pool and drive patients to the recreational market.
One proposal would require more scrutiny of the doctors who recommend marijuana for the most common ailment on the registry - severe pain.
Another likely bill would concern caregivers. The state Department of Regulated Agencies, which reviews expiring regulations, suggested in October that lawmakers require caregivers to register where they're growing pot.
The agency found that a majority of caregivers now haven't registered with the Health Department, many of them "because they do not want the government to know of their cultivation."
But Colorado lawmakers have stumbled for years on efforts to crack down on unregulated marijuana caregivers.
The state constitution guarantees people with certain medical conditions to name a caregiver of their choice, with no mention of taxes.
Patient advocates say to expect push-back on attempts to drive medical patients to the recreational market. "This is nothing more than a money grab," said Jason Warf, executive director of the Southern Colorado Cannabis Council.
CANNABIS AND CANCER
Dr. MMJ offers an opinion on treatment claims and government research.
Therapeutic treatments are emerging and gaining acceptance across the globe, but with no FDA approval or large scale double blind studies done in the USA to fall back on where does one go for reliable information about these treatments? There is respected science about these issues coming from Israel, England and other parts of the world but very little from here at home.
This is because the United States government contends that cannabis is a substance with no accepted medical use. This assertion is made even though since 1974 the government has been in possession of scientific evidence that Cannabis can shrink cancerous tumors.
Below is an excerpt from a patent issued by the same U.S. Government to GW Pharma, an England-based pharmaceutical giant, for phytocannabinoids in the treatment of cancer. Phytocannabinoids are plant based cannabinoids as opposed to synthetic cannabinoids like marinol or the endogenous cannabinoids found naturally in all mammals.
Phytocannabinoids in the treatment of cancer
US 20130059018 A1
This invention relates to the use of phytocannabinoids, either in an isolated form or in the form of a botanical drug substance ( BDS ) in the treatment of cancer. Preferably the cancer to be treated is cancer of the prostate, cancer of the breast or cancer of the colon.
Cancer is a class of diseases which occurs because cells become immortalized; they fail to heed customary signals to turn off growth which is a normal function of remodelling in the body that requires cells to die on cue. Programmed cell death can become defective and when this happens malignant transformation can take place. The immortalized cells grow beyond their normal limits and invade adjacent tissues. The malignant cells may also metastasize and spread to other locations in the body via the bloodstream or lymphatic system. Cancer cells often form a mass known as a tumor.
Cannabinoids have been shown to play a fundamental role in the control of cell survival/cell death. It has been reported that cannabinoids may induce proliferation, growth arrest, or apoptosis in a number of cells, including neurons, lymphocytes, and various transformed neural and non-neural cells, and that cannabinoids induce apoptosis of glioma cells in culture and regression of malignant gliomas in vivo.
There is a long history of anecdotal evidence that points to cannabis having efficacy treating cancer. Programmed cell death this is the key, the author of this patent mentions it three times in less than a page and the application continues for hundreds of pages more and it is mentioned hundreds of times. So this pre-programmed cell death that cancer cells lack, can Phytocannabinoids fix it? How does it shrink tumors and cure cancer?
Cannabis Oil, often referred to as Rick Simpsons oil, is a highly potent concentration of the active parts of the cannabis plant, it is extremely intoxicating and taken at very high doses, like a gram of oil a day. Cannabis oil has been reported to reprogram cancer cells to die as described above. Those that have had success treating their cancer in this manner report shrinking tumors, and clear scans and sometimes continue on cannabis at much lower doses for maintenance.
The difficult parts about this process are developing a high enough tolerance to THC in the patient for them to reach and maintain a high enough dose to attain a therapeutic benefit and early detection.
Another challenge in using cannabis to treat cancer is the widespread use of chemotherapy and radiation in cancer patients. These treatments are extremely toxic and have had limited success in curing cancer. They shrink tumors but also kill undamaged cells causing nausea and loss of appetite. Cannabis focuses its energy on only the damaged cells and leaves the healthy ones alone.
Cannabis can be useful to a patient undergoing chemo or radiation treatment but the benefits are mostly supportive. Cannabis stimulates appetite and therefore can minimize loss of appetite and the resulting weight loss many cancer patients endure. Cannabis is a great pain reliever and can also relieve the discomfort caused by these treatments.
This leaves a cancer patient in a position of great uncertainty at a time when their life has already been disrupted greatly. In the end it is a difficult decision as to how to treat one's cancer. These people deserve the best care and scientific information available and the freedom of choice to choose the best path for themselves.
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