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Marijuana Alcohol

A recent Australian study found stimulant use is associated with excessive drinking, while cannabis use is not. While not a surprise for anyone that knows anything about partying, this study creates an important foothold for legalization efforts, which need to prove that legal recreational marijuana won’t negatively impact public health. What’s more, legal weed has the power to reduce the damage done by an existing public health problem: alcohol.

The online study took 1,994 Australians ages 18-30 that had drunk alcohol in the past year, and divided them into three groups: past-year ecstasy use, past-year cannabis use (but not ecstasy), and an alcohol-only group. They then asked if the participants drank five or more drinks (the definition of binge drinking) last Saturday night, and whether or not they took either a stimulant (ecstasy, cocaine, speed, or meth) or cannabis the same night.

They found that poly drug users of ecstasy and stimulants drank more than those who took ecstasy. Those who took ecstasy and smoked pot drank less, while marijuana-only users drank even less. The group that was least likely to binge drink was the alcohol-only group, curiously enough.

This proves the association between stimulants and binge drinking, but falls short on proving marijuana makes drinkers drink less. It shouldn’t be hard to design a study that focuses on exactly that, without a complicated pooling of poly drug users. A look into the binge drinking on a college campus should do the trick. Researchers will likely find that drinkers, who get high before or during their night partying, drink less compared to their peers in the same crowd.

The liquor and beer industries don’t need these studies to know that legal weed will hurt their sales; it’s just as obvious to them as it is to us. It’s the legislators that still think marijuana is dangerous that need to be shown that not only is it mostly harmless, it reduces the damage done by a legally existing public health issue.

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Brain and Marijuana Use

If you were to peek inside the brain of someone who regularly smoked marijuana, you would find that it didn’t look quite like the brain of someone who didn’t smoke.

First, you might notice that a critical part of the brain that helps us process emotions and make decisions appeared smaller than in the brains of the nonsmoker.

But you would see something else, too: that the connections passing through that region of the brain were stronger and thicker.

Thankfully, you don’t have to go excavating brains anytime soon. A group of researchers has done the hard work for you. In a recent study, scientists used a combination of MRI-based brain scans to get one of the first comprehensive, three-dimensional pictures of the brains of adults who have smoked weed at least four times a week, often multiple times a day, for years.

Compared with people who don’t use, long-term, heavy marijuana smokers tend to have a smaller orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), a brain region critical for processing emotions and making decisions. But they also have more cross-brain connections that scientists think smokers may develop as a means of compensating for the difference in size.

Unlike previous research, which has looked mainly at short-term smokers or simply at young or older users, this study is one of the first to look at pot’s long-term effects on men and women between 20 and 40 years old who had smoked almost daily for between two and 30 years. The researchers looked at the brains of 110 people — 62 who didn’t smoke and 48 who did — using three different types of MRI scans.

In the smokers, these increased brain connections appeared to help them counteract the behavioral problems commonly associated with weed use, like trouble maintaining relationships or staying motivated enough to find or keep a job.

But while new connections blossom throughout the brain during the first few years of regular use, they eventually recede. Researchers saw a significant drop-off in new brain links after about six years of regular use.

So does smoking weed every day for a decade shrink your brain and make you dumber? Not quite.

The regular smokers did have lower IQ scores overall when compared to the people who didn’t smoke, but there’s no way to know yet whether or how that might be linked to smaller orbitofrontal cortices or marijuana use in general.

“We cannot honestly say that that is what’s happening here,” says Francesca Filbey, the lead study author and professor of neuropsychology at the Center for Brain Health at the University of Texas at Dallas.

For starters, this study — the first ever to look at the long-term effects of weed smoking in heavy adult users across a wide age range — did not show that pot smoking caused certain regions of the brain to shrink. In fact, other studies suggest that having smaller orbitofrontal cortices in the first place could make someone more likely to start smoking. One recent study, for example, found that children as young as 12 who had smaller orbitofrontal cortices were significantly more likely to start smoking weed by the time they hit their 16th birthday.

In other words, it could be that people with naturally smaller versions of this region may simply be more likely to smoke, and the weed might not be shrinking that section of the brain at all. There is also no clear evidence linking the brain differences the researchers found with any particular behaviors.

In addition, all three things the researchers studied — drug-use habits, brain development, and IQ scores — are shaped by a variety of factors. Both the environment we grow up in and the specific combination of genes we inherit from our parents affect behavior and intelligence.

The age when someone starts smoking pot can also be a key clue to how the brain will be different from a non-user’s brain and how often someone smokes thereafter. Picking up the habit while young seems to be especially influential.

“The earlier the use — especially during adolescence, when the brain is developing — the greater the effects,” Filbey says. Of her study participants, those who started using the earliest had the most pronounced differences in brain development in terms of the size of the orbitofrontal cortex and the connections between parts of that region of the brain.

Other studies in people have shown similar links between weed and smaller prefrontal cortex regions, but only research in animals has suggested that marijuana may kill brain cells or reduce their size.

Scientists still don’t know whether giving up weed can reverse its changes to the brain (if the noted differences are indeed caused by pot in the first place — still an open question) or whether the alterations are also present in recreational or short-term users. But as legal marijuana becomes a reality in the US, researchers are scrambling to find out.

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AZ Marijuana Doctors Offices
Thursday, the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled that doctors who certify patients to use medical marijuana can’t be criminally charged if they fail to review the patient’s records going back an entire year. The appeals court said that Arizona’s medical marijuana law gives doctors immunity for their referral decisions. However, the 2010 medical marijuana law does allow licensing boards to discipline doctors who improperly write recommendations.

“In enacting the (law), the voters explicitly barred prosecution of a physician for providing ‘written certifications’ or ‘for otherwise stating’ that certain patients may benefit from ‘the medical use of marijuana,’ ” presiding Judge Patricia K. Norris wrote in the opinion, which was joined by two other justices. According to Norris protecting patients and physicians from prosecution was a critical part of the law.

The decision affirms the recent dismissal of charges against Phoenix naturopath Dr. Robert Gear. Gear was charged with forgery and fraud after signing a medical marijuana certification for a police informant in 2012 based on his examination before actually reviewing a year’s worth of records for the patient.

Gear’s attorney Kimberly Kent agreed with the court decision stating, “because this is a health care law, this is a health care issue. And issue of compliance should be decided by people like the department of health or the regulatory agencies that oversee physicians and nurse practitioners who choose to participate in the program.”

View all Arizona medical marijuana doctors

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AZ Marijuana Court

Attorney: There’s a loophole in AZ medical marijuana law.

Medical marijuana still creates a lot of controversy in Arizona. But Valley DUI attorney Craig Rosenstein says what’s happening now is just plain wrong.

Rosenstein is urging state lawmakers to fix a possible loophole in the state’s medical marijuana law, which Arizona voters passed in 2010.

According to Rosenstein, dozens of legal medical marijuana users are facing jail time, fines and a suspended license, all because they have trace amounts of marijuana in their system.

Rosenstein told CBS 5 News that if someone is accused of a DUI, they are not allowed to mention in court that they have a legal medical marijuana card.

“To me – that is horrible because the jurors don’t know,” Rosenstein said. “It would be like saying you’re not allowed to introduce your prescription for Vicidin. You’re basically being treated like someone who went and bought it off the street, instead of someone who went to a doctor.”

Dr. Elaine Burns, with the Southwest Medical Marijuana Center, said that medical marijuana can stay in someone’s system for up to 30 says, which means a patient can still face criminal prosecution weeks after they actually took the drug for treatment.

“Now, the cancer patients, in addition to the fact they are dealing with this horrific medical condition, are now faced with this new information and have to decide if they can even drive now – and that shouldn’t be.”

Since the medical marijuana law was a voter initiative it would take a super majority vote from the state Legislature to make any changes.

Rosenstein is hoping a bill to address the issue is introduced during the 2015 legislative session.

“They’re being discriminated against because of the type of medicine they are using,” Rosenstein said.

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Marijuana Media

Long ago, I swiped a line I read in someone’s email signature line that states, “Marijuana is unique in its ability to addle the brains of those who do not use it.” One collective set of brains in particular—the media—seems to be most addled in one particular subject, mathematics. Otherwise, how can we explain such reefer mad stories as:

Report: two dozen doctors recommended 34,000 Arizona medical marijuana cards. (Arizona Daily Star, 11/13/2014)
This is a variation on a headline reported in Oregon, Colorado, Montana, and other medical marijuana states with a significant patient population. The public is supposed to be shocked that so-called “pot docs” are churning out medical marijuana recommendations like everybody’s-a-winner ribbons at a grade school swim meet.

Why it’s bogus: Many doctors who’d like to write a recommendation for medical marijuana can’t because the rules of their clinic, hospital, or insurance won’t let them. Others who could won’t because they fear stigma and backlash from other patients and doctors. So every medical marijuana state ends up with a few doctors who specialize. It’s no more surprising that a few doctors in the West write the majority of medical marijuana recommendations than a few doctors in the South perform the majority of abortions—there are few of them that can and will do it.

Oversight of Colorado medical marijuana doctors remains spotty (Denver Post, 8/25/2013)
This story added to the ongoing scare about too few doctors writing too many recommendations by adding a graphic showing how 94% of Coloradoans getting a medical marijuana card are getting it for chronic pain. The public is supposed to be shocked that so many people are getting cards for what must be a lot of faked pain.

Why it’s bogus: The graphic also shows that 16% get medical marijuana cards for muscle spasms, 11% for severe nausea, and 8% for cancer, seizures, HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, and cachexia. You probably noticed that all adds up to 129%. See, patients can get medical marijuana for more than one condition. Do you suppose multiple sclerosis causes some pain? Maybe cancer is a bit painful? Regardless, why is pain so mocked? A recent survey showed 1 in 5 Americans are battling constant pain, and that’s not including occasional arthritis or back pain.

Florida Medical Marijuana Opponents Prove Money Talks (Huffington Post, 11/5/2014)
Sue Rusche from National Families Inaction penned this opinion piece crowing about how the anti-marijuana side finally had some money to work with and thanks to the funding of TV ads, they were able to defeat the medical marijuana amendment in Florida. “Supporters raised more than $2.5 million for California’s Prop 215, the nation’s first medical marijuana initiative passed in 1996,” Rusche scribbles. “Opponents raised less than $35,000—a ratio of 71 to 1. That pattern continued until this year in Florida.”

Why it’s bogus: Rusche is playing Kevin Sabet’s latest “David vs. Goliath” talking point, this idea that we’ve got Soros’ / Lewis’ millions to push legalization and the poor, underfunded cops, rehabbers, and parents’ groups have mere pennies. This talking point ignores David’s Death Star, the federal government that has pumped hundreds of millions into anti-drug ads, has funneled millions to local anti-drug groups for anti-marijuana “education,” and has spent 40 years enforcing marijuana prohibition at the barrel of a gun.

Furthermore, Florida requires 60% to pass a constitutional amendment. So, whoopee, the anti-pot forces got $5 million of billionaire Sheldon Adelson’s money to air scary ads about medical marijuana that dropped what had been 88% poll support for medical marijuana down to a 58% percent vote. They spent all that money to find out that a huge majority of Floridians support wide-open, for-any-condition medical marijuana. In a mid-term election where few young people vote. In the South.

By the way, did you know Sheldon Adelson is a huge funder of medical marijuana research in Israel?

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UN Marijuana

Following the passage of cannabis legalization measures in Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia on election day, the chief of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) on Nov. 12 issued his requisite scolding.

UNODC executive director Yury Fedotov told reporters, “I don’t see how [the new laws] can be compatible with existing conventions.” He added that he plans to address the issue with the US State Department and other UN agencies. He admitted that the legalization measures are part of a global trend that the UNODC is monitoring.

The UN drug control apparatus has similarly lectured Colorado and Washington states over their legalization initiatives that passed in 2012, as well as Uruguay after its legalization law was approved in 2013. The UN drug control treaties are under pressure not only from cannabis legalization measures in the US and South America, but also from Bolivia, where President Evo Morales is pressing the right to grow and chew coca leaf for traditional and medicinal purposes. Activists increasingly accuse the UN of “meddling” in domestic and local policies.

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AZ Marijuana Report

The Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) has released their third annual report for Arizona’s medical marijuana industry, which includes most statistics for 2014.

The reports reveals many insights into Arizona’s medical marijuana industry. One important figure is that the number of medical marijuana patients keeps increasing; therefore, the Arizona medical marijuana industry will continue to expand. For this reason, more Arizona dispensaries and doctor offices continue to open.

There are currently just over 51,000 medical marijuana patients, and 70% of them are males. The majority of those males are within three age brackets: 18 – 30, 31-40, and 51 – 60 years of age.

View the ADHS Medical Marijuana Report for 2014

Learn how to get an Arizona medical marijuana card

NY Marijuana

On the heels of speculation swirling Sunday that New York would end the prosecution and arrest of individuals for low-level marijuana possession, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton announced that possession of 25g or less of cannabis would no longer be an arrestable offense. The change to the city’s policy will be issued Tuesday and will come into effect on November 19th — so be cool for a few days people!

As the New York Times reported, the NYPD has been arresting tens of thousands of people each year for low-level marijuana possession. Now, instead of getting thrown in the slammer, you will reportedly be issued a summons and get a ticket for $100. (Though beware, individuals caught “smoking or burning” pot are still subject to immediate arrest under the new policy.)

City officials said they are interested in shifting the time and energy spent currently on low-level marijuana offenses to more serious crimes. This surely has to be the biggest accomplishment of the de Blasio administration to date and falls in line with the efforts of Brooklyn DA Kenneth Thompson who declared in July that he had no intention of prosecuting such marijuana “crimes.”

“This should free up police manpower to pursue cases of greater magnitude while relieving some of the congestion in the courts,” Richmond County District Attorney Daniel Donovan explained.

A clearer picture of the specifics will emerge this week as Mayor de Blasio takes his first meeting with all 5 district attorneys since taking office.

“Let’s be real about this,” Police Commissioner Bratton began before he laid out the change in policy for the media — and surprisingly, for once, he was legitimately, somewhat keeping it real in respect to marijuana.

This historic shift represents a step closer to wider legalization in the state of New York. Stay tuned for more information as it develops.

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Marijuana Exchange

Marijuana federal laws will have to change dramatically before a marijuana commodity exchange can become fully operational, but there are already two businesses that have launched in preparation of that day—Amercanex and Cannabis Commodities Exchange.

“The notion of a commodities market is so far removed from where we are right now in the marijuana legalization movement,” said Mara Felson, an attorney in California. “It would be a wonderful thing, but it’s hard to envision because marijuana is still illegal federally. Until it’s removed from Schedule 1 status, I don’t see a cannabis commodity exchange taking off.”

Amercanex CEO Steve Janjic is undeterred by the law and convinced of the validity of his vision happening now. “We were approached by several of the largest off-shore foreign exchange brokers to provide them with the data stream of cannabis pricing and indexes so they can build binary options or Contract for Difference (CFD) derivatives with which people can speculate on the price of marijuana,” said Janjic. “These binary products will be available in the marketplace in the next 90 days to six months and traded out of the U.S. where there are no treaties to be concerned with.”

Until then, Amercanex is an online matchmaker for growers and dispensaries charging 22 cents a gram across all transactions of trim and high-grade byproduct with offices in Colorado, Washington and California.

Instead of initiating a commodity exchange from the top down, the Cannabis Commodities Exchange differs from Amercanex in that it is building an exchange from the bottom up. “We are building a concrete business-to-business wholesale service before branching off into exchange trading but we do not warehouse any product,” said Sohum Shah, chief operating officer of the Denver-based company.

Like Amercanex, the Cannabis Commodities Exchange also launched this year, but has 30 users who operate 50 businesses with multiple cannabis licenses. “We do see, at some point, derivatives being traded in cannabis and on our exchange, but we would need some type of standard industry-accepted grading system to price and define batches based on their characteristics,” Shah told HIGH TIMES.

Currently, neither the government nor testing labs have issued industry standard grading of the various cannabis strains available. “Once testing labs are able to define strains, we envision trading cannabis contracts based on cannabinoid profiles and terpene profiles or a combination of these two profiles,” Shah said. “That’s how strains are graded.”

In the meantime, Janjic is already building the infrastructure for a bricks and mortar exchange that will be located in New York.
“Any of the existing exchanges will be able to connect to us in hours and access all our data,” Janjic said. That infrastructure includes 22,000 virtual seats that are selling for $5,000 a piece. Some 2,200 have sold so far.

“Investors feel purchasing the seats now gives them an edge because once the seats are gone they will have to buy a seat from members or lease a seat on the exchange to transact,” said Janjic.

US Coffeeshop Marijuana

When politicians work against the public good — yet believe they’re working for the public good — what you get are policies that are no good at all!

Take Holland. For decades, tourists throughout the world have been able to enjoy its unique national policy of tolerance via hundreds of coffeeshops that allow patrons to purchase and enjoy pot in a congenial, comfortable atmosphere. The tourism industry has flourished because of this refreshingly sane treatment of cannabis smokers.

In recent years, however, cannabis has been under fire in the Netherlands. Laws were enacted to prohibit foreign tourists from visiting marijuana coffeeshops. Those laws are still on the books, but it’s up to individual municipalities to enforce them. Amsterdam Mayor Eberhard van der Laan is no friend of the industry, and has used zoning laws to force many coffeeshops to close down. The result: an increase in black market pot sales.

It’s time for Holland to understand that tourists don’t plan their vacations solely because they love tulips. Moreover, as Holland focuses on limiting the cannabis industry and American attitudes grow more favorable to legalization, perhaps it’s time to enhance our own tourism profile by opening coffeeshops here in the US.

Think about it. Here in New York City, thousands of tourists arrive daily to wander this great urban metropolis. They visit museums, go to Broadway shows and eat in New York City’s superb restaurants. But imagine the addition of coffeeshops to the scene. Imagine a pot-friendly venue with better coffee than Starbucks (not a hard feat to accomplish) with the added attraction of great marijuana. We might see a resurgence of the coffeeshop scene of the 1960s, where folksingers, poets and avant-garde entertainers were given a stage to perform. And wouldn’t so-called Internet cafes do bigger business with patrons able to surf the web while smoking weed? American coffeeshops have the capacity to revitalize business districts of cities nationwide.

We’ve already seen the results of legalization in Colorado and Washington. The cannabis industryhas filled tax coffers while causing no social harm whatsoever. It’s high time that America begins to examine real opportunities for economic growth. Coffeeshops will provide instant tax revenue, gainful employment for locals and increase the tourism profile of every city that allows them to operate.

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