Is Autism the Step-Child in the Medical Marijuana World?
With nearly 2 million people suffering from one or other form of autism, it is mind-boggling that it is not included on the list of diseases treatable with Cannabis. Up until now, there are no empirical studies showing any results on treating Autism with cannabis. This year, 2017, there is a panel discussion scheduled in Michigan to discuss the treatment of autistic children with medicinal marijuana.
What is autism? It is a brain development disorder that begins to appear in young children and impacts mostly communication and social skills. Autism is not a specific disease but rather a vast spectrum of conditions and often gets called Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Interesting enough though, some forms of Autism are a result of a lack of endocannabinoids. Cannabis, with the phyto-cannabinoids like THC and CBD could help to balance the endocannabinoids system and therefor bring relieve to symptoms of those suffering from Autism.
Lack of proven data that Cannabis can treat autism or symptoms there of forced parents with suffering kids to experiment when everything they have tried just did not bring relieve. Because of the anecdotal evidence where it is seen that Cannabis makes Autistic children healthier and happier, some doctors are willing to listen.
One researcher in Puerto Rico, a clinical psychologist, has started to introduce CBD OILas a treatment for kids suffering from Autism. The results are very positive and in one such case, a child was given a twice a day spray of Hemp oil. This child could not speak at all, but after 3 weeks the child started to develop significant language abilities. From being very frustrated in not being able to communicate and as a result ended up injuring himself, he laughs and enjoys life now.
More success stories – In another case, a little boy Noah who could not communicate and was hyperactive, compulsive and obsessive, was treated with a 1:3 CBD/THC ratio. It is found that autism could be better treated with a higher THC ratio as THC redirects the neurons in a more manageable way for Autism. When he was introduced to a higher THC ratio in addition to inactivated THC-oil, his life changed. He started to smile, calm down, cry, communicate and listen. In 6 months his mentally development changed from that of an 18 month old to that of a 30 month old. Noah could be a little boy again.
A mom from Chicago, Marie Myung-Ok Lee, experimented with cannabis infused edibles in the form of cookies to treat her 9 year old autistic son. He had violent rages and would scream for hours on end and bang his head. He threw tantrums and would scratch and hit himself or others. When she got the cookies to perfection, she gave him one and he calmed down. His violent outbreaks became less frequent and he even learned to ride his bike, something that was said never to happen. He was diagnosed with severe autism and gut disease that left him in pain most of the day when he was still very young. All kinds of treatments were tried and by the age of 5 he was put in a special school and he was on a hypoallergenic diet. But a couple of years later all medication stopped working and his violent outbursts increased dramatically.
The school insisted that he should seek treatment and Marie found only one treatment for Autism at that time. The results were not favorable though and out of desperation she stumbled on an article of Cannabis being used to relief pain and help with slowing down short-term memory formation. After attending a medical-marijuana patient group and listening to how cannabis helped them in many ways, she decided to give it a try. After doing research with the help of an expert on what strain would be best for her son, they settled on White Russianand finally changed from cookies to an oil tincture.
The ongoing struggle is to find a licensed provider in time as it is not as easy as just walking into a pharmacy to find the medication. It makes it also difficult as medical usage of cannabis is approved, but growing it is not always legal in all states.
Until the whole dilemma with legalization is settled, the struggle will continue, even if all the proof in the world is there that the results are positive and that Autism can effectively be treated with cannabis.
West Virginia Legislature Approves Medical Marijuana Bill
From our colleagues at the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP):
Gov. Jim Justice is expected to sign SB 386 into law, making West Virginia the 29th state to adopt an effective medical marijuana law
CHARLESTON, W. Va. — A medical marijuana bill received final approval in the West Virginia Legislature on Thursday and is headed to the desk of Gov. Jim Justice. He has publicly expressed support for legal access to medical marijuana and is expected to sign the bill into law, making West Virginia the 29th state to adopt an effective medical marijuana law.
SB 386, introduced by Sen. Richard Ojeda (D-Logan), received initial approval from the Senate last week (28-6). The House substantially amended the bill before approving it on Tuesday (76-24). The Senate passed the new version on concurrence Wednesday afternoon (28-6), along with some minor amendments, and the House signed off on the final version Thursday (74-24).
“Some of the House amendments to the bill are concerning, but it still has the potential to provide relief to thousands of seriously ill West Virginians,” said Matt Simon of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), who is a West Virginia native and graduate of West Virginia University. “We commend the Legislature for passing this compassionate and much-needed legislation, and we encourage Gov. Justice to sign it into law.
“This will be an important and, in some cases, life-saving program,” Simon said. “It is critical that the state implement it promptly. We are committed to working with officials to make sure the program is as effective as possible and to get it up and running in a timely fashion. Many patients cannot afford to wait much longer.”
SB 386, titled the West Virginia Medical Cannabis Act, charges the Bureau of Public Health with regulating medical marijuana growers, processors, and dispensaries. Patients with specifically listed qualifying medical conditions will be allowed to use extracts, tinctures, and other preparations of marijuana, but not marijuana in flower or leaf form. This differs from the original version of the bill and the medical marijuana programs in most other states. A summary of SB 386 is available via MPP here.
“There is nearly universal support for legalizing medical marijuana in the U.S., and it spans the political spectrum,” Simon said. “This is the third state in a row to pass a medical marijuana bill through a Republican-controlled House and Senate. Hopefully, this is a trend that will continue with some other states and at the federal level.”
A February 2017 Quinnipiac University Poll found 93% of U.S. voters think marijuana should be legal for medical purposes. Twenty-eight states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories of Guam and Puerto Rico have enacted effective medical marijuana laws, and 18 states have adopted medical marijuana laws that are ineffective because they are either unworkable or exceptionally restrictive. Once S.B. 386 is signed into law, only three states in the nation — Idaho, Indiana, and Kansas — will lack any form of medical marijuana law.
Michigan Seeks Input on “Inventory Startup,” Transition Issues
As the State of Michigan continues to move forward in developing rules to implement the State’s new Medical Marijuana Facilities Licensing Act (MMFLA), the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) today reached out for the second time for stakeholder input on critical issues. This time, LARA is asking for feedback on questions that LARA characterizes as concerning “inventory start-up.” Fundamentally, these questions address how and whether individuals involved in the current caregiver model under the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act can transition to operating under the MMFLA.
Specifically, the Director of LARA, Shelly Edgerton, issued the following statement and request:
LARA is currently seeking comments from interested parties on the topic of inventory startup as it relates to the licensed categories. The purpose of this document is to gather information only and it is not meant to interfere with the authority of the Board or Advisory Panel procedures when these panels are appointed as provided under the Act. To that end we are asking for your input by responding to the questions below. We are only asking for brief answers, or comments limited to a short paragraph or a few sentences. Please provide your responses by 5:00 p.m., Tuesday, March 21st, 2017. After the responses are compiled, a meeting and/or conference call may be scheduled if appropriate to review the responses and receive additional input. Please submit your responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Should LARA require all licensees to begin without inventory or zero product on day 1 of license issuance and thereafter track all cultivation from the date of licensure?
Should LARA have an inventory startup period that allows a grower licensee to transition medical marihuana cultivated as allowed under the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act (MMMA) into the future Statewide Monitoring System for tracking and inventory verification provided it is recorded/tracked? If yes, should LARA limit the timeframe in which these acquisitions can occur? What would you recommend as a timeframe?
Should LARA consider an inventory startup period for all 5 license categories?
Should a licensed grower or processor be permitted to include into a startup inventory the existing marihuana or marihuana-infused products cultivated or processed under the MMMA of the former registered primary caregiver who becomes an active employee of the licensee pursuant to the Act?
We can anticipate that LARA will continue to solicit stakeholder input, although LARA’s statement again notes that its work on the rules is to be in consultation with the yet-to-be-appointed Medical Marijuana Facilities Licensing Board and Advisory Panel. Given that the formal roles of advisory panels are fairly limited under the Michigan Administrative Procedures Act, the new Board and LARA will have some discretion with respect to how deeply they involve the Advisory Panel. While it remains to be seen what opportunities will be provided for public input into the rulemaking process (apart from those required under the APA), LARA’s continued outreach to the industry is promising.
As the rulemaking process in Michigan continues to unfold, check back here to Dykema’s Cannabis Law Blog for further updates.
Michigan State University Extension Hosts Workshops on Local Regulation of Licensed Marijuana Facilities
Over the last few weeks, Michigan State University Extension has been hosting a series of 13 seminars across the state entitled, “Regulating Medical Marijuana Facilities: A Workshop for Local Government.” I attended the three-hour seminar held on campus at MSU.
As most readers of this blog know, Michigan’s new Medical Marijuana Facilities Licensing Act (MMFLA) establishes a framework for the regulation of five different types of licensed facilities. The MMFLA contains a local opt-in provision, meaning licensees may only operate in a local jurisdiction that has affirmatively authorized the specific type of licensed facility. Local governments may also cap the number of facilities of each type they allow, and regulate them through zoning and other requirements, so long as local regulations do not conflict with the MMFLA or address purity or pricing of marijuana.
MSU Extension’s seminar is intended primarily to educate municipal officials on the MMFLA. Of the hundred or so attendees in East Lansing, I would hazard a guess that 80 percent or more were local government planning staff, elected officials, or attorneys. Most reported that they are hearing from constituents with questions or recommendations on how to implement the MMFLA—with some, of course, advocating that no facilities be allowed at all.
As for the substance of the seminar, MSU Extension staff provided what I felt to be an unbiased explanation of the MMMA and the MMFLA, and the issues confronting municipal governments. Seminar attendees were given in-depth written materials, including draft ordinances. Attendees also engaged in role-playing exercises intended to have them listen to a range of views on the desirability of having licensed facilities in their communities.
Industry participants would be well-served to understand the issues and concerns from the municipal official perspective, and also to hear what those officials are being told both by MSU Extension staff and municipal government organizations. Although I found the seminar staff and materials to largely “play it straight,” I also heard advice that was disconcerting. A common refrain was that “it is easier to first say ‘no’ and then later say ‘yes’ than it is to first say ‘yes’ and then later say ‘no.’” More troubling, attendees were told that given the timing for license applications, municipalities could wait until late summer or early fall before beginning the process of crafting ordinances. For those of us advising clients acquiring real estate and getting their business plans in place to apply for licensure, such a delayed timing is highly problematic.
MSU Extension has just one more of these seminars yet to come; March 23 in Bessemer. For those who don’t wish to pair a seminar with skiing at Big Snow, MSU Extension also today announced a live webinar to be held from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. on March 30. Registration is open until March 23 at the following link:
VICTORIA, April 5, 2017 /CNW/ – Emerald Health Therapeutics Inc. (TSXV:EMH) (“Emerald” or the “Company”) is pleased to announce its inclusion in the Horizon Medical Marijuana Life Sciences ETF (TSX:HMMJ) (“HMMJ ETF”), which began trading today and is the first ETF to offer direct exposure to North American-listed stocks that operate in the legal medical cannabis industry.
The HMMJ ETF seeks to replicate the performance of the North American Medical Marijuana Index of which we are one of the 16 constituents. Only stocks that meet minimum asset and liquidity thresholds are qualified for inclusion in the index, and no single stock may exceed 10% of the weight of the Index when rebalanced.
“Emerald’s inclusion to the North American Medical Marijuana Index and HMMJ ETF represents an important milestone for our company and highlights the enormous efforts and successes of our team,” said Avtar Dhillon, Executive Chairman. “Inclusion in the ETF should encourage broader participation in Emerald’s shares, improving trading liquidity for our shareholders, as well as drive more funds to the cannabis sector on the whole, increasing awareness of the publicly traded companies and providing a more passive and diversified method for investors to participate in the truly unique cannabis investment opportunity.”
This milestone compliments the company’s breakout year in 2016, which earned Emerald a ranking of 3rd Place in the Clean Technology & Life Science sector of the 2017 TSX Venture 50® (see here), an award in recognition of being a top performer on the TSXV.
For more information on the constituents that are expected to make up the ETF’s holdings, visit Horizon Exchange Traded Funds website here.
Emerald Health Therapeutics Inc.
Emerald Health Therapeutics, Inc. operates primarily through Emerald Health Botanicals Inc. (“Botanicals”), a wholly owned subsidiary of the Company and a Licensed Producer under the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (the “ACMPR”). Botanicals is authorized to cultivate and sell both dried medical cannabis flowers and medical cannabis oils in Canada. Botanicals currently operates an indoor cultivation facility in Victoria, British Columbia, and plans to construct a much larger purpose built hybrid greenhouse facility on 32 acres in metro Vancouver. Botanicals prides itself on being one of Canada’s most medically focused licensed producers and on having one of the industry’s most qualified management teams with respect to pharmaceutical drug discovery, development and distribution. Botanicals intends to capture unique niches in both the medical and future adult use cannabis markets through its proprietary strains, defensible intellectual property, and superb client experience.
“Neither TSX Venture Exchange nor its Regulation Services Provider (as that term is defined in the policies of the TSX Venture Exchange) accepts responsibility for the adequacy or accuracy of this release.”
West Virginia’s full House of Delegates has given approval to an amended medical marijuana legalization bill.
An amended version of Senate Bill 386 was passed today through its third and final reading in the House of Delegates; the vote was 76 to 24. The measure recently passed the full Senate with a 28 to 6 vote, but with much different language. Given it was amended in the House, it will need to be sent back to the Senate (potentially a conference committee) before it can be placed on the desk of Governor Jim Justice, who is in support of legalizing medical marijuana.
The proposed law allows those with a recommendation from a physician who register with the state to possess and use marijuana medicines such as pill and topicals, and purchase them from a licensed dispensary. However, the House amended the Senate bill to prohibit smoking, and to severely limit the number of dispensaries allowed to operate throughout the state.
The vote to amend the bill to prohibit smoking and limit dispensaries was 51 to 48. An amendment to the amendment in the bill’s second reading to again allow smoking was voted down 46 to 51.
Anthony, co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of TheJointBlog, has worked closely with numerous elected officials who support cannabis law reform, including as the former Campaign Manager for Washington State Representative Dave Upthegrove. He has also been published by multiple media outlets, including the Seattle Times. He can be reached at TheJointBlog@TheJointBlog.com.
Something Smells Fishy: DEA helps synthetic pot from fentanyl company get into legal pot business
While the rest of us are fighting blood sweat and tears to legalize marijuana with no luck from the DEA, guess what they’ve been up to?
InSys Therapeutic has been on the hot seat the past few weeks. InSys, the same company that manufactures the super potent painkiller fentanyl, was just able to cross major hurdles by getting a few steps ahead to the legal marijuana industry, thanks to the DEA. In case you’ve forgotten, InSys is the same company that contributed $500,000 to fund an anti-marijuana legalization committee called the Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy in Arizona last year.
Not only has been InSys donating money to campaigns that oppose marijuana legalization; they’ve also been actively advocating marijuana restrictions especially on medicines that use THC, the main psychoactive ingredient.
The Arizona-based company is working on a new product called Syndros, a liquid containing synthetic delta-9-THC (the same cannabinoid they’ve been working to restrict). The DEA, which has just approved Syndros, announced on March 23 that it will be listed as a Schedule II controlled substance, while marijuana remains a Schedule I! This means that DEA just said that Syndros is less harmful than cannabis, when we all know the shit that’s gone down when people take synthetic versions of pot.
Here’s another shady thing about this deal: The DEA made an announcement about Syndros, saying that it has a “high potential for abuse” and that users are at “an increased risk for experiencing serious adverse events” which “may potentially result in an overdose”.
According to JP Holyoak, chair of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Arizona, InSys has been funding the opposition with the intent ““to kill a non-pharmaceutical market for marijuana in order to line their own pockets,” based on an article on the Washington Post. In 2007, InSys also filed a disclosure statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which states that legalizing cannabis would threaten their products and profits. The statement said:
“If marijuana or non-synthetic cannabinoids were legalized in the United States, the market for dronabinol product sales would likely be significantly reduced and our ability to generate revenue and our business prospects would be materially adversely affected.”
Aside from the news on Syndros, health officials and lawmakers have been working to ban synthetic forms of marijuana such as Spice and K2 which have resulted in overdoses and deaths around the country. On the other hand, marijuana still has had ZERO overdoses and it still remains on the Schedule 1 classification.
Reports also say that InSys is working to develop a drug that will combat opioid overdoses.
InSys Under Investigation
InSys is currently under investigation for the illegal marketing of fentanyl, the opioid which is considered to be 50 times more potent than heroin. Fentanyl is linked to the death of artist Prince last year.
In December 2016, many of the company’s executives were arrested; the CEO was also forced to resign because the company faced charges for using speakers fees to lure doctors to prescribing Subsys, a medicine they designed for cancer patients, which contains fentanyl.
“You have a company using profits from the sale of what has been called ‘the most potent and dangerous opioid on the market’ to prevent adults from using a far less harmful substance,” Holyoak said.
It’s evident that in the world we live in today where people can grow their own medicine, it would naturally ruffle the feathers of big pharma companies just like InSys because it threatens their revenue. According to Kevin Gallagher of the Cannabis Business Alliance and Craft Concentrates, the interests of big pharma may be surprised by the persistence of cannabis advocates as well as patients.
“This is a completely unique substance that is so readily available, and it’s so easy to take advantage of its healing nature, … it’ll be very interesting to see how that plays out,” Gallagher said in an interview with Westword.
“These pharmaceutical companies still think they’re going to win the battle in creating essentially fake cannabis and having to even compete with the real cannabis industry, but they’re not looking at the effects of certain terpenes or certain cannabinoids,” he adds.
As the State of Michigan continues to moves forward in developing rules to implement the State’s new Medical Marijuana Facilities Licensing Act (MMFLA), the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) today reached out for the third time to seek stakeholder input on critical issues. This time, LARA is asking for feedback on questions pertaining to safety testing of marihuana and marihuana infused products.
Specifically, the Director of LARA, Shelly Edgerton, issued the following statement and request:
As you may be aware, the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) may consider holding discussions regarding the new Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act, 2016 PA 281, to examine the issues and get feedback from those who have expressed interest in certain related topics or the new law in general. Similarly, LARA is currently seeking comments from interested parties on the topic of marihuana safety testing as it relates to the licensed categories. The purpose of this document is to gather information only, and it is not meant to interfere with the authority of the Board or Advisory Panel procedures when these panels are appointed as provided under the Act. To that end we are asking for your input by responding to the questions below. We are only asking for brief answers, or comments limited to a short paragraph or a few sentences. Please provide your responses by 5:00 p.m., Monday, April 10th, 2017. After the responses are compiled, a meeting and/or conference call may be scheduled if appropriate to review the responses and receive additional input. Please submit your responses to email@example.com.
The Department in consultation with the Board is required to establish testing standards, procedures, and requirements for marihuana. What testing standards should be considered mandatory and what are acceptable levels (e.g. maximum thresholds/limits)?
Should proficiency testing be used for safety compliance oversight?
Should the testing of marihuana be required at each facility point by licensed growers, processors, and provisioning centers (in other words, at which point(s) in the supply chain should testing be required)?
Should testing be required of every batch of marihuana and if so, what is an appropriate sample size for testing from a batch?
When a sample is received for testing should the rest of the batch be sequestered and if so, by what method?
What accreditation standard should be used for safety compliance facilities and why?
Should the THC content and possible allergens contained in the product be labeled on marijuana infused products?
We anticipate that LARA will continue to solicit stakeholder input, although LARA’s statement again notes that its work on the rules is to be in consultation with the yet-to-be-appointed Medical Marijuana Facilities Licensing Board and Advisory Panel. Given that the formal roles of advisory panels are fairly limited under the Michigan Administrative Procedures Act, the new Board and LARA will have some discretion with respect to how deeply they involve the Advisory Panel. While it remains to be seen what opportunities will be provided for public input into the rulemaking process (apart from those required under the APA), LARA’s continued outreach to the industry is promising.
As the rulemaking process in Michigan continues to unfold, check back here to Dykema’s Cannabis Law Blog for further updates.
As with all reviews, I take a few photos of each product in real lighting situations so you can get an idea of what the item looks like without the glamour of a light box and/or Photoshop. Below are 6 photos I look of the Smoke Ghost sent to me by the guys at smokeghost.com.
From the Manufacturer
The following content was pulled from the Smoke Ghost Website.
What is Smoke Ghost?
Simply put, Smoke Ghost masks the odor of the smoke you exhale with aromatic fragrances. This essentially means that you can smoke anywhere in the world without leaving a trace. Here is a short summary of all the benefits and features the little Ghost provides:
Prevents second-hand smoke
Saves environment from polluting and carcinogenic toxins
Contains interchangeable scent cartridges
Masks odor of smoke completely, can be used indoors and in vehicles
Portable, under 3 inches long and under 2 inches thick
Now let’s delve deeper into the Ghost’s power.
You may have seen similar smoking filters that attempt to deal with the smell of smoke. Smoke Ghost is distinct in that it not only filters your smoke but it alters the scent of your smoke into essential oil fragrances. The oil fragrances not only smell delightful, they combat the smell of the burning end of the substance you’re smoking in order to fully mask the smell.
The nozzle component of the Ghost contains a carbon filter that cleanses the smoke as you blow through. The nozzle is wide enough at the base (about 1.5 inches) to encapsulate your lips as the smoke leaves your mouth. This means that all of the smoke passes through the nozzle.
The first component of the device is the nozzle, the second component is the scent cartridge, the magical part. The scent cartridge contains an essential oils compound that radically transforms the odor of your smoke. This stuff smells sweet. Interchangeable Scents
One of the most awesome features of these scent cartridges is that they’re interchangeable. Every scent cartridge is compatible with the filter. Typically, a scent cartridge is 100% efficient in altering smoke odor for around 300 blow throughs (this is for our current prototype, we expect to increase this number once the first PO is placed). After this point, the cartridge gradually declines in efficacy. So once one scent cartridge begins to decline in potency, you can simply replace it with another. This adds even more life to your Ghost.
Smoking With Style’s Smoke Ghost Sploof Review
I had one of my most avid smokers (KC) try out the Smoke Ghost over the weekend with minimal results.
Took a puff, blew through it, and I don’t think it disguised it at all.
-KC, SWS Reviewer
As the above quote alludes to, he didn’t have much success with it. Aside from the usually issues such as side stream smoke, he didn’t think it helped 100% even with the smoke blown through the unit.
I had KC give the Smoke Ghost to a 2nd smoke with the same results. She said that dryer sheets inside of a toilet paper or paper towel roll (the original sploof) worked better. KC had her take a hit and blow it into his face. He could still smell the cannabis and felt like the scent was basically a mix of the two smells together.
All of this with a price tag of $19.99, led me to give the Smoke Ghost a 3 out of 5 stars. It makes for a great gift, but it’s not particularly practical.
In 2012, when Colorado voters wanted their state to legalize weed for adult recreational use, Gov. John Hickenlooper was thrust into an interesting predicament.
The moderate Democrat had stood in opposition to Amendment 64, a measure he felt would send the wrong message to kids, create public health risks, detract from Colorado’s desirability, and, not to mention, stoke the ire of the feds.
But voters’ will spoke and Hickenlooper became an extremely reluctant figurehead and participant in one of the most unique social and political experiments in recent years.
Nearly five years after that historic vote and a little more than three years since the regulated adult-use sales began, that experiment is ongoing and Colorado’s regulations are evolving. And on this front, the broader national landscape is flush with activity: While eight states, including Colorado, now have recreational marijuana laws, the federal government may no longer be a sleeping giant.
The experiment is headed toward a crossroads.
Hickenlooper this week sat down briefly with The Cannabist to address topics such as the looming threat of increased federal enforcement, how Colorado has fared thus far, 2017 state legislation to allow for the social use and home delivery of medical marijuana, his views as the parent of a teen and more.
(The following has been edited for clarity and length.)
Q: We’re three years into recreational marijuana sales in the state. How’s it going? What are your biggest concerns and priorities at this time — both in terms of the regulatory as well as industry development?
Hickenlooper: Always our primary focus has been public safety and to make sure that kids … we’re not going to see a big spike in teenagers using marijuana. I’d say in most circumstances, from most perspectives, our worst nightmares haven’t materialized.
Obviously now, (the) appointment of Attorney General Jeff Sessions has added an additional level of complexity; but overall, I’d say that the experiment — as it continues to move forward — has gone better certainly than I anticipated and I think certainly better than many people anticipated. Doesn’t mean that we’re completely out of the woods. We don’t have sufficient data to say there aren’t still unintended consequences that we need to address. But it’s certainly not as bad as what most people thought.
Hickenlooper: It’s hard to predict what the action will be. Most of the lawyers I talk to find no legal difference between medical marijuana and recreational marijuana as it relates to federal law. So to crack down on only recreational marijuana and leave medical marijuana untouched, seems unlikely – if you assume that people are going to approach it the same way.
But by the same token, more than 60 percent of the population of this country live in a state that has either medical or recreational marijuana legal. That’s almost two-thirds of the people of this country living in a state that has some sort of legalized marijuana. To roll that back would be very difficult. And President Trump repeatedly said on the campaign that he thought that states were the right place and this was an experiment being done at the state level, and he wasn’t sure the federal government should get in and disrupt something that seemed to be moving forward.
I don’t think there’s much question the old system was a disaster. We sent hundreds of thousands — millions — on a nationwide basis, millions of kids to jail for non-violent crimes. We inducted them into a high probability of a lifetime of crime, strictly by sending them to prison for something that was a non-violent crime.
This new system, where we may not be completely sure of (whether) we’ve solved all the problems and that we’re going to be successful in this grand experiment, it does offer certain advantages to the status quo of the previous system. Now we have tax revenues.
Some people complain about the black market, “You’ve got this black market, this large black market. How do you address that?” Well, you know five years ago, it was a huge black market. Everything was black market, right? It was all illegal. Everything was being paid in cash and under the table. At least now we have some tax revenues that we can use to market to teenagers and make sure they understand that they could lose permanently a piece of their long-term memory.
Hickenlooper: The pot clubs, when the public voted on (Amendment 64), it was explicit in that initiative that it would not be for public consumption. So I’m just trying to defend the will of the voters in that.
In terms of delivery, that notion of having a delivery person go around house to house and dropping off potentially significant amounts of marijuana — any amount of marijuana — I think we look at that as just a hazard. And if we’re really serious about keeping marijuana out of the hands of teenagers, delivery service offers more opportunity for that marijuana to get into the hands of kids.
Q: And as they stand right now, would you veto them?
Hickenlooper: I haven’t stayed up on the amendments. I know both of those pot bills are getting amended even probably as we speak. I can’t speak to that until I actually see what the bills look like.
I try not to make predictions … but we’ve spent a lot of time talking with my senior staff about the pot clubs. … And certainly, as a state, we’ve spent a lot of effort to make sure that people wouldn’t smoke marijuana in public and this notion of pot clubs … I mean if somebody’s got an edible in their pocket and they’re in a restaurant and they take it out and put it in their mouth, I’m not sure how anyone convicts them of that. I’m not sure what the need for pot clubs is.
I see that most of the pot clubs they’re talking about seem to be, to me, some form of public consumption.
Q: Considering your background in the brewpub business — there have been comparisons made between the cannabis industry and the craft beer industry. Some have equated consumption clubs to taprooms — as social gathering places.
Hickenlooper: We don’t let anyone smoke a cigarette in a bar anymore either, right? So having smoking, I think, is a bad idea. If people want to go and hang out and watch videos or play table shuffleboard and consume marijuana, right? Ingest it. If that’s how it comes through, I’m not sure what difference that is between people just … I guess people can say they’re now not doing it illegally. I still would look at that as public consumption. But do I think it really is a terrible factor against the public good?
One big difference between alcohol and marijuana is that if a kid who is 16 gets falling down drunk, the evidence doesn’t seem anywhere near as powerful that there’s going to be long-term consequences to their memory or other mental functions. I’m sure there might be exceptions to that, if people drink so much. But when I’ve talked to the top brain scientists … they say just getting high once a week with this high-THC marijuana, you don’t have to overdose, you don’t have to go crazy, but just getting high has a very, very high probability of removing a sliver of your long-term memory every time that happens. That’s very different than alcohol. And I think in terms of home delivery, I think that’s a real issue.
Q: You have a teenager yourself. How does that affect your perspective and approach to this issue?
Hickenlooper: I think, like a lot of parents, I have been very clear with my son, “Here’s what I’ve heard, and when your brain’s growing as rapidly as your brain is growing, you would be foolish to take a risk on losing some of your long-term memory.” And at least when he’s talking to me he goes, “Dad, do I look stupid? I’m not smoking pot, I never have smoked pot. I’m not gonna smoke pot.” And I talk to his friends as well — I can be pretty obnoxious about the whole issue. I also tell them not to drink. When you’re that young, it’s just a bad idea to be drinking, doing pot, anything.
Hickenlooper: I think I would make the argument to Attorney General Sessions that I’d tell him, I opposed it. I thought this was too risky of an idea. No state wants to be in conflict with federal law, but our state passed this 55-45, our state supports it by more than 60-40 now. … I took an oath to uphold the Constitution of Colorado and I have an obligation to do everything I can to try and make this thing work.
And as such, this experiment — and I really think of it as an experiment — is going through an evolution that I think is generally positive. The negative factors, we’re seeing less of each year, and I would argue to the attorney general that the country has potential benefit to be able to see this experiment through to a natural conclusion. Let’s go a couple more years and see and get more data and really see, “Are we worse off or better off than we were before?”
Q: Where are you at now, personally?
Hickenlooper: I look at the entire arc of legalizing medical marijuana and recreational marijuana as something that maybe I didn’t think was a good idea, I didn’t think was worth the risk. But again, the people of Colorado have their own opinions about things, and they were pretty emphatic, right? 55-45 is a large margin, that they wanted to try going in a different direction.
And if I could’ve reversed the vote through some magical incantation, back when it first passed, I probably would’ve done it. But now I think we’ve made enough progress that I would want to … I’d want to go a couple more years and see whether we can make this thing work and have it be, ultimately, a better system. …
I asked an 18-year-old kid one time — this was two years ago — whether he thought it was more likely that he or his friends were more likely to get high with marijuana because the adults had legalized it. And he looked at me and kind of laughed and says (paraphrasing): “You know, none of us were scared of marijuana in the old days. Anyone who wanted to could get access to it. Your real opportunity here is if you tax it properly and get rid of the black market — and drug dealers don’t care who they sell marijuana to — and if you make it not worth a drug dealer’s risk to be selling marijuana, because it’s so inexpensive and so available already legally, then you’re going to reduce the number of drug dealers.
“They’ll still be selling crack and who knows what else — opioids. But at least they won’t be selling pot and so there will be a lot less drug dealers. And drug dealers don’t care who they sell to. So if you’re trying to keep pot and other narcotics out of the hands of kids, less drug dealers is a good deal, it’s a good thing.”
Q: So are you now in favor?
Hickenlooper: When other governors ask me whether I recommend that they should legalize, I told other governors that I think they should still wait a year or two, maybe three years. Get more data and make sure there aren’t unintended consequences. I don’t think there needs to be any rush towards a sudden nationwide transformation. Let’s make sure we get it right first.
Alicia Wallace joined The Cannabist in July 2016, covering national marijuana policy and business. She contributes to the Denver Post’s beer industry coverage. In her 13 years as a business news reporter, her coverage has spanned the economy, Sports…