LOTS TO TALK ABOUT
• Leaving a legacy business to start anew in the marijuana industry.
• Comedy in the cannabis age, and the pros and cons of performing while high — to a high audience.
• Crafting the creative process with cannabis: How artists find inspiration.
TOP MARIJUANA NEWS
Florida Health Dept. bans sale of whole-flower vaporizer cup: Florida’s Department of Health has ordered a Quincy-based dispensary to quit selling a medical cannabis product that could potentially be broken down and made into pot that can be smoked. Trulieve began selling its first whole-flower cannabis product meant for vaping last week at five retail dispensaries and through home delivery. The buds in the Entourage Multi Indica vaporizer cup, however, could also be used in joints, pipes or bongs. –Report by The Associated Press’ Joe Reedy
A crew member for NASCAR driver Carl Long checks the tires of Long’s car, which previously had the logo for a Colorado marijuana vape cartridge maker on the hood, during practice for the NASCAR Monster Cup auto race at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan., on Friday, May 12, 2017. (Orlin Wagner, The Associated Press)
NASCAR nixes weed company logo from driver’s car: Carl Long was forced to strip the logo of a Colorado-based marijuana vaping company from his car after NASCAR said it violated rules governing sponsorship and paint schemes. The logo for Colorado-based Veedverks was plastered on Long’s green and yellow No. 66 for tech inspection, but a NASCAR spokesman said it was never vetted and approved. And when officials learned of the hood logo, they had crew members remove it before the car went to the track. –Report by The Associated Press
Philly mayor continues to advocate legal weed, calling for sales at state liquor stores: Philadelphia mayor Jim Kenney says recreational marijuana use should be legal in Pennsylvania and says the best place for it to be sold is state-run liquor stores. He tells WHYY’s “Radio Times” Pennsylvania has the “perfect system to set up the legal recreational use” of marijuana through its controlled state stores. He adds it would allow the state to “capture all the income that is going to the underground.” –Report by The Associated Press
Iowa considers sourcing medical marijuana from Minnesota despite fed interstate transport ban: Top state lawmakers are trying to work out a system allowing Iowa residents to start buying medical marijuana oils and pills in Minnesota, a novel arrangement that could raise issues with the federal government. Iowa could join more than two dozen states with medical marijuana programs under a bill awaiting Gov. Terry Branstad’s signature. That legislation would expand a limited 2014 law, allowing more patients to buy the low-dose medication from in-state dispensaries by December 2018. But in the meantime, Iowa residents could look to Minnesota. –Report by The Associated Press’ Kyle Potter and Linley Sanders
U.S. Reps. Mike Coffman, R-Colo. and Diana DeGette, D-Colo. (Brennan Linsley, Associated Press file)
Federal bills from Colorado legislators seek to shield state marijuana laws, open banking: Colorado federal lawmakers this week amplified efforts to protect state-enacted marijuana laws and cannabis businesses.
Reps. Diana DeGette and Mike Coffman on Thursday introduced the Respect States’ and Citizens’ Rights Act of 2017, which would add a provision to the Controlled Substances Act that would prevent federal preemption of state law. A day earlier, Colorado’s two senators threw their support behind banking legislation for the marijuana industry.
DeGette, a Democrat, and Coffman, a Republican, said in interviews Thursday that they resurrected their legislation — it previously was introduced in 2012, 2013 and 2015 — because of the saber-rattling that’s coming from the new administration around drugs, crime and marijuana enforcement. –Report by The Cannabist’s Alicia Wallace
Test your current-events knowledge about pop stars quitting cannabis, a requested court injunction on Maryland’s marijuana industry, what’s up with the International Church of Cannabis and more.
In a two-page memo issued to his staff and made publicly available last Friday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered federal prosecutors to seek the toughest possible charges and sentences for drug crime suspects, a drastic shift from the more lenient approach that became a pillar of Barack Obama’s presidency.
In conjunction with revised U.S. sentencing guidelines, Obama commuted the sentences of more than 1,700 drug offenders, including those of the mother and grandmother of Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas.
Sessions’ new order created a wave of uncertainty in the medical marijuana industry and could factor heavily into the NFL Players Association’s effort to change the league’s approach to marijuana use among players.
“Because (the NFL) can just fall back and say it’s still illegal on the federal level and you don’t have an administration that is as favorable or as friendly toward cannabis as you did,” said Marvin Washington, a former Broncos defensive end who has been a significant player in the push for cannabis allowance in the NFL. “Now you have an attorney general that has come out with some wild, inaccurate statements that just boggles the mind about marijuana, about crime, and it’s like he wants to turn this into the ‘War on Drugs 2.0’ and take it back to the late ’80s, early ’90s.”
The legal landscape has changed drastically over the years, but only at the state level; 29 states and Washington, D.C. have legalized medical marijuana, making it acceptable in all but nine cities that host NFL games.
But the federal view of marijuana hasn’t budged. If anything, it’s become more stringent in recent months as the Trump administration has vowed harsher punishments for violators of federal law.
Marijuana is labeled a Schedule I narcotic by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, classified as having “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse,” per the Controlled Substances Act. Research is limited, in large part because of the classification, but anecdotal support of marijuana’s medical value continues to soar.
Sessions’ order comes two months after he railed against marijuana, saying: “I reject the idea that America will be a better place if marijuana is sold in every corner store. And I am astonished to hear people suggest that we can solve our heroin crisis by legalizing marijuana — so people can trade one life-wrecking dependency for another that’s only slightly less awful. Our nation needs to say clearly, once again, that using drugs will destroy your life.”
And it comes only three months after White House press secretary Sean Spicer warned of “greater enforcement” of recreational marijuana laws.
“It’s like nothing has really changed, in many ways,” former NFL offensive lineman Eben Britton said. “It’s all nonsense until anything actually happens. If they want to spend time and money and resources dedicated to rolling back things that are already in place that would be a total step in the wrong direction, then fine. That’s the country we deserve, I guess. We’re getting exactly what we deserve and whether we like it or not, these guys are in office and we put them there and it’s nobody’s fault but ours. … It’s absolutely disgusting. All we can do is keep fighting the good fight and keep speaking our truth.”
Although the specifics of the NFLPA’s impending proposal to the league haven’t been released, the union has said it plans to suggest a “less punitive” approach to marijuana use out of regard for players’ health. That could mean reducing the penalties players face for testing positive. It could be eliminating testing for marijuana altogether, like the NHL. It could mean allowing the use of medical marijuana through therapeutic use exemptions, which allows players to take certain prohibited substances, such as Adderall, to treat a diagnosed medical problem.
“We’re looking at the issue comprehensively when it comes to medical marijuana, but we’re looking at it as an issue of pain,” NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said in February. “Separately, we’re looking at how marijuana is being treated currently under the drug program. … Talking with (NFLPA director of player wellness) Nyaka (NiiLampti) and the therapists and the doctors, one thing we’ve always tried to do is when we’ve approached issues like this, what’s the right thing to do clinically, what’s the right thing to do medically, what’s the right thing to do therapeutically? As we look at the current way in which marijuana is being treated under the drug policy, we have questions as to whether those three things can be done in a better way.”
The union declined to comment on Sessions’ order, but it reiterated that it’s impending proposal is “a health issue” and that its collective-bargaining agreement policies are bound by state and federal laws.
In accordance with the current CBA, NFL players are tested in the offseason and face disciplinary action for a positive test of more than 35 nanograms of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) per milliliter of urine. THC is the psychoactive component of marijuana. The penalties can be steep, considering the NFL’s relatively short schedule, non-guaranteed player contracts and the limited life of a player’s pro career.
Commissioner Roger Goodell has said the league is open to considering changes to the substance abuse policy. But earlier this month he elicited strong reactions to comments he made while a guest on ESPN radio.
“You’re ingesting smoke, so that’s not usually a very positive thing that people would say,” he said.
Critics, including Washington and Britton, argued that cannabis can be consumed in myriad ways, and that Goodell’s statement reflected an antiquated but still widely held view of marijuana.
Washington, an 11-year NFL veteran, is a staunch advocate of cannabidiol, a component of cannabis that has only trace levels of THC and often infused in oil for oral consumption or used in topical treatments. He, like many others, simply want the evidence and research to be considered.
“There’s frustration, not only with the commissioner but with people of authority, including people in the Justice Department. If you think players just want to light a blunt and have fun, well there’s a small percentage of guys who are going to do that,” Washington said. “But most of the guys, they’re trying to feel better. … The last time I played in the NFL was 1999. We didn’t know, but these players are more educated and I know there are players in the NFL right now that are medicating themselves with cannabis. And they’re doing it in a variety of ways.
“That whole thing about getting tough on crime and getting tough on drugs, the NFL can fall back and say it’s not the time, not with this current administration. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I always said that he can slow the movement down but I don’t think he can stop it.”
The number of teenagers going to the emergency room at Children’s Hospital Colorado for what appeared to be marijuana-related reasons increased significantly after legalization, a new study by a Children’s doctor found.
Dr. Sam Wang said his study contrasts with surveys that suggest youth marijuana use in Colorado has not increased since legalization. But he said the study also has its limitations, meaning it adds important data to the debate over legalization but is not the final word on it.
“Everything has to be taken with a grain of salt,” he said. “I don’t think one database is perfect. But this is just another way to look at the data that shows more teenagers are coming to the ER.”
Wang gathered data on marijuana-related emergency room visits to Children’s Hospital and its satellite clinics for teenagers and young adults up to age 21 by looking at two measures.
The first is a hospital billing code used on a patient’s chart when marijuana is involved in a patient’s medical problem. Wang said marijuana might not be the primary reason the patient went to the hospital, but marijuana usually has to be sufficiently connected to the patient’s symptoms to warrant the code being written down. He said it is unlikely the code would be put on a patient’s record for marijuana use unrelated to the symptoms.
The second measure is when a patient has a urine drug screen that comes back positive for marijuana. Such drug screens occur when a patient ingested an unknown substance or before a patient undergoes a psychiatric evaluation.
Collecting those numbers, Wang said he found that 106 teens and young adults visited Children’s emergency room for marijuana-related reasons in 2005 and that number jumped to 631 in 2014. The rate of those visits increased as well — though by 2015 marijuana still accounted for only four out of every 1,000 visits.
Perhaps most worrisome, Wang said he found that the number of kids and young adults in the emergency room for marijuana-related reasons and who subsequently needed a psychiatric evaluation also increased rapidly — from 65 in 2005 to 442 in 2014. Wang said patients who receive psychiatric evaluations may be severely intoxicated or may have tried to commit suicide or talked about committing suicide.
Colorado’s medical marijuana dispensaries began opening in large numbers in 2010, and Colorado voters legalized the sale and possession of limited amounts of marijuana for any purpose in 2012, with recreational stores opening on Jan. 1, 2014.
“Looking at the trend, it is definitely significant,” Wang said.
Wang’s study results were first presented earlier this month at an academic conference in San Francisco. He said he hopes to publish the findings in a journal later this year.
The findings add another layer to understanding how marijuana legalization has affected kids. Thus far, much of the survey data of Colorado teens has suggested little impact. Both state and federal surveys have found that Colorado teen marijuana use rates — though among the highest in the country — have remained flat since legalization.
“Our worst nightmares haven’t materialized,” Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said earlier this year of legalization.
In a previous study, though, Wang found that the number of young kids going to the emergency room for accidental marijuana exposure increased following legalization. He said his new study shows there is still more to learn about why a subset of kids is ending up in the hospital.
“We’re finding things contrary to other national survey data,” he said. “And so we feel like, to really better understand the impact in this particular population, I think we need to use multiple data sources.”