May 31, 2009 – When two siblings, David and Elizabeth Gregory, were laid off from their jobs in January, they used their free time to create an iPhone application focusing on the legalization of marijuana.
CHRONIC-les was released for sale May 21 and has had more than 1,000 downloads, ranking it at number seven under the Lifestyle section in the iTunes App Store.
The app features the laws and consequences for possession in each state, facts and figures supporting why marijuana should be legal and a pre-written letter to President Obama that can be sent by pushing a button, described by David as “petition on the go.” It can also locate the nearest NORML chapter.
Elizabeth, 26, is an applied sociology graduate student. She finished her undergraduate degree in marketing in 2005. David, 24, took classes at UCF but has been taking time off to work. Neither of them had any programming experience, so they borrowed library books and taught themselves. David does the programming and Elizabeth writes the content.
The siblings have plans in the works to create other applications, which they could not disclose. Elizabeth said some of them will be free, “to give back to people.”
Central Florida Future: When did you guys first come up with the idea, and how?
David: We thought, well, there’s no application to promote the legalization of marijuana. And that’s, like, one of the big things, being the first type of application in a specific genre. There’s no political category, and there hasn’t been an application on marijuana. That sounds funny. It was just an idea that was floating around. I read an article about this 9-year-old that made a drawing application for an iPhone. So we’re like, man, if a 9-year-old can do it, anyone can.
CFF: How long did the programming part of it take you?
David: Including reading, it was about two months from when I got laid off to when it was submitted.
CFF: What’s the process like for actually getting your application sold on iTunes?
David: First you have to enroll into the iPhone developer program. You set up an account; You set up your tax and banking information. You pay your annual fee, and they provide you with the software to start developing. Basically, they give you the software, and really you can download it for free, and the only time you have to actually enroll and pay for the yearly program is once you’re ready to submit an application.
CFF: Did iTunes communicate with you back and forth at all?
David: Not at all. They don’t even really give contact information.
Elizabeth: But apparently if they deny it they give you a reason, because recently a few apps have been denied.
David: Which is actually a pretty big deal because there’s a lot of applications that have been denied. We developed it knowing beforehand that we weren’t going to be upset if they didn’t accept it. We were thinking, “Maybe. This is iffy. It’s kind of on a fine line where they might accept it.” Because they’re based in California, and it’s basically legal there, and Apple, I guess — in San Francisco — didn’t find it obscene or offensive.
CFF: What are the biggest challenges you’ve had so far?
David: Learning the programming language has been a little difficult, but it’s definitely been worth it.
Elizabeth: And sharing a Mac. We have to give it back and forth for him to do updates.
David: Right now she has my Dell laptop, and I have her Mac laptop. So that will probably be one of the first things we do is upgrade our equipment.
CFF: Would you consider this a business venture or an effort to support a cause?
Elizabeth: It’s a little of both, I think.
David: Yeah, it’s both. People say work at something you love and you’re passionate about. And we’re pretty passionate about getting marijuana legalized.
Elizabeth: And the other thing is, I don’t see how really you could spend all day and all night dedicated to something and not at least have your bills paid. So, we’re not trying to make a million dollars or anything, but if I could pay my rent that would be good.
David: Now that we see it’s accepted and we’ve been learning how to program, it would be nice to keep rolling out applications. I could see it being a career.
CFF: What has made you so passionate about marijuana being legalized?
Elizabeth: It just seems like it has been demonized for the wrong reasons. When you do historical research, you’ll find that a lot of it was fueled by racism in different countries, in different time periods. So it was made illegal for the wrong reasons, first of all. And secondly, when you think about alcohol and tobacco and the damage that does to society, and OxyCotin and all the other prescription drugs that are abused all the time, people OD and die on these drugs. And marijuana cannot kill you.
May 24, 2009 – Light years ahead, the future of indoor growing may be a whole new game.
An Advanced Grow Feature by Nico Escondido
A Light Introduction
When people talk about indoor cultivation and the lamps they use to light up a growroom, some standard words and phrases come to mind. You have terms such as HPS and MH, referring to high-pressure sodium and metal halide bulbs, respectively. You have units of measurement such as wattage, lumens or lux thrown around to describe a particular lamp’s discharge or intensity. Lately, however, there have been a couple of three-letter words that are used more and more with relatively little understanding. But these words (which are actually acronyms for larger phrases) may play an even greater role in what takes place in growrooms in the very near future… Welcome to Part II of our Advanced Lighting Series.
PAR is a term usually synonymous with golf. But when you look at it in a different light, it can also mean photosynthetically active radiation – and that is a term usually associated with serious cannabis cultivation. In essence, the PAR value is a rating for the amount of usable light that a bulb can emit.
Researchers and horticulturists have figured out that PAR values are higher at the ends of the visible spectrum – that is to say, in the red and blue frequencies (or wavelengths) of light. The basic PAR zone includes most of this visible spectrum, ranging from about 380 to 750 nanometers (nm) in wavelength. Blue frequencies of the spectrum occur at wavelengths around 450 nm, and red somewhere near 650 nm. These wavelengths directly correspond to the amount of photons being sent to the plants, and this, in turn, affects plant processes such as photosynthesis, plant tropism and even stomatal action on leaves (the opening and closing of leaf stomata for respiration).
Big-time growers are always looking for ways to tweak, supercharge and optimize their gardens, because they know this leads to superior marijuana. Advantages in light utilization and increased photosynthesis can obviously help create larger yields and more potent buds. The key to remember is that not all light emitted by your bulbs will be usable by your plants. To that end, growers must figure out what spectrum is best for their particular crop.
The light-emitting diode, or LED, was invented in Russia in the mid-1920’s. You might be thinking: Who cares where it was invented? But the important fact here is when it was invented – nearly 85 years ago.
The point is that it has taken a very long time for this technology to come into use, and these days the most limiting factor with LED’s is still the cost of developing the technology. Manufacturers are just now hitting the market with LED products that are actually precise enough and strong enough to light indoor gardens on their own. In the next five to 10 years – assuming these new LED lamps work well – you can expect to see a huge increase in market volume for LED’s as the cost of this technology begins to go down. With that said, let’s take a look at the basic advantages of LED lights, moving gradually into the more technical aspects.
To start with, LED lamps use somewhere around one-fifth the power of normal high-intensity discharge (HID) lighting. One of our recent test products – the UFO LED, manufactured by HID Hut (and depicted on our February 2008 cover) – uses 90 watts while still putting out just as many lumens as a 400-watt MH bulb. Obviously, this amounts to a pretty big savings in power consumption and electricity costs.
Additionally, LED’s give off a lot less heat than any conventional HID lamp. Gone are the days of air-cooled lighting systems and the necessity for industrial-strength exhaust fans – not to mention showing up on the thermal-imaging screens of narco-copters flying overhead. The latest LED models, such as the UFO, have built-in fans to cool the tiny bulbs, making standard growroom ventilation and air exchanges more than enough to keep room temperatures at optimal levels. Not too shabby.
So what about the spectrum? Well, here’s where the technology side begins to come into play. It’s worth mentioning that each of these little LED’s can cost the manufacturer upwards of $10 each. When you have 90 LED’s in one lamp, things start to get extremely pricey. The key to keeping this cost down is for the manufacturer to choose LED bulbs that will be more cost-efficient for the consumer. The trick, however, is to not compromise on the best spectral wavelength for your plants. As it stands now, the best LED products in stores (and online) can cost between $550 and $650.
Still, while $600 may seem pretty high for a single-unit lamp, the argument for it is simple: Savings in energy consumption repays the cost after only a year of use. Manufacturers understand, however, that unless the results are overwhelmingly positive, many indoor growers will remain wary. Even so, when you factor in the costs of ballasts, reflectors, bulbs and cooling equipment for conventional HID lamps, the price gap closes quickly.
And so spectrum becomes the trump card. Because LED companies can choose diodes based on the color they emit, they can choose the best spectral frequencies for cannabis plants to thrive in. This is a lot harder for HID-bulb manufacturers, although it should be noted that there are ways for them to do so (and this will be covered in Part III of this series). In creating LED products, a compromise is often reached between optimal color wavelengths and cost; this way, the price tag doesn’t become prohibitive, and the plants will grow as well or better than they would under conventional HID lighting.
The UFO, for example, utilizes two spectral wavelengths; one red and one blue. When the lamp was going though its prototype testing, trials found that with the red diodes at 455 nm and blues at 627 nm, some minor stretching occurred during the flowering stage. To combat this, the company tweaked the lamp, stepping up the number of blue diodes from 10 to 20 out of 90. While the company’s founder acknowledges that he would have preferred to use 660s instead of 627s, the cost of doing so would have made the product five times more expensive, and that just doesn’t work for home or hobbyist growers. It has been these types of adjustments (with more to come) that have helped LED’s become viable options for indoor growrooms.
Looking toward the future, it may soon be possible for LED lamps to hit every possible color in the spectrum that a plant could want, and to supply it in the exact amounts that cannabis plants need. But right now, LED’s like the UFO have produced yields similar to or better than their HID counterparts in initial trials (see results in final section), and have simultaneously saved growers money on electricity while adding better security and growroom atmosphere than do standard HPS and MH bulbs.
Extra Perspective from the HT Blimp
To give some added perspective on the sheer costs of developing the LED to its full potential, High Times got an inside scoop on the future of LED lighting straight from China – the hub of LED research, development and production.
Preliminary reports have stated that a diode measuring two by two inches (which is an extremely large diode compared to conventional LED’s) has been manufactured in China and is currently in the testing phase. Approximately a half-dozen of these diodes were created in a clean room, as microprocessors might be, with only a small percentage of them working for a short period of time. Still, the 200-watt diode, which is a blue, phosphor-coated bulb, reportedly emits 200,000 lumens!
While the cost of materials and actual construction are negligible, the research and developmental costs for this project have been estimated at 60 million yuan, or $8 million – over $1 million per diode. As always, once mass production starts, the cost of these diodes will drop fast… but starting at a million per, it’s going to be at least 10 years before we see anything like that in a growroom.
Spectral Comparisons by Bulb
All plants absorb light via pigments such as chlorophyll A, chlorophyll B and carotenoids. This light energy, also known as photons, is converted into usable plant energy by the excitation of electrons within the plant cells. This energy becomes the major catalyst in photosynthesis. Without this energy, the plant would be unable to produce food for itself and grow. Without this energy, there would be no buds or resin production of any kind.
A graphic of the absorption process within leaves is depicted in Figure 1.1.
The graph shows the absorption rates of two separate pigments (chlorophyll A and B) and breaks down the absorption spectrum by wavelength or color. With this knowledge, it is much easier to see the importance of providing proper spectrum for indoor marijuana gardens. As a guide to better understanding what bulbs can and cannot supply, we have compiled a few graphs to illustrate some of the more prominent bulb types on the market today (see figures 1.2, 1.3 and 1.4).
One important characteristic that isn’t displayed on these charts, however, is the power of the light emitted. Ironically, the bulbs with the best light spectrum are actually the weakest in terms of strength. In fact, a regular incandescent household light bulb actually has a superior spectrum compared to HPS or MH bulbs, but the power just isn’t there. When bulbs lack the strength for their light to penetrate or even reach garden canopies, their value becomes limited.
Bulbs must be able to deliver their light to cannabis gardens with a force as close to the sun’s natural power as possible. Unfortunately, bulbs like fluorescents or incandescents are only strong enough for supplemental lighting, or for use in nursery lamps when baby clones are still rooting. Using lights that aren’t powerful enough for adults will result in spindly, leafy plants as their branches stretch to gather more light.
Another important consideration regarding spectrum involves using supplemental lighting to compensate for the lack of a full spectrum. A well-known experiment conducted in 1950 by Robert Emerson led to the discovery of what we now call the Emerson Enhancement Effect. In principal, the effect states that when shorter wavelengths (i.e., blues or oranges) are supplied along with the longer wavelengths (such as reds at 690 nm and higher), absorption and photosynthesis occur at a faster rate than the sum of both colors acting alone. The reason this happens is because separate photosynthetic processes, called photosystems, occur within the leaves and are related to the specific leaf pigments discussed above.
As research progressed, it turned out that these systems can work together within leaves and that each actually works better when functioning together. Thus, it may be best for indoor growers to mix opposing wavelengths when supplementing gardens rather than use the standard HPS/ MH mix. Looking at the spectral coverage of various bulbs, we notice that fluorescent bulbs are an excellent option for supplemental light. Many people first thought that LED’s would also be a great source of supplemental light, but as developments continue, some are now claiming that they may be the next all-in-one lamp. With prices dropping in LED technology, more manufacturers like HID Hut will be able to produce fuller-spectrum LED lights, making the future even brighter than we might have anticipated.
Electroluminescence (EL) is both an optical and electrical phenomenon in which light is emitted by a material in response to an electric current being passed through it. LED’s emit a form of EL using a semiconductor diode, as compared to the light emission resulting from heat or incandescence (such as in a standard household bulb), or from the action of chemicals or chemoluminescence (as in HID bulbs like HPS, MH and mercury vapor).
The specific colors emitted by LED’s depend upon the type of semi-conducting material inside the diode. The colors of light from an LED can be of the visible spectrum, but they can also be infrared or near-ultraviolet as well. As mentioned earlier, LED’s can even be manipulated to give off white light, which is the light created through the combination of all the colors of the visible spectrum. Sometimes bulb manufacturers put various types of coatings on their bulbs to achieve white light, but LED’s can combine different color diodes to produce this same effect. Blue diodes can be added to red and green LED’s to create a fuller spectrum and make a whiter light. Whiter-light-emitting bulbs, such as fluorescents, are obviously a better choice for indoor gardens because of their fuller spectrums. The only question then is whether or not the light source is strong enough to deliver that spectrum to the plants effectively.
An Electro-Illuminant Future?
And that’s the million-dollar question: Are LED’s the wave of the future? Obviously, there are big savings in power usage as well as heat production, and overall security is enormously better. But will they yield bigger? Will they yield super dank? We’ve presented all the facts, but ultimately the answer to that can only be determined by you. In case you’re still having trouble figuring it all out, here’s a few more facts straight from the High Times Cultivation Labs:
In three separate trials, a high-powered LED (prototypes of HID Hut’s UFO) was run in side-by-side experiments – once against a 400-watt MH bulb, once against a 400-watt HPS bulb, and once against a 600-watt HPS bulb. These trials used exactly the same conditions on both sides of the fence. The plants were cuttings taken from a single mother; the medium and grow systems were the same; and the nutrients and atmospheric conditions were kept identical. The only variable was the lamp provided. And, as usual, the results varied.
In Trial A, the clones were placed in a three-by-six-foot box that was divided evenly in half. An ebb-and-flow table on each side shared the same grow medium and reservoir. In the end, the LED lamp yielded 12% more than its counterpart, the 400-watt MH.
In Trial B, similar systems again pitted the UFO against a 400-watt HPS, only this time the LED side took an extra week to finish. Some concern arose over stretching, as the clone grew to touch the UFO. This resulted in a decision to increase the blue diodes in a second prototype, and it may lead to an increase in wavelength for the red diodes, according to the manufacturer. In the end, the LED side yielded 5% less than the HPS side did.
However, it was reported in Trial B that there were markedly different potencies, with the LED plant producing much more resin. Speculation exists that the shortage of wavelengths aided in this process, as abnormal stresses have been known to increase the production of resin glands. Final calculations taking into consideration the extra week of flowering time on the LED side found that in terms of grams yielded per kilowatt hour (KwH) consumed, the HPS yield was one-fourth that of the LED side.
In Trial C, the grower found similarities to both previous trials. While the LED yielded less than its counterpart, this test pushed the limits of the LED by pitting it against a stronger 600-watt HPS bulb. Resin production on this Cali-O strain was up after just four weeks of flowering, but in the end, the yield was around 20% less. However, the grower did note that the amount of money saved in electric costs compared against the costs of the 600-watt HPS was almost enough to offset the profits lost on yield. An interesting side note in this trial was that the plant on the LED side needed considerably less watering than the plant on the HPS side. It is possible that this is due to lower surface temperatures in the soil medium, or because the plant wasn’t driven as hard and thus drank less.
Anyway you slice it, this one’s a real mind-bender. Given the possibilities for vast improvements down the line, the LED revolution could very well be underway already. Will the LED Zeppelin (or the UFO) take off and change the world? For the present, things are certainly looking up.
May 31, 2009 – After almost five years of constant pain and countless medications, Chet Biggerstaff was ready to give up.
Narcotics, muscle relaxants, a morphine pump and every other treatment the Richland man tried failed to blunt the extreme chronic pain he suffered from because of several car wrecks.
But in 2000, Biggerstaff stumbled upon an alternative treatment that was exactly what he’d been looking for — medical marijuana.
“I rolled up a joint, first hit — within the first 15 seconds — the nausea, the spasms disappeared,” said the 38-year-old. “None of the medicines they had me on touched it.”
Now a medical marijuana advocate, he has a vision to make the drug more accessible to other Mid-Columbia patients. He wants to establish a collective to grow and distribute the drug, but the state’s ambiguous medical marijuana law is clouding that vision.
Washington allows residents who suffer from a terminal or debilitating illness and have a written recommendation from their doctor to legally possess a 60-day supply of marijuana.
But advocates and patients say the law does nothing to remove barriers to getting safe, legal and consistent supplies of medical marijuana.
“Patients and caregivers are still caught in a Catch-22 situation which needs to change,” state Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, wrote in an e-mail to the Herald. Kohl-Welles sponsored the 2007 law that defined how much marijuana patients can possess and expanded the list of medical conditions that can be treated by medical marijuana.
But, as a state Department of Health report released last year found, Washington’s lack of a clearly legal source for medical marijuana is a problem both for patients and law enforcement.
Police frustrated too
“We run into it more and more and more,” said Richland Police Chief Tony Corsi. “It’s very frustrating. The laws that we’ve passed now are very, very vague.”
Though patients are allowed to have 15 marijuana plants and 24 ounces of pot, there’s no legal way for them to get seeds, plants or ready-to-use marijuana.
“The only legally protected source is production, a term not defined in law but commonly understood to mean cultivating plants,” said the July 2008 Department of Health report.
It added: “There is no legal source for seeds or seedlings, however, making it unclear just how patients are supposed to begin a garden. This means patients must break the law to participate.”
Kennewick police Sgt. Trevor White, supervisor of the Metro Drug Task Force, said problems surrounding medical marijuana don’t come across his desk often. But he said many challenges officers used to face were remedied when the state outlined a legal definition of a 60-day supply.
“They’re either in compliance or they’re not,” he said. “A legitimate user of medical marijuana is not going to have any problems.”
Biggerstaff said a big barrier for medical marijuana patients is that many are too sick to grow their own — although state law addresses this by allowing a caregiver to grow marijuana for the patient. But many patients can’t wait the months it takes to grow their own medication, which Biggerstaff said creates a need for an immediate source like a dispensary.
Patients who can get a doctor’s recommendation for medical marijuana include those with chronic pain; cancer; epilepsy; acute or chronic glaucoma; hepatitis C with debilitating nausea or pain; diseases, including anorexia, which result in nausea, vomiting, wasting, appetite loss, cramping, seizures, muscle spasms or spasticity; Crohn’s disease; HIV and multiple sclerosis.
Medical marijuana has been known to slow or stop the progression of some conditions, such as MS.
“Not allowing MS patients access is a form of manslaughter to me,” said Paul Stanford, executive director of Portland-based The Hemp and Cannabis Foundation. The group organizes clinics to receive doctor recommendations for medical marijuana in 28 cities, including Kennewick.
Tri-City pot clinics
Stanford said up to 40 new patients each month attend the clinics at Kennewick’s Wingate Inn to receive a doctor’s recommendation. Patients must provide documentation of their condition to receive a recommendation.
“Most of the patients that we see have tried a wide variety of traditional treatments,” Stanford said.
The Hemp and Cannabis Foundation clinic began in Kennewick a few years ago after the nonprofit saw patients were having difficulty getting recommendations from doctors, Stanford said. Few Mid-Columbia doctors treat medical marijuana patients, so some patients, like Biggerstaff, travel to the west side of the state to find treatment.
The clinics also provide patients resources to learn how to bake, vaporize or otherwise prepare the medication, as well as access to a password-protected forum.
Though Stanford said one of the main problems is actually getting access to marijuana, the nonprofit group has to avoid actually providing medical marijuana, seeds or plants for patients to produce their own.
The July 2008 state report said many patients told the Department of Health they get marijuana from drug dealers or underground dispensaries. Patients also sometimes share their supply with others in need.
“There are legitimate people who are in pain. So where do they go? They go to a street dealer,” said Chief Corsi. “You’re forcing them to do something illegal when that’s not their intention.”
The state report said group growing, dispensaries and government supply could increase patient access.
But it also said safety and diversion — the potential for marijuana getting into the hands of those who aren’t medical marijuana patients — could be a challenge for group operations. It said security procedures and government regulation could reduce the safety and diversion risks.
Sen. Kohl-Welles said access to safe, reliable sources of medical marijuana is critical. She said more needs to be done to provide that, and she plans to work with advocates and the Department of Health to come up with legislation next year that addresses these issues.
Kohl-Welles said some in the Legislature have discussed increasing government regulation by adopting a state registry as long as there is absolute assurance of privacy.
Locally, Biggerstaff wants to improve access for the hundreds of medical marijuana patients in the Tri-Cities by setting up a group-growing operation and a storefront dispensary in Richland.
But he said the keys to having a successful collective include transparency, public education and city support — which he says so far hasn’t come.
“There’s absolutely no reason that the city shouldn’t help with this,” Biggerstaff said. “We’re not going to open a storefront before we have the city on our side.”
But Richland City Attorney Tom Lampson said Washington’s law doesn’t touch on the legality of group grows and dispensaries, so Richland cannot support Biggerstaff’s vision unless the law is amended.
“I haven’t seen anything that allows it,” Lampson said. “If the law changed, certainly we would look at it again.”
Stanford, of The Hemp and Cannabis Foundation, said, “It also doesn’t prohibit it, so it’s up to local authorities.”
He said getting local government support “dramatically” helps medical marijuana patients. “I think it’s needed. Patients need a safe, reliable source.”
“I think it’s the community’s responsibility to regulate that and not force it underground,” Stanford added.
Corsi said he hopes the Legislature better defines the law, but until then his department will continue to uphold the law as his department and the Benton County prosecutor interpret it.
“The laws need to be defined on these group things,” Corsi said. “I really think if they’re serious about it, they really need to go back to the Legislature.”
Safety a big concern
Biggerstaff said safety is one of the main reasons he wants the city on board. Medical marijuana patients who grow their own high-quality plants are at risk for violence and burglary. Group grows and dispensaries also are at risk for crime, the state report said.
“I have some major concerns with everything,” Corsi said. “You’ve got safety and security of the grow — who’s going to protect that? Who’s going to rip them off?” He added he also worries about patients getting high and then driving.
If the collective could work with the city to get strong security measures in place, Biggerstaff said, the group grow could be secure, and city police would know it was a grow specifically for legal medical marijuana patient use.
“You’ve got hundreds of small grows going on and that doesn’t make any sense,” he said. “It makes perfect sense to put our plants together.”
The state report also said large gardens could draw federal attention — marijuana use of any kind is not allowed by federal law — although the current administration and recent Supreme Court rulings have backed state laws.
Biggerstaff said the Three Rivers Collective — which he envisions as someday being a nonprofit run by a board of patients, law enforcement and health care providers — has strict regulations, including a screening process to become a member.
“There really isn’t any leeway on the rules. There is no bending them,” he said.
There are about three dozen members or people in the process of becoming members of the collective, he said.
Biggerstaff said the collective provides medical marijuana patients with support and education. That includes helping set up grows, finding caregivers or donating excess medication to those too sick to produce it themselves.
The Three Rivers Collective meets at 2 p.m. Saturdays at Richland Community Center. More information can be found at http://www.meetup.com/Three- Rivers-Collective.
“It’s all underground, it’s just the top layer has been scraped off so you can see the top of it,” Biggerstaff said. “The most important (goal) right now is access and education for our local area.”
Chronicle/Cory MorseDan Higgins, 34, is pictured with marijuana he grew. Higgins has a prescription for marijuana to treat back pain, claiming it is a better alternative than conventional medication which makes him nauseous.
Dan Higgins heaved a sigh of relief last November when he learned Michigan residents voted to legalize medical marijuana.
The new law meant the disabled U.S. Army veteran wouldn’t have to smoke marijuana, which he uses to treat severe nausea and back pain, in secret.
“It’s about compassion,” said Higgins, a 34-year-old Grand Haven resident who suffers from severe nausea caused by the high-powered pain killers he uses to treat his injured back.
However, the celebration was short-lived.
Nearly two months after Michigan’s medical marijuana law — which voters approved in last November’s presidential election — went into effect, both patients and law enforcement officials say they have more questions than answers.
What constitutes an “enclosed, locked” marijuana grow facility? How does a patient who’s to sick to grow marijuana find the substance? Is a patient who has received a doctor’s note but not a state identification card breaking the law by using medical marijuana?
Clear answers don’t appear to be coming anytime soon.
“We are simply in the state of confusion, and everyone is searching for some propper guidelines,” said James Houston, a criminal justice professor at Grand Valley State University.
Passing the buck
As a registered user and caregiver who legally can grow up to 60 marijuana plants for five registered patients, Higgins has a lot of questions.
He wants to know how secure his marijuana garden needs to be so he can be in compliance with the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act. Both state officials and local law enforcement have been unwilling to give him an answer, saying they also don’t know.
The act says marijuana must be grown in a “closet, room, or other enclosed area equipped with locks or other security devices.” Those who violate the rule are subject to legal action.
Chronicle/Cory MorseDan Higgins inhales marijuana to treat his back pain.
It’s a definition Higgins says is too vague.
“I feel like I’m being set up for failure,” he said.
He’s not alone.
Greg Francisco, executive director of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Association, says he’s heard similar complaints from other medical marijuana users.
They range from how medical marijuana users find seeds to grow the plants, what constitutes a secure grow area, and how medical marijuana users who don’t want to grow their own find the substance, he said.
“We would like some clear guidelines,” Francisco said.
State offers little guidance
Don’t turn to the state for direction, said James McCurtis, spokesman for the Michigan Department of Community Health, the state agency charged with implementing the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act.
He said the department has a narrow set of duties, mostly limited to reviewing applications submitted by patients or caregivers who wish to use medical marijuana. Beyond that, it’s up to the courts, not the state, to clarify the law, he said.
To use medical marijuana, patients must submit an application to the department of Community Health showing they have a debilitating medical condition — such as cancer, Aids, severe nausea or chronic back pain — and a physician certifying that medical marijuana may help treat the condition.
After the state certifies patients, they receive a state-issued identification card showing they are legally using medical marijuana.
“A lot of these things are going to end up in the legal system because there is some confusion,” McCurtis said, referring to issues such as whether it’s illegal for patients to grow marijuana before they have their identification card in hand.
Chronicle/Cory MorseDan Higgins exhales marijuana smoke inside his Robinson Township home. Higgins has a prescription for marijuana to treat back pain.
He urges patients and caregivers with questions about the new marijuana law to contact their attorney or the Michigan Medical Marijuana Association.
It’s a road that has led Higgins nowhere.
He says he’s contacted numerous organizations, including the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office, his state senator, the Michigan Attorney General’s office and still hasn’t received any direction on how to interpret the law.
“I’m seeking clarification and nobody will give it to me,” Higgins said.
Law enforcement confused, too
Patients aren’t the only ones complaining about the medical marijuana law. It’s drawn heavy criticism from law enforcement officials, too.
Muskegon County Sheriff Dean Roesler said the law is poorly written, leaving police to sort through many gray areas.
“In terms of giving law enforcement guidance, it’s a poorly written-out proposition,” he said.
He points to the area covering how secure a marijuana garden must be and confusion over whether deputies must care for medical marijuana plants they seize.
“That’s going to be subject to interpretation at this point,” Roesler said. “It’s trial and error at this point.”
Lt. Mark Bennett of the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department said deputies will consult with the prosecutor’s office when working through thorny legal issues such as whether medical marijuana patients are receiving the substance in a legal manor.
There’s “more legal ambiguities than most laws,” he said. “There are some areas that will take legal cases to decide.”
Issues patients and law enforcement officials are wadding through likely won’t become clear until several cases move through the legal system.
There’s been no shortage of legal and legislative tussles since the law went into effect last April.
One of the most high-profile cases is taking place in Madison Heights, a Detroit suburb where a couple is facing charges of illegally growing 21 marijuana plants.
Chronicle/Cory MorseDan Higgins displays his home-grown marijuana.
While the couple had doctors’ notes allowing them to use marijuana for medical purposes, they lacked state identification cards saying they could use the substance. At issue is whether medical marijuana patients were prohibited from growing the substance until the state implemented the identification system in April or after voters passed the law in November.
Other pending cases include a Shiawassee County man who was arrested earlier this month for growing marijuana in an unsecured area outside his home, a violation of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act. Police and prosecutors say the man faces one count of manufacturing marijuana, according to news reports.
Add to that numerous city and townships ordinances that would prohibit marijuana from being grown in residential areas, and you have the potential for a confusing set of laws, said Francisco, of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Association.
Bills have also been introduced in the state legislature, including one by state Sen. Gerald Van Woerkom, R-Norton Shores, that would prohibit patients from growing medical marijuana. Instead, the substance would be distributed by pharmacists with a doctor’s prescription, an act that’s currently illegal under federal law.
“We’re ending up with a hodgepodge of policies,” he said, adding many of the proposed regulations will face court battles. “It’s really been a failure by the state to put out guidelines.” Source.
May 30, 2009-Magic Weed : The Truth About Cannabis Sativa traces the story of the Cannabis plant, which has been known to mankind for thousands of years and how it serves us in so many ways. The sacred herb was always seen by Shamans and the ancients as a gift from the Creator God(s) of life on Earth. Like food nourishes the body, Cannabis provides nourishment for the mind and works it’s magic with the soul. Also explored in this documentary is the American relationship with hemp, including it’s ban during the 1920′s and the various uses of the hemp plant ….
Part 1 : Magic Weed ~ The History Of Marijuana
Cannabis Sativa is an annual plant in the Cannabaceae family. It is a herb that has been used throughout recorded history by humans as a source of fiber, for its seed oil, as food, as medicine and for spiritual purposes. Different parts of the plant have different uses, and different varieties are cultivated in different ways and harvested at different times, depending on the purpose for which it is grown.
Cannabis or Ganja is associated with Shiva, who is popularly believed to like the hemp plant.
Ganja is not only offered to Shiva, but also consumed by Shaivite yogis. Charas is smoked by some Shaivite devotees and cannabis itself is seen as a gift (“prasad” or offering) to Shiva to aid in sadhana. According to one description, when Amrita or the elixir of life was produced from the churning of the ocean by the gods and the demons, Shiva created Cannabis from his own body to purify the elixir (whence, for cannabis, the epithet angaj or body-born).
May30th, 2009 – There’s always a heap of interest when a newly emerging technology begins to make some headlines, but when that technology is related to marijuana, the interest is amplified ten-fold.
Cannabis is an ever-present in the world’s news in its own right. But when it has some high profile celebrity endorsements to inflate the newsworthyness of the story, news editors are assured of plenty of reader feedback.
As a result marijuana always receives lots of column inch’s.
For instance, it was with a degree of resignation and a shoulder-shrug, that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said recently, it’s time to consider legalizing marijuana.
Although, his thoughts were the loose-fit variety and free of any specifics: “I think it’s time for a debate” he said.
Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, a Democrat from San Francisco goes one step further by saying his initial estimate is in the region of $1.3 billion dollars in new revenue made available to the state of California, if his AB390 legalization bill passed.
The numbers involved in this newly emerging marijuana industry are literally quite staggering when you realize currenlty 1 in 5 adults, has used cannabis at least once.
But the truth is, the legalization of marijuana is at least a generation away. Probably more.
In the meantime its only the forward-thinking US states, and one or two European nations who recognize the primary harm to manifest as a result of drugs prohibition, is the exposure to the law which exists as a result of it.
Convictions for marijuana offences do far more harm than the drug itself, and arresting people who can actually benefit physically in the treatment of a medical condition is inhumane and barbaric. The UK should take note!
“In the US prison system there is currently around an 84% chance an offender will reoffend and go back to prison, so with statistics like that its imperative we spend our money not so much on trying to keep people from re-offending. But by stopping them offending and going to prison in the first place”.
So said Bruce Perlowin in 1985.
Perlowin is CEO of Medical Marijuana Inc, (PINKS:MJNA) but at the time, he was serving a 15 year jail sentence at Texarcana Federal Prison, and as such was perhaps perfectly situated to comment.
Perlowin served 8 of a 15 year stretch for masterminding the greatest marijuana smuggling operation the world had ever seen, smuggling over 500,000 pounds of marijuana, from Colombia to the United States, using a fleet of ships and aeroplanes larger than the Air Forces and Navy’s of many small countries.
He employed over 100 people, ran his own pier in San Fransisco Bay, and had a surveillance set up which could teach the FBI a thing or two, (according to a District Attorney involved in the prosecution).
With a business pedigree like this, it was a ‘given’ that Bruce Perlowin would be one of the very first to recognize an investment opportunity in the infantile medical marijuana industry, which is only now beginning to flower.
With organizations like Rob Kampia’s Marijuana Policy Project rampaging from state to state on behalf of medical marijuana, the green veil is being slowly but surely lifted across America, as administrations begin to realize sending people to jail for marijuana offences is an ineffective and expensive error.
Especially so in light of the weight of medical evidence which exists in favor of marijuana being used as a bona-fide medicine.
As marijuana stands currently, a class 1 narcotic alongside heroin and cocaine, it can not be administered, by law.
But the confusing ‘State Versus Federal’ position makes it possible for people with a doctors recommendation to use marijuana in the treatment of a medical condition. And with the inception of such a state law, it naturally follows there will form an industry which exists to support this newly decreed demographic of ‘medical marijuana’ users.
As has proven to be the case for the last 9 decades, nothing about marijuana is ever quite as straight forward as it seems and in the case of many business people who were legally operating under state laws, this has ended with a federal prison sentence for selling a class 1 narcotic. And without a shadow of a doubt every single case will have involved the cannabis vendor saying he had sold ‘X’ amount of medical marijuana, whilst the DEA said he had sold ‘Y’ amount.
As a result of there being no actual ‘industry standard’ when it comes to accounting systems involved in the distribution of medical marijuana, be that through a collective, a dispensary or a designated grower system, anyone actually wishing to get involved in medical marijuana must constantly pick their way through a legal minefield, which could end the liberty of a person almost it seems, at the whim of the DEA.
But using this improved inventory management, distribution and accounting system from Medical Marijuana Inc, Cannabis suppliers can accurately track the quantity and value of their inventory at any point in time and adjust their inventory valuation criteria accordingly.
How it works
Inventory is scanned in through the back door using a barcode system that produces a highly secure ‘closed circuit’ audit trail from the grower to the patient. Its then scanned out the front door with the consumers purchase. The transaction is completed, and is super-easy to log and track from grower to consumer.
This is perhaps what makes this system so attractive to regulators who wish to ensure compliance by all participants in the industry.
Charles Larsen, who is the President of Medical Marijuana Inc and a former US Coast Guard officer commented “”This secure platform will provide industry operators with tools to efficiently purchase, trade, track and value their inventory at any point along the supply chain”.
He continued “This online interconnected distribution network will give all industry participants the ability to more effectively manage their operations and ensure that they are always in full compliance with regulators.”
What that means in laymans terms, is a system which at anytime, the government can plug into to check accounts, thus safeguarding their all important piece of the big green pie.
At face value Bruce Perlowins system looks a sure-fire winner, which is sure to gain some form of official backing, as the US administration realizes this is an accurate, efficient, non-labor intensive means of collecting millions of dollars of tax revenue they are simply missing out on currently.
Tax revenue on money which is being spent, regardless of whether the US government decide to get involved or not.
Tax revenue which currently falls into the hands of organised criminals in a lot of instances.
For the dispensary operator, having an industry standard system in place makes sure all of the respective agency’s can interface with their accounts almost at will, providing an electronic road map of every single transaction undertaken.
And for the end user they can be safe in the knowledge they are dealing with an operator who is doing absolutely everything in his or her power to abide by the laws of the land.
Its a real win/win/win situation, which is only going to mature over time.
Meaning now is a really good time to check out Medical Marijuana Inc.
May 30, 2009 – People who use marijuana to treat symptoms of anxiety, fatigue and neuropathy say it is as effective as over-the-counter (OTC) remedies or prescription drugs recommended by their health care providers, according to a survey-based study published in the May 2009 issue of Clinical Nursing Research.
Marijuana use, both recreationally and medically to treat various maladies, is widespread among people with HIV. Though a few small studies have compared marijuana to synthetic marijuana substitutes such as Marinol (dronabinol), few large studies have compared marijuana’s effectiveness with standard OTC or prescription drugs for anxiety, fatigue and pain from nerve damage (peripheral neuropathy).
To explore the effectiveness of marijuana used by people living with HIV to manage these symptoms, Inge Corless, RN, PhD, of the MGH Institute of Health Professions School of Nursing in Boston, and her colleagues conducted surveys of 768 HIV-positive patients in the continental United States, Puerto Rico and Africa. Of those surveyed, 59 percent were male, 38 percent were female, and 2 percent were transgender. Most were of African or Hispanic descent. Fifteen percent of those surveyed reported using marijuana to manage the symptoms of their HIV disease, most of them from the United States. Marijuana use for symptom management was as high as 26 percent for people who had nausea and as low as 19 percent in those with fatigue.
Though marijuana was generally rated as more effective than OTC or prescription medications for symptom management, the difference was not statistically significant—meaning that it was small enough to have occurred by chance. Marijuana was rated higher than OTC or prescription drugs for anxiety, depression, diarrhea and neuropathy. For fatigue and nausea, however, marijuana was rated somewhat lower than OTC or prescription drugs.
Though the authors concede that because people taking marijuana may experience euphoria, they may falsely rate its symptom management effectiveness more highly than treatments that do not cause euphoria. Because people rated marijuana as nearly equivalent or better than other symptom management treatments, however, the authors are encouraging further comparative studies to determine its effectiveness. Source.
May 29th, 2009 – LAPD Detective Supervisor Holcomb from the Devonshire precinct in the San Fernando Valley claims the department closed four Los Angeles medical cannabis collectives in recent days. Speaking with defense attorney Bill Kroger, who represents one of the collectives, Holcomb said the City Council’s ongoing effort to regulate these facilities is irrelevant because the associations violate state law. The extent of the police activity is still unconfirmed, but if Holcomb’s claims are true, this may be an early sign of an LAPD offensive against collectives in the San Fernando Valley.
Holcomb told the attorney that the collectives were illegal under People v. Mentch, a California Supreme Court case which limited the ability of cannabis growers to act as Primary Caregivers – but has no impact on collective and cooperative associations. The Detective also misrepresented California law when he told the attorney that selling cannabis was illegal under all circumstances. California Health and Safety Code Section 11362.775 specifically allows sales within the membership of a patients’ collective or cooperative. In People v. Urziceanu, the Third District Court of Appeal issued a decision affirming the legality of patients’ associations, and held that state law provides for a defense to cannabis distribution for collectives and cooperatives.
Detective Holcomb’s comments are not surprising or new. A culture of resistance to medical cannabis permeates the LAPD, as it does most law enforcement agencies. Officers often grasp at straws trying to explain away Proposition 215, Senate Bill 420, and the mountain of case law upholding our state law and patients’ rights. Holcomb’s arguments are remarkably similar to those offered by outgoing Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo when he offered a draft ordinance designed to close all storefront patients’ associations in Los Angeles earlier this year. The LAPD is apparently reading from the lame duck City Attorney’s talking points.
Law enforcement resistance to medical cannabis can not be explained by ignorance. Last year, California Attorney General Jerry Brown published guidelines saying that “a properly organized and operated collective or cooperative that dispenses medical marijuana through a storefront may be lawful under California law,” provided the facility substantially complies with the guidelines. This is not wishful thinking from medical cannabis advocates. This is direction from the state’s top law enforcement official.
There may be times when local law enforcement must intervene in a patients association to protect members and the welfare of the community at large, or to police bona fide violations of state law. However, blanket judgments and untenable legal explanations are evidence continued resistance and bad faith – not effective police work. Elected officials, voters, and finally the courts, must hold this kind of enforcement in check if we are to realize the opportunity for full implementation of state law offered by the new evolving federal policy.
Thursday, May 28, 2009 – Since 1996, California has allowed patients to obtain medical marijuana.
The $42 billion budget deficit ($24.3 billion expected for next fiscal year) California has found itself in is forcing politicians to reevaluate the programs and policies that shape our budget. One area warranting serious scrutiny is the state’s criminal justice system. The Department of Corrections has been following an upward trend of expenditures for the past five years. In 2008, the criminal justice system cost the state approximately $13 billion, nearly a $7 billion increase since 2003, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office.
Gov. Schwarzenegger has proposed revisions in sentencing and parole guidelines to deal with prison overcrowding. While these revisions are being deliberated, the cost of incarceration for non-violent drug offenses has become an oft-debated area for reform. The legalization of marijuana is no longer an absurd suggestion made by extreme liberals or shaggy-haired hippies, but a legitimate option proposed and supported by a variety of politicians and economists in California.
A 2005 report by Jeffrey A. Miron, an economics professor at Harvard University, found that legalizing marijuana would save $7.7 billion per year in government expenditure on enforcement of prohibition, $5.3 billion of which would accrue to state and local governments.
Miron’s report, entitled The Budgetary Implications of Marijuana Prohibition, also estimated that marijuana decriminalization would yield tax revenues of $2.4 billion annually if marijuana were taxed like all other goods and $6.2 billion annually if marijuana were taxed at rates comparable to those on alcohol and tobacco. Following Miron’s report, 500 economists signed an open letter to the president and Congress in support of a public debate over the pros and cons of marijuana legalization.
“You have some very conservative people suggesting that we should legalize marijuana,” said Marjorie Cohn, a criminal law professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and the president of the National Lawyers Guild. “The drug trade revolves around violence, extortion and the black market. If you make it legal, you take those things away.”
In January, San Diego County Counsel petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear its case opposing implementation of state laws on medical marijuana use. State law requires the county to issue legal identification cards to medical marijuana patients, and the county sought a definitive opinion on whether it should be forced to implement something that was illegal under federal law. Earlier this month, the Supreme Court chose not to hear the appeal for a second time, after state trial and appellate courts ruled against the county.
“I am disappointed the Court did not take our case, but I am respectful of the Court’s decision,” said Supervisor Dianne Jacobs in a statement. “We were seeking a definitive ruling, in writing, that would resolve the conflict between state and federal law. In my opinion, there remains a gray area that will continue to pose challenges for law enforcement and users.”
The “gray area” between state and federal laws, as well as medical and recreational marijuana users, poses challenges for law enforcement at a point when municipal and county resources are stretched thin and officers have difficulty enforcing marijuana laws alongside more serious offenses. Arrests for marijuana possession have surged in California in recent years, up 13 percent in 2007 to 74,119 arrests, according to the state Criminal Justice Statistics Center. It costs the state approximately $170 million annually for arrests, prosecutions and incarceration of offenders. Supporters of legalizing marijuana say it will not only eliminate the money spent on prohibition, but also bring in tax revenues.
“I think that people who have committed non-violent drug offenses don’t belong in prison,” Cohn said. “They belong in education and treatment programs, and we do have a system for that, but I think it needs to be extended.”
Professor Alex Crite of Thomas Jefferson School of Law believes that, for the past 40 years, the policy on drugs has been ineffective, and that the combination of California’s economic problems and a broader rethinking of the war on drugs has led to a more serious discussion of marijuana legalization. In theory, the legalization of marijuana would remove arrests for trafficking and possession, and therefore, according to Crite and other proponents, save prosecutorial, judicial and detention expenses.
In February, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano put forth a piece of legislation that included a system of taxing and regulating marijuana similar to that of alcohol and tobacco, as analyzed in Miron’s report. The Marijuana Control, Regulation, and Education Act would set up a wholesale and retail marijuana sales regulation program that would include special fees to fund drug abuse prevention programs.
In 2007, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that almost two million Californians admitted to having used marijuana in the past month. Daily users of the substance constitute 20 percent of the state’s pot-smoking population, or approximately 400,000 Californians. For many of these individuals, this is the first time they have ranked in the top 20 percent of their class.
In addition, public opinion has shifted in recent years towards a more tolerant acceptance of the substance. A February 2009 Rasmussen poll found that 40 percent of Americans supported legalizing the drug, with 46 percent opposed and 14 percent unsure. California voters support legalization with a 54 percent majority.
Report: Marijuana Effectiveness as an HIV Self-Care Strategy
Science Daily – May 29, 2009 — Those in the United States living with HIV/AIDS are more likely to use marijuana than those in Kenya, South Africa or Puerto Rica to alleviate their symptoms, according to a new study published in Clinical Nursing Research, published by SAGE. Those who did use marijuana rate it as effective as prescribed or over the counter (OTC) medicines for the majority of common symptoms, once again raising the issue that therapeutic marijuana use merits further study and consideration among policy makers.
A significant percentage of those with HIV/AIDS use marijuana as a symptom management approach for anxiety, depression, fatigue, diarrhoea, nausea, and peripheral neuropathy. Members of the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) International HIV/AIDS Nursing Research Network examined symptom management and quality of life experiences among those with HIV/AIDS in the US, Africa, and Puerto Rico, to gain a fuller picture of marijuana’s effectiveness and use in this population.
With data from a longitudinal, multi-country, multi-site, randomised control clinical trial, the researchers used four different evaluation tools to survey demographics, self-care management strategies for six common symptoms experienced by those living with HIV/AIDS, quality of life instrument and reasons for non-adherence to medications.
Either marijuana use for symptom management is vastly higher in the US, or participants elsewhere chose not to disclose that they use it: nine tenths of study participants who said they used marijuana live in the US. No African participants said they used it, and the remaining ten percent were from Puerto Rico.
The researchers found no differences between marijuana users and nonusers in age, race, and education level, income adequacy, having an AIDS diagnosis, taking ARV medications, or years on ARV medications. But the two groups did differ in that marijuana users had been HIV positive longer, and were more likely to have other medical conditions. Transgender participants were also more likely to use marijuana.
Participants using marijuana as a management strategy were spread fairly consistent across all six symptoms, ranging from a low of 20% for fatigue to a high of 27% for nausea. Prescribed medications were used by 45% of those with fatigue, ranging down to almost 18% of those with neuropathy.
The findings contained nuances when comparing marijuana to other medications. Those who used marijuana rated their anxiety significantly lower than those who did not, and women who used marijuana had more intense nausea symptoms. For those who use both marijuana and medications for symptom management, antidepressants were considered more effective than marijuana for anxiety and depression, but marijuana was rated more highly than anti-anxiety medications. Immodium was better for diarrhoea than marijuana, as were prescribed medications for fatigue. However, marijuana was perceived to be more effective than either prescribed or OTC medications for nausea and neuropathy. However, the differenced in perceived efficacy in all these results were slight.
As found in previous studies, those who used marijuana were less likely to comply with their regime of ARV medications. But perhaps counter-intuitively of the many reasons given for skipping pills, ‘forgetfulness’ was no different in this group than among those who did not use marijuana. Marijuana use is known to contribute to patients’ lack of compliance with ARV drugs, however those who use marijuana to target a particular symptom are actually more likely to stick closely to their ARV regimen too. The researchers point out that of those who used marijuana for their symptoms, it is not known whether they also used the drug for recreation. Patterns of how marijuana use interferes with patients’ adherence to medication regimens, along with other drugs, warrant further study.
The 775 participants were recruited from Kenya, South Africa, two sites in Puerto Rico, and ten sites in the United States. They had on average been diagnosed for a decade – the majority (70%) were taking anti-retroviral (ARV) medications and more than half had other medical conditions alongside HIV/AIDS. It is hard to pinpoint the marijuana use targeted to alleviate symptoms of those other illnesses as distinct from those relating solely to HIV/AIDS.
Data suggest that marijuana is a trigger among those susceptible to psychosis, and is also associated with the risk of suicidal thoughts. However it is not linked to an increased risk of lung cancer (over and above risks associated with smoking it along with tobacco).
The question of the use of marijuana for symptom management when legal drugs are available remains a practice and policy issue. “Given that marijuana may have other pleasant side effects and may be less costly than prescribed or OTC drugs, is there a reason to make it available?” asks study leader Inge Corless. “These are the political ramifications of our findings. Our data indicate that the use of marijuana merits further inquiry.”