Thousands Learn How to Grow Legal Medical Marijuana

November 30, 2009 – Don’t expect to pull an all-nighter at Med Grow Cannabis College.
Michigan’s first training center for medical marijuana education doesn’t ask students for their homework. There are no final exams. “We’re more of a trade school,” said Nick Tennant, Med Grow’s 24-year-old founder.

As states loosen their medical marijuana laws, institutions such as Med Grow are sprouting up, looking to educate potential caregivers about how to enter the cannabis industry the legal way.

Tennant opened the doors of Med Grow’s 4,800-square-foot facility near Detroit in September, about 10 months after voters approved the state’s medical marijuana act.
Always wanting to be his own boss, Tennant had dropped out of college to manage valet and auto-detail companies. But when his businesses contracted under the smothering recession, he looked to the medical marijuana industry for his next opportunity, months before the measure was up for public vote. “We knew the law was going to get passed,” he said.

In addition to Michigan, 12 states have legalized medical marijuana use: Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

Tennant fashioned part of his business model after California’s Oaksterdam University, which claims to be the country’s first cannabis college, opening in 2007. Oaksterdam has three campuses in California: Oakland, Los Angeles and North Bay. Spokeswoman Salwa Ibrahim said the institution, which staffs about 50 employees, has graduated about 5,500 students. Oaksterdam welcomes the country’s new crop of cannabis colleges, she said.
“We welcome competition,” she said. “Ultimately, what we’re trying to do is change laws locally and federally.”

Hawaii activist Roger Christie says he connects the high he sustains from marijuana use as a “spiritual” ritual, a practice he believes is legal under First Amendment religion protections. He has been an advocate of marijuana use and legalization for 23 years, he said. Only recently did he add educational outreach to his Hawaii Cannabis Ministry. After reading a news story about a continental cannabis college, he decided to add monthly seminars to his ministry’s repertoire this fall.

So far, he has educated about 60 people over two weekend seminars. A $100 donation covers the cost of classes and a hemp seed lunch. “We train people to grow people to grow the best cannabis humanly possible,” Christie said. Med Grow students cover an array of topics related to the budding industry over semester-long courses or seminars. The curriculum covers proper cultivation and breeding, cooking tips and recipes, how to start a care-giving business and Cannabis History 1010. “Students should feel very confident that they’re going to succeed,” Tennant said.

Medical Marijuana Classes Flourish

Tennant’s school employs 12 people, he said. About 60 students are taking courses during this cycle. Med Grow’s five-week semester program, which offers two tracks convening on Monday or Wednesday nights, costs $475. Unlike accredited academic institutions, there is no standard of practices for cannabis colleges in Michigan. Tennant provides his graduates with a paper certificate anyway. It isn’t required, but a student could use it to establish credibility as a professional caregiver, proving he or she is “not just some Joe Shmoe off the street,” he said.

Graduates of Tennant’s college won’t be leaving their training to set up mass dispensaries. Under Michigan law, state-registered caregivers are only allowed to provide marijuana to a maximum of five patients. In California, students of cannabis colleges have a few more options, Ibrahim said. Students come from out-of-state to become lobbyists, dispensary managers as well as caregivers.

“They can do whatever they want to do,” she said. Trey Daring, 26, moved to Daly City, Calif., after graduating from Old Dominion University, in Virginia, to work as an advocate for the cannabis movement. His favorite course is advanced horticulture — it’s the most useful, he said. He’ll graduate in mid-December. Parents ‘Not Necessarily Proud’ of Cannabis College Certification

Daring’s parents are uneasy about his advocacy of the drug because marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law, the government’s most restrictive category that also includes LSD, ecstasy and heroin, he said. “I feel like they’re understanding now but not necessarily proud,” he said. His classrooms are not that much different from ones he had in high school and college: dry-erase boards, PowerPoint presentations and knowledgeable instructors. Perhaps the part that’s most different is his classmates.

“There are a lot more people over 30 than probably outsiders would believe,” he said.
Med Grow students also run the demographic gamut. Tennant said his pupils include 18-year-old high school graduates, a 60-year-old pastor and former clients of his old auto-detailing business, some of whom find themselves struggling to keep their own businesses afloat. His instructors stress that their curriculum is for medicinal purposes only, not recreational tips, he said. “I run a very tight operation here,” he said.

The medical marijuana industry could potentially help Michigan’s battered economy, provided it is not abused, Tennant said. Ibrahim of California’s Oaksterdam University also sees cannabis as a way to contribute positively to a state’s economy. Oaksterdam’s Oakland campus recently moved into a 30,000-square-foot building and, she said, the school expects to educate about 1,000 students a month, double the capacity of the previous space. “It really is flourishing in this economy,” she said. “We’re evidence of it. We just moved into a larger facility when everything else seems to be downsizing.”
By Katie Sanders. Source

November 29, 2009 – Marijuana used for medicinal purposes has a history that dates back all the way until 2737 BC. The issue of Marijuana being used as medicine has been a long debated topic where people have been fighting for both sides and very little has been accomplished. People such as politicians have been fighting to say that marijuana is an illegal drug no matter the benefits. Marijuana offers a remedy to medications and treatments that have extremely painful and long lasting side effects.

Some states have taken action on the matter and voted to decriminalize the use of medicinal marijuana for people with serious illness’ that would benefit from the drug. With this came serious regulations dealing with the distribution, possession, and who can receive the product. Medications with side effects such as loss of appetite and vomiting leave patients with more pain and potentially additional health problems than the disease its self causes. With all of the advantages that Marijuana offers medically, and how enormously effective the drug works with reducing pain, it should be obvious that medicinal marijuana should be legalized for the purpose of treating patients that are unable to deal with their pain.

Cannabis, commonly known as marijuana, has a history that dates back to ancient times. The first recorded use of marijuana came in 2737 BC, when Emperor Shen-Nung of China prescribed cannabis to people to help treat illnesses such as constipation, gout, and malaria. Marijuana was used quite frequently in ancient times for uses in medicine, and it is believed that Gautama Buddha survived by eating nothing but cannabis seeds. Medical Marijuana in the United States of America is not a new discovery. In 1850, Marijuana was added into United States Pharmacopeia, a publication that contains legally recognized standards of every aspect of a drug, and was prescribed for numerous medical conditions including labor pains, nausea, and rheumatism until 1941 when it was removed from the publication.

During the time period between 1850- 1930, cannabis was beginning to lose its image of a medicine and was starting to be viewed as an intoxicant and was looked down upon. In the mid 1930’s, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Narcotics started an initiative to depict marijuana as a controlling addicting substance that could possibly lead to addiction.

With the gaining support of the people, along with the encouragement from the press, the federal government passed the marijuana tax act in 1937, which federally prohibited the smoking of marijuana for any purpose. In 1970, the government passed an additional bill known as the controlled substance act, which created five categories based on drugs usefulness. Marijuana was considered as a Schedule 1 drug which said that cannabis had a high potential for abuse, and no medicinal purposes. (Booth)

As states began to legalize medicinal marijuana, conflicts between federal and state laws became evident. Although marijuana was legal in the state of California, patients that were prescribed the drug were being arrested because medicinal marijuana conflicted with both the controlled substance act, and the marijuana tax act, and federal law always overrides state law. Not until the court case of Gonzales v. Raich did users of medical marijuana have protection against being arrested for breaking federal law.

The issue presented to the court asked, is the Controlled Substances Act a constitutional use of the Commerce Clause? The court voted 6-3 in favor of the defendant and stated that, “the Controlled Substances Act is an unconstitutional exercise of Congress’ Commerce Clause authority,” and finally users of medical marijuana were protected under law from being arrested for breaking federal law. (Gonzales v. Raich)

Marijuana is widely known as one of the safest, low risk active substances if used properly. To this day, there have been no recorded deaths due to an overdose, and there are very few dangerous side effects. In addition, there is no evidence to show that marijuana carries a risk of true addiction to the body.(Gottfried) The same cannot be said for other medications that are used to treat diseases such as AIDS, cancer, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, and epilepsy.

Serious life threatening diseases require extreme amounts of medication on a daily basis that have the potential of causing the body extreme harm and great amounts of pain. For example, when an individual is diagnosed with cancer, one of the only effective treatments for the drug is known as chemotherapy. The drug is delivered to the patient through an IV causing symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and extreme pain are all side effects of the drug and coping with the pain can put a person through hell. (McMahon) The main chemical in marijuana known as delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or TCH, is known to stimulate a person’s appetite when the drug is broken down by the body. Not only does TCH stimulate the body’s appetite, but it also helps alleviate the symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and pain that come along with the chemotherapy treatment.

Additionally, marijuana serves as an effective and long lasting treatment for glaucoma. Glaucoma is a disease when excessive pressure builds up on the eyeball, and almost always leads to loss of vision completely. Treatments for the disease include several different eye drops and oral medications, but with time the body builds an immunity to the drugs and they become ineffective. It has been proven that when smoked; marijuana reduces pressure on the eyeball making cannabis an excellent and long lasting way for glaucoma patients to deal with their pain. (Williams)

Similar to the treatment of cancer, hepatitis C also requires a long term treatment with medications that have very similar side effects to that of chemotherapy. Treatment for hepatitis C requires six months of therapy with the combination of two extremely potent drugs identified as interferon and ribavirin. Side effects of the treatment leave patients with severe fatigue, nausea, muscle aches, loss of appetite and depression. A recent study was conducted with the combined efforts of scientists at the University of California at San Francisco, and the Oakland substance abuse center. Researchers closely monitored the progress of 71 patients who were taking interferon and ribavirin to watch their progress. Out of the 71 patients, 22 of them smoked marijuana on a consistent basis to help ease the pain caused by the treatment. At the end of the six months, 19 of the 22 patients that used marijuana to help manage the effects of the treatment successfully completed the agonizing treatment while only 29 of the 49 people who chose not to use marijuana successfully completed the course. Months after the treatment, researchers went back to follow up and found that 54 percent of the group that were using marijuana during the treatment had no signs of the virus while only 18 percent of the non smokers achieved the same result. Although there was no documented evidence that shows the marijuana acted as a medicine itself to cure the illness, it appears that the people that chose to use marijuana were able to deal with the side effects and complete the treatment that many people are unable to endure. (Weiss)

Today in the United States of America, there are hundreds of laws prohibiting the use, possession, and distribution of marijuana. In the State of New Hampshire, possession of any useable amount is considered a misdemeanor and is punishable by up to one year in jail, and a fine of no more than 2,000 dollars. To this date, there have been 12 states that have decriminalized marijuana strictly for medicinal use. These states include Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. Although medicinal marijuana has been decriminalized in these states, laws have been put into effect to strictly regulate when a person can be prescribed and how much of the drug they will receive. In state of California, you must obtain written permission from a physician stating that you have a disease or illness that would benefit you from the use of marijuana. Under the law, eligible patients or their personal care givers are able to possess up to eight ounces of marijuana and no more than six marijuana plants. Patients are allowed to obtain more than state law allows under special circumstances if a physician decides that their patient would benefit from it. Frequent conditions that allow a physician to prescribe medicinal pot include cancer, anorexia, AIDS, chronic pain, glaucoma, arthritis, and migraines. (Akhavan)

Medical Marijuana is a largely debated topic that brings serious questions up. There have been thousands of studies conducted over the past century to find out if indeed marijuana has medicinal values. Marijuana has been shown to greatly reduce effects of medications that are given to patients with serious illnesses. Effects such as loss of appetite, nausea, and even depression are quite often side effects of treatments that could decide the fate of an individual’s life. Legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes leave some people thinking that the drug will be available to anyone who wants to get their hands on it. These views that people seem to have are completely irrational because such regulations have been placed on the drug that it is still almost impossible for people who are suffering to obtain medicinal marijuana legally.

Often times, people become so desperate because they have been suffering for so long, that individuals risk being arrested and take matters into their own hands and search out the drug illegally. People that need medical marijuana didn’t chose to have an illness that they are suffering from, it came upon them and there is nothing that anyone can do to cure it a lot of times. The fact that people are being arrested and punished because they are despite enough to risk going to jail to obtain medicinal marijuana saddens many people. Many states have realized how they are preventing their own citizens from obtaining medication that is only going to help, and have decriminalized the use of medicinal marijuana. With all the evidence that has been presented by world renown scientists that show the positive medical uses of marijuana, you would think that all 50 states would allows their citizens to obtain medical marijuana if they were suffering enough, not just 12. Source.

November 28, 2007 – If you have breast cancer, you may have considered the use of “medical marijuana” at some point during your chemo treatment. Smoking marijuana has provided some women with relief from the nausea and vomiting that can accompany chemo, relief that the range of normal side effect drugs weren’t able to give. Some states permit the legal use of medical marijuana; most don’t. Nevertheless, most women who want to try marijuana seem to be able to get it. Personally, I didn’t experience any severe problems with nausea. But I was astounded at the number of people who, prior to treatment, offered to get me a supply if I thought I needed it!

Now, doctors at the California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute in San Francisco have released a study, in the current issue of Molecular Cancer Therapeutics, that may in the future open the door to a much more critical use of marijuana: stopping the spread of metastatic breast cancer. It seems that a compound found in cannabis (the scientific name for marijuana), CBD, has been shown (in the lab) to stop the human gene Id-1 from directing cancer cells to multiply and spread.

California Pacific Senior researcher Pierre-Yves Desprez, in an interview with HealthDay News, noted that the Id-1 genes “are very bad. They push the cells to behave like embryonic cells and grow. They go crazy, they proliferate, they migrate. We need to be able to turn them off.”

Desprez and fellow researcher Sean D. McAllister joined forces just two years ago. Desprez had been studying the Id-1 gene for 12 years; McAllister was a cannabis expert, but not involved in cancer research. Together they found that Id-1 is the “orchestra conductor” that directs breast cancer cells to grow and spread. And that CBD inhibits Id-1; it turns it off, puts it to sleep, pick your metaphor. Bottom line, it neutralizes it. And the cancer stops spreading.

Both researchers pointed out that CBD is non-toxic and non-psychoactive. In other words, patients wouldn’t get high taking it. And its non-toxicity is an important attribute; Desprez and McAllister predict that, to be effective, patients might have to take CBD for several years. They also cautioned that smoking marijuana isn’t going to cure metastatic breast cancer; the level of CBD necessary to inhibit Id-1 simply can’t be obtained that way.

While studies are still very much in the preliminary stages, it’s interesting to think that a plant that has been used medicinally for nearly 5,000 years may in the future be a key element in controlling cancer. As recently as 1937 (when it was outlawed in the U.S.), marijuana (“cannabis sativa”) was being touted as an analgesic, anti-emetic, narcotic, and sedative.

Parke-Davis, once America’s oldest and largest drug manufacturer (and now a division of drug giant Pfizer), offered “Fluid Extract Cannabis” via catalogs. Until the invention of aspirin in the mid-1800s, cannabis was the civilized world’s main pain reliever. Now it’s illegal. Here’s hoping that someday soon cannabis returns, this time as a successful treatment for metastatic breast cancer.

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. — At most colleges, marijuana is very much an extracurricular matter. But at Med Grow Cannabis College, marijuana is the curriculum: the history, the horticulture and the legal how-to’s of Michigan’s new medical marijuana program.

“This state needs jobs, and we think medical marijuana can stimulate the state economy with hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars,” said Nick Tennant, the 24-year-old founder of the college, which is actually a burgeoning business (no baccalaureates here) operating from a few bare-bones rooms in a Detroit suburb.

The six-week, $485 primer on medical marijuana is a cross between an agricultural extension class covering the growing cycle, nutrients and light requirements (“It’s harvest time when half the trichomes have turned amber and half are white”) and a gathering of serious potheads, sharing stories of their best highs (“Smoke that and you are … medicated!”).

The only required reading: “Marijuana Horticulture: The Indoor/Outdoor Medical Grower’s Bible” by Jorge Cervantes.

Even though the business of growing medical marijuana is legal under Michigan’s new law, there is enough nervousness about the enterprise that most students at a recent class did not want their names or photographs used. An instructor also asked not to be identified.

“My wife works for the government,” one student said, “and I told my mother-in-law I was going to a small-business class.”

While California’s medical marijuana program, the country’s oldest, is now big business, with hundreds of dispensaries in Los Angeles alone, the Michigan program, which started in April, is more representative of what is happening in other states that have legalized medical marijuana.

Under the Michigan law, patients whose doctors certify their medical need for marijuana can grow up to 12 cannabis plants themselves or name a “caregiver” who will grow the plants and sell the product. Anyone over 21 with no felony drug convictions can be a caregiver for up to five patients. So far, the Department of Community Health has registered about 5,800 patients and 2,400 caregivers.

For Mr. Tennant, who is certified as both a caregiver and a patient — he said he has stomach problems and anxiety — Med Grow replaces the auto detailing business he started straight out of high school, only to see it founder when the economy contracted. Med Grow began offering its course in September, with new classes starting every month.

On a recent Tuesday, two teachers led a four-hour class, starting with Todd Alton, a botanist who provided no tasting samples as he talked the students through a list of cannabis recipes, including crockpot cannabutter, chocolate canna-ganache and greenies (the cannabis alternative to brownies).

The second instructor, who would not give his name, took the class through the growing cycle, the harvest and the curing techniques to increase marijuana’s potency.

Mr. Tennant said he saw the school as the hub of a larger business that will sell supplies to its graduate medical marijuana growers, offer workshops and provide a network for both patient and caregiver referrals. Already, Med Grow is a gathering place for those interested in medical marijuana. The whiteboard in the reception room lists names and numbers of several patients looking for caregivers, and a caregiver looking for patients.

The students are a diverse group: white and black, some in their 20s, some much older, some employed, some not. Some keep their class attendance, and their growing plans, close to the chest.

“I’ve just told a couple of people I can trust,” said Jeffery Butler, 27. “It’s a business opportunity, but some people are still going to look at you funny. But I’m going to do it anyway.”

Scott Austin, an unemployed 41-year-old student, said he and two partners were planning to go into medical marijuana together.

“I never smoked marijuana in my life,” he said. “I heard about this at a business expo a couple of months ago.”

Because the Michigan program is so new, gray areas in the law have not been tested, creating real concern for some students. For example, it is not legal to start growing marijuana before being officially named a caregiver to a certified patient, but patients who are sick, certified and ready to buy marijuana generally do not want to wait through the months of the growing cycle until a crop is ready. So for the time being, coordinating entry into the business feels to some like a kind of Catch-22.

Students say they are getting all kinds of extra help and ideas from going to class.

“I want to learn all the little tricks, everything I can,” said Sue Maxwell, a student who drives each week from her home four hours north of Detroit. “It’s a big investment, and I want to do it right.”

Ms. Maxwell, who works at a bakery, is already a caregiver — in the old, nondrug sense of the word — to a few older people for whom she thinks medical marijuana might be a real boon.

“I fix their meals, and I help with housekeeping,” Ms. Maxwell said. “I have an 85-year-old lady who has no appetite. I don’t know if she’d have any interest in medical marijuana, but I bet it would help her.”

Ms. Maxwell said her plan to grow marijuana was slow in hatching.

“We were talking at the bakery all summer,” she said. “Just joking around, I said: ‘I’m going to grow medical marijuana. I’m a gardener, I’ve always dreamed of having a greenhouse, I think it would be great.’ And then I suddenly thought, hey, I really am going to grow medical marijuana.” Source.

November 27, 2009 – Europe has yet to come up with a unified approach to medical marijuana. The Dutch will tell you it is legal to use the drug to treat certain illnesses; while the Swedish don’t recognize any medical use for cannabis at all.

“European policy is not really changing at all and I don’t think this issue is even on the European agenda. The topic is too controversial and too political,” said Catherine Sandvos, a legal expert for the Hague-based Cannabis Bureau, a Dutch national agency aimed at providing high-quality cannabis for medical purposes.

Ms. Sandvos’s native Netherlands has led Europe when it comes to legalizing medical marijuana, which it treats separately from marijuana legally available at one of Amsterdam’s famous coffee shops. The Dutch police stopped enforcing laws against marijuana in 1976 following an overall tolerance policy in the country. “It’s hard when you try to explain to outsiders that it is illegal to grow cannabis in the Netherlands, but that it is tolerated to buy it,” she says.

But those who buy the drug on the streets are not getting the quality severely ill patients would need. The Dutch government set up the Cannabis Bureau — the only institution of its kind in the continent — in September 2003.

“The state realized that so many people wanted to use cannabis, so it said ‘why not give it to them via prescription instead of them accessing the drug illegally,’ ” Ms. Sandvos added.

The Cannabis Bureau ensures that patients who have a prescription from a doctor are getting marijuana that has been tested to make sure it doesn’t contain any pesticides or bacteria. Not only does the Cannabis Bureau sell cannabis across all pharmacies in the Netherlands through a prescription, but it also distributes the drug to Italy, Finland and Germany through the Ministry of Health of each country. According to the agency’s data, it sells around 100 kilos of cannabis every year.

The situation couldn’t be more different in the U.K., where it is unlawful to self-medicate cannabis regardless of the disease people suffer from. In 2005, Barry Quayle and Reay Wales, who were both afflicted by serious and chronic conditions, found no relief in prescription drugs and turned to cannabis to alleviate their pain. But a U.K. court ruled against them.

“The whole debate in relation to the use of cannabis for medical purposes is highly politicized,” said Daniel Godden, an associate solicitor for Hodge Jones & Allen LLP in London. Those who say marijuana is relatively safe can face severe political consequences. Last month, Professor David Nutt, the British government’s chief drug adviser, was removed from his post after he said the drug was less harmful than alcohol.

Favorable views toward cannabis face opposition from some local politicians and international lobbying groups. Jorgen Sviden, director of Stockholm-based European Cities Against Drugs, which represents 261 cities in 30 countries, isn’t convinced of the drug’s medical qualities.

“In principle, we don’t have an argument against cannabis as a treatment, but we haven’t seen any scientific evidence that provides a convincing argument for its medical use,” he said. “If in the future we come across proof that cannabis is a good treatment, then this is good.”

Some initiatives have managed to stay away from the political debate, however. The U.K. happens to be home to GW Pharmaceuticals PLC, which manufactures a drug based on marijuana extract — Sativex. Although it has some ingredients that derived from the actual drug, it has been treated by the U.K.’s regulators as a medicine like any other as it doesn’t contain the psychotropic substances marijuana does. The company is preparing to launch the drug into other parts of Europe, in partnership with Germany’s Bayer AG and Spain’s Almirall SA.

GW is hoping to sell its product, which will treat the symptoms of multiple sclerosis, across all countries in Europe but has initially filed for a license in the U.K. and Spain so far. Paul Cuddon, an analyst with KBC Peel Hunt in London, says he expects the drug to win approval in both countries in the first half of 2010 and then the firm will file for individual approval in each country.

“I’m not anticipating any legal problems in the rest of Europe at all,” Mr. Cuddon added. “This is a treatment that is highly different from raw cannabis and it has undergone rigorous chemical trials.”

Other countries have tough stances, however. Ireland, for example, doesn’t recognize marijuana as a drug with medical benefits. This means that manufacturing, producing, selling or possessing cannabis is unlawful for any purpose. The Ministry of Health is the only government branch that can grant an exception, but a spokesman said it never has.

Noel McCullagh, 34, has learned this the hard way. An Irish citizen, Mr. McCullagh lives in the Netherlands, where he uses cannabis medication to treat the severe effects of his muscular dystrophy. However, Irish authorities have warned him that he will be arrested if he enters his native country in possession if cannabis-based treatment.

In Sweden, the law doesn’t recognize the cannabis to have any medical use.

Beyond the debate of marijuana’s use, Dr. Willem Scholten, of the World Health Organization, believes patients should have access to high-quality medicine. So if cannabis has medical attributions, “there needs to be a system in place to ensure that patients get their medicine without any contamination and that they get the same content every time.”

Despite the radically different approaches in Europe, some believe the continent will eventually adopt it as a medical treatment.

“I can imagine European citizens will eventually think cannabis is a good medicine and that it should be accessible to people who suffer from serious pain as a result of HIV, multiple sclerosis or other grave illnesses,” said Brendan Hughes, senior legal analyst of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction in Lisbon. By JAVIER ESPINOZA. Source.

November 25, 2009 – via Denver Westward – Two months ago, we posted a notice that we were looking for a medical marijuana critic, to review the dispensaries that were springing up across Colorado. Hundreds of applications, many international media inquiries and probably dozens of new dispensaries later, we’ve chosen our critics.

Read their bios below.

Critic 1: The pseudonymous William Breathes:

I’m a 29-year-old grad student at a private university in Denver, where I live with my girlfriend and our two dogs. I have been writing for newspapers in some form or other since high school, and have an undergraduate degree in journalism from Metropolitan State College of Denver. Prior to entering graduate school, I worked as a reporter covering general news, education and medicine in the greater metro area.

I have been a medical marijuana patient in Colorado for roughly a year, but have been smoking pot recreationally and medicinally for nearly fifteen years. I am a medical patient because of ongoing nausea and stomach pain that has hospitalized me countless times over the years – several times this year alone. Pot helps me curb not only the nausea, but also ease the anxiety that comes with more severe episodes. Granted, there are pharmaceuticals that can help curb those symptoms, but the most effective anti-nausea pill gives me migraine-like headaches — a tradeoff that I avoid whenever possible. The flip side is this: I also smoke pot recreationally, and have enjoyed seeing the marijuana variety in Colorado grow as the medical scene has blossomed.

I’m hoping to strike a balance in my reviews of medical marijuana dispensaries and give information that both the cannabis-freak strain-junky and the pot-newbie alike can use. I also want to bring much-needed information to the public about the good, bad and sketchy of Denver’s pot clubs – but I want to do this with a dose of self-aware humor.

After all, we pot smokers can be a pretty entertaining bunch at times.

Critic 2: The Wildflowerseed

I am a 35-year-old, married mother of three. Not who you’d expect for a pot critic, perhaps. Please allow me to dismantle any preconceptions you may have.

I have a bachelor’s degree in poetics from NYU and a master’s degree in journalism and environmental policy from the University of Colorado. I currently teach writing and journalism at the college level, as well as freelancing.

My love of music led me from New York City to Colorado more than a decade ago, and since then I’ve been covering the Front Range underground music scene with a passion for exposing untapped talent and innovative sounds. I plan to use a great deal of what I learned while writing about music in this position. By cultivating a language seeped in history, trends and (all the crazy) politics, I hope my readers will feel like they can reach right out and taste the pot.

A wanderer by nature, I am a great lover of both science and poetry. I love the outdoors and I basically love a good freak-show. I was quite tickled to hear about the dispensary critic position — I admit I laughed — but I also realized this was an important opportunity.

As a registered medical marijuana patient in Colorado, I use ghanja recreationally and to calm extremely persistent joint pain I’ve lived with since high school. I do not consider myself to be a critical patient, but in a nutshell, I feel that I am an adult, I pay my taxes, and at the end of the day I’d like to relax and ease my pain with herb, rather than pills or alcohol.

I also watched a friend die of AIDS in the early 1990s. A hemophiliac, he received a bad blood transfusion. At the end, when he was wasting away, his doctor told him to smoke pot. It gave him six more months.

I know that critical patients are out there, people battling cancer, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis and other debilitating conditions, who use this medication not just to ease their suffering, but to actively fight their illnesses. These patients should not be forced into the seedy criminal underworld to find their medication, and I hope to point them instead to a safer way to access marijuana.

We’ll be firing up a new review every week at Mile Highs and Lows. Enjoy. Source.

November 25, 2009 – Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa urged the City Council on Wednesday toadopt a medical marijuana ordinance that would put a limit on the number of dispensaries.

“We have a right as a city to cap the number,” he said, saying that a cap was “without question” needed to reduce the number to a level that the Police Department and city officials can adequately monitor. “Communities have a right to protect the character of those communities and the security of those neighborhoods.”

The mayor declined to say what he thought the cap should be. “I can tell you that the current number of 800, or whatever, 900, is way beyond what any city should be able to accept,” he said.

The council, which debated its draft ordinance Tuesday, instructed city officials to study a citywide cap between 70 and 200 dispensaries, and separate caps, set by population, for each of the city’s 35 community plan areas or 21 police divisions.

A number of cities have caps, but most of them are much smaller than Los Angeles. Oakland, the largest city to impose a cap, allows four.

Villaraigosa, who has to approve the ordinance, said the council needs to write one that does not allow dispensaries to sell marijuana in a way that violates state law.

Council members decided Tuesday not to ban medical marijuana sales, disregarding the advice of the city attorney and the Los Angeles County district attorney, who believe the law makes any sales illegal.

Instead, the council adopted a provision that allows cash contributions for marijuana, which was a compromise that members believe will allow sales to continue and the city attorney’s top aides said would not run counter to state law.

Villaraigosa said he had not reviewed the provision. “I’ve been dealing with a bunch of other things all day long,” he said in a short interview outside his City Hall office.

Although there is debate about whether the law allows sales, the law is clear that dispensaries cannot make a profit. Villaraigosa said he believed many in the city were violating the requirement.

“People are trying to drive a truck through loopholes, and when you have that number it makes it very difficult for us,” he said.

john.hoeffel@latimes.com

November 25, 2009 – One of the most frightening symptoms of advanced cancer is “cachexia”, or severe, unintentional weight-loss and wasting. It’s a terrible prognostic sign, and the only truly effective treatment is removal of the cancer. Treatment of this syndrome has the potential to improve quality of life in patients with advanced cancers. Various types of medications, including antidepressants, hormones, and cannabis derivatives have been tried with little effect. Treating the symptoms of incurable cancers is difficult and although we’re pretty good at it, we sometimes fail. Cannabis seems a plausible intervention, given the anecdotal and clinical data associating it with increased appetite, although appetite in normal, healthy individuals may be mediated by different pathways than the cachexia in cancer patients. Still, it’s worthy of investigation.

(As an aside, what a person with advanced cancer does to find relief is their own business. I hope that we don’t fail them so miserably that they have to resort to desperate measures. I once had an elderly patient who was shooting up heroin for his cancer pain because he didn’t understand the medical system well enough to seek proper help. He did fine on long-acting oxycodone.)

The Journal of Clinical Oncology published an interesting study in 2006 investigating the possible use of cannabis to treat cancer-related cachexia. Since self-administration of self-procured pot is rather inexact, the investigators compared whole marijuana extracts, purified THC, and placebo. The results were a disappointment for those looking for better treatment of advanced cancer.

While cannabis extract was well-tolerated, there was no difference between the groups, although all groups including placebo had some relief of symptoms. Appetite and quality of life saw similar changes in each group. It may be argued that the dose was insufficient, but the investigators chose the dose based on previous studies that showed too many adverse effects at higher doses.

As already mentioned, the failure could be due to a number of reasons, the most likely being that cannabis does not have a mechanism of action that acts on the same pathways as cachexia—the inflammatory cytokines present in cancer cachexia do not seem to be significantly modulated by cannabis. While cannabis may make some people feel better, there is no consistent evidence that it is any better than placebo in making patients with cancer wasting syndrome feel better. by PalMD. Source.

References

Strasser, F. (2006). Comparison of Orally Administered Cannabis Extract and Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol in Treating Patients With Cancer-Related Anorexia-Cachexia Syndrome: A Multicenter, Phase III, Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial From the Cannabi Journal of Clinical Oncology, 24 (21), 3394-3400 DOI: 10.1200/JCO.2005.05.1847

November 24, 2009 – Marijuana. It’s a small word that generates a large reaction (for better or for worse). People are polarized on the topic. Yes, there is a definite social stigma surrounding this infamous, leafy plant. Consequently, the potential for cannabis-based drugs has been greatly hindered by legal and political considerations – obstacles that researchers and pharmaceutical companies do not normally find themselves battling. After all, it’s not everyday that research and development teams are looking to create novel drugs from a Schedule I substance – a substance that by definition is not considered to have a legitimate medical use. However, with the recent recommendation by the American Medical Association (AMA) that marijuana’s Schedule I drug classification be reconsidered in order to facilitate research and development of cannabinoid-based medications, could this be the dawn of a new era?

I believe that the AMA’s recommendation is right on the mark. From the limited number of clinical trials conducted on smoked cannabis, the description conferred by a Schedule I classification – namely, that there is no legitimate medical use – no longer appears to apply. According to the executive summary of the Council on Science and Public Health’s (CSAPH) report accompanying the new recommendation, trials have suggested that smoked cannabis can reduce neuropathic pain, improve caloric intake and appetite in patients with reduced muscle mass, and possibly reduce pain and improve spasticity in patients with multiple sclerosis. Thus, it seems plausible that cannabis-based medicines could be developed. The re-classification of marijuana from its current Schedule I status is a necessary step to take if we hope to further explore and take advantage of the ameliorating properties of cannabis.

The question then becomes, should pharmaceutical companies dedicate some of their research and development budgets to cannabis-based drugs? From a scientific perspective, the answer is a resounding yes. Scientists steer their investigations based on preliminary experiments and promising results, and as articulated in the CSAPH report, preliminary trials suggest a variety of medicinal uses for cannabis. Furthermore, assuming that there are legitimate medicinal applications for cannabis, the development of cannabis-based medicines (in the form of pills, for example) would work to neutralize much of the stigma associated with medicinal marijuana (only 13 states even allow the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes). Cannabis-based drugs, a few steps removed from the plant itself, would allow patients access to the therapeutic effects of cannabis, while distancing the treatment from the contentious issue of smoked marijuana. This is, of course, in addition to the obvious advantage that an efficacious cannabis-based pill or other medication medium is much safer than toxic, unrefined smoke.

So what is the greatest obstacle threatening to hinder the development of cannabis-based drugs? Ironically, it is the same thing that I just mentioned above: medicinal marijuana. While the current guidelines regarding medicinal marijuana leave much to be desired – and in fact invite the development of safer, easier-to-regulate cannabis-based treatments – the fact of the matter is, pharmaceutical companies are looking to make a profit. Nobody is going to invest the funds necessary to get a drug on the market unless there is a foreseeable fortune to be made on that product. Drug companies are in the business of “blockbusters,” after all. As long as the raw marijuana plant is legal in some states for medicinal purposes, there really isn’t a market for other cannabis-based treatments. (At least, not the financially-fruitful market for which drug companies are always on the lookout.) A consequence of the legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes is the creation of numerous, often poorly-regulated marijuana shops and boutiques (just look at the 800+ dispensaries in California). Given the diversity of outlets from which to purchase the plant, as well as the wide variety of plant strains and price range for medicinal marijuana, patients in need could no doubt find a cheaper alternative to expensive pills. Thus, if cannabis-based drugs are ever to be developed, not only does the federal classification of marijuana need to be changed, the availability of the raw plant for medicinal purposes needs to be restricted. It’s a game of supply and demand – and that’s a game that pharmaceutical companies are looking to win. Source.

November 24, 2009 – Tim Timmons is not your average pot smoker. The former risk management consultant, college professor and stand-out athlete has never considered himself a hippy or a pothead. Even so, Timmons has been smoking marijuana nearly every day for the past six years. He doesn’t smoke to get high. According to him, he’s just taking his medicine. Timmons is slowly wasting away from Multiple Sclerosis, a painful disease that attacks the nervous system. “I would be considered in one of the final stages of the disease right now,” Timmons said. Diagnosed 22 years ago, the former football player and bull rider is now confined to a wheel chair. He is paralyzed from the waist down and no longer has control over his bladder or bowels. Timmons relies on his wife to help him go to the bathroom, take a bath and get in and out of bed. In addition to losing control of his muscles, Timmons must also live with a great deal of pain and frequent muscle spasms. “The pain is overwhelming, to the extent where you’re in bed the only thing you can do is hold yourself in a fetal position,” said Timmons. Doctors have prescribed him a virtual pharmacy of powerful narcotics to treat the pain and symptoms his disease causes. At one point he was taking as many as 20 different drugs up to four times a day. Timmons never thought to treat his pain with marijuana until a chance encounter with a former high school classmate at their 30th class reunion six years ago. The man offered Timmons a joint and told him it might help ease his pain. Desperate for anything that could relieve the constant pain, Timmons took a toke. “The pain relief was immediate. And I thought, ‘Whoa, what’s the problem with this if it works this well for people that are in pain,’” Timmons said. Not long after that first joint, Timmons began looking for someone to supply him with pot. He did some research on the Internet, which led him to a restaurant where he began asking waiters where he could find some marijuana. By the time he left, he had a bag of weed. Timmons now gets his “medicine” from Mendocino, Calif., an area known for producing some of the highest-quality marijuana in the U.S. He said he spends about $480 a month for one ounce which typically lasts him three to four weeks. While California and 12 other states have legalized marijuana for medicinal use, pot is still illegal in the state of Texas. Timmons is trying to change that. “You think, ‘Well how is it, it can be helping these people in these other states but it won’t help me in Texas?’” Timmons said as he puffed on a pipe filled with marijuana, taking a deep breath of the white smoke, holding it in a few seconds and exhaling with a smile on his face. Timmons accidentally became the face of the movement to legalize medical marijuana in Texas when he spoke at the State Capital in 2007 and urged state lawmakers to pass legislation to protect patients. During that speech, he admitted he was a daily pot smoker and invited police to come arrest him, even giving his home address and phone number so they could easily find him. A video of that speech was put on You Tube and has been viewed thousands of times. Despite his attempts to get arrested, no law enforcement agency has ever taken him up on his offer. Unlike other states that have successfully passed laws legalizing medical marijuana, the focus in Texas is to get lawmakers to pass a bill that gives patients an affirmative defense. Under current law, patients who get caught buying or using marijuana to treat their illnesses can not use that as a defense in court. “You’re barred from mentioning that and how ludicrous is that. That you can’t even tell the jury why you were doing it. You just have to sit there and be silent,” Timmons said. “We are not even trying for medical marijuana in Texas. We’re trying to simply get it to where someone in the position like me would at least be able to offer an affirmative defense to the jury and say, ‘This is why I was breaking the law.’” The first attempt to get medical marijuana legislation passed was in 2001. Every bill that’s been introduced each session since then has died in committee. Timmons believes socially conservative politicians are unwilling to risk their political careers on such a hot button issue, particularly one that has the medical community at odds. For years many doctors and medical organizations have stated pot has no medical benefit. Many of those same doctors and groups, including the American Medical Association, are now changing their attitude when it comes to medicinal uses for marijuana, calling for more serious studies. “I have to believe that there might be some medicinal effects of it, and if science can prove that it can be delivered in a form that isn’t harmful, great,” said Joel Marcus, a Clinical Psychologist at the UT Health Science Center’s Cancer Therapy and Research Center. Marcus is one of a handful of psychologists who are helping cancer patients deal with the effects of living with cancer. He said many of his patients ask him about using marijuana to relieve the nausea and vomiting that come with their radiation treatments. Marcus tells them to stay away. “I can’t in any good conscience recommend something that could be carcinogenic,” Marcus said. “I see far too many patients living with and dying from lung cancer to say go ahead and smoke anything.” Instead Marcus, and many other doctors, offer patients a drug called Marinol which is a synthetically produced version of the main chemical in marijuana that gets you high and relieves pain — that chemical is THC. In fact Marinol is the only legal “medical marijuana” available in the U.S. that is approved by the Federal Drug Administration and the Drug Enforcement Agency. Still, patients like Timmons said they tried Marinol and found that it doesn’t work as well as real marijuana. Patients said Marinol takes up to three hours to begin working, whereas taking one toke of a joint provides instant relief. Those patients also said marijuana can be ingested into the body without smoking it. In most medical marijuana dispensaries in California, patients can buy baked goods and candy made with pot. Joel Marcus said the jury is still out on the effectiveness of those types of delivery methods for medicinal marijuana but he’s keeping an open mind on the subject. “I’m all in favor of finding out new methods of controlling symptoms,” Marcus said. “We’re all about quality of life and improving quality of life, and if a study of the medicinal properties of marijuana in a butter form or a liquid form or in some other way that isn’t carcinogenic could provide relief for or patients, I’m all for it.” Until science can prove pot is medicine patients like Timmons say they will continue to break the law to get the medicine they need. “If I can break the law as many times as I possibly can to help someone else that’s in a similar situation escape the pain and actually function and become a part of the procession of life, then heck man, I’m all for breaking the law,” he said. Source.

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