Tag: medical marijuana

Australian Universities Receive $2.5 Million for Cannabis Research

The National Health and Medical Research Council gave Australian cannabis research a major shot in the arm this week, with the council awarding the research body $2.5 million for research.

The funds will be used to establish the Australian Centre for Cannabinoid Clinical and Research Excellence (ACRE), a national center to coordinate research into medicinal cannabis use. ACRE will focus on investigating quality and safety issues, including growing methods and safe formulation of plant material into medicines, and will eventually develop clinical trials.

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Researchers and clinicians from all over Australia will be involved in the national effort, which will be based at the University of Newcastle and University of Wollongong.

Federal funding for the new center was announced by Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt on Oct. 11.

In Australia, access to cannabinoids for medicinal purposes have been difficult due to restrictive licencing and import laws, along with a lack of ready-to-prescribe cannabis-based medicines for specific medical conditions.  ACRE hopes to change that.

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The center will be co-led by University of Newcastle professor Jenny Martin and professor Nadia Solowij of the University of Wollongong School of Psychology and the Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute. Together, the two aim to make Australia’s eastern seaboard a hub for cannabis research.

“In many Australian states, people can now access cannabinoids for medicinal purposes under the supervision of a medical specialist, but it can be difficult to source reliable, consistent and suitable products that are known to be safe and effective for specific conditions,” Martin said.

“Recent legislation has improved the situation,” she added, “but appropriate research is needed to enable evidence to guide doctors on products and dosages that are safe and effective.”

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ACRE will undertake medical cannabinoid research, consolidate existing data into guidance, and link health outcomes from people currently accessing local and imported products to guide plant growing and product formulation into appropriate medicines, according to a press release.

The center’s investigators will link scientific research teams with specialist and national primary health care infrastructure to support information sharing, national monitoring, and linkage with government. They’ll also be training a new medical research workforce in the field and conducting basic research leading to clinical trials.

“At this critical juncture, where legislation around cannabis and cannabinoids is rapidly changing in Australia and worldwide, there is tremendous opportunity for Australia to establish world leadership in cautious and appropriately balanced management of the implementation of medicinal cannabinoids into specialist and primary health care settings,” Solowij said.

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The announcement comes as New South Wales’ conservative government has taken a hard stance on cannabis, moving to block laws decriminalizing possession of small amounts of cannabis for those suffering from serious medical conditions.

Despite the government’s stance, NSW is becoming one of the greenest states in Australia, attracting significant investment in medical cannabis industry and research. Already home to the $33.7 million Lambert Initiative at the University of Sydney, the state also recently attracted an enormous investment from Canadian firm PUF to build the largest legal cannabis facility in the southern hemisphere.

As the economic, technological, and medical benefits of becoming a hub for medical cannabis start to flow in, the NSW government may find it more difficult to maintain its hard-line stance cannabis.

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Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

In Surprise Move, Justice Dept. Stands Down on ‘Kettle Falls Five’ Case

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) filed an unusual motion yesterday to stay a notorious federal medical marijuana case in northeastern Washington state, which it has vigorously prosecuted since 2012. After pursuing the case for five years, Justice Department officials yesterday acknowledged that they were prohibited by law from spending money to prosecute the case after Congress passed the Rohrabacher-Farr budget amendment in 2014.

Justice Dept. officials acknowledged that federal law prevented them from pursuing the case after 2014.

Joseph H. Harrington, acting US Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, filed the motion to stay the appeal of convictions against a family of medical marijuana patients who became widely known as the “Kettle Falls Five.”

Three family members with a medical marijuana garden near Kettle Falls, Washington—Rhonda Firestack-Harvey, her son Rolland Gregg, and his wife Michelle Gregg—were acquitted on almost all federal charges in a March 2015 jury trial, but each was convicted of a single federal charge of cannabis cultivation.

Roland Gregg was sentenced to 33 months in prison, while Firestack-Harvey and Michelle Gregg were sentenced to a year and a day each. Another defendant, Jason Zucker, accepted a plea bargain that included testifying against his co-defendants. He received a 16 month prison sentence. The fifth defendant, Firestack-Harvey’s husband Larry Harvey, who was dismissed from the case after prosecutors discovered he was suffering from terminal cancer, died in August 2015.

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Vindication Came Too Late for Larry

Firestack-Harvey and the Greggs appealed their convictions, based partly on the argument that the prosecution was in violation of the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, which prevents the Justice Department from spending money to prevent states where medical marijuana is legal from “implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

In this Thursday, May 8, 2014 photo, from left, Larry Harvey, Rhonda Firestack-Harvey, and Rolland Gregg stand in the plaza in front of the federal courthouse in Spokane, Wash. The three were charged with growing medical cannabis at their remote farm near Kettle Falls, Wash. Larry Harvey died of cancer in 2015. (AP Photo/Nicholas K. Geranios)

The amendment, adoped in 2014, was named after the House members who authored it, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Sam Farr (D-CA), and it must be re-authorized every year or two. Since Rep. Farr retired, the measure has been renamed the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment (after new co-sponsor, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR)), and is next up for renewal in early December.

Justice Department officials pursued the case because, they argued, law enforcement officials believed the family was using Washington state’s medical marijuana law as cover for an illegal marijuana distribution operation.

It’s unclear why the Justice Department has now changed its tune.

Instead of continuing to vigorously fight the appeal, Harrington yesterday asked the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to remand the case back to the trial court because “the United States was not authorized to spend money on the continued prosecution of the defendants after December 2014,” including “spending money on the present appeal.”

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The Original Raid Happened in 2012

The Kettle Falls Five case stemmed from a raid on the defendants’ property in 2012. Although they were not in violation of state law—all family members were collectively growing a quantity of plants allowed by Washington State—the DOJ used an accumulated number of plants from prior cultivation seasons to charge the family more harshly and to argue that they were violating state law.

The Kettle Falls Five case gained national attention and was an impetus for Congress to consider a funding ban against medical marijuana prosecutions such as theirs. In the months before he died, Larry Harvey made multiple trips to Washington, DC, to lobby Congress on the measure. The Rohrabacher-Farr measure, which was attached to a spending bill, had been introduced in previous years, but was somewhat unexpectedly adopted by a significant margin in 2014.

“For over five years, the federal government wasted taxpayer money prosecuting a family that had fully complied with state laws,” said Phil Telfeyan, Executive Director of Equal Justice Under Law, the DC-based nonprofit law firm representing the family. “The feds have finally admitted that the family never should have been prosecuted in the first place, but there is no way they can get those five years of their lives back.”

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DOJ Used a Narrow Reading

In August 2016, while the DOJ was spending taxpayer money to fight the Kettle Falls Five appeal, the Ninth Circuit dealt a blow to that effort. In the case United States v. McIntosh, a composite of cases from various districts on appeal to the Ninth Circuit, the DOJ had argued that the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment applied only to litigation against the states themselves, and not to the prosecution of individuals who grow or distribute marijuana for medical use.

Justice Dept. officials claimed Rohrabacher-Farr applied only to litigation against states, not growers or patients.

Rejecting that interpretation, the Ninth Circuit ruled the amendment prevents the DOJ from prosecuting marijuana providers who “fully comply” with state marijuana laws. The Ninth Circuit further ruled that federal defendants are entitled to evidentiary hearings to show whether their actions were in compliance with state law.

In May, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions asked Congress to undo federal marijuana protections like the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, saying that such protections “inhibit” and “thwart” the DOJ from enforcing the Controlled Substances Act. Sessions found an ally in Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX, and no relation), chairman of the House Rules Committee, who successfully cut Rohrabacher-Blumenauer from the budget bill making its way through the House in September. President Trump’s surprise budget deal with Senate Democrats, however, thwarted the Sessions effort to kill Rohrabacher-Blumenauer, and the patient protections survived for another few months.

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The federal government’s current budget, and the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer protections, are scheduled to expire on December 8, 2017.

Telfeyan called yesterday’s DOJ filing a victory for the family and lawful medical marijuana patients all across the country. “Our government should not use federal money to prosecute people abiding by state laws,” he said in a prepared statement.

Firestack-Harvey and the Greggs have been out of prison the entire time, pending their appeal.

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Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

Michigan Update: Mad Dash for Licenses, NMU Launches Cannabis Program

Michigan officials are gearing up for a mad rush on Dec. 15, the first day cannabis business-license applications become available in the state. The Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs will be releasing applications for all five categories of the state’s medical cannabis industry, including cultivation, processing, testing, transportation, and sales.

Nearly a thousand would-be business operators have signed up for state-run training sessions, Shelly Edgerton, director of the state’s licensing department, told a crowd in Ann Arbor, according to the Detroit Free Press. “We may have 50. We may have 1,500. We may have 5,000,” she said.

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Attendees of the Ann Arbor training session had a host of questions about application details, the Free Press reported, ranging from licensing-related costs to how the state will accept tax payments. Offices in other states have been overwhelmed as cannabis operators, largely unable to get comprehensive banking services, deliver thousands of dollars in cash.

Dispensaries have been operating in a kind of gray area in Michigan for several years. Medical marijuana became legal in 2008, but no statewide licensing program existed at the time.

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The shift to a state-regulated industry could cause some hiccups. Some lawmakers have called for dispensaries to shut down on Dec. 15, reopening only once they receive a state licenses. Others worry that could interrupt access to medicine for cannabis patients. State lawmakers in both the House and Senate have introduced bills that would allow dispensaries to stay open during the transition period.

The state was home to 218,556 registered patients as of late 2016, according to the most recent available state data. Here at Leafly, we estimate that number has grown roughly 10% during 2017, putting the number of current patients at around 240,000.

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Northern Michigan University to Offer Cannabis Degree

The largest university in Upper Peninsula is offering a degree in cannabis. Northern Michigan University in Marquette began its medical plant chemistry program this semester. The program, which boasts about a dozen students in the first class, according to the Detroit Free Press, combines chemistry, biology, botany, horticulture, marketing, and finance.

It’s designed to give students a more traditional approach to cannabis education than niche programs at schools like Oaksterdam University or Humboldt Cannabis College. Students at NMU, the school says, will benefit from a traditional, four-year college experience and also addresses the science and business of growing cannabis.

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Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

Colorado Hits Billion Dollar Sales Mark in Nine Months

According to data from the Colorado Department of Revenue, the Rocky Mountain state sold over $1 billion dollars in cannabis through the first nine months of 2017.

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It took the state 10 months to reach the billion dollar mark in 2016. Sales totals through the first nine months of this year have reached a total of about $1.1 billion—the highest amount of total sales to date in the country.

When comparing the data to last year, through 9 months of sales Leafly found that Colorado totaled $942 million, with the totals in 2017 so far showing there was over a $100 million dollar increase in sales from the same time period, totaling $1,118,207,832.87 in sales.

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Through the first nine months of 2017, Colorado has seen a fairly steady increase from the year prior, with the state routinely breaking its total sales record in the past 6 months–first in March, and then in July, when the state totaled more than $136 million in total cannabis sales, when combining adult-use sales and medicinal marijuana sales.

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The state initiated a different taxing structure in July 2017, with the special sales tax rate for recreational marijuana sales increasing from 10% to 15%. The new law exempted adult-use cannabis sales from the 2.9% standard state sales tax rate.

Medical marijuana and accessories are still subject to that 2.9% special sales tax rate, however.


Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

Quebec Police Continue Zero-Tolerance Policy for Medical Dispensaries

Quebec remains quick and punishing in its response to those trying to sell medical cannabis in the province.

In August of 2016, Quebec City police swooped in to close Weeds: Herbes et curiosités, the city’s first medical dispensary, after only two months of operation. In January of this year, Marc Emery, the self-appointed “Prince of Pot,” tried opening five locations of his Cannabis Culture chain in Montreal. They were shut down in two days. Around the same time, Quebec City police shut down “therapeutic dispensary” la Croix-Verte after four months of operation.

“It’s very clear. There will be no sale of cannabis tolerated in our territory so long as the law is as it is presently.”

Constable David Poitras, spokesperson for the Service de Police de la Ville du Québec

Quebec police are not forgiving of law-flouting dispensaries. Never mind that cannabis will be recreationally legal in nine months, or that wide use of cannabis in places where it’s been recreationally legalized appears to show no ill social effects. It’s against the law, and the law is the only thing Quebec police care about.

Quebec City’s most recent medical dispensary, Cannoisseur, learned that lesson first-hand when it was raided in early October, after four months in operation in the city’s downtown core. A manager was arrested for trafficking in narcotics.

“This is the third business to be established in Quebec City and is the third business where there has been a raid,” said Constable David Poitras, spokesperson for the Service de Police de la Ville du Québec, in an interview with Radio-Canada. “So in Quebec City, at the level of the police department, it’s zero tolerance for this type of trade.”

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Poitras held forth further in an interview with La Presse: “It’s very clear. There will be no sale of cannabis tolerated in our territory so long as the law is as it is presently, which is to say that cannabis is illegal. This was a business that was openly advertised as a dispensary for the sale of cannabis. our investigation showed that no authorization was promulgated by Health Canada and that trade was therefore illegal.”

The members-only dispensary required two pieces of ID, a medication history, and a questionnaire about diagnosis, psychiatric or psychological problems, and personal history with cannabis consumption—all before customers were allowed to pass through a locked door to the room where the cannabis products were kept. Members were required to sign a “terms and conditions” form acknowledging that they understood cannabis was a controlled substance and subject to Canadian federal law, and accepting the risk associated with cannabis possession and consumption. However, a formal medical record was not required.

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Marc-Antoine Hamel, one of Cannoisseur’s three owners, told Le Soleil two weeks ago, “We’re going to try not to do what the other stores did, which is to say close. We’ve really organized ourselves with the city, the police, and two law firms so that we stay open. It’s complicated, but we’ve agreed to ensure that we respect the law.”

Unlike Weeds: Herbes et curiosités, Cannoisseur took pains not to show the available cannabis products to non-members. “We didn’t want to do like Weeds, where you came in and you could see the products, that’s illegal,” Hamel told Le Soleil, adding that la Croix-Verte was shut down for not following the law as well, so Cannoisseur’s goal was to work with criminal lawyers in order to make sure they did things right.

Hamel claimed that Cannoisseur’s owners respected the law and had no wish to break it. “We are fully prepared to work with municipal and police authorities to ensure no one can doubt the legality and legitimacy of our business approach,” he said.

Quebec’s medical cannabis is the most tightly regulated in the country, requiring doctors first to prescribe aggressive synthetic cannabinoids.

However, Cyndi Paré, spokesperson for Quebec police, said at the time that the police force made no agreement with any “marijuana dispensary.” She added that all production, distribution, and sale of cannabis remained illegal unless accredited by Health Canada. “A single producer in Quebec, Hyropothecary de Gatineau, has so far received Health Canada accreditation,” Paré said.

Quebec’s medical cannabis is the most tightly regulated in the country, requiring doctors first to prescribe aggressive synthetic cannabinoids, and then to perform a complete medical assessment on any patient who finds their needs are not met by pharmaceutical synthetics. The guidelines for prescribing cannabis from the Collège des médecins du Québec (Quebec College of Physicians) note that “[t]he use of cannabis for medical purposes is not a recognized treatment” and “an unrecognized treatment can only be used within a research framework.”

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Upon receiving a prescription for medical cannabis, patients are also put onto the Quebec Cannabis Registry and their user-data is contributed to medical research by the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre and the Canadian Consortium for the Investigation of Cannabinoids. The Registry is mandatory: Patients cannot opt out.

In a post two hours after the raid, the Cannoisseur Facebook page shared an article about the raid with the heading, “On break for the day.” A follow up comment from the page owners read, “Police gonna police! We back soon.”


Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

Blumenauer Calls for Cannabis Research to Combat Opioid Crisis

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) has made it a hallmark of his career to speak up for medical cannabis, legalization, and the transformative effect reform could have on the United States. He consistently introduces and cosponsors bills to legalize cannabis federally, as well as many efforts to improve the legal marijuana markets already in place.

His latest remarks took place on the floor of the US House Committee on Energy and Commerce. The topic was the opioid epidemic, and when Blumenauer took the floor, clad in his signature bowtie, a bicycle pin peering out from the label of his blazer, he didn’t mince words.

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“I appreciate the focus on the opioid crisis that grips every community, to some degree, and affects every state. Especially critical for our veterans, who are twice as likely to die of accidental overdose. As we’re slowly acknowledging the depths of the opioid crisis, which is good, we seldom acknowledge one of the simplest, most effective solutions: medical marijuana, cannabis. Now available in 28 states, largely driven by the voters,” he said, gesturing emphatically to drive the point home. “Not the politicians.”

He distributed a one-sheet page of information, complete with sources cited, to the members of the committee, entitled “Physician Guide to Cannabis-Assisted Opioid Reduction,” referencing how cannabis can reduce opioid overdose deaths, can reduce opioid consumption in general, and can help prevent dose escalation, as well as the development of an opioid tolerance.

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He paused and looked up to address the floor. “Mr. Chairman, we don’t talk much about this, although repeatedly on the floor over the last three years, Congress has been moving in this direction, and voted, last Congress to have the Veteran’s Administration be able to work with veterans in states where medical marijuana is legal.”

“But I focus on just one, simple item. Not the facts,” he patted the large packet of paper on the desk in front of him, “which I hope this committee would look at,” he added.

He was referring to a piece of legislation he recently introduced with a very odd bedfellow for a cannabis bill, Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD). Rep. Harris, in the past, has been far from a cannabis advocate; in fact, he was deemed quite the opposite in years past. When the District of Columbia legalized cannabis for adult use, he fought against legal retail cannabis stores, and against cannabis social clubs.

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“There’s one piece of legislation that I’ve introduced with Dr. Andy Harris, someone who doesn’t agree with me about the efficacy of medical marijuana,” Rep. Blumenauer was quick to admit. “But he strongly agrees with me that there’s no longer any reason for the federal government to interfere with research to be able to prove it.”

Their newly introduced bipartisan legislation, House Resolution 3391, would cut through the bureaucratic red tape on federally funded cannabis research by amending the Controlled Substances Act to make marijuana more easily accessible to medical researchers.

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“The federal government has a stranglehold on this research,” Blumenauer explained. “We have bipartisan legislation, which would break that stranglehold and be able to have robust research to resolve these questions so there would no longer be any doubt.”

He finished his remarks with a final, impassioned plea. “This is the cheapest, most effective way to stop the crisis. Where people have access to medical marijuana, there are fewer overdoses, and people opt for it daily with chronic pain,” he implored. “I would appreciate the subcommittee looking at this issue as your time permits.”

Physician Guide to Cannabis-Assisted Opioid Reduction (Distributed by EB) by Lisa Rough on Scribd


Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

Data Dive: Breaking Down Maryland’s Medical Cannabis Industry By Race & Gender

It’s been a long, bumpy road for Maryland’s medical marijuana program, which voters first approved back in 2013.

Access to medical cannabis has been delayed by disputes over how the state awards its dispensary, cultivator, and processor licenses. Some of the potential licensees sued the state and the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission (MMCC) because, according to the potential licensees, MMCC officials did not consider the racial diversity of the applicants, as is required under the original law.

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That law was aimed at boosting minority-owned business participation in the state’s developing industry. Historically, people of color have been far more greatly harmed by the war on drugs than white people; yet the owners of cannabis business licenses in America’s emerging legal industry tend to be far more white and male than the population at large.

In Maryland, state courts are currently reviewing two separate cases alleging that state regulators improperly picked grow license winners.

One of the unique aspects of Maryland’s medical marijuana law is a requirement to report and post data on the race, ethnicity, and gender of cannabis business owners and employees. Leafly has translated that data into a number of graphs, below, that give a bit of insight into how the state is doing with its allocation of licenses. For context, the population of Maryland is about 58% white and 42% minority.

According to the data, white men are the most likely demographic group to own a state-licensed cannabis grow operation. As the data point out, only 15% of grow operations are owned by minorities, and 23% are owned by women.

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There’s a similar divide among cannabis processors: 27% are owned by women, and 27% are owned by minority entrepreneurs.

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Among dispensary owners, the numbers break about 60% male, 40% female.

Here’s a look at the Maryland medical marijuana industry as a whole:


Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

Medical Marijuana Patients Reduce Their Prescription Drug Use, Study Finds

CHICAGO, IL — Patients enrolled in a statewide medical cannabis program are likely to reduce their use of conventional prescription drugs over time, according to data published online ahead of print in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Care.

Investigators from DePaul University and Rush University, College of Nursing assessed prescription drug use patterns in 34 patients registered to use cannabis therapy under Illinois law.

Respondents frequently reported using medical cannabis “as an alternative to other medications – most commonly opioids, but also anticonvulsants, anti-inflammatories, and over-the-counter analgesics.” Subjects reported that they believed cannabis is faster acting than conventional prescription drugs and that it possesses fewer adverse side effects.

Authors concluded: “[O]ur results indicate that MC (medical cannabis) may be used intentionally to taper off prescription medications. These findings align with previous research that has reported substitution or alternative use of cannabis for prescription pain medications due to concerns regarding addiction and better side-effect and symptom management, as well as complementary use to help manage side-effects of prescription medication.”

The findings are similar to those of numerous others similarly reporting that legal cannabis access is associated with lower rates of prescription drug usespendingabuse, and mortality.

Full text of the study, “Preferences for medical marijuana over prescription medications among persons living with chronic conditions,” appears in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Care.

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Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Can Lead to Decrease in Painkiller Abuse: Study

ATHENS, GA — Cannabis dispensaries are associated with reduced levels of opioid-related treatment admissions and overall drug mortality, according to a study published online on SSRN.com.

A University of Georgia economics professor assessed the relationship between the opening of medical cannabis dispensaries and drug treatment admissions.

Dispensary openings are associated with “a 20 percentage point relative decrease in painkiller treatment over the first two-years of dispensary operations,” the study reported. This correlation was strongest among non-Hispanic white males in their thirties.

Dispensary openings also resulted in fewer drug-related mortalities per 100,000 people.

The author concludes, “[T]he unintended beneficial effects of allowing for marijuana dispensary operations should be considered by policymakers as they aim to curtail narcotic abuse and limit the impact of the opioid epidemic.”

The paper’s findings are similar to prior studies reporting that states permitting medical marijuana dispensaries experience a relative decrease in both opioid abuse and opioid overdose deaths compared to states that do not.

Full text of the study, “The effect of medical marijuana dispensaries on adverse opioid outcomes,” appears online.

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Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

‘Reasonable Access’: This Court Case Could Decide the Future of Ontario Dispensaries

It’s Monday morning, September 25, in courtroom number nine in Toronto’s Osgoode Hall, and lawyer Paul Lewin is sweating.

He reaches into a green Kleenex box and dabs his brow. Outside, it’s oppressively humid and the lawyers, still arriving, carry warmth into the room as they enter. They settle in and lift heavy binders from their large wheeled briefcases, their faces glowing under the courtroom lights. Lewin pours a glass of ice water. “Gin and tonic pull?” he says, offering the cup to a member of his counsel.

The city is seeking an immediate closure to the Canna Clinic dispensaries. Lawyers are attempting to intervene on behalf of 14 medical cannabis patients.

Lewin and co. are metaphorically steeling their nerves for what is to follow, a two-day hearing that pits the City of Toronto against Canna Clinic, with precedent-setting implications.

The city is seeking an immediate closure to the Canna Clinic dispensaries that are operating within the municipality. Lewin and his counsel are representing Canna Clinic and attempting to intervene on behalf of 14 medical cannabis patients. They’ve also filed a separate motion of notice to the court, challenging the constitutionality of the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations, which doesn’t include dispensaries. Dispensaries, they will argue, are part of reasonable access.

At one point, Canna Clinic, a British Columbia-based company, had seven dispensaries operating across Toronto. After repeated raids, they are currently down to two storefronts, one of which was raided in early September, with police seizing nearly 500 pounds of bud, oil, and shatter. If the city is successful in seeking an interim injunction, it will shut down the dispensaries in a way that repeated raids have, so far, been unable to.

“This is the big one,” Toronto cannabis lawyer Jack Lloyd said in the days leading up the hearing. “It’s really going to be the determinant of the future of dispensaries in Ontario.”

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The Mail-Order Mess

On Monday morning, Lloyd settles into the back row of the small courtroom, sandwiched between a couple of journalists. A number of lawyers are here to watch the proceedings and with every seat taken they lean against the walls, or sit on the floor, laptops and notepads propped up against their knees. Tomorrow, to accommodate the crowd, the hearing will be moved to a larger room on the second floor.

There is greater harm in closing the dispensaries, the lawyers imply, then letting them operate—even if the government is uncomfortable with their presence.

Lewin is addressing the judge. He says she will hear two recurring themes from his side, the first being that all the problems with Canada’s medical cannabis regime stem from the broken mail-order system. He will also argue that the people who are affected by shuttered dispensaries are society’s most vulnerable. There is greater harm in closing the dispensaries, this argument implies, then letting them operate—even if the government is uncomfortable with their presence.

The mail-order system, Lewin argues, strips patients off on-demand access to cannabis, which can lead to hospitalization and long-term health issues. He cites a patient with Crohn’s disease, who waits on average three to five days for his medicine to arrive by mail. Because he lives in a shelter, this means he has to wait outside, sometimes for eight hours, to sign for his package. He has ended up in the emergency room as a result of delayed treatment.

This is not unique, Lewin says. There are many others in similar situations, where one miscalculation on an order form, one delay, can send them to the hospital.

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There are also economic challenges to the mail-order system. Patients need a computer, and computer literacy and payment options are limited, requiring a bank account or a credit card. Canada’s licensed producers of cannabis (LPs) also require minimum purchase orders, on average $75 per order. For those on a fixed income, meeting minimum order requirements is impossible. With storefronts, a patient can access some form of relief with a few dollars, money that would mean nothing to an LP.

Patients are also bound to the LPs they are assigned to, and they can be fired from their service. If a patient wants to switch producers, maybe because they find their LPs prices too high or they are not satisfied with the product line, it’s a tangled three- to six-week process, with paperwork, doctors visits, and services fees ranging from $50 to $100.

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Another byproduct of the mail-order system is packages go missing, often with no refund. There is also, of course, the fact that many don’t want to receive their medicine in the mail, where it can be publicly displayed on their front porch.

“You can even get opioids at a storefront, but only cannabis is so special that it has to be delivered by mail,” Lewin says. Lloyd, watching in the back, pleased with this point, can’t help but pump his first.

A City’s Discontent

In contrast, the city argues that medical access is a ruse, that this is really about Canna Clinic’s private interests and revenues, citing that the seven locations were averaging around $3.5 million in business a month.

(Courtesy of Canna Clinic Toronto)

Canna Clinic, the city argues, also denied their attempts to gather evidence. They refused the city’s request for patient medical records, even anonymized records. In the end, the city received one record out of more than 19,000 members.

There is no information about where Canna Clinic’s product is coming form, or documentation about its clients needs for medical cannabis. Financial disclosures were also refused.

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“Canna Clinic’s requirements don’t come close to what courts require of medical clinics,” the city argues. They say nothing is done to confirm a medical diagnosis, no information is sent to any doctors, and there is no information about dosages or any time limitations on membership.

Later, the judge describes the lack of information about how Canna Clinic operates as a problem for Lewin and his counsel. (“You give me zero evidence and you’ve basically shielded yourself. That’s not good.”)

The city also argues that after repeated raids and bylaw breaches, the dispensaries remain open, which leads to a waste of resources when they are inevitably raided again. They argue that the primary activities of the dispensaries have nothing to do with medical cannabis, that it’s only incidental based on the number of members. There is no constitutional right to access via dispensary, the city says.

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“The federal regime provides that access,” the city argues. “If we authorize them to continue, we authorize their practices without regulation.”

Does a Win for Dispensaries Require an Activist Judge?

Last month, in a case in Hamilton, a neighboring city of Toronto, a judge allowed a dispensary to remain open provided it only sells cannabis to medical patients. The City of Hamilton had been seeking to shut it down. When this case is raised in court on the second day, the judge appears indifferent.

“I don’t care what’s happening in Hamilton,” she says, leaning back in her chair, arms spread at her sides to emphasize her point.

The City continues, “The government of Ontario made it clear that they expect the new system be run under government authority,” they say. “So illicit cannabis dispensaries are not legal now and they won’t be legal then.”

If the judge rules that dispensaries can remain open, she would be overriding three levels of government that want the dispensaries shuttered.

When the hearing closes on the second day, the lawyers and journalists and spectators stream out of the room. One of those lawyers is Russell Bennett, who represents a few dispensaries in the city and made the 1998 documentary, STONED: Hemp Nation on Trial, which aired on the CBC.

“It’s not looking good for the dispensaries,” he says, noting that the impression he got, when the judge was speaking and taking notes, was that she might be building a case against the dispensaries. If the judge rules that the dispensaries can remain open, she would be overriding three levels of government—municipal, provincial, and federal—who have all made it clear they want the dispensaries shuttered.

“This would be a large political statement form the judge,” Bennett says. “It would be a huge political stance.”

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Despite Canada’s government promising to legalize cannabis by July 2018, they have also encouraged hundred of raids across the country since taking power. Simple possession arrests have also continued. Currently, there are an estimated 60 to 80 dispensaries operating in Toronto, but the clock is ticking. How much time they have left is anyone’s guess, and up to the judge now. There is no timetable for when she will make a decision.

“The beating heart of this case,” Lewin said at the end of the second day, “is the fact that the mail-order system is not working and if the Canna Clinics are shut down its going to be the sickest, oldest, poorest, the most vulnerable who are going to suffer greatly.

“I think years from now we’re going to wonder what all the fuss was about.”


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