Tag: Medical

Is GOP Leadership Out of Touch With Voters on Cannabis?

A new poll released Thursday by Quinnipiac University has revealed some remarkable trends in support for cannabis legalization. One of the most pertinent takeaways, coming the same day that the White House vowed “greater enforcement” against legal states: A majority of voters, both Republican and Democrat, oppose the government interfering with state-legal cannabis operations.

A full 71 percent of those surveyed said they are against the federal government taking action against states that have legalized cannabis for medical or adult use. Majorities in both parties—80 percent of Democrats and 55 percent of Republicans—said they are against a federal crackdown on cannabis in legal states.

Or, as Quinnipiac put it: “REPUBLICANS OUT OF STEP WITH U.S. VOTERS ON KEY ISSUES … MOST VOTERS SUPPORT LEGALIZED MARIJUANA”

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The overwhelming support for respecting state laws, however, didn’t quite translate to full-throated support of  legalization outright. The poll found that 72 percent of Democrats were favored federal, adult-use legalization, while nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of Republicans were opposed.

On the issue of medical marijuana, voters in both parties came out out firmly in favor. A whopping 96 percent of Democratic respondents and 85 percent of Republicans said they support allowing adults using cannabis to treat medical conditions with a doctor’s recommendation.

The responses reflect similar trends toward bipartisan support of legalization that emerged during the November’s presidential election. While cannabis reform has largely been seen as a liberal issue, denigrated as a movement of hippies and freeloaders, it’s no longer a liberal issue. Voters in eight states, including Florida, Arkansas, and North Dakota, approved legalizing cannabis in some capacity last election.

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A recent poll out of Texas also showed a spike in cannabis support over the past two years. According to a poll by the University of Texas and the Texas Tribune, 83 percent of Texans support legalizing cannabis in some form, and 53 percent believe cannabis should be available for adult use, not just medicinal purposes.

The polls showing bipartisan support of state-by-state legalization, however, come as GOP leadership—and the White House—in particular, move to ramp up scrutiny of state cannabis programs.

After months of speculation about the implications of a Trump presidency and the appointment of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer lent fuel to the industry’s worst fears during a press conference on Thursday, Feb. 23.

Answering a question regarding adult-use cannabis specifically, Spicer replied, “I think you’ll see greater enforcement on that.”

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Spicer indicated that the Trump administration does recognize the distinction between medical and adult-use marijuana, suggesting the enforcement actions would focus on nonmedical programs.

While Republicans are more likely to support medical cannabis than adult-use measures, Thursday’s poll suggests GOP elders might do well to take a long, hard look at the growing support among Americans of all backgrounds for legal, regulated cannabis before taking action against states.


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.

Australia Loosens Cannabis Import Rules to Speed Patient Access

Australian medical cannabis patients and advocates notched a big win this week as the federal government loosened strings on the country’s cannabis-importation laws. The changes will allow overseas suppliers of medicinal cannabis to import into Australia in bulk, store a surplus, and ship directly to patients as doctors prescribe.

Despite progress made in licensing and local cultivation—which became legal in October 2016—patients and doctors have nevertheless found it frustratingly difficult to get a hold of legal cannabis. This is mainly due to the fact that the only products that currently meet quality standards are made overseas and classified in Australia as “unapproved medicines.” In other  words, they have not yet completed rigorous pharmaceutical trials and been approved by government regultors. Instead, medicine must be obtained through complex regulatory pathways such as the Special Access Scheme, which requires individual approvals at both the state and federal levels.

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These pathways are not only convoluted from a regulatory perspective, they are expensive. Until now, under the Special Access Scheme, cannabis products were shipped directly from an overseas manufacturer to the patient on a case-by-case basis—a process that entails thousands of dollars in shipping costs alone. Under the changes announced Wednesday, patients will no longer have to have products shipped directly directly from overseas.

According to Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt, the new policy will ensure that there will be sufficient interim supply for “all of the medical demand” among approved patients.

Medical cannabis advocate Lucy Haslam is only cautiously optimistic.

Many see the announcement as long overdue. On local radio last month, even Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull seemed to acknowledge supply issues when he urged doctors to apply for access to imported medicinal cannabis for seriously ill patients until Australia is in a position to cultivate enough of its own.

Medical cannabis advocate Lucy Haslam, however, is only cautiously optimistic. Halsam, who lost her son to bowel cancer nearly two years ago, says it remains to be seen how quickly patients will be able to get the product in their hands, especially as the application for access can be difficult. Because qualified doctors aren’t allowed to advertise, even finding an authorized prescriber presents a challenge.

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For now, the immediate beneficiaries of the change include the existing three foreign suppliers to the Australian market, GW Pharma, Tilray, and Bedrocan, which will now be able to supply medicinal cannabis more efficiently by warehousing it in the country. Also likely to benefit are the existing companies involved in pharmaceutical logistics, stacking the odds even further against local start-ups trying to break into the nascent market. (Editor’s note: Tilray and Leafly are both owned by parent company Privateer Holdings.)

The Australian stock market welcomed the announcement, with Australian-listed cannabis companies such as AusCann (ASX:TWH), MMJ Phytotech (ASX:MMJ) and others posting double-digit gains despite the local businesses not having products currently available for import.


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.

State of the Leaf: South Africa Approves MMJ Production

US News Updates

National

US Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), a longtime champion of cannabis reform, introduced a House resolution that would amend the Controlled Substances Act to protect state cannabis programs and businesses that comply with state and local laws. House Resolution 975 has already gained 14 co-sponsors so far and has been referred to the Committee on the Judiciary and the Committee on Energy and Commerce. Rohrabacher’s name is already attached to the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, a Congressional spending measure that prohibits the Justice Department from using federal funds to prosecute state-legal medical marijuana. That measure is set to expire in April, although US Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) recently stepped forward as lead co-sponsor to renew the amendment. Both represantatives are founding members of the newly established Congressional Cannabis Caucus, a group of federal lawmakers dedicated to promoting sensible cannabis policy at the federal level.

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Colorado

Access to Colorado cannabis is poised to expand further thanks to a handful of developments:

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Georgia

The House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee will be meeting this week to discuss House Bill 65, which would expand the number of qualifying conditions for the state’s medical cannabis program. The bill has already been discussed by the Medical Marijuana Working Group, where representatives heard testimony from advocates as well pediatricians both in favor and against the bill. Another medical marijuana measure, however, Senate Bill 16, would reduce the amount of THC allowed from five percent to three percent. SB 16 has already passed through the Senate and now heads to the House floor.

Iowa

An Iowa House subcommittee has approved a bill to legalize the use of cannabis-derived oil for medicinal purposes and create a state-run program for the cultivation and distribution of the oil to patients who would qualify. Those who suffer from epileptic seizures, multiple sclerosis, and cancer would likely benefit from the program, expanding the conditions from the previously medical marijuana oil program, which was aimed solely at those who suffer from epilepsy. The Iowa Department of Public Health would be tasked with running and overseeing the program, as well as issuing registration cards for qualifying patients.

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Kentucky

A new bill from the Kentucky House of Representatives would allow medical cannabis use with a doctor’s recommendation. House Bill 411, introduced by Rep. John Sims Jr. (D-Frankfort), would allow physicians to recommend medical cannabis without facing prosecution. Sims indicated that he introduced the bill after seeing studies that show cannabis can help patients in certain situations.

Massachusetts

The Massachusetts Legislature created the Committee on Marijuana Policy to help oversee and implement the state’s adult-use legalization law passed by voters last November. Two lawmakers have been tasked with rewriting the law to make “significant changes” before retail shops are scheduled to open in 2018. Rep. Mark Cusack (D-Braintree) and Sen. Pat Jehlen (D-Somerville) were appointed by Gov. Charlie Baker to complete a revised version of the law by June 2017, although the lawmakers have so far been mum on what changes might be in the works.

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Minnesota

A new bill in the Minnesota Legislature would legalize cannabis for personal use by adults 21 and older. Sen. Jeff Hayden (DFL-St. Paul) introduced S.F. 1392 a companion to H.F. 927, already introduced in the House. Both bills are aimed at legalizing and regulating the sales, possession, and use of cannabis for adults over the age of 21, but passage could be a long shot. Minnesota has one of the most restrictive medical marijuana programs in the country, and so far not a single state Legislature across the country has legalized cannabis for adult use.

New Hampshire

A bill to legalize cannabis for adult use has been introduced for the first time in the New Hampshire Senate. Senate Bill 233, introduced by Sen. Jeff Woodburn (D-Dalton), would legalize, tax, and regulate cannabis sales, as well as establish a committee to study cannabis legalization. Woodburn, also the state Senate minority leader, said New Hampshire needs to be more progressive and open as the rest of New England moves toward legalization. “We do not want to become the Mississippi of the Northeast, where people have to worry about driving through the state.” Woodburn testified before the Judiciary Committee.

North Dakota

The Senate Appropriations Committee voted to approve just over $1 million in funding to oversee the state’s new medical marijuana program over the next two years. Deputy State Officer Arvy Smith said North Dakota is not anticipating earning any revenue from the program during its first year, as the system gets off the ground. After that, user fees are expected to help fund the program. During the course of the coming two-year budget cycle between 2017 and 2019, the program is expected to cost a total of $2.9 million and raise about $1.3 million. The 81-page emergency measure to amend the bill will be considered this week by the Senate.

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Wyoming

An initiative to legalize medical marijuana won’t be on the 2018 ballot after failing to meet a key deadline. The petition was organized by NORML’s Wyoming chapter and had originally aimed to put a question on the 2016 ballot, but organizers failed to gather the 25,600 required signatures in time. Setting its sights on 2018, the group continued gathering signatures. Once again, however, it has failed to submit enough signatures to the Secretary of State’s office before a last week’s Feb. 14 deadline. A poll conducted in October 2016 found that support for the legalizing medical cannabis is at an all-time high, with 81 percent of Wyoming respondents in favor.

Texas

Houston is getting a newly revamped cannabis decriminalization policy. The city has suffered from a high crime rate for years, and state Attorney General Kim Ogg campaigned on a platform that promised to deprioritize low-level cannabis offenses in order to divert funds to fight violent crime in Harris County. The Misdemeanor Marijuana Diversion Program, designed to spare offenders from criminal penalties, would allow those who are caught with two ounces of cannabis or less to take a four-hour educational class rather than face a misdemeanor charge. Ogg’s office believes such diversion programs could spare up to 12,000 people from jail time and save Harris County around $26 million per year in enforcement costs.

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Virginia

During the first gubernatorial primary debate, two of the four Republican candidates indicated support for relaxing criminal penalties around cannabis. Denver Riggleman, a populist candidate, described his brother’s struggle to reintegrate into normal life after spending nine months in jail on cannabis-related charges. Another candidate, Prince William Board of County Supervisors Chairman Corey A. Stewart joined Riggleman in calling for decriminalization, saying “It’s absolutely atrocious that we are jailing people simply because they are in possession of marijuana.” Front-runner Ed Gillespie has said he does not support decriminalization but instead wants a state commission to review whether the penalties for marijuana offenses are in line with the severity of the crime. Rounding out the GOP field, state Sen. Frank Wagner supports diverting drug offenders to therapy programs rather than jailing them. The two Democratic Party candidates, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam and former US Rep. Tom Perriello, have both come forward in favor of decriminalization.

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International News Updates

Australia

Health Minister Greg Hunt has officially given the go-ahead for the legal sales of medical cannabis products to begin. Companies will now be permitted to distribute cannabis oils and medications locally, establishing a legal cannabis trade within the country. Parliament passed laws last year allowing patients with chronic illnesses to qualify medicinal cannabis, but without a legal market, products were only available only via import or through the black market. The move is meant to ensure Australia is able to maintain a safe, secure, and reputable source of cannabis-based medicines. Domestic production will continue until the supply is enough to meet patient demand.

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South Africa

The Medical Control Council, in a long-awaited decision, announced it will for the first time publish guidelines on medical cannabis production. Member of Parliament Narend Singh, of the South African Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), hailed the announcement as the result of tireless work from former IFP MP Mario Oriani-Ambrosini, who fought for cannabis legalization and made a direct plea to South African President Jacob Zuma to decriminalize cannabis. Oriani-Ambrosini died of lung cancer in 2014, before the government made any policy changes, but the IFP has since called its approval of medicinal cannabis production a tribute to the late MP.


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.

What Budtender Qualities Make You Turn Away From a Shop?

Budtender etiquette can easily make or break a visit for a customer or patient. As a recreational adult consumer, a bad experience with staff often means losing a customer and in an industry where every sale counts, losing a repeat customer means losing a valuable source of revenue. For those who rely on cannabis as medicine, to have inexperienced or ineffective staff is beyond a simple annoyance; it undermines the importance of their visit and being recommended the wrong product can have serious consequences.

We asked you what budtender qualities make you turn away from a dispensary and Leafly readers had a lot to say.

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“Not knowing the attributes of strains to give advice for therapeutic purposes. Get poor recommendations frequently.”

Whether the cannabis is being purchased for therapeutic or recreational purposes, budtenders should be knowledgeable about the different types of cannabis and their effects. Budtenders can also avoid making a poor recommendation by asking questions of the consumer, making it easier to find the right product for the right person. If they are looking for a sleep aid, don’t recommend a high-energy sativa. If they’re looking for a boost in productivity, don’t recommend a heavy indica.

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“Uncaring people who can care less that you’re there because you’re in pain or haven’t slept well because of illness. All they’re interested in is squeezing every penny they can get out of you.”

A little bit of compassion can go a long way, especially for a patient who truly relies on cannabis to treat their symptoms. Yes, revenue is important for those who are trying to make ends meet in a tricky industry, but keep in mind why these patients are in your store to begin with. For a medical cannabis patient, having access to proper medicine is about much more than money. It’s about their personal well-being.

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“Condescending budtenders. Or the ones who show low effort towards minor sales. I’ll take my stuff right out of there and go somewhere else.”

Don’t underestimate the importance of quality customer service. Every customer, whether buying an ounce or a gram, should be treated with the same respect reserved for any patient or customer. In the same way that a condescending waiter can sour a dining experience, feeling disrespected during a dispensary visit is more than enough for a customer to take their business elsewhere. Remember, even small sales can add up to big sales over a long period of time. Invest in your customers and they’ll keep coming back.

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“Basic lack of education about what strain is best for what. And I gotta say, it would be very comforting to see one who is older than 20-something and has experience. Many if not most actual patients are older.”

There’s no reason for age discrimination when hiring (except, of course, for making sure to hire employees of legal age to be handling cannabis products), but no matter the age of your employees, keep your clientele in mind. In this new era of breaking the stigma behind cannabis consumption, there is a new generation of canna-curious baby boomers. When catering to older clientele, be mindful that they may have tons or no experience with cannabis and, once again, this is where tactful questions can come in handy. Some boomers have been smoking for decades, while others are just dipping their toe into the waters since legalization.

It’s also important to note here that medical patients may be sensitive about their ailments. When asking questions to discern their needs in a strain or product, be cognizant of that sensitivity. If they offer up information, use it to help them find the right product, but don’t pry into their background. This is not only uncomfortable for patients, it can be seen as rude, insensitive, and even insulting. Tread lightly when it comes to medical issues.

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“Forgetting my exact change, forgetting to pack the actual medicine in the bag before I leave the place, acting stupid. I get that you’re running a dispensary, but at least your budtenders can be at least somewhat responsive when I’m purchasing my meds. Judging by more than a few times this happened, at many different dispensaries.”

Is this a no-brainer or not? Cannabis consumption during work hours is clearly up to the discretion of the company, but if it’s affecting performance and leading to bad experiences with customers, maybe it’s time to reconsider your policies. This is no longer an era of “anything goes” like it once was in the past days of unregulated cannabis, and unprofessional behavior can be a huge turn-off for customers.

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When it comes to proper budtender etiquette, generally it’s safe to say you should trust your instincts. Be polite and unassuming and make your customer as comfortable as possible. We’re working in a new and unique industry, and, as you guide your customers through uncharted waters, you can help break the stigma. Your influence has the potential to make or break a customer’s cannabis experience. Take your responsibility seriously and treat every consumer with respect and sincerity.


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.

Facing Pressure From Patients, New Zealand Moves Ahead on Medical Cannabis

Australia’s moves to legalize medical cannabis last year were unexpected, but despite a difficult regulatory framework early on, investors are eagerly moving into the space. But Australia now faces competition close to home as New Zealand races to catch up with—and possibly outpace—its larger neighbor.

Late last year, New Zealand Health Minister Peter Dunne removed the requirement for Ministry of Health approval to prescribe the popular medical cannabis product Sativex for multiple sclerosis. Last week, Dunne announced on the New Zealand government’s official website (called Beehive) that he has delegated all decision making around cannabis prescriptions to his ministry.

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New Zealand divides medical cannabis products into three categories: pharmaceutical-grade products with consent for distribution in New Zealand (like Sativex, but only for multiple sclerosis), pharmaceutical-grade products that do not have consent for distribution in New Zealand (medicines not yet approved), and non-pharmaceutical-grade cannabis-based products (such as raw cannabis flower).

Until recently, the health minister’s personal approval was required for every cannabis-related prescription. The revision last year means that doctors are now able to prescribe Sativex without any approval from the ministry. Last week’s announcement streamlines the process for access to the other categories by delegating to employees of the ministry the power to approve applications if they meet certain guidelines. Guidelines are still very strict for non-pharmaceuticals, which are only considered for life-threatening conditions.

Like the Australian government, the New Zealand government is experiencing significant pressure from patients. Last year a high-profile former union leader Helen Kelly, who used cannabis to manage pain associated with her terminal cancer, died of the disease. Kelly had called for decriminalizing medical cannabis. Although she didn’t achieve full decriminalization, she helped sway public opinion on this issue. Recent polls show that 76 percent of New Zealanders now support safe, legal access to medical cannabis.

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To that end, Dunne’s decision to remove some of the red tape from the path to patient access is a step in the right direction.

Dunne plans to follow up directly with the New Zealand Medical Association. “It is my intention to write … to the New Zealand Medical Association and the Pharmacy Society of New Zealand outlining my decision and my ongoing expectation that medical professionals consider the prescribing of cannabis-based products with an open mind,” he said, adding  that he also intends to create a list of internationally available, pharmaceutical-grade cannabis products.

But the recent reforms, while helpful, aren’t exactly a giant leap into the future. Dunne’s political party, the National Party, has previously voted against cannabis law reforms. The ascendant Green Party, on the other hand, has said it will legalize cannabis for adult use.

While New Zealand doesn’t grow cannabis yet, Australia’s licensing scheme has caught the attention of scientists such as Dr. Mike Nichols, who has called on the New Zealand government to institute a similar scheme. New Zealand’s agricultural know-how, and fertile, isolated islands could give it an incredible advantage as a cannabis producer. With public opinion swinging hard towards legalization, and clinical trial results from around the world flooding in, this little corner of Asia-Pacific could soon become a hotbed of competition.


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.

Leafly Investigation: California Has a Dirty Cannabis Problem

There’s no hard data available, but a survey of industry insiders contacted for this article suggests that fewer than half of California dispensaries and delivery services lab test the marijuana they sell. The actual figure could be even lower. After all, testing isn’t currently required under state law. In 2015, lawmakers passed a measure to require testing of medical cannabis, but that won’t be enforced until January 2018.

“Everything makes its way into the supply chain somehow.”

San Francisco dispensary operator

More troubling is what happens to cannabis that turns out to be contaminated. According to dispensary operators and other industry insiders interviewed for this article, cannabis rejected for mold, fungi, pesticide residue, or other contaminants often stays in the supply chain. It may end up on the black market, shipped out of state. It could be processed into concentrates or edibles. Or marijuana rejected by one dispensary may simply end up being sold across town by someone else. If your dispensary isn’t testing its products, you could be smoking some right now. It’s virtually impossible to know.

In a study published in October, Berkeley-based Steep Hill Labs claimed it found residual pesticides in 84 percent of cannabis tested over a 30-day period beginning in mid-September, the peak time in the state’s marijuana harvest.

All that cannabis would have failed safety standards in Oregon. In California, all of it can be sold.

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Why does testing matter?

The potential consequences of contaminated cannabis recently hit home with the release of an article in the journal Clinical Microbiology and Infection.

One of the article’s authors, Dr. Joseph Tuscano, an oncologist and researcher at UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, Calif., had been treating a young man in his 20s with leukemia. After a stem-cell transplant, the prognosis was very good. The leukemia was gone, and the man seemed likely to recover. Then, very suddenly, he developed a severe lung infection.

An oncologist's article in this medical journal has opened questions about the safety of at-risk patients using untested cannabis. A UC Davis oncologist’s article in this medical journal has opened questions about the safety of at-risk patients using untested cannabis.

One consequence of cancer treatment is that patients’ immune systems become so compromised that even flowers and houseplants can pose a mortal risk. It’s common for bacteria and fungi that healthy people would never notice to cause sudden, severe, and sometimes fatal pneumonia in cancer patients. That’s what happened to Tuscano’s patient, who survived leukemia only to die of what turned out to be a rare fungal infection.

Then it happened again. Another young leukemia patient, another good prognosis, another sudden and severe lung infection caused by the same rare strain of fungus. This patient, however, recovered. When Tuscano asked him about his lifestyle, trying to identify a cause or any links between the two cases, he discovered the two men both used marijuana. The dead patient had vaporized a cannabis “mist” medicinally as part of his treatment; the survivor smoked recreationally prior to his leukemia diagnosis—which was when he developed the infection “instantly,” Tuscano told me.

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“When you have these rare infections, you wonder, ‘OK, how did this patient get exposed to this?’” he said. “We never suspected cannabis use … but after I interviewed the patient, one of the common links was the use of medicinal marijuana.”

It’s impossible to know for certain if the deadly fungus came from cannabis. Tuscano couldn’t test the cannabis the two men had used. It was gone. The next-best thing was to find out if the fungus was in marijuana generally.

Voluntary testing, poor results.

Unlike Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, there is currently no requirement in California for cannabis to be lab-tested before it is sold. Testing isn’t slated to begin until Jan. 1, 2018—and that’s assuming everything goes according to schedule. Some already worry the state’s adult-use rollout is destined for delay.

In the meantime, dispensaries, delivery services, and growers can voluntarily submit crops to testing labs to find contaminants and to determine their products’ THC content—a sought-after marketing metric, since the higher the number, the easier the cannabis is to sell.

This photo taken on Friday, Jan. 4, 2013, shows a lab technician loading a tray of marijuana samples into a Chromograph at CannLabs in Denver. The Chromograph analyzes the samples and reports their chemical content and strength. From potency standards to labeling requirements and even regulations about pesticides and fungicides, marijuana production is largely unregulated, for now. That's why there are places like CannLabs in south Denver, where medical marijuana dispensaries and consumers can voluntarily have their marijuana and pot-infused edibles tested. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)A lab technician in Denver loads a tray of cannabis samples into a testing machine that analyzes the samples and reports their chemical content and strength. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

One of Tuscano’s colleagues at UC Davis, Dr. George Thompson, had a connection to Steep Hill Labs. The lab selected, at random, marijuana samples they’d received from 20 different Northern California dispensaries. Each was tested for rare and common fungi and bacteria. The result? Every single one of the 20 samples was contaminated with a variety of both. They contained E. coli, Aspergillus, various strains associated with pneumonia, pathogens known to cause common infections—as well as the rare fungus that killed Tuscano’s patient.

“All these organisms were in there, and so many other ones as well,” said Tuscano. “Before this, I never really suspected there was a link.”

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A false perception of safety

Since the marijuana his patients consumed wasn’t tested, Tuscano can’t know for certain that his patients’ fungal infections came from cannabis. Instead, he can draw only a very strong and suggestive connection.

We don’t know for sure if dirty cannabis led to infection. But researchers suspect a strong connection.

There’s also a few clear warnings. For starters, immunocompromised people should not smoke or vaporize marijuana, Tuscano and his co-authors of the letter say. Neither smoking nor vaping nor filtration through a water pipe destroys fungus. Cannabis ingested orally, for example through edibles or tinctures, is a safer option.

There’s a cultural phenomenon at work, too. Legalization and the widespread acceptance of physician-recommended medical marijuana—a proven political winner, even in red states—have created a “perception of safety,” the researchers wrote. Consumers and even regulators have “unknowingly ignored a product that can be contaminated with infectious agents and thus harbor potentially lethal risks

“People need to quit assuming what they get from the dispensary is safe,” Tuscano told me. “It needs to be tested.”

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Caveat emptor at the dispensary counter

The problem is, under state law, it isn’t. Outside some local jurisdictions with their own testing requirements, California cannabis consumers take a leap of faith with every hit.

This leaves it up to patients and consumers to determine when a product is safe. Often, that relies on assumptions: assuming a dispensary is sincere when it says it tests its medicine, and assuming that test results in fact determine whether a product is or isn’t sold.

“I think you can tell when the culture of the shop embraces testing,” says Nicholas Smilgys, a co-founder and former chief buyer at Flow Kana, a San Francisco-based outdoor farm-to-consumer delivery service. A customer can demand to see a product’s lab results before purchase, but in high-volume dispensaries where a customer’s time at the counter is measured in minutes, such discretion isn’t always encouraged.

Lab rejects can reach the market

Kevin Reed is founder and CEO of The Green Cross in San Francisco. The dispensary has operated for more than a decade in various iterations, first as a storefront, then a delivery service, and now a combination storefront and delivery service. The store, one of the first to apply for a city license, has a history of activism and engagement that has earned it a good reputation among consumers. Before anything is sold, Reed has it sent for testing to CW Analytical, an Oakland, Calif.-based competitor to Steep Hill.

“A whole lot of shenanigans happen at the buying point.”

To this day, a “multitude of small and large scale commercial growers … attempt to sell” products that Reed’s testing discovers to be contaminated by pathogens or pesticides, he told me. The Green Cross rejects that medicine and sends the supplier on his or her way, Reed said, but “unfortunately, with the current [California] model, we cannot ensure that once a product is removed from our supply chain that it does not get sold to other dispensaries,” he said.

A lot comes down to a dispensary’s buyer, explained one San Francisco-based dispensary operator who spoke on condition of anonymity. “A whole lot of shenanigans happen at the buying point.”

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How dirty product gets sold

The operator offered a hypothetical situation as an example: A new dispensary opens up. The owner is a marijuana neophyte, maybe a newcomer from law or tech or real estate. Unfamiliar with the goods on the market, the owner hands over purchasing power to someone with cannabis-industry experience. Now, suppose that buyer has a budget of $1,400 a pound and is approached by a grower with lower-end cannabis for sale. Neither party is interested in the time and expense of a lab test.

“The seller says, ‘It’s got some issues, but I’ll give it to you for $800.’ So he gives it to him for $800, and the buyer keeps the extra $600,” the operator said. “That happens a ton in the industry.”

A grower with lab-rejected cannabis is faced with a choice: Discard the harvest and eat the loss or shop it at a discount until it sells.

“Or let’s say I’m a grower and I have a hundred pounds of OG Kush,” the dispensary operator added. Only a few grams are required “for testing, [so] I’m only going to send in my best stuff. Does that represent my entire crop?”

If a lab finds pesticides in a batch of cannabis and a dispensary rejects it, the grower is faced with a choice: Discard the harvest—and with it months of work and investment—or shop the bud around until it sells. Unless there is something catastrophically wrong, such as rampant pest damage or mold so out of control it’s visible to the naked eye, “it makes its way to a buyer somewhere,” the operator said. “And if it doesn’t make its way as a flower product, it’ll make its way to someone who will extract it” into vape-pen cartridges, extracts for dabbing, or oil to be used in edibles.

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One might think that’s a safe and acceptable fate, assuming the extraction process somehow kills off pests and eliminates contaminants. It does not, say lab scientists, who explained that when cannabinoids and terpenes are concentrated in extracts, certain fungi and pesticides are concentrated as well—sometimes disproportionately compared to the sought-after cannabinoids and terpenes.

But the point, the operator told me, is this: Very little marijuana is voluntarily discarded. “Everything,” he said, “makes its way into the supply chain somehow.”


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.

State of the Leaf: Peruvian President Wants to Legalize MMJ

U.S. News Updates

National

Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) has introduced a resolution that would acknowledge the devastating effects the war on drugs has had on the black community and determine which private corporations benefited from the nation’s mass incarceration crisis. House Resolution 1055 is aimed at remedying some of the those historical harms. Black Americans are four times as likely to be arrested for cannabis-related crimes, despite offense rates equal to those among whites. If passed, the law would create a the Commission to Study Family Reconstruction Proposals for African-Americans Unjustly Impacted by the War on Drugs, members of which would be appointed by the president and appropriated $10 million to conduct the study over the course of a year. Rush introduced a similar proposal during the last legislative session, but the measure fell short.

Arkansas

Two bills passed the House with little opposition, while a third measure was soundly rejected by the Senate. House Bill 1392, which would ban edibles, and House Bill 1400, which would prohibit the smoking of marijuana, both passed through committee. The Senate rejected SB 254, which would have amended the number of plants a dispensary is allowed to grow.

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California

San Francisco Supervisor Jeff Sheehy asked the city attorney to draft legislation that would create an independent department of marijuana to regulate the cultivation, distribution, and sale of cannabis in the city. The city is anticipating challenges in overseeing sales and distribution when legalization comes into effect in January 2018. The tentatively named Department of Cannabis would issue permits to grow, distribute, and sell marijuana in the city, and would play a role in enforcing compliance with state law.

Colorado

The Colorado Senate approved a bill that directs the Colorado Department of Agriculture to study the feasibility of using hemp as livestock feed. Senate Bill 17-109 would create a group to study the possibility of using hemp products in animal feed, with a report due by December 31, 2017. This measure is similar to a bill passed in Washington in 2015 to study whether hemp products should be allowed in commercial animal feed.

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Florida

A Broward County ordinance dealing with zoning, security, and other measures in light of the passage of Amendment 2 will get a public hearing on March 14. However, the proposed ordinance may become moot due to legislation being considered in the state Senate that would keep the number of cannabis cultivators limited to the seven producers already licensed to grow low-THC cannabis. Activists and potential patients have resisted these changes, with nearly 1,300 residents showing up to voice their opinions are public hearings held recently across the state.

Indiana

The Indiana Senate voted to approve a measure that would legalize the use of CBD oil for the treatment of children with epilepsy. Senate Bill 15 creates a state registry for physicians, nurses, caregivers, and patients to treat intractable epilepsy and would allow pharmacies to dispense it. The measure cleared the state Senate and has been sent to the House for consideration. Gov. Eric Holcomb has been reluctant to consider outright legalization, but has said he is open to the idea of medical cannabis.

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New Mexico

A bill to expand the state’s medical marijuana program was cleared by the state Senate in a 29–11 vote. Introduced by Sen. Cisco McSorley, who also helped pass the state’s initial medical marijuana bill in 2007, Senate Bill 177 would allow producers to increase the number of plants they can grow when the number of patients in the program increases. It would also add 14 new qualifying medical marijuana conditions to the program, including substance abuse disorder.

New York

The New York State Assembly voted in support of A. 2142, a bill that would seal the criminal records of those who have been arrested and convicted for simple possession of cannabis in public. This is in line with the changes made by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio last year to no longer arrest those who possess cannabis in public. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has also hinted that he may clarify the state’s marijuana decriminalization law to help lower arrest rates, which initially decreased with de Blasio’s policy change, but lately have been on the rise.

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International News Updates

Guam

A poll conducted by the advanced placement students at Simon Sanchez High School found that 60 percent of Guam’s adults oppose legalizing marijuana for adult use. The student polled 1,048 adults over the age of 21, of whom 632 had serious objections to legalizing cannabis. The Guam Gov. Eddie Balza Calvo recently introduced Bill 8-34 to legalize and tax cannabis, with revenue going towards supporting the medical marijuana program and other important government services, such as public hospitals.

Peru

Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski is planning to introduce legislation to legalize the medical use of cannabis for the treatment of serious and terminal illnesses. The president was inspired to introduce the legislation after police raided the home of a family in Lima where parents were cultivating cannabis in order to treat children suffering from epilepsy and other illnesses. The cultivation site comprised more than 80 members whose sick children have been quietly benefiting from the illicit use of cannabis.


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.

Florida Officials Clash With Voters Over Medical Cannabis Rules

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Three months after Florida voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment on medical marijuana, state health officials and prospective patients are at odds over proposed rules that would spell out who could get cannabis.

State officials have recommended restrictions on what type of patients can qualify for medical marijuana, and where they can obtain it. Their suggestions, however, have prompted a wave of opposition across the state, with nearly 1,300 residents attending what are normally low-key bureaucratic hearings to press for less restricted access to marijuana.

“Patients, doctors, caregivers and activists all had a unified message which is rare,” said Ben Pollara, who is the campaign manager for United for Care. “They want impediments removed and a free market place.”

Amendment 2, which was approved by 71 percent of voters last November, was enacted on Jan. 3. It allows higher-strength marijuana to be used for a wider list of medical ailments than what was currently allowed in state law. The rules have become a flashpoint because the amendment requires the state to adopt them by July 3 and have them in place by September.

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The state held hearings in several locations and Thursday’s two hours of public testimony in Tallahassee mirrored what happened earlier this week in Jacksonville, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa and Orlando. Most who spoke statewide are also concerned about high prices and limited availability so far of cannabis products. Only five of the seven organizations approved to dispense cannabis are up and running.

Activists want a requirement eliminated that a patient must be under a prescribing physician’s care for at least 90 days. They also believe it should be up to doctors to deem when medical cannabis is necessary and not be confined by the conditions enumerated in the amendment or by the Board of Medicine.

Doug Bench, a former judge who testified in Tallahassee, said that people often delay seeing a doctor until they urgently need treatment.

“When you are ill you, you put it off. You don’t want to hear what the doctor says and by the time you finally go you need it now,” Bench said.

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The current law — which was approved by the state legislature in 2014 — allows for non-smoked, low-THC cannabis for patients with cancer or ailments that cause chronic seizures or severe spasms. It was expanded last March to allow patients with terminal conditions to gain access to higher strength cannabis.

The department will review all comments it has received and agency officials will then publish another proposed rule. How quickly that rule gets published depends on subsequent public comments or any legal challenges.

The Florida Legislature will also get a chance to weigh in. There are two bills in the Senate with the House of Representatives expected to release its version before session opens on March 7.


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.

California’s Cannabis Testing Regulations Fall Short

California’s medical marijuana program has lacked sufficient regulations since its inception in 1996, but for the first time, the lack of regulations is having dire, even fatal consequences.

The first sign of trouble began with patients being treated for leukemia and lymphoma at the University of California, Davis Cancer Center. The patients were undergoing intensive chemotherapy, which compromised their immune system and left them susceptible to infections, but these patients were fairly young and doctors were optimistic about their chances of survival.

Both patients, however, developed a severe fungal infection. Before long, the fungal infection proved fatal for the patients.

Doctors set out to find out why.

The most likely culprit? Contaminated medical cannabis obtained to combat nausea caused by the cancer treatment. But medical cannabis is tested for safety, isn’t it? Not necessarily.

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Recognizing the possibility of legalization on the horizon, California lawmakers cobbled together a hodgepodge mix of three Assembly bills to create a system of regulatory oversight for the long-running, vastly unregulated market. Assembly Bill 266 was drafted to protect patients and consumers, including a section on testing medical cannabis for potency and quality control, but the bill failed to take into account some of the hard-earned lessons from states that have traveled this path before.

Determined to uncover the cause of these fungal infections, Davis doctors worked with Steep Hill Laboratories in Berkeley to test a wide range of medical cannabis products from across the state and their findings were disturbing. Of the 20 samples gathered, 90 percent contained some kind of contaminant, including bacteria and pesticides.

Bacteria included:

  • Klebsiella: can cause pneumonia, septicemia, meningitis, and other soft tissue infections.
  • Acinetobacter: can cause pneumonia, skin and wound infections, bacteremia, and meningitis.
  • Pseudomonas: is resistant to antibiotics and is the second most common infection in hospitalized patients.
  • Escherichia coli (E. coli): can cause gastroenteritis, urinary tract infections, neonatal meningitis, hemolytic-uremic syndrome, peritonitis, mastitis, septicemia, and pneumonia.

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These contaminants are alarming for any cannabis consumer, but for a patient suffering from an autoimmune disease or undergoing intensive treatment, introducing any or all of these contaminants into their system can easily prove fatal.

Dangerous bacteria aside, researchers also found high levels of pesticides that have already been banned for use on cannabis in other legal states.

Myclobutanil is a fungicide, often known by the brand name Eagle 20. It is relatively safe when used on grapes and other fruits and vegetables. However, when Myclobutanil is heated or smoked, it produces a chemical called hydrogen cyanide, which is toxic for humans to inhale.

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Colorado learned a hard lesson about Myclobutanil in 2015, when several marijuana cultivation sites came under fire for use of the controversial pesticide. Without federal oversight from the Environmental Protection Agency, however, it was up to the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division to create a mandated pesticide testing program and ensure that all cannabis was safe for human consumption.

Since then, Oregon, Washington, Massachusetts, and Nevada have followed suit in setting quality control testing standards on cannabis, but California’s testing regulations don’t go far enough. Both Assembly Bill 266 and Proposition 64 require testing for potency, but do not offer specifics for pesticide testing, and the testing requirements for “microbiological impurities” leave enough room for some serious bacteria to sneak by.

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If California is committed to legal cannabis, medical or otherwise, and to ensuring the safety of the general public, it’s time for regulators to make some serious and specific changes to quality control standards, before the most vulnerable of medical marijuana patients are put at further risk. It may be too late for two UC Davis cancer patients but the time is never wrong to do what is right.


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.

Washington State Lawmakers Want a Wall Around Legal Marijuana

Amid concerns that the Trump administration could stymie state-legal cannabis, Washington state lawmakers have quietly introduced bipartisan legislation that would protect the state’s system from federal intervention by barring local officials from cooperating with the feds.

It’s yet another sign of uncertainty as legal states wait to see how President Donald Trump and his Justice Department, likely to be led by Sen. Jeff Sessions, handle the ongoing conflict between state and federal law.

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Many are concerned that Sessions, whose nomination for US attorney general is slated for a full Senate vote on Wednesday, could seek to undo state cannabis programs. In confirmation hearings, he dodged senators’ questions about whether he intends to follow Obama-era DOJ policies that served to protect legal state systems, saying only that he will “review and evaluate those policies.”

House Bill 1895, sponsored by state Reps. David Sawyer (D-Lakewood), Cary Condetta (R-Wenatchee), Brandon Vick (R-Vancouver), and David Taylor (R-Moxee), is an answer to that response. It would attempt to protect the state’s cannabis program from federal intervention by “prohibiting the use of public resources to assist the federal government in any activity that might impede or interfere with Washington state’s regulation of marijuana and marijuana-related products.” Public employees would be forbidden from using their on-the-clock time or state resources to aid a federal action “that might have the effect of impeding, obstructing, or otherwise interfering” with the state’s cannabis system.

Under the proposal, officials who aid the feds would face disciplinary action and could even lose their jobs.

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While it’s generally not the role of local authorities to enforce federal law, it’s quite common for police and federal law enforcement to team up on investigations and enforcement actions. That’s been especially true when it comes to cannabis. In some cases, local governments trying to shutter unwanted cannabis businesses have called in the feds as backup. In 2011 and 2012, partly in response to such requests, US attorneys in California shuttered hundreds of medical marijuana dispensaries across the state.

If passed, Washington’s bill would primarily benefit cannabis businesses, which have historically faced the brunt of federal enforcement efforts. While the DOJ could technically target patients—and has in the past—it has tended to focus on dispensaries and other larger-scale operations.

Nothing in the bill would prevent the feds themselves from going after state cannabis—nor could it keep the federal government from challenging the underlying legitimacy of state cannabis laws, which conflict with the federal Controlled Substances Act.

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Some small efforts are already underway to provide more durable protections at the federal level. Congress in December extended the so-called Rohrabacher–Farr amendment, a spending provision that prevents federal prosecutors from using DOJ resources to prosecute state-legal medical cannabis. That extension expires in April. Last year the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the provision, swatting down a federal enforcement action against Oakland, California’s high-profile Harborside Health Center dispensary.

More broadly, congressional representatives have introduced a pair of bills that would reschedule cannabis to a Schedule II controlled substance and entirely de-schedule cannabidiol (CBD), cannabis’s primary non-psychoactive compound.

Members of Congress have also begun organizing to form a Cannabis Caucus aimed at expanding access to medical marijuana and supporting the ability of states to craft their own cannabis policies. The group is expected to step up its activity later this month.

Washington’s HB 1895, by is currently before the House Committee on State Government, Elections, and Information Technology. The bill’s full text is available online.


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.