Top Marijuana Officials Resign in New Jersey

State House dome in Trenton – photo by C. David Freitag

The two officials at the NJ Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) who were in charge of the new medical marijuana program have resigned. Dr. Poonam Alaigh and Dr. Susan Walsh made the surprise announcements last week just after they helped issue permits to first six Alternative Treatment Centers for supplying cannabis.

The New Jersey Senate and Assembly have declared that regulations proposed by DHSS for the medical marijuana program do not follow the intent of the law. Doctors Alaigh and Walsh oversaw the creation of the contentious rules.

Filling the recent vacancies at the moment are Mary O’Dowd (Commissioner) and Dr. Christina Tan (Deputy Commissioner). O’Dowd’s husband currently works on the staff of Governor Christie’s Chief Counsel. A physician must hold one of the two positions at NJ DHSS.

The Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey (CMMNJ) issued a statement today about the resignations:

It is our hope the new DHSS officials in charge of the Medicinal Marijuana Program will uphold the intent of the law, unlike their predecessors. CMMNJ suggests the following:

– The DHSS Commissioner and Deputies must commit themselves to understanding and openly stating that marijuana is medicine, since that is what the law declares.

– DHSS should be responsive to the concerns of marijuana experts and patients. Previous public hearings have elicited hundreds of impassioned pleas from patients, advocates and potential ATC operators that have been uniformly ignored by DHSS.

Women Behind Bars Update – Patricia Spottedcrow Responds!

What a wonderful and weird morning. I’m sitting in a garage at the Jersey shore, getting my brake pads fixed (stay with me. The story gets better, I swear.) I bring my old laptop and check my email. And I see an email from Jil Staszewski of the NORML Women’s Alliance telling me that Patricia Spottedcrow responded to our letters. Wow. I opened the PDF of her letter and what an overwhelming feeling. It felt as if I knew her that much better just by seeing her sweet handwriting. It was like a virtual handshake or hug. Click on it below.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out our Write to Women Behind Bars for Marijuana campaign. All you need to do is send an email and we’ll forward it to one of many women behind bars, serving needlessly long terms for marijuana possession.

Please take a moment to sign the petition for a pardon –

[Please take a moment to sign the petition for a pardon – ]

Town in Maine Cuts Public Housing for Medical Marijuana Patients

from's medical cannabis section

7/29/2011 – The Brewer Public Housing Authority passed a ban on medical marijuana this week. Maine residents with qualifying medical conditions have accessed cannabis though home cultivation or caregivers since 2000. Voters approved an expansion of the law in 2009 that allows eight dispensaries. The first four opened this year. But it will be impossible for seriously ill Brewer Public Housing tenants to participate in the state’s compassionate use program.

The Bangor Daily News reported:

“No resident can use medical marijuana in our projects [and] if they do they will be evicted,” Executive Director Gordon Stitham said.

The ban covers both public housing units and privately owned properties that fall under the federally funded Section 8 housing program, he said.

“Any landlord or any tenant receiving public assistance under the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program will not be able to use medical marijuana in their units,” Stitham said. read full

This could mean that those patients already in the program who wish to keep their housing must use the therapy and store their supply away from home.

But wait, there’s more. Here’s the most chilling part of the BHPA decision:

“You can have it, but you’re not going to bring it into our projects,” Stitham said, adding that applications for housing from medical marijuana patients will automatically be rejected.

“We’re not going to be able to serve you because of the medical marijuana,” he said. read full

Unfortunately, Brewer is not alone. Housing authorities around the country have made the same move to create a hard policy of denying any applications from registered medical marijuana patients. Vancouver, Washington and Portland, Oregon have issued similar bans.

Kris Hermes is the spokesperson at Americans for Safe Access (ASA), a national lobbying group for medical marijuana. They also have an impressive record of successful lawsuits protecting people’s civil rights. He said they frequently hear from patients who are affected by these policies.

“This is definitely a common complaint,” said Hermes. “People report to ASA that they are being discriminated against by landlords and housing authorities.”

These new policies seem like clear cases of discrimination against low-income individuals dealing with a major illness, such as cancer or HIV. But because of the close tie-ins with federal funding, especially Section 8, the local managers tend to defer to the fed.

The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) did issue a memo in January 2011 to address this issue. HUD pointed out that marijuana remains illegal under federal law, therefore no accommodations are required for patients in state programs.

But Keith Stroup Esq. at the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) pointed out that HUD left the policy decision up to housing managers. “The impression we had is that the local authorities have the discretion,” said Stroup today.

Memos from the US Department of Justice have also made clear that federal authorities should not interfere with individual medical marijuana patients. Local housing boards may need to take the DOJ position into consideration as well as HUD’s comments when deciding on a policy.

Some states, like Rhode Island, have stronger language in their compassionate use laws that may serve to protect patient housing. But the only way to really gain those protections is to get a court ruling to strike down a local ban.

In Brewer, Maine, the blanket opposition to medical marijuana seems to be standard operating procedure. A moratorium was passed in 2010 to make sure none of the state-regulated dispensaries could locate in the town. Regardless, enforcing the new housing policy may be extremely difficult. New provisions were enacted by Maine’s Legislature this year that expand privacy protections for those in the medical cannabis program. Patients are no longer required to be part of the state registry.

Kris Hermes at Americans for Safe Access said, “It is unconscionable in this age to be preventing poor medical marijuana patients from participating in public housing.”

Chris Goldstein is a respected marijuana reform advocate. As a writer and radio broadcaster he has been covering cannabis news for over a decade. Questions?  [email protected]

World Leaders Call For Marijuana Regulation

Sir Richard Branson, Ruth Dreifuss former President of Switzerland and Fernanado Henrique Cardoso former president of Brazil on June 2, 2011 – photo by Beth Mann

6/3/2011 – Regulating cannabis for adults could help the world take a public health approach to addiction. That was the message from several members of the Global Commission on Drug Policy who gathered in New York City on June 2, 2011.

The former Presidents of Switzerland, Colombia and Brazil joined Sir Richard Branson at a crowded news conference to discuss their new report calling for an end to the war on drugs.

Cannabis was a central theme, in two languages. covered the landmark event.

“For cannabis…Countries should be able to experiment with regulation,” said Fernanado Henrique Cardoso, the former President of Brazil.

Cesar Gaviria, the former President of Colombia, discussed treating cannabis like alcohol and tobacco, “When it comes to someone smoking some marijuana, people should not be sent to a jail,“ Gaviria said.

He repeated his calls for “marijuana” regulation in Spanish for the international press.

Ruth Dreifuss, the former President of Switzerland, discussed public health approaches to heroin and other addictions that have seen success in Europe. Her country attempted to regulate the cannabis market last year.

“I don’t believe in ideology,” said Dreifuss discussing the uphill battle for the issue,”I believe in results.”

Showing courageous solidarity in the formal report and the live news conference, the Commission calls the current US policy of prohibition a “failure” by any measure. The group of respected dignitaries seemed to be addressing one person: US President Barack Obama.

Cesar Gaviria former President of Colombia- photo by Beth Mann

The speakers, especially Cardoso and Gaviria, hinted that the United States will need to move first to regulate marijuana so that other countries have the chance to consider the option. The UN Single Convention Treaty on Narcotic Drugs was amended in concert with the creation of the US Controlled Substances Act in 1971; this is essentially why American-style marijuana prohibition is enforced around the world.

International businessman Sir Richard Branson addressed the big picture, “It is time to re-write the rules,” Branson said at the news conference, adding, “It is time we move towards policies that end prohibition.”

The Commission is also getting a tremendous boost of public support. Ricken Patel, director of the organizing website spoke about how impressed, if not downright shocked, he was by the public response to an online petition. Patel reported that almost 600,000 signatures had already been gathered to support the Commission’s efforts.

Although they were looking to break taboo about drug policy there was one word that the panel seemed somewhat shy of using: legalization. The term ‘decriminalization’ was more comfortable for the group of practiced diplomats.

Cardoso said towards the end, “It’s not that we don’t have the courage to say ‘legalize’ it is just that we need the right moment.”

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy quickly condemned the report. But Gaviria pointed out that President Obama on the ONDCP have already started to eliminate ‘war on drugs’ as part of the common policy rhetoric. Gaviria suggested they go a step further than language.

Sir Richard Branson – photo by Beth Mann

Branson said that the world needed to press for top-level leadership, saying, “We just need brave politicians to get on and do what’s right for their people.”

The Global Commission on Drug Policy will present their 24-page report and the petition to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Friday June 3, 2011.

Ethan Nadelmann, the executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance in New York advises the Global Commission and closed the news conference by saying, “The great hope here is that we start a debate nationally and internationally.”

Hundreds of news outlets are covering the report so the Commission has successfully given some momentum to the issue. What remains to be seen is whether the most powerful voice, the United States, will discuss these concepts at all.

There has never been such concentrated pressure from international leaders on a US President and Congress to begin a serious policy debate about regulating domestic marijuana sales to adults.

Legalizing marijuana in America is clearly an issue of global importance.

News conference at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel June 2, 2011 – by Beth Mann

More photos from the news conference –

Video news report:

Chris Goldstein is a respected marijuana reform advocate. As a writer and radio broadcaster he has been covering cannabis news for over a decade. Questions?  [email protected]

Suspended Medical Marijuana Centers in NJ, RI Showcase New Role of Governors

State House in Trenton – photo by C. David Freitag

7/16/2011 – Governor Lincoln Chafee in Rhode Island and Gov. Chris Christie in New Jersey are maintaining their executive hold on opening approved medical marijuana facilities. This shines a spotlight on an important role emerging for Governors in regulating cannabis. Officials in both states told Freedomisgreen that they still have legal questions so the suspensions could remain indefinitely*.

Chafee and Christie say their primary concern is the notion that state employees could be at risk for federal prosecution. Of course, no such legal action that has been seen in America for over 100 years. A new memorandum from the US Department of Justice was issued about medical marijuana on June 30th but seems to have offered little direction.

New Jersey’s compassionate use law forces patients to access all of their cannabis (no home growing) from “Alternative Treatment Centers.” Six have been approved with each planning to serve thousand of patients. But since none are open there is currently no medical marijuana for NJ patients at all. There is currently no protection from arrest for qualifying NJ residents if they posses underground cannabis. Registry ID cards have not been issued and there is no way for physicians to officially recommend the legal therapy. So, it is not just dispensaries that Gov. Christie is suspending, it is the entire law.

Rhode Island has three state approved cannabis facilities on hold, yet the patients already have some options. Mike Trainor, a spokesman for Gov. Chafee, said today, “There are approximately 3,200 patients right now and they can grow plants at home or have a caregiver do it for them. So they do have access.”

Trainor said that the entire legal staff at the governor’s office was considering the situation. “He is looking to proceed very carefully. But the issue may be revisited in the next few weeks.”

That’s good news to the Thomas C. Slater Compassion Center in Providence. They have been alerting the local community to contact Gov. Chafee. A recent post on their Facebook page said,  ”He needs to hear from patients, doctors, and the general public about the importance of these centers. Please take a minute to call the Governor … and respectfully ask that he award the licenses for compassion centers so that patients can have safe access to medicine.”

Back in the No-Garden State a top-level contact reached at NJ Attorney General Paula Dow’s office said that the Cole memo was “under review” but that the specific question about state workers was still considered unclear. Letters sent by Dow to NJ’s US Attorney Paul Fishman in April and again in May have gone without reply. (The letters were also sent directly to US attorney General Eric Holder.)

Instead of addressing Dow’s concerns point-by-point as federal prosecutors have done in other states, Fishman deferred to the head office at DOJ. The Cole memo was first released to the public after Fishman sent it to Dow, although it applies to all states. The contact at the NJ state AG’s office opened up the possibility that new letters could be sent to the feds requesting a direct response.

NJ Assemblyman Reed Gusciora said that time has already run out for seriously ill residents,“cancer patients who are being treated for chemotherapy and experience nausea will continue to suffer.”

The Christie Administration promised that the Alternative Treatment Centers would be licensed by July, in other words; now. Gusciora originally sponsored the compassionate use legislation and started a “Cannabis Countdown” today.  In a press release he noted that it was 15 days so far and called Christie’s demands for federal assurances “impossible to fulfill.”

“While I can understand the Governor’s reservations with the implementation of the program,” concluded Gusciora, “it is his duty to fulfill the legislative intent. I negotiated with him in good faith to get the program up and running. I hope that he lives up to his side of the deal.” Last year Gusciora allowed a 90-day delay for the program as a “compromise” to keep it on track.

Governors around the country are taking on a greater role in medical marijuana policy. Some are moving the issue forward with steady progress. Gov. Pete Shumlin in Vermont and Gov. Jack Markell in Delaware were congratulated this year when they signed medical cannabis legislation into law. In Maine, Governor Paul LePage signed a new law with expanded privacy protections for patients. LePage has not interfered with his state becoming the first on the East Coast to actually open dispensaries.

So there is a profound difference for this policy in just who holds a state’s top executive office. Chafee and Christie are not alone. Jan Brewer in Arizona is only allowing portions of the voter-approved medical marijuana law to go into practice. AZ patients can register and grow, but here again, dispensaries have been suspended. And again we hear the esoteric legal argument of a far-fetched risk to state employees.

Washington Governor Chris Gregoire vetoed a bill to legalize medical marijuana dispensaries after she perceived a variety of threats in a letter from her local US Attorney. Gregoire is also the current leader of the National Governor’s Association (NGA). After the controversial veto she promised to put pressure on the federal government to reschedule cannabis and help form a standardized approach to state-approved dispensaries.

Mike Trainor in Rhode Island said that such a plan may already be in progress. ”Several weeks ago the NGA sponsored a conference call between states that have medical marijuana dispensaries or are considering them,” said Trainor, “Governor Chafee is hoping there will be a more national conversation on this issue.”

But, so far, the discussion among top officials is happening behind closed doors. State executives and US Attorneys are actively conferring with each other about medical marijuana policy. Right now seriously ill residents, caregivers and cannabis providers live under patchwork of regulations. Given the variety, it may be difficult for leaders to reach a consensus for a more refined policy.

In the end, compassionate use laws are put into practice through the discretion and personal politics of the Governors. This will continue to be the case in the foreseeable future. The suspended facilities in Rhode Island and the complete shutdown of the law in New Jersey demonstrate an extreme use of that influence. The recognition of this new role may not be lost on voters when they consider the choices in the next gubernatorial elections.

[Update* Gov. Christie announced the hold on the ATCs was lifted on 7/19/11]

Chris Goldstein is a respected marijuana reform advocate. As a writer and radio broadcaster he has been covering cannabis news for over a decade. Questions?  [email protected]

THC Keeps Monkeys Alive in AIDS Research Model

Recently, a Doctor came out against using Cannabis for the treatment of HIV/AIDS. Among oncologists, his opinion is probably in the minority. This Doctor claims that no HIV patients he knows, would benefit from Cannabis. Unfortunately, the Doctor only discussed his opinion and did not site any current research from controlled studies to support his stance. Current research  in HIV/AIDS and cannabinoids has been promising– practically every clinical trial that has looked at HIV/AIDS and THC has shown that cannabinoids may help patients.

Some of the first patients that were infected with HIV were treated at San Francisco General Hospital.  It was probably there, that the medical staff first noticed patients who used Cannabis seemed to be doing better. Notably, cannabis became known as an effective treatment for HIV/AIDS wasting syndrome.  Among the medical staff, was Dr. Donald Abrams who recorded his observations and would later go on to conduct some of the most important clinical trials in the history of cannabinoid research. Dr. Abrams demonstrated that smoked Cannabis could effectively alleviate neuropathic pain in HIV/AIDS patients. Videos of Dr.Abrams presenting his results can be viewed here: Cannabis & Neuropathic Pain, Dr. Abrams, pt 1 and Cannabis & Neuropathic Pain, Dr. Abrams, pt 2

Later, other researchers would show, in a similar group of HIV patients, that smoked Cannabis can modulate pain where conventional opiates were ineffective. The beneficial effect of cannabis on HIV/AIDS symptoms in humans has inspired other researches to take a closer look at the mechanisms behind these effects.

A research team from Virginia Commonweatlh University showed that natural Delta9- THC and synthetic CP-55,940 could inhibit the HIV inflammatory response through the Cannabinoid Type II (CB2) Receptor. Once HIV invades a cell, the virus makes the cell secrete many proteins to attract other immune cells and this leads to the ongoing infection of other cells. One such protein called Tat is important for viral replication and gene expression; the effects of this protein on cell migration appear to be inhibited by both synthetic and natural cannabinoids. The main finding of these researchers is that cannabinoids can slow the migration of uninfected cells towards the Tat protein and thus could inhibit the HIV infection process and the associated inflammation.

Another research group also thought that the previous worked on HIV and cannabinoids was unbelievable. So, they sought to see if THC made the disease worse in monkeys. The researchers infected monkeys with SIV and studied them for 1 year. SIV is the equivalent of HIV in humans. Their research was published in September 2010 and the entire article can be found here:Molina Article on THC attenuates SIV.

Note that each monkey costs around $8,000.00 for the research study.

The researcher demonstrated that THC slows the progression of HIV in primates. See  Figure 4 below from the Article by Molina et al.

SIV THC Figure 4

In Figure 4, there are two groups of monkeys. The solid line is the THC group and the dotted line is the control group (no drug). Within 11 months, 80% of the control group died (dotted line). In the group that received the drug THC, no deaths were reported.

The authors conclude :”this study is the first to report in vivo experimental data demonstrating that chronic THC initiated prior to, and continued throughout the asymptomatic phase of SIV infection, does not impair the host’s ability to control viral load, and does not increase morbidity and mortality from the infection… THC treatment clearly did not increase disease progression, and indeed resulted in generalized attenuation of the classic markers of SIV disease (set point viral load/viral level in general)…based on our results and reports in the literature, we speculate that retention of body mass,attenuation of viral replication, and an overall immunosuppressant effect of cannabinoids may contribute to the amelioration of SIV disease progression seen in our study.”

However, THC is only part of the story. There are over 500 compounds on the Cannabis plant and some of these compounds may contain powerful medical properties which could treat a variety of diseases including Cancer and HIV/AIDS. For instance researchers have found that Cannabis extracts which contain Denbinobin can inhibit HIV replication in a petri dish. Denbinobin is found on the Cannabis and other plants as well.

The therapeutic promise of this plant remains high and some states have medical laws allowing the use of Cannabis for HIV. Furthermore, Marinol or synthetic THC in a capsule remains available by prescription in the U.S. GW pharmaceuticals has an extract available for the treatment of HIV symptoms but it is not allowed in the United States. It is available in Canada, UK, Spain, and soon to be available in South America.

Want to learn more about HIV/AIDS and cannabinoids? Here are two new studies on HIV/AIDS and cannabinoids:

The Medical Use of Cannabis for Reducing Morbidity and Mortality in Patients with HIV/AIDS

The CB2 Receptor May Weaken HIV

Jahan Marcu, Ph.D, is currently investigating the pharmacology of cannabinoid receptors. He was working at the California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute when exciting discoveries were made showing enhanced anti-cancer effects with THC and CBD from the Cannabis plant. The findings were published in the Journal of Molecular Cancer Therapeutics. In 2009 he received the Billy Martin Award from the International Cannabinoid Research Society (ICRS) and was named Cannabis Researcher of the year for 2012. Jahan is currently the vice-chair the Medical and Scientific Advisory Board at Americans for Safe Access (ASA). Questions?   Contact :[email protected]

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent any University, business or affiliates. While the information provided in this blog is from published scientific studies it is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease.

THC May Improve Driving Ability in Patients with Neurological Diseases

dronabinol delta 9 – THC

6/21/2011 by Jahan Marcu – Since 2001, Dr. Kirsten Muller-Vahl and colleagues have published research articles demonstrating the safety of Delta9-THC in patients with Tourette’s Syndrome. This is a disease characterized by involuntary movement and vocalizations (a.k.a. tics).  In 2003, the authors showed that, “Delta9-THC causes neither acute nor long-term cognitive deficits” in patients suffering from Tourette’s.

Recently this group of clinical researchers published a Letter to the Editor of Psychiatry Research outlining their findings in a Tourette’s patient given 15mg of delta9-THC per day.  The authors measured the patient’s driving ability with a computerized test and compared it to the patients performance with and without delta9-THC. The author’s state, “In comparison with the drug-free phase (of the treatment), there was a clear improvement in concentration and visual perception during THC therapy.”

The patient, a 42 year old truck driver referred to as Mr.H, first displayed symptoms of this disease at age 6. When he appeared at the clinic for this study he was suffering from multiple tics of the head, arm and leg: Not good symptoms to have for a truck driver. Furthermore, Mr.H’s medical history showed that all available drug treatments were ineffective including dopamine blocking agents, alpha-2 drugs, clonazepam, and terabenazine. Within 2 weeks of delta9-THC treatment Mr.H’s symptoms were reduced by 75%.

The authors call for more research on driving ability in patient’s with Tourette’s while they are under the effect of delta9-THC . The authors do not discuss the possibilities of Cannabis or delta9-THC on the driving ability of patients with other neurological diseases, such as multiple sclerosis.

It is safe to assume that if you can stop chronic muscle spasms and involuntary jerking motions in a patient then you have made them a better driver. This new patient data comes after the DMV in California changed its policy on Medical Cannabis patients when it was successfully sued by American’s for Safe Access. CA DMV refused to renew the license of a medical cannabis patient, despite a “sparkling clean driving record.”

The implications for these findings adds to the on going argument regarding THC levels in the blood and driving ability. While there is still a great debate on the effects of Cannabis and driving in healthy subjects, it appears that persons suffering neurological disorders may have an improved ability to drive.

Despite the remarkable effects delta9-THC can have on the driving ability in a patient with Tourette’s, don’t expect law enforcement or the DMV to treat medical cannabis patients any differently from recreational users.

Jahan Marcu is currently investigating the pharmacology of cannabinoid receptors. He was working at the California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute when exciting discoveries were made showing enhanced anti-cancer effects with THC and CBD from the Cannabis plant. The findings were published in the Journal of Molecular Cancer Therapeutics. In 2009 he received the Billy Martin Award from the International Cannabinoid Research Society (ICRS). Jahan is currently the vice-chair the Medical and Scientific Advisory Board at Americans for Safe Access (ASA). Questions?   Contact    [email protected]

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent any University, business or affiliates. While the information provided in this blog is from published scientific studies it is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease.

THC Tunnel Vision Limits Therapeutic Cannabis Variety

Medical marijuana growing in CA

6/2/2011 – The most common plant varieties of Cannabis in North America are THC-rich strains. These have have dominated the underground market for 100 years because THC is the main cause of the euphoric effect or ‘high.’  But the Cannabis plant is more than just tetrahydrocannabinol (THC); it is a treasure trove of potentially therapeutic compounds (Mechoulam 2005).

‘THC tunnel vision’  in America has prevented the identification and capitalization of the other, extremely valuable cannabinoids. Scientists are now taking on more research to look closer at the mechanics of these no-high cannabinoids.

The Cannabis plant can produce a rich mixture of active ingredients, these unique compounds are called cannabinoids. Everyone knows THC, but it is important to be aware of some other 3-letter compounds that are showing great promise for medical applications. These include: cannabidiol (CBD), cannabigerol (CBG), cannabichromene (CBC) and tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV), to name only a few. Many of these compounds have been shown in laboratory studies to produce greater therapeutic effects than THC, without unwanted side effects (Russo-Guy 2006).

CBD varieties possess many ancient and unique genetics required to produce medically relevant cannabinoids. Plants containing a high amount of CBD have also become the second most popular choice in the supply of medical cannabis. A recent surge in demand for CBD-rich medical cannabis has also spurred an even greater interest in the identification and exploration of other cannabinoid varieties.

CBG has been shown to have pain-relieving and anti-depressant effects that are greater than THC (Evans 1991, Musty-Deyo 2006). CBG does not interact with CB1 and CB2 receptors like THC but instead interacts with different receptors, some that multi-billion dollar drugs target. These include adrenoreceptors and serotonin (5-HT1A) receptors (Cascio 2010).

Even though CBG was first isolated in 1964, the first report of a high CBG-producing plant wasn’t until the 1980’s, when it was discovered in a French hemp population. In 2005, a team of researchers identified a CBG plant in Italy.

They crossed this CBG plant with other THC and CBD plants of “good breeding value.” With the help of genetic analysis and chromatography, they were crossbred with different varieties and cultivars, until they identified a strain that produced high amounts of CBG, with little to no THC (de Meijer et al.2005).

Today, the only known high-yielding CBG variety is presently in the greenhouses of GW Pharmaceuticals, where CBG makes up a small but consistent portion of Sativex, a cannabinoid mouth spray. So while CBG and other varieties exist, they’re current exploration and usage seem to be sparse or under lock and key.

In America, there is a proliferation of cultivars (clones) of THC varieties given many different names (e.g., Skunk, Silver Haze, White Widow). Patients are given the illusion of variety where there may be none.

Fortunately, CBG, THCV and other unique strains may organically surface, either directly from the natural proliferation of CBD varieties or due to the plant’s “hypermorphic genetics” which can jump around spontaneously – Cannabis is a weed after all.

Potency testing may be able to identify cannabinoid compounds post-harvest, but only genetics and careful selection will allow the medical cannabis industry to track heritability. This will greatly enhance the generation of new and therapeutically useful strains of Cannabis, just like those that have been created over the last 20 years in Europe.

Jahan Marcu is currently investigating the pharmacology of cannabinoid receptors. He was working at the California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute when exciting discoveries were made showing enhanced anti-cancer effects with THC and CBD from the Cannabis plant. The findings were published in the Journal of Molecular Cancer Therapeutics. In 2009 he received the Billy Martin Award from the International Cannabinoid Research Society (ICRS). Jahan is currently the vice-chair the Medical and Scientific Advisory Board at Americans for Safe Access (ASA). Questions?   Contact    [email protected]

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent any University, business or affiliates. While the information provided in this blog is from published scientific studies it is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease.

The Big Green Doomsday Machine: NJ Gov Christie and Corporate Marijuana

illustration from Skunk Magazine

Printed in the current issue of Skunk Magazine; by Chris Goldstein and Beth Mann from – It is 2012 and a team of political super-villains is plotting to keep marijuana illegal in the USA forever. The steady march to make holistic marijuana therapy available in the US is on the brink of being taken over and exploited indefinitely.

This subversive and nefarious attack is most apparent in states like California. The federal storm troopers smashing up dispensaries and beady-eyed IRS guys seizing property are simply the henchmen.

The new strategists include corporate interests and Big Pharma. These sharks smelled the cash in the water and have quickly allied themselves with old school prohibitionists for a full scale market takeover.

This evil scheme isn’t just happening in the West where legal, upstanding dispensaries are closed by the dozens; it’s a national coup with a powerful command post on the East Coast.

The State of Christie

New Jersey is a celebrity state for which most have a certain familiarity. Watching a Kevin Smith flick, singing along with The Boss and following Snooki on Twitter makes anyone feel like they have an intimate knowledge of the Garden State.

Sandwiched between New York City, Philadelphia and Washington, DC, there is a kind of unique, center-of-the-storm mentality to true New Jerseans. Citizens are diverse and generally wear their residency with a certain weary pride.

Yet New Jersey is the septic tank of American politics – housing some of the most off-balance, drama-filled, high-dollar and just plain sleazy elected officials in the country. Leading the pack is our Tony Soprano-like governor: Chris Christie.

Large, loud and generally angry, Christie’s most distinguishable feature is his comic-book proportions. He isn’t slightly rotund–he’s extremely obese. Yet he is light on his feet and quick with a smile. Christie possesses that superpower charm that politicians must hone in order to succeed. In fact, his girth is disarming; it distracts you from the real monster underneath.

Chris Christie has always been a political animal. A stint as a county freeholder paved his way to the State Assembly but local Republicans smacked him down at the polls. Without an elected seat, Christie haunted Trenton as a professional lobbyist. In 2000 he found his niche raising campaign cash for George W. Bush and getting chummy with Karl Rove. In 2001, Christie was tapped by President GW Bush to be the US Attorney for New Jersey.

Each state has federal prosecutors assigned and appointed by the President. The job of the US Attorneys is to fight the most serious crimes on behalf of Uncle Sam: mobsters, gangsters and Ponzi scheme operators.

This job also taught Christie all the inside baseball he would need to leverage federal prosecutors over medical marijuana later in his career.

The Gray Area Grows

US Attorney General Eric Holder, the boss of all the US Attorneys,issued a cryptic communique in 2009 concerning medical marijuana. Drafted by Deputy Attorney General David Odgen, it is now commonly referred to as the “Ogden memo.”

Forced to define a position on medical cannabis for the Obama administration, Ogden created an important outline: federal resources were not be used to prosecute individual American citizens using marijuana for a serious illness.

But Ogden had to admit, in the same memo (and in formal legalese), that US Attorneys should uphold federal law and shutdown cannabis facilities even if they were fully regulated by state law. The contradiction has created a complete circus ever since.

These wide-open loopholes left the US Attorneys, US states, and even the cannabis industry to their own interpretations. Dispensary owners viewed this protection to the individual patients as applying to their businesses. They were in for a rude awakening.

The Golden State of CA is currently experiencing its most serious sweep of dispensary shutdowns under the direction of US Attorney Melinda Haag. Like Christie, Haag’s appearance speaks volumes, and exudes a certain “cackling evil witch” quality. She aligned all of her federal resources – The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and even The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) – to rabidly go after individual dispensary businesses.

While other US Attorneys in Michigan, Oregon and Colorado have taken some similar action, Haag has stood alone in her dogged and maniacal pursuit of federal marijuana prohibition. That gray area of conflict between state and federal law gives Haag full discretion to act how she pleases.

The No Garden State

On January 18, 2010, one day before he left office after one term,former New Jersey governor Jon Corzine signed the Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act (CUMA) of New Jersey into law. Patients were promised full implementation within six months. Sponsoring legislators heralded it as the most “restrictive” law of its type in the nation, much to the chagrin of local activists.

New Jersey’s law was the first to eliminate home cultivation by registered patients. Instead, all qualifying residents would be forced into an approved Alternative Treatment Center (ATC) for their legal pot.

And while strict in measure, the law still lacked needed regulations and a formal structure. That was left to the incoming administration and has proven to be an unfortunate opportunity for conservative prohibition enthusiasts. On January 19, 2010, Chris Christie was sworn in as Governor,on the heels of serving as US Attorney.

Pill Pushers See Green

The old saying that politics makes strange bedfellows was probably invented outside of a cheap motel on the NJ Turnpike.

Bristol-Myers Squibb, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and Merck all have major research laboratories in New Jersey. Some of their major corporate offices are based here –and not because they like Bon Jovi.

These pharmaceutical mega-giants have spent decades and billions of dollars lobbying in Trenton. This has paid off in the form of tax-breaks, favorable zoning and contracts with state academic institutions, like universities. And they aren’t the only ones: insurance companies and major hospital groups have also worked hard to make the Garden State a very comfy base for their global businesses of chemical-based healthcare.

While these mainstream medical groups have kept marijuana at arm’s length elsewhere, they have a different angle in New Jersey. The component cannabinoids within the natural cannabis plant have long been the Fort Knox of the pharma industry. This potential money-making drug is kept under lock and key by the Feds. But in New Jersey, they are drilling into the vast and wealthy vault of pharmaceutical derivatives.

Governor Chris Christie’s first move on medical marijuana showed why he is so dangerous. In 2010 he bought time for his corporate plan to solidify and then corralled the support of the NJ Legislature. The same politicians who had fought for years to get the compassionate law passed instantly acquiesced to Christie.

They smelled the cash too.

Christie and his administration have been able to create the cannabis program at their own pace and to their own design. What has emerged, almost three years late, is a Soviet-style system that is the biggest threat to the small business, holistic medical marijuana industry in America today.

Welcome to the ominous beginnings of Corporate Cannabis controlled by Big Business.

The super villain master plan is about to bring this show on the road, coming to a town near you.

Hammer and Sickle Time

Chris Christie’s designs for medical marijuana seem like they were crafted over a dinner with Josef Stalin. A set of 128-page regulations was dropped like a ton of bricks in 2010. The Department of Health, the Department of Consumer Affairs, The Office of the State Attorney General and even the Governor’s Counsel [even the State Police] would have their hands on every step of the process.

This is government at its biggest and most intrusive; the polar opposite of the conservative “hands off” Republican ideals that Christie claims to harbor.

To advocates and patients, the rules for the ATCs were nothing short of draconian. They limit growing to only three strains of cannabis per ATC and none can exceed 10% THC potency.

Patients are also limited to just 2 ounces of this mid grade pot per month. It cannot be delivered to a patient’s home; the seriously ill resident or a single designated caregiver must visit the ATC to purchase their medicine. The only three forms of cannabis allowed to be sold by a New Jersey ATC are raw plant material, lozenges and a topical cream.

No hash, no edibles, no tinctures, no genetic variety. Sterile and homogenized; NJ’s castrated cannabis has become barely medicine and barely accessible.

But it didn’t stop there. The politicians who sponsored the law said that they didn’t want a “California or Colorado” type of program, implying that anyone with a common cold could have easy access. So NJ physicians are now forced to join a special registry in order to recommend medical marijuana. Seriously ill residents cannot even apply for their ID card unless they go through one of the handful of approved doctors.

The Garden State Pot Doctor List opened in late 2011 and only about 150 of the 30,000 physicians in New Jersey signed up. When the patient registry was opened in August 2012, this concept proved itself a dismal failure. Only 18 qualifying patients registered after a week, proving if you close enough doors, few will enter.

The Soprano System

While NJ regulators starved the patients in need, they happily tossed juicy bones to corporate interests involved with mainstream medicine. Only six Alternative Treatment Centers will be providing all of the legal cannabis for a state of nine million people. This was the birth of an exclusive, state-run cartel.

Making sure to keep it in the family, Christie’s DOH awarded the NJ Alternative Treatment Center’s contracts to business groups with deep connections to Big Pharma and machine politics. filed an Open Public Records Act request to obtain the ATC applications. Analysis revealed that the winners plan to invest as much as $70 million to start up each site. Much of the capital will be spent on laboratory equipment and scientists’salaries to conduct private research on cannabinoids.

The brother of former Republican NJ Governor Christine Todd Whitman, Mr. Webster Todd Jr., is the CEO of Compassionate Sciences Inc. Todd used to be the Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, a far cry from being an experienced cannabis provider.

But the buddy system doesn’t stop there. As of this writing,only one out of the six NJ ATC facilities has a full permit to grow marijuana: Greenleaf Compassion Center. NJ Assemblyman Thomas Giblin, a Democrat, is on their Medical Advisory Board. Giblin is the only sitting state elected official in the nation to be involved in this capacity at a medical marijuana facility.

*Note – As of 11/16/2012 Greenelaf has still refused to begin selling cannabis to patients citing tax concerns – even though they are the only facility fully permitted to do so.

Playing Chicken with the Fed

Chris Christie figured out how to concentrate the cash but the Stalin-style regulations weren’t enough; he had another card to play.

With his knowledge as a US Attorney, he manufactured a new conflict between New Jersey’s CUMA and federal law.

Christie claimed that he feared that NJ state employees could be at risk of federal prosecution. Using all of his expertise and power, Christie was making the ultimate move into the gray area of medical cannabis laws.

The Governor directed NJ Attorney General Paula Dow to send a letter to US Department of Justice. Christie was making President Obama and the US DOJ clarify their position on state authorized medical marijuana facilities so he could capitalize on the response.

This was all pure politics. Republican conservatives cheered. The Obama administration squirmed. The medical marijuana industry in America, rightfully, held its breath.

Deputy US Attorney General James Cole issued a new memo on June 2011 in response to New Jersey but directed to all US Attorneys. was the first to obtain the document and distributed its full text to the public.

Here’s the critical section:

The Odgen Memorandum was never intended to shield such activities from federal enforcement action and prosecution, even where those activities purport to comply with state law. Persons who are in the business of cultivating, selling, or distributing marijuana, and those who knowingly facilitate such activities, are in violation of the Controlled Substances Act, regardless of state law. Consistent with the resource constraints and the discretion you may exercise in your district,such persons are subject to federal enforcement action, including potential prosecution.

State employees ran no risk of federal arrest. Still the USDOJ was obviously speaking directly the medical marijuana community. In layman’s terms: Ogden said that spending tax dollars to have federal prosecutors and DEA soldiers attack an American in a wheelchair smoking a joint (or growing in a closet) was a waste. But the DOJ firmly upheld the shutting down of any shop that provided that cannabis.

The Cole memo provided steel-enforcement for zealots like Melinda Haag. That was Chris Christie’s plan: provide anti marijuana US Attorneys extra ammo to go after legitimate, small-business dispensaries and make room to install their own corporatized cartel scheme.

The End Game

We used to worry that Reefer Madness-style opposition would roll back state medical marijuana laws. But the new take-over strategy relies on them being in place. Replicating the New Jersey law and the subsequent regulations is the new opposition key. Delaware and Connecticut are the most recent states to pass compassionate use: nearly exact copies of NJ. With all the built-in giveaways to corporate medical interests, this blueprint is an easy sell [to slick politicians].

Political pressure is also being put on state legislatures and even down to the county level to amend or re-regulate existing medical cannabis laws. (Guess which model they’re pushing?)

The current medical marijuana industry in America could be on the edge of a real doomsday. The next move from the likes of Haag and Christie is to shut down every single small-business cannabis garden or dispensary operation and replace them with corporate cartels. Imagine just six medical cannabis facilities for all of California.

To maximize the long-term profits, the big corporations will likely use their significant lobbying clout to fight national marijuana legalization. Given enough time to conduct secret research under exclusive state contracts, they will likely develop synthetic copies of natural cannabinoids in pill form. Those drugs would be perfectly legal and patent-able, just like Marinol (the 100% synthetic THC).

Hope still lingers. State-level pro-marijuana politicians like Assemblyman Tom Ammiano in CA and Diane Russell in Maine are pushing hard for freedom from these constraints. Longtime supporters in Washington DC like Reps. Barney Frank (D-MA) and Ron Paul (R-TX) are retiring but a savvier generation is getting elected. Congressman Jared Polis (D) of Colorado is a good example.

Awareness of the opposition plan gives us tools to fight it.

The immediate pressure coming down on California from US federal agencies can be alleviated immediately by Congress or the President.

But now, only a President and/or federal legalization of cannabis will stop the corporate medical marijuana cartels run by the states.

Their next move is to go international with this wretched scheme.

Unless we focus our efforts like a laser-beam on President Obama’s stance, the prohibitionist villains will prevail.

Chris Goldstein is a respected marijuana reform advocate. As a writer and radio broadcaster he has been covering cannabis news for over a decade. Questions?  [email protected]   Note – This article was originally published on October 1, 2012 in Skunk Magazine, in print only.

The CBD Research that Time Forgot

7/28/2011 – Time magazine made a flawed, sensationalistic attempt at covering cannibinoid research in a recent article. The piece details the effects of a synthetic cannabinoid (called JWH-133) and its ability to deter cocaine addiction in an animal model by activating the CB2 receptor in the brain. The implications of this study imply that cannabinoids could be potentially used as an “exit” drug for cocaine users. But Time confused the synthetic drug used in the study with a natural substance called cannabidiol or CBD.

Unfortunately, the seemingly good news about CB2 receptors and the treatment of cocaine addiction was over-shadowed by a plethora of inaccurate scientific information.

Here are the three main points that Time forgot:

  • CBD does not activate CB2 receptors at a reasonable concentration. This crucial information was published in 1996. In test tube experiments, CBD can only activate the CB2 receptor at a concentration unachievable through any known or conventional route of administration. If, for instance, a patient had an IV hooked up to a vat of nearly pure CBD, then there might be enough CBD to affect receptor dynamics and thus lead to the activation of CB2 receptors. In short, CBD may be able to treat cocaine addiction, but not by acting through cannabinoid receptors.
  • Time magazine glaringly overlooked the most relevant research done on the effects of actual CBD (not a synthetic cannibinoid like JWH-133) and cocaine addiction by Raphael Mechoulam, one of the most noted Cannabis researchers in history. Dr. Mechoulam is credited as the first scientist to isolate THC as the primary ingredient in Cannabis back in 1964 and he continues to produce groundbreaking cannabis research. His important 2004 study looked at CBD and cocaine addiction but the research cited by Time never even mentions CBD.

One of the most basic concepts in cannabinoid science is that THC activates CB1 and CB2 receptors, but CBD does not activate CB1 and CB2 receptors. To refute this fundamental understanding of cannabinoid receptors is an insult to the scientific community and ultimately does more harm than good. As a scientist, this type of research is extremely complex and all news organizations will need to do a better job when conveying information to the public.

Dr. Raphael Mechoulam – The scientist that Time forgot

Jahan Marcu is currently investigating the pharmacology of cannabinoid receptors. He was working at the California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute when exciting discoveries were made showing enhanced anti-cancer effects with THC and CBD from the Cannabis plant. The findings were published in the Journal of Molecular Cancer Therapeutics. In 2009 he received the Billy Martin Award from the International Cannabinoid Research Society (ICRS). Jahan is currently the vice-chair the Medical and Scientific Advisory Board at Americans for Safe Access (ASA). Questions?   Contact    [email protected]

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent any University, business or affiliates. While the information provided in this blog is from published scientific studies it is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease.