Cannabis legalization

RIP medical marijuana

RIP medical marijuana

Washington states medical marijuana collectives are officially closed, leaving many patient’s only option to be state licensed recreational stores for their medical needs. My patients report that the price of their medicine has tripled, and that selection is scant to nonexistent, especially for medical strains.
It is the sickest and poorest of patients that are harmed most of by this new change. One of my biggest fears for patients is that they are now being forced onto the black market to obtain affordable medicine illegally.

“I need clean medicine, and I’m going to do whatever I have to do to save my child’s life,” says the mother of Madalin Holt age 3, whose life was saved by cannabis. “That’s really what this is about. I’m saving my child when the medical community gave up on her. They were out of options. I found an option, and I’m not going to let my child die because a few people in the legislature decided to strip us of our rights. I know what I’m doing is right.” From The Stranger

I also have serious concerns that new pesticide testing regulations are inadequate, and that pesticide laden cannabis is now being smoked by patients all over Washington state. More about pesticides in another post.

This post was inspired by an article Here’s more from The Stranger:

On July 1, Washington State’s medical marijuana dispensaries and collectives officially closed, leaving only state-licensed recreational stores to serve patients. This is a result of the Cannabis Patient Protection Act (SB 5052), which is perhaps the most egregious bit of doublespeak ever. The law does not protect patients. In fact, evidence suggests that it will put the state’s most vulnerable patients at risk.

Both the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board and the Washington State Department of Health—the state’s two regulatory agencies that govern the new medical cannabis system—have stated that they believe the only difference between medical and recreational use is the intent of the user. Essentially, that the needs of the medical market can be just as easily served by the recreational market. If only that were true.

Under the new system, the state’s 1,500-plus dispensaries and collective gardens will disappear. To make up for the loss, the state issued just 222 new retail licenses.

That will directly impact patients such as Madeline Holt. She’s three and a half years old and has a terminal genetic disorder that gives her frequent seizures. According to her mother, Meagan Holt, doctors didn’t believe she would live this long.

“I was told on April 10, 2015, to take my child home for one more night before she died,” said Holt. “Then I tried cannabis, and she’s still alive.” Not only is she alive, but her seizures have become less frequent since she started taking cannabis on a daily basis. While Holt says she still gives her daughter conventional drugs to counteract the seizures, cannabis is an essential part of her medical regimen.

“The importance of this medicine is life or death for Maddy,” said Holt. Madeline takes a minimum dose of 90 mg of CBD oil and 40 mg of THC oil to treat neuropathic pain, muscle spasms, and other issues. The oil she takes is a very specific formulation referred to as full extract cannabis oil or FECO. It is prepared by Deep Green Extracts, a medical oil extractor, and donated to Maddy completely free of charge. (The medical cannabis community, despite being portrayed as “99.2 percent a criminal enterprise” by certain lawmakers, was often extremely compassionate.)

The situation is a precarious one, however, and Holt fears that the changes brought about by SB 5052 will threaten it. For one, she’s worried that she won’t be able to find the same products on the recreational market. “When you go into a rec store, you cannot find the oil that Maddy uses,” said Holt. “Patients like her who rely on the medication that is in the dispensaries, it’s not even available. We don’t even have the option to go to recreational.” While medical patients benefit from both THC and CBD in different ways, they’re in particular need of high-CBD products, which can often be in short supply in the recreational market.

“There is no retail cannabis store that could keep a supply of what we need,” said Holt. “I would be in there weekly getting all of the FECO that they have, I’m sure.” While it’s not yet clear whether Holt’s assertion is true, the current climate around CBD seems to support her view.

Although SB 5052 allowed growers to expand their canopy area in order to help meet the new demand of the medical market, it did not require them to actually grow high-CDB product. Last week, I traveled to farms around the state to see how much CBD product is growing, and it wasn’t promising. At Emerald Twist—a farm in Goldendale whose general manger, Jerry Lapora, is a longtime grower from the Oregon medical market—only about 6 percent of its canopy is dedicated to high-CBD cannabis. Lapora said the farm has discussed selling its CBD plants to Seattle-area processor botanicaSEATTLE for full-plant oil extraction, but those plans are in their nascent stage. Indeed, Chris Abbott, a partner at botanicaSEATTLE, said that sourcing was the biggest hurdle to getting new medical products to market.

“We plan to make these medical products,” he said, “but it’s vital that we can source a sufficient amount of pure and clean CBD plant material to serve the patient base. That has proven to be difficult in this market that has largely focused on high numbers of THC.” Indeed, market pressure has made it very difficult for growers to add CBD to their portfolio.

Alex Cooley, the vice president and cofounder of Solstice, which began as a producer/processor of medical cannabis and has transitioned to recreational, had similarly dismal news: “When Solstice was operating its medical facility, 20 percent of the facility was always CBD rich [or CBD pure]. In adult use we have grown less than 2 percent with our partner farms and are about to harvest our first CBD-rich crop in our separate adult-use facility. This summer we have really bet on people wanting CBD since the two systems have been Frankensteined together.” And that’s a big bet. Lapora, of Emerald Twist, said he’s still sitting on his 2015 harvest of CBD. Cooley and others may grow it, but there’s no guarantee the patients will come. Indeed, they may not be able to afford to.

While pot grown and sold through the legal market comes with certain benefits—legality, safety, ostensible purity, et cetera—it’s also more expensive. The requirements of “medically compliant” cannabis—which all higher-dose medical products will have to meet—will inevitably add to the overall cost of production. Although patients are eligible to buy their cannabis free of sales tax, many likely will not get that discount because they are required to sign up for the new patient registry to receive the benefit, and many aren’t doing so for privacy reasons. Even if they do, the sales tax is a mere 9 percent of the cost. The marijuana excise tax, which they are still required to pay, is 37 percent.

“Even when we started looking into cannabis,” Holt said, “the price that it cost to keep up with her medicine was unattainable. We knew we would need a community to surround us to help us. That community is shrinking really fast, and that’s what’s scaring me.”

Holt’s greatest fear is that, due to an inadequate supply of affordable medicine, she’ll be forced to get hers illegally. “It’s not necessarily the day of July 1, it’s what happens after July 1,” she said. “What happens after August when it starts cooling down and everybody starts running out? I’ve heard of people starting to stockpile medicine. I can’t really do that. I can’t afford to do that, so I’m forced into the black market and forced to just hope that I have people who will help us. Another sad reality of our situation is that my child is living on borrowed time, I’m her only caregiver, and I’m living on a fixed income.”

Holt receives her daughter’s medicine for free, but those types of donations will likely become less frequent in the highly regulated, highly taxed recreational market. Deep Green is getting a recreational license, but in order to continue to give free cannabis to Holt, the business would have to either sell it to a retailer at a 100 percent loss so that the retailer could give it away for free or sell it to the retailer at cost so the retailer could take the loss. Given that most legal cannabis businesses are struggling to stay afloat, it’s hard to imagine that even the most noble-hearted ganjapreneur will give away product. Without donations, low-income cannabis patients like Madeline Holt are basically screwed.

While the market could adapt in a variety of interesting ways—fundraising drives for patients, increased cultivation of CBD plants, a legislative fix on taxes, sensible regulatory action—patients are going to suffer in the meantime. In Megan Holt’s case, that means putting herself at risk of criminal prosecution to get necessary medicine for her daughter.

“I need clean medicine, and I’m going to do whatever I have to do to save my child’s life,” Holt told me. “That’s really what this is about. I’m saving my child when the medical community gave up on her. They were out of options. I found an option, and I’m not going to let my child die because a few people in the legislature decided to strip us of our rights. I know what I’m doing is right.”

Yours truly in health, -Dr. Jake

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Dr. Jake teams up with Seattle Central Community College and The Academy of Cannabis Science

Dr. Jake teams up with Seattle Central Community College and The Academy of Cannabis Science

13244649_575553585949460_3329169813822742267_nI’m proud and excited to announce that I have just signed with Seattle Central Community College and The Academy of Cannabis Science. We will be teaching and developing curricula that offer professionals the opportunity to advance their careers in the marijuana industry while helping companies comply with state law. This is a very exciting and interesting time for cannabis in Washington state.

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Dr. Jake Felice speaking at the Washington Cannabis Summit this Friday in Seattle

Dr. Jake Felice speaking at the Washington Cannabis Summit this Friday in Seattle

I am proud to announce that Dr. Jake Felice will be a panel speaker at the Washington Cannabis Summit this Friday along with Michelle Sexton, Tommy Chong, and other cannabis experts. Many great thinkers and visionaries in the field of cannabis will be participating in live discussions about the future of this new and emerging industry.

we-the-peopleThe Washington Cannabis Summit is a visionary event; created to provide continued education and resources in order to cement Washington State as a leader in the modern day cannabis movement. Washington voters understood the need for better laws and acted, thereby launching our state to the forefront of progressive cannabis policy.

CBD!

 

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Why you should never submit to a blood draw for DUI for cannabis

Why you should never submit to a blood draw for DUI for cannabis

This post comes directly from the blogpost of the inestimable Aaron Pelley, senior attorney at Pelley Law, PLLC.

Why are blood draws for cannabis DUI in Washington State unconstitutional? The answer is a journey. It relies on constitutional underpinnings of warrantless searches and winds it way through what is consent. It ends with, when is consent freely, voluntarily and knowingly given?

First and foremost, the court has held that warrantless searches are per se unreasonable and violate the Fourth Amendment. However, there are a few carefully drawn exceptions to the warrant requirement, including consent. Most defense lawyers would agree that “consent” is the mother-of-all-waivers. With consent, fall so many constitutional rights.

James LawlerThe next stop on the road to consent is an important one: consent based on misleading information provided by law enforcement is not valid consent. Since a blood draw constitutes a search, the State must then establish that the person’s consent to that test was voluntary under prevailing case law.  Washington law enforcement typically rely on the Implied Consent law to obtain the necessary consent to a warrantless blood draw in DUI investigations. The Washington Court’s have held, “Washington’s implied consent law creates a statutory presumption that anyone arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol has consented to a breath or blood test for purposes of determining the level of alcohol.” A driver may withdraw his consent and refuse to be tested unless unconscious or under arrest for vehicular homicide or assault, or DUI where there has been serious injury to a third party.

A driver’s decision to submit to a breath or blood test must further be knowing and intelligent. To this end, the Implied Consent statute requires that police officers warn drivers of their right to refuse a breath test and various consequences of a refusal to assure the voluntariness of the consent. The implied consent form is one that law enforcement has an individual sign before subjecting the individual to a blood draw. On the implied consent warning currently provided by most law enforcement agencies in Washington, it lists as one of the consequences that a driver’s refusal to consent to a warrantless breath test “may be used in a criminal trial.”informed-consent-and-minors

However, we argue that this provision of the Implied Consent statute is unconstitutional. It is well established that, when a defendant has invoked his constitutional right to refuse a warrantless search, the prosecution may not comment, or the defendant’s due process rights to a fair trial are violated. A comment on the exercise of a right to refuse a search is akin to comments on the exercise of other constitutional rights.

If the government is allowed to comment on a person’s refusal to consent to a warrantless search as evidence of wrongdoing, an unfair burden is placed upon the assertion of a constitutional right and future consents would not be voluntarily given.

I should point out, despite these obvious constitutional principals and case law, this has not prevented the government from commenting on the innocence of an accused person for the last several years. How, you ask? In closing, the Prosecutor stands up and says, “If Mr. Smith is innocent, why didn’t he take the blood test? Why did he refuse the test? What was Mr. Smith hiding? Is it because Mr. Smith knew he was guilty?” Our favorite argument from the government, “if you have nothing to hide…” Deputy Prosecutor’s, across Washington State, have used refusal of the blood test as consciousness of guilt.

In a very recent case, Gauthier, the State used the defendant’s refusal to consent to the warrantless search and seizure of his DNA as substantive evidence. The Gauthier court held that the State violated the defendant’s constitutional rights.  The Gauthier court reasoned that “[e]xercising the right to refuse consent to a warrantless search may have had nothing to do with hiding guilt” and that “a jury should not have been allowed to infer guilt in such ambiguous circumstances, particularly involving the exercise of a constitutional right.”  The Court observed that “circuit courts that have directly addressed this question have unanimously held that a defendant’s refusal to consent to a warrantless search may not be presented as evidence of guilt.”

Beware-I-502-DUI-750x386The Washington Supreme Court has also indicated that using refusal to consent to a search as evidence of guilt is unconstitutional.  In Jones, a police officer testified that the defendant refused to take a DNA test and only provided a cheek swab after court order.  In closing, the State reiterated and emphasized that refusal.  Mr. Jones argued on appeal that these comments constituted prejudicial misconduct.  Though the Court reversed Mr. Jones’ conviction on other grounds, it nevertheless addressed Mr. Jones’ misconduct argument. The court explained that the comments were improper because Mr. Jones had “a Fourth Amendment right to refuse to provide a DNA swab sample,”  and emphasized that “the court’s imprimatur is now upon the State and that such argument is improper and should not be repeated on remand.”   In short, the Court believes that such comments are a violation of the defendant’s constitutional rights.

Gauthier and Jones teach us that using a driver’s refusal to consent to a warrantless breath test as part of a criminal trial is unconstitutional.  That portion of the implied consent warnings that require police officers to warn drivers that a refusal to submit to a warrantless breath test may be used against them in a later criminal trial is therefore also unconstitutional on its face.cannabis street-light

In Washington, often the Trooper warns, prior to administering the blood test, that if the test is refused, that refusal may be used in a criminal trial. More importantly, it will be used as evidence of a “guilty mind.” As a result, the person then consented to a warrantless blood draw based on the Police Officer’s misrepresentation of the law.  Defendant’s throughout Washington have been misled to believe that their refusal may be used again them in a criminal trial. Because consent is based on misleading information provided by law enforcement, and because the Implied Consent Warning does not state the law correctly, people accused of Cannabis DUI have provided consent that was neither voluntary nor “knowing and intelligent.” Although courts have not all agreed that this is the case, they should. It is clear from the case law that Washington Law Enforcement has wrongfully advised defendants and should correct their informed consent warnings to comport with the law.

Needless to say, this is not the only issue before the courts on cannabis DUI. Ted Vosk is spearheading the defense against  junk science of the toxicology lab, by not providing confidence intervals. There is also a group of cases going up on appeal that the five nanogram limit is arbitrary, capricious and unconstitutional (more on this case in a future post). There is number of other arguments brewing and we will continue our pursuit to prevent medical cannabis patients from being arrested and prosecuted without a single shred of meaningful evidence that their driving was actually appreciably affected by cannabis. In the end, five nanograms is not a meaningful number and we will keep fighting to put that in the ground.

Aaron Pelley, senior attorney at Pelley Law, PLLC offers consultations for cannabis defense in the great state of Washington.  Check him out and protect your rights as free men and women.

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Why you should put down your drink and light one up intead – it’s healthier

Why you should put down your drink and light one up intead – it’s healthier

By Ted Hesson at ABC News

July 26, 2013

The ad mentioned below was pulled by Grazie Media, the company airing it, according to a press release from the Marijuana Policy Project.

Nobody has ever died from an overdose of cannabis ever and there is no pain relieving medicine less toxic than cannabis.  Additionally, it is now fairly accepted that cannabis smoke is much less carcinogenic than tobacco smoke.  Let’s stop this nonsense and madness and heal our culture together.  Cannabis is good medicine and even very poor people can afford it in places where it is now legal.  -Dr. Jake Felice

You’ve heard how legalizing marijuana could bring in tax dollars and reduce the damage caused by the war on drugs.  Now there’s a new pot message hitting the mainstream: Weed is safer than alcohol.

A video ad created by the Marijuana Policy Project, which wants to change drug laws, will play outside a NASCAR race in Indianapolis this weekend. It puts marijuana side-by-side with booze, making the case that cannabis is the more responsible recreational drug.

“If you’re an adult who enjoys a good beer, there’s a similar product you might wanna know about,” the video narrator says. “One without all the calories and serious health problems. Less toxic, so it doesn’t cause hangovers or overdose deaths, and it’s not linked to violence or reckless behavior.”

“Marijuana, less harmful than alcohol, and time to treat it that way,” the video concludes.

Mason Tvert, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project, explains why they chose the auto racing event to launch the ad.

“Many adults will be enjoying a beer or two at the race this weekend, and we want them to think about the fact that marijuana is an objectively less harmful product,” Tvert wrote in an email. “Most importantly, we hope racing fans who still think marijuana should be illegal will question the logic of punishing adults for using a safer substance than those produced by sponsors of NASCAR events and racing teams.”

There’s some convincing research behind the claim.

For example, there are an average of 37,000 deaths per year related to alcohol use (and that doesn’t include alcohol-related accidents), according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). The government agency doesn’t track marijuana deaths, but some studies have found that pot has relatively few adverse clinical health effects.

And when it comes to toxicity and immediate death, one researcher found that marijuana was 100 times safer than alcohol or cocaine.

“Unfortunately, most Americans have been led to believe that marijuana is more harmful than it actually is,” Tvert said, “and as a result our laws have been based on misinformation.”

The NASCAR race where the ad will appear, called the Brickyard 400, is one of the biggest all year, and could draw upwards of 600,000 people, according to USA Today.

The space where the ad will be presented is actually outside the track, and therefore won’t be subject to review by NASCAR or the venue, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

 

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Pennsylvania: Medical cannabis legislation introduced

Pennsylvania: Medical cannabis legislation introduced

From NORML

Folks you can make history by voting on this measure by entering your zip code and filling out the form here.  So express yourself and go fill out this form.

Cannabis patient1Legislation to allow for the physician-authorized use of cannabis is pending before state lawmakers. Representative Mark Cohen has filed legislation, House Bill 1181, to enact statewide legal protections for qualified patients who are authorized by their physician to engage in cannabis therapy. The proposal seeks to establish a network of state-regulated compassion centers to provide cannabis to patients. Qualified patients would also be able to grow specified quantities of cannabis in private. This measure has been referred to the House Committee on Health, but has yet to be scheduled for a hearing. You can view the full text of this proposal here.

According to a May 2013 Franklin and Marshall statewide poll, 82 percent of Pennsylvanians favor allowing doctors to authorize specified amounts of marijuana for patients suffering from serious illnesses. Despite this, Governor Corbett recently went on record stating his opposition to medical marijuana. He said, “This is a gateway to many other drugs. I believe we have a drug problem in this country. We have a drug problem in the state of Pennsylvania.”

We encourage you to contact the Governor directly and urge him to support this sensible legislation by calling 717-787-2500 or emailing Governor@pa.gov.

You can also enter your zip code here to quickly and easily contact your Representative and urge him or her to support this measure.

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