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Lawsuits Challenge Feds on Cannabis

A lawsuit that could have had a potential far-reaching impact on federal cannabis enforcement has been dismissed by a federal judge. The lawsuit, filed in US District Court in Manhattan, sought an injunction to stop the federal government from enforcing cannabis’ Schedule I status, naming Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Justice Department and the DEA as defendants. Serving as plaintiffs in the case were a handful of medical cannabis patients, including a former NFL player, a veteran of the war in Iraq and 12-year-old Alexis Bortell, who moved to Colorado in order to access life-saving cannabis medicine. Bortell was profiled by THC in April of last year, prior to the filing of the lawsuit.
Central to that lawsuit was the argument that cannabis’ status as a Schedule I controlled substance, designating it as without medical application and having a high risk of abuse, defies the current medical understanding of the plant and was originally motivated by political rather than factual reasoning. During opening arguments on February 14, government attorneys argued that there exists a legal procedure to petition the DEA for rescheduling substances under the CSA, and that this lawsuit represents a violation of this procedure. Judge Alvin K. Hillerstein sided with federal attorneys, ruling that the plaintiffs had not exhausted the available avenues to have cannabis rescheduled prior to filing the lawsuit. Previous attempts at petitioning the DEA for a rescheduling made by other cannabis supporters have all failed.
The plaintiffs are planning to appeal the decision, according to a statement from attorney Michael Hiller.
In a turn of coincidence, on February 15 in San Francisco, oral arguments were made in front of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals as part of another lawsuit of potential significance to cannabis users across the country. The lawsuit is challenging a 2016 decision by the Drug Enforcement Administration to create a controlled substances code for “Marihuana Extract”, a Schedule I controlled substance under the federal Controlled Substances Act. The DEA decision described any “extract containing one or more cannabinoids that has been derived from any plant of the genus Cannabis” under this new categorization, effectively shaded in the legal gray area of hemp-derived CBD extracts being sold nation wide.
The oral arguments earlier this month gave plaintiff attorney Robert Hoban his first opportunity to directly argue the case, brought on behalf of the Hemp Industries Association and a hemp-CBD business, before federal judges, stressing that the 2014 Farm Bill had allowed federally legal hemp crops and therefore federally legal hemp extracts.
A group of 28 Congress members, consisting of 22 Democrats and eight Republicans, filed a brief in support of the HIA’s position earlier this year.
The 9th Circuit Court will now deliberate based on the arguments and fillings made, setting the stage for a monumental decision that could affect the legality of CBD products already being sold nationwide.
Both of these lawsuits potentially represent watershed moments in national cannabis policy. Stay tuned to THC for future updates.

Governor’s Gravitas: Jesse Ventura Wrestles With Cannabis Policy

By Erin Hiatt


Former WWE performer Jesse “The Body” Ventura prefers to be addressed as “Governor”. “I’m 66 years old,” he says. “Governor, that’s the official title they’ve given me.” By “they,” he means the people of Minnesota, where he governed as an Independent from 1999-2003, but adding “The Body” wouldn’t be entirely inappropriate. At 6 foot 4 inches he still seems tall even while seated. And though the muscles hidden underneath his boxy black suit jacket have likely grown softer over the years, his frame is not insignificant. His long white hair, trailing somewhat warlock-like from under his baseball cap, momentarily gives him a certain softness that’s quickly undone by the crackle in his crisp, blue eyes and the growl in his voice.

Ventura has made many careers over the span of his 66 years. He was a Navy SEAL who served during the Vietnam War, then rode in a motorcycle gang. He spent more than a decade as a wrestler at the apex of the sport’s popularity, then parlayed his accessible, in-your-face style to become a wrestling correspondent, moving into bit parts in movies and television.

He finally landed his own cable show based on a book he had written, “Conspiracy Theory,” whose title states its intent; to explore popular conspiracy theories like those surrounding 9/11 and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) prison camps, among others. His most recent foray in entertainment is the “World According to Jesse,” née “Off the Grid,” was recently purchased by none other than Russian media propaganda machine, RT.

Ventura was the keynote speaker at the Cannabis World Congress and Business Expo held last June at New York’s capacious Javit’s Convention Center, where he extolled his most recent book, “The Marijuana Manifesto.” Speaking to a large and enthusiastic group, Ventura barked — if in a somewhat rambling way — at the crowd about the injustices of cannabis criminalization.

“I’m completely Independent,” he says of his political affiliation. “Completely, as in never belonged to any party. Fiscally conservative, socially liberal.” Minnesota has had its share of quirky politicians, including Sen. Al Franken, uber-conservative cuckoo bird Michele Bachmann, and a five-year old mayor (though tongue in cheek, he was still “elected”). “I believe most people are like me,” he continues. “I believe in less government but also believe in gay rights and social liberties where government don’t [sic] belong. And that’s part of less government.”

Ventura was Trump before Trump was Trump. A populist candidate who was elected by Minnesotans out of “anger,” as reported by Minnesota Public Radio, his brash style drew both supporters and critics. But overall, his time in office was deemed at least a partial success, and that is what he hopes to leverage with the publication of “The Marijuana Manifesto.”

Admitting that the book will likely affirm the views of those already converted to the cause, Ventura says he hopes that someone of his stature writing a book on cannabis would convince those skeptical of legalization to get onboard. “People would say, ‘Gee, there’s a former governor writing this,’” he explains. “And it needed to take this step forward. And we need to come out of the closet. Gay people have come out the closet, and look, they’re getting their rights now.” Ventura believes that if more people “come out of the cannabis closet” that its use will no longer be frowned upon. “We are the majority,” he asserts. “It’s time for us as the majority to take back our government.”

Like many who come to support cannabis legalization, Ventura’s situation was personal, explaining, “Someone very dear and close to me developed an epileptic seizure two to three times a week.” He watched helplessly as his loved one seized and struggled with four different, unsuccessful pharmaceutical treatments. “In desperation, we drove to Colorado,” he recalls. “And I guess you could say we procured illegal medicine.”

“The Marijuana Manifesto” reads like a Cannabis 101 textbook told in Ventura’s stream-of-consciousness writing style. And Ventura, who sees addiction as a health issue rather than a criminal one, wants all drugs to be legal. “Drug addiction is a disease. For some reason we like to classify it a crime,” he emphatically states. “You can be addicted to anything! Obesity — we gonna make it a crime because people are addicted to food and won’t step away from the table?”

Ventura frequently steers the conversation back to “freedom,” and that includes the freedom to do, as he says, “stupid things.” “Like I said as governor, when you accept freedom, everything is a ying [sic] and a yang,” he says. “With accepting freedom, you have to accept what comes along — the freedom to be stupid. People are going to do stupid things. You can’t make every stupid decision against the law.”

Cannabis, Ventura believes, could have saved fellow Minnesotan Prince from overdosing on fentanyl. In fact, he thinks that cannabis is a panacea for many of the world’s problems, a concept he explores in his book. “Donald Trump wants to create jobs? Simple. Pull off the federal ban on cannabis,” he tells the Javit’s Center crowd. “I just read in The Wall Street Journal that Colorado has 18,000 new jobs. New Jobs. 18,000 people not on unemployment. Ladies and gents, that’s what will bring legalization.”

Ventura says that he sent a copy of the “Marijuana Manifesto” to Mr. Trump but that he never heard back. “I know him, I’ve been to dinner with him. We went to dinner,” he adds. “We coulda sold tickets. And he went with an advocate that’s as big as me for cannabis and hemp.” Pausing for effect, he continues, “Woody Harrelson, Trump, me, we went to dinner. Coulda sold tickets.”

But having dinner with Trump doesn’t keep Ventura from criticizing Trump’s nebulous — if nonexistent — thoughts on drug policy. “We seem to have Trump whose mantra is ‘Make America Great Again,’” he says. “But why would you do that by going backward? We go, as Star Trek said, we go where no man has gone before! How is ‘making America great’ by going backward?”

Ventura turns his sights on Washington’s political establishment, who, in his view, have forgotten, or at the very least are ignoring, the will of the people when it comes to cannabis legalization. “They work for us! They’re supposed to do what we want, they’re not supposed to do what they want! I hope there’s a revolution and I hope people will get up and tell the government, ‘We’re the boss, not you,’” he emphatically exclaims. “I think they’re gonna try to oppress us again, and I hope there’s riot, and I hope they’re not violent. But they could be.”

Next up for the Governor is broadcasting his righteous ire on an RT television series, “The World According to Jesse.” Ventura says that RT has given him no restrictions, other than an occasional bleep for profanity. RT wrote, “’The World According to Jesse’ will tackle both the current news agenda and deeper issues such as government hypocrisy and corporate deception, with Jesse’s distinctive take on stories sidelined by the mainstream media. Ventura will apply his uncensored, bold and bare-knuckled approach to thought-provoking interviews and on-the-ground reporting alike.”

“The reason I’m doing it,” Ventura begins, “is I was down off the grid in Mexico and we have this little bar we go to. A couple of years ago I walked into the bar, and there was a guy there and when I walked in, you’d think he met Jesus.” Smiling, he continues, “He was from Lebanon. He said to me, ‘Do you realize that whenever you come on CNN, everyone in Lebanon stops what they’re doing and gathers around televisions to hear what you have to say.” Ventura’s new Lebanese friend continued to tell him that the consensus in Lebanon was that Ventura should be the United States’ president, that the world would be a better place if he were.

“This guy tells me this,” he says. “It’s pretty humbling.” Saying that his experience in that off-the-beaten-path bar in Mexico led him to letting RT use “Off the Grid,” now “The World According to Jesse,” for a network series. Ventura concludes, “Screw our national media. I’m jumping over into international media. My show will be seen by 800 million people, second only to the BBC. To hell with our national media. I’m going above them.”

Ventura said in the RT’s “World According to Jesse” press release that he “looks forward to holding our government accountable. I will be exercising my First Amendment rights with no filters.” Given our current garishly bizarre political environment, maybe Ventura should resurrect his old conspiracy theory show to explore that topic. ♦









The Endocannabinoid System

By Dr Nicola Davies


The isolation of plant-based cannabinoids in the 1960s led scientists to investigate the mechanisms by which these chemical compounds interact with the brain’s neurons (or nerve cells).[1] Indeed, the lipid Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), was different from other water-soluble neurotransmitters or neuromodulators known at that time, and the hypotheses was that the psychotropic effects of THC were made through membrane-related features.[2] However, it became clear that cannabinoids did indeed work through receptors, when, in 1988, a cannabinoid receptor was identified in a rat brain.[3] In the following decades further exploration was made on the constituents of the body’s own cannabinoid system.


Components of the Endocannabinoid System

The endogenous cannabinoid system (ECS) includes the cannabinoid receptors, endocannabinoids (eCBs), and enzymes (such as fatty acid amide hydrolase) that synthesize and degrade the endocannabinoids.[4],[5]


CB1 and CB2: The Body’s Cannabinoid Receptors:

The first endogenous cannabinoid receptor, CB1, was successfully cloned in 1990,[6] while the second one, CB2, was identified in the spleen and cloned in 1993.[7] Both receptors are part of the supergroup of G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), which are a large and diverse set of membrane receptors that respond to a wide range of external signals, making them essential in regulating numerous bodily functions.[8],[9] Modern medicine has benefited from the more in-depth understanding of GPCRs, with some researchers estimating that up to half of marketed drugs work by binding to these receptors.[10]

The CB1 receptor was initially believed to be present primarily in the central nervous system and was known as a brain cannabinoid receptor. Currently, it is believed that CB1 is also found in peripheral organs, but only in very low levels in some places. In the brain, CB1 is the most common GPCR, with the highest concentrations (as seen in the brain of a rat) in the basal ganglia, hippocampus, cerebellum, substantia nigra, and globus pallidus. These receptors are believed to have an essential role in cognition and motivation, consistent with the high densities of CB1 in parts of the brain that govern sensory and motor functions.[11]

On the other hand, CB2 receptors were previously thought of as the peripheral receptor because it was mainly found in immune cells, but the second type of receptor has also been found within the central nervous system, although at lower densities compared to CB1. It has been proposed that CB2 is part of a general protective mechanism within the immune system of mammals. Subsequently, drugs that act by binding to CB2 are being explored for some diseases, such as liver, cardiovascular and neuropsychiatric conditions.[12],[13]


AEA and 2-AG: The Body’s Natural Cannabinoids:

The discovery of a network of cannabinoid receptors, activated by the plant-based THC (an exocannabinoid), suggested the possibility of naturally occurring lipid molecules (endocannabinoids, or eCBs) also being present inside mammals’ bodies. Since THC is lipophilic (or soluble in fat), the assumption was that endogenous cannabinoids would be lipophilic as well.[14],[15] Soon after the cloning of the cannabinoid receptors, two lipid neurotransmitters were discovered, namely, N-arachidonoylethanolamine or AEA (which is also known as anandamide, named after the Sanskrit word ananda, meaning “supreme joy”) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol, or 2-AG.[16]

AEA and 2-AG differ from other neurotransmitters, like serotonin and dopamine, in that they are not stored within nerve cells, but are created by the body as and where they are needed. The eCBs are also unlike many neurotransmitters in that their actions are pre-synaptic instead of postsynaptic. This means that the eCBs’ chemical messages are sent “backwards” through the network of neurons. Normally, most neurotransmitters are released from one neuron (the presynaptic cell), travel through a gap called the synapse, and bind to receptors on a neighboring neuron (the postsynaptic cell); it is the activated postsynaptic neuron which then starts the events that allow the chemical “message” to be spread. On the other hand, eCBs are created “on demand” from fat cells within an activated postsynaptic neuron, and travel back to the presynaptic neuron, where they bind to cannabinoid receptors.[17],[18],[19]


Enzymes in the ECS:

In the cell, eCBs are broken down by enzymes. Fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) is responsible for breaking down AEA into arachidonic acid and ethanolamine. In addition, 2-AG is broken down by FAAH and monoacyl hydrolase. Endocannabinoids are quickly removed from the cell by a membrane transport mechanism that still needs to be further investigated. When these enzymes are suppressed, the effect of eCBs is prolonged.[20]


The Importance of Understanding the Endocannabinoid System

The ECS is now widely believed to be responsible for regulating a wide range of bodily functions. It is essential for the normal operation of the central and peripheral nervous system, and has a part in the regulation of pain, chronic stress, blood pressure, and gastrointestinal activities. It also plays an important role in cancer therapy, obesity management, reproduction, liver disease management, and numerous other health conditions.[21] Recently, eCBs have also been shown to be responsible for modulating affect (mood), motivation and emotions. Drugs targeting the ECS are being explored in the field of psychiatric disorders.[22]

Further research, however, is needed to gain more in-depth understanding of the complex mechanisms of this system. For instance, a third cannabinoid receptor has been hypothesized by researchers,[23] although its existence is yet to be fully demonstrated. Another example of a function of the ECS that requires more research is the membrane transport mechanism that is believed to remove eCBs from the cells.[24]

Unfortunately, cannabis research still faces numerous barriers and challenges. In a January 2017 report on the state of marijuana research, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine identified several obstacles. One of these is the lack of funding and support for the development of a national cannabis research agenda. Other challenges include the difficulty of obtaining a large enough supply of cannabis for scientific investigation, as well as securing approval to conduct studies. The drug is highly regulated by government agencies, since it is classified as a Schedule I substance. Additionally, a more rigorous set of tools and standards for research must be formulated by the cannabis-focused scientific community. Data collection methods, as well as public surveillance tools (such as national health surveys), are also in need of improvement.[25]

There is a necessity to address these barriers as they are impeding the advancement of evidence-based knowledge on cannabis and the endocannabinoid system. The emerging importance of the ECS is already being seen. The capability to identify the potential ways of modulating its components could lead to the future development of a wide array of therapeutic innovations. The investigation of this important system will aid the public in understanding the numerous medicinal claims for cannabinoid-related products, as well as gain more objective insights into the potential dangers or benefits of cannabis. ♦


[1] Gaoni, Y., & Mechoulam, R. (1964). Isolation, structure and partial synthesis of an active constituent of Hashish. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 86, 1646–1647

[2] Alger, B. E. (2013). Getting high on the endocannabinoid system. Cerebrum: The Dana Forum on Brain Science2013, 14

[3] Devane, W. A., Dysarz, F. A. 3rd, Johnson, M., Melvin, L. S. and Howlett, A. C. (1988). Determination and characterization of a cannabinoid receptor in rat brain. Molecular Pharmacology, 34, 605–613

[4] Pazos M.R., Núñez, E., Benito, C., Tolón, R.M., Romero, J. (2005). Functional neuroanatomy of the endocannabinoid system. Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior, 81 (2), 239–47DOI:10.1016/j.pbb.2005.01.030

[5] Murillo-Rodriguez, E. (Ed.) (2017). The endocannabinoid system: genetics, biochemistry, brain disorders, and therapy. London: Academic Press.

[6] Matsuda, L. A., Lolait, S. J., Brownstein, M. J., Young, A. C., & Bonner, T. I. (1990). Structure of a cannabinoid receptor and functional expression of the cloned cDNA. Nature, 346, 561–564

[7] Munro S., Thomas, K.L., Abu-Shaar, M. (1993). Molecular characterization of a peripheral receptor for cannabinoids. Nature, 365, 61–65

[8] Mechoulam, R. & Parker, L. (2013). The endocannabinoid system and the brain. Annual Review of Psychology, 2013, 64, 21-47. DOI:10.1146/annurev-psych-113011-143739

[9] Scitable. (n.d.). GPCR. Retrieved from

[10] Ibid.

[11] Mechoulam, R. & Parker, L. (2013)

[12] Ibid.

[13] Cota, D., Marsicano, G., Lutz, B., Vicennati, V., Stalla, G.K., Pasquali, R., & Pagotto, U. (2003). Endogenous cannabinoid system as a modulator of food intake. International Journal of Obesity, 27, 289-301. DOI:10.1038/sj.ijo.0802250


[14] Alger, B. E. (2013)


[15] Mechoulam, R. & Parker, L. (2013)


[16] Ibid.


[17] Ibid.


[18] Howlett A.C., Barth F., Bonner T.I., Cabral G., Casellas P., Devane W.A., Felder C.C., Herkenham M., Mackie, K., Martin, B.R., Mechoulam, R., & Pertwee, R.G. (2002). International Union of Pharmacology. XXVII. Classification of Cannabinoid Receptors. Pharmacological Reviews, 54, 161–202. Retrieved from


[19] National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2011). The science of the endocannabinoid system: how THC affects the brain and the body. Retrieved from


[20] Mechoulam, R. & Parker, L. (2013)


[21] Griffing, G. & Thai, A. (2015). Endocannabinoids. Retrieved from


[22] Campolongo, P., & Trezza, V. (2012). The endocannabinoid system: a key modulator of emotions and cognition. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 6, 73. DOI:10.3389/fnbeh.2012.00073


[23] Samson, M., Small-Howard, A., Shimoda, L., Koblan-Huberson, M., Stokes, A., & Turner, H. (2003). Differential roles of CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors in mast cells. The Journal of Immunology, 170 (10), 4953-4962. DOI:10.4049/jimmunol.170.10.4953


[24] Mechoulam, R. & Parker, L. (2013)


[25] National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2017). The health effects of cannabis and cannabinoids: The current state of evidence and recommendations for research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. DOI:10.17226/24625


Fair-Weather Friends: Flip-Flopping on Cannabis Policy Like a Real A-Hole

By DJ Reetz

Cannabis sure is gaining friends these days. With support for full legalization breaking through 50 percent nationally and support for medical cannabis reaching an all time high, backing sensible cannabis policy is a less risky political decision than it has ever been before. In fact, supporting rational policy rather than decades old dogma and prejudice seems to be a politically advantageous move, boldly announcing to the world that, “I support thoughtful policy, now that a comfortable number of people are cool with it.”

Adult-use legalization is rolling out around the country, and the possibility of actual federal reforms is increasingly likely as the number of congressional representatives from legal states grows with every victory. Representatives like those in the Congressional Cannabis Caucus see an obvious need for their constituents to have access to basic banking services, sensible tax rates, and uniform federal oversight and guidelines. But most shockingly, this pragmatism is slowly creeping into politicians and public figures who aren’t directly responsible to legal business owners currently being treated like criminals.

The changing tide has allowed those who in the past advocated for the broken status quo or enabled it with their silence to simply throw up the flag of reasonable, popular opinion and be lauded with praise from the pro-cannabis crowd. While many in the cannabis advocacy field are happy to welcome any fair-weather friend to the fold, it’s important to remember that some people are just pieces of shit. Despite what our president may think, good people don’t march with pieces of shit, no matter how gratifying it may be to wave them in front of their former allies.  

People like Roger Stone — who cut his teeth in the same Nixon White House that engineered the modern war on drugs as a means of crushing dissidents and minorities before he was working alongside likely traitor Paul Manafort to engineer Trump’s election — don’t always have to be welcomed in just because they, as it turns out, have been smoking weed this whole time.  

The same is true of the recent turn — or rather, mild remarks — from former US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. In an interview with Newsweek, Gonzales, who served as Attorney General for part of the Bush administration, advised current Attorney General Jeff Sessions against cracking down on state-legal cannabis programs, saying that to do so would be “bad optics.”

“To prosecute an act that is otherwise lawful under state law, one could make the argument [that] as a matter of policy, we’ve got other priorities we ought to be spending our resources on,” said Gonzales in the interview.

The perceived endorsement of the Obama-era hands-off policy was quickly picked up by the cannabis zeitgeist. A devout member of the old conservative guard was breaking rank to acknowledge that disrupting the current success at the expense of state’s rights simply to enforce ignorant policy steeped in racism against Hispanics like himself was maybe not the best course of action.

But before we get lost in this happy idea that reasoned progress may be taking root somewhere in the black heart of the neoconservative movement, let’s remember that we probably shouldn’t give a fuck what Alberto Gonzales has to say, about weed or anything else, because he’s kind of a piece of shit.


He fought against patient rights

When Gonzales took over the role of Attorney General from avowed agent of terror John Ashcroft he also took the reins of a high-profile case against cannabis patients. In 2002, cannabis patients Angel Raich and Dianne Monson were subject to a raid carried out in conjunction with federal DEA agents, which led to the destruction of a whopping six plants. Raich, Monson and two other California caregivers filed a lawsuit for injunctive relief against the prosecution, arguing that the Controlled Substances Act — which classifies cannabis among the most dangerous and useless drugs — was not constitutional when applied to personal, medically necessary use of the plant, and that the raid represented a violation of due process as well as the Ninth and Tenth Amendment and the doctrine of medical necessity.

The feds’ counter argument can be summarized succinctly as, “Nah, fuck that.”

An early ruling in the case from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals granted an injunction against federal interference with the patients, but the decision went less favorably when the case made it to the Supreme Court. Gonzales’ team successfully argued that banning personal cultivation fell under the authority of the Commerce Clause. Despite none of this medicine being proven to be leaving California, this cannabis could possibly find its way to the interstate markets if these patients chose to forego treating their chronic medical issues in order to make a few bucks, ruled the court.

The 6-3 decision by the court effectively set legal precedent for federal disruption of any cannabis cultivation, no matter the state law or medical need, which will undoubtedly factor into any overreach undertaken by the Sessions Justice Department. It’s too bad that Gonzales didn’t hold his current opinion about the foolishness of such an action 12 years ago, when it would have actually made a difference.


He was the guy who supported torture  

When it comes to supporting torture, Gonzales wrote the book on the subject — or memo, rather. Back in the Bush years, when we were all terrified of Islamic terrorism and eager to inflict as much unpleasantness on dangerous, non-Christian religious fundamentalists as possible, Gonzales was hard at work on the legal justification for torturing suspected terrorists. To that end, Gonzales authored a memo claiming that suspected terrorists were not protected by the Geneva Convention on the Treatment of Prisoners of War. Because — unlike wars fought between nations — the war on terror required information to be quickly extracted from captured enemy combatants to prevent future attacks, Gonzales called “legal” on practices such as waterboarding.

These things were allegedly already taking place at CIA black site detention centers, so Gonzales’ memo served to codify the practice and assure our brave shadow warriors that we wouldn’t be turning them over if any snitchin’-ass UN human rights inspectors wanted to try them for war crimes.            

Torture is one of those things that just about anyone with a basic sense of decency can identify as immoral, but for Berto, as George W. Bush undoubtedly referred to him, not so much.


Also, a whole bunch of other shit

Harkening back to the days before roughly 50 percent of the population took issue with naked Islamophobia, Gonzales helped quite a bit in advancing the Bush administration’s fear-driven post-9/11 agenda. Beyond that whole torture thing, he was a strong supporter of the USA PATRIOT Act, the most cleverly and ironically acronym-ed effort ever to swing an ax at the bill of rights.

As Attorney General, Gonzales used the expanded powers granted to him by the act to spy on US citizens without warrant, and threatened The New York Times with prosecution for espionage when the paper reported some of it.

In addition to helping lay the groundwork for an Orwellian surveillance state, Gonzales was widely suspected to have fired several US attorneys for political reasons and earned a bit of a reputation as someone who had little compunction in lying to Congressional committees about his actions. Beyond that, Gonzales generally favored a lack of transparency in government and took a shot at the Freedom of Information Act by authoring Bush’s Executive Order 13233, which allowed the president to delay the release of presidential records.  

It’s hard not to get a little nostalgic for the Bush era these days. Back when corruption was a little more veiled, the ignorance was purposeful, the racism more subtle, and the president’s bumbling incompetence was more charming and less willful sure does seem like a simpler time. The days when government was run by a malicious cabal selling the country for profit, but at least they weren’t all up in your face with it.

Yes, it’s easy to think back fondly on those times now, and it’s natural to want to welcome any of those vampires to the fight against a new enemy. But before we heap praise on people who are risking literally nothing to show even minimal support for the inescapable progress being made, we should do an inventory of who is actually beneficial to that cause, and who can just fuck right off. ♦

Hemp Shield: The Greenest Solution in Woodstaining

By Erin Hiatt, photos courtesy of Hemp Shield 


Using a wood finish, in particular for decks and wooden furniture, can serve both form and function. Wood finish can give a rich and beautiful luster while simultaneously keeping out water, protecting from the sun’s rays, slowing down the growth of molds and mildew, giving traction to the surface, and helping ease the cleaning process. But any typical finish found at your local hardware store is bound to be rife with toxic chemicals and pollutants.

However, for the eco-conscious there is a very viable, if not superior, solution. Hemp Shield is a hemp seed oil-based wood finish that may be the greenest on the market. “The thing to understand is that the revolutionary basis of Hemp Shield is the hemp seed oil molecule,” explains David Seber, president of Hemp Shield. “Turns out the hemp seed molecule oil is smaller than all the other molecules that are in oils for coatings. Therefore, not only does it penetrate the wood better, but it causes this amazing synergy among all the other components in the mixture.”

A quick glance at the label of a well-known and ubiquitous Hemp Shield competitor says, “WARNING! This product contains chemicals known to the state of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm.” One of the ingredients causing such mayhem is ethylene glycol, which can cause intoxication, drowsiness, or coma. Finishes also frequently contain polyurethane that contain isocyanates, considered a potential human carcinogen demonstrated to cause cancer in animal tests. Within isocyanates are VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, that have been shown to induce vomiting, dizziness, lung irritation, asthma and can exacerbate migraines.         


“Starting out, Hemp Shield is a new kind of a coating,” Seber begins, “It’s called a hybrid and it’s waterborne. It’s oil-based but waterborne. The first thing this does, it allows you to eliminate the amount of VOCs.” Seber, who has a long history in the wood and timber industry, wanted to stay in the business but in a way that eased his conscious regarding the environmental ramifications. “I had a redwood lumber yard,” he recalls. “And I felt that I owed dues to the forest.” The myriad uses of hemp first came to Seber’s attention through Jack Herer’s treatise on the plant, “The Emperor Wears No Clothes.”

Seber’s work in the lumber business harkens back to the early ‘80s, before the environmental disregard of the Reagan administration and the machinations of Wall Street caused him to reassess the industry. “So I did a study on what we could do to replace the amount of fiber that was taken out of the forest,” he continues. “In a temperate climate, the only one that would do it was hemp.”

Seber co-created Hemp Shield with Steve Neiswander, a former research director for a prominent paint company. “I met Steve in the depths of the recession (of 2008) without [either of us] knowing what the other person did. And the truth of it is that Steve is a world-famous paint chemist who’s been in the business for 30 years,” says Seber. “We collaborated together and Steve took every trick that he learned during his 30-year career and put them into Hemp Shield.”

Neiswander’s paint expertise and Seber’s extensive timber background enabled them to create an environmentally friendly finish that performs as well or better than their less conscientious competitors. ”Hemp Shield was designed consciously,” Seber says. “We established a principal with Hemp Shield of using the greenest components, the highest quality and the highest concentration possible on the market,” Seber explains.

There is a wood finish recipe, so to speak, that creates a synergy among the ingredients to create the final product. Standard Paints, Inc. writes on its website, “stain protection is accomplished mainly by three methods: pigment, vehicle, and bio protections. These three methods are the materials left on and in the wood and endure ongoing exposure to the elements water, temperature fluctuation, and ultraviolet light.”

Pigments, made from rare earth elements, are intended to deflect UV rays known to weaken wood, and absorb certain rays of light. About pigments, Seber explains, “They dig them up and they powder them, then they put them in something for color.” To protect the wood, Hemp Shield’s pigments are processed on a micro level into what Seber describes as a tiny needle-like formation, the same type of system used on Ferrari’s and other expensive cars. This pigment formation directs UV rays sideways, allowing the color and substance of the wood to shine through the sealant.

The “vehicle” is a solvent in which the pigments are suspended, and this is where Hemp Shield can really walk its eco-friendly talk. Seber uses Canadian-sourced hemp seed oil as his vehicle, another method to keep the environmental costs down. The hemp plant is known to grow well in a variety of climates and needs little water, pesticides, or fungicides. It has the additional benefit of being an excellent plant for crop rotation because it replenishes rather than depletes soil like many other crops.

And lastly, biocides, or bio protections, also present in wood finishes, are chemical substances intended to kill harmful organisms like mold and mildew by biological means. “Hemp Shield does have biocides in it,” says Seber. “We’ve tested them for toxicity. Hemp Shield is .00126 parts by volume. That’s less than your body, or my body, or any plant or animal in our environment.”

Seber says that using hemp seed oil helps improve the performance of the other ingredients, and that it’s not just for decks. “You can use it for anything made out of wood,” he says. Hemp Shield has in stock a formula intended for log cabins and can also be used on canvas. “Hemp Shield has no HAP (hazardous air pollutants),” he adds. “There are no fumes to Hemp Shield, you can use it inside.”

Mitigating environmental fallout continues to top Seber’s priority list. “From the very beginning, my main interest has been about the environment and I don’t think we have a lot of decades left before we have to do something heavy duty,” he says. “We don’t have enough time right now to do something about the paper or the textile [issues] before you kill everyone! That’s why I concentrate on Hemp Shield.” ♦



Jeff Sessions: Troublemaker for Legal Cannabis

By Erin Hiatt


Since the Trump administration began, it has been one Tweet storm after another, creating chaos at the White House and unease in much of the citizenry. Scandal upon scandal, saber-rattling, and a never-ending deluge of scurrilous allegations have lent themselves to a governing environment where even those working for Trump seem to have no idea what the heck their boss wants, much less receive direction on how to do it.

But one politician who knows his way around the Hill, no matter who’s in charge, is Attorney General Jeffrey Beauregard Sessions of Alabama. To say that Sessions is a drug war relic is probably too simple. He has been on the record saying that “good people don’t smoke marijuana,” and that he didn’t mind the KKK so much until he found out they used cannabis, to play just two of Sessions’ cannabis greatest hits.

A recent Quinnipiac poll found that a huge majority of Americans, some 94 percent, support legalizing medical marijuana. And many politicians, including conservatives, have distanced themselves from the old drug war playbook. But that hasn’t stopped Sessions from pawing gleefully through his D.A.R.E. scrapbook, and he does have one trick up his sleeve. When it comes to federal versus state law, federal law holds the top card.

“The AG clearly would like to implement federal law,” says Allen St. Pierre, Vice President of Freedom Leaf, partner at Strategic Alternative Investments, and board member at the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. “He has certainly laid down the pretext for going after some components of the marijuana industry at the federal level.”

Trump, who, for the moment, seems mostly indifferent to marijuana — and in fact said on the campaign trail that cannabis policy should be left to the states — told Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in an April phone call that he was doing “an unbelievable job on the drug problem.” Since Duterte took office in June 2016, more than 7,000 people have been murdered in the drug crackdown at Duterte’s behest. Despite such a remarkably tone deaf compliment to the Filipino president, the only direction Trump has given Sessions is to crack down on crime. Sessions seems to have fallen into default mode by re-donning his drug warrior garb, and so far, he’s caused quite a stir.

Tamar Todd is the Legal Director and Acting Director for the Policy Department at the Drug Policy Alliance, and she sums up Sessions’ bluster as “a couple of statements.” Todd continues to say, “There’s no pattern or no noticeable increase in enforcement at state-level business.” However, that’s not to say that all the commotion coming from Sessions on drug policy hasn’t caused uncertainty and fear for legal cannabis players. “There’s been like talk, but not a departure from the Cole Memo or an adopted policy of enforcement strategy.”

“There’s some speculation as to why that’s the case,” says St. Pierre. “That probably has much more to do with his boss.” Intermittently Twitter-abused by Trump for recusing himself from the Russia investigation, Sessions has shown determination to stay on as AG despite the floating of names like Rudy Giuliani and Chris Christie to replace him. “The two people that have probably gotten Trump’s ear on this are Trump’s largest (individual) donor, Peter Thiel — and Peter is one of the largest investors in the marijuana space, in Leafly and Privateer Holdings.” But Thiel is not the only one holding sway in Trump’s court. St. Pierre also points to nasty political operative Roger Stone, who recently started a cannabis super-pac called the United States Cannabis Coalition. “Roger apparently has had a very long, 25-year relationship with Trump.”

Since his tenure began, Sessions has directed the remaining US Attorneys (remember, Trump fired many of them last March) to enforce mandatory minimums for nonviolent offenses; linked the opioid epidemic and a rise in violent crime to cannabis legalization; overseen the renewal of contracts for the operation of private, for-profit prisons; personally went to Congress to ask for leeway to crack down on medical marijuana providers; and has re-upped the ante on civil asset forfeiture. Recently, he sent letters to the governors of Washington, Oregon, and Colorado, saying that he had “serious questions” about their cannabis laws, accusing them of diverting cannabis to children and allowing it to leak across state lines.

The crème de la crème was the convening of, and recently completed, Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety, assumed to be created by the AG to provide fodder for a clampdown on legal cannabis states and businesses. The panel’s composition remains largely secret and remarkably opaque, leading many in legal states to do some worried fortune-telling regarding its recommendations.

Legal cannabis markets are essentially upheld by three governmental actions: The Ogden Memo, the Rohrabacher-Farr, aka Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment, and the Cole Memo. The 2009 Ogden Memo was the first regarding marijuana laws and was a directive to de-prioritize the usage of federal resources to criminalize those in clear compliance with state medical marijuana laws.

The Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment was first introduced in 2003 and languished for some 11 years before passage. The amendment, which must be renewed each fiscal year as part of the federal budget to remain active, recently came under fire with the advent of the new administration. However, it was once again renewed and continues to prohibit the Justice Department from spending federal monies interfering in state-legal medical marijuana programs.

And last but not least, the much vaunted Cole Memo of 2013, which provides eight bullet points for federal prosecutors to focus on in legal states, such as keeping cannabis money out of criminal hands, making sure it remains within state borders, and ensuring minors don’t have access to the plant. For many in the industry, especially those who have taken great pains to heed state regulations, the Cole Memo has provided a veneer of safety.

However, Michael Collins, Deputy Director of the Office of National Affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance, is a bit of a skeptic. “I don’t think people should take solace in the existing Cole Memo,” he says. “That’s the thing about the Cole Memo because it’s kind of in the eye of the beholder.” Citing challenges around youth use of and cannabis crossing state lines, he continues, “you could see how a US attorney could look at the Cole Memo and say, ‘I’m gonna close this down.’”

St. Pierre notes that the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment is a minor restriction on the federal government, but he adds, “It’s not entirely clear that the federal government is shackled by those laws.” He believes that if the federal government decided to walk back from the Cole and Ogden Memos that would essentially take legal markets back to pre-adult-use legalization standing. “That would bring us back to the status quo of 2010,” he continues, “and the first 14 to 16 months of the Obama administration had a more active raid schedule in California than any other year than even the Bush administration.”

Only recently, the task force members came out with some cannabis recommendations that likely weren’t what Sessions was hoping for or expecting. Brian Vicente, Esq., partner and founding member at Vicente Sederberg LLC, a marijuana law firm with offices in several legal states, views the task force recommendations as more of a wait-and-see. “There was a lot of discussion among advocates that they were going to issue these recommendations that were different from state laws,” he explains, “but it said, ‘we’re going to ramp up more research, and monitor it, and focus on the Cole Memo and banking issues.’ To sort of punt like that is fine by me.”

Despite the task force’s lukewarm guidelines and conservative’s slow shunning of drug war policies, Sessions could still throw some monkey wrenches into the works. “I mean, it really goes along the way of raid dispensaries and giving them x amount of time to comply with federal law,” Collins theorizes. “It could go to raids and shutdowns, civil asset forfeiture, or stuff that’s like paperwork-oriented. There’s a wide variety of options for them.”

Civil asset forfeiture is a particularly egregious law enforcement tool used as a drug war tactic, and it’s said Sessions is a fan. Former politician and presidential candidate Ron Paul recently wrote for the conservative Newsmax media site, “Civil asset forfeiture, which should be called civil asset theft, is the practice of seizing property believed to be involved in a crime. The government keeps the property even if it never convicts, or even charges, the owner of the property.” This includes, cash, cars, jewelry, homes, and anything else even remotely associated with what law enforcement may deem a crime.

President Obama curtailed the use of civil asset forfeiture in 2015, but Sessions, in defense of his recent attempts at resurrecting it, has cited the practice as a “key tool that helps law enforcement defund organized crime, take back ill-gotten gains, and prevent new crimes from being committed.” Todd points out that it’s unclear what “organized crime” means. “Does he mean licensed businesses in Colorado?” she wonders. “I think if the government is going to take someone’s stuff there should be due process! Who decides that the actions are criminal?”

Sessions could also direct the remaining US attorneys to do his bidding by enforcing mandatory minimums, or, as Vicente suggests, change the terms of plea bargains, which in his criminal case experience occurs 90 percent of the time. “We know that Sessions is, you know, a drug war dinosaur in many ways and an absolute prohibitionist. He talks tough on firing up the War on Drugs,” he says. “The Attorney General has a fair amount of discretion. He could delete the Cole Memo and issue a new memo, and say, ‘Now it’s a priority to enforce federal law.’ I think it would be wildly unpopular.”

St. Pierre has some predictions of his own. “The federal attorneys in those states, the first arrests they are going to make will be absolutely the least compliant, like illegal immigrants running illegal operations, that’s low hanging fruit,” he says. “When they get a compliant company, that state attorney will get such a load of shit. If they start trying to knock down these marijuana businesses in the Colorado’s and Oregon’s of the world, if they go after some of those, those constituents will pick up the phones.”

Todd is a bit more circumspect, considering the sheer size of the current legal industry. “Even if you remove the whole [Cole] memo, and before that the medical marijuana industry existed. For them to come in and say we’re going to prosecute anyone violating federal law, it would be a huge investment of federal resources.”

Currently, the Cole Memo stands unchanged and the majority of new US attorneys remain un-appointed. The Trump administration has enacted a hiring freeze and budgets have been slashed. Theoretically, Sessions could go after recreational markets, but, Vicente reminds us, Sessions doesn’t have absolute control over Congress and has limited power to go after medical marijuana. “They would have to literally stop looking at guns or child pornography or whatever the priority is and focus on marijuana,” he says. “They could sort of peel back the Cole Memo and say, ‘all recreational is bad and stop focusing on gun cases and start focusing on marijuana.’ I don’t think even Sessions would want to pull people off kiddie porn.” ♦


Throwing Gas on the Fire: Dealing with the Opioid Crisis Like a Dumbass

By DJ Reetz


A year after slightly less than half of the electorate made Donald Trump president I think I’m finally starting to get it. After having this time of somber reflection and panicked assessment, I finally feel that I’m beginning to understand why millions of Americans felt that electing the most ostentatiously rich asshole ever to seek the office would somehow benefit anyone other than said ostentatious asshole.

I don’t subscribe to the idea that 62,984,825 racists came together to elect this man — though I do subscribe to the idea that every racist to cast a ballot was among that number. No, Trump’s ascension to the executive office was the result of many different groups. I’d imagine there were quite a few who cast in favor of Trump simply because he wasn’t Hillary. Certainly there were the lock-step Republicans, who despite Trump’s anti-establishment veneer decided to suck it up and vote along partisan lines. There must have been plenty of misguided evangelicals who had to do a good bit of mental maneuvering to convince themselves to vote for a man who in the past favored allowing women to control their own healthcare, possesses a clear contempt for the sanctity of marriage, possibly never stepped foot in a church prior to his run in politics and is the living antithesis of the Christian notion of piety. And no doubt, there were people who voted for him because of his expressed desire to be shitty to Muslims and immigrants — and very fine people among that number.

But the group that I most empathize with is the group that just wanted to fuck shit up. When faced with the option of electing a flawed caricature of a career politician or an avowed political outsider, they chose the option more likely to shake things up. For this group, it wasn’t about policy, public service or even basic decency; it was just about razing institutions that were failing them. Trump wasn’t a candidate — he was stick of dynamite.

Now nearly a year into his presidency and it’s fairly plain to see that Trump is not this fabled omega, sent to bring an end to politics as usual. Rather, he’s just a Republican, and a pretty incompetent one at that. Sure, he still wants to fuck shit up, but most Republicans seem to want that to some degree. It’s a party whose mantra should be, “Government doesn’t work; elect us and we’ll prove it to you,” and Trump is right at home there. He’s got the ethically questionable business ties and anti-consumer outlook requisite for a Grand Old Partier. The only thing he seems to lack is the tact to just shut the fuck up and enact racist policies rather than broadcasting those underpinnings during awkward press conferences. All this is to say, Trump and his comfortably Republican agenda are really more about fucking shit up than bettering the country.

And now that the country’s attention has turned to the opioid crisis that has been quietly taking root for decades, he can turn his savant like eye for terrible policy toward making that worse as well. Now, I know Trump isn’t the kind of person who likes taking advice — or reading, for that matter — but I have some insight into how his toddler-like fumbling at the reins of power can steer this new national obsession even further into the mire.


Appoint drug warriors to assess it

Crafting effective policy is going to require a clinical eye. It will require people who can make decisions based around scientific assessment of the situation, rather than bias or prejudice.

Naturally, the best way to avoid this is to appoint people with a well-documented history of opposition to drug policy reform to assess the problem and make recommendations. Appointing Chris Christie to head the opioid task force was a damn fine start.

Christie, a man whose FUPA gives away his lack of impulse control, has been a reliable opponent to cannabis reform, and has been vocal in his support of the proven fallacy that cannabis is a “gateway drug.” Here is a man who will measure the situation and ignore the obvious solutions, all the while bemoaning the inescapable tragedy that has sprung from the confluence of poor policy and corporate greed.

What’s that? Christie was only given that token position because he was among the first of the Republicans to lick at the big boy boots of candidate Trump, you say. Could have fooled me. I guess this is another one of those times when the president’s poor decision making ability is indistinguishable from a willful desire to make things worse.


TV ads to discourage use

There’s a good chance that anybody reading this remembers the anti-drug ads from the ‘80s and ‘90s, which means there’s a good chance that you are aware of how blitheringly ineffectual those ads were. Fast forward to the modern era and the best strategy that these titans of intellect can put forward to combat the opioid epidemic is to do the exact same thing.

“This was an idea that I had,” said Trump of this notion, simultaneously driving home his self-deluded narcissism and ignorance of even recent history. In fact, this wasn’t even close to his idea but is a strategy proven to be a failure by decades of terrible commercials aimed at curbing drug use. While Trump might not remember the days when the Patrick Batemans of the world still thought he was a really cool dude, the rest of us should.  

One can only imagine how effective television ads featuring Scott Baio urging kids not to pop those percs will be when measured against their favorite Muppet-looking SoundCloud rapper’s discography. Unless we can get a recurring Snapchat story of Future lecturing on the pitfalls of opioid dependency, this ad campaign will probably be about as successful as previous efforts, and will likely serve as more of an empty gesture than a worthwhile use of public funds.

Way to go, Donnie. Truly an exemplary terrible idea.


Cut mental health and addiction services

Part of the Trump administration’s stated plan to deal with this crisis is to suspend a rule that bars Medicaid paying for drug rehab. While this would seem to be a break from the long-standing policy in this country of pushing poor people toward drug abuse then disproportionately punishing them for it, Trump and his political allies have figured out how to make this meaningless as well.

Trump, being the Machiavelli of simpletons that he is, can get around this one potentially good idea by simply following any of the Republican-led “solutions” to healthcare that have so far been proposed. Since all of these proposals would cut Medicaid, proposing that the program be allowed to fund drug rehab while simultaneously removing access for millions of Americans would be as devilishly backhanded as Trump donating his salary to the Department of Education while simultaneously cutting millions from its budget.


Expand drug courts

On a surface level, expanding drug courts seems like a compassionate and, dare I say, good idea. Drug courts function as a means of diverting addicts from the regular penal system, funneling them into drug treatment programs rather than penitentiaries. For those caught with illicit substances, this seems like the proper course of action.

The problem with this is scenario is that this is still rolling substance abuse into the criminal justice system. The issue manifests when an addict in one of these programs relapses, as addicts tend to do, and is typically ejected back into the regular court system and then jail or prison. Couple that with some of the rather suspect treatment courses that the judges — not addiction specialists — typically assign to those who appear in these courts and you’ve got yet another hollow gesture that stops short of actually treating addiction as the public health issue that it is.

Continuing to treat substance abuse as a criminal issue is a great way to compound the problems of addicts. Condemning substance users for some perceived moral failing rather than helping them to improve their situation definitely helps to fuck things up, and enacting policy that will help hide the lack of real solutions behind a veneer of false compassion helps to further preserve that status quo.


Crack down on cannabis

The number one thing that the Trump administration can do to really pour gas on the opioid crisis seems to have been a goal of the attorney general since day one: disrupting state medical and adult-use cannabis programs. Sessions seems to be chomping at his mouse-sized bit to launch a campaign of destruction against the cannabis progress that has taken root in more than half of the country. He’s been contemptuous of the notion that cannabis can be a replacement for conventional pain medications, something that has been echoed by the head of Trump’s task force on the issue, Chris Christie.

With a mountain of anecdotal evidence supporting the notion that medical cannabis is an effective replacement for opioids and data showing a decline in hospitalizations for pain killer addiction and overdoses in states that have legalized medical marijuana, it seems foolish to dismiss the plant’s potential given the stated goal of Trump’s commission to find non-addictive alternatives to opioids. Further, a study published recently in the American Journal of Public Health showing a six percent drop in opioid deaths in Colorado since adult-use sales began in 2014 seems to bolster the idea that increasing access to cannabis decreases opioid use.  

But fixing things isn’t the modus operandi of the Trump administration, so embracing the objective truth that cannabis can be a solution by supporting federal reforms seems like it’s out of the question. Rather, Trump embracing the Republican inclination to direct policy based on counter-factual ignorance seems more likely.


Trump has several options available to him to really fuck this thing up. If you’re one of those diligent Trumpets still clinging to support for the administration, your well developed powers of cognitive dissonance will no doubt be enough to convince you that he’s doing a great job. If you’re one of the people who voted for him hoping he’d fuck up the political establishment and not decimate the country itself, that’s what you get for electing a human shitpost.  ♦


The Battle Between Pharma and Cannabis

by Dr. Nicola Davies

Despite sweeping legal victories, cannabis remains stigmatized as an illegal drug, listed by the Drug Enforcement Administration as a Schedule 1 drug, along with heroin and lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD). For the battle between pharma and cannabis to be resolved, a separation must be made between the scientific use of cannabis in easing the plight of patients with various conditions and its recreational use. Attitudes in the U.S. have been entrenched since the flower child generation of the 1960s, which saw cannabis as a symbol of rebellion against societal values.

Israel, meanwhile, has established itself as a leader in medical cannabis technology. With the medical cannabis market set to explode, Israel is attracting international investors keen to take advantage of the government’s enlightened approach to these products, cutting edge researchers in the field of medical cannabis, as well as the agricultural expertise of local growers. In turn, international pharma companies are taking advantage of opportunities to conduct research in Israel.

Israel is no pushover, however, in allowing the use of medical cannabis. The supply chain is carefully monitored, from grower to pharmacy, to ensure protocol is followed correctly in order to give patients access to quality products. Indeed, the Israeli Ministry of Health’s Medical Cannabis Unit (IMCA) is authorized to issue permits to those who could benefit from medical cannabis.1

“Israel’s federally legal clinical research ability has allowed them to forge ahead of many other countries who have not allowed the research to be conducted. This gave Israel a 10-year head start,” says Australian expatriate Saul Kaye, founder and CEO of Israel Cannabis (iCAN), a leading developer of cannabis-based formulations and pharmaceuticals. Kaye serves as an advisor to the Knesset, Israel’s unicameral parliament, on medical cannabis reform and is a sought-after international speaker on the Israeli regulatory environment, the international cannabis market and cannabis science.


Can pharma afford to ignore medical cannabis?

With estimates that the global medical cannabis market could reach $50 billion by 2025, pharma cannot afford to miss out. According to Kaye, Big Pharma does see a chance to cash in on medical cannabis. “GW Pharma and Zynerba are already in cannabis research, with multibillion dollar collective market caps,” he says. “Teva signed a distribution agreement with the Syqe device [selective-dose cannabis inhaler]. They are still on the sidelines but they are actively making acquisitions.”

To explain, Teva Pharmaceuticals, a multinational Israeli company, is working with a government-backed start-up called Syqe, which has developed an inhaler that delivers precise doses of vaporized cannabis via a disposable cartridge.2 After initially being used in a Haifa hospital, the inhaler accurately delivered metered doses for pain relief in hospital patients.

There is also the Israeli medical company, Breath of Life Pharma (BOL), that has developed a range of inhalers and tablets that dissolve under the tongue as a method of administering cannabis medication. The company has more than 12 phase-two clinical trials being conducted or in the planning stages. These trials use cannabis to treat conditions ranging from Parkinson’s disease and Tourette’s syndrome to autism and chronic liver disease. In addition, BOL is building a factory in Jerusalem to purify and separate cannabinoids, with plans to open this facility to European and other companies that need to conduct clinical trials.


Patients prefer non-pharma products

Kaye believes that the US is falling behind on cannabis research, “given that it’s a federally illegal substance and that pharma companies are more conservative than their younger entrepreneurial upstarts.” He also believes that the opioid crisis may have made pharma companies a bit wary. In the US, some pharma companies are still supporting anti-legalization campaigns for purported safety concerns.

When asked how artificial cannabis medications developed by pharma companies   compare in quality to products derived from the cannabis plant, Kaye says they can rival quality and safety, but that he believes in the power of the combination of molecules in the plant, or the entourage effect.

The entourage effect is how the various cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids found in the plant work to enhance its medicinal properties. Pharma’s synthetic renderings extract only one ingredient, like THC or CBD, to use in medications. Cesamet (nabilone) and Marinol (dronabinol) are medicines usually prescribed for nausea in patients undergoing cancer treatment. However, in a study involving 953 participants from 31 countries, patients generally preferred natural cannabis-based medicines rather than the pharmaceutical products.3 Patients claimed the natural products worked faster and were more effective.


Can pharma afford to ignore the signs?

A father and daughter team at the University of Georgia, David and Ashley Bradford, analyzed prescriptions filled by enrollees on Medicare Part D between 2010 and 2013. They found that once a state had a medical cannabis law in place, the use of prescription drugs fell significantly if it was possible for patients to use cannabis for the condition.4 The nine categories they chose to investigate were nausea, anxiety, pain, depression, glaucoma, seizures, psychosis, spasticity and sleep disorders. All prescription medication in the categories went down, except for glaucoma. In the case of glaucoma, the use of cannabis only provides relief for around an hour, so patients stayed with the prescription medication. Overall, the researchers found that using medical cannabis reduced the amount spent on prescription drugs significantly.

So, what if pharma could provide approved cannabis medication for the hundreds of conditions that respond well to medicinal cannabis?

Although legal in several states, cannabis is still subject to various restrictions — patients can’t get a cannabis prescription filled at a pharmacy. In this type of situation, it is no wonder that pharma companies are concerned — each drug needs a known pharmacological action to be considered safe. It has to have undergone rigorous clinical trials and only then can it be brought to market. Buying packets of cannabis goes against all medical safety procedures.

Perhaps once the US catches up with Israel and reaches a compromise where everyone wins – the government, patients, and pharma companies – then medical cannabis may be able to reach its true potential through rigorous research in state-approved research facilities. “In my opinion, big pharma will remain on the sidelines, but I predict that within 24 months, they will start to make some acquisitions into this space,” concludes Kaye. ♦


1. State of Israel Ministry of Health (2017). Medical cannabis unit. [Online].

Available at:


2. Syqe Medical (2017) The World’s First Selective-Dose Pharmaceutical Grade Medicinal Plants Inhaler [Online].

Available at:


3,Hazekamp, A., Ware, M.A., Muller-Vahl, K.R., Abrams, D. and Grotenhermen, F. (2013). The medicinal use of cannabis and cannabinoids – an international cross-sectional survey on administration forms. J Psychoactive Drugs, Jul- Aug 45(3) pp.199-210.


4. Bradford, A. and Bradford, W.D. (July, 2016). Medical Marijuana Laws Reduce Prescription Medication Use in Medicare Part D Health Affairs, Vol. 35 (7), pp. 1230-1236.






Can Cannabis Treat Addiction?

by Dr Nicola Davies

Drug addiction involves the physical and/or psychological dependence on a habit-forming substance, usually with negative health effects. Overcoming addiction is a huge challenge, but several behavioral and pharmaceutical therapies have been developed to ease the battle. In recent years, there has been an increased interest in the potential for cannabis to treat addiction.1 Both tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) have shown potential to reduce addictive behaviors even when administered in small doses. However, cannabis itself is considered a substance of addiction and, therefore, its efficacy as a treatment for addiction is still under great scrutiny.


Cannabis as a substitute for addictive substances

The use of cannabis in exchange for more addictive substances such as opioids and heroin is based on the framework of harm reduction.1 Cannabis has a better safety profile than narcotic drugs, alcohol, and tobacco. It is also less addictive and has not been associated with any reported deaths from overdose.2 Indeed, Dr. Amanda Reiman of the University of California, Berkley, recommends the use of cannabis as a substitute for alcohol and other addictive drugs due to its safety profile, low addiction potential, and level of acceptance.2 CBD, in particular, is emerging as an effective treatment for addictive behaviors, including addiction to tobacco, cocaine and opioids.3

In one study on the effects of CBD and THC as potential treatments for cocaine and amphetamine addiction, low doses of CBD and THC were effective in reducing learned behavior associated with amphetamine and cocaine exposure in rodents.4 The rodents had earlier been conditioned to respond by seeking amphetamine and cocaine as rewards, but after a low dose treatment with THC and CBD, they showed less inclination for their learned behavior.

In another study on the use of cannabis as a substitute for alcohol and other drugs, it was found that cannabis is increasingly being used as a substitute for substances that are known to cause addiction, such as prescription drugs, opioids, alcohol, benzodiazepines, antidepressants, tobacco and illicit drugs.5

A similar study by researchers from the University of Michigan highlighted the effectiveness of cannabis in conjunction with, or as a substitute for, opioid analgesics treatment for chronic pain.6 A combination of cannabinoids and opiates produced greater pain relief, enabling patients to reduce their usage of opiates while at the same time reducing their risk of addiction. Cannabinoids can also prevent opiate withdrawal and the development of tolerance for opiates. Indeed, Dr. Esther Choo and her colleagues from the University of Michigan have reported that the legalization of cannabis in some American states has contributed to a decrease in opioid addiction and deaths from opioid overdose.6 The country has been suffering a nationwide epidemic of opioid abuse, dependence and related deaths, and so Dr. Choo recommends further investigation into the possibility of cannabis treatment for this addiction.


Cannabis to facilitate withdrawal from heroin or meth

Cannabis has even been found to help treat addiction to the so-called ‘harder’ drugs, such as heroin and crystal meth. For example, in a study on the interaction between THC and heroin, the administration of a THC-heroin combination to monkeys reduced the addictive potential of either drug.7 In the experiment, monkeys self-administered less heroin following the combination treatment.

Cannabis has also been proposed for the treatment of crystal meth withdrawal symptoms for people undergoing detoxification. These symptoms include irritability, sleeping problems, elevated body temperature, fatigue, anxiety and depression, sweating and a strong craving for the drug. The unpleasant feelings during withdrawal are responsible for some people going back to the drug despite their strong intentions to quit. Medical cannabis can be used to alleviate some of these symptoms.8

Cannabis treatment can facilitate the treatment of crystal meth withdrawal in several ways. For example, it can help relieve anxiety and depression by producing a calming effect for many users. It can also help aid relaxation and better sleep. Furthermore, cannabis improves the user’s mood and creates a pleasurable feeling. All of these effects can make a huge difference in the recovery process of someone who is addicted to meth, especially those experiencing feelings of deep depression. Feelings of irritability and cravings for crystal meth are also reduced when addicts take cannabis.8


A holistic approach to addiction treatment

The above studies are an indication that cannabinoid treatment may be helpful for certain types of addiction. However, successful application of cannabinoids in addiction treatment requires consideration of relevant physical, psychological and sociocultural factors. If the factors that fuel the addiction are not addressed, cannabis treatment may only be effective in the short-term.1

Treatment of addiction requires all aspects of health and wellness to be addressed in order to be successful. Often, traumatic experiences and life stressors have contributed to the addiction, and when this is the case, cannabis treatment may be more effective in combination with counseling and behavioral therapy. Indeed, CBD has been shown to have anti-anxiety properties, which could help facilitate therapy sessions.


Criticism of cannabis treatment for addiction

The harm-reduction approach used to promote cannabis treatment for addiction has received considerable criticism, as it is seen as simply replacing one habit-forming substance with another.1 The argument is that cannabis is a mind-altering substance that can simply create another dependence.9 Questions have also been raised about the effectiveness of going through addiction treatment while in a different state of mind. Since treatment for addiction often includes counseling, there is doubt whether an individual on cannabis will get the most out of the counseling program.2

Critics also hold the idea that cannabis is a gateway drug, with many believing that marijuana use may lead to the use of other illegal substances. People who have developed a tolerance for marijuana may look for more-powerful illegal substances, such as cocaine and heroin, to get the “high” that they are seeking. Furthermore, a person could be introduced to other drugs by fellow cannabis users who take other illegal substances.

It is also feared that marijuana use as addiction treatment may make some symptoms of addiction worse. For example, crystal meth addicts experience significant paranoia, and the use of medical cannabis may worsen their paranoia, leading to more erratic and even harmful behavior.9


A potential preventative and treatment aid to addiction

Despite considerable doubts, the use of cannabis as a replacement for more dangerous addictive substances is gaining increasing acceptance. This is reinforced by emerging evidence supporting the perceived health and medical benefits of cannabis, including pain relief, anti-nausea, and anti-anxiety properties. Currently, the best potential for cannabis use in treating addictive behavior lies in pain management, with the substance already being used in conjunction or as a replacement for opioid painkillers. In this instance, cannabis could even act as a preventative for addiction.

Overall, the role of cannabis in the treatment and prevention of addiction is looking promising. The challenge remains in tackling the myths and fears surrounding substance. ♦


  1. Butterfield, D. (2017). ‘The Complete Guide to Using Cannabis for Addiction Treatment’, HERB [Online]. Available at:
  2. Van Wormer, K. and Davis, D. R. (2016). Addiction Treatment. Cengage Learning.
  3. Prud’homme, M., Cata, R. and Jutras-Aswad, D. (2015). ‘Cannabidiol as an Intervention for Addictive Behaviors: A Systematic Review of the Evidence’, Substance Abuse: Research and Treatment, 9, pp. 33–38.
  4. Parker, L. et al (2004). ‘Effect of low doses of D9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol on the extinction of cocaine-induced and amphetamine-induced conditioned place preference learning in rats’, Psychopharmacology, 175, pp. 360–366.
  5. Lucas, P., Reiman, A., Earleywine, M., McGowan, S. K., Oleson, M., Coward, M. P. and Thomas, B. (2014). ‘Cannabis as a substitute for alcohol and other drugs: A dispensary-based survey of substitution effect in Canadian medical cannabis patients’, Addiction Research & Theory, 21 (5), pp. 435-442.
  6. Choo, E. K., Feldstein Ewing, S. W. and Lovejoy, T. I. (2016). ‘Opioids Out, Cannabis In: Negotiating the Unknowns in Patient Care for Chronic Pain’, Journal for the American Medical Association, 316 (17), pp. 1763-1764.
  7. Li, J., Koek, W. and France, C. P. (2012). ‘Interactions between delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol and heroin: self-administration in rhesus monkeys’, Behavioral Pharmacology, 23 (8), pp. 754–761
  8. Dru, D. (2017). ‘Medical Marijuana: A Treatment for Meth Addiction?’, Medical Marijuana [Online]. Available at:
  9. Herman, M. A. and Roberto, M. (2015). ‘The addicted brain: understanding the neurophysiological mechanisms of addictive disorders’, Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience, 9, p. 18



A Woeful Bowlful

by DJ Reetz

The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs estimates there are around 7.5 billion human beings on Earth at this moment. We can estimate from this that, genetically speaking, males make up roughly half of that number. This would allow us to guess that, allowing for some mitigating circumstances, there are likely around 3.75 billion dicks swinging through this world, all of which I would direct toward the Wyoming Association of Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police for prompt consumption.

WASCOP, an acronym that seems to imply these people were at one point actual cops, released a statement last August warning against bringing legally purchased cannabis into the state for the 2017 eclipse, lest you face the brunt of a law enforcement apparatus with nothing better to do. Since the total eclipse, described by many as a “once in a lifetime event,” was not visible in Colorado, law-abiding cannabis consumers in the Centennial State were left with several undesirable options. The first option, simply avoid the barren expanse of dry prairie grass and sagebrush that is Wyoming and enjoy only a partial eclipse from the comfort of Colorado. The second option, toe the line, leave the cannabis at home and experience the eclipse with only the prospect of being under the influence of alcohol — the substance WASCOP describes as “the contributing factor most often present in situations that result in someone going to jail” in the state. The last option, step back into the dark ages of policy guided by ignorance and racism, and violate the law by bringing cannabis with them.

My inclination when faced with these options: game on. If police in Wyoming feel they can prevent me from enjoying this monumental alignment of celestial bodies in whatever manner I see fit, I’m eager to see if their outdated law enforcement ideals are a match for the skills I’ve honed over years of (mostly successful) avoidance of prosecution for illegal cannabis use.

To do this, one must stick with the golden rule of casual criminality by breaking only one law at a time. This means making sure that all the light bulbs are functioning on the car, all tags are up to date and properly displayed, and, above all else, not consuming while driving. This carefully orchestrated dance has evolved slightly over the years with the legal industry’s technological advances providing ever more discreet options like vape pens. While these devices will never fully replace flower in my mind, I reasoned that the tradeoff was worth the added discretion. Unbeknownst to me, my camping supplies included a joint and a container of flower, which I discovered only after making camp.

But WASCOP doesn’t limit their disdain for cannabis to futile finger wagging. The organization operates the ironically named, dedicated to presenting highly debatable, if not out-rightly spurious, “facts” about cannabis.

The website is a wealth of nonsense meant to inflame the ignorant and soothe the prejudices of prohibitionists; one could almost admire this steadfast dedication to providing informed cannabis consumers with lolz.

Clicking on the website’s “products” tab leads to page stocked with information on the dangers presented by legal cannabis products, which one must assume is intended for a demographic that has never set foot in a legal dispensary. “Did you know?” asks the page, “Young children typically explore their surrounding environment by touching, tasting and in some cases, fulling [sic] ingesting items they find around them.”

WASCOP explains that shady, legal cannabis merchants are making infused candies that are indistinguishable from the commercially sold, non-dosed varieties. Of course, this is patently false for products manufactured in the legal market of the one adult-use state that borders Wyoming, where all edibles must be identifiable as containing THC and are legally barred from mimicking popular candy brands.

But asking that the operators of this website base their presentations in fact is clearly too much. The section further asserts that children under the age of 12 will “require hospital care to address the severe symptoms (emphasis theirs) that accompany ingestion” should they accidentally consume one of these products recklessly marketed to children. This seems to be drawn from advice given by the Colorado Children’s Hospital, advice that also seems to neglect the fact that not a single death has ever resulted from a cannabis overdose.

The better advice might be that children under the age of 12 who accidentally consume edibles left out by negligent parents require a nap to address the slight discomfort that accompanies being too stoned (emphasis mine).

This restrained course of action might veer too much toward rationality though, and accurately representing the dangers of cannabis sure makes you look like a dick for fucking up people’s lives over it.

Perhaps the most infuriating section of the “we can’t debate this” website is dedicated to debunking the notion that cannabis is in fact medicine. The page insists that medicine is a highly regimented affair, requiring tightly controlled dosage prescribed by a medical professional that has spent at least an hour examining a patient’s medical record. You don’t smoke medicine, insists the page. Certainly, these people must have entered law enforcement to further their knowledge of how people intake medicine.

The page further claims that cannabis medicine doesn’t qualify as “natural” since commercial varieties have been bred to have 10 times the potency of “natural” cannabis plants. This claim, while entirely missing the point of why cannabis patients view their medicine as natural, also neglects to check its claims against the website’s “Potency” section, which centers on the tired prohibitionist trope that modern cannabis is 28 times stronger than varieties sold in the ‘70s. So either cannabis growers were intentionally growing less potent pot in the good ol’ days — when the people the website is targeted toward were apparently dulling their intellects smoking dope — or the authors couldn’t even bother to check their assertions against their other assertions.

What is clear from this website, and from the WASCOP statement, is that those who depend on cannabis for an improved quality of life aren’t welcome in Wyoming and should wait until 2045, when the total eclipse will pass across Colorado.

Which brings back to my original point about the astounding number of dicks that WASCOP can suck if they wish to deny the rights of a cannabis patient to consume their medicine, or just be shitty to those of us that want to use cannabis legally for any reason. Sucking literally all of the dicks may seem like enough — and I’m counting dusty, flaccid old guy dicks in that number — but 3.75 billion still seems lacking to me. Perhaps they could also suck baboon dicks, or, exhausting the supply of terrestrial dicks, search the galaxy for other sentient beings to blow. My point is, anyone that has a problem with legally grown and acquired cannabis ending up anywhere needs to occupy themselves with something more productive than espousing self-righteous, short sighted horse shit.  

As for my own experience, my endeavor to once again smuggle cannabis across state lines for personal consumption met the expected end without incident; though my commitment to breaking only one law at a time was tested during the 12-hour jam of return traffic. For those that feel it an unnecessary risk to bring cannabis into a state that outlaws the plant when the partial eclipse was visible right here, you should know it’s not the same. I won’t be beholden to the laws of man when the cosmos beckon, and the total eclipse is something special, capable of being viewed by the naked eye without damaging your eyes like some kind of dipshit that was elected president.

And for those that think taking legal cannabis across an invisible line that makes it illegal somehow sets a bad example or threatens a federal crackdown on the legal progress made here in Colorado, you’re wrong. And you can share in that bounty of dicks. ♦











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