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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

National News for February 2016 - by Rachel Bunting

Chandler Jones May Face Suspension for Synthetic Pot Use
Massachusetts: The NFL will be looking into a recent hospital visit by New England Patriots defensive end, Chandler Jones. Jones was admitted to the hospital after showing up at a police station “acting confused” according to MassLive. EMS checked him out at the department and transported to a local hospital, where it was revealed that he had suffered from a bad reaction to synthetic marijuana. While synthetic marijuana is illegal, the companies that produce them are constantly changing their chemical make-up to side-step federal guidelines. So while what Jones used may have been legal, as the chemicals may have not yet been added to the synthetic marijuana chemicals list, they may be banned under NFL policies.

     Jones could be penalized if he is currently in stage one or two of the NFL drug program, if he is not in either of those drug programs then it is possible he could be placed into the program with no other punishments. There have been previous cases where synthetic marijuana was not punished by the league, but the policy was revised in September 2014 and it is unknown if the synthetic drug made the list of banned substances. This could raise the question of whether banning marijuana for athletes is worth the risk of players landing in the hospital for using technically “legal” substances in its place.

Legalization in the Grand Canyon State
Arizona: The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol is nearing its goal of gathering the 150,642 signatures needed to get their legalization proposal on the ballot. While the group is only a few thousand short of the needed signatures, they are aiming to collect 225,000 to ensure they will have enough once invalid signatures are thrown out. The proposed act, called the Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act, would allow adults 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and grow up to six plants in their own home, as long as they are in a secure area.

     The initiative would also mimic Colorado’s distribution system allowing licensed businesses to produce and sell the plant. Finally, it would create a Department of Marijuana Licenses and Control, which would oversee the “cultivation, manufacturing, testing, transportation, and sale of the marijuana” as well as establishing a 15% tax to be used to fund education and public health. Under the proposed change, it would still be illegal to drive while impaired and buy for or give cannabis to anyone under the age of 21. It also forbids the revenue from taxes to flow into the state’s general fund, so it cannot be spent anywhere other than where intended.

“What’s Up, Doc?”
Texas: U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents were less than amused when they stopped a tractor-trailer carrying fresh carrots at the Pharr International Bridge only to discover some non-edible packages mixed in. Efrain Solis Jr., Port Director, told NDCDFW, “Once again, drug smuggling organizations have demonstrated their creativity in attempting to smuggle large quantities of narcotics across the U.S./Mexico border. Our officers are always ready to meet those challenges and remain vigilant towards any type of illicit activities.” After searching the entire trailer, agents found more than 2,800 hidden packages of marijuana worth about $500,000. The marijuana was wrapped in orange tape and shaped to look like a large carrot. Homeland Security agents are investigating the incident.

Founders Fund Invests in Cannabis
Seattle, WA: The marijuana industry has finally gained some support from big venture capitalists. Most large investment firms have kept some space between themselves and the controversial marijuana industry, but Founders Fund crossed that space and has invested millions in Privateer Holdings, a Seattle private equity firm that deals with medical and recreational marijuana. Almost all investments come from individuals, private investors, or friends and family of business owners but with an investment from a reputable company such as Founders Fund that could soon change. Founders Fund has backed big names such as Facebook, Palantir Technologies, and Space X as well as having well-known PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel as an employee. Privateer’s CEO, Brendan Kennedy, believes the Founders Fund investment will open the door for other big name investors to become involved in the industry. 

Marijuana for Migraines
Washington: Researchers from the University of Colorado Anschutz, Medical Campus have been involved in a 4 year study monitoring 121 patients diagnosed with migraines which were being treated with medical marijuana. According to the Deccan Chronicle, results from the study show that the average number of migraines per month dropped from 10.4 to 4.6. The drop is substantial, and is one of the first studies to relate a drop in migraine frequency to medical marijuana use. Of the 121 patients, 103 reported a decrease in the frequency of their migraines, 15 reported having the same number, and only 3 saw an increase in the number of migraines they suffered.

     While this was a controlled study, as none of the participants were taking any other migraine relieving medications, it was not as tightly controlled as some would have liked. The patients were not restricted to the form of cannabis used, so while patients seemed to prefer the instantaneous effect of inhaled marijuana  as opposed to edibles - which can take longer to hit the body, there is no way of knowing which form of cannabis was most effective at helping or preventing migraines. It is a huge step in the direction of treating migraines, but further studies will be needed to verify the results.

Massachusetts Senators Visit Colorado
Colorado: Eight senators from Massachusetts have traveled to Colorado to get a closer look at the legal marijuana industry and prepare themselves for issues that could arise if recreational use is legalized in their state after the November ballots are counted. Jason M. Lewis, the leader of the trip and the chairman of the special Senate Committee on Marijuana, told the Boston Globe that the aim of the visit is to prepare and learn. “What we’ve learned is that while the implementation of legalized marijuana in Colorado has gone reasonably well, there are many, many different issues that come up and need to be addressed — some of which you can anticipate, and some of which you can’t. This trip will certainly help us reduce the number of unknowns.”

     The senators have talked with the top medical official at the health department as well as local police departments and the director of the Liquor and Cannabis Board of Washington state, Rick Garza (via video conference). The health department informed the senators that, aside from sporadic reports of impaired drivers and people getting sick from ingesting too much THC, there have been no alarming health trends since legalization two years ago. Police departments on the other hand, warned the senators to slow down the process. Most of the questions directed at Garza focused on how legalization was effecting children in the state. Garza responded that while Washington has not seen a spike in consumption by minors there is some concern that legalization “normalizes” drug use for kids.

     While in Colorado, the senators are visiting cannabis clubs and extraction, distillation, and purification facilities to learn more about how the process works. Some of the senators are still concerned about the possibility of “corrupting children”, but many feel the trip has been an eye-opener. If the legalization law in Massachusetts is passed it would make a “Cannabis Control Commission” to create and oversee a system of stores, grow sites, and edible manufacturers while also imposing a 3.75% excise tax on top of state sales tax.

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