Saturday, December 28, 2013

More Washington Drivers Testing Positive for Marijuana

During the first six months of 2013, Washington State patrol’s crime lab said 745 people tested positive for marijuana when, typically, it takes a full year for 1,000 drivers to test positive. A patrol spokesman said that this doesn’t mean there has been a rash of people driving high, just that troopers are looking harder for drivers operating under the influence of pot, and consequently ordering more marijuana blood tests.

In August, the Justice Department announced that it would not sue to block recreational marijuana sales in Washington and Colorado as long as those states satisfy eight federal law enforcement criteria, including keeping pot away from children and off the black market, and work to combat drugged driving.

When Washington and Colorado voters legalized recreational marijuana for 21 and older adults last year, they also set a legal limit of 5 nanograms of active THC per milliliter of blood for drivers. Anything higher is a per-se violation of impaired driving laws. Of the 745 people who tested positive during the first half of this year, 420 tested above the legal limit. 609 drivers tested positive in 2012, up from 506 in 2011. The positive pot-test numbers represent cases handled by the patrol as well as local police agencies. 

What the numbers don't reveal is whether more drivers are driving under the influence of marijuana or if police officers are simply testing for marijuana use now that it is legal. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

AHP Releases Cannabis Monograph

The American Herbal Pharmacopoeia (AHP) has released the first installment of a two-part Cannabis monograph, in a historic move that classifies cannabis as a botanical medicine, alongside many other widely accepted alternative medicines.

The cannabis monograph details long-awaited standards about the plant’s botanical properties, including other scientific data, and provides a foundation for healthcare professionals to incorporate marijuana therapy into their practices.

The Executive Director for Americans for Safe Access (ASA), an organization, which supported the development of the monograph, applauds the AHP’s monograph, which is the first of its kind in over seventy years.

Partly because of a need for validated standards to guide laboratory analysis, the AHP began development of the cannabis monograph in 2011. The monograph was reviewed by the world’s leading researchers and represents one of the most comprehensive documents on cannabis in a long time.

The second installation of the monograph, the Therapeutic Compendium, is due out in the spring. Among other topics, it will encompass historical data, pre-clinical and clinical pharmacology and interactions with conventional medicines.

AHP is a worldwide network of experts in medicinal plants formed in 1995 to promote the responsible use of herbal products and medicines. The group expects to eventually publish over 300 monographs covering the most widely used Western, Ayurvedic and Chinese botanicals.

Later this week, ASA will launch a third-party certification program for the medical cannabis industry called Patient Focused Certification (PFC), based on the AHP monograph. PFC and professional training will be available in all twenty medical marijuana states and the District of Columbia.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Millions of Dollars Saved Since Colorado Legalized Marijuana Last Year

A year ago, Colorado voted to end marijuana prohibition and legalize recreational marijuana use. During the last year, it became legal for adults over the age of 21 to personally use, possess, and even cultivate small amounts of pot for recreational use.

Over the last year, state lawmakers have worked tirelessly to regulate and tax the sales of marijuana and establish the framework of the new recreational marijuana market. Since no other state has ever legalized marijuana before, Colorado and Washington have been charged with the enormous task of regulating this new emerging market and ensuring that it complies with federal guidelines.

Since the legalization of marijuana last year, the Colorado Center on Law and Policy estimates that the state has saved between $12 million and $40 million simply by removing the criminal penalties associated with marijuana use. In the ten years prior to legalization, Colorado had averaged over 10,000 arrests and citations per year for marijuana use.

This means that 10,000 young adults have avoided costly and damaging drug charges. They have avoided jail time and the collateral consequences that come with having a criminal record. If marijuana use is ever decriminalized across the country, this would translate to 750,000 fewer arrests each year.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Recreational Marijuana Timeline

When licenses are issued in February, there will be a 15-day “don’t ask, don’t tell” period where cannabis producers may obtain seeds, starts and non-flowering marijuana plants from anywhere, without question. So, many of the first pot plants that people will be smoking recreationally, and legally, next year have already been planted.

As of November 18, cannabis entrepreneurs have 30 days to submit business license applications. The Washington State Liquor Control Board will review and process applications as they are received, however, retail applications will be held until the application deadline to determine whether or not the number of applications exceed the number of licenses allotted. In which case it will be necessary to conduct a lottery to decide who gets a license.

The State legislature will convene on January 13, 2014. The liquor board is planning to lobby for three pot-related bills at that time. The first one would allow selling pot among producers, and limit hash transactions to seven grams. The second bill would allow the liquor board to employ minors to conduct stings on pot businesses, and the third bill would make a state police force out of liquor board enforcement employees.

Once the agency has approved pot-growing licenses, in February or March, the first batch of plants will reach their final destinations. The state plans to license two million square feet of recreational cannabis production-enough for 200,000 full-grown plants.

Approved pot businesses have up to a year to activate their license, but it is expected that some of the 334 shops will try to open as quickly as the first crop can be harvested and processed, in May or June.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Election 2013: Landslide Victory for Legal Marijuana

Voters overwhelmingly approved legalizing possession of marijuana in the 2013 elections in Portland, Maine and three Michigan cities, proving the accuracy of recent polls that indicated a clear majority of Americans supported marijuana legalization.

The Portland initiative legalized recreational use of marijuana by adults age 21 and older, and allows them to legally possess 2.5 ounces of marijuana and paraphernalia. And while it legalized activities for the purpose of acquiring the possession of marijuana and paraphernalia, it prohibits recreational use in public places including school grounds.

The Portland Press Herald reports that 70 percent of voters approved the measure. While the votes attest to public willingness to make these changes, the real tests will come in 2014 for Alaska and Oregon, and many other states in 2016, when legalized and taxed recreational markets come up for votes.

Voters in Lansing, Jackson and Ferndale, Michigan approved the legalization of the use or possession of up to an ounce of marijuana on private property by anyone age 21 years or older. Lansing residents voted to amend the city’s charter to legalize the possession, use and transfer of an ounce of marijuana by a 63 percent majority. Jackson passed a similar measure by 60 percent and Ferndale voters approved one as well by a 69 percent majority.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Rising Concerns over Legalized Marijuana Use and Driving

Legalization of marijuana in states like Washington and Colorado has sparked the debate over marijuana use and highway safety as more states consider legalizing marijuana use. While drug experts and marijuana advocates agree that cannabis use can adversely affect your ability to operate a motor vehicle, the two groups disagree on just how much.

According to the International Chiefs of Police, tests confirming the presence of THC at the state’s toxicology lab, increased from 26 percent to 42 percent of the caseload since last year. Law enforcement officials in Colorado report that while fatalities in that state decreased 16 percent between 2006 and 2011, deaths involving drivers testing positive for marijuana increased 114 percent.

Still, those who favor any type of marijuana legalization say that one-size-fit-all state laws governing THC in the bloodstream will unfairly target marijuana users, especially medical users.

When they approved marijuana for personal use last year, Washington voters also passed a “per se” standard of 5ng/ml, subjecting anyone to arrest with THC blood levels greater than that. Most states, including California, follow the “effect-based” legal standard, meaning police and prosecutors must prove that an impaired driver had ingested marijuana by causal relationship.

A 2011 study by two American researchers showed a drop in traffic fatalities in states with medical marijuana laws. The study concluded that because marijuana is often a substitute for alcohol, users tend to consume it at home rather than traveling to commercial establishments.

While all groups involved agree that impaired driving is a valid issue, marijuana advocates point out that marijuana has been in use for decades without significant risk on the roads.