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  1. #1

    Government approves medical marijuana research

    Government approves medical marijuana research

    A University of Arizona study, which still requires DEA approval, would examine whether pot can help veterans cope with post-traumatic stress. The green light may clear the way for broader studies.

    Mississippi marijuana farm

    Under existing federal rules, studies on the effects of marijuana can use pot only from this government-run farm in Mississippi. Researchers say that the agency that oversees the farm, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, has long been hostile to proposals aimed at examining possible benefits of the drug. (Kevin Bain / University of Mississippi / August 19, 2008)

    By Evan Halper and Cindy Carcamo

    March 14, 2014, 5:00 p.m.

    WASHINGTON The Obama administration handed backers of medical marijuana a significant victory Friday, opening the way for a University of Arizona researcher to examine whether pot can help veterans cope with post-traumatic stress, a move that could lead to broader studies into potential benefits of the drug.

    For years, scientists who have wanted to study how marijuana might be used to treat illness say they have been stymied by resistance from federal drug officials.

    The Arizona study had long ago been sanctioned by the Food and Drug Administration, but under federal rules, such experiments can use marijuana only from a single, government-run farm in Mississippi. Researchers say the agency that oversees the farm, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, has long been hostile to proposals aimed at examining possible benefits of the drug.

    "This is a great day," said the Arizona researcher, Suzanne A. Sisley, clinical assistant professor of psychology at the university's medical school, who has been trying to get the green light for her study for three years. "The merits of a rigorous scientific trial have finally trumped politics.

    "We never relented," Sisley said. "But most other scientists have chosen not to even apply. The process is so onerous. With the implementation of this study and the data generated, this could lead to other crucial research projects."

    Backers of medical marijuana hailed the news as an indication that the government had started coming to terms with one of the more striking paradoxes of federal drug policy: Even as about 1 million Americans are using marijuana legally to treat ailments, scientists have had difficulty getting approval to study how the drug might be employed more effectively.

    "The political dynamics are shifting," said Rick Doblin, executive director of the Multidisciplinary Assn. for Psychedelic Studies, or MAPS, a group based in Santa Cruz that is raising money to help fund studies such as Sisley's. The group counts several prominent philanthropists among its backers, including two Pritzkers and a Rockefeller.

    Government officials said the approval did not represent a change in underlying policy just a recognition that Sisley's proposal meets official standards for research using illegal drugs. The research still requires approval of one more agency, the Drug Enforcement Administration, but Sisley and Doblin expressed confidence that that would prove a lesser hurdle.

    In its letter approving the application, a government review panel noted what it called "significant changes" in the study that justified approving it now. Doblin said the changes did not affect the "core design" of the study.

    Federal restrictions on pot research have been a source of tension for years. Researchers, marijuana advocates and some members of Congress have accused the National Institute on Drug Abuse of hoarding the nation's only sanctioned research pot for studies aimed at highlighting the drug's ill effects. They had pointed to Sisley's experience as a prime example of what they called an irrational and disjointed federal policy.

    "You have impossible burdens," said Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), who has enlisted other members of Congress to lobby the administration to give researchers more access to the drug.

    "These are not people who are going to be involved with some clandestine production of the drug or do something nefarious. They are trying to do scientific research that will add to the body of knowledge and safety," he said.

    Blumenauer likes to recount the story of a doctor who works with children who have violent epileptic seizures. The children's parents "have found that the use of marijuana has reduced the frequency and intensity of these horrific episodes. But because of our stupid research policies, it is easier for the parent to get medical marijuana than for a researcher," he said.

    Scientists say more research could help determine more precisely which ailments the drug can treat and could eventually lead to regulation by the FDA as a prescription drug. That would allow patients to know what they are consuming. Currently, users of medical marijuana often have little information about the potency and purity of the pot they buy. Physicians who prescribe the drug do so on the basis of evidence that is largely anecdotal.

    At the core of the debate is an issue that has implications for both research and the movement to legalize marijuana for recreational use, as Colorado and Washington have done. Currently, federal law classifies pot as more dangerous than cocaine and methamphetamine. As a "Schedule 1" drug, marijuana is designated as having "no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse," as well as being a drug that puts users at risk of "severe psychological or physical dependence."

    Researchers say that classification needs to change for science to proceed uninhibited. Making the change, though, would be a retreat in the war on drugs. The Obama administration could reschedule the drug without congressional action, but has shown no inclination to wade into that fight.

    In the last 10 years, the government had approved just one U.S. research center to conduct clinical trials involving marijuana use for medical purposes a UC San Diego facility created by the California Legislature.

    The scientist who runs that center, Igor Grant, said his success in getting Washington's sign-off was due in large part to something other scientists do not have: the full force of the state. Blocking his work would have been a direct affront to lawmakers in Sacramento, he noted.

    Grant's studies looked at such questions as whether pot could help ease the nausea and vomiting associated with cancer treatment or the severe appetite suppression experienced by those with HIV, which causes AIDS.

    "Every one of those studies showed, in the short term, a beneficial effect," Grant said. "There is very good evidence cannabis is helpful."

  2. #2

    Colorado marijuana job fair

    Hundreds of prospective candidates lined up for a marijuana industry job fair in Denver.
    By Ricardo Lopez

    March 14, 2014, 9:26 a.m.

    Looking for a job as a bud-tender? Get in line.

    A marijuana-industry job fair in Colorado saw a massive turnout Thursday of job seekers who waited in line for information about employment in the expanding industry following the legalization of recreational marijuana use in the state.

    More than a dozen companies were looking for candidates to fill jobs as bud-tenders (those who work behind the counter and dispense pot), marketers, marijuana trimmers and even accountants.

    Some prospective candidates came from as far away as California and New Mexico hoping to nab a coveted job. The fair's organizers had expected a turnout of about 700 people, the Denver Post reported. But by some estimates, the number was more like 1,200.

    The state is experiencing an economic boom as companies rush to meet growing demand.

    In January, the first month marijuana's recreational use was legal, the state reported sales of about $14 million. That translated into about $2 million in taxes for state coffers.

    Jerad White of New Mexico was among those who want to partake in the expansion.

    White, who drove 11 hours to attend the job fair, told CBS News that he would take just about any job. "Whatever they want to throw at me, then it'd get my foot in the door," he said.

    So far, 20 states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation to allow the legal sale of marijuana for medicinal use. Colorado and Washington state have legalized pot's use for recreational purposes

  3. #3

    Re: Government approves medical marijuana research

    Colorado pot legalization means new training for police
    Driving under the influence remains a crime, but there are no breath tests like there are with alcohol. Officers are learning how to spot drug-impaired motorists.

    A Colorado state trooper simulates a roadside investigation of a potentially intoxicated driver. Robin Rocke of the Colorado Department of Transportation plays the driver's role and evaluates the trooper's performance. (Brennan Linsley / Associated Press / March 6, 2014)

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    Why is Gov. Moonbeam so afraid of legalized marijuana?

    By Jenny Deam

    March 12, 2014, 3:47 p.m.

    GOLDEN, Colo. The instructions seemed simple enough: nine steps forward, heel to toe, a quick turnaround, then nine steps back. But for the guy swaying a bit as he walked, his face slack, his eyes half closed, it was all too much.

    He made the nine steps forward and stopped, forgetting what came next. "Wait. What?"

    Colorado State Trooper Jason Morales dutifully marked it down in his report, just as he had a few minutes earlier when the suspect closed his eyes and tilted his head back to guess the passage of 30 seconds. After 90 seconds, Morales shook his head.

    Although the scenario was comical, no one in the cinder-block room at the Colorado State Patrol training academy was laughing. Here in Colorado, this is serious stuff now that marijuana is legal: Law enforcement is scrambling to get up to speed in spotting drug-impaired drivers.

    On Jan. 1, the state became the first in the nation to allow those older than 21 to purchase recreational marijuana. Decriminalization supporters cheered, pot shop cash registers hummed, and state coffers begin to fill. In January, Colorado took in $2 million in pot taxes, officials said Monday. State officials have predicted a windfall of more than $134 million per year from heavily taxed marijuana sales, which include a 12.9% sales tax and a 15% excise tax.

    But some in law enforcement are less enthusiastic.

    "It certainly has made things more complicated," said Darrell Lingk, the Colorado Department of Transportation's director of transportation safety.

    With nothing comparable to the roadside breath test to detect drunk drivers, officers must hone their skills at figuring out whether the driver is high on drugs, he said.

    Last week, 20 officers graduated from a nine-day Drug Recognition Expert course, the first since Colorado legalized recreational marijuana sales. The final test was an evaluation of a suspect who exhibited behaviors consistent with being stoned. Students checked the suspect's pupils for dilation, tested his balance, measured his heart rate and blood pressure, challenged his short-term memory and listened for slurred speech.

    This latest graduating class brings the total number of DRE-certified officers in the state to 212. Lingk said the hope was to reach 300 by the end of 2015 as well as encourage officers from every jurisdiction to receive at least some drug recognition training.

    Although DRE classes have been around for decades in the U.S. the first one was created by the Los Angeles Police Department in the 1970s those taking this one acknowledged a new sense of urgency because of marijuana's change in status.

    "You make it legal, you're just going to raise consumption. It's more work for us," said Jerry Sharp, a Greeley state trooper. An instructor in the DRE class, he took the part of the stoner in the role-playing exercise; he passed some tests and failed others to show fellow troopers the challenges of assessment. "It's like putting a puzzle together."

    The scope of the problem is largely unknown, in part because in the past if a driver tested positive for alcohol, authorities did not check for drug use. That is changing.

    In January, the State Patrol began keeping track and found that of 61 traffic stops for impaired driving, 31 involved marijuana. Officials said it was a small sampling because it came from only one law enforcement agency, which does not make stops in major metro areas.

    "Other states are watching us to see how we handle it," Lingk said.

    Colorado and Washington state voters passed referendums in 2012 to legalize recreational marijuana. But medical marijuana is legal in 20 other states, including California, as well as in Washington, D.C. By 2017, at least 10 states could join Colorado and Washington in legalizing recreational use, said Morgan Fox, communications manager for Marijuana Policy Report, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group.

    Among those watching what happens are U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. Although marijuana use is still a federal crime, Holder has told federal prosecutors in Colorado and Washington state that small-time recreational use is not a priority. But he has said he will watch for underage access to marijuana and problems with impaired driving.

    Drunk driving remains more prevalent than drugged driving, Lingk said, but "drugs are starting to catch up, especially in Colorado." He noted there had also been an uptick in heroin and methamphetamine use in the state. One of the skills DRE graduates learn is how to spot needle-track marks obscured by tattoos.

    The Colorado Assn. of Chiefs of Police has urged Gov. John Hickenlooper to use some of the marijuana-tax windfall to create a grant program for police departments to cover extra costs related to legalization.

    Meanwhile, the Colorado Department of Transportation has begun a $1-million public service campaign called "Drive High, Get a DUI." The idea is to remind users that driving while stoned is a crime, and to counteract some users' misconception that they drive better when high.

    Using humor to target men ages 21 to 34, the ads feature a series of stoned characters trying to do everyday things. In one wordless ad, a man tries repeatedly to switch on a grill while his friends look on: It turns out there is no propane tank. The ad's tag line reads: "Grilling high is now legal. Driving to get the propane you forgot is not."

    Colorado pot legalization means new training for police -

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