Monthly Archives: June 2016

Keep It Legal Colorado

Evette Hurd, protesting outside the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.

Media coverage of Colorado’s quasi-legalization has led to the impression that its citizens have safe, affordable access everywhere in the state.  Sensationalist stories about funding schools, scholarships, and homeless aid programs have made international news.  What isn’t told are the stories of patients still being persecuted, prohibition seeping back into legislation, and that reality is a very different picture.  Here is the story, straight from the front lines of the Front Range.

Medical was voted in around 2001.  For 11 years, Colorado had a functioning, and relatively acceptable medical marijuana program.  Patients had the option of growing doctor recommended plant counts, dispensaries developed a system, and most patients had what they needed.  In 2012, Colorado celebrated a victory with the passage of A64, their recreational marijuana ballot initiative.  This changed everything.  I am absolutely for descheduling of cannabis, and know that cannabis can serve as a safe recreational alternative.  However, legalizing recreational changed the face of everything medical from the industry to the legislation.  Washington and Oregon have also faced these same challenges, and quietly restricted their programs as well.  This change is why patients are once again, on the steps of the State Capitol and in their city’s streets.

Colorado now faces the threat of a prohibition reintroduction.  Four years of legalization has had some speed bumps, and propaganda campaigns have fueled a lot of unrest from non-cannabis users.  All along I-25 in places like Pueblo, Boulder, Denver, and Colorado Spring, Amendment 20 has come under fire.  The strategy is a slow and steady chipping away at the state amendments.  It has gone virtually unnoticed.  What the news doesn’t tell you is that Colorado is a Home Rule state.  Local municipalities can change what they don’t approve of (or they claim will be harmful to their city), and even opt-out of some state legislation.  Most of the local municipalities in Colorado have latched on to that and attacked every part of A-20 they could.  Home grow rights have been virtually wiped out along the I-25 corridor, because of a problem that has been grotesquely exaggerated by City Officials and Law Enforcement.  In Colorado Springs, the DEA presented an extremely passionate doomsday scenario to City Council.  The agent presenting (Tim Scott), was almost yelling and looked as if he could stroke out at any point.  His face was red, voice elevated, and you could even hear the huffing and puffing on the video.  Check it out here at time marker 5:12:25.  When all was said and done, they cited 186 homes that were being looked at for out of state trafficking.  186.  In Colorado Springs, there are over 185,000 homes.  The 5th grade math tells me that 186 homes out of over 185,000 results in 1/10 of 1% of a problem.  Even if the statistics given were quadrupled like Mr. Scott claimed, that still is less than half a percent.  So half of one percent gets medicine taken away, Colorado panics and calls in the DEA to prosecute you, and even more restrictive regulations (that only affect patients – not the intended illegal grows) get put into place.  It is Reefer Madness all over again, and happening throughout Colorado.

On a state level, medical cannabis and patients are being attacked as well.  While there was a huge victory with Jack’s Bill (SB-1373), prohibition measures are starting to get more and more support.  This year there was a bill introduced to restrict potency that lost by one vote on a technicality.  This bill is now being funded by the Anschtuz family and will be reintroduced for the November ballot.  This bill would limit the potency allowed on all recreational sales, so all concentrates, most edibles, and a large amount of flower would be completely banned.  While that doesn’t necessarily affect medical directly, Jason Cranford reported on Facebook that the Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED) is already starting to put pressure on Denver medical dispensaries to become recreational. In Colorado Springs, Tom Scudder of A Wellness dispensary and a member of the Medical Marijuana Task Force said he would be in favor of reducing the number medical dispensaries in half.  There is speculation that the state is phasing out medical for the profits of recreational. Sadly, a large portion of the cannabis industry is actually lobbying to make these changes happen.  A recreational world would boost their bottom lines, and they all feel they will survive the battle over the monopoly.  Other than their own financial interests, none of the industry leaders seem to be involved with helping protect the eroding patient rights.

Slowly, patients are starting to see what is going on, but not quick enough.  In Colorado Springs, several advocacy groups are working to preserve the basic patient rights,  American Medical Refugees, CannAbility, and Cannabis Patient Right Coalition have all been speaking out against these infractions and been trying to unite the patient community.  Petitions like this one are starting to circulate around the internet, patients are starting to protest, and the community is coming together.  We need your help though.  A federal deschedule and consistent citizen involvement are the only things that will ever stop these types of onslaughts.  Be sure you are registered to vote, you are actively involved with emailing your elected officials (on all relevant issues, not just cannabis), and join the movement to take back our country.

Medical Marijuana Legal Soon?

These were one month of meds not including supplememnts.
This was a one month of meds not including supplements.

Recently a lot has come out claiming that the US Government is going to “make marijuana legal”.  People are raving that all Americans will have access to medical cannabis and our opiate addictions will be solved.  While there is no confirmed decision on cannabis (the government only said they would make an announcement about medical marijuana), there are some pieces of the puzzle that are in place that suggest something may be coming.  However, it doesn’t look like the US will be any closer to a compassionate medical marijuana program any time soon.

In the last 8 years, several new things have happened including: GW Pharmaceuticals completing human trials and garnering patents, half the states have some form of medical marijuana law and more are set to join in, multitudes of patient stories have hit the mainstream creating a fervor from patients, CDC recommended that doctors no longer test for THC when dispensing opiates, and a resurgence of the heroin epidemic has hit the US.  All of these together indicate that something may be coming from the Feds, but it is still all speculation.  If the government does decide to make some decision, it will probably be to move marijuana and cannabinoids to Schedule II (Marinol is Schedule III FYI).  There are a couple ways a Schedule II ruling could go.  One is that every state’s medical marijuana program remains intact and research begins, but the more realistic version isn’t so pretty. Moving cannabis to Schedule II does have some good points, and we know we cannot expect the government to do the right thing immediately.  Change is always baby steps.  In Schedule II, a doctor could actually prescribe FDA approved cannabis if they have the DEA registration, similar to how doctors prescribe oxyorphone.  Arguably, the best thing about Schedule II is that some forms of research will open up for cannabinoid therapy.  Cannabis and cannabinoids are incredibly complex and are excellent multi-performers.  Then add in terpenes, and the end result changes again.  Everything about cannabis has a shared, symbiotic relationship.  There isn’t one function per chemical, which makes studying cannabis tricky.  Definitive science is decades away, and the quicker we can start – the better.

If the Feds choose to ignore states rights, or if the states use the Federal piece as an excuse – a Schedule II classification could actually harm medical marijuana as we know it.  Schedule II would allow for a doctor to prescribe an FDA approved product to their patients.  GW Pharmaceuticals has 2 products (Epidiolex and Sativex) that are in the last staged of the FDA approval process.  This would mean the only 2 medical cannabis products that a doctor could prescribe would be these two.  No others.  A Schedule II ruling does not allow for the current system of medical marijuana, and leaves patients vulnerable to DEA raids and prosecution.  You can be prescribed morphine, but it is a felony to be caught with opium poppies.  The same would apply here.

Having a product like Epidiolex or Sativex will definitely be a convenient solution for some, but roughly 2/3 won’t get the benefit needed from those 2 products.  Epidiolex is specifically CBD which works amazingly in Dravet Syndrome, but doesn’t show the same track record with other seizure disorders.  In Colorado, most of the non-Dravet epilepsy patients use some form of full spectrum cannabis.  This means that they have to find the ratios of each cannabinoid needed to stop their seizures.  There are children in Colorado who use THC as a rescue medicine when having seizure issues, and others needing CBG or CBN (other cannabinoids).  Sativex does include THC and CBD, but the terpene variety and other cannabinoids are absent.  The Entourage Effect is part of the reason cannabinoids are so difficult to study.  Each reaction from cannabis, depends on the chemical make up of both the plant material and your body.  Having a strain higher in CBD is going to have a different effect than one higher in THC, as is a plant that has a higher ratio of CBN.  All of these plus the terpene make up (terpenes are just as important) will dictate how the cannabinoids work in the body.  Without the option for strain variety and to experiment with full spectrum cannabinoids, the pharmaceutical products will fall short of what patients need.

Cost will definitely increase.  A Schedule II prescription doesn’t last all year like a cannabis recommendation.  According to the DEA’s Office of Diversion Control, “Prescriptions for Schedule II controlled substances cannot be refilled.  A new prescription must be issued.”.  Every month, you will have to go see a doctor to get the prescription.  This new expense has to be added.  In addition, the Schedule II ruling will actually increase the value of plant material.  With the government admitting medical value yet restricting access to the plant, more and more are going to be seeking black market cannabis.  This could cause a resurgence in cannabis trafficking by violent cartels and an uptick in exactly the type of organized crime we are trying to prevent through descheduling.

Most disturbing is the ability of the DEA to start prosecuting patients again.  Should the government actually decide to do something about the erroneous scheduling of cannabis, they could choose to ignore states rights and refund the persecution of patients.  This would allow them to stamp out home grows (some states allow this, and in my opinion growing is the only sustainable way to treat any illness with cannabinoids), place felony trafficking charges on cancer patients, and would allow government intervention in patient’s lives.

Patients are tired of having to fight like this.  For a non-toxic substance (albeit intoxicating), too many lives are lost waiting for access that often comes too late.  Do not make the mistake of thinking a Schedule II ruling makes cannabis legal or accessible to the average patient.  Be sure you stay up to date on what your local, state, and country governments are doing and how that plays into the existing circumstances in your area.  Several states have started to push out their medical dispensaries in favor of the more profitable recreational markets, and those same states have basically banned home grows.  Without the ability to experiment with the entirety that is cannabis, many are looking at an unsure future.  Stay educated and up to date!