Colorado cannabis Tours llena rutinariamente sus autobuses. Los pasajeros pueden elegir una clase de cocina, una demostración de soplado de vidrio, o una visita a un centro de cultivo.
Los asientos llenos, el pequeño autobús turístico circula por las concurridas calles de Denver, exponiendo a sus pasajeros una demostración de soplado de vidrio. O también pueden elegir una clase de pintura, clase de cocina o visitar una granja de cultivo
Este autobús es una fiesta llena de humo y de gente feliz, huele a una residencia de estudiantes de arte. El soplador de vidrio tatuado elabora bongs y pipas de alto precio. La clase de cocina es para gourmets que quieren dar sabor a su cocina con marihuana. La creatividad de los pintores se agudiza por el cannabis. Y la granja de cultivo es de 40 000 pies cuadrados con una gran”facilidad de cultivo” y de uno de los principales productores de cannabis de Colorado.
Es la siguiente fase incipiente del cannabis legalizado: el turismo de marihuana. Y está alcanzando nuevos máximos en Colorado, en el Estado de Washington y en el de Oregon, con viajeros procedentes de estados que se frustrado la legalización y de otros por la lentitud con la que el movimiento de la legalización de la marihuana trabaja.
“Es una locura cómo muchas personas vienen aquí para esto”, dijo Heidi Keyes, un artista que dirige el Puff, Pass, y la clase de pintura para Colorado cannabis Tours, y que ahora se está expandiendo en Washington y Oregón.
La versión a la gira de degustación de vinos del siglo XXI, el turismo de marihuana proporciona una forma para que los empresarios capitalicen la marihuana legalizada sin la molestia de las regulaciones que controlan el cultivo y la venta de la misma directamente (y no por casualidad, llegan realmente nombres ingeniosos para los negocios).
Eso incluye el transporte (el Cannabus, Seattle; Mary Jane Tours, Telluride), alojamiento (the Bud and Breakfast; the Wake & Bakery Inn, both in Denver), guías personales (Colorado Cannabis Concierge), y las ferias y festivales (la Copa Cannabis , Portland, Ore., y en otros lugares). Ski Buds Shuttle Service amenizará su paseo a las pistas en Vail, incluyen recogida en el aeropuerto que le llevará desde su vuelo a Denver a una tienda de marihuana al por menor antes de que esté incluso vaya a su hotel. También hay planes en Colorado para un estilo de bodega “weederies” con tiendas de regalos y restaurantes, y un complejo de estilo de campamento de cannabis programado para abrir el próximo año.
“Para alguien que, digamos, veinteañero que disfruta del cannabis, la idea de que puede ir a un lugar donde puedan consumir legalmente y no verse tratado como un criminal por hacer algo que es demostrablemente menos peligroso que el consumo de alcohol, es atractivo “, dijo Kris Krane, un defensor de la legalización y socio gerente con sede en Boston de 4Front Advisors, una empresa de consultoría que trabaja con las empresas relacionadas con la marihuana.
La venta de la marihuana con fines recreativos es ahora legal en Colorado, Washington y Oregón, y está previsto que comience en el 2016 en Alaska. (Un referéndum para legalizar el uso recreativo y venta de marihuana será en Massachusetts en el 2016, y los posibles beneficios del turismo son algunos de los argumentos de los partidarios que están a favor de ella.)
Unos $ 700 millones en marihuana se vendieron en Colorado el año pasado, y Oregon predice sobre $ 257 millones en ventas este año. Los defensores dicen que el turismo de marihuana ayudó a elaborar el récord de 15,4 millones de visitantes y $ 4.6 mil millones en Denver solo el año pasado.
“Estas son las nuevas Ámsterdam del mundo”, dijo Eli Bilton, propietario de Attis Trading Co., un dispensario de marihuana en Portland, que también está empezando una empresa turística y busca lugares para abrir una “420-Este bed-and-breakfast” . Y mientras que el negocio apenas está comenzando allí, la marihuana recreativa se hizo legal en Oregon el 01 de octubre – “Ya estamos viendo un montón de forasteros”, dijo Bilton.
Las restricciones tales como la prohibición en Colorado en publicidad interestatal son entre muchos obstáculos enfrentados para esta industria naciente. ¿Otro? Las leyes, la que dicen que mientras que los visitantes pueden comprar las marihuana, no pueden fumar en sus hoteles.
Fiel a su estilo, astutos han descubierto maneras de evitar la norma: Encuentran alojamiento en 420-amigables en Airbnb o a través de empresas como Colorado cannabis Tours, que Keyes dijo haber reservado 1.700 habitaciones en hoteles amistosos con el cannabis solo entre julio y septiembre.
La gente que viene desafiando los estereotipos, dijeron los operadores de viaje. “Es por todo el lugar”, dijo Keyes. “Los profesionales de negocios, parejas de 35 a 55 años. Tuvimos una chica de 20 años que vino con sus abuelos, que eran de 80 años.”
El noventa por ciento de los pasajeros en el Cannabus de Seattle son de fuera del estado, dijo el director de marketing deNate Johnson. “Tenemos un montón de gente de Boston y Nueva York.” Y mientras que los funcionarios debaten si se debe permitir cafeterías o salones del estilo Ámsterdam, donde la gente sería capaz de fumar libremente, el Cannabus transporta a sus pasajeros a un cultivo y a continuación a un dispensario de venta donde se pueden degustar diferentes cepas y comestibles, y luego a un “punto de visión” que domina la ciudad, donde se puede disfrutar de lo que Johnson llama “el punto más alto.” Luego los lleva a un restaurante.
“Mucha gente no quiere el dolor de cabeza de tomar un taxi y no saber a dónde ir”, dijo Johnson.”Tomamos el dolor de eso, y te llevamos a algún lugar si tienes el deseo de picar.”
Eso aún es mejor que una ruta del vino, dijo Keyes, quien realizó una gira de vino una vez en la que recuerda a alguien vomitando en el autobús. “Eso no ocurre con la marihuana. La gente está en calma, se están riendo, están teniendo un buen momento “.
Boosters dice que el turismo de la marihuana está ayudando por el hecho de que la mayoría de los lugares en los que la marihuana es legal también tienen otra empates – senderismo y esquí en Colorado, la pesca en Washington y Oregon.
“Las personas atraídas por actividades al aire libre tienden a ser un poco más atraídas por cannabis en general”, dijo Krane. “Si el cannabis se legaliza de repente en el centro de Siberia, es probable que se vea un gran repunte en el turismo.” Estados incluyendo Colorado se jactan de tener “un montón de actividades hermosas que realizar: la montaña, la nieve, el senderismo, el centro de Denver, y ahora se agrega a esto la oportunidad de probar todo este nuevo entorno de la marihuana recreativa “, dijo Chris Carroll, co-propietario de de Denver 2 Chicas Tours, que también ofrece tours de marihuana y cuya Wake and Bakery Inn está programado para abrir en abril .
Los defensores dicen que también hay algo de aventura al visitar los turistas las operaciones de cultivo una vez que sólo lo han visto en las noticias y en las películas de narcos.
“La gente que va a una bodega quieren ver cómo se hace el vino y los que vienen quiere conocer la forma natural del cannabis también “, dijo Krane. “A esto se añade el hecho de que esta es una industria que ha sido ilegal durante tanto tiempo, que ha estado en las sombras y en espacios de almacenes y garajes ocultos. Esto no es algo donde a la gente se le ha invitado para ver el proceso. Y ahora tienen la oportunidad de verlo de una manera que era completamente imposible de ver hasta ahora “.
While some people say we should wait and see, and others are saying now’s the time or it should already have happened, one thing is clear: There will be a debate on marijuana legalization during the upcoming legislative session.
It was during the last legislative session that Sen. David Zuckerman, P-Chittenden, introduced a bill to allow the possession, cultivation and sale of marijuana. Rep. Christopher Pearson, P-Burlington, introduced a parallel bill in the House that mirrors Zuckerman’s proposed legislation.
Both bills followed a state-commissioned study from the Rand Corporation that did not make any recommendations, but studied the potential impacts — from financial to health — of Vermont being the first state east of the Mississippi River to legalize marijuana, and the first state to ever legalize it through the legislative process rather than by a ballot initiative.
Zuckerman’s bill is actually one of 10 marijuana-related bills currently pending before lawmakers during the second half of the legislative biennium, with topics ranging from taxation and law enforcement to expansion of the state’s current medical marijuana laws and the packaging of edible marijuana products.
Motivations for legalization vary greatly among supporters, from those who see it as a civil liberties issue — what you do with your body is your own business — to the hypocrisy of alcohol being legal while marijuana is not. For others, the motivation is financial.
The Rand study projects that Vermont could collect anywhere from $20 million to $70 million annually from the taxation of marijuana, an attractive proposition as the state is looking at a projected $66 million budget shortfall. The bills from Zuckerman and Pearson outline how taxation might work.
Both bills call for an excise tax of $40 an ounce on processed marijuana, $15 an ounce for any other type of marijuana and $25 for each immature plant sold by a cultivator.
Rather than go directly into the state’s General Fund, the money raised from the taxes would support public initiatives to educate the public on the hazards of alcohol, tobacco and marijuana, criminal justice and substance abuse programs, law enforcement, and medical research on marijuana.
Exactly how much the state would stand to gain is anyone’s guess, with the Rand study saying Vermont would take in more revenue if it were the first state in the northeast to go the legalization route, an acknowledgment that legal marijuana would be a significant draw for many of the tens of millions of people who live within a day’s drive of Vermont.
During its 2015 fiscal year that ended in June, Colorado — which does not have the population density in adjacent states that Vermont has — collected $70 million in marijuana taxes.
Interstate trafficking is one of the issues raised in guidelines to states with legal marijuana from the U.S. Justice Department, which still considers it to be illegal. At the state level, lawmakers are looking to address a different kind of law enforcement issue: stoned driving.
Rep. Cynthia Browning, D-Arlington, has introduced legislation that would task the state’s Department of Health and the Department of Public Safety to establish standards to determine what constitutes impairment.
Currently, the Vermont State Police, for example, employ what they refer to as “drug recognition experts,” who make subjective judgments on the side of the road to determine if a driver is under the influence of marijuana. One lawmaker would like to create a more concrete test.
Rep. David Potter, D-West Rutland, is the sponsor of a bill that require drivers suspected of driving under the influence to submit to a saliva test. Current law states that a driver who travels Vermont’s roads has given consent to submit to a breath test, and the proposed legislation would expand that implied consent to include a saliva test.
The bill would make driving with any level of any drug in one’s system a crime; individuals with a prescription for a drug could use that prescription as an affirmative defense. A defendant would also have the right to have the saliva sample tested by an independent laboratory for analysis.
In 2004, the Legislature gave its consent for the therapeutic use of marijuana, and is today one of 23 states — plus the District of Columbia — to allow the practice.
However, Vermont has some of the highest thresholds to qualify for medical use, restricting prescriptions to people who suffer from what the law refers to as “debilitating medical conditions” such as AIDS, cancer or multiple sclerosis. The patient must also be under the care of the prescribing doctor for at least six months prior to receiving a prescription.
Rep. James Masland, D-Thetford, has introduced a bill that would add the diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder to the list of conditions that would allow a patient to receive a medical marijuana prescription.
Masland is also the co-sponsor of a bill introduced by Rep. George Till, D-Jericho, which would similarly add post-traumatic stress disorder as a qualifying diagnosis to receive medical marijuana. Additionally, however, Till’s bill would waive the requirement for a patient to be under the care of the prescribing doctor for six months provided the patient is a military veteran who has received a diagnosis of PTSD from the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
Early conversation on marijuana legalization has taken up a fair amount of time on a relatively minor facet of the issue, and that is how to address marijuana-infused edible products. Scattered press reports from Colorado tell stories of people either ingesting too much for their own comfort, or unknowingly eating an edible that resembles something as benign as a cookie or cupcake.
Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, has introduced a bill that would require edible or potable marijuana products for sale to be contained in single dose, child-resistant packaging and be labeled with the amount of THC — the active chemical in marijuana — in each dose.
Lawmakers will return to Montpelier for the 2016 session on Jan. 5.
It’s been a solid year for tabloid-driven drug scares.
First came the panic over the impact super-strength skunk has on mental health. Then it shifted to synthetic legal high Spice, which led to several high-profile hospital admissions (mostly of students) before there were moves to have the synthetic cannabinoid outlawed.
Next up for scaremongering is likely to be ‘dabbing’, a form of smoking a powerful cannabis oil.
Dabbing involves heating concentrated Butane Hash Oil (BHO) – also known as dabs, honey oil, wax, shatter and budder – and inhaling it through a glass pipe or bong. It’s a process that has led to dabbing being dubbed ‘cannabis crack’.
“Dabbing means people can enjoy cannabis without mixing it with tobacco. From a public health perspective that is potentially a real game changer”
Even seasoned smokers are surprised by the strength. Street cannabis has around a 15 per cent concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. A dab has up to 90 per cent. It’s been said if a regular joint is like having a pint, a dab is the equivalent of downing a quarter of vodka.
Despite the potency experts say dabbing could be a “game changing” way of getting stoned – because it’s healthier than smoking cannabis with its traditional mix of tobacco.
Dr Adam Winstock who helps produce the Global Drugs Survey told Loaded, “Dabbing could be the thing that means people can enjoy cannabis without mixing it with tobacco. From a public health perspective, that’s potentially a real game changer.”
Dabs can also be rubbed into the skin, gums, or even turned into a suppository, if shoving cannabis up your tunnel is how you like to get on one.
BHO can also be adapted into an odourless form for subtle use in the booming number of e-cigs being sucked.
Dr Winstock added there are still downsides.
“The risks attached – memory loss, paranoia and dependence – are massively escalated with vast amounts of THC,” he said.
Dabbing is most prolific in the US but Dr Winstock stressed how easy it was to smuggle cannabis oil into other countries.
Dr Winstock said, “Clearly, there is a difference between shipping a soap-bar sized piece of cannabis resin and a marble-sized ball of BHO.”
It’s doubtful tabloids will spin dabbing with the same measured consideration as Dr Winstock. In short, dabbing: a scare coming soon to a tabloid near you.
The 2016 Global Drugs Survey is set to carry out the biggest study of BHO ever undertaken. Have your say as a part of it here.
In a study with ten male cannabis users THCV (tetrahydrocannabivarin) inhibited some THC effects, researchers of the Institute of Psychiatry of King’s College in London, UK, wrote in the Journal of Psychopharmacology. 10mg oral pure THCV or placebo were administered daily for five days, followed by 1mg intravenous THC on the fifth day.
THCV was well tolerated and subjectively indistinguishable from placebo. THC did not significantly increase psychotic symptoms, paranoia or impair short-term memory, while still producing significant intoxicating effects. Recall of presented words was impaired by THC and only occurred under placebo condition suggesting a protective effect of THCV. THCV also inhibited THC-induced increased heart rate. Nine out of ten participants reported THC under THCV condition to be subjectively weaker or less intense compared to placebo.
Englund A, Atakan Z, Kralj A, Tunstall N, Murray R, Morrison P. The effect of five day dosing with THCV on THC-induced cognitive, psychological and physiological effects in healthy male human volunteers: A placebo-controlled, double-blind, crossover pilot trial. J Psychopharmacol. 2015 Nov 17. [in press]
By next summer, some North Carolina farm fields could be filled with cannabis plants – not marijuana, but hemp, which is marijuana’s near-twin in appearance but has little of the ingredient that makes people high.
For the first time in decades, hemp will be a legal crop in this state.
Initially it’s to be grown only on an experimental basis. But hemp advocates hope North Carolina will become part of a national revival of a hemp industry that was knocked down in the 20th century when hemp was lumped in with marijuana by national and local laws against illicit drugs.
The 21st-century American hemp revival is somewhat reminiscent of Colonial times. In the 1700s, according to historical records, leaders in North Carolina and other English colonies in North America encouraged farmers to grow hemp. They aimed to generate income with exports.
In 1766, North Carolina’s legislature voted to open a hemp-inspection warehouse in Campbellton, one of the two towns that later merged and became Fayetteville. A journal of the legislative session says the lawmakers also renewed for four years a bounty paid to hemp farmers.
More than two centuries later, North Carolina and the United States were importing all of their hemp products. After encouraging hemp production during World War II to supply the military with rope and other materials, the government effectively banned hemp farming in 1970. The last known American commercial crop was reported to have been grown in Wisconsin in 1957, according to The Denver Post newspaper.
In early 2014, Congress and the president approved a law to allow experimental hemp farming in states that conduct agricultural research. North Carolina’s lawmakers voted nearly unanimously in late September to join this effort. The legislation, which emerged with little warning or opportunity for vetting or public comment in the final days of the 2015 lawmaking session, creates the opportunity “to study the growth, cultivation, or marketing of industrial hemp.”
Including North Carolina, 27 states are pursuing hemp production, says the Vote Hemp Inc. advocacy group.
That’s great news for people such Brenda Harris, who operates the The Apple Crate Natural Market health food stores in Fayetteville and Hope Mills. The hemp seed, hemp-based protein powders and hemp-based soaps, lotions and oils on her shelves are imported from Canada and overseas.
Hemp seed is high in protein, Harris said, and in essential fatty acids that people need for good health.
Cannabidiol, also known as CBD oil, is reported to reduce nausea, suppress seizures, help with cancer, tumors, anxiety and depression and other health problems, says the Leaf Science website. But it notes that most of the studies that made these findings were with animals, not people.
In addition, hemp can be used in a number of fiber-based products.
“I’d love to know my dollars were supporting a North Carolina farmer,” Harris said.
“It will definitely mean the product will be more competitively priced,” she said. “And it’s not a terribly expensive product to start with, but still I feel like with bringing that closer to home, it’ll be more sustainable, there’ll be less shipping involved, there’ll be less mark-up involved. That’s usually the way the chain works.”
Organic farmer Lee Edwards of Kinston, about 90 minutes east of Fayetteville, could become one of Harris’ North Carolina suppliers.
Edwards plans to become part of North Carolina’s hemp pilot project and get a crop into the ground in mid-2016. He thinks hemp will make more money than the corn, wheat, soybeans and cereal grains he grows now.
“It’s a lower input cost and a higher profit per acre crop,” Edwards said. He estimated hemp could net him $1,250 per acre after expenses versus the $400 at most “on a real good year” from traditional grains. And he hopes that he can get two hemp crops a year.
Las Vegas-based Hemp Inc. opened a processing plant last year in Spring Hope, between Raleigh and Rocky Mount. It has been extracting fiber from kenaf, which is similar to hemp (and never was banned), and plans to process hemp as it becomes legal and available in the U.S.
The decortication plant extracts fibers that can be used in paper, clothing and other fiber-based products, even car parts and building materials, according to the Hemp Inc. website.
Back in Fayetteville, researcher Shirley Chao and her students at Fayetteville State University might be able to get North Carolina-grown hemp seed for their research into a hemp-derived insecticide. Until now, they have been buying imported seed.
Over the past several years, Chao and her students discovered that chemicals in hemp have a variety of detrimental effects on roaches, carpenter ants and grain-eating beetles.
“We found that it’s very effective in controlling reproduction,” Chao said. “And when they feed on it, they don’t develop normally. And so they, most of them, either die or have these deformations that you can see. And then if they do survive, they don’t reproduce normally.”
Chao hopes that further research will demonstrate that the hemp-based pesticide has no ill effects on people or other vertebrates. That quality could make it preferable to other pesticides in use today.
The school also is seeking a patent for the pesticide.
Before anyone buys hemp legally grown in North Carolina, the state has to set up its system to regulate it and issue hemp-growing licenses to the farmers.
That process is not moving as quickly as advocates would like.
The new hemp law says a state commission must be set up to license and regulate the growers. But first, the industry has to raise $200,000 in private donations to pay for the commission.
As of mid-November, about $20,000 had been raised, said Thomas Shumaker, the executive director of the N.C. Industrial Hemp Association.
Shumaker’s group led the effort at the legislature this year to pass the hemp law.
Once the money is raised, a five-person N.C. Industrial Hemp Commission will be appointed to set up the state’s hemp program, the law says. It is to work with federal law enforcement or other federal agencies as appropriate, vet people seeking licenses and set rules for how the program will operate.
Because of law enforcement concerns, the GPS coordinates of every hemp farm will be noted, and the hemp will be subject to testing to ensure that it isn’t actually marijuana. Under the law, hemp plants must have no more than 0.3 percent THC content, the psychoactive chemical that makes marijuana users high.
Marijuana typically has 5 to 20 percent THC and the highest grades carry 25 to 30 percent, Leaf Science says.
It will probably be June before North Carolina’s hemp regulatory system is in place and farmers can start planting, Shumaker said.
Learning from others
In the meantime, the state’s farmers can learn from growers in several other states who have been experimenting with hemp.
Kentucky just finished its second year of its pilot project. It had 922 acres planted in 2015, said Adam Watson, the industrial hemp program coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.
The state is looking at different varieties of hemp for grain (the seeds), fiber and nutraceuticals, which are oils that are thought to have health benefits.
The program has worked with with law enforcement, Watson said. Police know the growers have hemp, not marijuana, he said, but some thieves didn’t know the difference and went into a field and stole some.
Farmers have tested seed from Canada, Australia and Europe, he said. They are allowed to sell their harvest, but it’s too soon to figure out yet the extent of the potential market, he said.
While hemp can be used to make paper, textiles, building materials and other items, it may not necessarily be the best raw material for those products, Watson said. Much depends on whether the hemp-based products prove to be practical and cost-effective, he said.
Watson and other industry observers said the American hemp industry is in a chicken-and-egg situation in getting started: Because there have been no growers, there is no marketplace or infrastructure to buy their product. But without growers, there is no incentive to set up a marketplace.
But there is demand for hemp.
The Congressional Research Service this year estimated that in 2013, the United States imported $36.9 million in hemp products. The Hemp Industries Association estimated that the total U.S. retail value of hemp products in 2013 was $581 million, the research service said.
People like Edwards, the farmer from Kinston, want a piece of that market.
“I hope to start with around 50 acres,” Edwards said. “That’s more of just getting going the first year. Depending on how things go, I’d love to get up to a couple hundred acres.”
BETHEL — First, it was testicular cancer. Then tumors were found in his lungs.
And when those had finally shrunk — thanks to an aggressive chemotherapy and radiation — Brian Tomasulo learned that the cancer had spread to his brain.
After collapsing at work one day in May 2014, the Newtown resident was rushed to the hospital, where he had surgery to remove an egg-sized tumor from his frontal cortex.
The surgery was successful, but when Tomasulo woke up, he had a whole new set of challenges to deal with.
“I didn’t have thoughts in my brain,” he said. “I didn’t know what things were. I didn’t know what my phone was. I had to relearn how to do everything, how to talk, how to do one-plus-one… At 33 years old, that was very frustrating.”
Tomasulo would soon find an improbable medicine to help him cope with the “brutal” days after the surgery. He decided to try medical marijuana.
Tomasulo, a personal trainer who resumed work a few months ago, was one of the first patients at Bethel’s Compassionate Care Center, the first and only medical marijuana dispensary in Fairfield County.
Tomasulo now says marijuana not only helps him with the pain and anxiety, but has stopped his tumors from growing.
“This is just a different way of killing the cancer,” he said. “It’s a better way that makes me feel good, not tired, not groggy.”
‘Saving lives every day’
A year after the center opened its doors, an increasing number of patients have seen similar results, business owner Angela D’Amico said.
“We’re saving lives everyday,” she said. “Every day there’s another tear that comes down my face.”
The facility on the corner of Garella Road and Route 6 is one of only six medical marijuana dispensaries in Connecticut. There are also four licensed marijuana growers in the state.
Studies have shown that cannabis can slow the growth and/or kill certain types of cancer cells growing in laboratory dishes, but there is not enough evidence that marijuana helps control or cure the disease, according to the American Cancer Society.
Still, more and more cancer patients have seen their tumors stop growing after using medical marijuana.
“The proof is in the pudding,” D’Amico said.
Another one of her patients is Orange resident Michael Mizzone, 53, who has ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. He said marijuana has reduced his anxiety and muscle cramping, and has improved his blood circulation and appetite.
Mizzone was diagnosed with the disease in December 2013. After doing extensive research into medical marijuana, he became a regular patient at the Bethel facility as soon as it opened in September 2014.
“I was skeptical at first, as most people are,” he said.
Unlike many ALS patients, Mizzone can still walk, exercise and drive.
Who gets medical pot?
There are 11 debilitating medical conditions approved by the state Department of Consumer Protection for treatment with medical marijuana, including cancer, Crohn’s disease and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Connecticut’s program has more than 6,700 patients, with at least 1,600 of them in Fairfield County.
At the Bethel dispensary, the number of patients has more than tripled since the first weeks of business, D’Amico said.
Those patients must have state-issued cards authorizing them to use medical marijuana; otherwise they can’t go in the building without state approval.
When the business first opened, D’Amico only offered the marijuana plant — or flower. Now there are more than 70 different items, including capsules, oils, edibles, e-cigarette liquids, breath strips and other products.
D’Amico said such products are increasingly popular because many people don’t want to smoke the plant.
“As the patient gets more and more educated about cannabis, they switch away from the flower,” she said.
Her oldest patient is a 90-year-old woman with cancer who uses cannabis oil for pain relief.
Tomasulo mostly uses the oil, which he puts under his tongue for headaches, but he sometimes smokes marijuana for faster relief. He uses oil with higher CBD levels in the morning and a higher THC level at night.
CBD, or cannabidoil, can help treat seizures, reduce anxiety and counteract the “high” caused by THC.
Bethel resident and former U.S. Marine Dan Gaita, who uses medical marijuana for post-traumatic stress disorder, said he used to take 13 pills a day. Now he takes only one.
Gaita criticized the “naysayers” who oppose medical marijuana and prevent marijuana programs from expanding and reaching potential patients.
“People need to educate themselves,” he said. “They are still operating off of information that was put out by church groups in the ‘70s.”
Last spring, Bethel zoning officials took several steps to control any potential expansion of the marijuana business in town. The Planning and Zoning Commission approved a one-year moratorium on applications for new medical marijuana dispensaries, marijuana-growing centers, expansion of the existing facility and new recreational marijuana establishments.
D’Amico, who said she has no plans to expand the building, is planning a “Cannabis 101” presentation for the public to learn about medical marijuana. In the meantime, she said, Bethel residents are welcome to get a tour of the dispensary.
“I welcome everyone in Bethel to come into our facility and see the face of medical marijuana,” she said. “We service amputees, quadriplegics… This is no joke here. This is the wave of the future.”
D’Amico said she has about 300 patients who were able to stop using opiates when they started using medical marijuana.
“The pharmaceutical industry is killing our country,” she said. “They prescribe oxycodone as if it’s candy. We are slowly getting hundreds of patients off pain management and off sleeping pills.”
Her facility also offers holistic care, including yoga, meditation, reiki and massage.
“We don’t just treat the body,” she said. “We do nutrition, we treat the mind, body and spirit.”
The gradual legalisation of cannabis across US states is a triumph for the American Dream, says Sarah Dunant.
I’ve recently returned from the west coast of Canada, where a fiery gold autumn was the perfect backdrop for an outpouring of national optimism after the Canadians elected the 43-year-old Liberal leader Justin Trudeau as their prime minster. Greeting voters on the subway next morning, trick-or-treating with his children – the arrival of this dynamic newcomer, sprinkled with dynastic fairy dust, ended almost a decade of Conservative government during which Canada suffered something of an identity crisis. For a country that successfully defined itself as not being the United States, his predecessor’s policies on tax, foreign affairs and the environment severely blurred that distinction. As one Vancouverite put it: “I used to make a point of saying I was Canadian, not American, when I travelled. In recent years I haven’t bothered.”
But if Trudeau is to make his mark by being different, there’s one area where he’ll be learning by example from the US, or at least a handful of them. His election platform included legalisation of marijuana for recreational use (it’s legal for medical purposes now), which means that he and his policy makers will be busy studying Washington State, Oregon and Colorado, all of which have done so already.
In the fraught international conversation about drugs, there’s one thing everyone agrees on, though some politicians might close the door before they say it – 50 years of war hasn’t worked. Instead it has produced international crime syndicates, financed terrorism, destabilised governments of the countries that produce the drugs and clogged up the justice system and prisons of those that consume them. When it comes to cannabis some of the loudest critics of the law are law enforcers themselves. As an ex-chief of police in Vancouver said in a recent CBC documentary: “The only thing prohibition achieves is putting revenue into organised crime.”
It’s taken more than plain-speaking police chiefs to bring about the change in the US. Admittedly Oregon, Washington and Colorado are liberal-leaning states, but the underlying social and political forces that moved them towards legislation also exist in the rest of the country. To understand them you have to go back to those much-quoted words from the Declaration of Independence: “The inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” To which one might add – not even that cynically – “…and profit”.
First happiness. During a book tour in 2010, I visited Colorado just after the state granted commercial licences to grow cannabis for medical purposes. In the town of Boulder I met a friend of a friend who had set up a warehouse factory. Sitting together at the bar, I ordered a cocktail, while he had water. “‘Fraid I over-medicated last night,” he explained with a wry smile. I remember I laughed out loud. Over-medicated. It was the first time I’d ever heard the term. It wouldn’t be the last.
Risks associated with cannabis
- It affects the ability to drive – a French study found that drivers who had been using cannabis were more than twice as likely to cause a fatal car crash
- If smoked, cannabis can be harmful to the lungs; like tobacco, it contains cancer-causing chemicals (carcinogens) that increase the risk of lung cancer, and it can also make asthma worse
- Cannabis can harm mental health – regular use is associated with an increased risk of developing a psychotic illness, such as schizophrenia, and the risk is higher if you start using cannabis in your teens and if you have a family history of mental illness
- Cannabis may affect fertility, and if you’re pregnant, cannabis may harm your unborn baby
To medicate – take some kind of drug to make oneself feel better. As befits a country with private health care, legal pharmaceuticals are mega-business in the US. While mind-altering substances have been around throughout history, on the journey from pain to pleasure the US has played a starring role. She was the first country to successfully use analgesics in an operation (Boston in the 1840s, when under ether a man had a tumour cut out of his neck). One hundred and fifty years later she was also was the first to embrace Prozac. As physical agony diminished, we could start to address mental and emotional suffering, often equally disabling. Life was a crapshoot – depressive DNA, the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, rising poverty and the ever-accelerating pace and toxicity of modern life. It’s no surprise if we need a little mental massaging at times. If there is a drug to address depression or anxiety, to make one happier, why on earth not take it? To medicate. As soon as the word became aligned to cannabis it heralded a subtle but powerful shift in moving the drug out of the darkness of illegality into the light, first of the doctor’s office and the dispensary, and then into the brighter surroundings of retail therapy.
Enter profit. Colorado, where cannabis has been legal for almost two years, is the site of a modern gold rush – a late flowering of the American dream. A whole new industry, mixing horticulture and science, run by energetic young entrepreneurs (everyone is a business graduate these days) is out to make a killing through investment and hard work.
As with all start-ups, market lore prevails. Lore and language. No more Cheech-and-Chongs with reefers and doobies. Instead, company directors talk of “exciting new user demographics” and “the high-end luxury consumer package good” and that most magic consumer word of all – choice. The little bag of weed or lump of hash changing hands on the street has grown into a shop wall of dozens of varieties, quantities and strengths. There are tinctures and oils, patches and lotions, infused tooth-picks. But the big commercial breakthrough has been the edibles market – snacks, candy bars, mints, bread, ice cream and beverages, from cannabis cola to latte. Professional chefs cook marijuana dinners and out-of-state visitors take cannabis tours, factory-to-tasting, one ending in a painting class to show enhanced – or at least less repressed – creativity.
Jobs created, profits flowing and taxes rolling. Of course there are regulations. As with alcohol you have be to 21 to buy and have the ID to prove it. You can only get an ounce at a time and there’s no smoking in public, though I doubt police officers check takeaway latte on the street. Other rules are stranger. Armoured trucks transfer bags of tax money (it’s a strictly cash-only business) to the appropriate government building because banks, operating under federal law, can’t touch drug money. This year’s tax revenue is estimated at $97m (£64m) – a welcome addition to an economy struggling out of a recession.
With more states voting on the issue every year, the legislation of cannabis, like gay marriage, appears to be gaining political traction. There is also pressure from another direction. The US is panicking about its prison population. At present it incarcerates more of its citizens per capita than any other country bar the Seychelles. At last count 51% of all inmates in federal prisons were in for drug-related crimes and 27% of those for non-violent ones concerning marijuana. Only this month President Obama released 6,000 prisoners, the result of a retroactive sentencing bill, reducing penalties for drug offences in the future.
The message is clear. It costs society too much, in all senses, to criminalise so many people – and disproportionately young black or Latino men – for doing something which, legalised, could create jobs and help balance the budget. Canada’s most bizarre moment this year came when hells angels roared up outside parliament protesting that legalisation would destroy their livelihoods. Imagine a chain of coffee shops all staffed by retrained biker baristas? The image makes one stoned already.
This is probably the moment for full and frank disclosure. Legalisation of marijuana interests me not only because I’m an observer of political and social change but because I’ve been using it on and off for 40 years. Throughout my adult life it has relaxed and invigorated me, enriched my friendships, peopled my solitude, rendered me helpless with laughter and, when writing, oiled the hinges on the doors of perception. Though I agree that enhanced strains – particularly when taken by teenagers – can be dangerous, in my experience it’s a manifestly less dangerous drug than tobacco or alcohol, and regulated in terms of age of consumption and quality would be even safer.
When all us self-indulgent hippies sat lighting up at rock festivals dreaming of a brave new world, legalising pot was only one of many changes we envisaged (the end of the Vietnam war along with sexual and racial equality were also on the agenda, though no-one remembers such things now because our houses have gone up so much in price).
However, be careful what you wish for. Faced with the prospect that in my lifetime I could be shopping in cannabis stores, confronted with the same mind-numbing choice as say shampoo or yoghurt, with two for one offers, or early-bird discount on names such as Kool Aid Kush, Jack Flash and Blue Dream sold by cheery assistants urging me to have a good day – I find myself, well, less than ecstatic.
Doubtless it’s the last vestige of the rebel in me. Perhaps a little radicalism would help. Remember the lottery? That sly tax to fund sport and heritage initiatives. How about using cannabis revenue to top up the NHS? Or help fund higher education?
Now there’s an idea that could give an old stoner joy. Or in the new argot, add enhanced pleasure to the process of self-medication.
More from the Magazine
Cannabis is illegal and yet in the UK shops selling cannabis paraphernalia operate openly on the High Street. The “head shop” is an institution that shows no sign of going away.
CHICAGO — The green-typeface slogan “WE’ED like to be your doctor!” —unmistakably weed-friendly — has attracted hundreds of medical marijuanapatients in less than a year to Dr. Bodo Schneider’s clinics in southern Illinois and suburban Chicago.
In New Jersey, Dr. Anthony Anzalone has a similar following at his three clinics, marketed online with a marijuana leaf logo and a “DrMarijuanaNJ” web address.
The two marijuana-friendly doctors in states with similar laws face starkly different treatment by government regulators. When it comes to oversight of boundary-pushing doctors, enforcement practices vary in the 23 states allowing medical cannabis.
Illinois has taken a tough posture. Schneider, a former emergency room doctor, may get his license revoked in a medical board case getting underway Tuesday. Accused of charging patients for marijuana recommendations without a legitimate doctor-patient relationship, he’s the third Illinois physician to face punishment related to medical marijuana in a state where legal sales only started this month.
“I understand why they don’t want everybody and their uncle opening up a marijuana stand,” said Schneider’s attorney, Luke Baumstark. “But I think the regulators have gone after a very high percentage of the people who have tried to use this law at all. It’s over-aggressive.”
New Jersey has taken no disciplinary action against Anzalone, a gynecologist, or any other doctor related to medical marijuana since sales started three years ago, according to Jeff Lamm, spokesman for the state’s Board of Medical Examiners.
“The state’s been very good to me,” Anzalone said in a phone interview. “We’re complying with the law as best we can. … All I’m doing is the job other doctors don’t want to do.”
Indeed, pot doctors fill a void left by physicians unfamiliar with marijuana’s health benefits and fearful of endorsing what the federal government regards as a controlled substance, cannabis advocates say.
Schneider is a “godsend to patients” in southern Illinois, where two major health care organizations actively prevent their doctors from recommending marijuana, said Dan Linn of the Illinois chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
Writing a law to restrict how doctors recommend marijuana is tricky. Lawmakers in Illinois, New Jersey and other states have tried to avoid California’s drop-in, instant exams by attempting to define in legislation a legitimate doctor-patient relationship. Laws commonly call for a “bona fide” relationship with a physical exam and review of medical records. New Jersey doctors must register in a publicly viewable database and take courses in addiction medicine and pain management.
Even in two more tolerant states — Colorado and California — how governments oversee pot doctors has become an issue.
In Colorado, where medical marijuana has been legal since 2000, more than 115,000 people hold medical recommendations because they’re either too young to buy recreational pot or because they prefer a lower tax rate and higher possession limits. Colorado health authorities have grappled for years with ways to curb suspect pot recommendations.
Colorado physicians are barred from working out of dispensaries or having any financial stake in the marijuana business. As in other states, they’re required to examine patients in person once a year.
The Colorado Medical Board says it has sanctioned at least six physicians since 2009 for violating pot regulations, though details of those cases aren’t public. In 2013, one physician received three years’ probation after being convicted of making an improper pot recommendation to an undercover police officer.
In notoriously permissive California, a “Get Baked Sale” of marijuana food products in June had doctors on hand to provide on-the-spot patient recommendations. The state, which was the first to legalize medical cannabis, has disciplined only eight doctors in 20 years for improper marijuana recommendations.
California’s laid-back approach may change. The state recently enacted legislation to require the Medical Board to crack down on doctors who write recommendations without a proper patient exam or valid medical reason.
In Illinois, regulators alerted doctors soon after the medical marijuana law passed in 2013 that one doctor shouldn’t set up shop to treat all the eligible medical conditions, which range from glaucoma to HIV and cancer.
“The Department will continue to closely scrutinize instances where a physician’s practice exists solely to offer medical cannabis certifications,” said Terry Horstman, spokesman for the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.
Supporters fear that Illinois’ harsh stance discourages mainstream doctors from participating and that this pushes patients into the arms of a few pot doctors who may be unmotivated to follow up on patients’ overall health concerns.
Said Chris Lindsey of the Marijuana Policy Project, a national group that supports legally regulated marijuana: “Having a few well known clinics in the state that clearly follow the rules can be a valuable resource, both to patients who otherwise have few options, and for doctors who would prefer to make a referral.”