Friday, April 8, 2011

Cannabis is a dioecious plant (i.e. an individual cannabis plant is either male or female). Whilst both produce good quality fibre it is the females that are the best producers of the cannabinoids, the psychoactive compounds present in the plant, the most significant of which is delta-l-tetrahydrocannabinol, most commonly referred to in its abbreviated form, THC. Of the three cannabis species, C. sativa has a number of strains sought out by smokers. C. indica is said to be the most potent psychoactive species whilst C. ruderalis comes in a poor third.

It is known to archaeologists that Central Asia was an important center for the transmission of new discoveries and religious ideas from prehistoric times onwards. The hemp plant, being of major technological importance as a fibre and being one of the most influential psychoactive plants in human culture, was most likely a key trade item from a very early date. The anthropologist Weston La Barre was of the opinion that cannabis use goes as far back as the Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age) period as part of a religio-shamanic complex. Certainly the use of the plant had already spread across an area stretching from Romania to China, secondly south to India and on to south-east Asia, and last, and certainly not least, to western Asia, from where it diffused to Africa, Europe and eventually the Americas.

It seems most likely that the cultivation of hemp may have originated in north-east Asia. It is the only fibre plant of any great importance in the region and, as such, must have been eagerly sought out for its numerous technological uses. The earliest indirect evidence of hemp use is from decorated Chinese Neolithic pottery having cord impressions on it. Painted pottery from Honan province belonging to the Neolithic Yang-shao culture (c. 4200-3200 BC) also indicates the probably presence of cultivated hemp. Pieces of what are thought to be hemp cloth have been found on the inside of a jar belonging to a Neolithic culture at a site in the western province of Gansu (2150-1780 BC). Other finds of hemp fragments dated to the Chinese Neolithic period have been discovered at a site in Chekiang province. The earliest uncontroversial find of fibre cloth is from the Western Chou era. The indications are that in early China hemp seeds were also a significant foodstuff. North-east Asia is still associated with shamanism today and it was surely important throughout the North, Central and East Asia during prehistoric times. If the cannabis plant was practically important as a fibre plant to these early societies then it was probably equally important in their spiritual life. In Chinese hemp is known as ta-ma, meaning 'great fibre' (ma being 'fibre'). In the ancient Chinese script 'ma' is supposed to represent fibres placed on a rack inside a roofed shelter. Yet this technological use for hemp does not appear to have been the only one, as Hui-Lin Li says:

that the stupefying effect of the hemp plant was commonly known from extremely early times is also indicated linguistically. The character ma very early assumed two connotations. One meaning was, 'numerous or chaotic', derived from the nature of the plant's fibers. The second connotation was one of numbness or senselessness, apparently derived from the properties of the fruits and leaves which were used as infusions for medicinal purposes … as a character it [ma] combines with other characters to form such bisyllabic words as ma-tsui, narcotic (ma and 'drunkenness'); ma-mu, numb (ma and 'wood'); and ma-p'i, paralysis (ma and 'rheumatism').
The earliest of the Chinese pharmacopoeias, the Pên Ching, dating from the first century BC but containing much material undoubtedly of older date, makes it clear that the Chinese knew the psychoactive properties of cannabis: 'To take too much makes people see demons and throw themselves about like maniacs. But if one takes it over a long period of time one can communicate with the spirits and one's own body becomes light.' The Taoists used cannabis as a hallucinogen by adding it to other ingredients in incense burners (something also done by the Assyrians). In the sixth-century AD work Wu Tsang Ching, or 'Manual of the Five Viscera', there is the following instruction for magicians: 'If you wish to command demonic apparitions to present themselves you should constantly eat the inflorescences of the hemp plant.' It was also believed that using cannabis and ginseng together gave one visionary powers to see into the future.

Despite the numerous Chinese references to cannabis it has never played a comparable role in Chinese social life to that it achieved in the Middle East and India. Hui-lin Li has suggested that the austere and somewhat puritanical system of ethics and social behaviour founded by Confucius put a stop to the widespread use of cannabis as a psychoactive substance. The often unpredictable effects of cannabis could easily result in a very un-Confucian way of behaving. Opium, says Li, with its narcotic effects, was far more socially acceptable. Whilst a superficially persuasive explanation for the marginal role of cannabis use in China, it fails to explain why alcohol – surely the most un-Confucian of all inebriants! – should have played such an important role in Chinese history. The real explanation may lie elsewhere. That cannabis may have been one of the main psychoactive substances used by the shamans of archaic China may have resulted in the decline of the habit along with the shamanism that gave its use its meaning. The other reason for its marginal place is that traditionally China has seen itself as the unmoving center and the surrounding barbarians of its northern and western borders as a volatile threat. Cannabis, as the chosen drug of many of these neighbouring peoples, would have been an unsavoury choice for many Han Chinese, who didn't wish to indulge in 'barbarian habits'. This still holds true today. In Chinese Turkestan (Xinjiang) the local Muslim peoples, mainly Uighurs, are still associated with cannabis by the Han Chinese. According to Owen Lattimore, a great traveller and expert on Central Asia, in 1937-38, 42 per cent of exports from Chinese Turkestan to India down one of the old silk routes were in the form of cannabis resin. That cannabis may have been one of the main psychoactive substances used by the shamans of archaic China may have resulted in the decline of its use as the cult of shamanism gave way to religion. The 'gohei', a sacred rod used by Shinto priests to banish impure spirits, has traditionally been made of hemp.

In contrast to the history of hemp in China, cannabis (bhang, ganja) has been widely used in India throughout its history and down to the present day. In the ancient text Artharvaveda, cannabis is described as one of a number of herbs that 'release us from anxiety'. Various psychoactive preparations containing cannabis were sacred to the gods, particularly Shiva and Indra. One of Shiva's epithets was 'Lord of Bhang'. Cannabis has been widely used in the Tantric tradition as an aphrodisiac incorporated into ceremonial practices. Cannabis seems to have been introduced into south-east Asia around the sixteenth century. Since almost all the common terms for the plant have their etymological root in the Sanskrit word ganja (in Laos hemp is kan xa, in Vietnam can xa, in Thailand kancha or kanhcha, and in Cambodia kanhcha), it is clear that it was under Indian influence that cannabis spread into the region.

The method of use of the plant for its psychoactive effects in south-east Asia has been in for form of 'grass', i.e. the leaves, flowering tops and stalks were smoked, usually with tobacco. In Cambodia the plant is sometimes boiled and some of the resulting liquid is sprinkled on tobacco and then it is smoked. The smoking of cannabis resin in the region seems to be due to recent foreign influence. Although Cambodians are reported to be light smokers of the plant, in Thailand the problems that sometimes occur with chronic habitual smoking are traditionally treated by native medicine men who employ a certain root to wean the inveterate smoker off the drug. At least until the current 'drug problem' (introduced and caused by Western foreigners) it was common-place in Thailand to employ cannabis for its analgesic and other medical uses. An infusion of the tops was given in small quantities (to avoid intoxication) at meal times to women who had just given birth. Similar practices are reported from Cambodia (although there the hemp is an ingredient in an alcoholic decoction). Fewer medical applications for cannabis are reported from Laos which, according to the researcher Marie Alexandrine Martin, is most likely due to the ready availability of opium derivatives which are used instead. For both their psychoactive effects and flavour, hemp leaves are popular in the local cuisines of the region, being variously used in soups, curries, fish fritters and other dishes.

Hemp moved westward out of its Central Asian home at a very early date. Evidence for its use in eastern Europe as a psychoactive substance can be traced to the later part of the third millennium BC. Two archaeological finds are of particular interest. The first was found in a pit-grave burial in Romania and is an artefact known as a 'pipe cup'. This particular pipe cup and another one, roughly contemporaneous, from a north Caucasian early Bronze Age site, both contained the charred remnants of cannabis seeds. This evidence, in conjunction with other finds across Europe (such as the great number of hemp seeds found in Neolithic contexts in central Europe) has been interpreted by the Oxford archaeologist Andrew Sherratt as foreshadowing the later ritual use of cannabis. There is further prehistoric evidence that cannabis was widely used as a psychoactive substance on the steppes. Russian archaeologists have discovered large-scale Iranian fire temples in the Kara Kum desert region of western Central Asia which contain the remains of cannabis, opium and Ephedra in ritual vessels. These ancient temples are dated to the first millennium BC.

In the fifth century BC the Greek historian Herodotus wrote of the use of cannabis by the Scythian people of the Black Sea region:

On a framework of tree sticks, meeting at the top, they stretch pieces of woollen cloth. Inside this tent they put a dish with hot stones on it. Then they take some hemp seed, creep into the tent, and throw the seed on the hot stones. At once it begins to smoke, giving off a vapour unsurpassed by any vapour bath one could find in Greece. The Scythians enjoy it so much they howl with pleasure.
Amazingly, almost identical hemp-smoking equipment was found by the Russian archaeologist Rudenko at the Pazyryk site in southern Siberia at the other end of the vast stepped of Asia. Not only was the equipment the same but the dating of the site makes it contemporary with the report of Herodotus from the Black Sea area thousands of miles from Pazyryk. No clearer proof could be found to indicate that the ritual use of cannabis was widespread in prehistoric Asia and Europe.

Cannabis was also widely used in the ancient Near East. It was used by the Assyrians as a fumigation to relieve sorrow and grief, which is surely an indication of psychoactive use. Hemp was widely used in Ancient Egypt as a rope fibre. Remains of hemp have been discovered in the eighteenth-dynasty tomb of Akhenaten (Amenophis IV) at el-Amarna and cannabis pollen was found on the mummy of Rameses II (nineteenth dynasty). The suggestion that cannabis was kaneh bosm (one of the ingredients of the Holy Oil which God instructed Moses to prepare; see Exodus 30:23) has been rejected by most authorities.

Its use among the Islamic mystical order of Sufis and Dervishes has been equally controversial. Many contemporary Sufis have wanted to distance themselves from what has now become a disreputable substance to many governments. Sufis have been called 'the hippies of the Arab world' by Ernest Abel in an otherwise accurate book on cannabis, but this is a trite and unfounded comparison. Sufism has been a continuous mystical tradition for over a thousand years and is a spiritual path that has been followed by many of the greatest poets, thinkers and scientists of the Islamic world. The hippy movement (if indeed it is such) has been around for just over thirty years and the literary and philosophical output (let alone the scientific!) scarcely bears comparison. Certainly cannabis was, and still is, widely used for recreational purposes in Muslim countries and this was certainly the case in Arabic Egypt. The diffusion of the plant into sub-Saharan Africa seems to have been partly due to migrant communities of Muslims from the north and to Arab merchants trading along the east African coast.

In a source cited by Brian Du Toit, the famous explorer David Livingstone describes the use of matokwane (cannabis) by the Makololo people:

we had ample opportunity for observing the effects of this matokwane smoking on our men. It makes them feel very strong in body, but it produces exactly the opposite effect upon the mind. Two of our finest young men became inveterate smokers, and partially idiotic. The performances of a group of matokwane smokers are somewhat grotesque; they are provided with a calabash of pure water, a split bamboo, five feet long, the great pipe, which has a large calabash of kudu's horn chamber to contain the water, through which the smoke is drawn Narghille fashion, on its way to the mouth. Each smoker takes a few whiffs, the last being an extra long one, and hands the pipe to his neighbour. He seems to swallow the fumes; for, striving against the convulsive action of the muscles of the chest and throat, he takes a mouthful of water from the calabash, waits a few seconds, and then pours water and smoke from his mouth down the groove of the bamboo, The smoke causes violent coughing in all, and in some a species of frenzy which passes away in a rapid stream of unmeaning words, or short sentences, as, 'the green grass grows', 'the fat cattle thrive', 'the fish swim'.
Potted histories of cannabis often imply that hemp's intoxicating properties were virtually unknown in Europe until the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries when travellers to Egypt and other parts of the East 'discovered the drug'. Such versions of events are built on the false premise that alcohol is and always has been the inebrient par excellence of European culture and that other substances like cannabis and opium are recent arrivals. The evidence for the use of hemp in prehistoric Europe has already been mentioned and there is no shortage of early historical references to its use throughout European history. Palaeobotanical studies have shown that hemp was cultivated (presumably as a fibre first and foremost) in eastern England by the Anglo-Saxons from AD 400 onwards. A cloth made of hemp was found in the late sixth-century tomb of the Merovingian queen Arnegunde in Paris. Its use among the Vikings is known from the discovery of plant remains at a castle in Denmark, fishing line and cloth made of hemp from Norwegian graves and cannabis seeds found in one of their ships.

Antoine Rabelais, who was the father of François Rabelais (c. 1494-1553), the famous doctor and writer of the immortal Gargantua and Pantagruel, is known to have cultivated hemp on a large scale at his property at Cinais, south-west of Chinon in France. It was perhaps in helping out on his father's property that the young Rabelais first gained knowledge of cannabis. In the aforementioned work he dedicates three chapters to hemp, which he calls 'the herb Pantagruelion'. Under King Henry VIII of England a law was passed that instructed all subjects having arable land to put aside some of it for the cultivation of hemp or flax to provide sufficient fibre for the making of rigging for ships. In England, as elsewhere in Europe, hemp was indispensable as a fibre plant; its use permeated all spheres of life. William Bulleyn (1500-76), who was related to Anne Boleyn, Henry's second wife, extolls it thus: 'no Shippe can sayle without hempe … no Plowe, or Carte, can be without ropes … the fisher and fouler muste have hempe, to make their nettes. And no archer can wante his bowe string: and the Malt man for his sackes, with it the belle is rong, to service in the Church.' The word canvas is derived from cannabis on account of its use as a fibre.

Cannabis was known by numerous names – neck weed, gallows grass (this because of its being the fibre from which the hangman's noose was made) and Welsh parsley among them.

Dances involving hemp were also common in eastern Europe, sometimes in connection with magically aiding the hemp crop to grow and sometimes as part of marriage feasts and other wedding celebrations. Sula Benet sees another cultural role of hemp as having archaic roots:
[a] custom connected with the dead in parts of eastern Europe is the throwing of a handful of seeds into the fire as an offering to the dead during the harvesting of hemp – similar to the custom of the Scythians and of the Pazyryk tribes, two-and-a-half-thousand years ago. There is no doubt that some of the practices, such as funeral customs, were introduced by the Scythians during their victorious advance into southeast Russia, including the Caucasus, where they remained for centuries … hemp never lost its connection with the cult of the dead. Even today in Poland and Lithuania, and in former times also in Russia, on Christmas Eve when it is believed that the dead visit their families, a soup made of hemp seeds, called semieniatka, is served for the dead souls to savour.
As the use of hemp goes back far further into European prehistory than even the Scythian period (see above) such customs may have their ultimate origins even further back than Benet supposes.

Hemp also had a number of uses in early medicine, being used to treat gout, worms, tumours and inflammation. Nor were its psychoactive properties forgotten. Bulleyn warns that it can bring madness and it was a seventeenth-century belief that apothecaries and others that traded in cannabis often became epileptics, an effect attributed to the seeds. Although the seeds of cannabis are the last part of the plant that we would associate with psychoactive effects, this was a widespread idea in past centuries. William Turner (c. 1508-c. 1568) quotes an earlier author called Simeon Sethy (or Sethi) who wrote that: 'hemp sede if it be taken out of measure taketh mens wittes from them.' Turner himself says it is the powder of the dried leaves that makes men 'drunk'. William Salmon, writing in 1693, says that cannabis seeds, leaves, juice, essence and decoctions were readily available in druggists' shops at the time, thus showing that cannabis was a widely used medicine.

Despite precursors such as Rabelais, sustained interest in cannabis among the literati may be said to have begun with Le Club des Haschischins. This informal club met in the privately owned baroque palace known in the 1840s as the Hôtel Pimodan at 17 quai d'Anjou on the Isle St Louis in Paris. Whilst many of its members were prominent in the artistic community (Honoré de Balzac, Alexandre Dumas, Théophile Gautier, Gérard de Nerval and Charles Baudelaire) its driving force – and supplier of the hashish in the form of a green paste (an echo of the witches' drugs which were greenish ointments) – was a psychiatrist named Jean-Jacques Moreau de Tours (1804-84). Moreau, who also experimented with the possible medical applications of Datura stramonium, is often described as the first psychiatrist interested in the use of psychoactive substances as a means of treating mental illness. In fact, even though Anthony Störck was too early to be called a psychiatrist (he published the results of his work in 1762) he conducted systematic experiments – very much in the modern style – with henbane and thorn-apple specifically to ascertain their potential in treating mental disorders.

The first cultivation of hemp in the Americas seems to have been in Nova Scotia in 1606 and it subsequently became widely grown across North America for its use as a fibre. It seems, however, that there was no awareness of its psychoactive properties until the middle of the nineteenth century. In two books published in the 1850s the popular writer Bayard Taylor wrote of his hashish experiences in Egypt in a manner not unlike that of some members of the Parisian Hashish Club. Although rarely read today, his books were, for many of his numerous readers at the time, the first they had heard about the psychoactive effects of the hemp plant. The author of The Hasheesh Eater: Being Passages from the Life of a Pythagorean (1857), Fitz Hugh Ludlow, who is often considered to be one of the best writers on the subjective effects of hashish, never reached the contemporary audience that Taylor did, despite his posthumous fame.

It was not, of course, only writers that began to spread the word. Dubious figures in the unofficial world of medicine (better known as quackery) seized upon the 'new' drug and peddled it as an aphrodisiac. Ernest Abel has unearthed what must be one of the earliest and certainly one of the best lurid headlines concerning drugs. It is from the Illustrated Police News of 2 December 1876, and next to a drawing of elegant young women lounging in a swish apartment in a state of intoxication are written the immortal words: 'SECRET DISSIPATION OF NEW YORK BELLES: INTERIOR OF A HASHEESH HELL ON FIFTH AVENUE.'

It was not just the media but also the medical profession that were becoming increasingly aware of cannabis. Although doctors used it in treating many disorders (ranging from epilepsy and hysteria to alcoholism and asthma) the demonisation of drugs that began with opium was soon to spread to other psychoactive substances, including cannabis. As the anti-opium movement was intertwined with bigotry against the Chinese so with marijuana it was to be the turn of the Mexicans and then the Blacks. In 1915 California became the first state to make it illegal to possess cannabis. By the 1920s marijuana (called muggles or moota and later mezz, sassfras or tea; marijuana cigarettes or joints were known, as they still sometimes are, as reefers) had become a major 'underground drug'.

It was the first psychoactive substance (apart from alcohol) that became a common subject in modern popular music, with jazz classics from the 1930s such as Louis Armstrong's Muggles and Cab Calloway's That Funny Reefer Man topping the bill of marijuana-inspired fare. In opposition to the positive portrayal of cannabis in the jazz scene were wildly sensational accounts – supposedly based on fact – of the intimate connection of the drug with violence (drawing on the tradition of the Assassins, an Islamic sect who were supposed to take cannabis before committing murders) and sexual promiscuity. Finally, in 1937, through the considerable persuasive powers of Harry J. Anslinger, the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, the Marihuana (Marijuana) Tax Act became federal law and in 1956 the drug was incorporated into the more comprehensive Narcotics Act.

Although the most well-known anti-marijuana film, Reefer Madness, was designed to shock young people with its vivid portrayal of the drug menace, it seems to have had little effect. Today it is something of a cult movie (mainly among cannabis smokers!) since its plot of moral and social decline is so utterly unconvincing and ludicrous. A less well-known film about hemp was made by the US Department of Agriculture and was entitled Hemp for Victory (1942). It was made as a propaganda film to encourage the growing of the plant for its fibre by American farmers during the Second World War as, due to the conflict, sufficient overseas supplies were unavailable. Due to the controversy surrounding the psychoactive use of cannabis the very existence of the film was later officially denied; having seen it myself I can attest to its existence.

Grifos was a name given to cannabis in the Caribbean and derives from the Spanish grifos, meaning 'crinkly', which some have seen as a description of the female plant's flower heads. The word found its way into America by its use among Puerto Ricans. In 1920s Harlem it became anglicised as 'reefers' but also continued to be known as 'griffs' or 'griff'. There are innumerable vernacular and slang names for cannabis. Among the most common are weed, blow, gear, grass, draw, smoke, shit and herb. Other terms have a more restricted use, as is the case with the name 'lamb's bread' used by Rastafarians, for whom it is a sacred psychoactive plant or entheogen. A number of medical uses for cannabis have made the whole debate about its legalisation a major issue. Cannabis is known to have real value not only in pain relief but also as a preventative medicine.

The Encyclopedia of
Psychoactive Substances

Richard Rudgley
Little, Brown and Company (1998)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Montanans flooded the state Capitol to again testify on a proposed repeal of medical marijuana.

Posted by CN Staff on March 11, 2011 at 16:58:03 PT
By Stephen Dockery, Associated Press
Source: Associated Press

MT -- As Montanans flooded the Capitol Friday to again testify on a proposed repeal of medical marijuana, lawmakers were as uncertain as ever on the fate of Legislative action on the law.

A general sentiment prevails in the Legislature that something must be done to reel in a medical marijuana industry that many say has spiraled beyond the intent of the law approved in a 2004 voter initiative. An abundance of pot shops, drug use among youth and police concern over organized crime has many legislators worried that the state's rugged big sky reputation is being replaced by a blooming pot industry.

Three medical marijuana options are now poised before lawmakers: Outright repeal, a proposition viewed with skepticism by some lawmakers who say there is a legitimate need for some patients to use marijuana. Reform and regulation, a difficult task given the scope of the marijuana industry and uncertainty of how to fine tune legislation. Inaction, an option favored by few but a looming possibility given the difficulty of following through on the other two actions.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is most likely where the face of legislative action on medical marijuana will reveal itself. Many House or Senate bills dealing with medical marijuana must eventually pass through the 12 person body that seems to be closely divided between supporters of repeal and reform.

Committee Chairperson Sen. Terry Murphy said he favors a reform of the initiative because of what he said is a medical need for the drug that can't be filled by anything else.

A number of measures for reform have survived through the first half of the legislative session. Several bills propose making it more difficult for minors to access marijuana, adding fees for marijuana card holders and increasing local authority over marijuana use.

Although Murphy wants reform, he said he see few workable reform bills in front of the Legislature currently.

"None of the bills I've seen individually seem to do the whole job that we would like to do, they are either overregulating or not covering every area that needs to be covered," said the Cardwell Republican.

Murphy said he would want to see his committee pull together a reform measure that incorporates the best of all the regulation measures in the legislature.

The question is whether amending and resurrecting such a Frankenstein-like blend is a feasible option to get through both chambers.

Sen. Jim Shockley sympathized with Murphy's position on medical marijuana reform but said he now doesn't see it as a viable measure.

"At this point we are not going to get a bill that is tight enough to satisfy me, and if we did we wouldn't get it through the House," said the Victor Republican who initially supported reform.

"The choice right now is to either repeal it or do what we've got now and what we've got now is not going to work," Shockley said.

The most probable measure for repeal is Republican House Speaker Mike Milburn's proposal that drew state officials, doctors, patients and teachers to line up for hours Friday to speak for a minute or two on his full repeal of medical marijuana bill.

Milburn said the ballot initiative that created the medical marijuana program "tugged on voters heart strings but it failed on almost all accounts."

The Cascade Representative and supporters of the measure say the medical marijuana industry is bringing dangerous organized crime to Montana and addicting the state's youth on the drug. They say the law is beyond reform.

Opponents speaking Friday said the concerns that marijuana is hurting the rest of society is exaggerated and the use of marijuana is the only way some people can live a normal life. Many opponents wore buttons encouraging legislators to "fix it, don't nix it."

"Medical marijuana is the only medication on this planet that will help me," said Daniel Decker, 39, who suffers from chronic pain. "The fact that I use this medication has nothing to do with other people."

The measure cleared the House handily last month on a 62-37 vote. It now faces the Senate committee vote and several more Senate votes before it could go to the governor to sign. Gov. Brian Schweitzer has not made clear how he would act on a medical marijuana repeal.

A looming specter over all of the legislation and debate around medical marijuana is indecision. If a repeal is viewed as too harsh, if reform is unworkable or a veto comes from the governor's office, the status quo could stand for another two years.

Chairman Murphy said few lawmakers see that as acceptable.

"If we do nothing we have the same situation for two more years and many, many thousands more of the (medical marijuana) cards out," he said.

Source: Associated Press (Wire)
Author: Stephen Dockery, Associated Press
Published: March 11, 2011
Copyright: 2011 The Associated Press

CannabisNews Medical Marijuana Archives

Arizona state lawmakers are moving to give some relief to employers who fear the new medical marijuana laws are going to leave them powerless.

Posted by CN Staff on March 12, 2011 at 17:11:28 PT
By Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services
Source: Yuma Sun

Phoenix -- State lawmakers are moving to give some relief to employers who fear the new medical marijuana laws are going to leave them powerless to fire or transfer workers who will soon be legally entitled to use the drug.

Legislation crafted by attorney David Selden would provide guidelines that companies could follow and not run afoul of the law. It also would provide some immunity from being sued by an unhappy employee.

That law, approved by voters in November, allows those with a doctor's recommendation to obtain up to 2 1/2 ounces of marijuana every two weeks.

But the ballot measure also contains anti-discrimination provisions, including one that says an employer cannot make hiring, firing and disciplinary conditions based on a person's status as the holder of a medical marijuana card.

Potentially more significant for employers, that protection extends to someone who tests positive for drugs unless the company could prove the person used or possessed marijuana on the job or was “impaired” during work hours.

Only thing is, the law does not define exactly what constitutes impairment.

Selden, who specializes in labor law, said many companies maintain a zero-tolerance policy on drugs.

“In the medical marijuana statute, that may not be the appropriate policy because the person may have a prescription for that,” he said. “Yet there are still many jobs that are safety-sensitive jobs where the employer, to comply with OSHA and other responsibilities would not want a person who is on marijuana, even if it's lawfully prescribed, be operating things such as a forklift at Home Depot.”

As already approved by the House on a 56-3 vote, HB 2541 would give protections to employers who take actions against workers in these safety-sensitive positions who, in good faith, they believe may be impaired.

But the language of that “good faith belief” exception created heartburn for some legislators and forced proponents to make some changes.

Rep. Daniel Patterson, D-Tucson, pointed out, for example, the legislation as introduced would permit companies to act based solely on “information reported by a person believed to be reliable.” Selden defended that language.

“Employers today make countless decisions based on information from people believed to be reliable,” he said, which could include a supervisor, a co-worker or even security personnel.

“When sexual harassment allegations are made, employers investigate those and make those decisions,” Selden continued. Anyway, he said, these decisions always are subject to review.

Selden also said a worker could challenge any action which was based solely on the statements of someone who had reason to purposely make up a story.

More troubling, said Patterson, was language that exempted employers from being sued for taking action if they had a good faith belief that the worker “had consumed (drugs) in the recent past or intended to consume in the near future.” That would even include an employee with a medical marijuana recommendation who intended to smoke the drug after going home from work.

“People that may need medical marijuana as medicine are going to be unfortunately caught up in a bad situation,” Patterson said. “They could lose their jobs.”

And Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, said he was uncomfortable with the whole idea of immunity.

“Businesses should have the ability to do what this bill does,” he said. “But I think they act inappropriately they ought to be subject to the same kind of litigation everybody else is.”

Those concerns made a difference.

The version eventually approved by the House removed any reference to consumption in the recent past or near future. Instead, action would be allowed -- and immunity granted -- only for current use of marijuana.

That provision allowing information from a reliable source was altered to add a requirement that there be a report from someone who actually witnessed the use or possession of drugs or drug paraphernalia at work. And anyone who acts with “gross negligence” is not entitled to the presumption of acting in good faith.

Rep. Kimberly Yee, R-Phoenix, who agreed to sponsor the legislation, said the bill, even as modified, offers valuable protection for companies.

“Employers want to comply with the law,” she said of the voter-approved statute. “But they do not want to see their workplace put at risk due to an employee who is unable to safely perform his or her job.”

The legislation still needs Senate approval.


Source: Sun, The (Yuma, AZ)
Author: Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services
Published: March 12, 2011
Copyright: 2011 The Sun

CannabisNews Medical Marijuana Archives

Not Your Typical Stoner.

Posted by CN Staff on March 12, 2011 at 19:47:16 PT
By W. Zachary Malinowski, Journal Staff Writer
Source: Providence Journal

Providence, RI -- Richard Collins doesn’t fit the profile of your typical stoner. He’s 67 years old, a Marine Corps veteran, and he said he’s never had a brush with the law.

But you would be hard-pressed to find anyone who smokes more marijuana than this Montana native. He tokes “all day, every day,” to ease a host of ailments including depression, back pain, headaches and arthritis. For the better part of 50 years, Collins, an artist, bought his dope on the street, often from unsavory characters he calls “crooks.”

Last year, he joined about 125,000 Colorado residents in the state’s booming medical marijuana program. Once a week, he drives 12 miles to Denver from his home in suburban Lakewood to buy his marijuana at Cannabis Medical Technology, housed in a brown stucco building near the Colorado Democratic Party headquarters in the city’s bustling Arts District.

“I never thought I’d see the day I’d be doing this,” said Collins, who bought one quarter ounce of marijuana and three blunts for $120 with a credit card. “I’m not going to apologize for smoking marijuana. I think it’s wonderful. I’m a good citizen. In the end, I’m legal.”

Colorado is one of 15 states, including Rhode Island, that have legalized the use of marijuana to treat certain medical conditions.

So far, just two of those states, Colorado and New Mexico, have state-regulated dispensaries that are legally selling marijuana. Maine is about to become the third — the first on the East Coast — and Rhode Island will soon join in.

On Tuesday, the Rhode Island Health Department is scheduled to select up to three applicants to open Rhode Island’s first marijuana dispensaries. The decision was delayed a week, after the department’s interim director sought additional time to review the applications. The dispensaries may open for business sometime this spring.

Rhode Island has more than 3,000 residents licensed to use medical marijuana.

Complete Article:

Source: Providence Journal, The (RI)
Author: W. Zachary Malinowski, Journal Staff Writer
Published: Sunday, March 13, 2011
Copyright: 2011 The Providence Journal Company

The long-awaited debut of medical marijuana dispensaries in Rhode Island.

Posted by CN Staff on March 13, 2011 at 08:16:53 PT
By W. Zachary Malinowski, Journal Staff Writer
Source: Providence Journal

Providence, RI -- The long-awaited debut of medical marijuana dispensaries in Rhode Island this spring promises to help deal with the state’s projected $295-million budget deficit.

Last week, Governor Chafee proposed $157 million in new taxes on a wide array of items, including a 6-percent sales tax on medical marijuana sold at dispensaries. But just how much revenue could sales in the state’s growing medical-marijuana program deliver to the state’s coffers?

State Tax Administrator David Sullivan said that his office projects $802,000 in marijuana sales taxes for fiscal year 2012, which begins July 1. He said that the state expects the figure to climb to $1.3 million in the following fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2013.

Meanwhile, the state would also place a 4-percent surcharge on gross monthly dispensary sales, under the budget proposal. Assuming that the Health Department issues permits for three dispensaries, the state predicts that the surcharge would produce $1.4 million during the dispensaries’ first two years of business.

All told, that’s $3.5 million in new tax revenue over two years. The Health Department is expected to announce on Tuesday the names of operators for up to three dispensaries. They will be chosen from a list of 18 applications.

JoAnne Leppanen, executive director of the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition, forecast that once the dispensaries open, 75 to 100 patients a week will apply to the Health Department for licenses to use medical marijuana, compared to about 30 now. There are now 3,271 Rhode Islanders licensed to use and grow medical marijuana, and 2,077 licensed to grow it for approved users.

Dispensary owners in Colorado expect that the opening of three dispensaries in Rhode Island would lead to a dramatic surge in medical marijuana patients. They say that the centers are safe, and they erase many of the stigmas associated with using marijuana.

Complete Article:

Source: Providence Journal, The (RI)
Author: W. Zachary Malinowski, Journal Staff Writer
Published: Sunday, March 13, 2011
Copyright: 2011 The Providence Journal Company

CannabisNews Medical Marijuana Archives

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Cannabis News Briefs

The Michigan Court of Appeals is deciding whether to review the case against Fredrick Wayne Dagit. It's unknown when a decision will be made. Section 8 of the state's medical marijuana act says charges should be dropped against a patient and primary caregiver, if any, if they "were collectively in possession of a quantity of (marijuana) that was not more than was reasonably necessary to ensure the uninterrupted availability of (marijuana) for the purpose of treating or alleviating the patient's serious or debilitating medical condition."

The state's medical marijuana law is often described as ambiguous and poorly crafted.

An Oakland County judge called it "one of the worst pieces of legislation I've ever seen."

State lawmakers, prosecutors and legal experts believe the law, which voters passed in 2008 by a wide margin, is intentionally vague - because its supporters and authors want complete legalization.

Among those caught in the middle is Fredrick Wayne Dagit, who is facing prison time and whose case is on hold while the state Court of Appeals decides if it will consider whether his activities were protected under the statute.

"The ambiguity, to me, is extremely unfortunate not only for the community, but also for those people who are trying to take advantage of the statute - they're going to be sacrificial lambs," said Thomas M. Cooley law professor Gerald Fisher, an expert the state's medical marijuana law.

"The ambiguity cuts both ways, and some of them are going to jail."

Dagit, 61, is facing charges related to supplying marijuana to the Green Leaf Smokers Club, a medical marijuana club in Williamstown Township, as well as other related entities, including the Church for Compassionate Care Ministries.

Dagit is charged with two counts of possession with intent to deliver between 11 and 99 pounds of marijuana, growing 20 or more marijuana plants, and maintaining a drug house. He also faces a misdemeanor possession charge. He faces up to seven years in prison if convicted.

According to court documents, Dagit bought 67 pounds of marijuana last May for the club, a cooperative that his attorneys say served more than 340 patients and 12 caregivers. He and the confidential informant who sold him the marijuana also agreed to set aside another 50 pounds to be purchased for the cooperative at a later time.

117 pounds for club

Dagit's attorney, James White, has argued that the purchase of 117 pounds of marijuana using the collective's money was protected under a provision of the medical marijuana law. That provision says charges should be dismissed if a patient and caregiver collectively possess enough marijuana that is "reasonably necessary to ensure uninterrupted availability" for treatment.|head