Israel: It’s Official, Cannabis is not a crime

Israel’s Cabinet decriminalized the recreational use of cannabis, or marijuana, at its weekly meeting on Sunday in a move hailed by politicians from across the spectrum.

Under the new policy, first-time offenders caught using marijuana in public will be subject to a fine of approximately $250, but will not face criminal charges. The money will be used for drug rehabilitation and education. A second offense will be subject to a fine of approximately $500, while a third offense may require rehabilitation, education and a suspended driver’s license. A fourth offense will be subject to prosecution and a possible prison term.

Worldwide, many nations have already decriminalized cannabis in an attempt to combat societal problems associated with its use — including the Netherlands, Mexico, Czech Republic, Costa Rica and Portugal.

Cannabis: Israel’s next big medical export?

Marijuana advocates hope the new policy encourages entrepreneurship and investment in Israel’s burgeoning cannabis industry.

Israel is one of the world leaders in medical marijuana, backed by the Ministry of Health, whose ultra-Orthodox leader has encouraged research and innovation. Numbering only a few dozen medical marijuana users a decade ago, Israel now has approximately 25,000 users. Cannabis companies estimate the industry could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars soon, even in such a small country.

“Decriminalizing cannabis in Israel is another step towards creating a Canna-Tech global industry, with Israel at the forefront,” said Saul Kaye, CEO of iCan, a cannabis entrepreneurship incubator. “This step, although not legitimizing use, is due to reduce the negative perception of the plant as ‘immoral or ‘criminal’, increasing openness to its outstanding medicinal and wellness properties.”

“The Cabinet approval is an important step on the way to implementing the new policy that will put emphasis on explaining and treating rather than on criminal enforcement,” said Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan.

CNN International Edition

Cannabis Investors: Could the Opioid Crisis Derail the Recreational Marijuana Train?

Investors in Canadian medical marijuana producers are betting that Ottawa will deliver on its plan to legalize the sale of recreational pot and open a massive new market.

Is the plan at risk?

Canadians are generally perceived as having open minds when it comes to giving people the option to legally use cannabis for recreational purposes. Whether or not they are comfortable having dispensaries set up in their communities is another question.

While the discussion surrounding the legalization of marijuana continues, a surge in the use of opioids by Canadian teens is once again bringing the entire drug problem out into the open.

Reports continue to emerge of young teens overdosing and sometimes dying due to the use of drugs containing fentanyl, a potent synthetic opioid. The death of a 14-year-old girl in an Ottawa suburb recently made national headlines.

Should you own cannabis stocks?

Medical marijuana suppliers, such as Canopy Growth Corp. (TSX: WEED) are trading at extreme valuations right now based on investor expectations that a legal recreational marijuana market is coming soon.

The government may well see the plan through, but there is a risk that Ottawa could drag its feet, especially if MPs start to take heat from voters who think the Liberals should focus on stamping out the opioid problem first.

If Ottawa decides to backtrack on the marijuana file, cannabis stocks could get hit hard.

As such, I would avoid the sector today.

The Motley Fool

Feds ‘Just Say No’ to Marijuana at High Times Cup on Tribal Lands

Case in point: the 2017 High Times Cannabis Cup on the Moapa Band of Paiutes reservation in Nevada near Las Vegas. The most recent update on this particular Cup is that despite receiving two warning letters from U.S. Attorney David Bogden, the Tribe is moving forward this Saturday with the Cup as planned.

Given the Wilkinson statement regarding Tribal cannabis and the Cole Memo regarding federal enforcement of its cannabis laws, it’s easy to see why the Moapa Indians are trying their hand at hosting this Cup. Nonetheless, tribes that have tried to legalize or “medicalize” marijuana on their lands have been met with mixed reactions and enforcement by the federal government (see here, here, here, here, and here). The Moapa are no exception.

On February 16th and 23rd, U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden sent “warning letters” to the Tribe concerning this upcoming cannabis cup, reiterating that marijuana remains federally illegal and that the Tribe has an “incorrect interpretation” of the Cole Memo and Wilkinson statement. Bogden’s letters also reminded the Tribe that neither the Cole Memo nor the Wilkinson statement alters the power of the federal government to enforce federal laws on tribal lands. At no point in his February 16th letter did Bogden threaten to shut down the Cup. But Bogden’s February 23rd letter states that his office communicated with tribal officials and his understanding is that no cannabis or cannabis products will be present at the Cup.

Since Bogden’s warning letters come on the heels of White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s comments about the likelihood of increased federal enforcement in states with recreational marijuana programs, many are wondering if Bogden’s actions are the beginning of what “increased enforcement” may look like.

Above the Law

Medical Marijuana Can Help Reduce Opioid Abuse

A 2016 study conducted by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that states with legal medical marijuana had 25 percent fewer opioid-related deaths than states that still prohibit medical marijuana. Another study, published in Health Affairs, found that prescriptions for often-abused opioids dropped significantly in states with medical marijuana.

Last December, the New York Health Department approved medical marijuana treatment for some patients suffering from chronic pain. Doctors are also hopeful that the new treatment will allow some of these patients to wean themselves off of addictive and dangerous opioid medications.

This January, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a review of over 10,000 medical marijuana studies published since 1999. The review found substantial evidence that supports the use of medical marijuana to treat chronic pain, but the study also recommended further research into both positive and negative effects of long-term marijuana use.

Merry Jane

Just how mainstream is Marijuana? There’s now a “Congressional Cannabis Caucus.”

Earlier this month, Rohrabacher introduced a measure called the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2017, which would protect people from marijuana-related prosecutions under the Controlled Substances Act, provided that they were acting in compliance with state laws. The bill has drawn bipartisan co-sponsorship.

Voters and lawmakers in many states have been liberalizing their marijuana laws since the 1990s, sometimes drastically so. Most have opted to scale back the strict marijuana prohibitions of an earlier era, adopting regulatory structures that allow for everything from limited access to certain marijuana-derived chemicals for medical use all the way up to full-blown commercial legalization and regulation.

The disconnect between state and federal laws leaves many marijuana users, patients, businesses and researchers stuck in an uncomfortable gray area between the two. Federal authorities could technically sweep in at any minute, shutting down businesses and arresting marijuana users even in places where it’s legal under state law.

That this hasn’t happened on any significant scale since Colorado and Washington’s state legalized marijuana in 2012 is partly because federal authorities lack the manpower to do so. Most drug enforcement is handled at the state level, by state and local police. This fact was explicitly acknowledged by Obama’s Justice Department in what came to be known as the Cole Memo, which laid out a federal policy of noninterference with state marijuana laws provided certain guidelines, like preventing underage people from using marijuana, were adhered to.

But a memo is just a voluntary statement. It doesn’t have the force of law, and the new administration could choose to adhere to it or ignore it, depending on its own enforcement priorities.

The Washington Post

China Approves Indian Arecanut for Imports

Arecanut grown in India has received certification from China, and this has opened up new markets for farmers.

But the challenge remains the price, which is not viable for Karnataka growers because the production cost there is high, while it will help farmers in Assam.

M Suresh Bhandary, managing director, The Campco Ltd, a co-operative of areca nut and cocoa farmers, said that areca nut from the Shivamogga, Puttur, and Coimbatore regions had been processed at a plant in Puttur and after certifying its quality, it had been exported to China.

The Chinese counterparts have now shown interest in the green tender areca nut, which has retained its color. The Chinese market favored the Mohitnagar variety for its quality, he added.

Bhandary said besides the domestic market, the export market had opened up. This will help them to make up for price drops in the domestic market. Till now they did not have an option.
Campco will supply areca nut to Kou Wei Wang (King of Taste), one of the largest mouth-freshener manufacturers in China. The buyer had visited India and was happy with the raw material, said Bhandary.

There are more than 20 manufacturers of areca nut mouth-fresheners in China. As more Chinese are using mouth fresheners to quit smoking, the supply is not enough. The Campco has estimated that 90 per cent of India’s areca nut production can meet China’s demand.

Business Standard

Kava Legal in Relaxation of WA’s Drug Laws

Changes to the State’s medicines and poisons laws last month mean a ban has been lifted on the plant product, bringing WA into line with other States.

Kava, also known as Piper methysticin, is made from the root of a shrub and in small doses in herbal preparations can relax muscles and help with sleep. The WA Health Department said yesterday kava would be a closely regulated substance in WA.

Low-dose products labeled as a complementary medicine are available over the counter.

The department said patients should still seek expert advice before starting a treatment, and any mental health condition required the advice of a qualified medical professional.

Professor Jerome Sarris, who is deputy director of the NICM integrative medicine institute at Western Sydney University and has done clinical trials into the effectiveness of kava, said it was a sensible step forward.

“Anxiety disorders are complex and can significantly impact people’s day-to-day lives, and research has shown kava compares favorably to the efficacy of existing medications for the treatment of chronic anxiety,” he said.

“However, unlike some other options, it has less risk of dependency and less potential for side-effects such as lethargy and memory impairment.”

The West Australian

Opium for Ayurveda Medicine

Opium to be grown under State protection to cater to the requirements in the country’s Ayurvedic or native medicine needs was the consensus of stakeholders as stated by the Presidential Task Force on Drug Prevention.

Director of the Task Force Dr. Samantha Kumara Kithalawaarachchi said that opium is essential for Ayurvedic medicinal preparations from stocks confiscated through narcotic raids and elsewhere.

Experts are of the view that provisions should be made in the law to allow the Ayurveda industry, other medicines, and hospitals to meet their requirements according to Dr. Kithalawaarachchi

“There are groups which are trying to derail the campaign of the Task Force by alleging that there is a Governmental move to grow opium and sell it. This is not the case,” Dr. Kithalawaarachchi further elaborated.

Nation Weekend

California Seeks Advisers on Marijuana Rules

Medical cannabis laws passed by the Legislature in 2015 and the recreational legalization measure voters approved in November established similar overarching regulatory frameworks related to cultivation, manufacturing, transportation, sales and other aspects of the marijuana market. State agencies are tasked with developing specific rules to best implement the new laws.

The state intends to create a singular regulatory system for both medical and recreational marijuana by the end of the year. Some question the feasibility of establishing a model for a multi-billion dollar industry in such a short time frame.

The advisory committee will work with the marijuana bureau, food and agriculture and public health departments to help develop “regulations that protect public health and safety while ensuring a regulated market that helps reduce the illicit market for cannabis,” according to the bureau.

The bureau expects the committee to consist of individuals from the cannabis industry, labor unions, public health and state and local agencies, among others.

The bureau said it will accept applications for at least one month. The positions are unpaid and offer reimbursements for travel-related expenses.

The Sacramento Bee

State Senate Approves Marijuana Oil Legalization

The vote is another step toward increasing access to cannabidiol, also known as CBD oil, by making changes to the state law that governs it. CBD-oil has been used to treat medical conditions including seizure disorders in children.

The state Senate voted 31-1 in support of the bill, which would make it legal for individuals to possess the oil in Wisconsin, as long as a doctor has signed off on it. Sen. Duey Stroebel, R-Saukville, was the only dissenting vote.

In 2014, lawmakers passed a bill called Lydia’s Law, which made the oil available to certain populations. However, some patients have said it’s difficult to access the oil because that law requires the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to approve prescriptions.

A similar bill passed the state Assembly during the last legislative session but failed to pass the state Senate after opponents expressed concern about the oil being a gateway to marijuana legalization in the state.

The bill would not legalize the manufacture or sale of CBD oil in Wisconsin. Users would need to travel to adjacent states to procure it.

The bill now goes to the state Assembly, where Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, has shown support.

Wisconsin Public Radio

Key differences of Psychedelic drugs like magic mushrooms and LSD: Here’s What you Should Know

What we do know, however, is that psychedelics have a fundamentally different effect on the brain than addictive drugs like alcohol and cocaine do. Cocaine, for example, elicits a deep, euphoric sensation by temporarily flooding the brain’s reward and motivation centers. In some people, this can trigger a cycle of reinforcement that traps them in addition, even when the same amount of the drug no longer results in a characteristic “high.” The psychedelic drug psilocybin, on the other hand (the psychoactive ingredient in magic mushrooms), appears to fundamentally alter the infrastructure of the brain’s prefrontal cortex and change how information in this area of the brain is exchanged.

Psilocybin isn’t the only psychedelic drug that researchers are studying for its potentially therapeutic effects, however. They’re also looking at LSD (“acid”), DMT (ayahuasca), and more. Each drug has a different trip length and varies in terms of its legality across the globe.

Methods for producing, brewing, and taking the drugs differ as well.

While magic mushrooms are typically either grown and eaten, brewed into tea, or ground up and taken in pill form, LSD is made synthetically and usually processed into strips that can be absorbed by placing them on the tongue.

Ayahuasca, on the other hand, is usually consumed as a beverage. It’s brewed from the macerated and boiled vines of the Banisteriopsis caapi (yage) plant and the Psychotria viridis (chacruna) leaf, and it has been used for centuries as a traditional spiritual medicine in ceremonies among the indigenous peoples of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. Ayahuasca’s effects come from mixing the drug dimethyltryptamine, or DMT, from the chacruna plant, and the MAO inhibitor from the yage plant, which allows the DMT to be absorbed into the bloodstream.

Business Insider

DEA Asked Public’s Comment On Its Proposed Kratom Ban: 99 Percent Opposed It

When the Drug Enforcement Administration formally backed off plans last year to ban the herb kratom, the agency announced it would accept input from the public to help determine how to proceed.

Kratom is a herb made from the leaves of Mitragyna species, a Southeast Asian tree related to coffee. Often taken in powder form, kratom contains the alkaloids mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine, which appear to activate opioid receptors in the brain and reduce pain. And although most opioids have sedative qualities, low to moderate doses of kratom actually serve as a mild stimulant.

A diverse coalition of supporters appears prepared to stand firm against that move. Of the 2,416 comments submitted to the DEA with profession-related information, nearly half self-identified as either veteran, law enforcement officials, health care professionals or scientists. The overwhelming majority of these were in favor of keeping kratom legal, with veterans supporting by a margin of 448 to 1 and medical professionals supporting by a margin of 569 to 7.

Despite having received overwhelming support in favor of keeping kratom legal, it’s not yet clear how the DEA will proceed. The agency is still awaiting the results of a U.S. Food and Drug Administration analysis of the potential harms and health benefits of the herb, which will determine if kratom truly poses an “imminent hazard to the public safety,” as the DEA initially claimed last year.

“What we found is a kratom community of responsible consumers who look just like your family and the people who live next door,” they said. “The face of kratom consumers is the face of America today.”

Huffingpost

Cyprus Set to Provide Cannabis Oil to Cancer Patients

Alongside announcing the cannabis oil provisions, Pamboridis said that legislation has been drafted to legalize medical cannabis more broadly. According to Greek-language newspaper Politis, the draft bill will be open for public consultation prior to being entered into parliament for debate and approval.

These announcements come two months after Pamboridis tweeted that he wanted to have a frank and open public conversation about the potential benefits of medical cannabis use.

Although these plans are groundbreaking for Cyprus, medical cannabis provisions for cancer patients are well-established in certain other countries.

Cannabis use, sale, and cultivation have been prohibited in Cyprus since 1977 when the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Law was introduced. This legislation, which deems cannabis to be a Class B drug, offers harsh penalties for related offenses.

According to the European Centre for Monitoring Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), possession of fewer than 30 grams of cannabis can garner a prison sentence of up to eight years. Possession of more than 30 grams is presumed to be a supply offense and can be punished by up to life in prison.

In December 2016, the Irish parliament’s lower house passed a bill to legalize and regulate cannabis products for medical use. One month later, the lower house of the German parliament passed a bill to legalize cannabis for medical use “in very limited exceptional cases”.

Both bills are expected to pass their respective parliaments’ upper houses without obstruction.

Talking Drugs

New England hospitals will help women, babies affected by opioid abuse

Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s Perinatal Addiction Treatment Program is using a grant from the March of Dimes to create an online toolkit for hospitals and health centers that want consistent guidelines and a systematic approach to care. For example, the toolkit includes consent forms that enable a patient’s addiction treatment provider and medical care team to share information and work together.

“Providers were saying, ‘I feel like my patients have two different health care teams — they have their addiction treatment provider and they have their perinatal health care team, and the two don’t talk to each other. This is not a safe situation,'” said project coordinator Daisy Goodman.

Officials estimate about 10 percent of newborns in New Hampshire’s Upper Connecticut Valley region are exposed to opioids before birth. While that number has increased, knowledge about how to treat them also has significantly improved, Goodman said.

Participating sites include Dartmouth-Hitchcock clinics in Lebanon, Claremont and New London; Cheshire Medical Center in Keene, Catholic Medical Center in Manchester, Memorial Hospital in Conway, Manchester Health Center and Maine’s Waldo County General Hospital.

NBC

Belladonna Found in Homeopathic Teething Products

Certain homeopathic teething products marketed by Hyland contain belladonna, also known as deadly nightshade, “sometimes far exceeding the amount claimed on the label,” according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The products in question are made by the Standard Homeopathic Company in Los Angeles. The FDA says it has contacted the company, but “at this time, the company has not agreed to conduct a recall.”

The body’s response to belladonna in children under 2 years of age is unpredictable and puts them at unnecessary risk,” Dr. Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in the statement. “We recommend that parents and caregivers not give these homeopathic teething tablets to children, and seek advice from their health care professional for safe alternatives.

These products often contain nothing but water, but several brands contain tiny amounts of belladonna, which is supposed to help ease redness and inflammation caused by teething.

WebMD

Bolivian Government Proposes Increasing Land for Legal Coca Cultivation

Since 2004, the Bolivian government has allowed coca cultivation to take place on up to 12,000 hectares of land. The government has now proposed that a further 8,000 hectares of land be designated for coca leaf production.

Bolivia, the third largest producer of cocaine in the world, originally introduced legal coca cultivation for domestic consumption due to the violence and corruption being caused by the illegal cocaine trade.

Domestic demand is due to the cultural and religious importance of coca leaf chewing, which causes mildly stimulating effects, among many of Bolivia’s indigenous communities. The effects of chewing coca leaves are markedly different to those of cocaine – the production of which the Bolivian government continues to oppose.

Tom Wainwright, author of Narconomics: How to Run a Drug Cartel, describes Bolivia’s approach to coca production as relying on a fine balance: it involves “[licensing] enough cultivation to feed the market for tea, toothpaste, and all the rest of it, without growing enough to leak into the cocaine trade”.

Indeed, there is currently insufficient legally-produced coca to meet domestic demand, so the proposed expansion appears necessary to undermine illegal traders who seek to fill the market gap.

The proposed expansion has, however, been met with controversy by farmers in certain regions where coca cultivation will continue to be prohibited.

Despite the controversy, this proposed expansion marks a renewed government commitment to regulating coca cultivation and thereby reducing the power of drug cartels.

Talking Drugs

Spinal Cord Stimulation May Cut Opioid Use in Chronic Pain

A spinal cord stimulation system consists of an implanted device that transmits low levels of electrical energy to nerve fibers, interrupting pain signals as they travel to the brain to reduce pain sensation.

Researchers evaluated opioid usage data in 5,476 chronic pain patients prior to and after receiving spinal cord stimulation implant by assessing private and Medicare insurance claims data. They found that spinal cord stimulation therapy was effective for patients at any level of opioid usage before implantation. The average daily opioid use was lowered or stabilized for 70% of patients receiving a successful spinal cord stimulation system vs. patient use of opioids before an implant.

Patients who had a successful spinal cord stimulation implant had significantly reduced opioid use 1-year post-implant whereas patients who removed their implant saw an increase in their opioid use again over time. Specifically, 93% of patients who continued on spinal cord stimulation therapy had lower average daily morphine equivalent doses vs. patients who had their implants removed.

MPR

Oregon Marijuana Tax Revenues Are Down 28% Since October

The good news is that the State of Oregon brought in over 60 million dollars in taxes from adult-use marijuana sales. That is significantly higher than what was estimated to be brought in before 2016 started. However, the bad news is that the tax revenues are declining at a significant pace.

Per The Statesman Journal:

“Taxes collected on sales totaled $5.6 million in December, a 13 percent decline from November and a 28 percent drop from the peak of $7.8 million in October. ”

“For the year, tax collections totaled $60 million, a sizable boost above the $45 million expected by state officials at the beginning of the year. ”

Anyone who is involved in the marijuana industry has already known that the adult-use industry has been suffering. Testing issues and foot-dragging on issuing industry licenses has often been the reasons cited for the industry slowdown.

This upcoming legislative session in Oregon is going to be extremely vital to the future success of the marijuana industry in Oregon. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people in Oregon right now that value profit over compassion and fairness, and the mindset of ‘I’m going to get mine, to hell with yours’ is way too common. Oregon’s legislative session starts in February. I suggest you get in touch with your elected officials early and often.

Weed News

Marijuana Has Medical Benefits According to National Academy of Sciences

The committee who conducted the review concluded that patients who were treated with cannabis or cannabinoids are likely to experience a huge decrease in pain symptoms. In adults suffering from multiple sclerosis-related muscle spasms, temporary use of oral cannabinoids led to a marked improvement in their condition, according to a news release.

The first attempt by the government to control the use of pot was commissioned by then New York mayor Fiorello La Guardia in response to the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. The LaGuardia report concluded that pot did not have any effect on a person’s sensibilities or decision-making ability.

Former U.S. President Richard Nixon also commissioned a scientific assessment of marijuana in the early 1970s. Commissioned by Nixon, the Schaefer Report came up with the conclusion that cannabis does not rank high in social problems in contemporary America.

There is a huge difference in the landscape of cannabis in 1999 and 2016. Currently, medical marijuana is legal in 28 states (as of this writing), while 16 states have CBD laws. Last summer, the DEA did not reschedule marijuana, which means that it has no medical value.

Testing It Up

Guest column: Lessons of the Opioid Addiction Epidemic

Opioids, which include Oxycontin, Percocet, Vicodin, and morphine, are powerful painkillers. In the past, opioids were mainly used for patients with cancer pain, at the end of life, or after major surgery. But starting about 20 years ago, there was a big push for doctors to prescribe opioids for acute and chronic pain of all types, such as headaches, fibromyalgia, arthritis and back pain.

At the same time, doctors were told, incorrectly, that these medications were not addictive. As a matter of fact, doctors were told that less than 1 percent of patients on long-term opioid therapy became addicted or dependent on the medications. Furthermore, starting patients on these medications, doctors were told, would return them to normal function. They would get their lives back.

If you are a young person (younger than 25) and take an opioid for any reason — after a surgery, tooth extraction, etc. — you are 50 percent more likely to become addicted in your lifetime. The young brain should not be exposed to opiates unless absolutely necessary.

Now, pain is very personal and emotional for many people. There are many people whose lives have been changed for the better because of opioid therapy, but the above statistics are sobering.

Because of the evolving understanding of opioid pain medications and the drastic increase in people living with addiction, and overdose deaths, providers are becoming more cautious about prescribing these medications. We will explore this and the community response to the opioid crisis in an article in this space next month.

Citizen-Times