Medical Marijuana Update


The Florida initiative is in a close fight, hearings are coming in Hawaii, draft regulations are coming in Maryland, Illinois begins taking medical marijuana business applications, and more. Let’s get to it:


Last Thursday, a federal judge denied a request from Lake County patients for a temporary restraining order barring the county from carrying out searches and eradications under its Measure N grow rules. US District Judge Thelton Henderson ruled that the claims did not meet the legal standard required for a temporary restraining order, but held that plaintiffs could still seek a preliminary injunction.


Last Thursday, a new poll had the state medical marijuana initiative coming up just short. A new Florida Decides poll has a majority in favor of the Measure 2 medical marijuana initiative, but not the supermajority needed to pass a constitutional amendment. The poll had support at 57%, but 60% is needed. But the poll also had 17% undecided, and if only a fraction of the undecided break in favor of the initiative, it could win. Another poll earlier this week had support at 64%.


Last Friday, officials announced public hearings on dispensaries. A task force created by the state legislature to address dispensary issues will hold public hearings next week in Hilo and on September 24 in Honolulu. Click on the link for more details and information about how to submit public comments.


On Monday, the state began accepting applications for medical marijuana businesses. The state Agriculture Department is now taking applications from people who want to open dispensaries or cultivation centers. There are 22 licenses available for growers and 60 for dispensaries.


On Wednesdaythe state was waiting for new draft medical marijuana regulations. The Maryland Medical Marijuana Commission was expected to release a second draft of regulations for the state’s medical marijuana program today. The first draft came under public criticism last month for, among other things, language that would have barred grows or dispensaries within the Baltimore city limits. That language has been removed. Stay tuned for the actual draft.

New Jersey

Last Fridaya Princeton employee was put on paid leave over his medical marijuana use. Princeton University campus dining manager Don DeZarn, who had been told to choose between his job and his medicine after he began legally using medical marijuana this summer, is now on paid leave as the school attempts to resolve the issue. The problem arose after DeZarn said he might use the drug while at work and school public safety officials raised concerns he could be impaired and might accidentally give a student with food allergies the wrong item (or something).

For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format,]


Report Suggests The DEA Has Ignored Four Decades Of Cannabis Research

Report Suggests The DEA Has Ignored Four Decades Of Cannabis Research

According to a new report released last week by the Drug Policy Alliance and the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has been impartial and has constantly neglected science in regards to cannabis for over 40 years.

DPA, MAPS Report: DEA Ignoring Cannabis Research

In “The DEA: Four Decades of Impeding and Rejecting Science” report, it includes many case studies over the past four decades demonstrating the DEA’s failure to allow research towards cannabis, and a failure of exercising their powers sensibly towards drug scheduling given by the Controlled Substances Act of 1970.

Cases included in the report are as follows:

  • DEA Obstructs Marijuana Rescheduling: Part One, 1973-1994
  • DEA Overrules Administrative Law Judge to Classify MDMA as Schedule I, 1985
  • DEA Obstructs Marijuana Rescheduling: Part Two, 1995-2001
  • DEA Overrules Administrative Law Judge to Protect Federal Monopoly on Marijuana for Research, 2001-2013
  • DEA Obstructs Marijuana Rescheduling: Part Three, 2002-2013

Report Includes Cases Towards Unjustified Exercises by DEA

The report claims the DEA has failed to act in a timely fashion towards rescheduling petitions. For the very first cannabis-rescheduling petition, the DEA took a total of 16 years to issue a final decision. For the second petition, the DEA took five years, and for the third petition, they took nine years. During two out of the three petitions, multiple lawsuits were filed in order to force the DEA to do something.

Also outlined in the 16-page report are the acts of the agency’s administrators overruling DEA Administrative Law Judge’s decisions. According to the report, a DEA Administrative Law Judge is a “government official charged with evaluating the evidence on rescheduling and other matter before the DEA and making recommendations based on that evidence to the DEA Administrator.”

“The DEA is a police and propaganda agency. It makes no sense for it to be in charge of federal decisions involving scientific research and medical practice.” – Ethan Nadelmann

Despite this, agency administrators have overruled their Administrative Law Judge’s recommendations for three out of the five cases throughout the decades – the first cannabis-rescheduling petition, the case of a researcher trying to find an independent cannabis supply, and also the decision to classify MDMA as a Schedule I drug.

ethan nadelmann

For example, in 1986, the DEA held public hearings on rescheduling cannabis with several witnesses and thousands of pages of documents. DEA Chief Administrative Law Judge, Francis Young, ended up ruling that cannabis should be rescheduled because it failed to meet the criteria to be considered a Schedule I drug. However, DEA Administrator John Lawn overruled Young’s decision.

The DPA report also shows that the DEA has created a “regulatory Catch-22.” For over 40 years, the DEA has continued to argue that there is not enough evidence in order to support the idea of rescheduling cannabis or utilizing it as a medicine.

“Through the use of such tactics, the DEA has consistently demonstrated that it is more interested in maintaining existing drug laws than in making important drug control decisions based on scientific evidence,” the report states. Because of this, cannabis has remained a Schedule I drug alongside with heroin, LSD and other drugs that have “no currently accepted medical use” and “a high potential for abuse.”

Commenting on the DEA and its actions is Ethan Nadelmann, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “The DEA is a police and propaganda agency,” he says. “It makes no sense for it to be in charge of federal decisions involving scientific research and medical practice.”


Report Proves DEA Has Ability To Move Swiftly If Needed

Despite the inability of the DEA to be able to act in a timely manner towards rescheduling consideration, the report declares that the DEA can act quickly in the case of banning drugs. The report includes a few examples to substantiate its claim.

In 1982, MDMA was recognized by the DEA, and Senator Lloyd Bentsen from Texas requested the DEA to schedule it by 1984. By March of 1984, the DEA began the process to schedule MDMA, and the DEA announced its intent to schedule MDMA as a Schedule I drug just 4 four months later. Despite strong opposition, the drug was fully banned by 1986.

Synthetic cannabinoids found in “Spice” or “K-2” has had a history of causing dangerous side effects, and even the possibility of fatality. They began to get attention in the U.S. during 2009. Some states decided to ban them the following year in 2010, the same year the DEA named synthetic cannabinoid JWH-018 to be a “drug of concern” after there was an increase in people suffering from the ill effects.

Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah sent a letter to the DEA in November of 2010 claiming that his state’s youth was using synthetic cannabinoids “at epidemic proportions.” He pleaded the DEA to “exercise its emergency scheduling authority to classify Spice as a Schedule I substance.”

Just one week later, the DEA stated that it would use its emergency scheduling abilities in order to prevent “an imminent public health crisis” and resulted in synthetic cannabinoids becoming Schedule I substances. According to the report, in 2012 a bill permanently placed synthetic cannabinoids and other synthetic drugs in Schedule I with President Obama’s signature.

“The DEA has obstructed research into the medical use of marijuana for over 40 years and in the process has caused immeasurable suffering that would otherwise have been treated by low-cost, low-risk generic marijuana.” – Rick Doblin

Although the DEA seemed to move quickly to utilize their powers in banning these drugs, the report proves cannabis to be quite a different story with how research has been impeded. However, opposition to the DEA’s actions has become much stronger than ever before, as seen with the recent House approval of the Rohrabacher amendment.

“The DEA has obstructed research into the medical use of marijuana for over 40 years and in the process has caused immeasurable suffering that would otherwise have been treated by low-cost, low-risk generic marijuana,” said Rick Doblin, Executive Director of MAPS. “The DEA’s obstruction of the FDA approval process for marijuana has — to the DEA’s dismay — unintentionally catalyzed state-level medical marijuana reforms.”

Preliminary Study Suggests Dabbing Is Safe Despite Perceived Dangers

Researchers at the University at Albany, State University of New York (SUNY) released a study last week about the recent widespread popularity of dabbing, including the growing concern in regards to safety. Analysts concluded that dabbing, a slang term that refers to the vaporization of concentrated cannabis, “created no more problems or accidents than using flower cannabis.”

Is Dabbing More Problematic than Smoking?

According to the SUNY researchers, this study was conducted with the purpose to “gather preliminary information on ‘dabs’ consumers and test whether ‘dabs’ use is associated with more problems than using flower cannabis.” The results were recently published in the journal Addictive Behavior.

The study notes that recent press reports have considered “dabbing” to be riskier than smoking flower cannabis. However, the results of this survey refute those claims – there is no data to suggest that “dabbers” experience more problems than those who smoke traditional cannabis flowers.

How Was The SUNY Dabs Study Conducted?

Researchers asked 357 participants about their history of cannabis use and how they identify as a cannabis user (for example, whether or not they consider themselves to be a recreational user or a medical patient).

mallory“Study participants were recruited online from major cities in each region of the U.S.” Mallory Loflin, author of the SUNY study explains. The survey was completely anonymous, and the only requirements to be involved were that you had to report some history of dabs use and be over 18 years old.

“We were happy to see that demographically the sample was well representative of the U.S. population at large.” – Mallory Loflin

“We were happy to see that demographically the sample was well representative of the U.S. population at large,” Loflin says.

“Normally marijuana studies attract a much larger percent of men than women. Surprisingly, we had women responding to our ad about as often as men.”

Other questions asked included how often participants dab or smoke flower cannabis, and what types of problems they’ve experienced from smoking flower and dabbing. This could include both health problems and potential accidents associate with eithe consumption method. Participants were also asked to report on their symptoms of dependency, including their experience of increased tolerance and withdrawal.

Dabbing May Lead To A Higher Tolerance Level

Interestingly enough, researchers found that the cannabis users that were familiar with dabs considered dabbing to be significantly more dangerous than smoking flower cannabis. However, the data collected showed no evidence of more problems or accidents occurring while using dabs.

“Dabs might lead more readily to a dependency-related syndrome than flower cannabis, but there’s no evidence that it’s use is interfering in peoples major domains of life more than what we see with the use of flower cannabis.” – Mallory Loflin

Even so, research did suggest that dabbing could lead to a higher tolerance and symptoms of withdrawal. ”This isn’t surprising given the higher dose concentration with dabs,” Loflin explains.

Explaining her interpretation of the study, Loflin had the following to say: “The results suggest dabs might lead more readily to a dependency-related syndrome than flower cannabis, but there’s no evidence that it’s use is interfering in peoples major domains of life more than what we see with the use of flower cannabis.”

Because there is not enough scientific literature on dabbing, Loflin explains that researchers are unable to begin clinical trials just yet. However, the results indicated from this survey are encouraging and she agrees that further analysis is necessary.

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By  (contactConor Shine

Updated Wednesday, March 19, 2014 | 8:10 p.m.

A push to increase patient access to medical marijuana took a step forward today as two local governments voted to allow dispensaries and related businesses in their jurisdictions.

In Clark County, commissioners approved land-use and licensing regulations that clear the way for prospective medical marijuana entrepreneurs to begin filing applications for special-use permits next month.

A few hours earlier, the Las Vegas City Council took a stand on medical marijuana, voting to allowing dispensaries and directing staff to bring back final regulations for a vote in May or June.

The votes mark definitive progress for medical marijuana advocates, who have been working to increase patient access to the drug since it was legalized in the state constitution more than a decade ago.

Although medical marijuana was approved by voters, no system to legally distribute it was established until the 2013 Legislature passed a bill allowing for a network of cultivation facilities, testing labs and dispensaries.

Clark County is the first local government in Southern Nevada to pass regulations that govern how and where medical marijuana businesses can locate.

“This is a monumental step I think that the county took,” commission Chairman Steve Sisolak said. “We tried to get everything right but I think that time is going to tell what we got right and what we got wrong, what adjustments and tweaks are going to have to be made in the future.”

Although all commissioners supported medical marijuana, Commissioners Chris Giunchigliani and Lawrence Weekly voted against the ordinance because of concerns about what they felt were some overly restrictive provisions of the law.

Giunchigliani took issue with two specific portions of the ordinance — one requiring cultivation facilities, which are already limited to industrially zoned areas, to be at least 660 feet from homes, which severely limits the number of suitable locations, she said.

The other requires that dispensaries acquire their product from cultivation facilities in Clark County unless there’s a shortage or the drug can’t be acquired at a fair market value. Giunchigliani said this provision could negatively impact patients who rely on highly specialized strains of cannabis used to treat seizures and other illnesses.

Commissioners did remove a provision requiring dispensaries to be located at least 330 feet from homes, reasoning that any dispensaries too close to a residential area can be rejected during the special use permit application process.

The commissioners’ approval means business owners will have to scramble to lock down sites for dispensaries and cultivation facilities because of a narrow application window that starts April 16 and ends May 2.

Prospective owners will have to pass a background check and prove locations meet zoning standards, among other requirements.

Once applications are received, each one will be reviewed before making their way before county commissioners, who will hold a public meeting June 5 to award the special-use permits.

Although there’s no limit in the state law on the number of production and cultivation facilities, unincorporated Clark County is only allowed 10 dispensary licenses, meaning commissioners will have to wade through dozens of applicants to pick the best proposals.

Las Vegas, meanwhile, is a few steps behind the county. But today’s decision by the council means the city will likely become the second in the valley to allow medical marijuana businesses, after licensing regulations are approved. The vote to approve medical marijuana split the council 5-2, with council members Stavros Anthony and Lois Tarkanian in opposition.

Councilman Ricki Barlow was initially hesitant about allowing medical marijuana in Las Vegas, but said he came around after visiting dispensaries in Arizona and California.

“In the beginning I had a completely different interpretation and level of understanding as to what we’re dealing with here,” Barlow said. “I have a newfound respect for how, in fact, this actually has helped a lot of patients … I had a stereotype of who was going to be inside of the facilities, but I was gravely wrong.”

The city also approved a moratorium on accepting any medical marijuana business license applications until regulations are in place, a measure meant to prevent overeager entrepreneurs from applying early.

While Southern Nevada’s two largest local governments have moved firmly in the direction of allowing medical marijuana businesses, others have hesitated.

Boulder City passed an outright ban on dispensaries earlier this year, while Henderson approved a moratorium while city officials decide whether to welcome the industry within their jurisdiction.

This is a developing story. Check back for more.


sincitydespensaries03LAS VEGAS – The Clark County Commission agreed to move forward with plans to allow medical marijuana dispensaries in the county.

During a zoning commission meeting Wednesday, the commission set March 19 for a public comment hearing about the proposed dispensaries.

Commissioners also expect to start the approval process for dispensaries at the end of May in what many commissioners expect will be a marathon meeting.

Decisions still must be made about whether the dispensaries should be allowed near residential areas, like pharmacies currently are, or if they must be restricted to industrial areas.

They also must decide if marijuana can be grown and sold in the same spot and where grow operations will be allowed.


Marijuana a Year in Reveiw



Cannabis Added to Herbal Pharmacopeia

Cannabis Cover of HerbalGram Magazine

Industry Standards Released by AHPA

ASA Launches Certification Program

Dr. Sanjay Gupta Endorses Medical Use


Report on Federal Guidelines Finds States Conform

ASA Analysis Finds Federal Meddling Costs Millions

Senate Hearings on Cannabis Laws, Mandatory Sentencing

ASA Hosts National Conference, Announces 2014 Dates


Illinois is 20th Medical Cannabis State

New Hampshire is 19th Medical Cannabis State

Oregon and Nevada Enact Dispensary Regulations

Massachusetts Health Officials Listen to Patients

15 Years Later, Access in Washington, D.C.

Hawaii Legislature Approves Program Changes

New Jersey Expands Program to Minors

Arizona Judges Overturn Dispensary Bans, Probation Denial

Delaware Moves Forward with Dispensaries

ASA Fighting Restrictions in Washington State

Advocates in Arkansas Launch 2014 Initiative Campaign

California Supreme Court Affirms Dispensaries Legal

L.A. Voters Approve Dispensary Regulations

ACTION ALERT: Register for ASA’s 2014 National Unity Conference!



Herbal Pharmacopeia Adds Cannabis

In December, the American Herbal Pharmacopeia (AHP) added cannabis to its list of accepted herbal medicines–70 years after it was removed from the U.S. Pharmacopeia. The cannabis monograph places the plant alongside other Complementary and Alternative Medicines (CAM) and establishes standards that give patients, providers and health care professionals a basis for improved quality assurance.

The comprehensive overview of cannabis reflects the consensus opinion of the world’s leading experts from scientific research, pharmaceutical development and naturopathic medicine. The cannabis monograph is being released in two parts. The first, Standards of Identity, Quality, and Testing, covers the plant’s botany and constituent components and provides scientifically valid ways of assessing the identity, purity, potency, and quality of cannabis products. Regulators are implementing quality assurance protocols based on these standards.

The second part, the Therapeutic Compendium, catalogs both the history of therapeutic uses and contemporary medical research on the broad variety of conditions cannabis can treat. The Compendium covers indications, contraindications, side effects, dosing, preparations, safety, use in pregnancy, and interactions with conventional medications.
Americans for Safe Access helped underwrite the preparation of the monograph, and among the contributors are ASA Foundation Board Member Dr. Michelle Sexton, ND, and ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer.

More on AHP Cannabis Monograph

Cannabis Cover of HerbalGram

In February, cannabis made the cover story of HerbalGram, the journal of the American Botanical Council, for the first time in its 30-year publishing history. The issue’s cover story was on Israel’s medicinal cannabis program. “From our perspective, cannabis is just another medicinal plant–one with a compelling history and an apparently promising future,” said HerbalGram editor and founder Mark Blumenthal.

HerbalGram cover story on cannabis

AHPA Issues Standards

Last January, the national trade association focused on botanicals and herbal products issued guidelines on cannabis for state regulators. The recommendations on best practices for cultivation, distribution and packaging resulted from a year of collaboration between ASA and the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA).

The APHA sent the recommendations to state officials who regulate medical cannabis production and distribution. Founded in 1982, AHPA has more than 340 industry members. The AHPA established a Cannabis Committee in 2010 to address safe use and responsible commerce of cannabis products. The Committee began collaborating with ASA in 2012 to gain feedback from medical cannabis producers, distributors and laboratories in California, Colorado, Maine, New Mexico and Washington State.

AHPA Cannabis Committee recommendations
American Herbal Products Association

ASA Launches Certification

In December, Americans for Safe Access launched a new nationwide program to certify the quality and reliability of medical cannabis products sold at licensed businesses. Patient Focused Certification (PFC) is the only nonprofit, third-party certification for the medical cannabis industry based on new quality standards issued by the AHPA and the AHP.

The certification process, which is overseen by a review board of scientists, doctors, and industry and regulatory experts, includes a scheduled physical audit, a staff training audit, a complaint process and at least one surprise audit annually. PFC-certified products and businesses will exhibit the PFC seal on their marketing, promotions and packaging to help patients make educated purchasing decisions. Certifications are pending in Arizona, California, Colorado, Maine, New Mexico and Washington.

More on ASA’s Patient Focused Certification program

Dr. Sanjay Gupta Endorses Cannabis

In August, Dr. Sanjay Gupta went on a public apology tour for his previous opposition to medicinal cannabis, saying he and the American public have been “systematically misled” by the federal government. The apology came in advance of Dr. Gupta’s CNN Special Report on cannabis that documented the research being conducted in Israel and the remarkable results being achieved with severe pediatric seizure disorders. Dr. Gupta, a neurosurgeon who was a leading contender to be named US Surgeon General, said the DEA’s classification of cannabis has no basis in fact, and that sometimes for some patients it is the only medicine that works.

Dr. Gupta’s apology and explanation

ASA Partner on TheAnswerPage

In May, ASA launched an educational tool about medical cannabis on, an informational website sponsored and accredited by the Massachusetts Medical Society. The new resource features a daily Q&A on Facebook and Twitter written for the layperson, as well as a crossword puzzle on Saturdays on the ASA blogTheAnswerPage also offers Continuing Medical Education courses on cannabis. TheAnswerPage provides information on the five most studied cannabinoids, the endocannabinoid system, state and federal marijuana laws, and the FDA drug-approval process.



Senate Hearings on DOJ Memo; ASA Report

In November, ASA released an analysis of the Obama Administration’s third memo from the Department of Justice on federal enforcement guidelines. The report, “Third Time the Charm? State Laws on Medical Cannabis Distribution and Department of Justice Guidance on Enforcement,” shows that states with medical cannabis laws already satisfy federal concerns. The ASA report says the federal government should defer to local and state enforcement and notes all three DOJ memos have said personal cultivation is not an enforcement concern. The report recommends Congress prevent DOJ funds from being spent on enforcement in medical cannabis states until the DOJ provides “metrics” for evaluating compliance with their enforcement priorities. As a long-term solution, the report urges Congress to adopt HR 689, which would reclassify marijuana for medical use.

ASA report: “Third Time the Charm?”

ASA Finds Federal Meddling Costs Hundreds of Millions

The federal government has spent nearly half a billion dollars interfering with state medical cannabis programs since 1996, according to analysis released by ASA in June. The report, “What’s the Cost? The Federal War on Patients,” details how President Obama’s Administration has been by far the worst of the past three, spending approximately $300 million, despite his repeated pledges to not use federal funds to interfere with state programs. Under Obama, federal prosecutors have also sent threatened hundreds of individuals with asset forfeiture and criminal prosecution, resulting in the closure of more than 500 dispensaries across the country. ASA’s report recommends Congress prevent funds from being spent prosecuting anyone in compliance with state medical cannabis programs. The report also calls for the compassionate release of medical marijuana patients, as well as the passage of federal legislation that would reclassify marijuana for medical use.

ASA report: “What’s the Cost?”

ASA Hosts National Conference and Historic Lobby Day, Announces 2014 Dates

Americans for Safe Access hosted the Medical Cannabis Unity Conference and Lobby Day in Washington, D.C. at the end of February. More than 300 participants from 34 states met for three days of education, strategy development and skills building, followed by a day of lobbying that included visits to more than 200 legislative offices. The weekend conference featured workshops and panels on achieving policy change, as well as Continuing Education sessions for legal and medical professionals.

ASA’s second annual National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference in Washington, DC is scheduled for April 5-7, 2014. For more information and to register, go to:


Illinois is 20th Medical Cannabis State

On August 1, Illinois became the 20th state to legalize medical cannabis. The ‘Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program’ Act creates a framework for licensed dispensaries across the state and protects qualified patients from arrest and prosecution and establishes. The law allows registered patients to obtain up to 2.5 ounces every two weeks. The law takes effect January 1, and officials have been working on regulations, but the four-year trial program will not be running until late 2014. Nearly 40% of Americans now live in medical cannabis states.

HB1: Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act

New Hampshire is 19th Medical Cannabis State

New Hampshire became the 19th medical cannabis state in July. HB 573 creates a registry identification card system, provides an affirmative defense for cardholders and authorizes up to four non-profit dispensaries from which up to two ounces may be obtained in a ten-day period. Rulemaking has begun and registry ID cards are expected to be available later in 2014.

HB573: Use of Cannabis for Therapeutic Purposes

Massachusetts Officials Listen to Patients

Health officials in Massachusetts in May approved final regulations for the medical cannabis program voters passed by 63 percent in November 2012. The rules reflect input from public sessions that included testimony from medical cannabis patients and other stakeholders, including ASA board member Dr. Karen Munkacy, the Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance (MPAA) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Among the changes from the draft regulations, the final rules allow patients to obtain their medication from more than one dispensary and removed restrictions on access for minors. Qualifying patients may obtain up to 10 ounces in a 60-day period from up to 35 licensed dispensaries.

Massachusetts medical marijuana program rules

15 Years Later, Access in Washington, D.C.

The first legal medical cannabis sales began at the end of July in the District of Columbia, 15 years after the voters approved a ballot referendum. Three dispensaries and six cultivation centers are licensed in the District. Voters passed a 1998 ballot measure with 69 percent support, but it was blocked by an act of Congress, which lifted the ban in 2009, but the District rulemaking process took several years.

District of Columbia medical marijuana program

Hawaii Approves Program Changes

In June, Hawaii changed its medical cannabis program to shift its supervision from law enforcement to public health officials and to expand the amount and types of usable cannabis patients may possess. The changes don’t take effect until January 2015.

Hawaii SB 642
Hawaii HB 668

New Jersey Expands Program to Minors

After pressure from parents, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in September signed legislation to make it easier for minors to access and use medical cannabis. The bill makes the registration process for minors similar to adults and allows them to use edible forms of medical cannabis.

New Jersey A4241 / S2842

Arizona Overturns Bans, Probation Denial

Rulings by Arizona judges in October established that qualified patients can continue to use medical cannabis while on probation and local governments cannot ban dispensaries. In the probation case, a Yavapai County Superior Court reversed a blanket probation provision prohibiting the use of cannabis. In the zoning case, a Maricopa County Superior Court held that the county “may not use its zoning powers to violate state law.”

Delaware Restarts Dispensary Plan

Delaware’s governor restarted implementation of a dispensary program in August more than two years after it was suspended over warnings from the Department of Justice that state officials could be subject to prosecution. The state will license a single dispensary to cultivate cannabis and distribute it to registered patients, who currently have no legal means of obtaining it.

Delaware Medical Marijuana Program

ASA Fighting Restrictions in Washington

ASA helped reverse a proposed ban on cultivation by patients and caregivers in Washington State. After a state work group in October recommended highly restrictive new rules for medical cannabis, ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer held meetings stakeholders across the state to plan a response. An OpEd by Sherer in the Seattle Times urged changes in the proposal, as did formal comments ASA submitted to the Liquor Control Board. Final recommendations that went to the state legislature did not include the work group’s proposed ban on cultivation.

More on ASA’s recommendations for Washington State
ASA’s “Health before Happy Hour” Campaign

Arkansas 2014 Initiative Campaign Launch

Medical cannabis advocates Arkansans for Compassionate Care (ACC) and Americans for Safe Access (ASA) joined forces to put an initiative on the 2014 ballot there. The campaign was launched in November with 300-plus volunteers gathering more than 6,000 signatures. Two years ago, a similar initiative made the ballot only to be narrowly defeated. Organizers have until July 7, 2014, to submit roughly 62,000 signatures.

Arkansans for Compassionate Care

California Supreme Court Affirms Dispensaries are Legal in State

In an appeal ASA argued, the California Supreme Court last January affirmed medical cannabis dispensaries are lawful. The Court denied review of a unanimous ruling from the Fourth District Court of Appeal in the case of People v. Jackson, which reversed the conviction of former San Diego dispensary operator Jovan Jackson and established a state-law defense for dispensary operators.

People v. Jovan Jackson

L.A. Voters Approve Dispensary Regs

In May, the nation’s second-largest city established regulations for medical cannabis dispensaries. Voters in Los Angeles approved Measure D, which sets hours of operation, location rules and other regulations for more than 100 dispensaries that had registered with the city in 2007. The measure requires them to operate not-for-profit, pay a 6% local tax, and locate at least 600 feet from sensitive facilities.

Text of Measure D



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The Mysterious History Of ‘Marijuana


“The political upheaval in Mexico that culminated in the Revolution of 1910 led to a wave of Mexican immigration to states throughout the American Southwest. The prejudices and fears that greeted these peasant immigrants also extended to their traditional means of intoxication: smoking marijuana. Police officers in Texas claimed that marijuana incited violent crimes, aroused a “lust for blood,” and gave its users “superhuman strength.” Rumors spread that Mexicans were distributing this “killer weed” to unsuspecting American schoolchildren. Sailors and West Indian immigrants brought the practice of smoking marijuana to port cities along the Gulf of Mexico. In New Orleans newspaper articles associated the drug with African-Americans, jazz musicians, prostitutes, and underworld whites. “The Marijuana Menace,” as sketched by anti-drug campaigners, was personified by inferior races and social deviants.”

We’ve decided to take a weekly look at a word or phrase that’s caught our attention, whether for its history, usage, etymology, or just because it has an interesting story. This week, we look into how we came to call cannabis “marijuana,” and the role Mexico played in that shift.

Marijuana has been intertwined with race and ethnicity in America since well before the word “marijuana” was coined. The drug, my colleague Gene Demby recently wrote, has a disturbing case of multiple personality disorder: It’s a go-to pop culture punch line. It’s the foundation of a growing recreational and medicinal industry. Yet according to the ACLU, it’s also the reason for more than half of the drug arrests in the U.S. A deeply disproportionate number of marijuana arrests (the vast majority of which are for possession) befall African-Americans, despite similar rates of usage among whites and blacks, the ACLU says.

Throughout the 19th century, news reports and medical journal articles almost always use the plant’s formal name, cannabis. Numerous accounts say that “marijuana” came into popular usage in the U.S. in the early 20th century because anti-cannabis factions wanted to underscore the drug’s “Mexican-ness.” It was meant to play off of anti-immigrant sentiments.

A common version of the story of the criminalization of pot goes like this: Cannabis was outlawed because various powerful interests (some of which have economic motives to suppress hemp production) were able to craft it into a bogeyman in the popular imagination, by spreading tales of homicidal mania touched off by consumption of the dreaded Mexican “locoweed.” Fear of brown people combined with fear of nightmare drugs used by brown people to produce a wave of public action against the “marijuana menace.” That combo led to restrictions in state after state, ultimately resulting in federal prohibition.

But this version of the story starts to prompt more questions than answers when you take a close look at the history of the drug in the U.S.: What role did race actually play in the perception of the drug? Are historical accounts of pot usage — including references to Mexican “locoweed” — even talking about the same drug we know as marijuana today? How did the plant and its offshoots get so many darn names (reefer, pot, weed, hashish, dope, ganja, bud, and on and on and on) anyway? And while we’re on the subject, how did it come to be called “marijuana”?

Let’s start with the race question. Eric Schlosser recounts some of the racially charged history of marijuana in his 1994 Atlantic article “Reefer Madness” (some of the source material for the best-selling book):



In 1937, U.S. Narcotics Commissioner Henry Anslinger testified before Congress in the hearings that would result in the introduction of federal restrictions on marijuana. According to, Anslinger’s testimony included a letter from Floyd Baskette, the city editor of the Alamosa (Colo.) Daily Courier, which said in part, “I wish I could show you what a small marihuana cigaret can do to one of our degenerate Spanish-speaking residents. That’s why our problem is so great; the greatest percentage of our population is composed of Spanish-speaking persons, most of who [sic! such an enthusiastic sic!] are low mentally, because of social and racial conditions.”

Folks weren’t just worrying about Mexicans and jazz musicians, either. “Within the last year we in California have been getting a large influx of Hindoos and they have in turn started quite a demand for cannabis indica,” wrote Henry J. Finger, a powerful member of California’s State Board of Pharmacy, in a 1911 letter (page 18). “They are a very undesirable lot and the habit is growing in California very fast; the fear is now that it is not being confined to the Hindoos alone but that they are initiating our whites into this habit.”

It seems clear that much anti-cannabis animus had a racial dimension. Here’s the thing, though. The “pot was outlawed because MEXICANS” argument is complicated by the fact that Mexicowas also cracking down on the drug around the same time, as Isaac Campos documents in his book Home Grown: Marijuana and the Origins of Mexico’s War on Drugs. Mexico’s prohibition of pot actually came in 1920, a full 17 years before the U.S. federal government pot crackdown started (with the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937). And while there may have been a class dimension to the movement against marijuana in Mexico, Campos suggests, people were banning the drug because they were seriously freaked out about what it could do.

The Turn Of The 20th Century

If you’ve ever watched a stoner movie, this account of marijuana’s effects will likely seem very familiar:

“The resin of the cannabis Indica is in general use as an intoxicating agent from the furthermost confines of India to Algiers. If this resin be swallowed, almost invariably the inebriation is of the most cheerful kind, causing the person to sing and dance, to eat food with great relish, and to seek aphrodisiac enjoyment. The intoxication lasts about three hours, when sleep supervenes; it is not followed by nausea or sickness, nor by any symptoms, except slight giddiness, worth recording.”

— Source: “The Indian Hemp,” The Western Journal of Medicine and Surgery, May 1843.

Add some “Cap’n Crunch,” and bam, you’ve basically just described the plot of Half-Baked.

Most of the pre-1900 press references to cannabis relate either to its medical usage or its role as an industrial textile.* But then, in the early 1900s, you start to see accounts in major newspapers like this Los Angeles Times story from 1905 (“Delirium or death: terrible effects produced by certain plants and weeds grown in Mexico”):

* An article in an 1874 Chicago Tribune slams a rival paper’s editor for publishing an ad claiming cannabis cured a child of consumption. “It gratifies us to add,” the author writes, “that the editor of the Inquisitoryesterday ‘stopped his paper’ — not his own paper, as he should have done, but The Tribune. This is the only evidence wanting to convince the public that he is guilty.”

“Not long ago a man who had smoken a marihuana cigarette attacked and killed a policeman and badly wounded three others; six policemen were needed to disarm him and march him to the police station where he had to be put into a straight jacket. Such occurrences are frequent.

“People who smoke marihuana finally lose their mind and never recover it, but their brains dry up and they die, most of times suddenly.”

Suddenly, the drug has a whole new identity. Here’s a representative New York Times headline from 1925: “Mexican, Crazed by Marihuana, Runs Amuck With Butcher Knife.”

This disparity between “cannabis” mentions pre-1900 and “marihuana” references post-1900 is wildly jarring. It’s almost as though the papers are describing two different drugs. (In Spanish, the drug’s name is spelled “marihuana” or “mariguana”; “marijuana” is an Anglicization.)

But according to Campos’ book, these accounts in the American press echoed stories that had been appearing in Mexican newspapers well before. Campos cites story after story — most pre-1900 — containing similar details: a soldier “driven mad by mariguana” and attacking his fellow soldiers (El Monitor Republicano, 1878), a pot-crazed soldier murdering two colleagues and injuring two others (La Voz de México, 1888), a prisoner stabbing two fellow inmates to death after smoking up (El Pais, 1899).

Campos makes a very compelling case that the “pot-induced mania” narrative wasn’t imposed on Mexico after the fact by xenophobes in America.


One version of the popular folk corrido “La Cucaracha” includes a reference to smoking marijuana. Here’s Wikipedia’s explanation of the reference.

Much of Campos’ book is devoted to puzzling through the question of how the effects of marijuana as documented in these press accounts in Mexico and America could differ so dramatically from our contemporary understanding of the drug. Could class prejudice have caused the elites running Mexico’s newspapers to hype up accounts of drug-fueled violence among the lower classes? (Consider that all of the accounts listed above involved prisoners or soldiers, who would have been thought of as lower class at the time.)

Campos ultimately concludes that while class attitudes were certainly on display in the Mexican press (just as racist and xenophobic attitudes were on display in the American press), they weren’t behind the perception of marijuana as dangerous. In fact, his read of the evidence suggests that it was lower-class Mexicans who were most fearful of the drug’s effects.

As mystifying as it might be amid modern perceptions of marijuana as a relatively benign narcotic, Campos argues that a variety of conditions could have caused users in that late 19th-century context to behave very differently from the way we might expect stoners to behave today. He writes:

“When I began this research, I expected the scientifically measurable effects of cannabis to be a straightforward control for understanding the past. My assumption went something like this: If we know the effects that a drug has in the present, then we will know what effects the drug had in the past, producing a perfect control for distinguishing between myth and reality in the historical archive. This, it turns out, was wrong.

“Richard DeGrandpre has called this widespread misunderstanding the “cult of pharmacology” and has identified it as a key component in the genesis and longevity of misguided drug policies in the United States. The cult of pharmacology suggests that there is a direct and consistent relationship between the pharmacology of a substance and the effects that it has on all human beings. But as decades of research and observation have demonstrated, the effects of psychoactive drugs are actually dictated by a complex tangle of pharmacology, psychology and culture — or “drug, set, and setting” — that has yet to be completely deciphered by researchers.

One factor, however, appears difficult to disentangle even in Campos’ meticulously detailed account. We have a fairly low-resolution understanding of what “marijuana use” looked like in Mexico and the U.S. at the turn of the century — how much people consumed, how they ingested it, what substances it might have been combined with. Someone smoking a joint packed half with tobacco and half with cannabis indica (the version of the drug that typically produces a sedentary, mellow high) would have had a very different experience than someone who’s drinking the Mexican liquor pulque and eating something laced with cannabis sativa (the version of the drug likelier to produce anxiety).

Which brings us back to the problem of names.

The Many Faces Of Marijuana

Remember when I mentioned that the pre-1900 “cannabis” news stories and the post-1900 “marihuana” news stories almost seemed to be describing two different plants? Well, in some cases, they actually were.

One account, published in The Washington Post, draws a distinction between “Mexican marihuano or locoweed” and Indian “hasheesh,” aka “cannabis indica.” The article actually erroneously conflates a poisonous weed (that really is called locoweed; its clinical name isastralagus, not cannabis) with marijuana. (More about that on page 21 of this paper.)

Cannabis is an extraordinarily global plant, and has a variety of identities all around the world. This is one of the reasons the drug has so many names — “ganja” comes from Sanskrit; it appears as “bhang” in The Thousand and One Nights; it’s “hashish” in The Count of Monte Cristo. But these different names reflect a wide range of cannabis products and derivatives. According to Campos, for example, Sinbad’s hashish may have actually been half-opium. Such variety in labeling obviously makes it difficult to determine how cannabis manifests in different historical accounts.

In fact, the plant has such a robust global history that we don’t even know for sure how the Mexican Spanish word marihuana was coined. Plausible competing theories trace the word’s roots to any of three continents. And therein lies an interesting little lesson about history and global interconnectedness.

We know that the Spanish brought cannabis to Mexico to cultivate it for hemp, but it’s unlikely the Spanish indulged in any significant fashion in the plant’s psychoactive properties. One theory holds that Chinese immigrants to western Mexico lent the plant its name; a theoretical combination of syllables that could plausibly have referred to the plant in Chinese (ma ren hua) might have just become Spanishized into “marijuana.” Or perhaps it came from a colloquial Spanish way of saying “Chinese oregano” — mejorana (chino). Or maybe Angolan slaves brought to Brazil by the Portuguese carried with them the Bantu word for cannabis: ma-kaña. Maybe the term simply originated in South America itself, as a portmanteau of the Spanish girl’s names Maria and Juana.

The mystery of marijuana’s name is appropriate for this incredibly many-faceted plant. It’s worth reflecting, when you see coverage of the humble weed, how much global, geopolitical, historical weight is packed into even its name. All that history is still reverberating in the lives of the men and women affected by the drug every day. When you think about it, a degree of multiple personality disorder makes sense for a drug that might as easily have been named by Angolan slaves as by Chinese immigrant laborers.


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