The Elephant

A week ago, voters in California approved Proposition 64, the Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act. The faith and hard work of millions finally achieved their goal. Additionally, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada also approved legalization measures, and four more states approved medical cannabis - Arkansas, Florida, Montana and North Dakota, adding 8 states  to the mounting total that have given the go-ahead to progressive cannabis legislation. 

At this point in time, 44 states have enacted some form of medical cannabis legislation. Additionally, several ardent opponents in Congress lost their seats - John Mica (R-FL), John Fleming (R-LA) and Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL). Joe Pitts (R-PA), who blocked a hearing on the CARERS Act (H.R.1535/S. 683) has retired, while a number of supporters in the Senate have been re-elected. We should feel the wind in our hair and the heady rush of successs filling our lungs at this powerful step forward.

We truly should. 

But we don't, because there's an odd smell in the air. And it denies the savor of victory we deserve, the successes we've achieved.

And that, of course, is the elephant. The one in the room with us. The one wearing car-salesman suits and an improbable shock of yellow hair, mouthing misogyny, ignorance, hatred and greed. The seven deadly sins seemingly stuffed together into the aforementioned suit, has been elected President of the United States, as in some dark, dystopian sci-fi novel. At least we didn't settle for the lesser evil...

So now that the metaphor is made, let's name him - name him and face him. Donald Trump. It's time to set the metaphor free, for there is no reason to insult elephants with the comparison.

But the newly liberated pachyderm is luckier than the rest of us. While Trump has mentioned cannabis on a number of occasions over the years, viewed over all it's not discouraging. He has said it should be handled state by state. He has also voiced his support for legal access to medical marijuana and (in 1990) that all drugs should be legalized. 

But he has also said he opposes legalization and regulating cannabis for adult use. Trump has come down on several sides of the weed issue  and has tried inventing himself some new ones - what was said in campaign speeches, pandering to those he sees as his voter base, is very different from what he has said in the past, and neither are likely to reflect where he actually stands on the issue. His inner circle includes a large number of cannabis opponents while, deepening the contradictions, a member of Trumps transition team, Peter Thiel, runs a venture capital fund which has funded cannabis-oriented businesses. 

More directly troubling, Vice President-elect Mike Pence championed increasing posession penalties as Indiana Governor. But Friday's choice of Republican Jefferson Beauregard Sessions as Attorney General should cast a cold pall over the heart of every cannabis user, and it makes a difficult future for cannabis users and suppliers nearly a certainty.

Trump talks on both sides of his mouth and out of several different orifaces. If he placed as much value in states rights as he has claimed, it would seem unlikely he would attempt to directly and unilaterally shut down legally enacted cannabis distribution in 44 states based on Federal authority. But this too would appear to be just so much gas.

On the other hand, we can't count the sitting President out just yet; Obama just cancelled oil and gas leases on Blackfeet sacred grounds - re-scheduling cannabis before he leaves office might give us at least a little room to maneuver.

It seems certain that the struggle for legal cannabis is not over, and may be poised to take a painfully large step backward. Additionally, it's clear that multiple on-going companion struggles - the Dakota Pipeline, women's rights, LGBT rights and safety, and the rights and safety of minorities and immigrants - in short, all of us - will doubtless come under increasing pressure from Trump and his crew.

So look in the mirror. Why am I wearing a beret, you ask. Why the soiled scarf, the striped shirt, the drab military fatigues? Why am I dressed up in Resistance Fighter cosplay?

Why indeed.

Farmers, Lock Up Your Daughters!

Determining the gender of young cannabis plants is no simple task - in spite of the grower’s pressing need to oust those roudy male plants before they can pollinate the females. Sexing while the plant is still in it’s growth stage, before the ‘flower now’ cycle has begun, is a skill which must be acquired (as well as magnified… cannabis’ naughty bits are really really tiny at this stage).

Sexing when the flowering starts is easier - the male flowers look like little round sacks, (or, frankly, like balls) while the female pistils are slender, graceful tendrils which capture the floating pollen spread around by the males in a sticky grasp. If you want true sinsemilla - female plants grown without pollination - then you need to separate the would-be love birds before accidents happen. 

You can force the issue by manipulating the amount of light your plants are getting - lengthen the exposure to light and your plants will reveal themselves - but this is difficult to manage properly with outdoor plants. Also, Indica plants occasionally get stubborn and won’t return to the growth cycle when normal lighting is restored. Please note that this doesn’t apply to clones as they are always female. You can also use blue light to partially force flowering without your plants being forced out of the growth phase - this works best for larger numbers of plants.

If you separate early, you run the risk of discarding a few gals along with the guys, while if you do it after flowering, you run the risk of acting too late and watching your crop become a seedy mess of mediocre marijuana. Even after removing the males, you have to watch out for hermaphroditic off-shoots on the female plants.

Fortunately, technology is revolutionizing sexing your cannabis crops, offering foolproof DNA testing from tiny samples of plant material. This offers more than just quick and efficient gender testing, but also provides info regarding the THC to CBD ratio, among other things, again allowing the farmer to put his energy into plants which provide the crop he’s looking for. Some resources for DNA sexing are:

Phylobioscience.com

Medicinalgenomics.com

Montanabiotech.com
 

CARERS Moves Forward

Early in 2015, two senators - Rand Paul (R-KY), and Cory Booker (D-NJ) proposed a bipartisan medical cannabis bill protecting and enhancing access by patients, expanding research, and extending access to the nations veterans. Known as the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States Act of 2015, or CARERS act, and its progress, rise, fall and recent reincarnation has been closely followed by Medical Cannabis patients and activists.

Briefly stated, this broad-spectrum act, if passed, could possibly strike THE terminal blow against cannabis prohibition. 

Marijuana would be moved from Schedule I to Schedule II, states would be allowed to create their own medical marijuana policies, and VA doctors would be allowed to recommend and prescribe medical cannabis, extending effective treatment for PTSD and many other serious conditions to the nation's veterans.

And while the CARERS act itself nearly followed previous attempts to get the Fed to lighten up, nearly getting flushed down the toilet along with its predecessors, the very very good news, for those who have been following the bill's progress, the Act is assembling itself piece by piece - it's key components are becoming law on their own.

Earlier this month, the Veterans Equal Access Amendment was approved by the vote of the House of Representatives, finally paving the way for vets treated via the VA to receive medical cannabis therapy. In April, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved, with strong bipartisan support, an amendment to the FY2017 Commerce, Justice, Science & Related Agencies Appropriations Act, defunding the Justice Department's interference with states' medical cannabis programs.

It might be too much to hope that rescheduling (DE-scheduling?) is imminent, but it's clear that progress is being made.

Additionally, states continue to enact their own medical cannabis programs - most recently Pennsylvania. Slowly, the stars on the flag turn green…


Care to sign a petition in support of the newly viable CARERS act? Dust off your activism pen and go here:

Meanwhile, on the home front here in California, things are looking a tad more draconian…

B 987 is a bill that would assess an additional 15% excise tax on medical cannabis - this is on top of state sales tax and any local tax. Do they want it to be cheaper to buy on the street? Sign that petition here.

You can still raise your voice against AB 2740, which would make it on offense to drive with a nearly infinitesimal 5 ng/ml or more of THC in your blood - Sign your name in opposition!

New Legislation Looms for California's Medical Cannabis Patients

Use cannabis, give up driving? Thats the essence of some new legislation in the California Assembly. AB 2740 (Low) makes it an offense for anyone to operate a motor vehicle with 5ng/ml or more of THC in their blood. That's Nanograms , (one billionth of a gram equals a nanogram)! This is not based, according to the ASA (Americans for Safe Access) on anything like science. "There's no reason to believe", they continue, "that drivers with this arbitrarily low limit of THC are impaired in any way". Legal medical cannabis patients who use medicine on a regular basis will always have 5ng/ml in their blood." If not more…

Here's a link to the text of the legislation.

Another gem, SB 987, was introduced by California Senator Mike McGuire, and would add a 15% excise tax on medical pot, in addition to the ordinary state sales tax, and any local tax patients are already ponying up for. ASA posts a link to a petition which will be sent to lawmakers asking them to reject SB 987. You can add your name here.

The World Cries Out for Change

 

A quick search at Change.org reveals nearly 400 petitions concerning cannabis. While many are old and have been closed, new petitions are posted every day.

They originate from all over the globe, including places you wouldn’t expect; Guam, Malta, Gibraltar, Nepal, the Netherlands, and others, as well as more familiar sources such as the United States, Australia, the UK, and New Zealand. They involve everything from calls for decriminalization and legalization efforts, freedom for drug war P.O.W.s, to pleas to remove barriers to research and cultivation for medical and economic reasons.

Whether or not these petitions in and of themselves can change the world, it is important that our voices join the world-wide outcry in calling for a Prohibition-free tomorrow. This snowball is racing downhill, gaining momentum, traction and weight and will not be ignored forever.

Petition for removing legal obstructions to medical cannabis research. 15, 2616 signatures so far.

Protesting the University of Arizona’s removal and refusal to reinstate former faculty member and researcher Dr. Suzanne Sisley as she was preparing a proposal for federally approved research into treating post traumatic stress with medical cannabis. 11,658 signatures

Lobby Now for Medical Cannabis

A!mericans for Safe Access (ASA), the nation’s leading medical cannabis patients’ advocacy organization is holding its annual California Citizen Lobby Day on Monday, May 23, in Sacramento. Join more than 300 patients, advocates, providers, industry workers in the state's largest medical cannabis lobby day to talk face-to-face with lawmakers and regulators about patients' rights, taxation, and commercial regulation.There are ways to get involved online, but if you are looking for a more exciting, participatory experience, consider signing up for ASA’s Lobby Day!

Speakers include:

Lori Ajax, Chief of the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation
An-Chi Tsou, Senior Policy Advisor at the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation
Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access
Don Duncan, California Director of Americans for Safe Access

It’s important for us to talk to our representatives about these bills. Otherwise, they will only hear from medical cannabis opponents, law enforcement, and others who do not have our interests in mind.

More information here.

Begun in 2002 by Executive Director Steph Sherer, Americans for Safe Access (ASA) was the foundation of a powerful grassroots movement dedicated to ensuring safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic uses and research. ASA soon launched the CA Campaign for Safe Access to begin implementing Proposition 211, the 1996 Voter Initiative which legalized medical cannabis, and created the Patient Rights Project the same year. Since then it has become a national organization, and has a long list of notable accomplishments in the furtherance of medical marijuana which you can read about here.

Cannabis & the Newcomer

You’ve just shared a bowl of top shelf medicine and you and your friends feel like you are floating around in a zero gravity bouncy castle. But your new-to-cannabis buddy is watching you bounce as if from a great distance. A great, bemused, and UNTOASTED distance...

Did they not do it correctly? You immediately launch into a demonstration of the proper way to take a hit, making sure to advise taking it in deeply and letting it out after a three or four seconds. Holding it longer is counter productive, you explain - more than enough THC to get you high is absorbed almost instantaneously and holding it merely insures that all the unhealthy tars and by-products stay in your lungs as long as possible…

OK, maybe Cannabis’ effects are simply too subtle for first timers. Like many things, an acquired taste must be achieved and a ‘rite of passage’ undergone before one is able to experience effects that are going on just below awareness. But your friend is there to experience the effects and enjoy some relief from their ailment. You’d think they’d notice something…

There’s another possibility. Maybe your noob physically can’t get high - maybe the physical connections aren't even in place yet. Maybe initial exposures to THC kick-start the body’s endocannabinoid system and, magically, (or through interactions with aliens) - or even natural causes - inspire the brain to grow the connections that allow the range of medical and other benefits of THC, CBD and the rest of the cannabinoid entourage to bond to the proper receptors and allow your persevering pal to get baked!

Actually, minus the stuff about magic and aliens, there is some evidence to suggest that something like that is what is actually taking place! Studies exist which appear to demonstrate that CB1-receptors multiply after exposure to THC - although the experiment was made in immune cells, not brain cells. If a similar mechanism exists in the brain, then this could well explain what is taking place.

Or it's probably aliens…