Pubdate: Wed, 17 Dec 2014
Source: Metro Times (Detroit, MI)
Column: Higher Ground
Copyright: 2014 C.E.G.W./Times-Shamrock
Author: Larry Gabriel


Looking back on 2014, it was a tremendous year for marijuana 
activists with two more states legalizing, California lowering 
penalties for low level crime, New York City decriminalizing 
possession of small amounts, eight cities in Michigan legalizing, 
Guam voting for medical use, and generally the public opinion numbers 
kept moving in the right direction. Washington, D.C., legalized, but 
since the city is a federal district Congress has to approve. 
However, hardline anti-marijuana Republicans are making that look 
iffy at the moment.

As we look ahead, it may soon become passe to count how many states 
have legalized or opted for medical use. Three fronts on the 
marijuana campaign - legal, medical, and economic - look like they 
will turn this into a landslide over the next couple of years.

On the legal end, up to 11 states could be gearing up for 
recreational legalization runs in 2016. The Cheat Sheet lists 
California, Massachusetts, Nevada, Missouri, Arizona, and Hawaii as 
primed for legalization. USA Today listed those states plus Delaware, 
Maryland, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. However, waiting 
for 2015 might not be necessary for all of them.

"We suspect that a state legislature in 2015 will pass a legalization 
bill, probably in New England, Maine or Vermont or Rhode Island," 
says Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the nonprofit National 
Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

Here in Michigan, activists fundraised and commissioned a poll to 
gauge the percentage of voters in the state who support recreational 
legalization. Several groups plan to meet this winter to consider a 
legalization run. If the numbers are there, then money is a problem. 
Most successful initiatives have help from national organizations and 
their efforts are on a few select states.

"One could easily envision Michigan as the Midwest state with a voter 
initiative," says St. Pierre. "We'd love to see those resources come locally."

California is considered a good bet to legalize recreational use 
through an initiative in 2016. That would solidify the entire West 
Coast (including Alaska), and with the prospect of Nevada and Arizona 
legalizing that would create a solid block of states with potential 
economic plusses from marijuana.

Every time a state legalizes it puts more pressure on the federal 
government to bring its policies closer to what's happening in the 
states. The big prize there would be changing marijuana from a 
Schedule 1 drug by the Drug Enforcement Administration. A federal 
court in California heard testimony from doctors that the federal 
stance defied modern science in classifying the plant as "very 
dangerous" and "lacking medical use."

"In some ways it's now been exposed at its core, the federal 
government acknowledges that it's flawed, states acknowledge that 
it's flawed," says St. Pierre. "Business and pharmaceutical interests 
are saying, 'hey, you can't have serious research, you can't invest 
the dollars necessary until this comes off Schedule 1.'"

And we all know how closely government listens when business 
interests start talking.

On the medicinal side, there is startling news on a consistent basis 
regarding the medical potential of marijuana. Most people understand 
the palliative effects of the plant that can help with pain 
management, nausea, and appetite problems for the likes of cancer, 
HIV and MS patients, and evidence is showing that marijuana can 
directly fight disease. A recent report from St. George's, University 
of London published in the journal Molecular Cancer concludes that 
cannabinoids (chemical in marijuana such as THC and CBD) are helpful 
in treating brain tumors, inhibiting tumor growth, and neutralizing 
tumor creation. This is in line with other reports. One of the key 
aspects of this treatment is that it doesn't have any negative 
effects. In fact it helps lighten the negative effects of 
chemotherapy and radiation, the two mainstream medical treatments.

The National Cancer Institute's web page on Cannabis and Cancer cites 
studies in rats and mice that show that cannabinoids exhibit probable 
anti-tumor activity.

There is also a CBD boom as some seek the marijuana ingredient that 
doesn't get you high, although as more scientific information comes 
out it seems that CBD and THC in tandem, actually the whole plant 
with its dozens of cannabinoids, seem to work better than any one 
cannabinoid alone.

"The big hoopla around CBD is going to be very disappointing for 
people," says Martin Lee, director of Project CBD. "CBD alone has 
limited therapeutic value. It's a very limited slice of what's 
possible of the whole plant with a significant amount of CBD, THC, 
and other things. ... We're finding that about 10 percent of kids 
with seizure disorders have miraculous results, others improve and 10 
to 20 percent don't respond. The vast majority of families using 
CBD-only find they have to augment it with THC. CBD combined with a 
little THC is more effective. It underscores one of the big problems 
with the so-called CBD-only approach. It's very limited."

GW Pharmaceuticals, a British company, is finding that Sativex, made 
from the whole plant, is much more effective than its Marinol, a 
synthetic THC product. Marinol is distributed in the United States 
but not Sativex because it is made from the plant.

In addition, the just beginning understanding of the human 
endocannabinoid system, cannabinoid receptors and cannabinoids period 
shows potential to revolutionize how a wide array of disease is treated.

Things are just as startling when you look at the economic impact. 
Taxation is the first avenue most look at when considering the 
economic impact of marijuana legalization. A recent Washington Post 
article showed that in June 2014, Colorado collected more than $7 
million in taxes, license, and fees. The Congressional Research 
Service released a report last month showing that the federal 
government could collect $7 billion each year in taxes on legal 
recreational marijuana. It also shows that the "external costs" of 
marijuana legalization - health and social issues - to be no more 
than 1.6 billion. That compares favorably to the $30 billion external 
costs of alcohol use.

However, taxes are just a percentage of overall sales. That money 
goes to pay for salaries, rents, research, production, construction, 
and more - keeping money circulating in the economy.

And let us not forget the lower costs for law enforcement, courts, 
and incarceration if laws are changed. That will also leave some who 
would be incarcerated out on the street to be productive citizens.

There are a few publications already dedicated to business and 
investments in marijuana and related fields. Numerous products such 
as skin salves, acne treatments, cannahoney are on the market. The 
CBD is extracted from industrial hemp imported from other countries, 
which is actually legal. There are plenty of U.S. farmers who want to 
grow hemp because it's a great crop that can be used in thousands of products.

"There's going to be CBD in all sorts of products," says Lee. "It'll 
be like spirulina in the health food fad."

It's significant that many of these same changes are going on around 
the world. Uruguay legalized this year. When you consider the 
potential legal, medicinal, and economic implications of changes 
happening right now, what's next for marijuana means worldwide impact.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom