Denver voters could find two new cannabis-use initiatives on the ballot this November. Although the initiatives seem very similar at first glance, there are noteworthy differences between them, and even some contestation as to which initiative would be more beneficial to Colorado’s cannabis consumers.
Private Cannabis Clubs
NORML’s Denver chapter is currently collecting signatures for a municipal initiative that would allow private, licensed cannabis clubs to operate in the city. Known as the “Responsible Use Denver Initiative,” it covers stand-alone venues as well as special events where adults over 21 could enjoy marijuana legally.
However, these cannabis clubs would not be allowed to sell or distribute cannabis – requiring people to bring their own products to the venue – and, if passed, the law would prevents bars, restaurants, and night-clubs from running cannabis clubs from their premises.
Jordan Person, executive director of Denver NORML, supports sensible regulation that would allow cannabis enthusiasts to enjoy their favorite plant in a social, public setting. “Denver residents and visitors alike need places other than private homes to legally and responsibly enjoy legal marijuana with other adults,” she said in a press release at NORML’s blog. “The city will be able to license and regulate private marijuana clubs and special events to ensure public health and safety […] But we want to be sure that the regulations are reasonable and consumer-friendly.”
Public Consumption Areas
Another group – led by the Marijuana Policy Project, local business owners, and the Vincente Sederberg law firm – is backing a similar proposal for public use. The “Neighborhood Approved Cannabis Consumption Pilot Program” would allow any business (including bars and restaurants) to obtain a permit for a designated cannabis consumption area for adults over 21.
Businesses would need to obtain support from neighborhood organizations first, which would regulate how consumption areas are operated. Permits could allow cannabis consumption for certain hours, certain days, once-a-month, and so on – as negotiated by the business owners and community groups. They would also require only vaping indoors, with combustion done in an outdoors area out of the public eye. Like the Responsible Use initiative, consumers would have to supply their own cannabis products.
Furthermore, businesses would have to obtain permits annually, or on a short-term basis. The initiative is considered a pilot program, as consumption areas would only be allowed for four years, unless the city council amends the program or makes it permanent by 2020. This would allow the program to evolve and adapt to community needs.
Kayvan Khalatbari, cannabis businessman and primary sponsor for the initiative, argues that private cannabis clubs isolate cannabis users, rather than integrate them into communities. “Segregating cannabis consumers is an extension of prohibition and entirely unacceptable with how much progress this movement has made,” says Khalatbari. Private clubs, the group argues, further stigmatize cannabis consumption as something “underground,” and create an “opium den” setting for tourists.
He also indicated that their proposal offers a more sustainable business model. Private clubs that can’t provide food, drinks, or entertainment “have no way of generating revenue for business owners outside of memberships or door fees.”
The group met with the Denver city council this week to discuss legality issues and the potential for overlapping business districts or neighborhood groups to conflict with each other regarding support for consumption areas. They hope to have the finalized and certified ballot petition ready soon, and to be collecting signatures as soon as this weekend.
Both petitions need to submit roughly 4,800 signatures from registered Denver voters by mid-August in order for the initiatives to appear on the November ballot. Responsible Use is apparently already half-way to their goal, and have been collecting signatures for two months.
Khalatbari hopes to persuade Denver NORML to drop their initiative, but Person has said that it would be “ridiculous” to “withdraw when we’ve made it so far.”
At this stage, it’s still unclear what would happen if both initiatives were approved by voters. Some speculate that the initiative with the most votes would win out, but others think both may take effect.
What do you think MassRoots readers? Which initiative would you prefer in your city, or do you think both initiatives could work together? We’d like to hear what you think, so comment below!
2016 is a big year for U.S. voters, with the general election and state ballot initiatives coming up in November – both of which could have significant effects on cannabis legislation in this country.
Elections, Ballots, and Legislation
The presumptive nominees for the Democratic and Republican parties, Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump respectively, have indicated support for moving forward with cannabis legislation. While Clinton wants to see cannabis rescheduled and more research conducted, both she and Trump have voiced support for states’ rights to decide their own cannabis policies. Regardless of who wins the general election, cannabis advocates are optimistic that the national narrative around marijuana consumption is changing.
Most important, then, is the role citizens can play in funding and supporting local cannabis initiatives. To date, seven states will be voting to allow adult use (i.e. recreational use), while four states will be voting for medical access. According to a report from ArcView Market Research and New Frontier Financials, “2016 will be the tipping point in which a majority of U.S. states transition from cannabis prohibition to some form of regulated legal markets.”
It’s an exciting time for cannabis enthusiasts, entrepreneurs, and activists. However, the report also cautions that these ballot initiatives face two substantial challenges: initiative funding and opposition campaigns. “The campaigns pushing the ballot initiative will need to raise enough capital to ensure they can fund a robust media and get-out-the-vote campaign during the election cycle,” the report continues. Furthermore, campaign funding laws allow wealthy donors or political action committees (PACs) to “spend large sums of capital on elections,” which could negatively impact these campaigns.
What Can We Do?
The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) is the largest pro-cannabis organization in the United States. They’ve been at the helm of the anti-prohibition movement in this country since 1995 and, according to their website, have been “responsible for changing most of the state marijuana laws that have been reformed since 2000, including the legalization of marijuana in Colorado in November 2012 and in Alaska in 2014.”
Not only do they provide incredible resources and information for citizens, but they also actively lobby for cannabis reform at Capitol Hill and various state capitals. Additionally, MPP raises funds for their various projects, which include efforts to decriminalize possession and end prohibition in numerous states.
The significance of these upcoming ballots – and cannabis reform in general – goes beyond giving ‘stoners’ the freedom to enjoy a toke without legal penalties. Medical marijuana is revealing cannabis’ potential as a medicine for a wealth of ailments – including cancer, HIV/AIDS, epilepsy and seizures, PTSD, depression and anxiety, traumatic brain injuries, glaucoma, arthritis, fibromyalgia, and more.
Furthermore, both the medical and recreational cannabis industries have far-reaching social impact. Wide-scale reform could mean an end to unnecessary arrests and prison sentencing and the ineffective War on Drugs, as well as bolstering local economies with the billions in revenue created by legal cannabis operations. In fact, the aforementioned report projects that combined medical and recreational sales in the U.S. could reach $22.8 billion by the year 2020.
You may have heard about Irvin Rosenfeld; he’s appeared on numerous television shows and done countless interviews with journalists in his time. And it’s no wonder: he’s the longest surviving federal medical marijuana patient.
But his contribution to cannabis advocacy is not just his surviving a debilitating bone disorder and receiving tins full of cannabis cigarettes from the feds. He’s also a successful stockbroker, spokesman and board member of Patients Out of Time, and has published an autobiography about his long history of cannabis activism.
Above all, he’s a gregarious character with seemingly endless optimism and passion, and a champion for the medical marijuana movement in the United States.
Irvin’s History with Cannabis
At the age of ten years old, Irvin threw a ball during a Little League Baseball game only to find that his arm was suddenly paralyzed. The paralysis was temporary, but three days later his parents had taken him to the Boston Children’s Hospital, where he was diagnosed with “multiple congenital cartilaginous exotosis.”
This rare medical disorder causes lumps and spurs of bone to grow out from the skeleton, resulting in excruciating pain, limited mobility, and uneven growth of the limbs. While the bony tumors are not necessarily cancerous, they can be fatal. In Irvin’s case, certain tumors could have turned malignant over time; over the next eleven years, he would undergo multiple surgeries to manage his condition. Because of his limited movement – and schools not wanting the liability of something happening to him on school grounds – he was homeschooled for 5 years.
When he got to college, he was determined to get out and make friends. He’d never experimented with drugs before and couldn’t understand why others would. As he said in our interview, “why would a healthy person use an illegal drug, when here I had to take all these legal drugs? You name the drug, I had prescriptions for it.” But when some fellow students invited him to “drink some wine and smoke some pot,” he decided to give it a try.
“I didn’t see it harming them at all … so for the first time in my life, I decided to give in to peer pressure and try it … and I tried it and nothing happened.” In fact, Irvin thought his peers may have been self-inducing their high, as he felt no effects at all. They assured him that he wouldn’t feel much the first few times, so he continued to have the occasional social toke.
One day, however, he sat down to play a game of chess. This was not something out of the ordinary, except for one enormous realization: “it dawned on me that I had been sitting for thirty minutes. And at that point, for the last five years, I couldn’t sit for more than ten minutes…And it dawned on me that I hadn’t taken a pill for six hours. Well hell, how was I able to sit for the first time?”
“I looked at this piece of garbage [the joint], because to me that’s all marijuana was – garbage – and I thought, this is the only thing I’ve done differently: I’ve smoked this garbage.” By accident, Irvin had discovered a truly effective pain-killer that eased his symptoms, and his lifelong passion for medical cannabis was born. He called his orthopedic surgeon, as well as a great-uncle and another uncle (both of whom were doctors), and his sister (who was head of Nuclear Medicine at Duke University) – but none had heard anything about medical cannabis.
Irvin researched the issue, and discovered that cannabis had in fact been used medicinally in the US until the early twentieth century. He “went out and actually bought some pot” and began experimenting on himself – taking it for a few weeks, then stopping for a week, and repeating the cycle a few times. In his experience, his pain and inflammation were alleviated when he was consuming cannabis, but he was worried that it was only a matter of time before he’d be busted.
Through his research, he also came across the government’s one-and-only federally-allowed marijuana grow operation at the University of Mississippi (at the time of writing, this facility remains the sole source of all cannabis used for research purposes in the country). With the encouragement of his doctor, Irvin started putting together his own scientific study on the medicinal benefits of cannabis. He recalls his motivation: “I wasn’t a criminal; I was a patient … my disease is so rare, it’s not like it’s going to open up a Pandora’s Box…of course I was very naïve about the government; I thought the government could help us.”
Relationship with Robert Randall
Irvin continued to accumulate research throughout the 1970s, and decided to drop out of school to take on the federal government. After all, it seemed ridiculous that he could get morphine from a doctor, but not marijuana. However, the government continued to stonewall him and, as he eloquently puts it, the FDA “didn’t do shit.”
Around 1977 he heard about Robert Randall – the first federal medical marijuana patient in the US. Randall had won a landmark lawsuit in 1976, when he argued against charges for growing cannabis on his porch. Because he was using the marijuana to treat his glaucoma, he won the case and the right to consume medical cannabis. According to Irvin, the Feds told Randall to “go home and shut up” after his big win. Instead, he became a vocal advocate for medical marijuana and started touring college campuses. In an attempt to stifle his message and prevent access to his medicine, the government offered Randall’s doctor a grant to work at Duke University – essentially depriving Randall of his prescription. With pro bono representation from law firm Steptoe & Johnson, Robert Randall and his wife Alice sued the government in 1978; within a day, federal agencies put a gag order on the case, and settled out of court by starting the Compassionate Investigational New Drug (IND) Program, of which Randall was the first patient.
Irvin went to see Randall speak at an event, and introduced himself after the talk. He told Randall about his own battle to legally access medical cannabis, and Randall encouraged him to use his study to get into the IND Program. With the help of the Randalls, Irvin refined his study and submitted it to the government.
Randall also urged Irvin to testify in Virginia’s state hearing to consider medical marijuana. Despite his fears of being arrested, Irvin did testify, and went on to lobby for cannabis in his home state. In 1979, the Virginia General Assembly decriminalized medical cannabis for cannabis and glaucoma – and Irvin’s study and testimony were a crucial part of that decision. From there, his story was picked up by the media and he became a public figure.
It was only in 1982, however, that Irvin presented his own case to the government (assisted by UVA law school), and finally won the right to legally use medical cannabis after five years of struggle. Together, Irvin and Bob (as he affectionately refers to Randall) decided to use their fame and leverage to keep educating the public about medicinal marijuana, and helping other patients in need. Unfortunately, the Compassionate IND Program was shut down in 1992 and stopped accepting new patients. “Bob and I didn’t like that at all,” Irvin recalls. “It should be a federal program, it should be federal law.”
Federal Joints, Getting High, and Big Pharma
One of the amusingly surreal parts of Irvin’s incredible story is that he receives tin buckets containing hundreds of pre-rolled cannabis cigarettes from the government. Six tins are shipped from the University of Mississippi to his local pharmacy at a time, although Irvin picks up only one tin every thirty days – he smokes about 10 joints a day. The freeze-dried joints need to be rehydrated, and unfortunately the cannabis is years old. He’s often pictured holding one of these enormous tins, and he recalls that the first time he received his medicine, he had to pry the lid open with a screwdriver. Nowadays, he also vapes on occasion – making it easier for him to consume his medicine through the day and consult with his clients.
Interestingly enough, Irvin maintains that cannabis has never made him high; it simply alleviates his pain and inflammation. When I asked him if he’s tried other strains of cannabis in states where medical or recreational cannabis is legal, he laughed. He admits that, “when you got a medical condition, you want to know when there’s other cannabis out there that might be beneficial” but that he only smokes the cannabis he receives from the government.
I asked if he still consults his doctor regularly, and whether or not he’s been used for any official studies. As it turns out, he still sees his physician every six months, and they are still sending reports to the federal government with every check-up. As someone who has been smoking cannabis every day for 45 years – 12 years illegally, and a further 33 years on the federal program – you’d think he’d be a prime candidate for a long-term study, but apparently this is not the case. “We’ve now sent the government sixty-six reports, and I don’t think the government’s ever used one of them.”
I also wanted to hear his thoughts on the burgeoning cannabis industry, not only from his perspective as an activist and patient, but also as a stockbroker. What could the future of legalization look like in this country? “What I would like to see is people having the right to grow their own – it’s that simple.” Growing your own, in his opinion, would help people who can’t afford to pay dispensary prices for their medicine, and allow patients to find the strains that work best for them.
“As far as Big Pharma getting into it, that would be – I think – the worst thing … Big Pharma is going to grow pot, maybe even three different strains: low potency, middle potency, and high potency. And that’s what you’re going to get, which is not the best medical situation. Whereas, if you’re going to a dispensary that has forty different strains, then you have a better chance of getting a strain that’s going to be beneficial for you. You’re going to be getting medical cannabis; you’re not going to buy pot. There’s a difference.”
“I think [Big Pharma is] just going to care about the money … Big Pharma doesn’t want to allow you to grow your own medicine – because then they can’t sell it to you.”
With all his years of experience, I asked Irvin what advice he has for other cannabis enthusiasts who want to get involved in the legalization movement.
“First I’d tell them to get a copy of my book…this way they would learn the history. It talks about my history, but also the history of the movement. They really need to learn the history.”
Next, Irvin suggests talking to close family and friends about the issue. “You don’t want to ostracize yourself from your family; they’re your biggest supporters. Win them over first. You win them over, then try to win over other people. But if you can’t win your own family over, then you’re going to have a hard time winning anybody else over.”
“And the most important is: don’t put yourself in harm’s way. I never suggest anybody doing something if it could cause them problems. And that’s [including] in the workplace. I mean, luckily I’m in a business now; my firm understands, and so I don’t have a problem. But a lot of people could have a problem. And especially if they’re in a job where, if they test positive, they would be fired. So if you’re talking about trying to further medical marijuana, they could do a drug test on you and you could lose your job.”
Instead, he suggests getting involved with local state legislature, and contacting the editorial departments of local newspapers and media outlets.
There’s no way to really sum up Irvin’s contribution to the legalization movement in the US in a single blog post. He has been the topic of much media coverage, has written extensively on his own experience, and could fill many more articles, books, and talk-shows with his knowledge and insight.
Overall, however, his energy and enthusiasm for spreading the word about medical marijuana is infectious. He seems to be aware of how lucky he’s been in life – having access to incredible doctors, getting a good education, having the support and love of his family, and making intimate connections with friends like Bob and Alice Randall. But he also displays serious determination: not giving up in the face of failure and rejection, time and time again.
As we look to the future of cannabis legalization, it’s always good to consider those who’ve pioneered that path, and to see the kind of resolve it takes to keep fighting. Irvin Rosenfeld certainly inspires one to keep working toward a world where patients can access the medicine they need, without stigma or big business getting in the way.
Irvin’s book, My Medicine, is available here and on Kindle.
Many a ‘lady toker’ will attest to cannabis’ power to alleviate the pain associated with menstruation. For some, the symptoms are uncomfortable or a mild annoyance; for others, they can be debilitating.
While generations of women have been self-medicating, it’s only in recent years that cannabis has received adequate attention as a possible medication for menstrual aches and pains. Actress Whoopi Goldberg released her own line of cannabis-infused products for treating menstrual symptoms earlier this year, after which a bill was proposed in New Jersey that would allow “menstrual cramps” to be added to the state’s approved list of ailments for medical cannabis.
Now there’s a new product on the market – humorously referred to as “cannabis tampons” – that can help you manage your monthly pains the green way.
Not an Actual Tampon
Foria initially made a name for itself when the company released a cannabis-infused lubricant that promises to act as a “therapeutic aphrodisiac” for cannabis lovers and love-makers. Foria’s branding is very much directed at women – so it’s no surprise that a “cannabis tampon” would be next in their production line.
Foria Relief is, in fact, a vaginal suppository and not a tampon (sorry ladies, I guess we’re still waiting for that dream to materialize). Made from organic cocoa butter, THC oil, and CBD isolate, Foria promises that their product is safe for bodily insertion: their cannabis is grown outdoors without pesticides, and the cannabis oil is extracted using a solvent-free pharmaceutical grade process. With intimate access to the organs and areas most affected by menstruation, Foria Relief releases its active ingredients as close to the site of pain as possible.
Menstrual cramps are caused by muscle contractions in the uterus, although many women also suffer from headaches, lower back pain, and changes in mood before and during menstruation. The capsules contain 60mg of THC and 10mg of CBD: THC acts on the nerve-endings, reducing pain and increasing pleasurable feelings, while CBD provides anti-inflammatory, muscle-relaxant, antispasmodic, and anxiety-reducing properties. However, despite the THC present, the capsules shouldn’t get you high. Because the THC is absorbed through the vagina, its psychoactivity is mitigated; most women should be able to feel the pain-relieving and mood enhancing effects without getting lifted – although results may vary, so use with caution.
According to their website FAQ, Foria Relief can be inserted into the vagina before a tampon, so assumedly it works just fine with sanitary pads and menstrual cups too. It can also be inserted rectally, and thus can be taken at any time of the month to target pelvic pain and similar ailments.
The Really Good News
Aside from telling your friends that you’ve got weed in your vagina, Foria Relief offers a range of benefits over traditional menstrual medications. Women who suffer from severe menstrual cramps finally have a safe alternative to pharmaceutical painkillers, and the capsules could prove to be effective pain-management for women with endometriosis.
Hopefully Foria’s foray into cannabis lubes and suppositories will open the market to further products and services that target women’s reproductive and sexual health, shedding the stigmas associated with both cannabis consumption and menstruation.
Editor’s Note: While many will attest to the wonders of marijuana for pets, keep in mind that it can be toxic – and even fatal – to animals in certain doses. Do not give any dose of cannabis to your animal without first consulting your veterinarian. Scroll to the bottom to read about the symptoms that your animal may experience if they have consumed too much cannabis.
Years ago, my mother told me the story of how her grandfather fed his horses marijuana. This was surprising: I never thought my ancestors would even know about cannabis in 1920s South Africa, and I’d always assumed it was a bad idea to get animals high.
I tried to imagine a stern ‘Oupa’ Jonker riding to market on a stoned steed. Wouldn’t the horse get dry mouth? What if it stopped for some munchies on the roadside?
“My Little Stony”
So I did some research. As it turns out, medical marijuana for horses is an old practice. In fact, cannabis was used to treat animals and humans in ancient Greece. The Hippiatrica – a collection of late antiquity horse-care texts – cites cannabis as a treatment for tapeworm, and as a poultice for wounds.
In the US, cannabis was used to treat horses until the early 20th century. The US Cavalry Horse, a comprehensive field-guide to horses published in 1895, contains recipes for marijuana tinctures to address colic and stomach ailments. The proceedings from the American Veterinarian Medical Association’s 1913 convention even include a chapter on cannabis – noting that it is “superior to opium in not causing constipation, anorexia or indigestion”.
The story suddenly made sense. People use marijuana to relieve illness, so why not horses, or other domesticated animals?
Medical Marijuana for Pets
In fact, as medical marijuana gains support, so too could the veterinary applications for a range of pet ailments.
Pet owners across the US are coming forward with stories about how marijuana has helped their animals. The most common uses are for elderly pets, or those with chronic diseases: cancer and tumors, inflammation, arthritis, pain, lethargy, nausea, and lack of appetite.
One of the most famous cases is that of Phoenix, a 20-year-old horse suffering from arthritis and a degenerative ligament disease. Her owner, Becky Flowers, tried numerous treatments before finally feeding Phoenix some marijuana. According to Flowers, shortly after ingesting cannabis, Phoenix regained her appetite and mobility. Other anecdotal stories follow a similar trajectory about restoring pets’ vitality, movement, appetite, and energy.
In most cases, including that of Phoenix, the pet owners are already recipients of medical marijuana. Unfortunately, there is currently very little scientific research into the effects of marijuana on pets. More studies need to be done to determine safe dosages, and the potential side effects, for animals.
In a small study performed at two veterinary clinics in Colorado, for example, researchers found a correlation between the increased number of medical marijuana licenses and the number of dogs suffering from marijuana poisoning. So obviously it’s not as simple as feeding Fido a handful of your favourite strain.
While there are already some veterinary medical marijuana edibles and ointments on the market, the FDA only regulates how companies market these products, and not the efficacy of the products themselves.
Until the veterinary community knows more about how weed affects animals, medicating your fluffy family members with marijuana could be problematic. If you’re really concerned about your pet’s health and quality of life, consult with your vet before trying these alternative treatments.
Hopefully, as with human treatments, medical marijuana will make strides in the veterinary world. Until that time, the evidence of its effects on pets remains largely out-dated or anecdotal.
But I do wish I could go back in time and ask my great-grandfather about his hemp horses’ favorite snacks – horse d’oeuvres, perhaps?
Symptoms of Over-Consumption of Cannabis
If your dog or cat has gotten into your stash, here are some signs that you should take them to the vet immediately:
Excessive panting, anxiety, and agitation
Stumbling, staggering, or ‘drunk’ walking
Drooling, vomiting, or diarrhea
‘Dribbling’ urine, or loss of bladder control
Trembling, jerking, or seizures
Extreme reactions to noises, movements, and other stimulation