The Shake: Cannabis Pharmaceutical Works for Kids, Graham Signs on to CARERS Act, and a Prison May Become a Cannabis FarmBruce BarcottMarch 14, 2016
GW Pharma: Epidiolex works for kids with rare form of epilepsy. The British pharmaceutical maker, which has been growing its own cannabis strains and developing new medicines through the FDA pipeline, reported that its cannabinoid drug Epidiolex succeeded in reducing seizures in children suffering from Dravet syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy. Shares of GW Pharma soared 130 percent on the news early Monday. Cannabis industry insiders have been watching the Epidiolex trials for many months now; early reports were favorable, but Monday’s news was the first public announcement from GW confirming the inside word. GW Pharma is based in the U.K., where it has government license to grow its own strains of cannabis and develop cannabinoid medicines. No such company exists in the United States, because it remains federally illegal for a private company to grow its own strains.
Lindsey Graham breathes new life into the CARERS Act. After quietly exiting last year’s congressional session with no movement, the CARERS Act got a bump recently when Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) joined on as a co-sponsor. The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (CARERS) Act would allow state medical marijuana programs to continue without federal interference, de-schedule cannabidiol (CBD), allow banks to serve cannabis-related businesses, and open up new avenues of research. (Like, say, the kind of work that allowed GW Pharma to develop Epidiolex.) “This development should finally compel fellow Republican and Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley to allow the bill a vote,” said Steph Sherer, executive director of Americans for Safe Access. We’re not holding our breath on Grassley, but Graham’s shift is definitely a sign of hope.
California prohibitionist loses his mind. Or rather, he airs a bizarre theory about cannabis causing mass murder. Roger Morgan, who is bravely and misguidedly leading the charge against legalization in California, recently told Reason TV that in “almost all of the mass murders that we’ve had in recent years,” the perpetrator “has been a heavy marijuana user, because it changes the brain.” We joke about the Reefer Madness mindset, but frankly we’re amazed when we see this sort of nonsense resurrected from the 1930s and peddled anew. (No joke: Morgan’s website has even has a “Modern Reefer Madness” page full of spurious claims.) Reason’s Jacob Sullum, bless him, has the patience to take apart Morgan’s claptrap and show that, in fact, cannabis does not cause people to obtain automatic weapons and start killing people. Shocker, right?
Swords into plowshares, cannabis style. The city of Coalinga, Calif., is considering a proposal to convert a vacant state prison into a cannabis oil manufacturing facility. The Fresno Bee reports that Ocean Grown Extracts wants to turn the 77,000-square-foot Claremont Custody Center into a growing and processing operation. The plan is expected to face skepticism from the small, conservative San Jouaquin Valley community, but the mayor is at least open to the idea: “People are hurting – the oil industry is losing jobs,” said Mayor Pro Tem Patrick Keough. “We’re talking about 100 full-time jobs, and no dope in the streets.” The city could realize $1.9 million in taxes every year if the Ocean Grown deal goes through, and that’s no small thing in a town currently running a $3.3 million budget deficit.
Metrc becomes Alaska’s seed-to-sale tracker. Metrc, the data tracking system owned by Florida-based logistics company Franwell, continues to quietly expand its footprint in the cannabis industry. Late last week Alaska’s Alcohol & Marijuana Control Office announced that it had contracted with Franwell to use the Metrc tracking system for every single cannabis plant in the state’s emerging industry, through the year 2021. Metrc has been used by Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Division since December 2013.
New legalization groups in Louisiana and Nebraska. Louisiana, home to America’s most draconian cannabis laws, has a new legalization advocate. Legalize It Louisiana launched its website late last week with messaging that emphasizes jobs, opportunity, education funding, and a healthier alternative to opiates. The group’s motto: “The Freedom to Prosper.” It’s a fresh new approach to legalization in one of America’s toughest prohibitionist states. Meanwhile, in Nebraska, cannabis activists have formed their own political party around the issue. Legal Marijuana Now Nebraska says it’s “another option to the two-party system.” Their Facebook page features a picture of cannabis plants and the motto “Go Green, Smoke Weed.” Sounds like somebody needs to hire a media director. Advantage: Louisiana.
QUICK HITS: The number of Canadian veterans using medical marijuana has increased tenfold in two years, prompting the nation’s Minister of Veterans Affairs to launch an inquiry into the situation. New statewide poll shows 61 percent of Florida voters supporting medical marijuana. The MMJ initiative on the ballot this fall needs at least 60 percent support to pass. And finally, context is everything: Police in the U.K. describe house painter Jeff Lloyd’s 14-plant basement cannabis operation as “a fairly professional set up,” because he had lights and a fan. Not quite. Here in legal Washington State we call that “Jeff’s lame homegrow.”