Research into medicinal marijuana is undergoing a surge of interest, with more evidence emerging not only of its ability to ease human suffering, but also of its apparent safety. Some say cannabis may be less toxic to humans than over-the-counter pain relievers. Scientifically controlled experiments have concluded that smoked cannabis can provide moderate relief from chronic, severe non-cancer pain — including HIV-related nerve pain and post-traumatic neuropathy, a condition that can follow an injury or medical procedure. Both are notoriously resistant to conventional treatments. (See also: Ten Years of Medical Marijuana in Canada)
Two Canadian researchers hope their work — mapping the cannabis sativa genome — will get rid of the stigma which they say surrounds the cultivation of hemp and marijuana in Canada. University of Saskatchewan's Jon Page and University of Toronto's Tim Hughes hope other scientists will use their work to develop marijuana as a legitimate medical ingredient, and hemp as a high-quality, fast-growing crop.
Lawsuits were filed today in federal courts in Sacramento, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego in a move to block efforts by U.S. attorneys to crack down on medical marijuana dispensaries in California. "A massive organized effort is now going to be launched to bring the issue to federal courts across the state to get some judges to look at this," said San Francisco lawyer Matt Kumin, one of the attorney's representing plaintiffs in the lawsuits.
The Internal Revenue Service, America's tax collecting agency, sent a letter demanding an initial $2.5 million in back taxes and characterised the Harborside Health Center dispensary as a drug trafficking organisation. Using a provision of the tax code originally written to help seize the assets of gangsters and organised criminals, the IRS said Harborside was disqualified from claiming its ordinary business expenses – payroll, insurance, rent and so on – as deductions and needed to pay taxes on them instead. This is not just an attempt to tax; it's an attempt to tax dispensaries out of existence.
A City Council committee moved forward with a ban on medical marijuana dispensaries Tuesday, approving a recommendation to outlaw storefront pot shops in Los Angeles while allowing small groups of patients and their primary caregivers to grow the drug on their own. The proposed ban comes after years of legal wrangling over how the city should regulate distribution of the drug. In 2007, the city imposed a moratorium on dispensaries, but a loophole allowed hundreds of new pot shops to proliferate.
Marijuana is illegal in Israel, but at a government-approved medical marijuana farm at a secret location near the city of Safed, is at the cutting edge of the debate on the legality, benefits and risks of medicinal cannabis. When Zach Klein, a former filmmaker, made a documentary on medical marijuana that was broadcast on Israeli television in 2009, about 400 Israelis were licensed to receive the substance. Today, the number has risen to about 11,000.
Canada’s ban on marijuana was effectively upheld when Ontario’s top court struck down the country’s laws related to medicinal pot much to the chagrin of activist groups. In overturning a lower court ruling, the Court of Appeal ruled the trial judge had made numerous errors in striking down the country’s medical pot laws. The Appeal Court found the judge was wrong to interpret an earlier ruling as creating a constitutional right to use medical marijuana. Doctors are allowed to exempt patients from the ban on marijuana, but many physicians refuse to prescribe on the grounds its benefits are not scientifically proven.
Starting next year, thousands of medical marijuana users will have to dig up their gardens and start buying only from suppliers approved and licensed by Ottawa. Health Canada announced the changes in June. Starting Oct. 1, licences will no longer be issued to people who wish to grow their own medical marijuana. As of April 2014, the practice will be outlawed. Anyone using medical marijuana will need to get it from a licensed medical supplier. (See also: Conservative government launching billion-dollar free market)
In 2001, Canada became the first country to adopt a formal system to regulate the medicinal use of marijuana — the Marijuana Medical Access Regulations. The policy allowed people suffering from terminal illnesses or severe conditions such as epilepsy, AIDS, multiple sclerosis and cancer to use the drug if it eased their symptoms. Some people would be able to grow marijuana themselves under strict guidelines.
A bill to legalise medical marijuana could be put to Victoria's parliament before the end of next year, with the Labor government determined to reform the state's drug laws. Premier Daniel Andrews said that the Victorian Law Reform Commission had been asked to submit a report in August next year to determine not if, but when and how the laws should change to allow terminally and chronically ill people access to medicinal marijuana. (See also: National marijuana legalisation inches closer with new bill)
In the summer of 2010, after legislators passed a law legitimizing dispensaries, there were 1,117 medical-marijuana businesses in Colorado. By the end of that year, as a "green rush" of cannabis entrepreneurs reached its apex, the total ticked up to 1,131. Today, there are 675. In terms of sheer numbers, Colorado's medical-marijuana industry has shrunk by more than 40 percent.
Israel's Health Ministry has expressed opposition to granting general practitioners the right to prescribe medical marijuana. Instead, the ministry will certify 10 doctors during the first half of 2014, allowing them to prescribe medicinal marijuana to the growing number of patients who currently use it. These 10, newly certified doctors will join the 20 doctors currently permitted by the Health Ministry to prescribe the drug.
Colorado's medical-marijuana industry took a battering from all sides, as new laws restricting the businesses took effect and the Obama administration made its most explicit threat yet that dispensary raids are still possible. Perhaps the most pressing challenge to Colorado's medical-marijuana businesses came in a U.S. Department of Justice memo. In this week's memo, Deputy Attorney General James Cole wrote that people "who are in the business of cultivating, selling or distributing marijuana and those who knowingly facilitate such activities" are in violation of federal law, regardless of their state laws.
Marijuana has been approved by California, many other states and the nation's capital to treat a range of illnesses, but in a decision the federal government ruled that it has no accepted medical use and should remain classified as a highly dangerous drug like heroin. The decision by the DEA comes almost nine years after medical marijuana supporters asked the government to reclassify cannabis to take into account a growing body of worldwide research that shows its effectiveness in treating certain diseases, such as glaucoma and multiple sclerosis.
In October 2009, medical marijuana advocates celebrated a U.S. Department of Justice memo declaring that federal authorities wouldn't target the legal use of medicinal pot in states where it is permitted. The memo from Deputy U.S. Attorney General David Ogden was credited with accelerating a California medical marijuana boom, including a proliferation of dispensaries that now handle more than $1 billion in pot transactions. But last month brought a new memo from another deputy attorney general, James Cole. And this time, it is stirring industry fears of federal raids on pot dispensaries and sweeping crackdowns on large-scale medical pot cultivation.
Why is the U.S. government cracking down on medical marijuana, a $1.7 billion business — and one of the few that seems to be thriving in a moribund economy? In early October, the Justice Department announced that it would be targeting medical-marijuana dispensaries in California. Calling large dispensaries "profiteers" that "hijacked" the state's medical-marijuana law, "motivated not by compassion but by money," California's four U.S. Attorneys announced the arrests of two major dispensary owners and a lawyer they accused of making millions from growing the drug.
Fifteen years after the first state legalized medical marijuana — and set up a confrontation with federal law that keeps cannabis illegal — federal law enforcement's position on medical-marijuana businesses remains something of a mystery. Two memos written in the past two years that attempt to explain the federal position have not answered medical-marijuana advocates' questions. Indeed, federal raids in the past month in Colorado and California have only generated more.
A UCSF study suggests patients with chronic pain may experience greater relief if their doctors add cannabinoids - the main ingredient in cannabis or medical marijuana - to an opiates-only treatment. The findings, from a small-scale study, also suggest that a combined therapy could result in reduced opiate dosages. Cannabidiol, or CBD, appears to be very effective against pain and inflammation without creating the "high" created by THC.