Monday, 30 September 2013

Health Canada presides over birth of billion-dollar free market in marijuana

OTTAWA — The Conservative government is launching a $1.3-billion free market in medical marijuana this Tuesday, eventually providing an expected 450,000 Canadians with quality weed.

Health Canada is phasing out an older system on Monday that mostly relied on small-scale, homegrown medical marijuana of varying quality, often diverted illegally to the black market.

In its place, large indoor marijuana farms certified by the RCMP and health inspectors will produce, package and distribute a range of standardized weed, all of it sold for whatever price the market will bear. The first sales are expected in the next few weeks, delivered directly by secure courier.

“We’re fairly confident that we’ll have a healthy commercial industry in time,” Sophie Galarneau, a senior official with the department, said in an interview.

“It’s a whole other ball game.”

The sanctioned birth of large-scale, free-market marijuana production comes as the Conservatives pillory Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s campaign to legalize recreational marijuana.

Health Canada is placing no limits on the number of these new capital-intensive facilities, which will have mandatory vaults and security systems. Private-dwelling production will be banned. Imports from places such as the Netherlands will be allowed.

Already 156 firms have applied for lucrative producer and distributor status since June, with the first two receiving licences just last week.

The old system fostered only a cottage industry, with 4,200 growers licenced to produce for a maximum of two patients each. The Mounties have complained repeatedly these grow-ops were often a front for criminal organizations.

The next six months are a transition period, as Health Canada phases out the old system by March 31, while encouraging medical marijuana users to register under the replacement regime and to start buying from the new factory-farms.

There are currently 37,400 medical marijuana users recognized by the department, but officials project that number will swell more than 10-fold, to as many as 450,000 people, by 2024.

The profit potential is enormous. A gram of dried marijuana bud on the street sells for about $10 and Health Canada projects the legal stuff will average about $7.60 next year, as producers set prices without interference from government.

Chuck Rifici of Tweed Inc. has applied for a licence to produce medical weed in an abandoned Hershey chocolate factory in hard-scrabble Smiths Falls, Ont.

Rifici, who is also a senior adviser to Trudeau, was cited in a Conservative cabinet minister’s news release Friday that said the Liberals plan to “push pot,” with no reference to Health Canada’s own encouragement of marijuana entrepreneurs.

Rifici says he’s trying to help a struggling community by providing jobs while giving suffering patients a quality product.

“There’s a real need,” he said in an interview. “You see what this medicine does to them.”

Tweed Inc. proposes to produce at least 20 strains to start, and will reserve 10 per cent of production for compassionate, low-cost prescriptions for impoverished patients, he says.

Patients often use several grams a day to alleviate a wide range of symptoms, including cancer-related pain and nausea. They’ll no longer be allowed to grow it for themselves under the new rules.

Revenues for the burgeoning new industry are expected to hit $1.3 billion a year by 2024, according to federal projections. And operators would be favourably positioned were marijuana ever legalized for recreational use, as it has been in two American states.

Eric Nash of Island Harvest in Duncan, B.C., has applied for one of the new licences, banking on his experience as a licenced grower since 2002 in the current system.

“The opportunity in the industry is significant,” he said in an interview.

“We’ll see a lot of moving and shaking within the industry, with companies positioning. And I think we’ll see some mergers and acquisitions, strategic alliances formed.”

“It’ll definitely yield benefits to the consumers and certainly for the economy and society in general.”

Veterans Affairs Canada currently pays for medical marijuana for some patients, even though the product lacks official drug status. Some provinces are also being pressed to cover costs, as many users are too sick to work and rely on welfare.

Health Canada currently sells medical marijuana, produced on contract by Prairie Plant Systems, for $5 a gram, and acknowledges the new system will be more expensive for patients.

But Galarneau says competition will help keep prices in check.

“We expect that over time, prices will be driven down by the free market,” she said. “The lower price range will likely be around $3 a gram. ... It’s hard to predict.”

Saskatoon-based Prairie Plant Systems, and its subsidiary CanniMed Ltd., were granted the first two licences under the system and are already advertising their new products on the web.

Prospective patients, including those under the current system, must get a medical professional to prescribe medical marijuana using a government-approved form.

Health Canada only reluctantly established its medical marijuana program, driven by court decisions from 2001 forward that supported the rights of suffering patients, even as medical science has been slow to verify efficacy.


— with files from Ben Makuch

Saturday, 28 September 2013

University Lecturer Receives Prestigious Neuroscience Award for Work With Cannabinoids

UCC’s Dr Eric Downer has received a Neuroscience Ireland Early Career Investigator Award for his pioneering research into the cannabinoid system and how it can contribute to treating Multiple Sclerosis.

‘It is an important time in the field of cannabinoid-based scientific research, particularly in terms of cannabis-based therapies associated with MS’, says Dr Downer, a principal investigator and lecturer in the Department of Anatomy & Neuroscience, UCC.

‘My research has indicated that MS patient cells, and not cells isolated from healthy individuals, respond to cannabinoid therapy in terms of boosting protective intracellular signaling events. The current goal of my research group is to establish the precise cellular and molecular mechanism by which cannabinoids control such events in MS patients, and furthermore aims to establish the relevance of this to the progression of the disease.’

Dr Downer, who was appointed to a UCC lectureship in January 2013, received the award at the eighth Neuroscience Ireland Conference, hosted recently by UCC. He is currently involved in teaching anatomy and neuroscience modules for Dental, Science, Occupational Therapy and Speech and Language Therapy students.

Dr Downer’s research interest is rooted in Neuroimmunology, with emphasis on the role of the innate immune system in neuroinflammatory conditions. He has a particular interest in the cannabinoid system, and its role in regulating neuroinflammation.

His research in this field has made significant contributions to our understanding of cannabinoids as anti-inflammatory therapies, particularly in Multiple Sclerosis. He leads an active research group, and his research has been funded by the Irish Research Council for Science and Engineering and Technology (IRCSET), the Health Research Board (HRB) and the Translational Research Access Programme (TRAP).

Dr Downer has published 21 research articles and book chapters, and acts as an expert reviewer for 13 journals, and as Editor for the British Journal of Pharmacology, Advances in Medicine, International Journal of Cell Biology and Neuroscience Journal.  He is the current secretary of the Cannabinoid Ireland Research Committee, and acts a council member for the Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland (Biomedical Sciences section).

Dr Downer has been previously honoured with the Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland Early Career Award (2009).


Friday, 27 September 2013

Cannabis Consumption Has No Negative Effect on Health, According to New Study

A new study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, and conducted by researchers at Boston Medical Center and the Boston University School of Medicine, has found that even heavy cannabis consumption has no negative effect on a person’s health status, or their use of health care services (such as emergency room visits).

For the study, researchers studied 589 adults who screened positive for drug use during a primary care visit. Data was then collected on these patients, examining their drug use, their emergency room use and hospitalizations, and their overall health status. In addition, further information regarding past medical diagnoses was obtained from their medical records.

After conducting the study, researchers found absolutely no differences between the health and hospitalization of daily cannabis consumers, compared to those who use no cannabis at all.

“Our findings suggest that marijuana use has little measurable effect on self-reported health or healthcare utilization in adults using drugs identified in a primary care clinic,” says Daniel Fuster, MD, the lead author for the study.

This study combats the prohibitionist argument that tax revenue brought in through cannabis legalization will be offset by increased healthcare costs.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

At a Michigan Howard Johnson, Guests Can Smoke Marijuana Freely


When vacationing, it’s tough to quell the urge to get high. When staying at a Howard Johnson hotel, you better be high to enjoy it.

Unfortunately, in most parts of the countries, getting high in a hotel could get you locked up or hit with a hefty find–this author had this buzz kill occur in, of all cities, Miami (where cocaine flows like a river). Yes, in most cases (and in MMJ friendly states like Cali and Colorado), toweling your door or boofing it will keep the 5-0 off your trail and no one at the hotel will care if you’re getting high.

But it’s a stress no one on vacation (better yet, in life) even wants to remotely deal with. In Michigan, one wise, 83-year old owner of a Howard Johnson knows this better than anyone in the country and is catering his chain hotel to cannabis consumers:

Twenty rooms already have been renovated to accommodate smokers. And by the time Sullivan’s done, 60-80 of the hotel’s 155 rooms will allow smoking — accommodating medical marijuana patients as well as tobacco smokers.

Michigan legalized medical marijuana in 2008, and Grand Rapids decriminalized marijuana last year — making possession of a small amount a civil infraction, similar to a parking ticket.

Occupancy at the Howard Johnson “has seen an increase every weekend,” Sullivan said. “Every weekend, every one of those rooms is sold.”

Sullivan, who himself does not smoke cigarettes or marijuana even for medicinal use, estimates occupancy is up 50 percent since he started renovating the rooms.

Renovations have included opening each room up with sliding doors and installing a patio with a tall fence around it to provide privacy — “a little smoking area for each room right at the door,” Sullivan said. “Otherwise, people have to go outside the lobby doors.

“If you’re a marijuana smoker, it’s nice to have that privacy, wouldn’t you say so?” [Crains Detroit]

Damn straight.

Big Island marijuana minister set to plead guilty

After more than three years in prison, the self-proclaimed Big Island marijuana minister Roger Christie could be getting out fairly soon.

Roger Christie founded the Hawaii Cannabis Ministry, and it's true to its name, treating marijuana as sacrament. However, the law still treats marijuana as contraband, so the ministry was shut down, Christie is behind bars and both he and his wife are set to plead guilty to distributing marijuana on Friday -- Something Christie's attorney said he's never denied.

"If someone is conducting a religious activity, and it's a legitimate religion, and they are sincere upon their belief, the government cannot infringe upon that activity unless the government has a compelling interest to do so," said Christie's lawyer, Thomas Otake.  

Christie had 284 marijuana plants, and his attorney said the ministry sold pot to members three times a week, selling about a half pound each time. The defense claims Christie's distribution of marijuana through the ministry is protected. However, the district court judge recently ruled that the Christies could not use the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as their defense.

"The plea agreement that the parties are finalizing would allow Rev. Christie and his wife to appeal that ruling to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and the United States Supreme Court if necessary, and we completely intend on doing that," said Otake.
Roger Christie has been held without bail since July 2010. His attorney has tried eight times to get him released. After more than three years sitting in prison, with the plea agreement he could get released as soon as six to seven months from now.

"Rev. Christie is as energized and positive and upbeat as ever. He looks forward to taking his fight and cause to the appeals court, where he really believes some good results will come," said Otake.

Christie's trial had been set for next month.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

NJ Governor Signs Legislation Amending Aspects Of State’s Medical Cannabis Program

By Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director

Republican Gov. Chris Christie has signed legislation, Senate Bill 2842, into law modifying aspects of the state’s medical marijuana regulations.

Specifically, the law amends requirements that state-licensed medical cannabis producers and distributors be limited to providing patients with no more than three strains of the plant – a regulatory rule that has been in place since the program’s inception some three years ago. Proponents of the rule change argued that lifting the three-strain cap will foster the production and distribution of varieties of cannabis high in CBD (cannabidiol) content. Cannabidiol is a non-psychotropic cannabinoid that possesses a variety of therapeutic properties. However, it is typically present at relatively low levels in conventional strains of marijuana, which typically are bred to possess higher quantities of THC – the primary psychoactive ingredient in cannabis.

Senate Bill 2842 also allows for cannabis distributors to produce marijuana-infused edible products. However, at the insistence of the Governor, consumption of such products will be limited to those age 18 and younger.

Governor Christie previously vetoed language that sought to streamline regulations so that qualified patients under the age of 18 could more readily access medicinal cannabis.

Under present New Jersey law, authorized patients may only obtain medical cannabis from state-licensed dispensaries. To date, however, few facilities are actively up and running. Earlier this month, the state’s Economic Developmental Authority approved a $375,000 loan to the Compassionate Care Foundation dispensary, which plans to open its doors in mid-October.

Colorado anti-marijuana tax group giving out free joints (again)

Earlier this month, a group opposed to Proposition AA, the measure to establish tax rates on recreational marijuana sales in Colorado, staged a rally at Denver's Civic Center Park during which attendees were given free joints.

Now, that same group, No on Proposition AA, is planning a second free-joint event tomorrow on Boulder's Pearl Street Mall. And one organizer, attorney Rob Corry, has written a letter to Vice President Joe Biden inviting him to take part. Denver Westword has the full story

Monday, 23 September 2013

Bank of America OK With Being Washington’s Recreational Cannabis Banker

In an announcement that will have deep implications for the newly-legal recreational cannabis industry in Washington State, Bank of America has agreed to be the state’s primary cannabis banker, meaning they’re willing to accept millions of dollars from recreational cannabis sales.

Currently Bank of America is Washington State’s official bank, which handles all of the state’s funds. However, the bank’s 7-year contract with the state runs out on June 30th. Washington asked for bids this month, specifically mentioning that accepting deposits of large amounts of cannabis-money will be a requirement.

According to the state’s Treasurer, Jim McIntire, the bank has told the state that they’re willing to continue banking with them, including handling deposits of funds earned from cannabis-sales. According to Wolfgang Opitz, assistant to McIntire, Bank of America has “checked this out with their compliance department and they don’t see it as any different than say, medical marijuana or any other activity,” he continues, “There could be other illegal activities going on in this state that happen to be in the tax base.”

McIntire is confident that the feds will stay out of it; “It’s actually one of the advantages of having Bank of America as your contractor. It’s unlikely, I think, that the federal government would raid them”, he continues, “And they’re big enough to look out for themselves on this.”

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Q&A With Mason Tvert, Communication Director for MPP, the World’s Largest Cannabis Reform Group

by TheJointBlog

As the Communications Director for the world’s largest cannabis law reform group – the Marijuana Policy Project – Mason Tvert is on the front lines of the battle to end cannabis prohibition. As one of the key proponents of Amendment 64, which legalized cannabis in Colorado, he’s also one of the most widely respected and admired cannabis reformers – and for good reason. Thanks to Amendment 64, anyone 21 and older in Colorado can now legally cultivate up to 6 cannabis plants, can walk around with an ounce in their pocket without fear of criminal repercussions, and starting next year, they’ll be able to purchase cannabis from legal retail outlets.

We had the opportunity to speak with Mason Tvert, to ask him a few questions surrounding his current work, his past work, and advice he would give to those new to the movement.

It’s been over 10 months since Amendment 64 and Initiative 502 were approved by voters. What are your thoughts on how things have been progressing?

They’ve been moving forward as planned. State officials have been developing regulations and a regulatory framework necessary to begin sales for adults. Things seem to be on schedule.

Looking back, if you had the opportunity, is there anything you would change or include in Amendment 64?

We might have looked at the situation with local control a little more. We knew Colorado localities are able to to prohibit marijuana businesses. While that would generally be the case no matter what law was past, we might have considered looking at ways to require a little more effort than a simple council vote.

Recently MPP announced a goal to legalize cannabis in 10 more states by 2017. How challenging of a goal do you believe this will be?

The support for ending marijuana prohibition is growing dramatically around the country. These are ten particular states where we’re seeing very strong support. One of the biggest obstacles is fundraising, to have enough resources available to qualify for the ballot and effectively campaign and lobby for the passage of these laws. But we are feeling good about our ability to raise the money needed and build a coalition needed to be successful in the next couple years.

In these 10 states, will Amendment 64 serve as the template?

Every state is always going to end up being different. But they will certainly be very similar to Amendment 64 in all likelihood. Each drafting process, however, will take into account various issues involving the state, what the state laws are, whether there are existing medical marijuana systems -, but in terms of the general concept of licensing marijuana retail stores, cultivation facilities, manufacturing and testing facilities, it’ll be really similar.

How many of these 10 states do you feel will end up including a provision for legal home cultivation?

I hope they all do. I think it’s for the same reasons we allow adults to brew their own beer at home as long as they’re not doing anything irresponsible with it. Adults 21 and older should be able to produce a small amount of marijuana in their own home. And that’s especially the case in places where people won’t be located near marijuana retail stores such as in cases where localities ban them.

If you’re successful in legalizing cannabis in the 10 proposed states by 2017, do you have any thoughts on which states would be the next 3?

To be clear the 10 states aren’t necessarily the only, or first 10 states to make marijuana legal next – although Alaska certainly is – but they’re ones that we’ll be focusing our efforts on as of now. Oregon is definitely a state where we expect to see a similar measure pass, whether in 2014 or 2016 will depend on whether a measure qualifies in 2014. Massachusetts and Montana are two states where we see significant support for ending prohibition, so these are also two states we’re likely to see efforts over the next couple years.

What is your suggestion to the people reading this who want to get involved in the legalization of cannabis, but aren’t exactly sure how, or where to start?

First and foremost people should begin by speaking to people closest to them about the issue. It may seem obvious, but all too often people get excited about hitting the street and handing out information to strangers, when in fact there’s family members and friends near by them that are still on the fence about ending marijuana prohibition and they’re the most likely to change their mind. That is far and away the most important thing for people to do.

Beyond that, reaching out to other local activists and other local organizations working in various states. Unfortunately resources are limited when it comes to this movement so there will always be initiatives going on and strong lobbying efforts, but there’s always work that needs to be done to educate voters, to educate elected officials and to really just change the way that people think about marijuana.

We would like to thank Mason Tvert for taking the time to speak with us.

New German mayor calls for cannabis cafes in Berlin

When one thinks about Germany, rarely does cannabis freedom immediately come to mind. Volkswagens, maybe, but lax pot laws? Hardly ever.
But since April 28th, 1994, marijuana users in Deutschland have enjoyed the freedom to possess reasonably personal amounts of cannabis without fear of arrest or prosecution. Considered by the German government to be a "soft drug", marijuana has not necessarily been legalized, so much as it is tolerated by authorities.

Although German head shops openly sell grow lights right next to bongs, laws regarding cannabis use, possession, and sale vary rather wildly throughout the country. In the northern regions of Germany, possessing up to 30 grams of cannabis is unlikely to lead to trouble with authorities. As you travel south, however, laws change, often becoming stricter. In Thuringia, and even further south into Tuttlingen (home of the Volcano Vaporizor), the laws stiffen, and allowable personal amounts can drop to as low as 2-6 grams of herb. In the nation's capital city of Berlin, one may possess up to 15 grams of bud.

Driving while stoned (even in a Volkswagen), or with larger amounts of cannabis, is not recommended in Germany - particularly along the Dutch border, a region notorious for international drug trafficking. Unreliable "sweat tests" are often used by German police on drivers to discourage "weed-tourism" from bordering countries.

Still, arrests for simple possession of pot are few and far between in Germany. Sales and cultivation, however, are still off-limits on all but the smallest of scales. The newly elected Mayor of the nation's largest city aims to change that portion of German pot policy as well.

Mayor Monika Herrmann, the new top boss of Berlin's Kreuzberg District, sees black market distribution as a main hurdle in drug reform in her country, and her prime example is Görlitzer Park in her own city. For years a magnet for drug dealers to assemble and push their wares, Herrmann hopes that a new approach to cannabis law in Berlin will help to clean up the popular park and surrounding streets.

Herrmann says, "If we want to gain control of the dealers and their products, we must manage distribution." 

Her plan is to legalize the sale of cannabis in the city of Berlin via a Mayor-approved chain of cannabis cafes, similar to what one thinks of when they think about Germany's northern neighbors in Amsterdam. Herrmann makes clear, however, that Dutch "coffee" shops are not the model that she is striving to implement in Berlin.

She foresees the shops literally being run by the city, and staffed by medically trained personnel who are able to counsel and advise customers on the choices that will be made available.

The debate that has been sparked in Berlin could have serious repercussions on nationwide government elections scheduled for next week, on September 22nd. While the nation's version of the Democratic Party, the SPD, and other like-minded groups are constantly pushing for further relaxing of national cannabis laws, social conservatives in Germany are not too anxious for reform, deferring instead to just letting the police handle the problem.

Local police groups are generally against the notion of retail cannabis cafes, though they are being forced to admit that raids and aggressive police work merely push dealers around the city, a step ahead of law enforcement. Proponents of the cafes argue that, without the burden of busting potheads, the police could begin to focus on eradicating the harder and truly harmful drugs from society.

Regarding nationwide acceptance and legalization of marijuana, Georg Wurth, spokesman for Berlin's pro-cannabis group "Hanf Verband", told local German news outlet DeutscheWelle, "With a conservative government there might still be problems, and it will take some more years until it happens. But I'm enthusiastic at the moment, and I think we will get it done. It's just a question of time."

With wild neighbors like Switzerland, the Czechs, Poland, Denmark, Austria and Belgium all having done away with prohibition-era pot laws; and by sharing a 577 kilometer border with the Netherlands, it seems that peer pressure on pot may be working in favor of German weed lovers. 

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Personal Transformation with Marijuana

by Sebastián Marincolo

"I had seen these transformations, people who had lost 
their will to live, coming back from their zombie states and radiating a new life force from their eyes."
Anthony Kiedis, lead singer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers

In the last years, medical marijuana has been increasingly used as treatment for post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) – in some states in the U.S., as in California, approximately 25% medical marijuana patients have their prescription for their PTSD. Israel’s government also treats soldiers with PTSD with cannabis. We know from numerous reports from war-veterans and other PTSD patients that marijuana can give instant relief and can actually help in the long run to minimize symptoms of PTSD. We still don’t know exactly how marijuana helps these patients, but we have some clues. 

About a decade ago, physiologist Beat Lutz found that the endocannabinoids in our brain play an important role in the extinction of aversive memories. 
(Beat Lutz (2002), „The Endogenous Cannabinoid System Controls Extinction Of Aversive Memories“)

Inhaled or ingested (exogenous) cannabis might act on this system and help PTSD patients to overcome their traumas. A newer study with rats by the Israelian scientists Eti Ganon-Elazar and Irit Akirav suggests that cannabinoids do not really extinguish aversive memories. Memories still seem to be there, but they do not cause such extreme reactions anymore; thus, marijuana probably helps patients to overcome their traumas without extinguishing their episodic memories of what happened.

The cognitive effects of a marijuana high

These findings on the neurological level are promising for the treatment of millions of traumatized people. In this essay, however, I want to explain other ways in which marijuana could be personally used or used in psychotherapy – not only to overcome traumas. I want to show here that a marijuana high and its cognitive effects could be used for many ways of positive personal transformations – and we have a lot of anecdotal evidence for this claim. Here is a report from a marijuana user who used marijuana to get away from a shallow lifestyle in a marriage that was almost wrecked:

"We’ve discovered that what we both really want is contentment with what we have rather than the perfectionism of accumulation and put-ons. Marijuana has landed us solidly into a groove of change; it’s broken down barriers between us, and probably saved our marriage and family. We have a heightened sense of what we’re all about as a couple, we’re better parents." 
E.Cleaves: We’re Not Bluffing Anymore, in:, April 2013.

Mindsight and Marijuana

How could the marijuana high help with personal transformation? I want to introduce a relatively new and groundbreaking approach in psychotherapy suggested by Daniel J. Siegel, clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA Medical School. In his book "Mindsight. The New Science of Personal Transformation" (2010) he combines Western psychoterapy and new findings from the neurosciences with Eastern meditation practices.

One of Siegel’s core concepts is integration as the basis for happiness. He identifies eight areas of integration, but for the sake of brevity, I will mention only three here: horizontal integration, vertical integration, and the integration of episodic memories. Let me illustrate these real quick. Stuart, one of Siegel’s patients (aged 93) came to him because he realized that he felt nothing when his wife got severely sick. It turned out that Stuart never allowed much feelings, because his parents had been emotionally cold with him. As a child, Stuart had probably mostly “switched of” the right hemisphere, which is of importance for holistic thinking, nonverbal communication and empathy. Instead, he used mainly his rational, logical, and verbal left hemisphere and worked as a lawyer. Siegel successfully used various methods to direct Stuarts awareness to processes in his right hemisphere, like nonverbal communication and imagery. He helped Stuart to heal by integrating his right hemisphere – that’s what Siegel calls horizontal integration.

Siegel’s patient Anne had “switched off” her feelings for her body as an eleven year old child because she had decided to never feel again after the severe shock when her mother died. Here, Siegel realized that she needed to vertically integrate the feelings for her body again and he used various physical trainings and awareness exercises to help her to do so – with much success.

Traumatized patients often completely forget the circumstances of their traumatic experience, like rape, abuse, physical violence, or a fatal loss. One of the most important techniques for Siegel’s method of “mindsight” is to let his patient meditate and to let them find a secure space in the here-and-now. If they feel stressed, he asks them to imagine being at their favorite place, maybe a beach or the house on an aunt in their childhood. In this state, he can actually lead them to less fearfully remember a so far supressed traumatic experience; which they need to better deal with their memories later. This is what Siegel calls the integration of episodic memories.

Siegel cites impressive studies to show that getting aware of emotional traumas and training ones awareness over a longer period of time can lead to a real physical transformation in the brain because of neuroplasticity – the technical term for the fact that throughout our lives, new synaptic connections and new neurons can be grown. Our brain is in a constant process of transformation.

Marijuana, Transformation, and Psychotherapy

In my book “High. Insights on Marijuana” I argued that marijuana can be used as a cognitive enhancer in numerous ways. I will now list some of them and comment how these could help patients – but also healthy marijuana users – to heal or to literally transform themselves.

One of the most important effects of marijuana seems to be the hyperfocus of attention. When high, we strongly focus on a taste, a tactile experience during sex, or on our inner stream of thought. It is obvious that this effect can help users to focus on the here-and-now. Indian sadhus have used cannabis derivates for hundreds of years for meditation and other purposes. Marijuana certainly can help beginners to get deeper in their meditation or to focus on episodic memories. The enhancement of episodic memory retrieval during a high is one of the main effects described in detail by myriads of marijuana users and could of course help them to become aware and integrate episodic memories. Furthermore, marijuana helps to vividly imagine various situations, which might be generally helpful during a guided meditation.

In brief, then, the high can be helpful for the process of meditation – which can generally be used with the mindsight method. The enhancement of episodic memory during a high can help in the process of the integration of episodic memories. Also, many used reported various enhancements of their intereoception – the perception of ones own body. This could also help patients to ‘get in touch’ with their bodies, which facilitates the process of vertical integration. Last but not least, marijuana seems to enhance many functions which are dominantly performed by the right hemisphere of the brain – episodic memories, imagery, empathic understanding, insights – so it could also help with horizontal integration.

Lester Grinspoon’s amazing collection of essays and reports from marijuana users (Lester Grinspoon, show that many of them have successfully used marijuana for introspection, insights, a better empathic understanding, which often changed their lives and positively transformed them. Siegel’s approach shows us that psychotherapists should at least consider marijuana as an important tool to help millions of patients to overcome serious traumas, deep fears or depression based on previous processes of disintegration – and to facilitate the much desired positive personal transformation.

Autor - Sebastián Marincolo
A philosopher, consciousness researcher, freelance creative director, writer, and art photographer.


Friday, 20 September 2013

Legal Medicinal Cannabis In Britain ACHIEVED!

This is the most joyous news that I have dreamed of writing for years.  Legal access to herbal medicinal cannabis in Britain has been achieved!

Following a procedure on which we have offered advice and guidance, a CLEAR member has returned to the UK from Holland with 90g of Bedrocan medicinal cannabis which was prescribed by his UK GP. He declared the medicine at customs, all 18 tubs containing five grams each were examined, he showed the various documentation which we have obtained and he was authorised to proceed.

Clarence Clear (not his real name) is a 33 year old from just outside London who has a background working in the licensed trade.  His health problems started when he was beaten up and mugged at age 13 and at age 18 he suffered a severe spinal injury.  Further accidents exacerbated the problem and he now suffers from chronic pain, sciatica, degenerative spinal disease, spondylitis and spinal stenosis.  Most recently he has been diagnosed with adiposis dolorosa, also known as Dercum’s disease which produces painful tumours on the spine which may spread to other parts of the body.

He has been prescribed the usual cocktail of opioids and other  painkillers including fentanyl, tramadol and baclofen.  He developed analgesia migraines due to the large number of painkillers he was taking and even had to undergo cranial nerve injections in his skull to try and deal with the pain.  He had used cannabis occasionally in the past and discovered that it offered him enormous relief without side effects.

Fortunately, Clarence’s doctor was understanding of his cannabis use and quickly came to realise the enormous benefit it was offering him.  Great credit must go to this so far unsung hero who took it on himself to investigate the options available.  He determined that Sativex was not the answer, not least because of its cost and notorious post code lottery prescribing issues. Also, its very nature is to slow down absorption of cannabinoids into the system and so it cannot be as effective as vapourised or smoked cannabis.  In the  end, it was Clarence’s doctor who researched and recommended a Bedrocan product.

So Clarence obtained a prescription for Bedrobinol (Bedrocan’s 12% THC <1% CBD product) from his GP. On his behalf , I submitted an application for a personal import licence to the Home Office.

So, earlier this month, equipped with the prescription and copies of correspondence with the Home Office, Clarence set out, supported by his partner of four years. They flew to Schiphol and after a brief visit to an Amsterdam coffeeshop took the train to the northern city of Groningen where they had already made arrangements with a pharmacy.

The couple have now returned safely to the UK.  Ironically they were stopped at customs in Schiphol before boarding but there was no interest in the medicine, only in a jar of Dutch mustard which they were told they could not travel with and it was seized!

The flight home was uneventful and so, hearts in their mouths, they chose the red channel and told an officer that they had medicine to declare. I can only imagine the tension of the next few minutes. Apparently a group of young men who been stopped watched in disbelief as a Border Agency officer examined and smelt the cannabis and then waved Clarence and his partner through.  The officer commended them on being open, honest and straightforward, saying that if they had been stopped without making a declaration, things could have been very different.

I now intend to write to the Home Office, explaining what has happened and asking for confirmation that anyone else with a prescription from their doctor may follow the same process.  It maybe that they will claim this was a mistake but we have taken legal advice and it would be impossible to secure a conviction against Clarence.

We have made the breakthrough.  I believe we will be able to extend this to others.  We will be seeking to agree a protocol with the Home Office which will clarify the position for patients as well as Border Agency staff and the police and eliminate any uncertainty for everyone. What has made the difference is that the prescription was written by a UK doctor, we were completely upfront with the Home Office in advance and, as we discussed in some depth beforehand, Clarence was scrupulous in being open and honest at all stages.

So, many congratulations to Clarence and his partner for their courage.  I say again, we have made the breakthrough!