December 2014

Here’s to a Great 2015

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History of Cannabinoids & Opioids

Lets look at the similarities and differences.

Humans have used drugs that have been derived from plants for many thousands of years to decrease and cope with pain.

In 1964 THC was discovered at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel by Dr. Raphael Mechoulam. In the year 1973, scientists discovered the first opiate receptors in the human brain.

Humans have used opiates for pain since the time of Ancient Greece.

Opioid receptors are distributed widely in the brain and can be found in the digestive tract and spinal cord. Opium is found in the seedpod of poppy plants.

In 1975 scientists discovered that the human brain had what are known as “endogenous opiates”, commonly known today as “endorphins”.

American researcher Allyn Howlett and her graduate student William Devane discovered the first cannabinoid receptors in the brain in 1988.

They named them cannabinoid 1 receptors (CB1).

In 1992 researchers in Israel found an endogenous cannabinoid and proceeded to name it N-arachidonoyl ethanolamine or anandamide.

In 1993 scientists found cannabinoid receptors in the immune system (CB2), and subsequently discovered a second endocannabinoid called 2-arachidonoyl glycerol.

So far there have been five endocannabinoids discovered, although as far as medicinal value, the first two found, anandamide and 2-AG appear to have the most importance.

Scientists have since realized that CB1 receptors are found mostly on neurons in the spinal cord, brain, and peripheral nervous system. This very reason explains the role of cannabinoids in pain modulation, memory processing, and motor control.

CB2 receptors are located mainly in immune cells such as the spleen and tonsils.
An amazingly extraordinary fact is that in the human body there are more receptors for cannabinoids than for any other substance.

In the middle area of the human brain there are systems that are critical to keep humans alive, such as heartbeat and breathing.

Cannabinoid receptors are almost completely missing in this area of the brain, whereas opioids have a profound affect on the midbrain.

This explains why cannabis is so safe and does not cause overdoses and deaths like opioid-based medicines so commonly do.

How To Avoid Product Liability!

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) determined that some of the American Licorice Company’s black licorice candy manufactured in 2012 contained quantities of lead significantly in excess of permissible levels, and ordered a recall. American Licorice Company later performed an investigation into the adulterations of its candy, and concluded that the excess lead originated in molasses purchased from Total Sweetness, Inc; it then moved to sue Total Sweetness. American Licorice Company is the candy company that manufactures the popular Red Vines®.

In another case, this past spring, a decision came down through the Northern District Court of San Francisco* against the Safeway grocery chain that posed the question of whether Safeway had a duty to issue a post-sale warning to its “Club Card” loyalty members when the Food and Drug Administration issued Class I Recalls. Class I recalls are implemented when there is a reasonable probability that the use of the product will cause serious, adverse health consequences or death. The question for Safeway was whether failing to issue a post-sale warning constituted negligence—where California law imposes a general duty of care.

Cases like these cause me deep concern for what I see as a significant problem when it comes to the manufacturing and retail distribution of marijuana-infused products and edibles sold in medical marijuana dispensaries (in California called “collectives” or “cooperatives”).

If a product is found to be “abnormally dangerous” or “unsafe,” there are a number of legal theories potential plaintiffs could use as grounds to sue infused-products manufacturers and dispensary retailers, I will refer to these theories as “product liability.” Product liability is where the manufacturer or the retailer can be found legally liable if a product is found to be unsafe. Potential plaintiffs include customers, patients, and any foreseeable third party who consumes the product. The focus of this article is the duty to test and to give post-sale warnings in the event flowers, products, or edibles are tested and found to be unsafe.

An unsafe product in the cannabis industry can, among other things, be a product that has a substance in it or on it that is unsafe for human consumption. For example, in a conversation I had with Dr. Jeffrey C. Raber, CEO of Werc Shop testing laboratory, I learned that it is not uncommon to find cannabis flowers or edible products contaminated after doing lab tests. According to Dr. Raber, flowers and concentrates can be tested for cannabinoids, terpenes, pesticides and microbiologic growth, and edibles and infused products can be tested for cannabinoids and microbiologic growth. Dr. Raber believes that some dispensaries and edible manufacturers do not test the flowers they use because of the added cost, but contaminated products can be unsafe.

According to the Unites States Environmental Protection Agency website, the health effects of pesticides depend on the type of pesticide. Some, such as the organophosphates and carbamates, affect the nervous system. Others may irritate the skin or eyes. Some pesticides may be carcinogenic. Others may affect the body’s hormonal or endocrine systems. Unscrupulous growers may have only one goal in mind—harvest at any cost. We cannot allow folks to come to our dispensaries and sell us untested product!

An unsafe infused product could be one where the flowers were treated with dangerous pesticides in the garden. This is why I believe a best business practice is to ensure that flowers sold in a dispensary be tested before being sold to medical marijuana patients. As a Lawyer in this industry, I believe the dispensary owner has a duty to ensure products being sold in the dispensary are properly tested. Most of us know that this is an unregulated area in most states, and, for the most part, products are not tested. Said another way, without regulation or a law that says one has to test, people don’t test. Notwithstanding a law printed in black and white, one could be found negligent by failing to test. This is because it is foreseeable that flowers could have been treated with dangerous pesticides in the garden.

The next issue is the “standard in the industry” for testing. The standard in most states is not to require testing, because the lawmakers are not necessarily privy to what can happen in a grow room or garden. However, in the event one was sued for product liability (and both the product manufacturer and the retailer could be), the standard unquestionably would be the new high mark of testing regulations and requirements posed by Colorado and Washington’s cannabis industries. Experts from these states would be called to testify to what the understood standard for safety is in the industry. Therefore, a duty to test flowers is the standard for flowers, and any infused product should be tested for microbials. Additionally, where appropriate, the THC levels also should be tested and placed on the label of the product.

Duty to Recall
Next, is there a duty to recall products and give notice to dispensary member patients if it is learned that flowers or an infused product failed testing? Most medical marijuana dispensaries have contact information or a patient database. A jury could very well find a manufacturer or a dispensary retailer is negligent for failing to recall or failing to send a post-sale recall notice to patients they reasonably knew could have ingested (or may ingest) an unsafe product. Most people would say that if a manufacturer’s product is found to be unsafe, that manufacturer should contact every dispensary to whom it has sold a defective batch of product and inform them of the problem. In the same way, many would say a dispensary owner who has contact information for its customers should contact them in the event a product is found to be unsafe.

Therefore, I urge edible manufacturers and dispensary owners to insist on properly tested products by a reputable testing laboratory. Insist on the testing of every batch of flowers, concentrates or any infused product. Let the day of purchasing or distributing untested product be a thing of the past. You will gain the respect of your patients and customers when they know you have tested your products, and the additional cost to avoid potential product liability is well worth it.

*Maclean vs Safeway 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 48591 The Werc Shop:

The Effects of Marijuana on Productivity

It’s no secret that medical marijuana has many medicinal benefits. Despite the leaps and bounds that society has made in legalizing marijuana, there can still be a negative stigma surrounding those who partake, be it medically or recreationally. However, many people are blind to the fact that cannabis can be a beneficial tool when it comes to the overall quality of work. Not only can it help you to access the more creative parts of your imagination, but it can also help to clear away the clutter and help you to focus. This leads us to ask the question, could cannabis actually boost overall work ethic and productivity?
What Is Dopamine?

dopamineMarijuana, like other drugs, causes the brain to release the chemical dopamine. Dopamine is one of the many chemicals in the brain that helps regulate the brain’s activity. These chemicals are also known as neurotransmitters.

When a person inhales or ingests cannabis, cannabinoids increase the flow of dopamine by blocking off the function of another neurotransmitter, called GABA. Under normal circumstances, GABA “waters down” the flow of dopamine to the brain. However, when cannabinoids and THC inhibit GABA, the brain releases more dopamine as a result. This increase in dopamine causes people to feel more calm, focused, and can even boost their overall creativity. Contrary to popular belief, endocannabinoids are more strongly linked to ‘runner’s high’ than endorphins.
Cannabis And Productivity: Are Stoners Really Lazy?

There is no denying the fact that media has been successful in creating a stigma associating cannabis consumers with the act of being lazy. However, there is nothing about marijuana specifically that causes people to lose drive and ambition. In recent laboratory studies, subjects given high doses of marijuana for several weeks exhibited no decrease in work motivation or productivity.

”The latest scientific evidence shows that this neurotransmitter [dopamine] acts before the pleasure or reward, encouraging us to act.”

In fact, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence supporting the concept of cannabinoids improving an individual’s work ethic and creativity. As we know, there is a strong link between dopamine and the CB-1 and CB-2 cannabinoid receptors of the brain.

Even celebrities are speaking up. Famed writer and director, Kevin Smith, explains in his book about how he got into cannabis for the first time. Kevin says Seth Rogen helped him unlock marijuana’s creative potential. “Seth was the most productive pot smoker I’d ever met, and he never seemed remotely f*cked up,” writes Smith. “Here was a guy who could not only handle his high, he could handle your high, your friends’ highs, and your mom’s high—all while getting sh*t done.”

Smith goes on to tell the story of how he and Rogen smoked together for the first time; how he and his wife smoked together for the first time; and most importantly, how smoking marijuana made him feel. “I liked who I was when I was smoking weed,” says Smith. “[I] spent less energy trying to make people laugh because [I] was laughing lots [myself]. At that point in my life, weed was exactly what I needed.”

At age thirty-seven, Kevin Smith began to smoke marijuana every day, but gave himself a goal– he had to tie something creative to it: “If I was blazing, I was writing, podcasting, or editing at the same time.” Some of the best and most revered music, movies, and art have been made while consuming cannabis.

Seth Rogen expressed that marijuana is part of his productive day-to-day activities, and that his writing benefits from it. “I think it’s a myth to say you can’t be productive and smoke weed. It’s an antiquated thought,” says Rogen. “More than anything, [marijuana] makes me willing to work.”
The Effects Of Marijuana Use On Productivity

Increased productivity can be directly linked to the brain’s dopamine levels. Although dopamine is usually linked to feeling pleasure or reward, it also acts as a motivator—and when the brain’s dopamine levels increase, there is more of a want or need to get things done. Researcher Mercè Correa of the Universitat Jaume I explains it best in the Cell Press Journal, Neuron.

universitat“It was believed that dopamine regulated pleasure and reward and that we release it when we obtain something that satisfies us, but in fact, the latest scientific evidence shows that this neurotransmitter acts before the pleasure or reward, encouraging us to act. In other words, dopamine is released in order to achieve something good or to avoid something evil.” Therefore, an increased flow of dopamine can boost your motivation to stay focused and potentially take on bigger goals in the future.
Other Ways To Stay Productive: Look For Clear-Sativa Strains

There are several strains of marijuana that can lend to increasing the dopamine levels in your brain. Sativa strains are usually labeled as being more “creative,” giving the user high levels of dopamine and allowing their brain to become more motivated and open. Some common cannabis strains to look for that could increase your drive and work ethic are Green Crack, Jack Herer, and Cherry AK.

These clear Sativa strains are popular for their ability to provide a uplifting and energetic head high, without the heavy, zone-inducing state. This makes them ideal for powering through work, chores around the house, or other creative endeavors. If you don’t have access to these specific strains, do not worry, any of the clear-headed Sativa strains that your local dispensary or collective has available should suffice. Just be sure to ask your budtender for their personal recommendations.

Researchers say “Big Tobacco” is getting into the Marijuana Business, although they deny it!

The tobacco, pharmaceutical and alcohol industries are looking to get into the marijuana industry and plan to capitalize on the leverage those already in the cannabis space have built, several experts speaking at the Marijuana Business Conference and Expo said on Friday.

Patrick Basham, director of the non-partisan public policy research organization based in Washington DC and London, said during a speech at the conference – run by the parent company of Marijuana Business Daily – in Las Vegas.

While executives in the tobacco industry deny any interest in marijuana, the makers of cigarettes and other products see enormous potential in cannabis with many betting on the burgeoning industry as a way to offset their own shrinking businesses, he said. Basham added that tobacco faces a “perfect storm” of regulatory threats, negative public image, shrinking consumer base and, on a general basis, is a habit of less affluent and uneducated people.

Marijuana, conversely has public opinion on its side, is seeing increased deregulation on a state level and by the end of the decade may no longer be a Schedule I drug, making it federally legal and potentially worth billions of dollars, he said.

Sure, big tobacco has said it isn’t interested in cannabis, but research says otherwise. A report published earlier this year in a health policy journal said tobacco businesses, along with food and beverage companies, are prepared to enter the space.

Tobacco executives aren’t known for always being forthcoming, Basham said. In fact, big tobacco tried to get into the marijuana business in the 1960s and 1970s and is likely planning on how to capitalize on today’s growing cannabis space.

“You shouldn’t wage your industry’s future on the word of the tobacco industry,” he said. “Tobacco plans to” use the leverage those in the cannabis industry have already built to capitalize down the road.

Big pharmaceutical companies are also eyeing the marijuana industry, Basham said.

Harry Schuhmacher, the publisher of Beer Business Daily and Wine & Spirits Daily, said that alcohol companies also may be looking at entering the marijuana business as they’re reportedly under threat of losing sales to cannabis.

Will Marijuana have a negative effect on alcohol sales? “We in the alcohol business, we’re scared… because we don’t know the effect weed is going to have on booze,” Schuhmacher said. In Colorado, alcohol consumption has risen thanks to the throngs of tourists who have made their way to the state to consume legal marijuana, but that won’t happen if deregulation moves into more states.

Marijuana may have the same effect on alcohol consumption that legalization of lottery tickets, including scratch-offs, had on beer sales when they were first allowed into stores, said Schuhmacher, who followed his father and grandfather’s footsteps into the beer industry.

“A guy used to go into the convenience store to buy a 24-pack,” he said. “Now he buys two lottery tickets and a 12-pack. Gaming, marijuana and alcohol are all fighting of the same dollar – they’re fighting for the same dollar so they’re competing against each other. The liquor industry is not excited about legalized cannabis.”

Tripp Keber, the owner and managing director of edible-maker Dixie Elixirs, said during the conference also said that the tobacco, pharma and alcohol are all coming for the marijuana industry, and those who own cannabis companies need to be ready.

“You can’t have an industry that is tripling in size and taking revenue and profits away from manufacturers of alcohol and tobacco and not expect them to do something about it,” Keber told an audience on the last day of the conference. “You better be prepared.”