Bill requiring testing of medical marijuana for contaminants passes Arizona Senate

PHOENIX — Sometime next year, medical marijuana users could get a guarantee of sorts that the drugs they are buying are as good as they’ve been promised.

And they’ll know if it has mold, disease-causing bacteria or other adulterants.

With only three lawmakers in dissent, the Senate voted Thursday to require the state Department of Agriculture to test what’s being sold at the state-regulated dispensaries around the state. SB 1420 now goes to the House.

But two other measures dealing with medical marijuana met a different fate.

State Rep. Vince Leach, R-Tucson, was unable to get sufficient votes for HB 2066, which would have allowed state health officials to use some of the money collected from medical marijuana patients in fees for programs to create and publicize messages aimed at youth about the “dangers of marijuana.”

The idea angered state Rep. David Stringer, R-Prescott, who pointed out that voters made marijuana legal for medical use in 2010. He called such an education program “a back-door way to try to tell voters they made a mistake.”

And Rep. Pamela Powers Hanley, D-Tucson, objected to anything claiming there are dangers in marijuana “since it is a plant that never killed anybody.”

Leach had no better luck with HB 2064, which would have barred medical marijuana from being marketed or placed in any package “attractive to minors.” That includes the use of cartoons, images of minors, symbols or celebrities to market to minors, and any design that resembles another product available to children, like candy.

Leach said the idea is to prevent accidental poisonings, saying children have ingested marijuana by mistake, particularly when it looks like candy. If marijuana is a medicine, he said, it should

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Mary Taylor's chief of staff has new job with Ohio's medical marijuana program

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A longtime Kasich administration staffer has a new job advising Ohio’s nascent medical marijuana program, but few details were available Friday about what he will do in the new role.

Mark Hamlin, Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor’s chief of staff, will take a senior policy position at the Ohio Department of Commerce, which is one of three state agencies overseeing the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program, Taylor spokesman David Hopcraft confirmed Friday. The Department of Commerce is responsible for the cultivation, testing and processing portions of the medical marijuana supply chain.

The department has come under fire in recent months over reports it unknowingly hired a felon with a drug conviction to help score applications and for how it handled that and other concerns about the scoring process. Last week, six unsuccessful cultivators sued the department, alleging it did not follow its own rules during the scoring process.

Hamlin was the lead staff person on Kasich’s “common sense initiative,” a state effort to work with businesses and state agencies to cut red tape in rules and regulations. Much of Ohio’s medical marijuana program is detailed in those agency rules instead of state law.

It was unknown Friday how big of a role Hamlin will play in the program going forward.

The Department of Commerce did not reply Friday afternoon to questions about the move. A spokesman for Gov. John Kasich referred cleveland.com to the Commerce Department, which is a governor’s cabinet agency.

Hamlin will start his new job March 5, Hopcraft said. Emily Kaylor, the director of the common sense initiative, will serve as interim chief of staff.

Hamlin has worked in the lieutenant governor’s office since 2011. He was promoted to chief of staff in March 2017, after several predecessors served only months-long stints in the position.

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Medical cannabis company grows its county footprint

Liberty Health Sciences expects to harvest 27,000 pounds of marijuana in Alachua County

Daniel Smithson @DanielTSmithson

With another big step, Alachua County is becoming an epicenter for medical cannabis cultivation and manufacturing in Florida.

Toronto-based company Liberty Health Sciences, an investor and operator in the medical cannabis market launched in 2011, closed a deal Feb. 16 to purchase 242 Cannabis, a subsidiary of medical cannabis company 242 Cannabis Canada — a deal which includes a 387-acre parcel north of Gainesville, southeast of Brooker.

242 Cannabis was paid for with more than 18.5 million shares of Liberty Health Sciences stock issued at $1.65 per share, putting the current deal at about $30.5 million, but it includes an option to cash out at $2.07 per share up until three years from the closing date.

The land near 18770 N. County Road 225 had been owned by Alico Citrus Nursery, which shut down its citrus production in Gainesville last year. The land will become the home of what is called the Liberty 360-degree Innovation Campus, said CEO George Scorsis.

The campus — already fitted with about 200,000-square-feet of greenhouses and processing facilities — will undergo a retrofit in the coming months to include the construction of a 16,000-square-foot processing area for the extraction and refining of cannabis oils and manufacturing of products for vaporizers, including preloaded disposable pens, cartridges and pods. A commercial kitchen will also be built for the manufacturing of cannabis edibles.

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“We have a rate of acceleration in Florida that is far exceeding what most people have anticipated,” said. “We wanted to be in the forefront of that so that there wasn’t shortage of products.”

Liberty will grow and manufacturer cannabis products, but

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Medical marijuana advocate from Boulder faces drug charge in Oklahoma

(Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)

MCALESTER, Okla. — A medical marijuana advocate from Boulder is facing a felony drug charge after a traffic stop in Oklahoma that her attorney called unconstitutional.

Regina Nelson, 54, of Boulder, faces one count of marijuana possession with intent to distribute, according to the McAlester News-Capital. The Oklahoma Highway Patrol arrested Nelson on Sunday near McAlester after a trooper reported finding marijuana and drug paraphernalia in the vehicle she was driving.

Nelson’s 24-year-old son, Bryan Elliott Laufenbert, of Katy, Texas, and fellow advocate Michael Browning, of Boulder, also face the drug selling charge. All three were released on $5,000 bond and have pleaded not guilty.

Court documents said Trooper Ashby Sutherland stopped the vehicle for failing to use a turn signal. Sutherland searched the vehicle and said he found four joints, 11 containers with what appeared to be cannabis leaves, oil capsules, hand cream, peanut butter and a digital scale.

Attorney Brecken Wagner, of McAlester, is representing Nelson and said he will file motions challenging the constitutionality of the “stop-and-search.” Wagner said Nelson was targeted for a Colorado license plate.

“My client experienced what many people experience for having the audacity for driving with an out-of-state plate,” Wagner said. “They tend to get pulled over and searched and harassed.”

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Nelson had scheduled speaking engagements in Oklahoma, where voters can consider legalizing medical marijuana on a June 26 ballot. Nelson has authored books on the medical use of cannabis.

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Can Medical Marijuana Help Utah's Opioid Crisis?

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A medical marijuana bill has passed the Utah House session. House bill 197 would require the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food to grow marijuana to be dispensed to patients under “the right to try.” 

One pain management doctor is already seeing differences in patients who use medical marijuana instead of opioids to treat pain. 

“No one has ever died from smoking marijuana or taking marijuana in other forms,” said Dr. Shivani Amin. She’s a pain management doctor in Maryland who uses medical marijuana to treat her patients with chronic pain. She see this as an alternative to using opioids.

According to the Center for Disease Control, there were an average of 115-opioid caused deaths a day in 2016 in the U.S.

Amin said people can easily develop a tolerance to medication, which causes them to take more pills for the same effect. The same thing can happen for marijuana but there is still a difference.

“Yes, there’s potential of becoming tolerant because you’re using that same strain but the good thing about marijuana is there’s so many different strains out there because of the chemical compounds of the plant,” Amin said.

Marijuana is often associated with chemical THC, the compound that produces that psychoactive high. Amin said that’s not always the case because it depends on the strain from the plant.

“Most likely the strains contain all parts of the chemical compounds,” Amid said. “If you use a strain that has THC in it but has higher levels of another chemical compound such as CBD, you won’t necessarily get that feeling.”

CBD or cannabidiol is a compound known for its anti-inflammatory effects and pain relief. There are limited studies on the hundreds of chemical compounds found in medical marijuana.

“The

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