Medical marijuana: State just says no to buds for vaping

Well, that didn’t take long.

In Florida’s quest to keep people from smoking medical marijuana, the state Department of Health ordered an operator to stop selling “whole-flower” products to be used in vaporizers, according to the News Service of Florida.

The Health Department sent a cease-and-desist letter to Trulieve after news reports in the last few days about the sales of the whole flower marijuana in pre-made cups to be used in its volcano vaporizing device.

Whole-flower is the natural form of the marijuana plant, the buds that recreational smokers traditionally have used for decades.

The fear among some was that the cups could easily be dismantled and the whole-flower marijuana smoked in pipes, bongs, or joints — not allowed for patients under Florida’s current medical-marijuana laws.

Only those with a doctor’s approval and on the state’s list can buy from Trulieve, which sells other cannabis products for vaping that is not whole-flower marijuana. It has five stores throughout the state and is one of a handful operating medical marijuana dispensaries currently.

“Licensed dispensing organizations have a responsibility to ensure their product is not one that can easily be transitioned into a smokable form. Therefore, whole flower products are not permitted,” state Office of Compassionate Use Director Christian Bax wrote to Trulieve on Monday.

“Given the above facts, Trulieve is hereby ordered to immediately cease and desist sale of its Entourage product,” Bax wrote.

 

This all comes in front of the backdrop of the Legislature’s failure the last session to come up with a law to implement a constitutional amendment establishing medical marijuana in Florida approved by 72 percent of the voters last year.

The Health Department has to come up with rules governing new medical marijuana dispensaries by mid-summer and implemented by October.

Lawmakers have come up against smoking medical marijuana, saying it is unhealthy but John Morgan — the Orlando trial lawyer who largely bankrolled what was known as Amendment 2 — has pledged to sue the state over the smoking issue.

Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers, in a statement, said the company was surprised by the letter but is “immediately and completely complying with the department’s wishes while evaluating our options.”

Rivers told the News Service last week she believed the product was legal and that her company had been selling whole-flower products for nearly a year.

Advocates, including Rivers, says vaping whole-flower marijuana creates an “entourage” effect that is better medicinally.

The benefits of medical cannabis include relief for chronic pain and muscle spasm. It relieves nausea during chemotherapy treatment for cancer patients. It also has been used for the treatment of Tourette’s syndrome, anorexia, arthritis, migraines, and glaucoma.

Other states, of course, allow the sale of whole-flower medical marijuana.

Whole-flower medical marijuana sold at a dispensary in California. Florida lawmakers don’t want such shops here, saying smoking medical cannabis is unhealthy. Photo: Jeff Ostrowski.

To read the whole News Service of Florida story click here.

 

Medical marijuana law loophole? Store sells buds to vape

As the Florida Legislature passes the buck on instituting rules for medical marijuana dispensaries, a business says it is not breaking any law by selling whole flower marijuana right now that can be vaporized and inhaled.

Trulieve, with five locations now but with plans to expand, says it is not violating state law by selling whole-flower cannabis that can be vaped, for medical necessity, according to a story by News Service of Florida.

Patients must have a doctor’s prescription for medical marijuana and go through a process to get into the state program.

The drug comes in a vaporizer cup with the company’s “Volcano Vaporizer,” according to the store’s website. The cups resemble some of the pods used in coffee makers.

And here’s the rub. Vaping pot is allowed under state law but smoking marijuana in a cigarette, pipe or bong remains prohibited.

The medical marijuana dispensary says it is not violating state law by selling the cannabis even though it could be potentially be broken down and made into pot that can be smoked. Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers says the company issue warnings to patients that the product should only be used for vaping.

Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers says the company issue warnings to patients that the product should only be used for vaping. She has shops in Miami, Tallahassee, Pensacola, Tampa and Clearwater.

Florida Health Department spokeswoman Mara Gambinieri said the product was approved by the Office of Compassionate Use.  Medical marijuana supporters have advocated for whole-flower, saying it is better medicinally.

All six of Florida’s distributing organizations that are authorized to sell cannabis have vaping products. Trulieve is the first that is selling a whole-flower product. Other vaping products use cannabis that is ground up.

The Legislature last session failed to come up with a law to implement a constitutional amendment establishing medical marijuana in Florida approved by 72 percent of the voters last year.

That leaves it up to the Department of Health to come up with rules governing medical marijuana dispensaries by mid-summer and implemented by October. Lawmakers have come up against smoking medical marijuana, saying it is unhealthy.

According to the Health Department, 80 percent of cannabis sales are vaping.

John Morgan, the Orlando attorney who was one of the key figures in getting the amendment passed last November, has said he would sue if the new rules did not allow smoking. The rules are supposed to be in place in July and implemented in October.

“For them not to allow smoking, that is the opposite of what the amendment says. The only place where it says it can’t be smoked is public places,” Morgan told The Associated Press.

Medical marijuana: Health Department must pick up Legislature’s fumble

So much for the Florida Legislature carrying out the will of people when it comes to medical marijuana.

Among the many “up in smoke” headlines was the news the Legislature failed to come up with a law to implement a constitutional amendment establishing medical marijuana in Florida approved by 72 percent of the voters last year.

In the wake of the massive failure, Republican leaders were pointing fingers at each other, marijuana advocates were doing the same and a gubernatorial candidate was calling for a special session.

The lawmakers were not able to compromise on how many dispensaries would be allowed. Now, it is up to the Department of Health to implement the law. It created placeholder rules it published in January into a thriving medical marijuana market that could grow to hundreds of thousands of patients.

The amendment specifies that key regulations be laid out by July 3. The first patients are supposed to get their IDs by Sept. 3 to obtain the drug.

But the department’s proposed rules in January got an earful from critics at town hall meetings who said the state aimed to block patients from timely and affordable access to the medication.

The rules would also restrict physicians in treating their patients and undercut the quality of the product, these critics contend.

The Department of Health issued a statement Monday saying that it took the public comments at five workshops held earlier this year seriously.

“The department is committed to quickly moving through the rulemaking process to create a regulatory structure for Amendment 2,” it said.

The benefits of medical cannabis include relief for chronic pain and muscle spasm. It relieves nausea during chemotherapy treatment for cancer patients. It also has been used for the treatment of Tourette’s syndrome, anorexia, arthritis, migraines, and glaucoma.

But while patients with these ailments wait, Republicans in Tallahassee finger-pointed at each other on Monday.

In an interview with The News Service of Florida, Senate President Joe Negron put the onus on the House for the bill’s demise, while House Speaker Richard Corcoran rejected the blame.

Photo: Creative Commons.

“If I were a voter I would be very disappointed,” said Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, who sponsored the House bill to legalize the drug told the Tampa Bay Times. “They had a legitimate expectation that we would pass an implementing bill.”

Meanwhile, former U.S. Rep. turned gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham is calling for a special session to enact the medical marijuana legalization amendment.

“I watched my husband battle cancer and the sickening effects of chemotherapy. So many patients with cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis and other debilitating diseases could use medical marijuana as a way to treat their pain,” Graham, Democrat, said in a story by CBS Miami.

“Floridians spent years begging the legislature to take action before taking their case to the voters, but once again, the legislature is ignoring them. If the people of Florida give me the honor of serving as governor, their voices will be heard.”

The two two advocates for medical marijuana in Florida — financial backer John Morgan and United for Care campaign consultant Ben Pollara also turned bitter.

Morgan, an attorney, said Pollara sold out by backing dispensary limits, according to New Times.

Pollara offered his own analysis of the Legislature’s failure in a statement Monday and tried to mend fences with Morgan. He said the House bill was partially drafted by Drug-Free America that banned smokable, edible and vapable forms of marijuana and required a 90-day waiting period.

He said he understands Morgan is angry, but the choices faced were “bad,” “worse” and “the worst.”

DEA takes action against synthetic pot tied to deaths

As marijuana moves towards legalization throughout the country, the Drug Enforcement Administration took action this week against the dangerous designer products pretending to be a pot substitute — called cannabinoids —  sold at some gas stations, convenience stores and head shops.

Drugs that mimic the natural plant of marijuana have been popping up in the last decade under the brand names Spice, K2 and a dozen others.  Now the DEA has temporarily added six more analogs of the THC – the drug found naturally in pot — to Schedule I list, which includes heroin.

While nobody has ever died from using marijuana, not so with the synthetic impostors.

One of the new banned substances, MDMB-CHMICA, is believed to have attributed to 42 overdoses and 29 deaths in Europe. Another, ADB–FUBINACA, is found in K2.

Synthetic marijuana is akin to the bath salts that have caused so much havoc, a chemical goop cooked up in labs. The Palm Beach Post took a look at bath salts last year. Read the story by clicking here.

Synthetic pot is sold at gas stations, convenience stores and head shops. (Photo: New York Department of Health)

The major concern is these substances are being targeted to adolescents. The DEA said it is not aware of any currently accepted medical uses for these substances in the United States.

Synthetic cannabis was developed to assist in the research of AIDS, multiple sclerosis, and chemotherapy, resulting in 450 synthetic cannabinoid compounds, according to The Daily Beast.

The pro-pot website, Herb, praised the DEA for its move, saying the hundreds of synthetics that act on the same receptors in the brain as natural marijuana are not equal because they affect the brain in different ways.

“This makes their potency range from tens to ten-thousands magnitude higher than THC, and with different effects,” according to Herb. “Synthetics are to real THC as rubbing alcohol is to vodka.

Study: Pot increases risk of heart failure, stroke

Well, if smoking increases the risk of heart failure, then it goes to reason that marijuana use would as well.

Now new research analyzing millions of U.S. medical records bear this out, according to CBS News.

“Even when we corrected for known risk factors, we still found a higher rate of both stroke and heart failure in these patients,” lead researcher Dr. Aditi Kalla, a cardiologist at Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia, told CBS.

Kalla’s study looked at 20 million health records of patients aged 18 to 55 who were discharged from one of more than a thousand hospitals across the United States in 2009 and 2010. Of those patients, 1.5 percent said they’d used marijuana.

Researchers also associated pot with a 26 percent increased risk of stroke and a 10 percent increased risk of heart failure.

“More research will be needed to understand the [reasons] behind this effect,” Kalla said.

The study was not without its detractors

Paul Armentaro, deputy director of the marijuana advocacy group NORML, said the study “is inconsistent with other studies finding no adverse effects to those who consume marijuana.”

Kalla said now that medical or recreational marijuana use is now legal in more than half of U.S. states and a better understanding of pot’s health effects is needed.

You can read the whole CBS story by clicking here.