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September 4th, 2012: Compassion Delayed is Compassion Denied

Written by CEO, Gerald Gaines:

Compassion Delayed is Compassion Denied

Our Elected Representatives have taken upon themselves, once again, to put their judgment above the collective judgment of the voters in the State with regard to the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act.

We've reached a very bad place in the history of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act. The "other shoe" the industry has been waiting for fell when the State and the County of Maricopa entered the White Mountain zoning case with the intent of having the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act thrown out. If that fails, they'll appeal. If that fails, they'll appeal again. And again. And finally to the US Supreme Court, if necessary. After all, they've collected millions of dollars of our money. They can afford to go to court forever. Sorry patients that have been waiting for a formal dispensary program for relief – likely no dispensaries will open until all of this legal action has been resolved, or until there is a change in the federal law, or until the ice caps start growing again, whichever happens first.

I've taken a month off of mouthing off about the problem to think about the solution. The issue, an issue that the Arizona Medical Marijuana community shares with all voters, is a desire to have our elected and appointed officials follow our directions when their political choice would be different. The problem is there is little cost to our politicians' lack of faith to the voters, the solution is to increase the cost to a level that they will no longer see it in their interest to appeal to narrow political groups to the detriment of the majority.

So, my solution is a new Citizen's Initiative for 2013, this one targeted at penalties our elected and appointed officials would face if they took actions against a citizen's initiative.

(A) New Citizen's Initiative:

1. Control of public officials that might otherwise undermine any citizen's initiative.
a. Actions that the governor, attorney general, county attorney, legislature and others have conducted with regard to the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act in 2011 and 2012 would be illegal and subject to fines and imprisonment if continued in the future.
b. Formation of a citizen's initiative implementation team made up of proponents of the law and officials responsible for the implementation.

Depending on political tactics of whether we want the initiative to be marijuana-related or not, we also might want to add a couple of "fixes" to clarify Proposition 203 where there are known challenges
2. Explicit use of license funds to help patients
a. Legal fund
b. Research grants
c. Indigent medication funding
3. Explicit addition of concentrates and use on university campuses to the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act.

In a related development, I had hoped to find support for the Arizona Medical Marijuana cause from our Democratic nominee for Senator, Rich Carmona. Unfortunately, he believes marijuana should be "studied" for medical use before a widespread medical marijuana program should be permitted. Sorry, terminal patients. Maybe he would change his mind if he understands the level of public support for the issue.

Is there anybody out there with the knowhow willing to start an online campaign to get his attention? Or just go to his website - http://www.carmonaforarizona.com - and let him know what you think. We need a better answer than "more research" when there are already 5,000 years of history, no deaths, 75% of the population in support of medical marijuana and even more than 50% approval for recreational marijuana. Research can be done in parallel with the medical marijuana patient getting treatment – but the treatment should not be withheld for the cause of research.

August 16th, 2012: The Hits Keep On Coming..

Written by CEO, Gerald Gaines:

And The Arizona Medical Marijuana Hits Just Keep Coming.

No matter what the naysayers promote about the x Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, the truth has a way of shining through. There are recent medical and legal developments to cover:

Another One Bites The Dust…Another One's Gone, Another One's Gone…

Now comes unambiguous research - http://psychcentral.com/news/2012/08/14/bipolar-patients-with-history-of-pot-use-show-better-cognitive-skills/43096.html - that shows why mentally ill patients self medicate with Medical Marijuana. The study showed Increased mental capability by those bipolar people who used Medical Marijuana regularly compared to bipolar patients who did not use Medical Marijuana at all. Game. Set. Match. Even in its unrefined form, with the promise of specialized strains years away, Medical Marijuana has been proven to be an effective drug for treating some of the symptoms of mental illness that can be measured quantitatively.

It should be clear to all that the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act is not a threat to the patient, it is a threat to the drug makers.

How Can People Be So Cruel? …… Easy

841,348 people voted for the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act in November of 2010. Over 30,000 patients have signed up. Before and after that vote, our Republican elected officials have taken it upon themselves to try and thwart the will of those people to pander to their narrow base.

I understand and accept this is a relatively conservative state, but what is going on with regard to the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act has nothing to do with conservative principles and everything to do with meddling in the life and death decisions of other people for the sole purpose of gaining votes in a Republican primary. Conservatives should be the angriest group, as it is their leaders who are demonstrating such a shocking level of hypocrisy when faced with a law they don't like. It's hard to argue the rule of law as a principle when your side chooses which laws to follow and which to challenge.

Contrary to our opponents' message, the Arizona Medical Marijuana industry is not a recreational program designed to sell a street drug to potheads. It is a highly regulated regimen that reserves marijuana treatment to a small list of conditions where evidence from other states indicates that Medical Marijuana has had success in treating that condition. Children are not going to get their hands on Arizona Medical Marijuana – be much more worried about the prescription drugs you and your neighbors have in their medicine cabinets. That is the source of drugs that will do real damage to your family.

Republican elected officials are acting in concert to stop the Arizona Medical Marijuana industry from getting off the ground:
- News conferences promising prosecutions that have no legal grounds.
- Peripheral arrests of bad actors the industry has already condemned and then acting like these bad actors represent the whole Arizona Medical Marijuana industry.
- Legal jurisdiction shopping to find a judge to over-rule previous court decisions that went against them.

I wonder if this group truly has no shame or is just woefully misinformed. I'd like to believe they are caring humans who have swallowed the anti-drug message hook, line and sinker. I'd like to believe they care about their families and communities, and have carefully considered the impact of their actions on their fellow Arizonans. I'd like to believe they care about the 30,000 people who have defied the Republican chest thumping to identify themselves to the government as patients under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act.

I'd like to believe all of that, but I am not going to volunteer for the role of fool. Our elected officials need to show they care about their own people or they do not deserve to be our elected officials.

 

 

August 8th, 2012: Imagination vs Real World

Written by CEO, Gerald Gaines:

In My Imagination: Arizona declares for the Union! Confederate forces routed!!

After 150 years of uncertainty, and continued confessed brotherhood with the states rights movement born in the Confederacy, on August 6, 2012 the Attorney General of the State of Arizona submitted to the power of the federal government in a situation where the feds had not exercised those rights, and decided that Proposition 203 was pre-empted by the evil federal government laws.

In alignment with this decision, Mr. Horne is demanding all portions of HB 1070 be voided immediately. He acknowledges the supremacy of the federal government and submits to its existing immigration laws.

Furthermore, Mr. Horne has withdrawn the state's shameful request to be removed from oversight from the Voting Rights Act at the very time while some in his party are trying to limit minority voting. He has bowed to the wisdom of Washington that you still need the boot on your neck.

Back in the Real World:

On August 6, 2012 the Attorney General of the State of Arizona wrote an opinion determining that Proposition 203 was pre-empted by the federal government drug laws.

He did not reference or change his conflicting positions when the federal government wants to protect people of color against the state – through reasonable immigration reform or Voting Rights Protection – instead, the Attorney General uses the racially charged position of state's rights to argue against the federal government's power.

Tom Horne has inserted himself against the will of the Arizona people as expressed in the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act.

Tom Horne has decided that the federal government knows more about your health than you do. He knows better than you know about yourself, also.

Tom Horne has decided that the federal government position that marijuana has no known medical benefits is correct and that 29,500 Arizonans are wrong. I wish I could have told that to the terminally ill patients we have helped.

Tom Horne has decided that possessing marijuana is legal but selling or cultivating is illegal. Does he believe in marijuana-mana from heaven? He is inviting civil strife on a wide scale if he intends to undermine the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act in this way.

Tom Horne, the legislature, the ADHS and the governor have at various times taken shots at Proposition 203 and the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act. None of these attacks have diminished the fact this is a voter-approved initiative with growing support as stories of patients successes become common.

Maybe Mr. Horne does not have a philosophy of states rights over the power of the federal government. Sometimes states rights helps his argument – he's all for it. Sometimes it undermines his argument – he forgets his religion.

Mr. Horne may or may not win his legal case against the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act. But let's start the campaign for 2014 for an Attorney General, of any party, who will respect the will of the people, and whose personal convictions do not twist with the wind.

Many politicians in this state refuse to accept the inevitable demographic wave coming this way in Arizona and the sea change in politics it will cause in the next ten years. The natural base of the conservatives will shrink dramatically just as the base for liberals increases dramatically.

An objective, bi-racial observer would conclude Mr. Horne is playing to the "far right" using racially charged issues. Tom Horne is singing opera to a shrinking audience.

In the meantime, the industry needs to come together to protect the freedoms we voted for, and worked so hard to keep over the past two years. Compassion First will continue to be the leading Patient Advocate as we face this latest challenge.

 

August 7th, 2012: REAL SCIENCE

Written by CEO, Gerald Gaines:

And the Winner Is… Real Science
There is a pitched battle going on between traditional pharma industry and the Arizona Medical Marijuana industry regarding the medical benefits and risks of using the plant as a medicine. The traditional pharma community sees the promise of pharmaceuticals developed from the plant, but has put forward the argument that the risks of using the whole plant outweigh the limited benefits they believe possible with a plant that has a stew of hundreds of chemicals. That their financial interests line up with this position must be a coincidence, no?
RECREATIONAL EFFECTS:
Let's start with what makes the marijuana plant so popular and controlled at the same time: its ability to cause intoxication. These mechanisms appear to be well understood,
" The most common MMJ receptors (places in the brain that components of marijuana adhere to) concentrate in specific brain areas that govern pleasure, movement, learning and memory, and pain, including the frontal cortex, basal ganglia, hippocampus, and cerebellum".

MEDICAL EFFECTS:

But is there any scientific basis for marijuana having any effects other than those listed above? The answer turns out to be an emphatic yes, but that promise has been overshadowed by the negative publicity and misinformation coming from the government and private opposition.

The research history of marijuana is surprisingly short. Most of the work has come in the last 20 years, " Not until 1990 was the cannabinoid receptor with which THC interacts, CB1, cloned, and it was 1992 before (natural THC) was discovered. Since then, an additional cannabinoid receptor, CB2, has been identified, and the 2 receptors have been found to have disparate distributions and functions as a physiologic modulator not only of the central nervous system but also of the autonomic nervous system, immune system, gastrointestinal tract, reproductive system, cardiovascular system, and endocrine network."

This, as they used to say, is a whole different animal. To translate – the human body uses natural substances similar to the chemicals in marijuana in many key body processes – and that means that marijuana has the potential to aid in illnesses in any of those human systems listed above, which is, basically, much of the human body. Marijuana may indeed turn out to be a miracle plant that becomes the key source of new medicines with few side effects developed by pharma in coming years.

 

UNFOUNDED ATTACKS AGAINST MEDICAL MARIJUANA

With all of these possible areas of positive effect, you might think that the scientific community would be rallying around the use of medical marijuana as an adjunct or replacement for traditional therapy, at least until refined drugs can be developed. Especially since there is no risk of death using marijuana, compared to any other drug that at some level is poisonous, even aspirin. Wrong.

Instead, the scientific community is mostly concerning itself with possible negative effects in a small group of people – those vulnerable to mental illness.

Being trained as a statistician myself, I can assure you there are no studies that show that marijuana is harmful to mental health, no matter how many times that lie is repeated. What the studies do show is that there is a strong statistical correlation between early marijuana use and subsequent development of schizophrenia. Pharma has chosen to push the interpretation that the marijuana use caused the schizophrenia – but an equally valid explanation that fits the data is that the person is self-medicating early symptoms of the illness prior to a formal diagnosis.

The only research that has been done to answer this question looked at the whole country of Australia over a 30 year period and found absolutely no increase in schizophrenia as marijuana use skyrocketed. So pharma has a huge study showing no cause and effect, no bad results from marijuana, but have minimized this definitive study while continuing to try to prove the opposite. Mmmmm.

It is time for big pharma to let go of it's attempt to have a strangle hold on the medical bounty locked up in the marijuana plant – both the medical marijuana and pharma industries have a part to play in turning the promise in the plant into medical solutions for patients.

 

 

August 6th, 2012: We are NOT California

Written by CEO, Gerald Gaines:

We're not California

Ok, that was obvious. What I really mean to say is that what's happening with marijuana in California bears no resemblance whatsoever to what is happening and going to happen here as the Arizona Medical Marijuana dispensary program starts. Much of the medical marijuana world is watching Arizona, but it's important that Arizona keep track of the rest of the marijuana world as well.

While the Arizona Medical Marijuana program is taking baby steps forward, from the outside it would seem that California is taking huge steps backwards. That's not how I see it, so I thought I'd share my thoughts on the California Medical Marijuana dispensary disaster. And it is a disaster for the industry, a self-inflicted wound that may put their Medical Marijuana program back years.

Many of you probably know that the feds and local governments across California are outlawing or severely restricting access to medical marijuana. Cities have the flexibility to do this in California because the state lacks the patient protections found in the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act. In the biggest move to date, the Los Angeles city counsel has voted to close down all 750-plus dispensaries in the city in the next couple of months, with a vague possibility that 170 of them will be allowed to eventually re-open.

The medical marijuana community in Los Angeles is up in arms over this, but stop and think about the numbers. 750 dispensaries for the city of Los Angeles would equate to over 700 dispensaries in Maricopa County, instead of the roughly 50 Arizona Medical Marijuana dispensary licenses that will be granted in the valley. By any measure, California has allowed it's medical program to grow into a front for recreational sales with an infrastructure to match. The California Medical Marijuana industry has invited federal, state and local action with the very scale and aggressiveness with which they've pursued sales over legitimacy.

How many patients, and others, are being supported by the 750 dispensaries in LA? One sign the California Medical Marijuana system is out of control is that they don't even know who is a patient and who isn't – there isn't a database. So we have to make a guess based on anecdotal information and a little creative estimation. A little math shows that maybe 10% (Other estimates are twice as high) of Los Angeles residents have a medical marijuana card – where something more on the order of 3 -5 % might be the expected number of true patients for today's known medical uses.

As you would expect from the number of patients, the California process for obtaining a medical marijuana card is much more easily abused by people whose sole interest in marijuana is recreational. Perhaps abuse isn't the word, as the system is so loose that if a California physician thinks marijuana might help a condition, then the physician can write a recommendation for medical marijuana. As I've said repeatedly, I'm not against using marijuana for recreational purposes, but I am firmly against using the Arizona Medical Marijuana infrastructure to support a recreational market. My objections are practical, not philosophical - we will not be able to sustain our industry as a medical option if we confuse our mission with decriminalization or legalization. Those are two long-term battles we support, while recognizing that we can do a lot of good right now using the Arizona Medical Marijuana state laws to provide medical marijuana.

What lessons can we take from California? We're already off to a strong start, given the protections in the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act. What else can we do? A few thoughts of mine, but in the end it's up to the industry to decide:

• Create an industry self-policing capability to work with industry participants to help everyone stay within the bounds of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act.

• Pledge as an industry to be patient focused. Develop a set of industry guidelines focused on the needs of our patient base.

• Work as an industry to fight off state and local attempts to limit the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act. We've already seen several attempts to limit patient rights in Arizona, and we anticipate needing legal action to get back our full rights and to protect those rights going forward.

• Other ideas?

 

 

August 3rd, 2012: The Wizard Said

Written by CEO, Gerald Gaines:

And the Wizard said…

…Just look at what I'm doing with my right hand. And we looked, and were amazed to find an elaborate puppet show depicting the fight for the Presidency between a trailblazing Incumbent and an uber-wealthy Challenger. Stay tuned to this puppet show for the next 98 or so days as this incredible and extremely close race unfolds.

Or, look at the betting line (a $1 bet on the Obama only pays $.59 versus a $1 bet on Romney that would pay $1.40. from http://www.politicalbettingodds.com/2012-us-presidential-election-odds.html), and realize that there is no real contest, and maybe, just maybe, the Wizard would prefer that you not pay attention to what his left hand is doing.

Two words – "Citizen's United" – and only the blindest would not realize they lost a large share of their democracy, maybe even their humanity, to corporations with that ruling. Obama will very likely win the Presidency, but World, Inc. is equally likely to win the Congress. Is that really what we want??

Why was it so clear around the turn of the 20th century that corporations had run amok, and yet so difficult to recognize the exact same problem 100 years later? Those who forget the past are doomed to….what was that again? Perhaps we should work on that attention span thing.

The last time we had a courageous leader with credibility within the business community was Teddy Roosevelt, and he recognized the greatest threat to the Republic was from within and made it his mission to deprive corporations of the power they had garnered over the preceding century. Where is our Teddy Roosevelt, coming from the ranks of business, saying enough is enough?

Henry Ford has rolled in his grave at the shortsightedness of today's business leaders who fail to realize the absolute necessity of a fair wage in the local market to buy the products they want to sell. He wasn't a liberal, far from it. He wanted to have a business to hand on to his children, not one to cash out and watch the downward spiral.

Today we have so-called conservative leaders that rely on non-conservative short-term decisions to create wealth over a short time horizon. They could give a good bowel movement after they get their personal golden parachute.

So, paradoxically, it is up to liberals to apply conservative principles to get us out of this mess. Of the various Trusts we are stricken with, the Big Pharma Trust has cost the most lives and probably the most money. It is also the Trust fighting against medical marijuana.

What to do?

The first step in politics is to take stock of your strengths – and in medical marijuana we have a winner – 75% of Americans support the medical use of marijuana, despite the propaganda from Big Pharma. Let's use our power to:

1. Force the democratic party into an explicit commitment to continue medical marijuana.
2. Push for a path to rescheduling marijuana to Schedule III.
3. Threaten to withhold our votes and grass roots support for the presidential race without clarification on medical marijuana.

We have a great opportunity to make medical marijuana a wedge issue that the democrats can't ignore. It's a topic that cuts positively for attracting independents while offending no one the democrats had a chance of getting anyway – the extreme religious right who have deeply held moralistic objections to drugs (but not alcohol??).

We probably won't make a difference in Arizona in 2012, but it could make a difference in Colorado this year and in Arizona in four years. Medical Marijuana is a winner – let's ride the wave.

 

August 1st, 2012: The Tau of Marijuana

Written by CEO, Gerald Gaines:

The Tau of Marijuana

Maybe no one better than me appreciates the way the cannabis plant demonstrates the basic qualities of Tau. From the Yin daze of a strong Indica to the rarefied thinking with a Yang Sativa, the cannabis plant creates effects in people that span one dimension of the consciousness scale.

Taoism is a philosophy and religion that emphasizes the duality of the world across many dimensions – marijuana clearly has effects on the human mind that impact our position on an intoxication scale, but what is so promising is that it may have similar effects on other body functions. Cannabis components have been proven to have receptors in many areas of the body – areas that may prove to provide relief for illnesses that we have no idea that medical marijuana could treat. Illnesses like cancer. Auto-immune illnesses. And the promise to cure illnesses without the side effects of Big Pharma, like death.

Taoism resonates so strongly with me for many reasons. Born Gemini, mostly left-handed, bi-racial and ultimately bipolar, I have always had multiple, conflicting dualities combining to form a really unpredictable stew. To what came to me by nature, I've honed quantitative skills as an engineer and people skills as a manager (top laughing, I didn't say I always chose or am stable enough to use the skills). I've added components of Taoism as my personal philosophy and spiritual view, and tried to maintain a balance of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. Not doing as well as I'd like there either, but sometimes it's the goal that counts.

So how does traditional medicine and medical marijuana fit into this stew for me? Let me make the point as strongly as possible, that I think someone with my background should not try to manage these illnesses solely on their own. While the poison pushed by Big Pharma is what it is, an engaged and proactive approach to your health needs to include some help from the other side.

Here's my stew:

1. 1,500 milligrams of Depakote – a mood stabilizer with side effects of weight gain
2. 300 milligrams of Seroquel – an anti-psychotic and mood stabilizer with weight gain and heart related side effects
3. Up to 2000 milligrams of medical marijuana per day taken as needed:
a. To reduce anxiety – 100% effective without side effects of benzodiazepines, like death again.
b. To reduce manic build up – 100% effective, allowing lower use of Big Pharma toxic mood stabilizer drugs.
c. To aid sleep – 100% effective without the side effects of Big Pharma drugs, like true addiction, and, well, death again.
d. For pain – 75% effective without the side effects of prescribed or over the counter painkillers that would add unnecessarily to the overall drug load processed by my body's organs.
4. A shifting mix of other Big Pharma drugs that treat the side effects of the Big Pharma drugs I've listed above (currently 4 additional drugs)

This is my medical life. We're all dying of something, so I've never felt it was some secret as to what I'm dying of – and the sad fact is people with my profile die, oh, 3 years ago on average. I'd like to think that my atypical combination of traditional and medical marijuana has extended my time here – most people like me die of heart-related illnesses often tied to the excess weight gain and metabolic effects of mood stabilizers. The government can take away the life-extending medical marijuana out of my dying grasp, but not a second earlier.

 

July 31, 2012: Here They Go Again

Written by CEO, Gerald Gaines:

Here they go again…
… you voted for it, they don't like it, so they're trying to stop it again. Thirteen of our county attorneys have petitioned the state to stop the Arizona Medical Marijuana dispensary process as chronicled in the Arizona Republic - http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/news/articles/2012/07/30/20120730brewer-urged-halt-medical-marijuana-program.html

The county attorneys mistakenly believed all Compassion V. Arizona did was address "the legal quandary put before Gama was not the issue of pre-emption, but whether state health officials exceeded the scope of their authority in expanding rules regarding dispensaries."
MASSIVE FAIL. These supposed 13 legal eagles failed to realize that, in Compassion V. Arizona, Judge Gama imposed upon the state the requirement that they proceed with the awarding of dispensary licenses. Excellent summary from the time here - http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203750404577171431016803726.html?mod=WSJ_hp_MIDDLENexttoWhatsNewsSecond

I'm really struggling, and failing, to be polite here, but were they too lazy to read the ruling or too poor of lawyers to understand it? Does it matter? Maybe someone needs to elect people who know the law? It's your tax money going to waste – the state has already written Compassion First a check for $90,000 to cover our legal expenses in the last fight – what do you say we stop wasting taxpayer money fighting things the taxpayers have voted for? I like my lawyers and all, but do you want your tax money to send their grandchildren to Harvard? We've already got their children covered.
One of the county attorneys appears to have also (made up /imagined /hallucinated /??? ) a conversation with the Federal prosecutor's office – claiming that the feds intend to close down each dispensary as they open. She seems to have conflated what is a very reasonable federal culling in out-of-control California with the heavily regulated program here that the feds seem to find comfort in. Also, embarrassingly, the Federal Attorney's office has directly contradicted the county attorney's claim. Shouldn't false statements by a public official serving in a legal capacity be grounds for impeachment or recall? Or at least embarrassment?

Compassion First is a patient advocacy organization that I formed to combat just such attacks on our freedom as these. Make no mistake, if they win against the Arizona Medical Marijuana dispensaries today, then tomorrow's target will be caregivers. Then patient-cultivators. So don't let our internal Arizona Medical Marijuana industry dynamics blind us to our need to be united in protecting all of the rights we won in passing the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act – we can sort out the industry dynamics later.

For now, we need to hold the elected officials in this state up to the standards they claim to possess – a great respect for the rule of law, and when state law contradicts those heathen laws from Washington, then it is their god given duty to protect the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act. Still waiting for that speech.

As I said earlier, Compassion First is a patient advocacy organization. In Compassion V. Arizona we petitioned the court to remove anti-competitive restrictions to the ownership of dispensaries, things such as bankruptcies decades in the past that have no bearing on the ability of someone to run a dispensary. Things such as out-of-state ownership. Our involvement in the rules process also loosened the real estate requirement so that potential dispensary owners were not completely at the mercy of the commercial real estate industry. The end result should be a diverse ownership group instead on the insider-only structure that would have resulted from the earlier rules.

While we can celebrate a few victories, the challenges we'll face as the industry goes through its growing pains will only become greater.

 

July 30, 2012: When the Arizona Medical Marijuana Music Stops

Written by CEO, Gerald Gaines:

And when the Arizona Medical Marijuana music stops….

… who will have the Arizona Medical Marijuana Chairs and who will have the Stairs?

Just my way of saying, only 50 or so Arizona Medical Marijuana licenses will be granted for metro areas, and the holders of those licenses will get "Chairs" equivalent to gaining trading status on a commodity floor, or winning a game of musical chairs - those people will be the Arizona Medical Marijuana Winners. We'll also have groups of Whiners and Helpers. Everyone but the Winners have to climb a set of Stairs to be part of the discussion. Helpers try to add value by providing something the Winners don't have. The Whiners are likely to look to the courts for perceived slights in the process. That's why we tried to get all of that out of the way before the licensing, but there may still be some legal challenges.

The Arizona Medical Marijuana Winners will field a series of offers for Helpers and start their life as almost a monopoly. The Arizona Medical Marijuana Winners will have the right to dictate, for right or wrong, the economics of their dispensary.

The Arizona Medical Marijuana Helpers will have gathered assets and capabilities needed by the license winners and will quickly team up in a second, private round of musical chairs. Helpers may provide anything from cultivation expertise to financing, depending on the needs of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Winners and the abilities of the Helpers.

Then that theoretical model will hit the reality of the Arizona Medical Marijuana marketplace, and there will probably be a third wave of partnering as the failed models are left behind.

Before all of this goes down, and we become too busy to think, I'm suggesting an Arizona Medical Marijuana industry gathering to cover two topics:

I'd like to start the conversations among Arizona Medical Marijuana industry leaders regarding what steps we can take to have the highest standards of behavior be the expected norm. The very nature of our product brings natural concern and extra scrutiny. I believe the best way to accomplish a positive image for the Arizona Medical Marijuana industry is for us all to have the wellbeing of the patient be our primary focus and reason for existing. Getting started on the right foot is important, let's do a little planning.

I'd also like to start the conversations about potential value that Compassion First might bring to partnerships in the Arizona Medical Marijuana industry. We believe we've collected in one company the best resources to help a new company succeed in the Arizona Medical Marijuana Industry. We'll cover such topics as:
1. Profit Opportunities
2. Compliance
3. Wholesale Meds and/or Cultivation Partnership
4. Advocacy
5. Proprietary banking solution

We have planned an afternoon of small group sessions on Saturday, August, 4th, from 1:00PM to 4:00PM to discuss these opportunities. If you are part of what's happening on the Arizona Medical Marijuana scene, then contact us at our Arizona Medical Marijuana BLOG , or call Tha'wann at 623-215-8544.

Whether you represent a government body, patient group, a dispensary applicant, investor or dispensary service provider, your participation will help prepare all of us for whatever outcome we see from the licensing on August 7th. Unlike some of our more unsavory brethren, there is no charge for attending. As this session is limited in number and intends to have only serious participants, seating is limited and on a first-come, first served basis.

 

July 27, 2012: Traveling Out of State as an Arizona Medical Marijuana Patient

Written by CEO, Gerald Gaines:

Now that there are tens of thousands of Arizona Medical Marijuana patients in the state, it's time to think about how our rights apply when we are travelling for business or pleasure outside of Arizona. Not so much, is the short answer. As always, this is not a legal blog, it is a business blog's analysis of legal as well as other developments in the Arizona Medical Marijuana industry. Always get the opinion of a lawyer if you are contemplating any action regarding medical marijuana.

Montana, Michigan and Rhode Island are the only states where your Arizona Medical Marijuana card or doctor's recommendation will be honored consistently by law enforcement. There are reports of other MMJ states providing reciprocal protection on an informal basis, but there is no protection for Arizona Medical Marijuana patients by law except in those three states.

California allows for same day registration as a patient, allowing out of state visitors to have the equivalent of a short-term license until their application is rejected. This is as good as reciprocity for Arizona Medical Marijuana patients, and a practical if costly solution to trips to our closest metro neighbor.

There is a big difference between expecting to have patient rights when you arrive in a new state, and trying to enforce or create patient rights if you are caught transporting medication across state lines or while driving through various states. Security personnel at Arizona airports have allowed Arizona Medical Marijuana patients with valid patient cards to pass through security. On occasion. There is no guarantee this is a broad policy, or that accepting Arizona Medical Marijuana cards will continue. Since as an Arizona Medical Marijuana patient you are always liable under federal law, they can choose to intercept you and your medication before you can board a plane. And, of course, you have to deal with whatever happens on landing.

One factor to consider is the criminal penalties in the state you are travelling to and through. Don't let the comfort you've achieved with the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act because of our hard fought political victories blind you to your vulnerability if another state categorizes you as a recreational user. Again, I'm not the lawyer, and what really matters is how they enforce a law, not what's on the books, so if I were you I would ask around before making a decision on whether or not to try to medicate away from home.

Another factor to consider is the exact form, strength and packaging of your medication. Some forms may be legal in some states, illegal in others. For instance, we're debating in Arizona whether concentrates of marijuana should be protected, while in other states such products are clearly medicinal. I'll make the obvious point that an ounce of skunk is a poor choice to pack.

We are all celebrating that we live in a country that has the freedom to produce something organic from the people like Proposition 203. That law has given us the structure and incentives to create a compassionate Arizona Medical Marijuana industry. One of the things we can be proud of is that we DID include a reciprocity program so that anyone from any other medical marijuana state can possess and use in Arizona. We hope the rest of the MMJ family of states will join in, and that as more states put the question of medical marijuana to their voters, then a de facto national standard of acceptance of medical marijuana patients can be achieved.

 

July 26, 2012: I Don't Think I Should Have Second Amendment Rights

Written by CEO, Gerald Gaines:

I don't think I should have Second Amendment rights.

This is, of course, a medical marijuana blog. And this post doesn't change that. But in addition to our interest in medical marijuana, we are all joined at a much more fundamental level in our shared sense of compassion and responsibility for the society we live in. Most medical marijuana patients should retain their gun rights, IMHO, despite the federal government's behind the scenes attempt to say otherwise.

I'm not trying to take your guns away. But there is a group of people who should realize it's in everyone's best interest that they waive their Second Amendment rights. I'm not pointing at someone else, I belong squarely in the group I think should not own weapons. The group I belong to, and the group I think needs different treatment, is the seriously mentally ill.

We as a country celebrate our freedoms, but surely we must admit that those freedoms need to be constrained if there is a realistic possibility of completely irrational acts at the most stressful moment? Our standards of freedom are based on the assumption of free will, and I can tell you from a very personal perspective that free will when mentally ill is a very tricky concept. Why risk it when so many of our national shooting tragedies involve people found to be suffering from a very small list of illnesses – primarily either paranoid schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, mixed in with the occasional personality disorder. In addition to preventing the slaughter of innocents, sufferers of these illnesses often commit suicide, and often by gun. We will save many, many lives if we restrict the legal access of guns to people of demonstrably sound mind.

I have Bipolar Disorder inherited from my family and some combination of personality disorders developed during a rough childhood. I take a combination of Big Pharma meds and Medical Marijuana that has given me a great amount of stability in the past couple of years. But at any time my illness can "break through" these medications resulting in a manic state during which my judgment and even morality can change. In fact, you can almost count on someone with a serious mental illness having periods where their illness overcomes their treatment.

I have no doubt we will find the Batman shooter was delusional at some level. Who could do that to their fellow human beings without some delusion? But how did someone with such a loose grip with reality acquire such a large arsenal without tripping over laws meant to catch just such a thing?

The NRA has tremendous power in Washington, and if anyone can stop a groundswell to modify a law, it is their lobby. But seriously, how difficult would it be to add a basic psychological screen to the requirements to be a gun owner? Certainly, people with an existing diagnosis and a history of violence should be excluded from gun ownership? I'm not trying to take your guns away. But you should be trying to take away mine.

 

July 25, 2012: Whose Money Is It, Arizona?

Written by CEO, Gerald Gaines:

The Arizona Medical Marijuana Act calls for the State to collect fees from various participants:

$150 for an Arizona Medical Marijuana registry identification card for a qualifying patient.
$200 for an Arizona Medical Marijuana registry identification card for a designated caregiver.
$500 for an Arizona Medical Marijuana registry identification card for a dispensary agent.
$5,000 for an initial Arizona Medical Marijuana dispensary registration certificate.
$1,000 for a renewal Arizona Medical Marijuana dispensary registration certificate.
$2,500 to change the location of an Arizona Medical Marijuana dispensary or cultivation facility.
$10 to amend, change, or replace an Arizona Medical Marijuana registry identification card.

Now that the dust is settling after the Arizona Medical Marijuana Dispensary application process, it looks like the State is sitting on $5.8 million after they have processed the applications.

Has The State publicly solicited ideas for the use of those funds? No.

Has The State responded to multiple queries from multiple parties about possible uses of the funds? No.

Has The State unilaterally decided to fund activities such as non-profit compliance? Yes.

Has the State done anything to directly represent the interests of patients? No. We have repeatedly asked the ADHS to create and fund the position of Patient Advocate at the State so there is a point of contact for patients to express their needs as key decisions are made about the program going forward. We have no dog in the hunt – we're not suggesting who they should hire, just trying to make the point that a program without a Patient Advocate is bound to drift away from the real needs of the people who are supposed to be helped.

Has the State done anything to create a world-class level of research into the medical use of marijuana? No. There are researchers standing ready at state universities, who lack the funds and the state legal OK to proceed with applied research. The State sunk to the lowest form of Catch-22 by denying new conditions for inclusion in the Arizona Medical Marijuana program because of a lack of research while not funding research that would support such inclusion. How stupid does he think the people of Arizona are?

Has the State done anything other than take other people's money and use it against them? Sadly, no – and I doubt he gets it. Patients, caregivers, prospective dispensary owners – we've all written checks to the state of Arizona. As we've said, he hasn't supported a Patient Advocate or critical research. What have we gotten in return for our money:

Absolute silence and no protection from the infringements of Arizona Medical Marijuana patient rights conducted by the legislature with their questionably legal university restrictions on medical marijuana. In an ideal world, the ADHS would have been on the side of patients such as veterans with physical pain from injuries and PTSD-related psychological pain, and have opposed the measure and have tried to convince the Governor to withhold her support. Sadly, we got no such protection from The State.

Absolute silence and no protection from the infringements of Arizona Medical Marijuana patient rights conducted by the county attorney in his actions to define concentrates of marijuana as being outside the scope of the Arizona Medical Marijuana act. Mr. Montgomery has become a master at deciding when and when not to follow state or federal law, but in the end it's all a transparent effort to undermine the will of the people as expressed in the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act.

The state administration. The country admistration. The state legislature. All were very vocally against the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, and all are still against it. They hope, and probably pray, for a repeal or some other god given deliverance from the devil weed.

All we're asking is they follow the rule of law they are so very fond of quoting as one of their core beliefs. They lost the election – its time to implement the will of the people.

FRIDAY the 13th 2012:

Written by CEO, Gerald Gaines:

Finding the "MEDICATION LINE" Under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Program

This is both a personal and professional post about how I as a patient think about my usage under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Program. I'm talking about walking the line between medication and recreation, and even drifting into abuse, that all patients face in the absence of dosing standards under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Program for the symptoms and illnesses they are attempting to treat.

I don't fault others for using their Arizona Medical Marijuana access rights to use marijuana recreationally. But that is not my path, as those close to me know that my illnesses are not conducive to recreational use of Medical Marijuana. With several mental illnesses as well as a bad back I just can't go there and maintain my health.

The "average" Arizona Medical Marijuana patient might consume a little more than 1/8th ounce per week, while the maximum under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Program is 2 ½ ounces every two weeks. At what point has someone crossed the medication line for their condition? I'm pretty sure anyone is over the line at the bi-weekly maximum.

Along with dosage, a patient needs to find the right strain as the Arizona Medical Marijuana Program is just starting up, then we have to deal with reaching the right dose by trial and error, and then we see all of that effort slide away as our tolerances increase for the medication that works.

The State seems to think the Arizona Medical Marijuana Medical Director program will be the answer to this problem. But true to form, the State failed to talk to any patients about what they actually wanted. That's the kind of action you see when your perspective is that every patient is most likely an addict. Instead of a patient-oriented, disease-treating focus the State has focused the Medical Director on rooting out Arizona Medical Marijuana Program abusers.

I point this out only to say that patients should not expect much help from the Medical Director, only more red tape. So, patient, heal thyself. Arizona Medical Marijuana Dispensaries will do their best to provide information, but at the end of the day it's all about how a particular strain at a particular dosage effects you.

You're going to be in charge, so how do you make sure that Arizona Medical Marijuana is a positive in your medical treatment with minimal compromises in other parts of your life? The first step, I think, is to admit that even as proponents of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Program, there are limits to consumption that beyond which constitutes abuse. While it is a very safe drug, like any other drug it's use in excess can cause problems. In the case of that Arizona Medical Marijuana, the abuse would express itself in the form of social withdrawal and reduced cognitive functioning. How much of your life outside of Medical Marijuana are you willing to give up in order to treat yourself? That is the tradeoff we all must make as we try with little guidance or information available.

 

July 12th, 2012:

Written by CEO, Gerald Gaines:

You Want WHAT for an Ounce in the Arizona Medical Marijuana Program?!

I am getting a sense of impending doom about the Arizona Medical Marijuana Dispensary Program from other patients and caregivers as they await the loss of legal caregiver and patient-grown medication. I feel your pain, as you are absolutely right in thinking the price of medication is going to be higher than it has been. I've been around the electronic and brick and mortar blocks, and the general tenor seems to be that there is some great conspiracy of Arizona Medical Marijuana industry fat cats who want to corner the medical market for marijuana and sell it for 10 times what it costs to produce. That about right?

First, though, let me address the people who have become caregivers under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act in the past 18 months and think the 25-mile rule is unconstitutional, anti-trust and evil. You need to realize the truth: 1. The only legal challenge that has a chance is another citizen's initiative. 2. The Arizona Medical Marijuana Act would never have passed without the 25-mile rule. Opponents would have harped on the perceived dangers of home growing, and there would have been a lot less money (from those people you consider fat cats) – that would account for much more than the 5,000-vote victory margin. I've said in any forum I could, and I'll repeat here for the record, I will support any serious citizen's initiative to modify the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act's 25-mile rule. I can't do anything more.

Now back to the patient perspective under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Program. Patients don't understand how they can grow medicine at one cost or buy from caregivers while it's going to cost them a lot more to buy it from an Arizona Medical Marijuana dispensary. At one level it's no different than growing carrots at home versus buying them at the grocery – there are costs and benefits to a store bought product that result 100% of the time in a higher price for buying than doing it yourself. What is "unfair" under the Arizona Medical Marijuana program is that patients won't have a legal choice of growing themselves and many have the perception that dispensaries will take advantage of that to price higher than they would otherwise.

Let me share some typical numbers to show you why that's not the case. Variable costs to produce medicine commercially are in the order of one to two dollars per gram (lets use 1.5 dollars per gram). An average dispensary might have 500 regular patients buying 18 grams a month at let's say, $11 per gram and a 40% tax rate off the top would take about two years to pay for a $1,000,000 cultivation facility. That's two years at over $300 per ounce and the dispensary is not pocketing a cent at the bottom line.

Some dispensaries will have higher costs, some will have lower. Some will price high, some will price low. Some probably won't make it, others will thrive. The good thing about the Arizona Medical Marijuana Program is that the patient will have choices. Although restricted by CHAA, most patients will still have the practical choice among 4 or 5 dispensaries that are located close to their normal travel patterns. That choice among dispensaries, plus the overhang of an illegal market, will keep the dispensary prices in check. Just understand that $300 and ounce is no steal, and few dispensaries would make money even at $400 an ounce in the first year.

July 10th, 2012:

Written by CEO, Gerald Gaines:

Why?

Lots of people have asked me why I've invested so much in the Arizona Medical Marijuana industry before a single dispensary has opened? The smart financial play is always to wait until the Arizona Medical Marijuana pioneers have plowed the way to follow up with real investment. The answer to your question is that I am not doing this as an investor, I'm doing it as a pioneer.

Which is to say I'm investing and otherwise participating in the Arizona Medical Marijuana industry for personal reasons. I claim common blood with Bob Marley, both of us born to strained relationships between Anglo and Black parents, both of us seeing in Ganga a medicine that can bring spiritual insight. I can't sing or dance at Bob's level, who can? , but the same feelings he must have felt run through me - my rights under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act and as a human are being violated by people who have no right to restrict my choice of what I do with my own body and mind.

Some of you know I'm an Arizona Medical Marijuana Act patient. A few of you know that while I qualified for a medical card because of a bad back I also find relief from the symptoms of PTSD and Bipolar. My children are at risk of the mental diseases, whose treatment results in a life expectancy of 50. There is preliminary research and lots of anecdotal evidence that marijuana has the potential to treat these mental illnesses without the horrible side effects of drugs used today

The formal mental health community has a very different view of medical marijuana. Led by the drug addiction specialists (whose jobs depend on treating marijuana users), traditional mental health medicine has taken the position that the use of marijuana by the mentally ill is actually another mental illness that gets its own diagnosis. I would be diagnosed as Bipolar with Co-morbid PTSD and substance abuse disorder. This flies in the face of clear evidence that patients are using marijuana to medicate symptoms they experience that aren't relieved by traditional medicine. Traditional medicine cannot admit its' failure with the mentally ill, so it blames them for the problem by identifying people as addicts for making the logical decision to self-medicate. . How can I not be involved in the Arizona Medical Marijuana Industry when there are such strong opponents and the lives of my children might well be at stake?

The first thing we've done is to get the ball rolling on unbiased scientific research into mental health and Medical Marijuana in Arizona. We've funded a $ ½ million study at ASU to review all of the existing work on MMJ and to suggest future studies. Much of the information that supports MMJ exists already, but has been interpreted in such a way as to implicate marijuana in the formation of mental illness when an unbiased review of the data suggests no such thing.

Second, we are building the intellectual property for adding new debilitating conditions to the accepted list in the Arizona Medical Marijuana Program. While there is a current attempt underway to add some of these conditions, we believe that the State will turn down the applications

As the Arizona Medical Marijuana program unfolds, we at Compassion First will continue to fight for the rights of vulnerable patients, and we have no more vulnerable patient population than the mentally ill. Effectively serving this population will be a challenge the industry must meet.

JULY 6th, 2012: My Hopes for the Arizona Medical Marijuana Industry

Written by CEO, Gerald Gaines:

My Hopes for the Arizona Medical Marijuana Industry

Arizonans will very soon have a first-in-the-nation opportunity as we start up the very highly regulated Arizona Medical Marijuana Dispensary Program this fall. If the Arizona Medical Marijuana Industry has good compliance as I've outlined in earlier posts, we can use our successful, fully compliant Medical Marijuana system in Arizona as a model that encourages the federal government to take a hands-off approach and allows state laws and regulations to function on their own.

Once we mature into a formal Arizona Medical Marijuana Industry, we can focus on longer-term goals.

As you plan, it's important to know who would oppose your efforts. Know your enemy. Then keep him closer than your friends. Fellow participants in the Arizona Medical Marijuana Industry, I give you Big Pharma. Ask it the other way - do you really believe that marijuana would be a Schedule I drug if Big Pharma wanted it Re-Scheduled? And the battle for Re-Scheduling is THE battle the Arizona Medical Marijuana Industry must win in the long term. (A Schedule I drug is considered to have no medical benefit and cannot be used legally by humans).

Why does it matter if the federal government says the plant does or does not have some medical benefit? There probably will be a series of political dominoes that follow a rescheduling when the government admits that the raw plant has medical value, thus undermining the argument for absolute prohibition. All of these dominos will help the Arizona Medical Marijuana patient:

1. Research into the raw plant will be much easier.
2. There will be vastly increased acceptance by patients.
3. Increased acceptance by the general population will eliminate the risk that the Arizona Medical Marijuana program might be voted out.
4. A reconsideration of decriminalization in many local jurisdictions.
5. A re-sentencing of nonviolent offenders.

We can take the lead in developing a constructive relationship between the Medical Marijuana Industry in Arizona and Big Pharma. Each industry has a critical and interlocking relationship with the other.

The Arizona Medical Marijuana Industry can develop through horticulture a multitude of strains that will be tried for their medical effects by tens of thousands of patients. Over time, the results of those "experiments" will be the development and selection of certain varieties of marijuana that work better than others for the relief of certain illnesses.

Enter big Pharma. A differential chemical analysis of the strains will show what unique combination of the more than 200 chemicals in raw marijuana are accounting for the effects seen by the patients. Further refinement of those substances will result in drugs tailored by Big Pharma for specific illnesses. A new miracle drug is born.

But without the Arizona Medical Marijuana Industry to lead the way, the effort would take 20 more years and more than that in billions of dollars in development costs that would have to be priced into their medicine.

We at Compassion First are trying to position the Arizona Medical Marijuana Industry as a national leader and model for other states to follow. We are already sponsoring over $½ million in research at ASU, and hope to increase that amount as the industry grows. Compassion First alone has raised over $40,000 for local charities since January, before a single dispensary has opened. The Arizona Medical Marijuana Industry is already making a difference in our community.

The next chapter starts with the awarding of Arizona Medical Marijuana Dispensary licenses. Stay tuned as we plan to have several fun events based around the licensing on August 7th.

 

JULY 4th, 2012: More Compliance

Written by CEO, Gerald Gaines:

More Compliance Issues

As we move closer to the time when dispensaries open, there have been some issues that have arisen regarding the interpretation of the AMMA and how it does and does not protect one from criminal prosecution.

I want to remind everyone of one important ruling everyone should be aware of is the Maricopa County Attorney interpretation that concentrates of marijuana such as hash and tinctures are not covered by the AMMA. This raises the question of whether he would interpret even Canna-Butter or Canna-Oil as in violation of the law. While individual patients who prepare such products may be safe, entities such as dispensaries will need legal clarity to provide products that their patients often demand.

While the overwhelming majority of caregivers in the metro area will lose their rights to cultivate legally, the more enterprising grower can still find a way to comply with state law. A grower in the valley must find a rural patient who is more than 25 miles from the nearest dispensary, and be a caregiver for him and use the excess for himself. Twelve plants are more than enough for that.

Another thing to watch for is that you do not have universal rights to carry or use marijuana. I am not a lawyer and am not going to try to give you precise information, so find out the details for yourself in the AMMA, but among other areas you cannot legally carry MMJ onto school campuses and the like. You practically cannot smoke anywhere except in a private home. You cannot consume MMJ in any form at the dispensary. These are the little rules that can catch you up and lock you up. Go look them up and know your rights. Or, ask a lawyer.

My favorite trap in the AMMA says that your medical rights can be revoked if they can prove you were using it for non-medical purposes. I would avoid those cheesy Facebook posts if you are a patient.

Turmoil in the Industry

Seems like every time I look at the press there is another story of some loose cannon or another in the industry trying to take advantage of the confusion to make a quick buck or score some kind of point. It must be very frustrating for patients and others without inside knowledge to sort out the hodgepodge of compassion clubs, caregiver cooperatives, individual caregivers and one-off sales that have muddied the waters over the past 18 months since the law was passed. Who can you buy from legally?

Unfortunately, there will be no resolution of this mess until the dispensary licenses have been awarded and alternative and questionably legal channels have been closed. Then, with only the real players, not the talkers, involved, can the industry develop a professional approach to the business and earn an image that befits an industry that does provide real relief to its patients. Stay tuned to see who's left standing and who's left talking.

Conspiracy to Commit Bankruptcy Or How to Piss-Off Your Patients

When did non-profit become non-solvency? When the state government and the federal government combined to regulate dispensaries. The current interpretation of IRS regulations has allowed the federal government to tax dispensaries without allowing any deductions for their marijuana-related expenses. That's a 40% bill off the top. Or said another way, that's a 67% price increase to the patient. Ouch.

State law dictates that no profit be generated. In addition, the state hoisted the Medical Director program on the dispensaries in a way to add costs without real patient value.

In a laudable effort to control the black market, the regulations tightly control supply. Unfortunately, that will result in shortages of legal medication and higher prices in the short term as new cultivation capacity comes on line.

The combined result of these factors is to force dispensaries to price their medicine much higher than the patient has been used to getting over the past 18 months, or alternatively, to lose large amounts of money until the dispensary volume and cost curve catch up.

Patients will probably experience some sticker shock when dispensaries open, but I would ask you to remember:
1. You will be getting medicine of known quality
2. The dispensary is not making a profit, they're selling at the lowest price they can. The feds are the ones making out like bandits.
3. The variable cost is something like $35 per ounce – everything to do it legal is what makes it cost more to patients.

 

JULY 2012: Federal Clarity

Written by CEO, Gerald Gaines:

Finally, some clarity and sanity from the federal government.

Many of us who are trying to start an above-board Medical Marijuana industry that helps patients obtain quality medicine have watched with great concern as the Federal government has taken aggressive action to close as many as 500 Dispensaries in the last 8 months alone in California. The prosecutors seemed to be making no distinctions whatsoever between good and bad Dispensaries and are even making statements that could be interpreted to mean that no dispensaries would be acceptable in any state.

With the planned granting of Dispensary licenses in Arizona on August 7th, many have wondered whether the Federal government has plans to halt the process or to pursue license winners after the process. Now, in an article in the June 30th, New York Times, the prosecutors in California have described the targets of their efforts in a way that should give some comfort to Arizonans:

"The United States attorneys said the dispensaries were violating not only federal law but also state law, which requires operators to be primary caregivers to their customers and distribute marijuana only for medical purposes.

We're not concerned in prosecuting patients or people who are legitimate caregivers for ill people, who are in good faith complying with state law," said Benjamin B. Wagner, the United States attorney for the Eastern District of California. "But we are concerned about large commercial operations that are generating huge amounts of money by selling marijuana in this essentially unregulated free-for-all that exists in California."


The conditions in California did not resemble a medical market, but a recreational one with perhaps as many as one million legal patients in Southern California alone. The ubiquitous green cross of a dispensary could be found within a few blocks of almost anywhere.
Arizona has been different from the first day the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act became law.


First, we had a very structured caregiver model that allows for some patients to get medication before dispensaries can get started. The model was made intentionally to be both uneconomic and temporary, as the primary structure intended by the law was the Dispensary Model. Those of us, myself included, who have enjoyed the freedom of growing, have to recognize the law never would have passed if it did not have the Dispensary component.
Second, when Dispensaries do open, there won't be one on every street corner with a neon green cross announcing that the world has changed. In Arizona, given that there will only be one Dispensary per CHAA, your GPS will be the best and only guide to finding the location.
Third, the supply of medicine is the most tightly controlled of any State. While some medication will be produced for Dispensaries by Caregivers at the beginning, in very short order the only legal medication must be produced by the Dispensaries themselves. Each plant will be tracked from clone to harvest. Inventories will be monitored closely.

Given the tight regulations, the situation in Arizona is the exact opposite of the "unregulated free-for-all that exists in California" that so concerns the Federal government. The federal attorney for Arizona has not taken a stance on Arizona Dispensaries, and while they can't and won't endorse them, it's difficult to believe the Feds would not have given some pretty negative signals if they have the intent to derail the program in the future.

June 20, 2012: COMPLIANCE

Written by CEO Gerald Gaines,

Compliance is the word that everyone in the medical marijuana industry, from patient to doctor, from caregiver to dispensary, needs to know the definition of, in great detail, as to how it applies to them. The key aspect of compliance is to realize it is not a question of whether you agree with any particular rule or not, it's to recognize that the rule is your only protection from state drug prosecution.

The stakes are very high: If you are in compliance with the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, then your actions regarding marijuana are protected from prosecution under state law. If you are not in compliance with the AMMA, then you are subject to criminal penalties that could put you behind bars for years.

The biggest, most pressing compliance issue is the triggering of the so-called 25-mile rule when the first dispensaries start operating. . It will no longer be possible for a patient to get cultivation rights with a new or renewed license. Existing licenses that allow cultivation are legal until they expire within 12 months. Thus all of the legal marijuana sold in metropolitan areas by next fall will be grown in the dispensaries' own cultivation operations.

Many patients have become used to growing their own medical marijuana and are already questioning why they should have to give up the right to do so when dispensaries open. At one level, the answer is very simple – this is what WE voted for in Prop 203, and the only way it's going to change is by another citizen's initiative.

Patients simply are not going to have a choice of whether to buy legally from a dispensary or legally somewhere else. They can buy legally from a dispensary or they can risk the legal weight of this state. Personally, I would not take that risk with hydro shops easy to stake out and smart electric meters installed across the valley. The good news is that there will be multiple dispensaries to choose from and given that their prices and quality should reflect a superior medical marijuana system.

Caregivers also must be aware of compliance. Many caregivers seem unaware that the AMMA dictates that they cannot sell marijuana or marijuana plants to dispensaries, they can only give them away. Once again, caregivers who violate this provision are opening themselves up to prosecution under Arizona state law.

However, the brunt of compliance efforts will fall on dispensaries. They will be much more heavily regulated than caregivers here or even dispensaries in other states. Key areas of compliance will include:


• Proof of nonprofit nature
• Systems to avoid diversion of marijuana
• Security systems
• Processes to avoid substance abuse


This is a great opportunity to show the strength and maturity of the medical marijuana model. We as patients and providers can work together to create a robust system of dispensaries that are well regulated and clearly separate from a recreational market.

Some non-medical users of marijuana may see the dispensaries in conflict with the desire to have free access to marijuana without being forced to use a government-created business. We also believe that marijuana should be legalized, but that the legalization process is best pursued in parallel with a separate process to promote marijuana for medical purposes. Put simply, we actually believe MMJ has medical benefits, and those benefits would be denied to people if we slowed the introduction of medical marijuana to try for the "bigger" freedom of legalization.

If you are a casual user of marijuana, then I would say to you that your use of a system that was voted and designed for ill patients was never meant to make you happy as a consumer. Put forward your own citizen's initiative to legalize marijuana and I'll be the first to sign it and contribute to the cause.

JUNE 2012:

Latest Industry Developments:

The Dispensaries are around the corner

The Arizona Department of Health Services has accepted 485 applications for dispensaries covering 97 CHAA's for an exact average of 5 applications per geographic territory that will be awarded a license. There were 27 CHAA's that got no applications, primarily Indian Nation land. Each of the applications represents a serious potential entrant that had to invest $5,000 cash, prepare a full application including securing real estate, and demonstrate at least $150,000 in start up capital.

The biggest question mark is what the federal government will do in reaction to the dispensary program. At any time in the past year and a half that Proposition 203 passed, the federal government could have taken a public stance against dispensaries in Arizona and that would have undermined the program before it could start. The fact that they have let the program progress as far as they have may indicate a relative level of comfort with the highly regulated dispensary program contemplated here compared to the wild-west atmosphere in California and Colorado.

Now that the industry in Arizona is beginning to take shape, it's a good time to step back and ask what do patients need to meet their medical needs with Marijuana. The most obvious need that Compassion First Arizona has focused on is to provide a counterbalance to the anti-medical marijuana forces, often from inside of government, and often led by the ADHS itself.

Compassion First Arizona has had discussions with a number of dispensary applicants interested in using our Advocacy Services to help their prospective patients. Recent actions by state and local government underline the continuing need for our services:


1. The state legislature passed and the Governor signed a law banning the use of medical marijuana on college campuses. This law is in direct conflict with the AMMA, and limits the legitimate needs of college students, such as veterans, to treat their medical conditions as they see fit.
2. The county attorney for Maricopa County has ruled that concentrates of marijuana such as hash and tinctures are not covered by the AMMA and thus subject to criminal penalties. This interpretation is illogical in the face of the clear language in the AMMA that protects " "USABLE MARIJUANA" MEANS THE DRIED FLOWERS OF THE MARIJUANA PLANT, AND ANY MIXTURE OR PREPARATION THEREOF". The county's interpretation is unlikely to survive a legal challenge and we are considering the best tack to take to get a reversal of this ruling, as many patients need relief in a mode other than smoking.
3. Some components of the AMMA, such as the medical director, are still legally questionable and we may still challenge them in court.

We have successfully completed our first legal action against the state to compel them to proceed with the dispensary process, and to change the process to be more fair and open. The court awarded legal fees in the amount of $86,900 as an indication of the merit of our position.

-CEO//Founder, Gerald Gaines

April 2012

We've all heard that the Arizona Department of Health Services is bowing to the will of the court and starting the dispensary awarding process. It's important to remember that this is a goal we all share -- to provide access to medication to patients in need. In fact, it is Compassion First that filed and won the case that is forcing the state to implement the dispensary program.
Many people who have chosen to be caregivers, both in our network and out, have asked what the developments regarding dispensaries will mean for the Compassion First Caregiver Circle. In the short term, there has been considerable confusion in the industry regarding this question. The purpose of this memo is to eliminate as much of the confusion and uncertainty involved.

  1. Dispensary licenses are likely to be granted in early August. After that, a licensee must gain ADHS approval to operate, a process that is likely to take until early September. At that point, a dispensary can open and the 25 mile rule will be in effect.
  2. From this point on, no new patients in Maricopa County will be able to sign up with a cultivating caregiver. Existing patients and caregivers will be dropped from the system as their cards expire after 12 months.
  3. The availability of medication from dispensaries is likely to be very limited the first few months, resulting in shortages for new patients.

Given this dynamic, people who are thinking about becoming patients should sign up with a caregiver BEFORE the first dispensary opens. Then they will be assured of medication from either their caregiver or a dispensary. The patient then can transition fully to dispensaries at a time of his choosing.
Being a caregiver in this transition process provides an important service to the patients in Arizona. We intend to work with each patient to make their eventual transfer to the dispensary model as smooth as possible for both the caregiver and the patient.
It is also important to remember that all of the plans for dispensaries could be undermined by the federal government. Although they have taken the position that they won't challenge well-designed state programs, they have also taken the position that they are against dispensaries and for caregivers. The feds may yet pull the rug out from under Arizona dispensaries.

Gerald Gaines
CEO
Compassion First Caregiver Circle, Inc.


March 2012

Blurred Boundaries: The Therapeutics and Politics of Medical Marijuana -MayoClinicProceedings.org


March 2012

I¹ would like to thank Dr. Bostwick of the Mayo Clinic for making the case for the potential benefits of marijuana in a recent article. I too share his belief that the cannabis plant shows great promise for medical use. However, millions of users of marijuana are going to question how he has positioned the data regarding the shortcomings of botanical marijuana.

Dr. Bostwick's conclusions and summary of recent research regarding the risks of marijuana simply do not square with the thousands of years of safe use. Instead, the positions he has taken are consistent with what a pharmaceutical industry seeking fertile ground for patented medicines would want to portray in order to protect their future profit streams against competition from botanical marijuana.

First, his ominous warning for the 10% who are vulnerable to marijuana addiction fails to take into account the person's other options. The implication is for someone to make a choice between marijuana use and abstinence - probably not their real choice. The question is not whether marijuana is safer than distilled water. The question with regard to legalization is whether it's safe compared to other recreational drugs. The same question can be asked regarding medical marijuana use compared to prescription drugs. Using fair, comparative standards marijuana appears to be safer than aspirin. Certainly safer than cocaine, opiates, meth, and to make the point, tobacco and alcohol. Safer than tens of thousands of prescription drugs. By positioning it against a stalking horse that was perfect, the analysis overstated the risks of marijuana. Why?

Secondly, Dr. Bostwick couches his language regarding the risks of marijuana using the statistical term "predicts" in a way that even many sophisticated readers will process as "causes", especially given the temporal relationship between drug use and full illness onset. I would note that he never reversed the proposition to say that mental illness predicts earlier marijuana use, but that formulation is, as he knows, equally as valid as the one used 100% of the time. None of the studies proved marijuana use causes schizophrenia. The few caveats he gave about causality are overwhelmed in the article by the numerous times he uses the "predicts" formulation. Was this an unconscious bias?

Third, he went beyond nuances in the data to state causality in the conclusion: "For 10%, however, the drug becomes causes addictionve, its relaxing properties transforming causing into a constant need that causes interferences with interpersonal and occupational advancement. For an even smaller proportion-those with a predisposition toward psychotic illness-it may abet the earlier emergence of psychosis and a rockier illness course if use persists." ---Emphasis added --- There is absolutely no proof that the causality acts in the way portrayed, or alternatively whether psychologically vulnerable people gravitate to marijuana to self treat their

symptoms prior to a formal diagnosis. The analysis of the use of marijuana by psychologically vulnerable youth cannot be taken seriously unless it considers the phenomenon of self---medication of prodromal symptoms. The conclusions in the article are in the first case unsupported by the data and in the second case unproven assertions of what may be true.

Dr. Bostwick's logic builds a strong case for removing marijuana from Schedule I, and for that purpose we are in complete agreement. However, the article also unfairly emphasizes the risks that have no proven causal relationship with marijuana and are not portrayed in comparison to the real world alternatives faced by someone, whether recreational or medicinal user. I find it particularly ironic that so much attention is being paid to relatively minor unproven side effects when the many prescription medications have proven, worse side effects, like death. Why can't the medical marijuana industry drive botanical advances and Big Pharma produce value---added medicines? Don't both industries have an important role?

¹ I am the founder of the medical marijuana advocacy organization Compassion First AZ currently operating in the state of Arizona.

-CFCC CEO, Gerald Gaines

December 2011

On Wednesday, motions in a Medical Marijuana case filed against Jan Brewer and the State of Arizona were heard by the Honorable Judge Richard Gama. The Judge was obviously well prepared as were counsel for both sides. Counsel for the State showed great professionalism and we should all feel well represented as citizens, if you accept the notion that their position deserved defending in the first place. However, I was struck by the obvious hypocrisy of the vastly different approaches taken by the State with regard to Medical Marijuana versus Immigration. In the case of Immigration, the State has taken the position that State laws should be enforced without regard to their US Constitutionality. That's a pretty strong States' Rights position that is consistent with the heritage of the State. Got that. What happens when the law of the land is Medical Marijuana? Does the State continue to follow its tradition of a strong States' Rights position? Does it stay neutral and avoid a controversy? Or does it bow to the will of Washington, DC. ? In court on Wednesday, the State's position, officially sworn and in writing, is that they believe the Federal Government should overrule a law you voted for in 2010, even though it was one of the most conservative wave elections in generations. A little history is in order. This is not the first time a Medical Marijuana initiative was passed in an open election. Back in the 1996, even before California, Arizona passed a law. But, just as today a conservative legislature and Governor Symington were in opposition to the will of the people. Then they had the flexibility to pass laws that undermined the citizen's initiative. But in an ironic twist, Prop 105 in 1998 was passed that now keeps the legislature from easily overcoming an initiative because of a general outrage with the way the conservatives over-reached then. “Those who forget the past.. and all that. It's a good time for the State to reconsider its position. The people of Arizona have spoken loud and clear about Medical Marijuana – they want it available, safe and legal. Over 16,000 patients have signed up despite not having a safe and legal supply of medication . Please consider the suffering of patients who have found possible relief but cannot get a safe and legal supply that meets their needs. The illegal activity that probably is occurring is a direct result of the failure of the State to fully implement Prop 203. Only you can stop that by going forward with the letter and spirit of Prop 203. No one is going to be fooled by propaganda using a situation you created to undermine a law you oppose. Instead of getting in the way of Medical Marijuana, we should join the Governors of two other states to petition the Federal Government to re-schedule Marijuana to a Schedule II drug. First, this will give the Governor the protection she wants for State workers. More importantly, this will also allow much needed research, such as the research the University of Arizona is poised to do on Medical Marijuana to treat PTSD. Such a gesture would show that the State intends to follow its sworn duty to implement the will of the people.


December 2011

So much is happening...
that it's hard to know where to start. We've got all of the regulatory approvals needed for the North Phoenix site and construction has started. The Grand Opening has been set for February 18th – you'll be hearing a lot more about that later.


Grow Facility

Last week the 100th caregiver signed up with Compassion First. While waiting for facilities, some of the caregiver team has been growing the plants you'll start with in February.

Plants

We had our first day in court this Wednesday when Judge Gama heard arguments on the case. No longer can the state hide behind federal law to ignore their duty to fully implement Prop 203 and the will of the people. Finally, I'd like to invite all of you to get involved in the first CEO Crop Charity Auction. As our way of celebrating the holiday season, we'd like to give patients an opportunity to purchase a small quantity of medical marijuana and use the proceeds for a charity of your choice. We are offering a ½ ounce of a Bubble Gum strain that one of our Caregivers grew, which tested at 23.8 % THC, to the highest bidder. Anyone can bid, as you might want to do as a gift to a patient, but only a validly registered patient can receive the medication. Here's how it works:

  1. Visit us at www.caregivercircleaz.com and click on the Auction button on the Home Page.

  2. Enter your name, email address, and your bid amount.

  3. The auction will open on December 20th and close at midnight on January 3rd.

  4. The medication will go to the highest bidder.

The best part is that I will match your donation to charity with ten times that amount, up to $10,000. Don't let your charity miss out on this chance to make it a merrier holiday season.


November 2011

I'd like to welcome our new caregivers and give a shout out to our original core group as well. Our business is going according to plan and we thought this would be a good time to provide you with an update.

Safe Cultivation Place
First, we have secured leases on three buildings spread across the valley. We are busy upgrading them to be leading edge cultivation facilities that can each hold more than 40 caregivers.

Here's what your grow tent in the facility will look like:

Grow Tent

Genetics
We are currently expecting to start opening facilities towards the end of the year. While awaiting facilities, there is a team of genetics caregivers growing young plants so that you will start ahead of the game. In fact, there are already four little girl plants with your name on them.

Medical Marijuana

Industry and Legal Developments
The Federal government continues its war against dispensaries in a clear change in strategy from a couple of years ago. Which means the caregiver model for providing patient relief is the only viable way to provide medical marijuana. Your commitment as a caregiver is the best thing we can do to show the government that medical marijuana has a valid place in the medical treatment of many diseases.

 



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