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So Much for Democracy

Colorado’s marijuana industry, brought into being by a state ballot initiative, stopped citizens from floating a public-health initiative by paying companies hundreds of thousands of dollars NOT to collect signatures for it. The initiative, Amendment 139, would have limited THC potencies and required health warnings on labels and child protective packaging.
 
Background
Some 26 states and the District of Columbia allow citizens to write laws and take them to voters. Americans who live in the other 24 states are generally not aware of how the ballot initiative process works.
 
In his book, Democracy Derailed: Initiative Campaigns and the Power of Money, journalist David Broder, now deceased, revealed how political campaigns and moneyed special interest groups are threatening our democracy.
 
“Government by initiative is not only a radical departure from the Constitution’s system of checks and balances,” he wrote, “it is also a big business, in which lawyers and campaign consultants, signature-gathering firms, and other players sell their services to affluent interest groups or millionaire do-gooders with private policy and political agendas.” Many don’t live in the states whose laws they are writing.
 
Signature-gathering firms? To place an initiative on the ballot, most initiative states require proponents to collect signatures from a given percent of people who voted in the last election. The standard is five percent, but it can vary from state to state.
 
There are actually businesses whose single purpose is to pay people, usually from $2 to $5 per signature, to go out and collect them. In fact, all of the ballot initiatives that have legalized marijuana for medical or recreational use, have succeeded because proponents were able to pay millions of dollars to collect enough signatures to get their measures on the ballot and then pay millions more to promote them to voters in TV commercials.
 
With the exception of Florida last year, opponents of these measures have been unable to come close to matching proponents’ riches, raising only thousands vs millions of dollars. Where's the check and balance in that?
 
Amendment 139
Last week, we reported that a court decision gave a group of Colorado citizens, Healthy Colorado, clearance to begin collecting signatures for Amendment 139.

Colorado’s marijuana industry claimed that 139’s THC cap would shut down the industry. It took the issue to the state Supreme Court to challenge the initiatives and reduce the amount of time proponents had to collect signatures. But the Court ruled in Healthy Colorado’s favor two months later.
 
With polls showing widespread support for the amendment, the marijuana industry struck back by paying signature-gathering firms NOT to gather signatures for Amendment 139.
 
“The 139 opponents went out and bought up some of the most important circulators in the state, and without them we didn’t have the ability to get it to the ballot,” said a 139 spokesman. “They went out and paid these circulating firms to not circulate petitions for 139.”
 
Last Friday, July 8, Healthy Colorado withdrew Amendment 139.
 
Said Ali Pruitt, a Denver mother and a designated representative of Amendment 139, “As concerned moms, dads, teachers and friends, we simply couldn’t keep up with the financial costs brought on by the underhanded tactics and baseless delays used by the marijuana industry to keep us off of the ballot. The marijuana industry built a wall of money between us and the November ballot that we simply couldn’t break through.”
 
Added Healthy Colorado member Jo McGuire, “Unlimited THC has allowed the marijuana industry to create marijuana by-products that pose a public health and safety risk. THC potencies as high as 80 to 90 percent have not only caused an upsurge in Colorado ER visits and hospitalizations, but also have caused psychotic episodes that have led to death. The industry has refused to hear voters’ concerns by disabling the very process by which it introduced legalization in Colorado in 2012.”

Read “Activists behind THC-limiting initiative to withdraw controversial Amendment 139” here
Read Healthy Colorado press release here
Learn more about ballot initiatives here.
 
Charlotte’s Web Maker Targets Broader Market with CBD from Domestic Hemp
 
Here’s another Colorado marijuana company that refuses to play by the rules.
 
Marijuana is illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act. But an entirely different federal law makes it illegal to market a medicine to the public before it has been approved as safe and effective by the Food and Drug Administration.
 
A lack of FDA approval hasn’t stopped Colorado’s Stanley Brothers from marketing Charlotte’s Web CBD Oil to parents of children with epilepsy throughout the United States. CBD is cannabidiol, one of more than 100 cannabinoids found in marijuana along with some 400 more chemicals, few of which have been studied.
 
Made famous by Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s CNN specials Weed, Weed II, and Weed III, in which Dr. Gupta declared marijuana is medicine, the brothers claim the oil is a “low THC, high CBD” marijuana product.
 
But on their Facebook pages and in their nonprofit Realm of Caring private patient portal, there is much discussion about how much THC parents should add to Charlotte’s Web to quell their children’s seizures. This is deeply troubling because THC damages the developing brain.
 
Now the brothers are re-branding their company name and its products. CW Botanicals, their old company, is now CW Hemp, their new one. Same company, different name.
 
Because an amendment to the federal farm bill a few years ago enabled state universities and agricultural departments to legally grow hemp for research, the brothers believe it is legal to skip research, skip FDA approval, skip the US Controlled Substances Act, and ship Charlotte’s Web Oil to all 50 states. Sales have grown to $1 million a month in the past few months.
 
Not content with Charlotte’s Web as a medicine for epilepsy, CW Hemp is now marketing Charlotte’s Web Hemp Extract to veterans who suffer PTSD and as a general wellness product. This expands its market from half a million children suffering intractable seizures to hundreds of millions of Americans who care about being healthy.
 
The company also is raising funds for a survey of current and retired NFL players to build a case for CW Hemp as a cure for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), the progressive degenerative disease of the brain found in people with a history of repetitive brain trauma.
 
While little to no scientific evidence supports any of the Stanleys’ claims, GW Pharmaceuticals has spent years developing and testing a new drug, Epidiolex. This drug is currently going through FDA Phase III clinical trials to treat intractable seizures.
 
What’s the difference between Charlotte’s Web and Epidiolex? Plenty.
 
Charlotte’s Web contains about 20 percent CBD and "low" levels of THC. Epidiolex contains 98 percent CBD and only trace amounts of THC. GW worked hard to eliminate all but trace amounts of THC from Epidiolex because of THC’s effect on the brain.
 
Further, Epidiolex has been:
  • Extracted from marijuana grown in greenhouses without pesticides
  • Purified
  • Tested in animals to make sure it’s safe to give to humans
  • Tested in randomized controlled clinical trials involving patients who have been given informed consent, meaning they have been told all known harms of the drug before consenting to participate in the trials
  • Is expected to be approved by FDA in 2017.
If so, doctors will be able to prescribe, rather than recommend, Epidiolex.
Pharmacists will be able to dispense it, rather than budtenders.
Insurance companies will likely cover its cost.
 
Charlotte’s Web?
  • None of the above.
 
Also underway is a top secret, million-dollar research and development project to help CW Hemp compete with legitimate companies like GW Pharmaceuticals.
 
It would be nice if CW Hemp would devote its research and development towards obtaining FDA approval for the good of its patients rather than using it to find ways to compete with companies that play by the rules and comply with federal law.
 
Maybe then, Colorado epilepsy specialists would no longer “have to be at the bedside of children having severe dystonic reactions and other movement disorders, developmental regression, intractable vomiting, and worsening seizures that can be so severe they have to put the child into a coma to get the seizures to stop,” as the American Epilepsy Society reports. It explains that no one knows whether these severe side-effects result from contaminants or unregulated, artisanal CBD products, like Charlotte’s Web.
 
Only research and testing on the road to FDA approval can tell us that – as well as whether artisanal CBD products have any positive effect at all.
 
Read “Longmont Resident Leading Retail Push for Boulder’s CW Hemp” here
Read “Charlotte’s Web Maker Targets Broader Market with CBD from Domestic Hemp” here.

The Marijuana Report is a weekly e-newsletter published by National Families in Action in partnership with SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana). Subscribe to The Marijuana Report and visit our website, The Marijuana Report.Org, to learn more about the marijuana story unfolding across the nation.

About National Families in Action (NFIA)
NFIA consists of families, scientists, business leaders, physicians, addiction specialists, policymakers, and others committed to protecting children from addictive drugs. Our vision is:
  • Healthy, drug-free kids
  • Nurturing, addiction-free families
  • Scientifically accurate information and education
  • A nation free of Big Marijuana
  • Smart, safe, FDA-approved medicines developed from the cannabis plant (and other plants) 
  • Expanded access to medicines in FDA clinical trials for children with epilepsy

About SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana) 

SAM is a nonpartisan alliance of lawmakers, scientists and other concerned citizens who want to move beyond simplistic discussions of "incarceration versus legalization" when discussing marijuana use and instead focus on practical changes in marijuana policy that neither demonizes users nor legalizes the drug. SAM supports a treatment, health-first marijuana policy. 

SAM has four main goals: 
  • To inform public policy with the science of today's marijuana.
  • To reduce the unintended consequences of current marijuana policies, such as lifelong stigma due to arrest.
  • To prevent the establishment of "Big Marijuana" - and a 21st-Century tobacco industry that would market marijuana to children.
  • To promote research of marijuana's medical properties and produce, non-smoked, non-psychoactive pharmacy-attainable medications.
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