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Marijuana News Roundup: How Safe Is Smoking Pot?

Paul Ausick

While beliefs that marijuana is a gateway drug or that its use may lead to brain damage or psychosis may finally be on their way out (see another story below), there remain real questions about the quality and safety of cannabis. States where marijuana is legal either for medicinal or recreational use have been struggling with setting up testing labs to verify that the weed being sold does not contain harmful substances left behind from growing.

A new study from the University of California at Davis now recommends that users avoid smoking cannabis. The report was published in the journal "Clinical Microbiology and Infection."

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According to the report, marijuana sold in Northern California  contains "multiple bacterial and fungal pathogens that can cause serious infections."

The effect is not of particular concern to the vast majority of pot users one of the researchers told The Sacramento Bee, but the users with weakened immune systems caused by illnesses such as AIDS, lymphoma, leukemia or who are receiving cancer treatments "could unwittingly be exposing themselves to serious lung infections when they smoke or vape medical marijuana." The researchers said, "We strongly advise them to avoid it."

Queens of the Stoned Age
There are a thousand ways to buy weed in New York City, but the Green Angels devised a novel strategy for standing out: They hired models to be their dealers. In the eight years since the group was founded—by a blonde, blue-eyed Mormon ex-model—they’ve never been busted, and the business has grown into a multimillion-dollar operation. Suketu Mehta spent months embedded with them at their headquarters and out on their delivery routes to see where this great experiment in American entrepreneurship might lead.

A friend tells me about the Green Angels, a collective of about 30 models turned high-end-weed dealers, and he introduces me to the group’s leader, Honey. The first time we speak, in the spring of 2015, she comes to my house in Greenwich Village and we talk for six hours.

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She is 27 and several months pregnant. Her belly is showing, a little, under her black top and over her black patterned stockings. But her face is still as fresh as hay, sunlight, the idea the rest of the world has about the American West, where she was born—she’s an excommunicated Mormon from the Rocky Mountains. Honey is not her real name; it’s a pseudonym she chose for this article. She is over six feet tall, blonde, and blue-eyed. Patrick Demarchelier took photos of her when she was a teenager. She still does some modeling. Now that she’s pregnant, I tell her, she should do maternity modeling.

“Why would I do that when I can make $6,000 a day just watching TV?” she asks.

Honey started the business in 2009. When she began dealing, she would get an ounce from a guy in Union Square, then take it to her apartment and divide it into smaller quantities for sale. She bought a vacuum sealer from Bed Bath & Beyond to make the little bags her product came in airtight. She tells me that part of her research was watching CNN specials on the drug war to find out how dealers got busted.

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Today her total expenses average more than $300,000 a month for the product, plus around $30,000 for cabs, cell phones, rent for various safe houses, and other administrative costs. She makes a profit of $27,000 a week. “I like seeing a pile of cash in my living room,” she says.

Read more at GQ.com.

Government Has Apparently Dropped 'Gateway' Theory, Marijuana Critics Should Too
Recently the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) quietly removed a report from its website, suggesting that it is finally giving up the false theories that cannabis is a “gateway drug,” or that it causes permanent brain damage or psychosis.

These myths have been at the heart of positions held by marijuana prohibitionists and often served as their platform when voting against medical cannabis legislation.

The good news is that prohibitions that have been holding out support for medical cannabis policy can now let science guide their policy making decisions.

The bad news is unless elected officials read the DEA’s “Denial of Petition to Initiate Proceedings to Reschedule Marijuana (DPR)” issued August 12, 2016, they would still see outdated information being disseminated from the DEA.

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Read more at The Hill.

Trump May Allow States Some Leeway with Marijuana
Here's one thing Californians might not have to worry about from the Trump administration: interference in the state's annual $7 billion cannabis industry.

While there has been speculation about how the month-old administration, particularly cannabis-shaming Attorney General Jeff Sessions, will deal with the marijuana business, insiders and industry advocates are "cautiously optimistic" that Trump doesn't have it in for weed.

"Trump is not an ideologue, that's the good news — he's very transactional," Washington, D.C., public policy consultant Nathan Daschle told participants Friday at the International Cannabis Business Conference in San Francisco. "The only people who are really left that are opposed to this come from an ideological point of view."

Added Joe Hunter, who has worked for various GOP campaigns, Sessions "and Donald Trump are not sitting in the Oval Office wringing their hands over cannabis."

And because of Trump and Sessions' strong belief in states' rights, making it more unlikely they would interfere with states whose voters have approved legalization laws, National Cannabis Industry Association Deputy Director Taylor West said, "We're cautiously optimistic."

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Read more at SFGate.com.

Just How Mainstream Is Marijuana? There's Now a "Congressional Cannabis Caucus"
Time to dispel any doubts you may still have that marijuana reform is truly a mainstream political issue. This week, a bipartisan group of U.S. representatives formed the first-ever "Congressional Cannabis Caucus" to work on legislation related to marijuana legalization and regulation.

Democrats Earl Blumenauer of Oregon and Jared Polis of Colorado teamed up with Republicans Dana Rohrabacher of California and Don Young of Alaska to form the caucus. Not coincidentally, all four representatives hail from states where recreational marijuana use is legal.

"The federal government's decades-long approach to marijuana is a colossal, cruel joke, and most Americans know it," Rohrabacher said in a news release announcing the formation of the group Thursday. "Not only have incalculable amounts of taxpayers’ dollars been wasted, but countless lives have been unnecessarily disrupted and even ruined by misguided law enforcement."

The group didn't lay out specific legislative objectives, but the lawmakers said that there is a need for explicit rules that square federal law, which strictly prohibits marijuana use, with the growing number of state laws that allow for medical and recreational use.

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Read more at The Washington Post.

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