The New Pot Barons: Businessmen Bank on Marijuana

Full dark in downtown Denver, and inside one of the twinkling high-rises that make the skyline, drug dealers are putting money into envelopes. They’re trying to be discreet. No one signed the security logbook in the lobby. All assume the room could be bugged. But if your image of the drug trade involves armed gangs or young men in parked cars, these dealers offer a surreal counterpoint. There’s a finance veteran, two children of the Ivy League, multiple lawyers, and the son of a police chief. At their side is a Pulitzer Prize–winning communications consultant, two state lobbyists, and a nationally known political operative. And the guest of honor: a state senator who likes the look of those envelopes being stuffed.

“What’s the maximum contribution?” one of the dealers asks. “Do you take cash?” wonders another. A third man breaks into a smile. “You better,” he says, eyebrows dancing, “because the banks don’t like doing business with us.” Laughter fills the room as the envelopes are passed forward and slipped into a briefcase. “Huge thank you, everyone,” the politician says, guiding the conversation back to the next legislative session and the kinds of legal changes this group would like to see. Here again, it’s not what you’d expect: there’s talk of a youth drug-abuse-prevention program and a bill to define “drugged” driving. When the politician finally rises to leave, after more than an hour, the dealers, in their pressed shirts and suit jackets, clap heartily. The average participant looks to be about 35, white and male, and on good terms with a barber. “Thank you,” the politician says, bowing slightly. “Thank you for what you do.”

What they do is sell marijuana. And not on street corners. Colorado is the developed world’s only regulated for-profit cannabis market, and sales—to the 100,000 residents who have a thumbs up from their M.D.s—are closing in on $200 million this year, a sum that generates tens of millions of dollars in local, state, and federal taxes. (Yes, the IRS taxes marijuana operations, even as the Justice Department attempts to shut them down.) Colorado is not the world’s only experiment in free-market pot, but it’s the most sophisticated, pushing beyond the Netherlands’ confusing ban on wholesale and California’s hazy nonprofit status. Denver’s former city attorney has called it California “on steroids.”

While the cannabis market remains illegal under federal law, attitudes are changing quickly, and it’s that fact that the Colorado growers are banking on. The number of regular pot users is up by 3 million in the past five years, and the rate of high-school experimentation is at a 30-year high. When a kid first lights up at about age 16, it’s usually not with a cigarette. Twelve states now treat a personal stash like a minor traffic offense, 17 allow medical marijuana, and this Election Day, if current polls hold, voters in Washington State and Colorado will vote to legalize marijuana—not for medical purposes but, as Rolling Stone recently enthused, “for getting-high purposes.”

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Marijuana And Cancer

(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Scientists Find Cannabis Compound Stops Metastasis In Aggressive Cancers

A pair of scientists at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco has found that a compound derived from marijuana could stop metastasis in many kinds of aggressive cancer, potentially altering the fatality of the disease forever.

“It took us about 20 years of research to figure this out, but we are very excited,” said Pierre Desprez, one of the scientists behind the discovery, to The Huffington Post. “We want to get started with trials as soon as possible.”

The Daily Beast first reported on the finding, which has already undergone both laboratory and animal testing, and is awaiting permission for clinical trials in humans.

Desprez, a molecular biologist, spent decades studying ID-1, the gene that causes cancer to spread. Meanwhile, fellow researcher Sean McAllister was studying the effects of Cannabidiol, or CBD, a non-toxic, non-psychoactive chemical compound found in the cannabis plant. Finally, the pair collaborated, combining CBD and cells containing high levels of ID-1 in a petri dish.

“What we found was that his Cannabidiol could essentially ‘turn off’ the ID-1,” Desprez told HuffPost. The cells stopped spreading and returned to normal.

“We likely would not have found this on our own,” he added. “That’s why collaboration is so essential to scientific discovery.”

Desprez and McAllister first published a paper about the finding in 2007. Since then, their team has found that CBD works both in the lab and in animals. And now, they’ve found even more good news.

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Buyer’s Guide | 5 Super Strains of Mile-High Medical Marijuana

As you may have noticed, we are on-board with medical marijuana. It comes from a seriously wonderful plant with an astonishing number of applications. One of these days, maybe we will dig into the bounty of civilization-altering uses its red-headed stepsister, hemp, affords, but it is the 20th of April, so we are bringing you a round-up of five fine and functional strains available in the model medical marijuana state: Colorado.

The more money and research that goes into MMJ (as it is called) the more amazing information comes out. These strains are useful in treating everything from chemo sickness, to back pain, to, let’s face it, boredom. Obviously you need a medical license to try them, but if Amendment 64 on November’s ballot gets voted into law, anyone 21 or older in the state will be able to buy bud.

Photography by Ry Prichard

Presidential Kush

Speaking of November elections, Presidential Kush seems like an appropriate strain to begin with. A blend of two legendary strains (OG Kush and Lemon Skunk) created by Colorado Alternative Medicine, Presidential Kush weighs in with a hearty 22-percent THC rating. Available exclusively at CAM, this is a hybrid plant that combines clear-headed sativa high accompanied by a slight body-numb afforded by the indica.

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