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Fri11242017

Last updateWed, 27 Sep 2017 1pm

In his keynote speech at the Cannabis World Congress and Business Exposition on Sept. 8 at the Los Angeles Convention Center, longtime cannabis advocate Montel Williams announced his entry into the medical marijuana business with the launch of LenitivLabs.

“I’m proud to announce the formation of Lenitiv Scientific and the development of the LenitivLabs product line,” said Williams, according to a news release. “With the issue of full legalization dominating the conversation, it’s critical not to forget patients who have specific needs with respect to cannabis, including strains that might be less-profitable in the marketplace. The mission of Lenitiv Scientific is to ensure that seriously ill individuals—like myself—have access to the medicine they need.”

Williams, of course, is best known for hosting The Montel Williams Show for 17 years; he’s also an entrepreneur, wellness advocate and decorated former naval officer. He was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1999.

In 2013, Williams talked about his medical marijuana use with addiction website TheFix.com: “For six months after I was diagnosed with MS in 1999, I was given every prescription under the sun to help relieve some of the pain I was suffering with—Oxycontin, Vicodin, you name it,” he said. “But none of it helped. A doctor suggested a lot of literature to me that discussed the benefits of cannabis on neuropathic pain.”

Not only did he start using medical cannabis himself; he became an outspoken advocate and has offered support to legalization initiatives in several states.

“I experience neuropathic pain 24 hours a day because of my MS,” Williams said at the conference in L.A. “My physicians recommended cannabis as part of my treatment 17 years ago, and I’ve used it ever since. Only someone suffering from a debilitating disease can understand cannabis’ therapeutic value.”

The company will launch a product line of cannabis products, and promises consistent, standardized dosage by utilizing the most-current manufacturing/extraction technology available. LenitivLabs will service all states where cannabis is legal for medicinal use, and will expand to other states as legalization spreads.

LenitivLabs has put together a heavy-hitting—and rather interesting—advisory board that includes retired Vice Admiral Edward M. Straw, former congressman and pharmaceutical lobbyist Wilbert Tauzin, and R. James Woolsey, a former CIA director and ambassador. You may recognize Woolsey’s name from recent headlines after he joined Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

Wait, what?

This sounds like a potentially scary team—but it is a bunch who would not be afraid to give the Drug Enforcement Administration a ring to ask them to pull their heads out of their collective asses and reschedule weed at last. The DEA certainly isn’t listening to you or me.

Make it happen, Montel.


The Hound Is Coming to Get You!

To date, there has been little to no scientific research to definitely determine at which levels THC impairs driving ability. Law enforcement also has no way to test for marijuana influence beyond blood or urine tests, which would only determine that cannabis had been used some time in the last few weeks. That has made charging someone with driving while stoned difficult.

That’s about to change. (“But Sean, I drive better when I’m stoned!” No. You don’t.)

Introduced by Oakland-based Hound Labs, The Hound was field-tested recently with help from the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office. Drivers pulled over for erratic driving were asked to voluntarily submit to The Hound test for research purposes. The machine reportedly succeeded in detecting not only the presence of THC, but the actual levels of THC—accurately enough to gauge how recent use was. No drivers were charged, but those who had recently smoked were not allowed to drive immediately. One driver tested was arrested for drunk driving.

Dr. Mike Lynn, CEO and co-founder of Hound Labs, Inc., is also an emergency-room doctor and reserve deputy sheriff with the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office. “It is very rewarding, both professionally and personally, to identify the need for a product that will save countless lives, to develop the solution to an incredibly difficult scientific challenge, and then to create the product—the only marijuana breathalyzer that can measure THC in breath with results that match the best laboratory equipment,” said Lynn, according to a news release. “I feel very fortunate that I have been able to use my experience both as an active reserve deputy sheriff and as a practicing ER physician to create a device that affordably solves an escalating public health crisis.

“For the first time, communities across the country will have access to the science and technology required to tackle the growing costs that result from people driving under the influence of marijuana.”


Joy of Life Wellness Center Open for Business

There’s a new dispensary in town! Joy of Life Wellness Center began serving patients in early September. Founded by Crystal Fantasy owner Joy Brown Meredith, it is the sixth dispensary licensed by the Palm Springs City Council.

I had a chance to drop in on a recent Saturday afternoon. Joy of Life is located inside a modest-sized, clean, well-maintained building just off Indian Canyon Drive toward the north end of Palm Springs. There was one other patient waiting when I arrived, and two more shopping in the bud room. (Palm Springs requires a budtender for each patient.) I was greeted with a friendly welcome.

When my turn came, I got a chance to meet budtenders Sara (Joy’s daughter) and Justin. Justin gave me some great recommendations from their stock. The selection of edibles was a bit limited, but that’s to be expected with new shops. The flower, however, was primo. I picked up Khaleesi OG, Bubba’s Gift, Deep Sleep and some good old Hindu Kush, as well as a Bhang Bar for dessert. My first-time-visitor status also earned me a free gift (I took the grinder) and a free pre-rolled joint.

Joy of Life Wellness Center is located at 142 W. Oasis Road in Palm Springs.

Published in Cannabis in the CV

Many drivers loathe DUI checkpoints—especially drivers who have had a drink or two.

And that’s exactly the point: Drivers shouldn’t be behind the wheel when intoxicated. Arrests for driving under the influence can cost people more than $10,000 in fees and fines, plus jail time.

But that’s a small price to pay compared to the cost in lives due to DUI accidents. In 2014, nearly 10,000 people were killed by impaired drivers in the United States—with more than 800 of those deaths here in California.

On Friday, Aug. 12, I was allowed to tag along while the Palm Springs Police Department conducted a DUI checkpoint in the 2900 block of North Indian Canyon Drive. Sgt. Mike Villegas, the lead officer of the Traffic Division, was my host.

The night started with a 7 p.m. briefing at the police station. Villegas introduced me to his team of 11 detectives, officers, dispatchers and community officers.

“Be professional; be courteous; and be safe!” Villegas told his team before they embarked on what was, for most of them, their second shift that day. Funding for the checkpoints comes from a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Two hours later, the DUI checkpoint was completely set up, with a primary screening area, traffic cones, reflectors, generators, a DUI enforcement trailer, and a secondary screening area with tables, chairs, another trailer and several police cruisers.

By 9 p.m., Officer Art Enderle, Officer Barron Lane and Det. Miguel Torres had spread out at the path created by the traffic cones. The cops would introduce themselves, ask for the proper documents, and check to see if drivers were drinking that night.

It took only about 15 to 20 seconds to screen a car and its driver, so the line moved fast. Some of the drivers already had their licenses in hand before they were stopped at the checkpoint. 

Villegas came over and half-jokingly blamed Facebook for a quiet night so far. “Right now, friends tells friends on social media where our checkpoint is and how to avoid it,” he said.

At 9:26 p.m., Enderle, after checking the documents of a driver, yelled out: “Runner!” “Runner,” in the jargon, means a driver who’s going to the secondary screening area.

The protocol requires a community officer to drive the car there while the driver is escorted on foot. However, this does not necessarily mean the driver is suspected of driving under the influence; in this case, the driver didn’t have a valid driver’s license. 

Enderle issued him a citation, while Torres called the man’s relatives to come and pick up him and his car. Torres spoke in Spanish to the driver, who quietly sat a chair, seemingly remorseful. Torres is bilingual; his parents came from Mexico.

“My papa was working as a gardener; my mom was cleaning houses, and I always wanted to be a cop,” Torres said. He’s on his second shift for the day, working the DUI checkpoint as overtime—eventually working 17 hours that day.

At 10:45 p.m., Enderle stopped another driver without a valid driver’s license. This time, the screening approach was more rigorous—because the driver had a prior DUI.

Enderle gave him a blood-alcohol breath test. “Blow, and blow again,” Enderle said as the driver sat in a chair. The driver took the test without complaint and passed.

Standing by is Jamie Webber, of American Forensic Nurses, Inc. She’s a phlebotomist who has worked for 26 years with law enforcement, doing everything from blood draws to Taser-dart removals to DNA collections.

“Some time ago, we were on Tahquitz (Canyon Way), and a drunk driver actually crashed into a car in front of him at the DUI checkpoint,” she said. “He was so drunk and didn’t even see the checkpoint. After we pulled him out of the car he asked, ‘What happened?!’”

Back on Indian Canyon, well past midnight on what had become Saturday, Aug. 13, a driver of a luxurious Porsche Panamera nearly drove through the checkpoint.

“Stop! Stop!” officer Lane yelled. When the car finally stopped, Lane determined that the car reeked of marijuana. Both the driver, a woman, and the passenger, her son, were escorted to the secondary screening area on foot and then separated.

PSPD veterans Lane and Enderle conducted a DUI screening on the woman. Lane moved his point finger left and right in front of her face, asking her to follow his finger with her eyes. Lane then asked the woman to walk along a straight line, while Enderle stood behind her. The woman was unstable—but it appeared that the instability was because of a physical disability rather than intoxication. The woman was not arrested.

Villegas said the male passenger, a juvenile, admitted having a small amount of marijuana in the car. The minimal amount of marijuana was located during a search, and the young man was issued a citation for marijuana possession.

I briefly talked to the driver of the car. “I was so embarrassed by it,” she said about her son’s citation.

Around 1 a.m., Villegas and his team began to close down the checkpoint before gathering everyone and reciting the night’s data: “All 527 vehicles that passed through the checkpoint were screened. Eight cars were sent to secondary screening for further investigation. There were four citations issued, but no DUIs.”

Villegas said it’s a good sign that there were no DUI arrests that night: It means drivers were obeying the law.

But obviously, not everybody obeys. Villegas later tells me that from January through June of this year, Palm Springs police had arrested 132 drivers for driving under the influence, and there had been 46 DUI-related traffic collisions.

In those collisions, two people lost their lives.

Published in Features