Thursday, December 29, 2016

Cyber-Attack on Nevada’s MMJ Program Registry


Nevada’s medical marijuana application system leaked the personal information of nearly 12,000 registry applicants. The state shut down the medical marijuana portal on Dec. 8 after a “problem” was identified and opened an investigation into the issue, a state spokeswoman said last week.
Those vulnerabilities were corrected and the division was “given the go ahead” to restore the online portal on December 15th 2016.
Then after becoming aware of the most recent data breach, the state has just closed the medical cannabis establishment portal for the second time this month. The portal houses those documents, as well as medical cannabis cardholder information. Nevada’s medical cannabis program uses BioTrackTHC seed to sale software system.

“The entire portal has been taken down,” Division of Public and Behavioral Health Administrator Cody Phinney said in a news release Wednesday afternoon.

A spokesperson for the Nevada Dept. Health and Human Services, which runs the medical marijuana application program, told technology news site ZDNet that the website was pulled offline to limit the vulnerability. Each eight-page application calls for the person’s social security number, driver's license number and full address in addition to details like height, weight and eye color, ZDNet reported.

A glitch in the state’s medical cannabis program portal on Nevada’s government website made all information on the thousands of applications accessible to the entire internet. Security researcher Justin Shafer first discovered the site’s vulnerability — which allows anyone with either a legitimate application or the correct web address access to the revealing PDFs — after a simple Google search.

The spokesperson for the Nevada Dept. Health and Human Services  added that the leaked data was a "portion" of one of several databases.

The state’s medical cannabis program website portal reports the following:

ONLINE PATIENT REGISTRY TEMPORARILY DOWNOur apologies, the online patient registry is temporarily down.  It will be restored as soon as possible.  While the online patient registry is down, renewal applications can be requested by the means listed below: 1.       Email a request to:  mmregistry@health.nv.gov2.       Fax a request to: 775-684-32133.       Mail a request to: 4150 Technology Way, suite 101, Carson City, NV 89706

Nevada legalized medical cannabis in 2000 with uses limited to cancer patients and those with HIV and AIDS as well as other chronic conditions. In the most recent election, the Silver State joined California, Massachusetts and Maine in legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes.

Related Story:

Tracking BioTrackTHC.

Photo Credit: BioTrackTHC
By Jason Barker (Medical Cannabis Patient & Organizer -LECUA Patient’s Coalition Of New Mexico)
BioTrackTHC’s primary focus is a point-of-sale software system for medical and recreational cannabis. The system includes compliance with state regulations, and it says it enables streamlined grow facility location tracking, inventory tracking, patient management, point-of-sale system and account reporting.  

Established in 2010, BioTrackTHC hopes to be global leader in cannabis traceability technology. As providers of both business management and government oversight software, BioTrackTHC provides experience necessary to navigate regulations and enforce compliance across varying landscapes according to their website.

BioTrackTHC is a division of Bio-Tech Medical Software, Inc. A Florida based company founded in 2007, for development of biometric e-prescribing software system for hospitals, healthcare providers, and pharmacies to track pills like opioids. BioTrackTHC charges it’s more than 1,600 clients, with software costs from $250 to $1050 a month for use, plus a $1,500 set-up fee of its software depending on the size of the cultivation facility and dispensary. Data entry requirements are intense enough that BioTrack recommends every business hires another full-time employee to keep up.

With offices now in Denver, Colorado, and Washington state whose team members boast over 50 combined years in the medical industry. “This vast level of knowledge offers us a significant edge in the cannabis market. We have been developing software to advance industries and patient rights for nearly a decade and now we are ready to bring that same level of understanding and determination to the cannabis industry.” -Steven Siegal, CEO. Now, operating in over 20 different states and in 4 countries.

BioTrackTHC has recently been under fire from cannabis growers and dispensary owners in several states. Those who pay thousands of dollars a year for the software service, still say it could be significantly improved.

Tai Saito, the compliance and warehouse manager for Buddy Boy Farms in eastern Washington state, said a major problem for his company – which pays roughly $430 a month to BioTrackTHC for its commercial version – is that it doesn’t automatically sync with the free platform. That means an employee has to manually synchronize the two systems on a weekly basis to ensure that the inventory the farm is entering is also updated in the state system. That was a glitch he didn’t realize until a state inspector asked about it, “We could have been written a violation due to some technical issue in BioTrack that we had no idea about,” he said in a March 2016 interview with MJBizDaily.

Department of Health officials in Washington state report on their web site in early July 2016 that some third party commercial traceability software systems are requesting patient information. Such as: conditions, history, and notes. In other words, that there had been a potential breach of patient confidentiality within a week of the patient database's launch, which is what the department spent a year and a half assuring residents of Washington would not happen.

At a recent August training session for ‪‎BioTrackTHC‬ held in Eureka, California, the instructor spelled “‪‎Humboldt”‬ wrong (he forgot the D), his response when this was pointed out - "I didn't think people in Humboldt could read!"...

A few medical cannabis dispensaries in Albuquerque, New Mexico have even had days where they had to close early due to BioTrackTHC software operational issues. I saw first hand, working in a dispensary in Albuquerque, of the software program issues and how it even caused a delay in availability of medical cannabis products for patients.  And recently in New Mexico, an increasing number of medical cannabis patients with the new BioTrackTHC microchip ID card, have had problems being told they have exceeded allowable limits or “units”. Thus, being prevented from buying medicine when they should be allowed to.

These problem with the seed-to-sale providers, like BioTrackTHC, is that they all require extensive data entry. Often the data entry needs to be duplicated to be entered into the state system, which is sometimes not integrated. Add to that the logistics of managing an all cash business, and you have the makings of the nightmare that is a growers or dispensary owner’s life. Not to mention the challenge of using an inventory system for a product that evaporates and falls off without any sale or theft. T-shirts rarely evaporate, so they are either on the shelf, sold, or stolen. Cannabis, however, will evaporate while it’s in the safe storage waiting to be sold — like Houdini with a skunk smell.

Addressing these challenges with a much needed user-friendly software update is a must for BioTrackTHC. Along with a better understanding of the Emerald Triangle and the crucial role it’s played in cultivating the industry it now does business in.   And easing integration between programs to index and track licensed cannabis farmers’ plants to make sure none go missing on their way from grow facility to dispensary to medical patient. That requires effectively tracking the barcodes affixed to the plants, as well as making sure the data can be exported to business software programs such as QuickBooks or Excel.

These kinds of controls are designed to keep cannabis business owners on the right side of the law, and also let them run the rest of the business knowing these systems are in place. For example, if cannabis needs to be tested for heavy metals,  mold, and bacteria before sold. The system will not allow the product to be placed on a updated manifest for sale, unless it has valid test results associated with it. One may argue that there is no real market for this level of sophistication needed for a simple plant. The cannabis industry already has more technology than almost any industry out there as it developed under prohibition.

A few other POS business systems listed on Google for the cannabis industry include Greenbits and MJ Freeway. Another app tool, FlowHub, includes the ability to use iPhones and iPads to scan bar codes.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Survey Says… Higher Learning Needed at Dispensaries

Photo Credit:MJbizdaily

Do you trust budtenders at your local dispensary? Many medical cannabis patients tend to rely on staff at a dispensary to offer recommendations on the best possible strain or cannabis product to treat their respective health condition. A new report finds that most dispensary employees actually have very little training on what they are talking about when it comes to connecting sick people with the right form of cannabis. Scientists have found that only 55% of dispensary employees, surveyed in the study, had received any formal training for their current positions. The other 45% hadn’t had any formal educational training on cannabis or cannabis products at all.

As a medical cannabis patient myself, I encountered this exact situation on Christmas Eve day while in a medical cannabis dispensary.  Witnessing a dispensary employee advising a medical cannabis patient of how there is no real medical value to dabs. Now here in lies the irony, I was placing my order for CBD BHO and some indica BHO and was pretty close to needing to use it on the spot…the dispensary provides a suggestion box and it was utilized.

The report just out, titled “Training and Practices of Cannabis Dispensary Staff”, this December in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, was conducted by California researchers and found that only 20 percent of the employees who received training were taught specialized medical or scientific information. But nearly all (94 percent) of staff gave dosage recommendations to patients.

The staff members studied worked at both medical or non medical cannabis dispensaries in Colorado, California, Arizona, Oregon, District of Columbia, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Maine. Only 20% have any medical background on the health effects of marijuana, and just 13% had received any education on the science of the medical cannabis, researchers have found. Furthermore, some of the dispensary employees in the study had made suggestions to people who were purchasing medical cannabis that wasn’t appropriate for treating their customers’ conditions, said lead study author Nancy Haug, a professor at Palo Alto University in California.

From the report researchers have found that 13% of the employees studied said they had suggested types of cannabis that had high levels of THC to patients who intended to use the cannabis for anxiety treatment. However, previous research has shown that THC may actually worsen anxiety, Haug told Live Science. THC was also suggested by 7% to treat epilepsy, when studies have shown that CBD oil may work better, Haug stated.

Participants were asked by the researchers about their job duties and whether they had training related to their job, and what types of cannabis they usually suggested to people with particular conditions.

Research findings reveal more focus on sales training with 35% of the dispensary employees having had received customer service training and 26% had received business training. While only 20% had received medical training, and 13% had received scientific training. Another 20% had received some other type training that might have involved cannabis education. Almost 100% of the participants said that they had given advice to customers. That advice included suggesting which strains of cannabis they should use and offering advice to the customers on the benefits of cannabis for particular symptoms. The participants said the most common symptoms reported by their customers were chronic anxiety, pain, and insomnia.

Employees were also more likely to suggest cannabis with high levels of CBD and equal ratios of THC to CBD for people with epilepsy and muscle spasms rather than suggesting cannabis with high levels of THC. Results have shown that dispensaries should formally train their employees. This education should be based on findings from up-to-date scientific literature on cannabis, Haug stated.
It’s not all bad news though.  

In Washington, the state requires all licensed and medically endorsed cannabis retail stores to have a certified medical cannabis consultant on staff to work with patients. Many fully-accredited universities are now offering cannabis training courses. Schools like the University of Colorado, Oregon State University, Santa Clara University and The Ohio State University offer some cannabis courses that cover issues like cannabis business financing, cannabis economics, consumer demographics and job creation.
The American Cannabis Nurses Association (ACNA) and TMCI have collaborated to develop the first comprehensive online medical cannabis curriculum available.. Topics include the Endocannabinoid System, Dosing, Psychiatry, Medical Risks and Legal Implications. The curriculum features 12 lessons from 11 different authors available online by The Medical Cannabis Institute. Another great educational resource is by a company called Green Flower Media. It’s an online educational platform that provides courses people can take. Live streams of events, some really exciting work with summits. Their presentations are streamed all over the world, where people can ask questions and engage on an interactive platform.

Seed to consumption national quality standards also now exist for the medical cannabis industry thanks to the 2011 collaboration of Americans for Safe Access, the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA), and the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia (AHP). This unique collaboration combines the expertise of ASA, the nation’s largest medical cannabis patient advocacy organization; AHPA, the principal U.S. trade association and voice of the herbal products industry since 1982; and the AHP, an organization that has developed qualitative and therapeutic monographs on Western herbs since 1994. The result is that patients, healthcare providers, lawmakers, regulators, and medical cannabis businesses now have the tools they need to ensure reliable, high-quality hemp, medical cannabis, and medical cannabis products.

The study concluded that employees were more likely to suggest cannabis with equal ratios of CBD to THC for people with PTSD, anxiety, Crohn’s disease, or Trauma rather than suggesting cannabis that have high levels of THC. This is in line with what experts suggested, the researchers stated.

Still, the main takeaway from the study is that a lot more work needs to be done in order to get dispensary workers trained to provide professional guidance to those looking for help. Educational standards can also play a key role in keeping dispensaries from over regulation and looking like the bland pharmacy at a grocery store.  The cannabis industry is the fastest growing industry in America, education and understanding of medical cannabis should be a cornerstone for business owners and their employees alike. “If you’re not actively making your community a better place, then you’re passively making it worse”, says Rachael Speegle, Registered Nurse and dispensary owner in New Mexico.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Cannabis is Sports Medicine: Concussions, CTE, and Traumatic Brain Injury

Photo Credit: Vapexhale

Currently, there is no effective drug for the treatment of traumatic brain injury, CTE and concussions. In the U.S., there are nearly 52,000 deaths and roughly 80,000 cases of severe disability related to traumatic brain injury every year. There are more than 5.3 million people in the U.S. living with disabilities related to traumatic brain injury — numbers far greater than those for multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease.

What is the most common sport causing head injury?
Football accounted for 47,000 of those head injuries, and baseball played a role in 38,394. Cycling was also the leading cause of sports-related head injuries in children under 14, causing 40,272 injuries, roughly double the number related to football (21,878).  

Concussions are also sometimes referred to as mTBI (Mild Traumatic Brain Injury). Concussions are injuries to the head which cause a temporary lapse in the normal operation of brain function. Concussions have many symptoms which could be displayed in a physical, psychological or emotional manner.

In recent years, the clear link between playing football and traumatic brain injuries has been prevalent in the sporting world news.  After a  2013 NFL settlement of $765 million for concussion-related injuries, and new lawsuits springing up as more research comes out, it is more clear than ever that action needs to be taken against such brain injuries.

In 2015, concussion-related injuries were in the spotlight, primarily as a result of the major motion picture – “Concussion”. The movie, based on a true story, highlights the findings of Nigerian-born forensic neuropathologist, Dr. Bennet Omalu, who researched the connection between concussions and what is now known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).  His research created an onslaught of scrutiny toward the NFL and has been the catalyst for a class-action lawsuit between the National Football League and thousands of former players.

CTE is a progressive degenerative disease caused by repetitive trauma to the brain. Symptoms include memory loss, migraine headache, confusion, impaired judgment, paranoia, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, and progressive dementia. The brain degenerates even after the trauma has ended and can appear months or years after the trauma has ended. Because of the feelings of depression that are linked to CTE, those afflicted may experience thoughts of suicide.

In recent years, too many professional athletes have already been lost to this, who have committed suicide and were suffering from CTE.  In 2013, former NFL star and Pro Football Hall of Fame Inductee, Junior Seau, took his own life with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest. It was later discovered that he suffered from CTE. Football players are not the only athletes that experience thoughts of suicide due to traumatic brain injuries. BMX pro — the world’s most well known cyclist and X Games Superstar, Dave Mirra, also ended his life by suicide. Those close to him were shocked by his actions and it was found that CTE played a role, as reported by ESPN earlier this year.

Dr. Dustin Sulak, DO, says, “Cannabis could potentially be beneficial to all sports, but especially those with high risk for head injury, because it can likely protect participants from the long term consequences of concussion and brain trauma.”

THC and other naturally occurring cannabinoids act on brain injury as a general neuroprotective agents with antioxidant properties, which can have crucial roles in treatment of Concussions, CTE and Traumatic Brain Injury.  Post-concussion syndrome is symptoms that can linger following a concussion. Studies have shown cannabis reduces damage caused from brain injuries and can help athletes manage the symptoms of the syndrome.

By definition, neuroprotection is an effect that may result in salvage, recovery or regeneration of the nervous system, its cells, structure and function. It is thought that there are many neurochemical modulators of nervous system damage. An antioxidant is a molecule that inhibits the oxidation of other molecules. Oxidation is a chemical reaction that can produce free radicals, leading to chain reactions that may damage cells. Antioxidants such as thiols or ascorbic acid (vitamin C) terminate these chain reactions. That’s right, just like vitamin C - THC and CBD all do the body good.

These cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants are also why the U.S. Patent Office issued patent #6630507 to the U.S. Health and Human Services Department. The patent lists the use of certain cannabinoids found within the cannabis plant as useful in additional neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and HIV dementia.

Since cannabis contains compounds recognized and endorsed by an agency of the U.S. government- Why is it that cannabis remains on the Federal Schedule One list of drugs?
As this patent is a direct contradiction of the government’s own definition for the classification of a Schedule I drug and it should provide the professional sports world reason enough to allow for the use of cannabis.

The non-psychoactive part of cannabis known, as CBD, also has the potential to treat and even prevent concussions. The NFL should set an example by investing in cannabis research to see how it can help improve the health of its players. The new studies have found that certain properties in cannabis can help shield the brain from injury. Like all cannabinoids, CBD helps the body by imitating the endocannabinoids produced in the body as part of the endocannabinoid system, and has also been found to have the potential to reduce inflammation in the brain when brain trauma occurs.

Former Super Bowl champions Marvin Washington, Scott Fujita and Brendon Ayanbadejo helped start a conversation two years ago,  calling on the NFL to incorporate medical cannabis in their strategy for treating and preventing concussions. Eugene Monroe continued the debate earlier this year when he became the first current player to call on the NFL to look at the benefits of medical cannabis. He has since been joined by Derrick Morgan.  The NFL has a strict no-drug policy but the program is often not taken seriously by its players, ironically the league’s selection for the yearly drug policy’s mandated test starts on April 20th.

Currently, only the state of Illinois has approved medical cannabis for the treatment of post-concussion syndrome. However, in Washington D.C., any condition can be approved for medical cannabis as long as a DC-licensed physician recommends the treatment. In addition, a number of other states will consider allowing medical cannabis to be used for the treatment of post-concussion syndrome with the recommendation from a physician. These states include: California (any debilitating illness where the medical use of cannabis has been recommended by a physician), Connecticut (other medical conditions may be approved by the Department of Consumer Protection), Massachusetts (other conditions as determined in writing by a qualifying patient’s physician), Nevada (other conditions subject to approval), Oregon (other conditions subject to approval), Rhode Island (other conditions subject to approval), and Washington (any “terminal or debilitating condition”).

Also many states have approved medical cannabis specifically to treat “chronic pain,” which can develop from post-concussion syndrome. These states include: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont. The states of Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio and Vermont allow medical cannabis to treat “severe pain.” The states of Arkansas, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Washington have approved cannabis for the treatment of “intractable pain.”

Athletes and professional sports leagues in general have a large influence on our culture, as of 2012 Americans spent $25.4 billion directly on professional sports.  And if these leagues change their policies on cannabis, they can make a major league impact to help change the way people think about cannabis, how it is used and the people who use it.  If the NFL were to finance this research into cannabis for Concussions, CTE and Traumatic Brain Injury -the potential impact reaching into future generations is tremendous. Not only would the league attempt to cure a major medical question that plagues modern sports, but it could potentially set a precedent in professional sports world,  pushing cannabis research forward to fully discover the whole plant’s potential.

The looseness of the NFL’s current cannabis policy, as well as Commissioner Goodell’s recent statement that the league is willing to support research into cannabis for medical uses specific to football injuries, suggest that this possibility is becoming a viable future option.

We need to continue developing our understanding of cannabinoid neurobiology in order to most effectively utilize the numerous therapeutic properties of cannabis. We can then unleash the full spectrum of benefits cannabinoids, the therapeutic effects and synergistic terpenoids are able to provide and discover innovative new treatments that could quite possibly help the millions of people who continue to suffer from Concussions, CTE, and Traumatic Brain Injury.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Renewable Resources to Reform the State and it’s Budget Deficit

Cannabis, Hemp, Geothermal Energy, Solar, Wind and a paid State Legislature.
By Jason Barker - medical cannabis patient & advocate with LECUA Patients Coalition of New Mexico

New Mexico’s economy continues to be one of the slowest growing economies in the country.  The state budget shortfalls for 2016 totals near $600 million, and this slow economic growth by the state reveals too much dependence on the federal government and oil revenues. The special session called for the state legislature only resulted in more cuts to the budget and party politics taking away from the purpose of the special session.

Those sources of New Mexico's economic malaise provide funding for Education, Veterans Programs,  Police/ Firefighter Funding, and Health and Human Services programs like Medicaid.  New Mexico is also a state where half of all New Mexicans are on medicaid or medicare.

New Mexico is ranked as the worst-run state in the country with some of the worst social and economic outcomes. Only a handful of states struggle with similar levels of extreme poverty as New Mexico. More than one in every 10 households in the state earns less than $10,000 each year, the second highest proportion after Mississippi. The state also struggles with one of the nation’s highest violent crime rates. Close to 600 violent crimes are reported each year per 100,000 state residents, one of the highest rates nationwide.

Of the three most crucial budget demands upon the state: Public Schools, Medicaid, and Higher Education. Combined they are the true economic and social multiplier with the greatest opportunity of success for the state’s residents and the state’s economy.

The state has the renewable resources to potentially provide 1,000 times more clean energy than the Public Service Company of New Mexico’s current demand, according to the state Energy Conservation and Management Division.  

The state of New Mexico should legalize cannabis and hemp to first and foremost start paying the state legislators.  A hybrid state legislature: Meeting for most of the year and pays the legislators as full-time employees. They can serve the constituents much better because of their extended time in office and ability to devote more time to each issue. New Mexico is the only state with a unsalaried legislature. Some lawmakers such as Democratic Rep. Antonio Maestas say a salary would increase the pool of talent to fill the seats.  Maestas says few people can afford to serve in a citizen Legislature.  Political Action Committee’s growth and influence in New Mexico politics has more than doubled in the last 10 years.  All the larger municipalities and counties in New Mexico provide salaries for city councilors and county commissioners.

We have a paid rather than volunteer fire departments, law enforcement, health-care workers, and teachers, to name a few. The reason is that we rightly expect increased reliability, productivity, and professionalism when we pay for services as opposed to them being provided voluntarily.

Providing funding for a paid legislature and state budget reform can be achieved with cannabis and hemp legalization; in conjunction with the utilization of solar, wind, and geothermal energy sources. Hemp is refined into products such as hemp seed foods, hemp oil medicine, wax, resin/plastics, rope, cloth, pulp, paper, and fuel. This will create jobs, has vast potential for the state universities to benefit, and creates a new business market to keep college graduates in New Mexico.

Colorado cannabis tax revenues now greatly exceeds original estimates of $70 million per year. Canada has had industrial hemp since 1998, and farmers there have reported net profits of $200 to $250 per acre. Most Canadian hemp is exported to the United States. The Colorado Tourism Office reports that 12% are visiting Colorado dispensaries and 5% specifically due to cannabis legalization there. The activities that cannabis tourist reported engaging in included: sightseeing and wine tours, historical sites, hiking, camping, mountain biking, winter snow sports, nightlife, festivals and farmers' markets, according to the survey.  All great activities we have in New Mexico with a Balloon Fiesta to boot.
New Mexico can be a leader and pioneer in cannabis, hemp,  and the sciences of medical cannabis. We need to define a policy model for cannabis legalization by regulating and taxing cannabis like herbal and nutritional supplements. And by combining the high standards of alcohol regulation specific to the craft brewery regulations we have in New Mexico. As all use of cannabis has true therapeutic and medical benefits and the state budget can benefit from it under proper regulation. Legalization Is About Freedom And Good Health, Not Greed.