Research

National Academies of Sciences Confirms Marijuana's Benefits, Dispels Myths

The National Academies of Sciences released a report on the health impacts of marijuana Thursday, confirming the existence of medical benefits and dispelling some long-held myths about the substance.

The review of more than 10,000 scientific abstracts found, “There is conclusive or substantial evidence that cannabis or cannabinoids are effective” for the treatment of chronic pain in adults, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, and multiple sclerosis spasticity.

The report also dispels several myths about the health impacts of marijuana. It found no links between smoking marijuana and the development of lung, head, or neck cancers, nor did it establish a link between marijuana use and asthma or other respiratory diseases. The respiratory problems that it did link to smoking marijuana, such as bronchitis, appear to improve after the consumer ceases their use.

According to the report, “There is no or insufficient evidence” linking marijuana use to all-cause mortality (death), deaths from overdose, or occupational accidents or injuries. It also found no substantial evidence of a link between the use of marijuana and the use of other illegal drugs. The report also does not appear to make any links between marijuana use and violent or aggressive behavior. Several of these findings were also included in the National Academies of Sciences’ previous report on marijuana, which was released in 1999.

 

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Medical Marijuana||Research

Maryland Medical Marijuana Seminars This Week - Free for Physicians

Our allies at Patients Out of Time, in partnership with the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission and the Maryland Cannabis Industry Association, pot-2015-logoare hosting two half-day seminars about medical marijuana and the endocannabinoid system this week — one in Columbia and one in La Plata. Registration is required and the events are free for physicians.

Medical Cannabis 101: The Physician’s Primer

Maryland Pharmacists Association
9115 Guilford Rd., Suite 200
Columbia, MD 21046
Thursday, October 22, 9:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Click here to register

University of Maryland Charles Regional Medical Center
5 Garrett Rd.
La Plata, MD 20646
Friday, October 23, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Click here to register

Both of these events will feature Dustin Sulak, D.O., who will touch on the literature on endocannabinoid physiology, clinical applications of cannabinoids, and share his experience overseeing 18,000 medical marijuana patients in New England. Mary Lynn Mathre, RN, MSN, CARN, President of Patients Out of Time, will also speak on the history of medical cannabis and the discovery of the endocannabinoid system. Eric Sterling, a member of the Maryland medical marijuana commission, will speak at the Columbia event about the programs details. These events will be particularly beneficial for Maryland physicians, so please send this along to any doctors you know in the state.

You can visit Patients Out of Time for more information on the events. For more details on Maryland’s medical marijuana program, please visit the Medical Cannabis Commission’s website.

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Medical Marijuana||Prohibition

Arizona Prosecutor's Ignorance Interferes With Treatments For Five-Year-Old Patient

[caption id="attachment_7097" align="alignright" width="219"]Weltons Jennifer, Zander, and Jacob Welton[/caption]

Jacob and Jennifer Welton have filed a suit against the state of Arizona to allow their five-year-old son to be allowed to take marijuana extracts for his seizures disorder. Arizona has already passed a medical marijuana law, which permits qualifying patients to use any preparation of marijuana in their treatment. However, local providers have ceased carrying his medicine after warnings from the local prosecutor.

Maricopa County prosecutor and named defendant in the suit, Bill Montgomery, believes that the law only permits marijuana, not extracts of marijuana. He derives his argument from a complete misunderstanding of the Arizona law and an ignorance of the science behind medical marijuana.

In the past, Zander has consumed dried and ground marijuana mixed with applesauce for treatment. The extract is both more appetizing and more efficient, due to its high concentration and very low levels of THC compared to the other beneficial cannabinoids.

Bill Montgomery has responded to the Welton’s suit by directing them to the state legislature, which would have initiated a long and unnecessary process according to Dan Pachoda, the ACLU attorney representing the Weltons:

The normal thing is not going to the Legislature when some prosecutor is improperly, and, in our view, illegally interpreting a law that clearly decriminalized not only marijuana but things made from marijuana.

Bill Montgomery’s actions contravene the law and common sense. He is preventing a child, who is already taking medical marijuana, from taking a better, less psychotropic form of medicine. He is misinterpreting the laws of his own state and misunderstands the concept of marijuana as medicine. He is waging a political battle against parents who are fighting for the health of their child.

If you want to tell Bill Montgomery what you think about his position on this issue, you can reach him at 602-506-3411 or email him at maricopacountyattorney@mcao.maricopa.gov.

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Research

More Anti-Cancer Properties of Marijuana Revealed

[caption id="attachment_7012" align="alignright" width="180"]Dr-W-Liu1 Dr. Wai Liu[/caption]

Studies have shown that marijuana not only helps fight the symptoms of treating cancer but also the disease itself. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, often gets the credit for battling cancer cells, but a new study shows that THC isn’t working alone. The study conducted at St. George’s University of London, led by Dr. Wai Liu, examined six non-hallucinogenic chemicals found in marijuana, called cannabinoids. The study found that each of these chemicals showed anti-cancer properties as effective as THC. Furthermore, when these chemicals are used in combination, they have an even greater impact on cancer cells.

The anti-cancer properties of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary hallucinogenic component of cannabis, has been recognised for many years, but research into similar cannabis-derived compounds, known as cannabinoids, has been limited.

Of six cannabinoids studied, each demonstrated anti-cancer properties as effective as those seen in THC. Importantly, they had an increased effect on cancer cells when combined with each other.

Dr Liu said: “This study is a critical step in unpicking the mysteries of cannabis as a source of medicine. The cannabinoids examined have minimal, if any, hallucinogenic side effects, and their properties as anti-cancer agents are promising. These agents are able to interfere with the development of cancerous cells, stopping them in their tracks and preventing them from growing. In some cases, by using specific dosage patterns, they can destroy cancer cells on their own.”

Opponents of medical marijuana often claim that the drug is unnecessary because of synthetic drugs like Marinol. However, Marinol contains only THC and none of the other cannabinoids proven to fight cancer, so it delivers only a fraction of the benefits that medical marijuana has to offer.

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Research

NIH-Funded Study Shows Cannabinoids Effective for Treating PTSD

Despite a previous lack of clinical data to support their claims, thousands of people suffering from PTSD have reported finding great relief from their symptoms by using marijuana. Now there is some research to add to the anecdotal evidence.

Patients’ gravitation towards marijuana inspired researchers at New York University Langone Medical Center to examine the brain’s response to cannabinoid (CB1) receptors, a first-of-its-kind study, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

They found that when an individual consumes some of the cannabinoids found in marijuana, CB1 receptors are activated in the brain, impairing memory and reducing anxiety, a blessing for those scarred by past events. With this information, scientists hope to manufacture a “CB1 equilibrium”-promoting, trauma-targeting drug.

It should be noted that NIH departments rejected a study proposal in 2011 that sought to test the effects of whole-plant marijuana on a group of veterans suffering from PTSD.

Currently, New Mexico, Delaware, and Connecticut explicitly allow PTSD as a qualifying condition to use medical marijuana, and a bill to do so will likely pass in Oregon this year. Doctors in California and Massachusetts may recommend medical marijuana for PTSD patients if they think it will ease debilitating symptoms.

 

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Research

How Will Mainstream Media Spin This Government Study?

The Rorschach Inkblot test asks people to make up stories about ambiguous pictures. Rorschach’s hope was that the tales people told about each blot would reveal something about personal predilections and an approach to the world. Well, our friends at the National Institute on Drug Abuse have just published a nice inkblot test for the media. The experiment, “Tolerance to Effects of High-Dose Oral D9-Tetrahydrocannabinol and Plasma Cannabinoid Concentrations in Male Daily Cannabis Smokers,” is about (you guessed it!) developing tolerance to THC. We’ll see how media handle the implications of the results. It’s either a reassuring result for those concerned about safety on the roads or a chance for misguided alarms about purported dependence.

The experimenters drafted 13 guys who were experienced cannabis smokers to stay in the lab for several days. Each day, they had to swallow more and more Marinol. Marinol is pure THC in a pill, but without the cannabinoids and various compounds found in whole plant cannabis that mitigate the psychotropic effects of THC and perform other beneficial health functions. Many people have reported that Marinol left them far more impaired than plant cannabis, undoubtedly for this very reason. In fact, one guy dropped out “for personal reasons” and another “due to psychological reactions to THC.” These guys had smoked marijuana at least 1,000 times, so I’m guessing that they would have had a handle on “psychological reactions to THC” if they’d been allowed to (heaven forbid!) use their own stash. But the dosage was nothing to sneeze at — 120 mg of THC per day — or the equivalent amount of THC as three joints of decent medical cannabis in the U.S.

Why use Marinol instead of vaporized cannabis? As the authors proudly assert, “Many patients take oral cannabinoids daily for weeks or months with persisting beneficial clinical effects.” Yes. It is now okay for researchers at NIDA to say that oral cannabinoids are good. They mean Marinol, of course, but explaining why this wouldn’t apply to edibles is going to take quite the pretzel twist of logic. Stay tuned.

So what happened? As the title suggests, subjective reactions dropped dramatically in a few days. The guys were only about half as “high” by day five as they were on the first day of taking Marinol. But the amount of THC in their blood remained the same. That’s the definition of tolerance — a decreased effect with the same dosage. So the same guy with the same amount of THC in his blood felt fewer effects on one day than he did a couple days before.

What does this mean? Ah! That’s the real Rorschach Inkblot test for the media. What it really means is that tolerance to the subjective effects of THC is a lot like the tolerance we see for prescription drugs like Vicodin and other over-the-counter drugs like Benadryl. Folks who feel high at first don’t feel it after a few doses. It’s not much of a leap to assume that these effects correlate with motor skills. All the worry about medical users screwing up at work is probably misplaced; they’ll be tolerant after a few doses. And per se driving laws that suggest that a certain amount of THC in the blood means someone is definitely impaired are on thin ice. Different people with different levels of tolerance will react differently to the same dosage.

But Vicodin and Benadryl are not the center of fierce and emotional debates about driving. Antihistamines and prescription opiates alter subjective states. They can impair performance on the road, too, but their subjective effects decrease after a few doses. Notice that you don’t see widespread debate about how much of each of these drugs you’re allowed to have in your blood when you sit behind the steering wheel. Why should cannabis be any different?

As an aside, roadside sobriety tests that require actually doing something (standing on one foot, walking a straight line) are a good indicator of how well people can drive. They certainly beat the number of nanograms of metabolites of cannabis, Vicodin, or Benadryl per unit of blood. They’re also sensitive to conditions that have nothing to do with drugs, like fatigue or illness. But if the media mention any of these points, color me surprised.

What will the media do instead? I’m guessing here, and I hope I’m wrong. But I bet they’ll scream, “Tolerance! Oh no! That means THC leads to dependence.” This little logical leap is quite elegant. Alarmists might use these data to say that THC must be likely to cause dependence. Of course, one symptom does not make a dependence diagnosis. And we might actually have to think a minute about why tolerance is a symptom of dependence in the first place. With toxic drugs like alcohol and tobacco, the more you ingest, the more you hurt yourself. So tolerance to these drugs means people take more to get the same subjective effect, leading them to more and more damage. For alcohol and tobacco, this means greater risks of cancer, for example. But THC’s toxicity has been hard to find without elaborate equipment looking intensely at dinky portions of the brain after multiple years of use. And some of these studies end in big surprises. For example, two years of exposure has made rodents more likely to stay alive and less likely to get tumors, which is the exact opposite of toxicity.

So, we’ve discovered that the subjective effects of THC decrease after repeated doses. The finding’s unambiguous, but the stories people will tell about it could be as different as responses to an ink blot. Unfortunately, this ambiguity could end up having serious implications as states continue to experiment with alternatives to marijuana prohibition.

 

Dr. Mitch Earleywine is Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University at Albany, State University of New York, where he teaches drugs and human behavior, substance abuse treatment and clinical research methods. He is the author of more than 100 publications on drug use and abuse, including “Understanding Marijuana” and “The Parents’ Guide to Marijuana.” He is the only person to publish with both Oxford University and High Times.

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Prohibition

Polish Lawmaker Stands Up for Marijuana Rights

Earlier today, Polish lawmaker and philosopher Janusz Palikot announced that he was going to smoke a joint in Parliament to kick off a campaign to make marijuana possession legal in Poland. Right now, police have the choice of arresting people or simply ticketing them for possession of small amounts of marijuana. Palikot wants all penalties removed, and he is willing to walk the walk.

Don’t you wish we had politicians like this in the United States?

This plan did not sit well with fellow MP and speaker Ewa Kopacz, who immediately informed the prosecutor of Palikot’s plan.

That sounds a little more like what we’re used to over here.

The prosecutor’s reaction was also pretty familiar to those who have experienced the workings of marijuana prohibition. Even though the joint that Palikot ended up lighting was not even marijuana but some sort of cannabis incense (hopefully not the synthetic cannabinoids like K2 or Spice we’ve all been hearing so much about), he could be charged simply for talking about smoking real marijuana. Apparently in Poland, it is illegal to advertise or promote the substance, which the prosecutor alleges is what Palikot did today. He could face up to a year in prison for this act of political theater.

This sort of reaction definitely sounds familiar, and it came as no surprise to Palikot:

"I want to condemn the hypocrisy concerning marijuana consumption," Palikot told reporters. "Someone said they would smoke a joint in parliament and the reaction was tantamount to someone announcing a coup d'etat."

Poland is one of several European countries that are reviewing their drug laws and taking steps to soften their marijuana policies. Most recently, lawmakers in Copenhagen, Denmark introduced a bill that would allow for possession and sales of marijuana within certain areas of the city

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Prohibition||Research

Running, Research, and Reform

Feb 22, 2011 Kate Zawidzki

cannabinoids, DEA, federal obstruction, NIDA, Research, running, treaty

I remember reaching mile 26 of The Western Hemisphere Marathon and thinking blissfully “this feels great!” For some runners, it might have even felt familiar. Sure enough, researchers throughout the world are illuminating the important role of the cannabinoid system in our experience of altered states like joy and the “runner’s high.” As a recent NY Times article mentions, a strenuous run on a treadmill increases the body’s own natural cannabinoids. Rodents with an impaired cannabinoid system don’t seem to hike around the cage as much as those with a normal system. Other work in the past decade has received less press, but shows that cannabinoids can protect brain cells against certain forms of injury, play an important role in sleep, and alter inflammation and pain. This is all good news. I can’t help wonder, however, if we wouldn’t be much further along in this research under other circumstances.

How much has prohibition against cannabis stymied research? The world may never know. International treaties have made the plant illegal everywhere, but attitudes vary across nations. The U.S. has been at the forefront of scientific research in many areas, but not always with cannabis. In fact, federal obstruction of research has made the U.S. lag far behind many countries in the field of cannabinoid medicine. The THC molecule and the cannabinoid receptor were first identified in Israel. Links between cannabinoids and Alzheimer’s were established in Spain. Work on THC’s inhibition of atherosclerosis appeared in Switzerland. We certainly do interesting work on this topic in the U.S., too, but I think we’ve fallen down dreadfully in the study of medical marijuana in real live people. What’s the best strain for headache? Nausea? Insomnia? We don’t know.  Despite American ingenuity and a huge underground market with thousands of strains, anyone who wants to give cannabis to people in a U.S. laboratory is essentially stuck with the one type available through the National Institute of Drug Abuse. We’re only now learning the import of cannabidiol and the host of cannabinoids other than THC, in part because of the quick jump to the study of a synthetic version that developed out of fear of stems and leaves.

International research has revealed that cannabinoids are key to an astounding number of bodily functions. They show promise for battling cancer and preserving our hearts and minds. An end to prohibition could free up so much work. The potential for discoveries is truly staggering. But time waits for none of us. The sickest of the sick need this work done as quickly as possible. We can’t let old laws developed in another era impair the research of today.

No one should go to jail for owning a green weed. No one should suffer from illness because a government fears a plant.

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Medical Marijuana

New Study Further Debunks Marijuana-Cancer Link

Prohibitionists continue to shout whatever they can to frighten voters. As more and more U.S. citizens realize that current marijuana laws do more harm than good, the misinformation is going to get stranger and stranger. Just watch.

One classic cry is that marijuana might cause cancer. Recent work out of Brown University actually reveals quite the opposite. Researchers gathered hundreds of people from Massachusetts who had head or neck cancers and compared them to similar people from the same neighborhoods who had no cancer. Despite the reefer-madness rants, those who had used marijuana for a decade or two were significantly less likely to develop these cancers than those who did not use marijuana.  In fact, their rates of cancer were less than half the rate among non-users. Anything else that cut the rates of cancer in half would be hailed as the newest wonder drug for tumor prevention.

As Dr. Bob Melamede explained almost five years ago in a delightful article from Harm Reduction Journal, cannabinoids inhibit tumor growth, so marijuana can’t cause cancer. Cannabinoids show promise for battling cancer, not creating it.

So the next time you meet another misinformed prohibitionist squealing about marijuana causing cancer, feel free to spread the word.

Dr. Mitch Earleywine is Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University at Albany, State University of New York, where he teaches drugs and human behavior, substance abuse treatment and clinical research methods. He is the author of more than 100 publications on drug use and abuse, including “Understanding Marijuana” and “The Parents’ Guide to Marijuana.” He is the only person to publish with both Oxford University and High Times.

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Research

Marijuana Component May Help Treat Heroin Addiction

Dec 02, 2009 Kate Zawidzki

addiction, cannabidiol, cannabinoids, CBD, heroin

The Journal of Neuroscience just published a new study that is particularly interesting in light of recent reports that marijuana may effectively substitute for abuse of more dangerous drugs.

In the new study, rats were taught to self-administer heroin and conditioned to associate that behavior with a light that flashed on above the lever that dispensed the heroin. At various stages in the procedure, some of the rats were treated with cannabidiol (CBD), a cannabinoid that doesn’t make you high, but which has a number of really interesting properties.

CBD didn’t have any effect when given to the rats who were actively dosing themselves with heroin, but it had a marked effect on rats who had been abstinent from heroin for two weeks. These rats-in-recovery were again shown the cue light, and those who hadn’t been given CBD immediately resumed pushing the heroin lever, seeking a dose of the drug. But in the CBD rats, this heroin-seeking behavior was markedly reduced – and the effect continued for a full two weeks after the last CBD treatment.

The researchers conclude, “CBD may be a potential treatment for heroin craving and relapse.” It might also imply that high-CBD strains of marijuana could be preferable for those who are trying to stay off of other drugs.

Ah, but how do you know if the marijuana you’re buying is high in CBD (which is probably not the case most of the time)? Well, if it were a legal, regulated product, marijuana could be labeled for cannabinoid content – just like that bottle of wine now tells you, “alcohol 13.8%” or whatever. What a concept.

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