Pages tagged "Research"


Medical Cannabis News Roundup

News about medical cannabis from around the nation - or, everything you missed if you were reading about the unjust federal action targeting Harborside Health Center.
  • Government-sponsored study destroys DEA’s classification of marijuana - The Raw Story
  • Visa and Mastercard Reject Medical Marijuana Purchases - Vibe
  • Oregon Kills Medical Marijuana deduction for food stamp applicants - The Oregonian
  • Does Medical Marijuana Increase Teen Pot Use? - Wall Street Journal
  • CO federal dispensary crackdown widens scope with subjectivities - Examiner.com
  • California pot research backs therapeutic claims - Sacramento Bee
  • Backers of Arkansas medical marijuana legalization need more signatures - The Republic
  • Owner Of First U.S. Marijuana Pharmacy Now Broke And Fighting IRS - Forbes
 

Medical cannabis researcher explains recent scientific review

The article "Medical Marijuana: Clearing Away the Smoke" by Grant, Atkinson, Gouaux, and Wilsey published this month in Bentham Science's 5-year-old, peer-reviewed, National Library of Medicine-indexed and internationally edited Open Neurology Journal represents a major milestone in the consolidation of knowledge and regularizing of clinical practice with regards to the medicinal use of cannabis.

The authors, well-established faculty members or associates at leading American academic medical centers, have yet again reviewed the gold-standard clinical trials-based evidence for medical uses of cannabis and related cannabinoids and have found:

  1. that it is inaccurate to say that cannabis lacks medical utility or that information on its safety is lacking

  2. that judgments on relative benefits and risks of cannabis and cannabinoids as medicines need to be viewed within the broader context of risk-benefit of other standard agents as well, many of which are associated with more serious adverse events, and

  3. that enough information and clinical experience exists that an algorithm can be constructed to guide decision-making for physicians who may be considering recommending medicinal cannabis to patients with neuropathic pain, which the authors offer.


The authors conclude that "it will be useful if marijuana and its constituents can be prescribed, dispensed, and regulated in a manner similar to other medications that have psychotropic effects and some abuse potential" and state that marijuana's Schedule I classification is scientifically untenable and the greatest barrier to forward movement in this area of medicine and medical science. This conclusion is made all the more noteworthy given that the article's first, second, and fourth authors disclose at the end of the manuscript that they have served as consultants and received financial support from major pharmaceutical companies.

Americans for Safe Access is part of a lawsuit challenging the DEA’s scheduling of marijuana as without any currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. Download our lawsuit at http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/CRC_Appeal.pdf

Sunil Aggarwal, M.D., Ph.D., PGY-3, is a Housestaff Physician at NYU Medical Center and conducts research on the medical geography of cannabis.

DEA’s Leonhart says “We will look at any options for reducing drug addiction,” but what about medical marijuana?



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Administrator Michele Leonhart has created quite a controversy with her comments on medical marijuana made last Wednesday during a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) House oversight hearing. From her bumbling response to Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) on the issue of addiction and comparing medical marijuana to the harmful effects of other Schedule I substances like heroin or methamphetamine, to her commonsense response to Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) on leaving the question of medical marijuana treatment, “between [a patient] and his doctor,” Leonhart illustrated her illogical approach to medical marijuana as a public health issue.

Notably, toward the end of Rep. Polis’s examination, he asked Leonhart if she was “willing to look at the use of medical marijuana as a way of reducing abuse of prescription drugs,” given that reducing prescription drug abuse is the DEA’s top priority. Leonhart candidly responded:
We will look at any options for reducing drug addiction.

Well, Administrator Leonhart, you’re in luck. There is indeed evidence that shows patients using medical marijuana to reduce or eliminate their addictive and often-harmful pharmaceutical drug regimen.

Just this month, eminent medical marijuana researcher Philippe Lucas, M.A. published an article in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs called, “Cannabis as an Adjunct to or Substitute for Opiates in the Treatment of Chronic Pain.” According to Lucas, “Evidence is growing that cannabis [medical marijuana] can be an effective treatment for chronic pain, presenting a safe and viable alternative or adjunct to pharmaceutical opiates.”

As if directly addressing Leonhart’s statement to Rep. Polis, and her concern over prioritizing prescription drug addiction, Lucas notes that:
Addiction to pharmaceutical opiates has been noted by the medical community as one of the common side-effects of extended use by patients (such as those suffering from chronic pain), and a growing body of research suggests that some of the biological actions of cannabis and cannabinoids may be useful in reducing this dependence.

Lucas further argues that, “[R]esearch on substitution effect suggests that cannabis may be effective in reducing the use and dependence of other substances of abuse such as illicit opiates, stimulants and alcohol.”
As such, there is reason to believe that a strategy aiming to maximize the therapeutic potential benefits of both cannabis and pharmaceutical cannabinoids by expanding their availability and use could potentially lead to a reduction in the prescription use of opiates, as well as other potentially dangerous pharmaceutical analgesics, licit and illicit substances, and thus a reduction in associated harms.

Another article on the effects of medical marijuana “substitution” was published in December 2009 by the Harm Reduction Journal. Researcher Amanda Reiman MSW, PhD notes that medical marijuana patients have long been engaging in substitution by using it as an alternative to alcohol, prescription and illicit drugs. In a study Reiman conducted with 350 medical marijuana patients, she found that 40 percent reported using medical marijuana as a substitute for alcohol, twenty-six percent reported using it as a substitute for illicit drugs, and nearly 66 percent use it as a substitute for prescription drugs.
[S]ixty five percent reported using cannabis as a substitute because it has less adverse side effects than alcohol, illicit or prescription drugs, 34% use it as a substitute because it has less withdrawal potential…57.4% use it as a substitute because cannabis provides better symptom management.

If Leonhart is serious about combating prescription drug abuse, she should heed the conclusions of researchers like Lucas and Reiman and pay attention to the evidence. Answers to two important public health concerns -- medical marijuana and prescription drug abuse -- lie at her feet waiting to be addressed.

Medical Marijuana Reading - June 11th 2012

Catch up on the latest news about medical marijuana throughout the county.
  • Feds Attack California’s Medical Marijuana Trade - Again (Reuters)
  • Mass. Medical Marijuana Opponents Mobilize Efforts (Bloomberg)
  • Report: Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Not Linked to Neighborhood Crime (US News and World Report)
  • Cedars-Sinai Again Denies Transplant to Medical Marijuana Patient (Opposing Views)
  • DEA Raids Sacramento Pot Shop (SacBee)
  • New blog by Hearst Media - Smell the Truth.

Medical Cannabis helps ALS Patient Outlive Support Groups and Neurologists

Guest blog by Jahan Marcu. Cathy Jordan was on a panel with Jahan Marcu at the Cannabis Therapeutics Conference in Arizona.  Before taking the stage, she discussed the medical use of cannabis for ALS with the Vice Chair of ASA's Medical and Scientific Advisory Board. Cathy Jordan first noticed something was wrong in summer of 1985 when she couldn’t pick things up. Her muscles weren’t responding. A year later, in 1986 she was diagnosed with ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis). ALS is a disease characterized by the death of motor neurons leading to loss of limb control, breathing, swallowing, speech, and widespread cellular dysfunction. Most cases of ALS are sporadic; it is not a viral or autoimmune disease. “Most people (ALS patients) start using a feeding tube because they are afraid of choking to death”, says Cathy. After her diagnosis, she was given an expiration date; In 1986, she was given 3-5 years to live/die according to her neurologist,  Dr.Fink. Nearly 3 decades later she is still alive, living with ALS. “All my docs are retiring or dead, I’ve outlived 5 support groups and 4 neurologists,” said Cathy. This actually posed a problem for Cathy, who basically lost her social security benefits because she lived passed her expiration date. The state of Florida said her ID and regular documentation wasn’t good enough to prove she was alive and to continue to receive benefits. She had to ask her neurologist at the time, to fill out paperwork to prove she was still alive. Mrs. Jordan began using Cannabis from a Florida grower to treat her ALS in the late 80’s. “Donny Clark provided my medicine, grown in the Myakka River Valley…he was busted and sentenced to life in prison, and that strain of Cannabis was lost. Years later he was pardoned on the last day of the last term of President Clinton,” says Cathy, “You know they say the fountain of youth is in Florida, maybe it was something in the soil that made this plant help me…I don’t understand why Doctors wouldn’t study me—I want to know why this is helping me.” At first Doctors would not accept Cathy’s marijuana smoking and extended life span. Regardless of what she did, “a UPENN doctor told me bluntly, I would die either from suffocation or drowning in my own fluid.” Other Doctors also thought that smoking anything would impair her lung function, and threatened to have this paralyzed women committed because she must be crazy if she thought Cannabis was helping her. “I visited a neurologist at Duke University…when I told him that I was smoking Cannabis he turned into PeeWee Herman. He didn’t know what to do with me, he was afraid. He wouldn’t even take my blood pressure because I was using an illegal drug.” “I asked my docs: would you like a drug that is neuroprotective, an antioxidant, and an anti-inflammatory?,” says Cathy, “They then said Yes and asked me if I knew of one. I said yes, [it’s] Cannabis.”   There are ALS patients associations that fight for the right of patients to die with dignity, “But what about my right to life?” says Cathy. “Keeping my medicine illegal removes my right to life.” Nearly three decades later, the science has caught up with this patient. Scientists created a mouse with ALS, which was very exciting for Cathy. Research has shown that THC and other cannabinoids can benefit mice with ALS. The mounting evidence of cannabinoids halting the progression of ALS has started to change the attitudes of Doctors, prominent researchers have recently called for ALS clinical trials with Cannabis or cannabinoids. “They all agree today that I should smoke Cannabis,” says Cathy, “26 years later my original neurologist, fought [successfully] to make sure Cannabis is legal for patients in Delaware.” Researchers think Cannabis may help ALS patients relieving pain, spasticity, drooling, appetite loss, and has minimal drug-drug interactions and toxicity.

A cancer cure in waiting

When people ask why I’m certain the federal laws preventing medical use of cannabis must change, my answer is simple: cancer. Curing it is the holy grail of modern medicine, and cannabinoids hold the most promise.

The latest study showing the cancer-fighting properties of one of the constituent components of the cannabis plant is out of Italy, where University of Naples researchers demonstrated that cannabidiol, better known as CBD, helps prevent the spread of colon cancer in an animal model of the human disease. Since colon cancer affects millions of people, this is a big deal.

But it’s not big news.



Many, many other studies have demonstrated that CBD’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions, as well as its ability to inhibit the breakdown of the body’s own endocannabinoids, have a cancer-fighting effect. CBD has been shown to kill glioma cells (the most deadly form of brain cancer), reduce the growth of lung and breast cancer cells, and inhibit the spread of cancer. And that’s just CBD.

Add in THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis available by prescription in synthetic form as dronabinol or Marinol, and scientists have demonstrated that the plant holds the potential to fight or prevent cancers of the breast, prostate, skin, lung, uterus, cervix, pancreas, mouth and biliary track, as well as leukemia, neuroblastoma, thyroid epithelioma, and gastric adenocarcinoma. All by selectively targeting cancerous cells and leaving healthy cells alone.

That’s in contrast to conventional cancer treatments that largely work by creating a toxic environment in the body with the hope that it kills the cancer before it kills the patient. And as hard as chemotherapy and radiation treatments are to tolerate, cannabinoid treatments have exceptionally low impact.

Now, to be clear: we’re not talking about a patent-medicine approach that says cannabis will cure whatever ails you, and there have been no clinical studies done with cancer patients that would show us anything conclusive one way or another.

But there is a mountain of evidence that the immune-modulating function of cannabinoids has everything to do with regulating how our bodies respond to cancers of all varieties. And it’s worth noting the federal government’s own National Cancer Institute recently published a guide for physicians that noted the cancer-fighting properties of cannabinoids and stated that cannabis could be a tool for controlling the disease.

Five days of media attention later, the NCI removed that particular bit of guidance, but what we now know about the mechanisms of cannabinoids on cancers raises significant questions about when best to use cannabis therapeutics. Most wait until the disease reaches an advanced stage, and for them the role of cannabis or dronabinol is almost entirely palliative – a tool to ease the suffering and nausea. But we have compelling evidence that cannabinoids exercise a profound prophylactic effect – potentially preventing cancers from developing in the first place.

So will people with family histories of cancer or other risk factors benefit from cannabinoids? Maybe. There are population studies that suggest so, but general results cannot predict outcomes for a particular individual. In other words, consuming lots of cannabis won’t necessarily protect you. Bob Marley died of cancer, after all.

How much might help is a serious question. We know that many of the actions of cannabinoids are dose-specific, but without qualitatively different research, we can’t know how much might be optimal to achieve any particular biologic objective, even if we know categorically that cannabis is non-toxic and well-tolerated.

Will we see that research soon? Seems likely. There’s a Nobel prize in it for someone. Sure, there are political and economic barriers. But it’s a politics of fear and an economics of greed. Neither can survive with millions of lives in the balance.

Ironically, given the vast economic engine prohibition has wrought, cannabinoids are problematic for pharmaceutical company profits, since plants are not novel compounds they can patent for the purpose of extracting return on their research investment. That means real clinical research, the kind that can develop the cancer treatments current studies promise, requires massive public funding.

Devoting hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to cannabis every year may seem daunting. But we already do.

We just spend it on eradication and incarceration instead of research and development.

_________________________________
Research study discussed:
Aviello G, et al. Chemopreventive effect of the non-psychotropic phytocannabinoid cannabidiol on experimental colon cancer. Journal of Molecular Medicine. 2012 Jan 10.

ASA’s booklet on Cannabis and Cancer

Cannabis Use Among Youth not Increased by Medical Marijuana Legalization



Today at the American Public Health Association's (APHA) Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington, D.C., Esther Choo, M.D., M.P.H. of Rhode Island Hospital will present findings from a study exploring whether legalizing cannabis for medical use in Rhode  Island increases its recreational use among Rhode Island's youth. While many opponents of medical cannabis claim that medical cannabis programs "send the wrong message to those in our society who are the most impressionable" or increase cannabis's appeal and accessibility for teenagers, the study's findings show that this is in fact not the case. Comparing the self-reporting results of 32,570 students in Rhode Island and Massachusetts between 1997 and 2009, Dr. Choo and her fellow researchers found no significant difference between youth use in the two states and concluded that there have been no "increases in adolescent marijuana use related to Rhode Island's 2006 legalization of medical marijuana."

RAND Buckles to Political Pressure on Medical Marijuana



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Los Angeles-based study issued less than a month ago by the RAND Corporation, which analyzed levels of crime around the city’s medical marijuana dispensaries, has been pulled as a result of political pressure. Warren Robak of the media relations department at RAND recently said:
We took a fresh look at the study based in part upon questions raised by some folks following publication.

One of the loudest voices to question the RAND study was staunch medical marijuana opponent, Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich. RAND said that:
The L.A. City Attorney’s Office has been the organization most vocal in its criticism of the study.

Indeed, in media interviews the City Attorney’s Office called the report’s conclusions “highly suspect and unreliable,” claiming that they were based on “faulty assumptions, conjecture, irrelevant data, untested measurements and incomplete results.”

Evidence of the influence and pressure of “politics” over “science” is no starker than this.

On September 20, RAND issued a study that analyzed crime data from more than a year ago. According to a statement from RAND, the study “examined crime reports for the 10 days prior to and the 10 days following June 7, 2010, when the city of Los Angeles ordered more than 70 percent of the city’s 638 medical marijuana dispensaries to close.” Researchers analyzed crime reports within a few blocks around dispensaries that closed and compared that to crime reports for neighborhoods where dispensaries remained open. In total, RAND said that, “researchers examined 21 days of crime reports for 600 dispensaries in Los Angeles County -- 170 dispensaries remained open while 430 were ordered to close.”

If that doesn’t seem thorough and “to-the-point” enough, RAND senior economist and lead author of the study Mireille Jacobson concluded that:
[RAND] found no evidence that medical marijuana dispensaries in general cause crime to rise.

Notably, this conclusion directly contradicted the claims of medical marijuana opponents such as Trutanich.

However, this is not the first time politics has trumped science with regard to medical marijuana. There has been a long history of this in the United States. One of the more recent examples occurred only a few months ago when the National Cancer Institute (NCI) revised its website on medical cannabis after being pressured by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a federal agency which is responsible for obstructing meaningful research into medical marijuana. After adding cannabis to the list of Complementary Alternative Medicines (CAM) and recognizing the plant’s therapeutic qualities, NCI was urged to revise its statements. As a result, references to research indicating that cannabis may be helpful in subduing cancer growth were removed.

Although RAND called its study “the first systematic analysis of the link between medical marijuana dispensaries and crime,” Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck previously conducted his own study a year earlier. Chief Beck compared the levels of crime at the city’s banks with those around its medical marijuana dispensaries. Beck found that 71 robberies had occurred at the more than 350 banks in the city, compared to 47 robberies at the more than 500 medical marijuana facilities. Beck at the time concluded that, “banks are more likely to get robbed than medical marijuana dispensaries,” and that the prevalent law enforcement claim of dispensaries inherently attracting crime “doesn't really bear out.”

The RAND study also affirmed what Americans for Safe Access (ASA) had already concluded by way of qualitative research, that crime is normalized or reduced in areas near medical marijuana dispensaries. Numerous public officials interviewed by ASA stated in a report re-issued last year that by regulating dispensaries their communities were made safer.

When will objective science on medical marijuana be honestly and thoroughly considered without the intrusion and constraints of politics? As a decades-old institution, RAND should stand by its research and not buckle to political pressure.

RAND Corporation says dispensaries don't cause crime



UPDATE October 11 - The RAND Corporation bowed to politcal pressure for the LA City Attorney's Office and removed this study "until the review is complete." Ironically, the RAND Corporation's wen site says that "RAND is widely respected for operating independent of political and commercial pressures." Apparently not in every case!

The RAND Corporation, an influential public policy think tank, issued a report today debunking the commonly-held misperception that medical cannabis dispensing centers (MCDCs) attract crime to the neighborhoods in which they are located. In what the authors call “the first systematic analysis of the link between medical marijuana dispensaries and crime,” the right-leaning RAND Corporation found no evidence that hundreds of MCDCs in Los Angeles caused an increase in crime. The report echoes research conducted by Americans for Safe Access (ASA) and the experience in communities nationwide. Policy makers should see this groundbreaking report as a green light to adopt sensible regulations to protect legal patients and communities – while preserving safe access to medicine.



The RAND Corporation report surveyed crime statistics around six hundred MCDCs in Los Angeles County, but failed to find any correlation between the facilities and an increase in crime. In fact, the report showed an increase in crime in some communities only after MCDCs closed. This would not be a surprise for Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck, who told Los Angeles City Council Members in 2010 that "banks are more likely to get robbed than medical marijuana dispensaries," and the claim that MCDCs attract crime "doesn't really bear out."

The misperception that MCDCs attract crime has serious consequences for patients. In California, where medical cannabis has been legal for fifteen years, lawmakers recently voted to bar legal MCDCs from locating within six hundred feet of residential uses or zones - on top of an existing statute that bars the facilities from being the same distance from schools. The rationale? Public safety. Onerous regulations in Colorado, Arizona, New Jersey, and other states stem from the same bias. The RAND Corporation report is a welcome answer to this pervasive misconception.

Medical cannabis is legal in sixteen sates and the District of Columbia, but stigma and disinformation too often stymie regulations that could make the good intentions of voters and lawmakers a reality for patients. Policy makers should listen to what the RAND Corporation has to say today about crime and MCDCs, and to what ASA has been saying about the necessity of well-regulated community-based access to medical cannabis since 2002. We must put aside the groundless assertion that MCDCs attract crime, and move quickly to fully implement state medical cannabis laws.

Download a copy of the RAND Corporation report, “Regulating Medical Marijuana Dispensaries: An Overview with a Case Study of Los Angeles Preliminary Evidence of Their Impact on Crime.”

Download a copy of ASA’s report, “Medical Cannabis Dispensing Collectives and Local Regulation.”

Long-banned Alar (Daminozide) Shows Up on Hydroponic Store Shelves Before Being Removed Again



 

 

 

 

In 1988, DEA Administrative Law Judge Francis Young ruled that, “Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man.” And, although the DEA ignored Judge Young’s recommendation to reclassify the plant from its federal status as a dangerous drug with no medical value, smoking cannabis remains relatively benign with little-to-no side effects.

That said, it’s important to understand certain safety consequences with regard to cultivating cannabis, especially in light of its increased commercialization in medical marijuana states. As an example, in May the States of California and Oregon removed from the retail hydroponic market several popular flowering additives after the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) found them to contain high levels of long-banned Daminozide (Alar), a known “probable” human carcinogen.

A subsequent Freedom of Information Act request yielded the concentrations of Daminozide in products such as Flower Dragon, Phosphoload, and Top Load. Two other products quarantined in the CDFA sweep, Emerald Triangle Bushmaster and Gravity, were found to contain Paclobutrazol, which has been listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as moderately hazardous and banned for use in many European countries.

According to G. Low, author of Integral Hydroponics and the one who filed the recent FOIA request, “In field situations, Paclobutrazol has a half-life ranging from 3 to12 months, but could persist as long as 3 years.” G. Low added that:
Both Paclobutrazol and Daminozide are systemic products with long withholding periods, meaning that it is likely to remain residual in harvested produce when used to cultivate a short-term deciduous crop (i.e. cannabis). What these toxins do under combustion when ingested into the lungs is a completely unknown factor. However, the Material Safety Data Sheet for Paclobutrazol states that when it’s heated to decomposition it emits toxic fumes.

Daminozide was banned in the U.S. in 1989 for use on any consumable crop. Calling Alar a “potent human carcinogen” at the time, 60 Minutes ran a program that exposed the widespread use of Alar by U.S. apple growers.

So how did known carcinogens find their way back onto the market?

In each instance, these popular products were marketed to cultivators as containing organic actives (e.g. “kelp”, “rare earth elements”, “citrates”, “humatic isolates,” etc.) and sold in retail hydroponic stores throughout the U.S.

So that patients do not unwittingly become pawns in an increasingly commercial market driven by quantity and efficiency, as opposed to safety, the patient community must demand responsible cultivation methods, limiting the use of harmful pesticides, herbicides and other toxic adulterants.