Heavy and prolonged use of marijuana changes the way the brain functions and can lead to poor memory, according to a new study -- but the study only used 10 healthy people with a history of cannabis use (it also tested 15 young people with a history of cannabis use and schizophrenia). Even the lead researcher admits that the changes seen could have resulted in marijuana use, rather than the other way around.
The study is being played up heavily in the mainstream press, with many of the news accounts not mentioning that only 10 non-schizophrenic marijuana users were studied. With future policy debates likely to reference this study as a reason not to relax the laws around cannabis, the credulous acceptance and lack of critical coverage of the study is quite unfortunate.
The study, based on data obtained from teens and young adults, was conducted by researchers at Northwestern Medicine, reports Nature World News. Researchers said they found chronic cannabis use led to poor growth of the brain region associated with memories.
By Steve Elliott
Claims of a causal link between marijuana use and the development of schizophrenia have been some of the (literal) Reefer Madness claims hardest to extinguish, partly because of insistent coverage in the British tabloid press which actually led to the Brits re-criminalizing cannabis after briefly relaxing the laws. But yet another study, this one from Harvard Medical School, has found no association between smoking cannabis and going crazy.
Harvard researchers compared families with a history of schizophrenia to those without, reports John M. Grohol at PsychCentral.
"The results of the current study suggest that having an increased familial morbid risk for schizophrenia may be the underlying basis for schizophrenia in cannabis users and not cannabis use by itself," the researchers found.
According to the researchers, the new study is the first that "examines both non-psychotic cannabis users and non-cannabis user controls as two additional independent samples, enabling the examination of whether the risk for schizophrenia is increased in family members of cannabis users who develop schizophrenia compared with cannabis users who do not and also whether that morbid risk is similar or different from that in family members of schizophrenia patients who never used cannabis."
By Steve Elliott
Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods on Wednesday announced that its facility, located in Winnipeg, "aced" the British Retail Consortium (BRC) Global Standards Recertification. According to Manitoba Harvest, it is the world's largest hemp food manufacturer, growing, making and selling their own hemp foods.
The company improved a full "grade" from their first certification last year, according to chief executive officer and cofounder Mike Fata. "Improving our BRC Certification standing to 'A-Grade' showcases our commitment to continuous improvement -- especially when it comes to food safety and quality," Fata said.
"If a school had a hemp production program we'd already have our Ph.D.," Fata said. "Receiving a top grade in our recertification validates our team's commitment to quality."
BRC Certification is considered the world's leading food safety and quality certification program, and is used by suppliers in more than 100 countries.
To receive BRC Certification, Manitoba Harvest underwent a voluntary audit by a third-party certification body that ensures the production, packaging, storage and distribution of safe food and consumer products. The annual certification is meant to reassure retailers and consumers of the capability and competence of Manitoba Harvest's facility, and therefore the integrity of its products.
Celebrating their 15th year in business, Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods offers products like hemp hearts (raw shelled hemp seeds) and Hemp Pro 70 (hemp protein concentrate).
By Steve Elliott
With more and more older people being affected by neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Huntington's, a link has been found between excess levels of iron in the brain and neurodegeneration. Researchers in Brazil looked at how the cannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD) can help those suffering from such conditions.
The researchers, from Pontifical Catholic University, focused on the mitochondria, which are found in most cells and housed inside a membrane, reports Drake Dorm at MedicalJane.com. Mitochondria generate most of a cell's energy; they are often called the "cellular power plant." They control cell processes including apoptosis (programmed cell death).
It had already been found in previous studies that CBD is able to treat some symptoms of neurodegenerative disease, stopping immune cells from attacking the insulating covers of the nerve cells (myelin sheaths) in the spinal cord.
One problem associated with neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's is less energy at the brain's synapses, where neurons pass signals to each other. Excess iron seems to disrupt the dynamics of the mitochondria, causing them to initiate more cell death than usual.
By Steve Elliott
A scientist at the University of London's St. George School of Medicine has found that cannabinoids from marijuana can kill cancerous cells found in people with leukemia, a form of cancer which kills 24,000 people each year in the United States.
"Cannabinoids have a complex action; it hits a number of important processes that cancers need to survive," said study author Dr. Wai Liu, an oncologist, reports Matt Ferner at The Huffington Post. "For that reason, it has really good potential over other drugs that only have one function.
"I am impressed by its activity profile, and feel it has a great future, especially if used with standard chemotherapies," Dr. Liu said.
The study was recently published in the journal Anticancer Research. It was funded by GW Pharmaceuticals, which makes a marijuana-derived nasal spray, Sativex, that is used to treat spasticity caused by multiple sclerosis.
The study examined six different non-psychoactive cannabinoids, which unlike THC, don't get you high. The cannabinoids were examined alone and in combination; they displayed "a diverse range of therapeutic qualities" that "target and switch off" pathways, preventing cancer from growing, according to U.S. News and World Report.
By Steve Elliott
Marijuana is the least likely to elevate the risk of automobile crashes of all substances studied, according to research recently published in the scientific journal Accident Analysis and Prevention.
Scientists at Columbia University performed a study to determine the connection between drug use and fatal auto crash risk, reports Paul Armentano at the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). The authors reported that marijuana, at 1.83, had the lowest crash odds ratios of all substances identified.
Depressants were most likely to be associated with crash risk, with an estimated odds ratio of 4.83. Estimated odds ratios for other drug categories were 3.57 for stimulants, 3.41 for "polydrug use" (excluding alcohol), and 3.03 for narcotics.
The odds ratio for marijuana is similar to that reported in a 2012 meta-analysis of 66 separate studies which estimated that cannabis is associated with a "nominally increased" risk of accident, with an estimated odds ratio of 1.25. In that study, antihistamines (1.12) and the antibiotic penicillin (1.12) were close to cannabis in crash risk odds.
By Steve Elliott
Canadian medical marijuana company MediJean announced on Thursday it has developed a multifaceted program to help health care practitioners in the Great White North better understand the use of medical marijuana. The new program includes a Continuing Medical Education (CME) course, private cannabis medical communities, and a Health Care Practitioner engagement plan.
"Based on the discussions we are having with professionals in the health care sector and the research we have conducted, it is clear that Health Care Practitioners want more information on this innovative medicine," said Anton Mattadeen, chief strategy officer at MediJean. "We have a plan to help them."
The global perspective on medical marijuana is experiencing a transformation, as more people understand the health benefits of cannabis medicine. CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, illustrated this in his August 8 article, "Why I Changed My Mind On Weed." In this publication, Dr. Gupta said, "there are very legitimate medical applications [for marijuana]. In fact, sometimes marijuana is the only thing that works."
"MediJean recognizes that the medical community requires a wide body of accessible knowledge on medical marijuana in order to make more informed decisions prior to prescribing its use," reads a prepared statement from the company.
By Steve Elliott
MediJean, a bio-pharmaceutical medical marijuana company in Vancouver, B.C., Canada, on Tuesday released details on how the company is performing research and development around medical marijuana in Canada. The company is one of the first in Canada to get a research and development exemption from Health Canada that permits it to grow cannabis as part of the new Federal Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) program.
Home grows by Canadian patients are being phased out; those will no longer be allowed, and larger companies will commercially grow the medical cannabis supply, due to reorganization of the medical marijuana program by the Harper government.
The company said its R&D plans come from feedback and interviews with doctors, nurse practitioners and patients across the country who are calling for a scientific approach to medical marijuana.
MediJean said their commitment includes growing the knowledge bank that exists for cannabis. Currently they have their scientists performing research on the more than 200 "building block" cannabis strains that hold the most promise for medical marijuana products.
"We believe that through our systematic isolation of genotypes and marrying of diverse strains into products that can be tailored for specific disorders, that we can harness the power and diversity of this remarkable plant, and provide the best possible choices for our patients," said Anton Mattadeen, chief strategy officer at MediJean.
No Health Differences Were Found Between Daily Marijuana Users and Those Using No Marijuana
By Steve Elliott
Frequency of marijuana use is not measurably associated with the utilization of health services or with health status, according to findings from researchers at Boston Medical Center and Boston University School of Medicine.
As the most popular "illegal drug," the impact of cannabis upon health has become a hot topic as marijuana's legal status changes across the United States.
The researchers studied 589 adults who showed up positive for drug use at a primary case visit. Those patients were asked about their drug use, emergency room use and hospitalizations, and their overall health status. Information about other medical diagnoses was obtained from their medical records.
Researchers found the vast majority of the study sample -- 84 percent -- used marijuana. Twenty-five percent used cocaine, 23 percent used opioids and eight percent used other drugs. Fifty-eight percent reported using cannabis, but no other drugs.
No differences were found between daily marijuana users and those using no marijuana, whether looking at emergency-room visits, at hospitalizations, at medical diagnoses or at overall health status.
It is common for users of illicit drugs to use both cannabis and another drug, according to the researchers; therefore, knowing the incremental effects of marijuana upon health in such a situation is important.
By Steve Elliott
Doctors never believed that 7-year-old Jayden David, who suffers from epilepsy, would ever be able to make sounds, or to use his fingers to push buttons.
Some of his seizures lasted for more than an hour and a half, despite the 20 prescribed pharmaceutical pills -- including Phenobarbital, Topamax, and Depakote -- he took every day, reported Luana Munoz at Fox 40. The side effects were devastating, reported Lee Romney at the Los Angeles Times last year.
But his life changed when his father, Jason David, discovered medical marijuana with cannabidiol, or CBD, after hearing about a teenager who was expelled from school for using marijuana to help control seizures.
"Jayden's life was being tortured by pharmaceutical drugs and from seizures," Jason said. "Jayden was having seizures every day of his life until he was about 4-1/2. If he wasn't sleeping, he was seizing."
But in the 14 months since then, Jayden has been swallowing droppers full of a tincture which contains CBD. CBD, an important cannabinoid found in the marijuana plant, doesn't result in a "high" like THC, the well-known psychoactive component of cannabis.
Now Jayden's seizures are down by 80 percent, Jason said. "The doctors told me Jayden would never walk or talk."
By Steve Elliott
London-based GW Pharmaceuticals on Wednesday announced that it has started a Phase 1 clinical trial of a natural, plant-derived cannabinoid, GWP42006, for the treatment of epilepsy.
GW has been performing pre-clinical cannabinoid research in the field of epilepsy for the past five years in collaboration with the University of Reading in the United Kingdom. The research, according to GW, "has led to the emergence of a number of promising cannabinoid therapeutic candidates showing anti-epileptic effects."
GWP42006, seen by GW as one of the most promising of these candidates, is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid extracted from specific strains of the cannabis plant. The cannabinoid has shown the ability to treat seizures in pre-clinical models of epilepsy, with, according to the company, "significantly fewer side effects that currently approved anti-epileptic drugs."
"We are pleased to have advanced GWP42006 to first dose in man, a significant milestone in the development of this novel product candidate," said Dr. Stephen Wright, director of research and development at GW. "The decision to progress into Phase I follows several years of highly promising pre-clinical research."
"We believe that GWP42006 has the potential to become an important advance in the treatment of epilepsy, a condition for which there remains a substantial unmet medical need," Dr. Wright said.
Back to School: New Editions of DPA Publications Beyond Zero Tolerance and Safety First Offer Pragmatic Drug Education Strategies and Policies
As the school year kicks off, two Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) publications are offering reality-based approaches to drug education and school discipline for parents, teachers and administrators that provide guidance on:
• How parents can foster open and honest dialogue with their children around the risks and consequences of drug use
• How an interactive, participatory high school drug education and student assistance program operates
• How restorative practices work effectively in high schools and what steps are required for their adoption and use
Beyond Zero Tolerance: A Reality-Based Approach to Drug Education and School Discipline is a comprehensive, humane and cost-effective approach to high school drug education. A new, updated edition was released this month.
Most high schools in the U.S. address student drug use with “zero tolerance” policies that may include expulsion, suspension, exclusion from extracurricular activities, and even arrest. Proponents of these policies argue that harsh punishment will deter most youth from engaging in alcohol and other drug use -– yet national surveys show us each year that rates of teen drug use have remained consistent over the years, while graduation rates are disturbingly low.
By Steve Elliott
Marijuana's rising popularity is behind an increase in pot use among Americans, including young adults as well as those in their 50s and 60s, according to a recently released national survey.
Cannabis is the most popular illegal substance in America, and it only increased its popularity from 2007 to 2012, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, reports Emily Alpert at the Los Angeles Times. More than a fifth of young adults said they had used "illicit drugs" in the previous month, with almost 19 percent of adults 18 to 25 saying they recently used marijuana.
The surge of marijuana use was especially strong among Baby Boomers in their late 50s, whose rates of "illicit drug use" rose from 1.9 percent in 2002 to 6.6 percent in 2012. Researchers say the Boomers are taking their lifelong propensity for drugs into that age group.
A majority of respondents told the Pew Research Center in a poll earlier this year that pot should be legal.
Though marijuana use is on the rise, many other drugs have fallen in popularity or remained about the same. Cocaine was less common in 2012 than in 2006, with only one percent of Americans saying they've used it in the past month. Fewer than 640,000 people said they had started using cocaine in the past year, compared with a million new users in 2002.
By Steve Elliott
New Zealand's first cannabis museum is opening, featuring more than 100 books, articles, photographs and displays. The facility also includes space for community groups, recording facilities, and a movie projector.
Legalise Cannabis House in Dunedin, where the museum is located, is becoming the national headquarters of the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party and includes a broadcasting studio and computer equipment for running the organization's political campaigns.
"Cannabis is such a taboo subject, but New Zealand has the highest [cannabis consumption] rate in the Western world per percentage of population; we are like the most stoner country in the West," said Legalise Cannabis House Manager Abe Gray, reports Hamish McNeilly at the Otago Daily Times.
Gray stressed that no marijuana is on display, but users are encouraged to visit Dunedin's 4:20 protests which are featured in the museum.
"There will be no cannabis smoked or sold in the house," Gray said. "There will only be information."
The protests began on the campus of the University of Otago in mid-2004 when people began gathering under a walnut tree near the Union Building at 4:20 p.m. each Friday to support cannabis law reform.
"We had to have a museum because we had so much memorabilia about the 4:20s," Gray said.
The protests were a magnet for tourists, and the museum is likely to draw crowds, as well, according to Gray.
By Steve Elliott
Twenty-five years ago today, on September 6, 1988, an administrative ruling determined that marijuana has accepted medicinal uses, and for that reason it ought to be reclassified under federal law.
Drug Enforcement Administration Chief Administrative Law Judge Francis Young, in the ruling, determined: "Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man. By any measure of rational analysis marijuana can be safely used within a supervised routine of medical care."
"It would be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious for DEA to stand between those sufferers and the benefits of this substance in light of the evidence in this record," Judge Young continued in the ruling, "In the Matter of Marijuana Rescheduling."
"The administrative law judge recommends that the Administrator conclude that the marijuana plant considered as a whole has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, that there is no lack of accepted safety for use of it under medical supervision and that it may lawfully be transferred from Schedule I to Schedule II [of the federal Controlled Substances Act]."