By Steve Elliott
One common refrain from those opposed to medical marijuana is that its legalization would increase use among adolescents, but a new study indicates that's just not true.
According to the study from Rhode Island Hospital, which compared 20 years of data from states with and without medical marijuana laws, legalizing cannabis for medicinal use did not lead to any increased use among adolescents, reports ScienceDaily. The study is published online and will be in the upcoming print issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health.
"Any time a state considers legalizing medical marijuana, there are concerns from the public about an increase in drug use among teens," said Esther Choo, M.D., attending physician in the department of emergency medicine at Rhode Island Hospital. "In this study, we examined 20 years' worth of data, comparing trends in self-reported adolescent marijuana use between states with medical marijuana laws and neighboring states without the laws, and found no increase in marijuana use that could be attributed to the law."
"This adds to a growing body of literature published over the past three years that is remarkably consistent in demonstrating that state medical marijuana policies do not have a downstream effect on adolescent drug use, and we feared they might," Choo said.
By Steve Elliott
Students who smoke only marijuana do better at school than classmates who smoke only tobacco, or who smoke both tobacco and marijuana, according to a new study which tracked substance use among teens over a 30-year period.
Scientists at the University of Toronto's Dalla Lana School of Public Health looked at data from a survey given to nearly 39,000 Ontario students between 1981 and 2011, reports Andrea Janus at CTV News. Students in Grades 7, 9 and 11 were asked by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health about their tobacco and marijuana use, and about their academic performance.
Cannabis-only users did better at school than their peers who smoked only tobacco or who smoked both tobacco and cannabis. The findings reflect the fact that fewer students smoke tobacco now than was the case 30 years ago, and those who do make up a "marginalized, vulnerable" population, according to the study's lead author, Michael Chaiton, assistant professor of epidemiology and public health policy.
Almost all the tobacco users -- 92 percent -- also use cannabis, according to the study. However, only one in four marijuana smokers (25 percent) also used tobacco.
"It's better relatively," Chaiton said of marijuana smokers' academic performance. However, marijuana users didn't outperform non-users, Chaiton said -- but neither did non-users outperform marijuana users.
By Steve Elliott
Inhaling whole-plant marijuana provides relief from the symptoms of Parkinson's disease, according to observational trial data published in the March/April 2014 issue of the scientific journal Clinical Neuropharmacology.
Scientists at Tel Aviv University's Department of Neurology looked at Parkinson's symptoms in 22 patients at baseline, and again 30 minutes after inhaling cannabis, reports NORML.
The researchers reported that inhaled marijuana resulted in "significant improvement after treatment in tremor, rigidity, and bradykinesia (slowness of movement). There was also significant improvement of sleep and pain scores," the Israeli researchers noted. "No significant adverse effects of the drug were observed."
"[T]his observational study is the first to report an amelioration of both motor and non-motor symptoms in patients with PD treated with cannabis," the researchers reported. "The study opens new venues for treatment strategies in PD especially in patients refractory to current medications."
Israel has allowed the licensed production, distribution and medical use of cannabis since 2011.
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.