30 September 2011

Only global action will halt deadly drug gangs, UN narcotics chief tells Mexico

Warning that the solution to narcotics trafficking must be global in scale, the chief United Nations anti-crime official today began a two-day official visit to Mexico, where tens of thousands of people have been murdered and mutilated in drug wars over the past five years.
“Organized crime and the criminals behind these networks pose a massive threat to the region and are increasingly impacting on other parts of the world,” UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Executive Director Yury Fedotov said after a first meeting with President Felipe Calderón in Mexico City, praised the country’s efforts in countering organized crime.

“These criminals are responsible for the death and misery of people across the globe through their increasingly diversified illicit operations. We have to remember, however, that such violent crimes form part of a much bigger, worldwide picture in which we face a complex and shifting threat; we have to remember that while the crimes are often violently local, our solutions must be global.”

In meetings with Mr. Calderón and a number of senior leaders, Mr. Fedotov’s will discuss areas ranging from human trafficking and migrant smuggling through to illicit drugs and corruption.

“On too many occasions, it is the citizens who have become victims while attempting to pursue a peaceful existence,” he said of those who are often most affected by organized crime.

Recalling last month’s “abhorrent” violence at a casino in Monterrey, where 52 people were reported to have died in an arson attack linked to drug gangs, Mr. Fedotov pledged his agency’s continued support to Mexico, noting that its location at the intersection between South America and North America often pits it against criminal groups working to undermine peace and security.

“Tackling organized crime and the criminals behind these networks without international collaboration is futile,” he stressed. “If this is done without considering the wider region, we simply run the risk of having the crime networks relocate to a new country.”

Speaking ahead of his visit, Mr. Fedotov commended Mexico’s security and justice reforms which are seen as critical moves in tackling organized crime while simultaneously placing victims at the centre of support.

The country’s ongoing security reform and other steps to respond to illegal activities are important as are recent moves to improve conditions for victims of crime during investigations and protect their integrity, dignity and identity.

In his speech to the General Assembly’s annual general debate last week, Mr. Calderón called on the UN to help establish strict controls in producer and supplier countries on the high-powered weapons that feed the arsenals of traffickers.

29 September, 2011
UN News Center

Popular intoxicants – how do alcohol and cannabis compare?

I am often asked the question “If cannabis was as freely available as alcohol how many would use it and would its harms increase?.  Of course the answer is yes to both. However as about half of young people use cannabis, the increase from removing criminal sanctions would be relatively modest unless it was actively marketed as is alcohol. Certainly the Dutch coffee shop model of regulated but not legalised cannabis access appears not to have increased use since young people in the Netherlands have some of the lowest rates of cannabis use in Europe.

Perhaps the more interesting question is in this circumstance would be what would the net effect on population harms be?  Would liberalising access to cannabis reduce alcohol use to an extent that might reduce the sum total of harms?  This issue is touched on in my new paper in the Journal of Psychopharmacology [Weissenborn and Nutt 2011, Popular intoxicants: what lessons can be learned from the last 40 years of alcohol and cannabis regulation? (PMID:21926420)].  The key points of this paper are briefly outlined below.

A good measure of harm is the costs to the NHS. Hospital admissions for cannabis number less than 1000 per year whereas alcohol now accounts for 1000x as many – over a million last year of which 13,000 were aged under 18yrs.  The role of cannabis in causation of schizophrenia is still controversial – the ACMD in their third cannabis review estimated that to stop one case of schizophrenia one would have to stop 5000 young men or 7000 young women from ever smoking cannabis. Some studies are now suggesting cannabis may help patients with schizophrenia. In contrast, that alcohol causes liver disease is as incontrovertable as is its contribution to the massively accelerating death rates from liver disease in the UK. The frightening contribution that alcohol use makes to domestic violence, child abuse and road traffic accidents were some of the reasons why alcohol scored as the most harmful drug to UK society today in the ISCD scale of drug harms, published in the Lancet last year.

Until the last government induced them to think otherwise by making cannabis a target, the police have always taken the view that cannabis users were much less prone to violence than those intoxicated with alcohol.  Indeed the police were strong supporters of the ACMD recommendation to downgrade cannabis to Class C in 2004. It seems likely that the recent rise in alcohol intake in the UK may have been in part due to the pressure of anti-cannabis policing leading to young people switching their preferred intoxicant to alcohol.

Estimating the true relative harms of alcohol and cannabis is not easy as there are no societies today where the two drugs are equally available. However where neither are legal – as in some Islamic states – alcohol appears to cause more dependence than cannabis, even in Morocco a traditional cannabis growing country.

Taken together we estimate that alcohol is at least twice as harmful to users than cannabis and 5 times more harmful to society. The obvious conclusion is that the current legislation criminalising cannabis users is illogical as well as inhumane and may be causing much more harm than it does good. Time for a rational intervention Mr Cameron?

The full paper can be found in the Journal of Psychopharmacology 

29 September, 2011
David Nutt's Blog: Evidence not Exaggeration

29 September 2011

Marijuana: Plant, Drug, Or Medicine?

Driving down 101 South, I was listening to the radio returning home after four grueling days of being embedded with medicinal farmers as they get ready for autumn's harvest. The challenge of bringing in this year's crops has been as nerve wracking as Lindsay Lohan approaching a DUI checkpoint.

Between mold, mildew and a growing season that's been as erratic as Charlie Sheen's career, the typical farmer has been working about 26 hours a day since July. Your average Mendoite or Humboldtian, is dog tired and dragging from spraying, battling a fungal infestation from early morning to late at night that could possible overtake our agricultural base, affecting the production volume of some of our favorite crops like marijuana, food, and grapes.

Right now I know of two farmers personally who lost their whole crop because of mold. And this is all happening without precipitation. The last time it rained was in early August. Puzzling. More later about this in another column.

​As I've said countless times before, whatever you think about becoming an outdoor grower -- that you'll make your first couple of million growing the diggity-dank and then retire to Thailand as a man content man -- think again. It is hard work and only half generally make it through their first growing season. If it is that many.

I worked harder than I had in long time this past week going out with the gang, tending to their babies. But it's not even the pulling of the brown leaves or the watering or the spraying or the close face-to-bud pruning it takes to understand your plant and what it needs that had weaken me.

Mostly what killed me was the walking up and down hills that do not believe in hand-rails or steps. It was the goat-like hiking that worked new muscles in my legs and arms that thought they had retired some years ago when I hit a desk, pounding out words instead of nails. 

I should have been really sore and tired for a man of my age and laziness. Oh Mary, I was sore, but not tired.

​For about five days, I've been juicing the leaves of fresh marijuana plants every morning. My friends showed me by taking the leaves of young plants before they get all sugary with trichomes and the magic ganja-dust that elevates ones mood, by grinding them up in a juicer, it provides the best natural stimulant I've ever had. 

​I drink about 30 to 40 cups of coffee a day. Last week I had a total of two small cups and felt great. I had energy the whole day from the juicing.

After taking a small shot in the morning, just like I used to with Wheat Grass, I could literally feel the little ganja-protons surge through my veins. It was that fast acting. I am not kidding. 

After working a minor week above the Redwood Curtain doing whatever needed to be done, I was sore but never felt better.

Then I was driving home.

The news on the radio said that "Drug deaths now outnumber traffic fatalities in the U.S." As I was on drugs and driving, a chill came over me. I thought for a second I should pull over and give myself a time-out until the drugs passed and it seemed safe to drive again. But the reporter said it was prescription drugs were the culprit. It wasn't the medicinal weed I got at a dispensary or the bags my friends still get from stay-at-home-dealers.

The drug addicts we need to watch out for, their pushers and suppliers go by names like, "doctor" or "Mom and Dad." Their dispensary is called a medicine cabinet. The weak-link drivers that threaten us all, they get their drugs the old-fashioned way -- from respected society.

There a great site I go to when I want to be bummed out, www.drugsense.org. Here you can literally watch the amount of money that America spends on the "War On Drugs." Right now it is at just over $30 billion. Oh yeah, the 30 billion dollars? That's what we've spent just this year.

The radio went on, naming some of the usual suspects like OxyContin, Vicodin, Xanax and Somas as the vehicular villains. 

There's a War On Drugs, but marijuana is the only bad guy I hear about continuously. Take meth, please. I hardly hear of Operation: Breaking Bad, where 400 overnment agents go after meth and the production of. But sometimes the Triangle is a police state with black helicopters flying, agents holstered walking the towns and forests with the overall sense that you're being watched. 

​Marijuana almost always is depicted of the drugs of all drugs that is destroying this country. That is why we spend so much money on its eradication. And again, the endgame of the "War On Drugs" is to get rid of weed.

We're spending billions to get remove marijuana from society because it is deemed illegal. A plant without any seemingly medical value, as told to us by the government and our not so righteous doctors.

The goal is an America without marijuana. Keep that in mind because that is why everything is happening the way it does. Unlike all those other drugs that have been approved because of their medicinal benefits and their side effects where we look the other way.

Marijuana, bad.

It is estimated by the World Health Organization that approximately 75 to 80 percent of the world's population uses plant medicines either in part or entirely. I did last week for an energy supplement, and it worked.

My friend who was juicing the herb spoke of a civic leader in the area whose wife was taking about a gallon of the stuff a day and had beat cancer doing it. I'm not lying but it is not my place to out them until they're ready. 

Overseas, the same drug companies that say that marijuana has no medical importance here are holding drug trials for the exact plant they deem locally evil. Plus, publishing their findings in medical journals and are starting to get the patents for a drug that doesn't "work." 

Around 70 percent of all new drugs introduced in the United States in the past 25 years have been derived from natural products, reports a study published in the March 23, 2007 issue of the Journal of Natural Products. The findings show that despite increasingly sophisticated techniques to design medications in the lab, Mother Nature is still the best drug designer.

Yet, marijuana is the constant foe. Marijuana is relegated to Schedule One shelf that also holds heroin, opiates because of its high potential for abuse factor.

So far, there haven't been any findings that have shown marijuana to be the Killer of Our Young, as depicted in those scary propaganda posters and movies of the 1930's. 

Yet in 2009, prescription drugs were the cause of 37, 485 people nationwide according the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

So when is a plant medicine or a drug?

I guess only your doctor or your Mom can say for sure.

28 September, 2011
Jack Rikess
Northern California Correspondent
Toke of the Town

Jack Rikess, a former stand-up comic, writes a regular column most directly found at jackrikess.com. Jack delivers real-time coverage following the cannabis community, focusing on politics and culture. His beat includes San Francisco, the Bay Area and Mendocino-Humboldt counties. He has been quoted by the national media and is known for his unique view with thoughtful, insightful perspective.

For The Love of Hemp

The first time I heard the word ‘hemp’ was on a class field trip to the Eumundi markets when I was in year five. Being the alternative little town that it is, there is a hemp store sitting loud and proud right in the middle of the main street. I’d seen pictures this funny looking leaf before, scrawled onto my older cousin’s school books, but it wasn’t until I heard giggles and sniggers from the boys in my class that I caught on to the stigma attached to the mighty hemp leaf. As I got older, I hung out with Mary Jane on the odd occasion, but it wasn’t until I started digging around in the world of nutrition that I discovered that this plant offers much more than its reputation promotes. Hemp is actually a nutritional gem. A superfood, some would say.

The difference between hemp and wacky tobacky …

Hemp is a legal cousin of “cannabis” or the illegal/medicinal form of hemp that contains the drug ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC for short. Hemp seed contains no THC, meaning consuming it will not offer you any kind of drug-like affect. Before you get too disappointed, let me make up for that by telling you what hemp will do for you.

Why hemp is great

Protein: Hemp seeds contain 10 essential amino acids in nutritionally significant amounts, making it a complete protein. This protein also has a similar cellular structure to a protein manufactured in human blood, making it easily digestible.

Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs): EFAs are important because our modern diets are typically overloaded with processed poly-unsaturated vegetable oils. The typical western diet contains too much LA and not enough ALA essential fats. The essential fatty acid (EFA) make-up of hemp seed oil is like no other on the market today. No other vegetable or nut oil contains EFAs in this concentration or ratio – high in omega 6, linoleic acid (LA), and omega 3, alpha-linolenic acids (ALA). This balance promotes a healthy immune system, healthy skin, hair and nails, and the prevention of many modern ailments such as diabetes, heart disease and metabolic syndromes.

Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA): Like another of my favourite superfoods, spirulina, hemp seed contains the super anti-inflammatory essential fatty acid known as gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). As well as having an anti-inflammatory effect, GLA is also known to help balance hormones.

Minerals: According to David Wolfe’s Superfoods book, hemp excels at absorbing minerals from the soil. This makes it a great source of major and trace minerals. These include phosphorous, potassium, magnesium, sulfur, calcium, iron, manganese, zinc, sodium, silicon, copper, platinum, boron, nickel, germanium, tin, iodine, chromium, silver, lithium.

Where to buy it …

Funny story here. Did you know that it is totally legal to grow hemp (the stuff without the drug ingredient), but hemp foods are not legal? In North America it’s the opposite. Hemp foods are alleged to be worth $100million, yet you cannot legally grow a commercial hemp crop for love or for money.

However, there are several websites where you can find organic hemp products. Try www.rawpleasure.com.au  and www.hempfoods.com.au 
Hemp comes in the form of hemp seeds, hemp oil, hemp milk and heaps of other products made from this super nutritious food

29 September, 2011
the Wellness Warrior

Pregnant Women Smoking Pot Could Reduce Infant Mortality

A recent article  by Storm Crow sheds light on a study that demonstrates a dramatic decrease in infant mortality rates for babies born testing positive for cannabinoids:

A total of 2,964 babies were drug-tested at birth to see if they were positive for drugs – cocaine, opioids or cannabis  were studied. 44% of the infants tested positive for all varieties of drugs, including the 3 being studied. 

During the first two years of their lives, 44 babies from the original group died. Since statistics are a drag to slog through, I’ll cut right to the chase – the deaths per thousand live births – the numbers tell the story.

“No drugs at birth” deaths……. 15.7 deaths per 1000 live births
“Cocaine positive” deaths…….17.7 deaths per 1000 live births
“Opiate positive” deaths…….18.4 deaths per 1000 live births
“Cannabis positive” deaths…. 8.9 deaths per 1000 live births [5]

The cocaine and opiate babies have a higher death rate than the “No drugs” babies – that was to be expected. But look at the “cannabis ” babies! Having extra cannabinoids in their bodies at birth (and likely later, from 2nd-hand exposure, or breast milk) seems to have some sort of a protective effect. The “cannabis ” infants have a mortality rate almost half of what the “No drugs” infants have!

The study raises many interesting questions. As I read, these are some of the first questions that came to mind, along with my current research on the topics. I would have waited to post this until I could find more concrete information, but unfortunately, prohibition interferes with sound science on these issues, so I am just going to share my own thoughts and research with the hopes that it encourages more public outcry for further scientific study. Much of this is conjecture and guesses, but it is worth asking these questions and evaluating the information currently available and pursuing further research: 

1. What further verification of this study can I find? Much as I like the info, I know I need to find a credible source for verification and so that others will believe the information.

A credible source was found to document the truth of the data presented by Storm Crow:

Pediatrics: Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, published July 1, 1997 ;

The above source only contained the summary of the study, and I wanted to see more of the data. I have learned that statistics and percentages can be very misleading. Before long, I found the complete study using student access to PSU , and found even more surprising numbers than the above quote by Storm Crow reveals. The following table itemizes each category of test result; for instance, a positive test for cannabis  could also include a positive test for opiates and/or cocaine, so this table further breaks out the categories into cannabis  only, morphine (opiate) only, cocaine only and the “total” of all positive cannabis , morphine and cocaine tests (click links to view table and chart):

Infant Mortality Chart 
The most interesting thing that stands out to me is that the drug-negative babies were technically MORE likely to die in the first two years of life. This illustration helps shed light on why the study concludes that there is no significant difference between babies that test positive and those that test negative for maternal drug use, as there isn’t much of a difference between the 13.7 and 15.7 deaths per 1000 live births.

However, in this view of the information, the stark difference between the two cannabis  categories and “morphine only” category as compared to the remaining categories is notable. As a mother who is familiar with at least some of the drugs given at birth, I suspect that the “morphine only” category are those mothers that received some sort of drug during childbirth and/or pregnancy. The presence of this drug only would most likely indicate proper drug use and not illicit drug use, since this drug is administered by a licensed physician – which could be why the mortality rate of these children is much lower than the other categories.

And the cannabis  positive children are definitely in that same range with the morphine only infants. However, when the two categories of cannabis -positive infants are divided into “cannabis  only” and “cannabis  positive” (indicating either opiates or cocaine were also present with the cannabis ), the information is astonishing. Of 338 infants born with cannabis  in their systems at birth, only 3 total died in the first two years. All three of those infants had either opiates or cocaine in their system as well, and not a single death was found in the two years after birth in the 157 infants that tested positive for ONLY cannabis ! These deaths include homicide, SIDS, illness, etc. Not ONE death!

2. Are infants born to cannabis -consuming mothers less likely to die in the first two years of life, or are the results of this study an anomaly?

I wish I could answer this question conclusively, but this information definitely indicates the need for further study! I sought out more research on this subject, and could not find much. I did find an article on the importance of endocannabinoids on pediatric development and disease , the critical role of the endogenous cannabinoids system on mouse pup suckling and growth , and a study on cannabis and breastfeeding  that seems to use some good data to make some bad points.

3. Are pregnant mothers less likely to continue their use of marijuana  when becoming pregnant, compared to other drugs?

I also noticed that a substantial difference is noted in the positive test results, compared to the usage rates suggested in a study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services . According to their data for 2002-2009, marijuana  has much higher usage rates than all other drugs (ie in 2008, 41% of the study used marijuana  in their lifetime, and 10.3% had used it in the past year; contrast that with the total for all drug use (including marijuana ) of 47% in their lifetime, and 14.2% in the past year. Cocaine use was 14.7% in their lifetime and 2.1% in the last year and all other drugs, excluding marijuana , was 30.3% in their lifetime and 8.0% in the last year). For comparison’s sake, I merged that data into the earlier table side by side with the comparable number (although it is worth noting that the SAMHSA data is both male and female, whereas the Meconium Drug Screen data is only pregnant females, so any gender variances would not be taken into account, as well as other confounding factors). However, this data is still rather enlightening:

TABLE 3. Mortality Within 1 to 2 Years Among Infants (n = 2964) Who Were Screened for Gestational Exposure to Drugs by Meconium Analysis Meconium Drug Screen N Total Deaths Deaths per 1000 Live Births % of Total Deaths 

Drug-negative 1658 26 15.7 59% 
Drug-positive 1306 18 13.7 41% 
Cocaine-positive[a] 903 16 17.7 36%
Cocaine only 457 6 13.2 14%
Morphine-positive[a] 599 11 18.4 25% 
Morphine only 213 1 4.6 2%
Cannabinoid-positive[a] 338 3 8.9 7%
Cannabinoid only 157 0 0.0 0% 

[a] Includes in combination with the other illicit drugs (cocaine, opiate, and/or cannabinoid). 

It is complete conjecture, but it appears that pregnant mothers are more likely to give up marijuana  than cocaine. The total positive and negative percentages of drug use, however, were quite comparable. But cocaine was far more dominant in pregnant mothers than marijuana  – unlike the overall usage statistics which seem to show the inverse (a much higher usage rate for marijuana  than cocaine).

While this is just conjecture based on these data, it could be concluded that marijuana  was not as addictive and mothers were likely to significantly reduce their use and/or quit smoking marijuana  all together, as compared to cocaine. I presume the higher percentage of cocaine positive tests in the pregnant mothers’ results as compared to the general population is probably linked to more risky behaviors resulting in pregnancy among cocaine-addicted women – resulting in a larger percentage of pregnant cocaine users than the general population of cocaine users – but again this is pure conjecture.

4. What is the overlap in concurrent drug use, ie how many cocaine-using mothers were also using opiates and/or cannabinoids?

The first table above gives two categories for each drug, ie cannabis  positive and cannabis  only. The cannabis  only number is included into the cannabis  positive category. For an easier interpretation of the data, I created another chart using the same mortality rate data, but with more information from the student access of the study. Some of these numbers are calculated based on the percentages noted in the study, so the “exact” numbers given here may not be as precise as it appears (for instance, the total participants in the study was 2964, but these numbers add to 2961 – these are just rounding errors):

Meconium Drug Screen N N as % SAMHSA
Data Past-year

Use Drug-negative 1658 55.9% 53.00% 85.8% 
Drug-positive 1306 44.1% 47.0% 14.2% 
Cocaine-positive[a] 903 30.5% 14.7% 2.1% 
Cannabinoid-positive[a] 338 11.4% 41.0% 10.3%

Test results: Total Number Percentage 
Positive for all three 55 1.9% 
Positive for cocaine and opiate 299 10.1% 
Positive for cannabis  and other 122 4.1% 
Drug negative 1658 55.9%
Cocaine only 457 15.4% 
Morphine only 213 7.2% 
Cannabinoid only 157 5.3% Total 2961 99.9% 

5. For babies born to cannabis -using mothers, who did not use any other drugs, what is the mortality rate?

I was amazed that I was finally able to access this data, and even more astonished that my initial conjecture that there would be zero deaths among the cannabis  only infants is correct. Not a single death in the first two years of life for the babies that tested positive for cannabis . Using the data for the drug-negative babies, it would be reasonable to see 3 deaths among this group. It is possible that this is just coincidence, but it could also indicate a protective effect of cannabis, particularly when considering some of the other studies mentioned above.

6. Should cannabis  be included in such a study to evaluate mortality rate in the first two years of life of “drug exposure?” Or does cannabis  skew the results?

Cannabis  appears to seriously skew the results of the above study. Clearly cannabis  is starkly different than the other drug categories tested for, and while I wouldn’t throw cannabis  out of the studies, I would certainly be looking at cannabis  from a different perspective, inquiring about the potential BENEFITS for mothers. Indeed, cannabis  was used for centuries for morning sickness, cramping, and birthing pain – and with the above study in mind – it is definitely worth considering the potential benefits of cannabis  in light of scientific advances and understanding.

OpposingViews / NORML / Jen Alexander / 09,22,2010

Cannabis and Cannabinoids (PDQ®)


This complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) information summary provides an overview of the use of Cannabis and its components as a treatment for people with cancer -related symptoms caused by the disease itself or its treatment.

This summary contains the following key information:
  • Cannabis has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years.
  • By federal law, the possession of Cannabis, also known as marijuana, is illegal in the United States.
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved Cannabis as a treatment for cancer or any other medical condition.
  • Chemical components of Cannabis, called cannabinoids, activate specific receptors found throughout the body to produce pharmacologic effects, particularly in the central nervous systemand the immune system.
  • Commercially available cannabinoids, such as dronabinol and nabilone, are approved for the treatment of cancer-related side effects.
  • Cannabinoids may have benefits in the treatment of cancer-related side effects.

Many of the medical and scientific terms used in this summary are hypertext linked (at first use in each section) to the NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms, which is oriented toward nonexperts. When a linked term is clicked, a definition will appear in a separate window. All linked terms and their corresponding definitions will appear in a glossary in the printable version of the summary.

Reference citations in some PDQ CAM information summaries may include links to external Web sites that are operated by individuals or organizations for the purpose of marketing or advocating the use of specific treatments or products. These reference citations are included for informational purposes only. Their inclusion should not be viewed as an endorsement of the content of the Web sites, or of any treatment or product, by the PDQ Cancer CAM Editorial Board or the National Cancer Institute

General Information

Cannabis, also known as marijuana, originated in Central Asia but is grown worldwide today. In the United States, it is a controlled substance and is classified as a Schedule I agent (a drug with increased potential for abuse and no known medical use). The Cannabis plant produces a resin containing psychoactive compounds called cannabinoids. The highest concentration of cannabinoids is found in the female flowers of the plant.[1] Clinical trials conducted on medicinal Cannabis are limited. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved the use of Cannabis as a treatment for any medical condition. To conduct clinical drug research in the United States, researchers must file an Investigational New Drug (IND) application with the FDA.

The potential benefits of medicinal Cannabis for people living with cancer include antiemetic effects, appetite stimulation, pain relief, and improved sleep. Although few relevant surveys of practice patterns exist, it appears that physicians caring for cancer patients in the United States who recommend medicinal Cannabis predominantly do so for symptom management.[2]

Cannabinoids are a group of terpenophenolic compounds found in Cannabis species (Cannabis sativa L. and Cannabis indica Lam.). This summary will review the role of Cannabis and the cannabinoids in the treatment of people with cancer and disease-related or treatment-related side effects.

Adams IB, Martin BR: Cannabis: pharmacology and toxicology in animals and humans. Addiction 91 (11): 1585-614, 1996.  [PUBMED Abstract]Doblin RE, Kleiman MA: Marijuana as antiemetic medicine: a survey of oncologists' experiences and attitudes. J Clin Oncol 9 (7): 1314-9, 1991.  [PUBMED Abstract]

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Last Modified: 08/24/2011

28 September 2011

Brash sparks marijuana legal debate

Act leader Don Brash’s call to legalise marijuana has won him support in unlikely quarters. Brash’s proposal has kicked off a lively debate on MSN NZ, with people commenting this is the first time they have agreed with anything the politician has said.

But his stance has put him offside with some of his party members - Act Epsom seat hopeful John Banks, who is known for his strong views on drugs and alcohol, told the New Zealand Herald yesterday that decriminalising cannabis would never become party policy.

"So many of our vulnerable young people are at sea with alcohol and drugs and often both. They need life-rafts, not concrete boots."

Aucklander Malcolm said on MSN NZ yesterday that marijuana use should be a personal choice. "If you don't like it, don't use it. It is wasting money in the policing and it funds a great deal of crime in this country. Without the easy income from marijuana the gangs would not have the money they need to fund the importation of other drugs. And if it were legalised then we can tax the sale of it, which, as with alcohol, would pay for the health issues that would arise from the use.”

Meanwhile, Edward L from Auckland believes New Zealand's drug problem needs to be fought by police for the safety of the nation.

"New Zealand has a massive drug problem already. Decriminalising it would not improve the situation or address it. We are already dealing with an unusually high number of schizophrenics, drug-induced depressives and substance abusers on permanent disability benefit. Add to that the dope smokers who go on to needles and the large cost of dealing with consequent hepatitis (hundreds of millions). I have been attacked three times in my life, and all three were by dope smokers. You don't get that by drinking a cup of tea," he wrote on MSN NZ.

A spokesman from a New Plymouth organisation that deals with mental health, Like Minds, called Brash's comments "dopey".

"I think he is way off the mark," Gordon Hudson told media.

"There is clear evidence of a strong link between cannabis use and mental health – certainly among first psychosis or psychotic episodes among young people."

A press release from NORML NZ earlier this year stated the New Zealand public needed to have its confidence restored in the police and the quickest way for that to happen was to stop criminalising cannabis.

"The continued criminalisation of cannabis in New Zealand means police spend more than $100 million every year focusing on unimportant crime, at the expense of solving crime that matters,” NORML NZ President Stephen McIntyre said.

"What would be a better use of police time: arresting people for cannabis or dealing with burglaries, domestic abuse and drunken brawls?"

Half of all adult New Zealanders have tried cannabis and 400,000 people admit to being current users, according to NORML NZ.

27 September, 2011

27 September 2011

Marijuana DNA database can track pot's origins

New method developed to collect drug's genetic fingerprint

There is a new tool in the ongoing war on drugs and it comes from a forensic scientist at the University of New Haven.

Heather Miller Coyle, an associate professor in the Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice and Forensic Sciences is setting up a national databank that will allow law enforcement to track marijuana DNA.
Most people probably didn't even know marijuana had DNA, but Coyle, who specializes in forensic botany, has developed a new method for collecting the drug's genetic fingerprint, making it easy for officers to collect the samples at crime scenes.

“Plant DNA is like the DNA found in humans — it retains its lifelong genetic profile,” says Coyle. “If one person has a suitcase of marijuana and another person has bags of it, we will be able to tell if it came from the same batch,” she said in a news release.

The DNA databank will be similar to one the FBI runs human DNA, the Combined DNA Index System or CODIS. CODIS allows DNA samples from crime scenes to be compared against a computerized database to help identify suspects.

The marijuana version will help law enforcement track where the drug came from and link it to criminal drug trafficking organizations in Mexico, growers in Canada or gangs in the U.S.
“Such a databank and signature mark would be a welcome tool for police and law enforcement agencies,” said Frank Limon, New Haven chief of police. “It’s probable, in some cases, that conspirators of the overall operation may escape investigation and prosecution. The link between production and distribution would aid us in establishing conspiracy cases against the whole operation — not just the dealers and buyers. This would effectively connect the dots to street level narcotics distribution.”

Coyle's project has been funded with more than $100,000 from the National Marijuana Initiative and the National High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Program. The groups work together with federal, state and local law enforcement in the detection, disruption and investigation into marijuana trafficking.

By Scott Beaulieu
26 September, 2011
NBC Connecticut

This For That: Arthritis

Arthritis (from Greek arthro-, joint + -itis, inflammation; plural: arthritides) is a form of joint disorder that involves inflammation of one or more joints.

There are over 100 different forms of arthritis. The most common form, osteoarthritis (degenerative joint disease) is a result of trauma to the joint, infection of the joint, or age. Other arthritis forms are rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and related autoimmune diseases. Septic arthritis is caused by joint infection. – Wikipedia entry on Arthritis

The most common cause of disability in The United States today is arthritis. With over 20 million people suffering each day from a severe loss of functionality, arthritis accounts for one million hospitalizations each year along with 45 million outpatient visits.

The total loss to our economy from arthritis is estimated to be roughly $100 billion from lost earnings and health care costs. Not to mention the costs from health care problems related to arthritis, lke obesity, which in turn can lead to diabetes and heart disease.

The most common symptoms of arthritis are swelling and stiffness around the joints, resulting in various levels of pain. On the higher end of the pain scale sufferers can become completely debilitated.

While many people use harmful prescription drugs to cotrol their symptoms, many choose a safer alternative to reduce the inflammation that causes them joint pain: cannabis.

According to recent scientific research (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080720222549.htm) the substance beta-carophyllene is present in 12% to 35% of the cannabis plant’s essential oils. This substance is key is triggering the CB2 receptor in our tissues, reducing inflammation. Once the receptor is activated the tissue sends out less pro-inflammatory signal substances, bringing relief to sufferers of arthritis and other ailments that cause joint pain.

Many medical marijuana patients find that cannabis strains high in the cannabinoid CBD bring the most relief to their inflammation symptoms. Stay Native Medicine on Facebook – who studied at Oaksterdam University in Oakland, CA – told me that two high-CBD strains work well for them: Purple Erkle and Bubblegum.

Since CBD is not psychoactive like THC is, many breeders have been “weeding” out CBD in favor of higher THC contents, but this doesn’t do juch good for patients looking for the medicinal properties contained in CBD.

Harlequin is a well-known CBD-rich strain from the bay area in California. A sativa dominant hybrid, Harlequin was tested at Steep Hill Lab in Oakland, CA and came back with a 4% CBD content (considered high – no pun intended) and only 2% THC, meaning it’s a very good medicating strain for this with inflammation who don’t want the “high” cannabis with a lot of THC can produce.

Our friends at Humboldt Relief checked with some of their patients and said, “One of our patients said Jane Doe relives his symptoms. I’ve also heard that Ingrid works well for this ailment. Topical cannabis ointments may be effective as well as edibles. One of our patients swears by Cannamilk for pain and as a sleep aid.” Many arthritis suffers have found relief from topical oinments made from cannabis oil.

From ProjectCBD.org comes more strains that have consistently tested high in CBD content, such as Sour Tsunami which was stabilized by Lawrence Ringo of the Southern Humboldt Seed Collective. Some batches of ST have tested at 10%+ CBD with only 6-7% THC. It seems Mr. Ringo created the strain to deal with his chronic back pain, but the anti-imflammatory effects would work well on arthritis joint pain also.

Cannatonic is another good strain for inflammation. From Resin Seeds in Barcelona, Spain, Cannatonic has a misleading name since the 6% CBD does an admirable job offsetting some of the effects of the 6% THC.

From Aunt Zelda’s Natural Edibles comes the suggestion of Grand Daddy Purple, which they say works wonders in  “cannaoil, and [we] have had excellent results baking, cooking, and even topical [with GDP].”

Jamacian Lion is another CBD-rich strain that can be found in the bay area, including at Harborside Healthcenter, which had its own part to play in the story of JL. It seems the grower of this strain was low on funds due to his house being robbed and he brought some processed Jamican Lion flowers to HHC to sell.

When they had Steep Hill test the flowers, they came back with almost 9% CBD content compared to 5% THC. The rest, as they say, is history – and very beneficial to patients.

Finding the right strain for you is not an exact science, and some trial and error is necessary. Consult your family, friends, doctor and budtender to see if they can help you find the best strains for your ailments. This is especially true if you are looking for a high CBD strain since there are so few as compared to strains that are bred for high THC levels.

Joe Klare
26 September, 2011
the 420 TIMES

Pros and cons of decriminalising marijuana an important debate

The call by ACT leader Don Brash for New Zealand to consider decriminalising marijuana has had the desired effect of creating headlines, as well as discussion.

New Zealanders are among the heaviest users in the world — about three times as many per capita smoke cannabis as in the Netherlands, where drug policies were liberalised in 1976. Coupled with our hugely damaging culture of binge-drinking, something clearly is not right in Godzone.

Dr Brash should not have said marijuana is safe — it can trigger psychosis and saps the energy and ambitions of far too many people — but he is right to say there are strong arguments in favour of decriminalisation.

Its illegality creates a lucrative business for criminals. High taxation of the proceeds of selling marijuana would allow society to invest heavily in public education, keeping children and teenagers off drugs, and in better treatment facilities for addicts.

National Addiction Centre director Professor Doug Sellman, who has led criticism of the Government’s weak response to calls for comprehensive alcohol reforms, welcomes the debate.

While “no psychoactive recreational drug is completely safe”, Prof Sellman says cannabis is of low-to-moderate risk while alcohol has been demonstrated to be a Class B-equivalent drug — ie a high risk to public health.

The recent Law Commission Review of the Misuse of Drugs Act encourages public discussion about drugs from a health perspective rather than just as a criminal justice and moral issue.

Prof Sellman lists four main risks associated with frequent, heavy cannabis use: chronic respiratory illness; injury and death from driving under the influence (less risky than drink-driving); pychotic symptoms (clinically relevant in less than 1 percent of the population); and a negative impact on learning, especially “adolescents who are at that critical stage of life when both formal school education as well as complex social learning set a life course for the individual within society”.

Jeremy Muir
26 September, 2011
The Gisborne Herald

War on Drugs is a public policy failure

In 1971, then President Richard Nixon declared a "War on Drugs." This war has been fought unceasingly for 40 years and it has failed, according to the Global Commission on Drug Policy.

In a report issued last June, the commission detailed how this war has had  devastating consequences on individuals and societies. Because of the failures described in the report, we need new, non-ideological thinking to produce fundamental reforms in our national and global drug control policies.

The Drug Enforcement Agency says we are winning the War on Drugs, even though Centers for Disease Control statistics show that approximately 8 percent of the U.S. population used illegal drugs in the past month. We do not think that this is a measure of "winning" this war.

In comparison to the anti-drug effort, let's look at what Prohibition accomplished. It gave us more public drunkenness than any time in our history. It led to the rise of powerful, ruthless criminal gangs and the violence associated with them. It was not a romantic period, even though gangsters were glorified in popular culture. Sound familiar?

The CDC cites statistics showing more than 27,000 drug overdose deaths in a recent year: approximately 2,000 from heroin, 5,000 from cocaine use and 20,000 from prescription painkillers. No known deaths are attributed to marijuana overdose. By contrast, approximately 75,000 overdose deaths (poisonings) by alcohol are reported annually. In 2005, around 150,000 people died from lung cancer (85 percent of which due to smoking). Yet, according to Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron, we spent $44 billion on the war on drugs in 2008. Over 10 years, that is getting close to a half a trillion dollars to prosecute people for selling or using drugs that kill people at about 10 percent of the rate of alcohol and about 5 percent of the rate of smoking. Something is wrong here.

We are not suggesting that such drugs as meth or heroin are good for you, but there has always been a demand for drugs. We need to think outside of a prison cell.

Most studies show that drug use rates do not differ between racial or socioeconomic groups. Data show that even though the majority of illegal drug users and dealers are white, 75 percent of those imprisoned for drug offenses are dark-skinned minorities. Why?

Our prison population has gone from a half million inmates at the start of the Reagan administration to 2.5 million inmates today. While we have roughly 5 percent of the world's population, we have 25 percent of the world's prison population. The problem is the law and we, as a society need to pressure legislators to change our drug laws.

Until 1914, there were no drug laws in this country. At that time, estimates were that 0.25 to 1 percent of the population was addicted to morphine. Most were middle-age Midwestern and Southern housewives. Around the time of congressional hearings on drugs, stories of "drug-crazed Negroes" raping white women were in every newspaper. Many commentators think that the Harrison Act, which outlawed most drugs except marijuana, was passed because of racial fears.

Michele Alexander's book, "The New Jim Crow, Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness," makes the point that an astounding percentage of the African-American community is warehoused in prisons and/or trapped in a permanent second class citizen status because of the War on Drugs. At any given time, the author of their piece who has been a public defender has a caseload that is one-third or one-half drug related. All of her clients are poor and most are minorities.

Undercover drug police go into poor, minority neighborhoods and ask someone on the street where they can get drugs. Often, they offer the person money or some of the drugs to show them. Once the person comes back with drugs, he or she is charged with sales of controlled substances. For this "B" felony, a person can get five to 15 years in prison. When you see statistics of how many “drug dealers” were arrested, be aware that many are addicts who are selling drugs to support their habits. In a recent case, the defendant had prior convictions and was stopped for traffic violations. He had a misdemeanor amount of marijuana, less than 35 grams, but because it was in two Baggies, the prosecutor claimed he was going to sell the drug and charged him with the "B" felony of sales, rather than the misdemeanor.

In a criminal matter, the best outcome is to be found “not guilty.” The next best outcome is an SIS, suspended imposition of sentence, and probation. Defendants are told that an SIS is not a conviction on your record for the purposes of employment. That is correct if you apply for nearly any blue color job or sales job. However, it stays on your record for law enforcement, government agencies and more.

Anytime you apply for any job that requires a professional license you have to disclose it. It can’t be expunged; it is on your record for life. Is that really what we want to do to our young people? Isn’t it hard enough to get a job?

Drug convictions can even be accessed by the public on Casenet, a free public website. And a non-governmental employer can find out about a conviction by asking the applicant to get his own police report and the SIS will show up. An SIS isn’t what it’s purported to be.

 If you are a student receiving financial aid, a drug related conviction could trigger mandatory repayment of the loan. In some states, criminal felony convictions, bar a person from voting permanently. Felony convictions result in a lifetime bar from jury service.

Drug-related felony convictions come with a lifetime bar on food stamps and on eligibility for public housing. And drug convictions can result in forfeiture of your home, car, all your assets, custody of your children and even termination of parental rights.

There are three ways to receive a sentence of life without parole in Missouri: rape of a child, deliberate (first degree) murder and persistent drug convictions.

Beyond all these, incarceration has consequences for families including the inmate's spouses, parents and children.

The Global Commission on Drug Policy has made a number of common-sense recommendations:

 Stop vindictive prosecution of our young people and our poor citizens 
 Break the taboo on debate and reform
 Encourage governments to legally regulate drugs to undermine the power of organized crime and safeguard the health and security of their citizens
 Offer a variety of health and treatment services and abolish abusive practices carried out in the name of treatment
 Implement syringe access and other harm reduction measures
 Invest in serious drug education programs (not slogans like "just Say No") to prevent young people from taking drugs and to prevent drug users from developing more serious problems, like AIDS and other infections
 Focus repressive actions on violent criminal organizations, not on individuals
 Focus law enforcement on reducing drug harm to individuals, communities and national security
 Replace ideology-driven drug policies with policies and strategies grounded in science, health, security and human rights. Adopt appropriate criteria for their evaluation.
The government has given us many myths about what would happen if we legalized drugs. We have some real data on what happens when drugs are decriminalized that show that the myths are false. Here is what happened in a real country.

Portugal had the worst drug problem in Europe in the 1990s and recognized that its "War on Drugs" was a failure. It decriminalized the possession of small amounts of drugs by individuals in 2001. Most of the recommendations above were put into place. Portugal did not turn into a charnel house of drug deaths. Its economy did not collapse because people could use drugs without penalty. The data are exactly the opposite of what we have been led to believe by the anti-drug crusaders in this country.

Drug deaths are down 40%
Crime is down
HIV/AIDS incidence is down 17%
Drug treatment rates have doubled because people are voluntarily getting treatment
Marijuana use among teens fell 33% because it is no longer forbidden and glamorous
Drug use remained stable and only increased at the same rate as the rest of the world.

Dennis Owsley and Sara Serot
26 September, 2011
St. Louis Beacon

Dennis Owsley holds a PhD in organic chemistry and has lectured on structure and activity relationships between mind-affecting drugs since the early 1980s.Sara Serot is a criminal defense attorney who has worked as a Missouri Public Defender for 18 years.