30 November 2011

Medical Marijuana Reduces Traffic Deaths, Alcohol Use: Study

A groundbreaking new study shows that laws legalizing medical marijuana have resulted in a nearly nine percent drop in traffic deaths and a five percent reduction in beer sales.

"Our research suggests that the legalization of medical marijuana reduces traffic fatalities through reducing alcohol consumption by young adults," said Daniel Rees, professor of economics at the University of Colorado Denver who coauthored the study with D. Mark Anderson, assistant professor of economics at Montana State University.

The researchers collected data from a variety of sources, including the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, and the Fatality Analysis Reporting System.

The study is the first to examine the relationship between the legalization of medical marijuana and traffic deaths.

"We were astounded by how little is known about the effects of legalizing medical marijuana," Rees said. "We looked into traffic fatalities because there is good data, and the data allow us to test whether alcohol was a factor."

Anderson noted that traffic deaths are significant from a policy standpoint.

"Traffic fatalities are an important outcome from a policy perspective because they represent the leading cause of death among Americans ages five to 34," he said.

The economists analyzed traffic fatalities nationwide, including in the 13 states that legalized medical marijuana between 1990 and 2009. In those states, they found evidence that alcohol consumption by those between 20 and 29 years old went down -- resulting in fewer deaths on the road.

The researchers noted that simulator studies conducted by previous researchers suggest that drivers under the influence of alcohol tend to underestimate how badly their skills are impaired. They drive faster and take more risks.

In contrast, these studies show that drivers under the influence of marijuana tend to avoid risks.

However, Rees and Anderson cautioned that legalization of medical marijuana may result in fewer traffic deaths because it's typically used in private, where alcohol is often consumed in bars and restaurants.

"I think this is a very timely study given all the medical marijuana laws being passed or under consideration," Anderson said. "These policies have not been research-based thus far and our research shows some of the social effects of these laws.

"Our results suggest a direct link between marijuana and alcohol consumption," Anderson said.

The study also looked at cannabis use in three states that legalized medical marijuana in the mid-2000s: Montana, Rhode Island and Vermont. Marijuana use by adults increased after medical legalization in Montana and Rhode Island, but not in Vermont.

There was no evidence that marijuana use by minors increased after medical legalization. Opponents of medicinal cannabis often claim that legalization leads to increased use of marijuana by minors.

According to Rees and Anderson, the majority of registered medical marijuana patients in Arizona and Colorado are male. In Arizona, 75 percent of registered patients are male; in Colorado, 68 percent are male. Many are under the age of 40. For instance, 48 percent of registered medicinal cannabis patients in Montana are under 40.

"Although we make no policy recommendations, it certainly appears as though medical marijuana laws are making our highways safer," Rees said.

To read the 43-page study in its entirety, click on the title below:

Medical Marijuana Laws, Traffic Fatalities, and Alcohol Consumption

29 November, 2011
Steve Elliott

Reefer Madness In A Final Frenzy

In the mid 1930s, after the end of alcohol prohibition, Harry Anslinger, former assistant commissioner at the Bureau of Prohibition was settling into his exciting new job as head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and working on his next campaign.

“This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with negroes, entertainers and any others.” he wrote in one of Randolph Hearst’s newspapers.  Hearst was behind the organised campaign against cannabis hemp, then one of America’s most successful crops, by timber, oil and paper interests.  The strategy was to slur the plant with the racist term “marijuana”, demonise it, outlaw it and wipe it out.

Come forward about 80 years to the present day.  In the US there is the White House drugs czar Gil Kerlikowske and the head of the DEA, Michelle Leonhart.  In Britain we have James Brokenshire, the Home Office minister.  These people are faithful in style and message to their role model Anslinger.  They use arguments and propaganda of exactly the same type and value but adjusted to politically correct 2011 terms. Their weapon is deceit and their strategy is intransigence. The prejudice, discrimination and media scaremongering continues.  As Anslinger had Randolph Hearst’s media empire, so Brokenshire has the Daily Mail.

The Mail came out all guns blazing last week in response to the Global Initiative on Drug Policy Reform and the ex-head of MI5, Baroness Manningham-Buller,  calling for legal regulation.  Despite the furious propaganda war it has waged against cannabis and cannabis users the issue won’t go away.  Why?  Because millions of British citizens regularly use and enjoy cannabis with no ill effects and many find it of enormous therapeutic benefit for conditions such as chronic pain, MS and Crohn’s disease.  Also, because this war on cannabis is just another war on people.  It is futile, expensive and causes far more harm than it prevents.  It has created the modern phenomenon of rented property being destroyed, electricity being stolen with human trafficked gardeners and intensive production of high potency cannabis.

For forty years the Daily Mail has been running its malevolent, systematic campaign of misinformation and false science.  So successful has it been that it has had both the present and the former prime minister repeating its untruths like faithful disciples.  Gordon Brown and Paul Dacre conspiring together to come out with the “skunk is lethal” buffoonery in 2008 is one of the most blatant examples of improper collusion between government and media. In March this year, in a YouTube Al Jazeera interview, David Cameron made a series of statements about cannabis that are absolutely false which despite repeated polite requests he has done nothing to correct. Even more astonishing is the way the Mail has brought its competitors along with it.  Not just tabloids, even The Independent, which had made a noble and courageous stand for a rational policy back in 1997 was duped 10 years later into its famous “Cannabis, An Apology” front page.

Duped is exactly the right word.  Amongst a torrent of sensationalist claims there was “skunk cannabis is 25 times stronger”, “more than 22,000 people were treated last year for cannabis addiction”, that there was “growing proof that skunk causes mental illness and psychosis”.  All presented in accordance with the Daily Mail stylesheet.  This year, the Independent on Sunday’s chief political commentator, John Rentoul, wrote “It is a bad thing that the drugs business is in the hands of criminals. My view is that it would be a worse thing if it were legalised, and regulated or administered by the government.” It is astonishing that a man who takes such an irrational and irresponsible position should be given a platform for such views.

All of The Independent’s claims were false.  The truth is that cannabis today is on average about two to three times stronger than it used to be, about 750 people each year are admitted to hospital for cannabis (while 3000 are admitted for peanuts) and there is no proof at all of a causal link between cannabis and psychosis, only of correlation and increase in risk – but the increase is far greater for alcohol and tobacco use, even for energy drinks.  Also alcohol is clearly proven actually to cause psychosis in around 1% of users.

The best evidence about cannabis and psychosis is a review of all published research (Hickman et al 2009) so, by definition, not cherry picked.  It shows that, although there is no proof of causation, the risk of a correlation between lifetime cannabis use and a single psychotic episode is at worst 0.013% and probably less than 0.003%.

The Daily Mail’s campaign has become self-perpetuating.  Its high priest was chosen as Professor Sir Robin Murray at the church of the Institute of Psychiatry.  Science is usually about dispassionate analysis of evidence but Sir Robin is a very active anti-cannabis campaigner.  In 2005 he found what he thought was his holy grail, he was a co-author on a paper which postulated a theory about a functional polymorphism in the catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) gene.  This was reported as meaning that 25% of young people who used cannabis would go on to develop psychosis.

This single piece of research, which was only ever a theory, has been at the centre of all the Reefer Madness scare stories of the last six years. The Daily Mail and Sir Robin promote it  with vigour, it is the foundation of Mary Brett’s Cannabis Skunk Sense campaign and of the deeply irresponsible hysteria from Charles Walker MP, who even goes so far as to say that cocaine is safer than cannabis.

What none of these mischievous propagandists will tell you is that three further studies have been published since, the most recent just two months ago, that disprove the COMT gene cannabis theory completely.

But it is much more than mischief. This mendacious campaign has criminalised millions of citizens, worldwide tens of thousands have been killed and millions more denied safe, effective and inexpensive relief from a wide range of diseases and conditions.  What was originally driven by oil, timber and paper interests is now driven by Big Booze and Big Pharma.  The first is terrified of a much safer, non-addictive, non-toxic alternative to its popular poison.  The second is desperately trying to patent new varieties, extracts and components of the plant in the knowledge that modern science now proves that cannabis is as close to a panacea as possible. Only discovered in 1988, we now know that the endocannabinoid system is fundamental to all aspects of life.  Endocannabinoid deficiency is now being postulated as the fundamental cause of cancers, MS, fibromyalgia and many other conditions.  The only natural source of cannabinoids outside the body is the cannabis plant.  No wonder that 100 years ago more than half of all medicines in the British pharmacopeia contained cannabis.

The Daily Mail’s campaign has been remarkably successful.  Make no mistake, virtually all of the reefer madness can be traced back to it.  Other newspapers have followed its lead.  Even police officers and members of the judiciary declare as facts what are actually Daily Mail scare stories. Funding for cannabis research is most easily available if a scientist subscribes to the Daily Mail agenda.  The truth and the scientific evidence have been corrupted.  Irrational prejudice has been promoted and swallowed whole by many who should know far better.  It is a bandwagon that many have chosen to jump on.

What is the truth about cannabis?  Another myth is that there is disagreement amongst scientists.  This isn’t the case.  All the evidence points in the same direction – that cannabis use does increase the risk of psychosis and that the risk is greater at a younger age. This is meaningless though unless it is placed in context and compared with the risk from other activities.  Then it is clear that, relatively speaking, cannabis is very safe.

The bizarre truth is that Professor Les Iversen, the government’s chief drugs advisor, is on the record saying this again and again but the Daily Mail doesn’t print it and the government ignores it, only accepting the advice it chooses to.  Professor Iversen is also a long time advocate of the medicinal use of cannabis but the government continues with its inane position that “there is no medicinal value” in cannabis. Simultaneously, the Home Office has granted a unique monopoly licence to GW Pharmaceuticals to grow 20 tonnes of cannabis a year for medicinal use.  You really couldn’t make it up, could you?

Just last month GW announced the results of clinical trials which show that its super-strong, super-concentrated, 51% THC skunk cannabis medicine Sativex has “…limited relevant adverse effects and – particularly reassuring – the drug does not appear to lead to withdrawal effects if patients suddenly stop using it.” – a far cry from the usual hysteria about psychosis and addiction.

There is a furore in the US over medical marijuana.  The DEA and the massive forces of prohibition see their business coming to an end.  They are fighting back furiously but ultimately they cannot frustrate the declared will of the people.  77% of of all Americans now favour legalising medical marijuana on a federal level.  16 states have already done so.  The market is predicted to be worth nearly $10 billion within a few years.

Last week Switzerland announced that cultivating four plants per person would no longer be an offence.  It’s one plant in Belgium, five plants in Holland and they’re even less strict in Italy and Spain. The Czech Republic and Slovakia are reforming their laws.  In Britain, cannabis production is regularly treated more severely than paedophilia or violent assault.  Just a few plants can get you more than a year in prison.  There is a brutal and disproportionate crackdown in Sheffield at the moment led by Judge Alan Goldsack QC and the South Yorkshire police.  Both the judge and police officers are on the record in local media spouting false science and encouraging hatred of cannabis users.

Medicinal cannabis is available all over Europe except Britain and France.  Residents of other European countries, prescribed cannabis by their doctor can bring it to Britain and use it without restriction under the protection of the Schengen Agreement.  A British resident would risk jail. The Daily Mail’s campaign amounts to a hate crime against cannabis users.  The Press Complaints Commission has proved itself incapable of correcting even blatant falsification of scientific evidence.  More than a million people in Britain now have a criminal record for cannabis.  According to independent research, every year our government gifts up to £9.5 billion to organised crime rather than adopting the safer, more responsible policy of tax and regulate (Taxing the UK Cannabis Market, IDMU 2011).

All these factors are combining to make change urgent and imminent.  We are witnessing the death throes of prohibition while its advocates make a desperate and frantic last stand, their final frenzy.

There is one huge obstacle left to overcome.  How can our cowardly political leaders find a way to save face while reversing the dreadful policy they have supported for so long?  If any issue exposes the hypocrisy and dishonesty of politicians and the way that the media has an improper influence, then it is cannabis.  We have to find a way to let them off the hook.

In years to come, the attitudes that now prevail towards people that choose cannabis will be as politically incorrect as racism, homophobia or denying women the vote.  Cannabis is one of God’s greatest gifts with which mankind has had a symbiotic relationship since the dawn of time.  The prohibition experiment of the last 80 years has been a disaster.  A rational approach will bring enormous benefits to our country, save billions in wasted expenditure, create thousands of new jobs, cut crime and disorder, provide tremendously safe and effective relief to millions in pain and disability.  The time has come to embrace cannabis as the miraculous plant that it is.

23 November, 2011
Peter Reynolds

27 November 2011

The Global WAR ON DRUGS has Failed it is Time for a New Approach

WE THE UNDERSIGNED call on members of the public and of Parliament to recognise that:-

Fifty years after the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs was launched, the global war on drugs has failed, and has had many unintended and devastating consequences worldwide.

Use of the major controlled drugs has risen, and supply is cheaper, purer and more available than ever before. The UN conservatively estimates that there are now 250 million drug users worldwide.

Illicit drugs are now the third most valuable industry in the world, after food and oil, estimated to be worth $450 billion a year, all in the control of criminals.

Fighting the war on drugs costs the world’s taxpayers incalculable billions each year. An estimated 10 million people are in prison worldwide for drug-related offences, mostly “little fish” – personal users and small-time dealers.

Corruption amongst law-enforcers and politicians, especially in producer and transit countries, has spread as never before, endangering democracy and civil society.

Stability, security and development are threatened by the fallout from the war on drugs, as are human rights. Tens of thousands of people die in the drug war each year.

The drug-free world so confidently predicted by supporters of the war on drugs is further than ever from attainment. The policies of prohibition create more harms than they prevent. We must seriously consider shifting resources away from criminalising tens of millions of otherwise law abiding citizens, and move towards an approach based on health, harm-reduction, cost-effectiveness and respect for human rights. Evidence consistently shows that these health-based approaches deliver better results than criminalisation.

Improving our drug policies is one of the key policy challenges of our time.

It is time for world leaders to fundamentally review their strategies in response to the drug phenomenon. That is what the Global Commission on Drug Policy, led by four former Presidents, by Kofi Annan and by other world leaders, has bravely done with its ground-breaking Report, first presented in New York in June, and now at the House of Lords on 17 November.

At the root of current policies lies the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. It is time to re-examine this treaty. A document entitled ‘Rewriting the UN Drug Conventions’ has recently been commissioned in order to show how amendments to the conventions could be made which would allow individual countries the freedom to explore drug policies that best suit their domestic needs, rather than seeking to impose the current “one-size-fits-all” solution.

As we cannot eradicate the production, demand or use of drugs, we must find new ways to minimise harms. We should give support to our Governments to explore new policies based on scientific evidence.

Yours faithfully,

Signatories to Public Letter

President Jimmy Carter Former President of the United States, Nobel Prize winner
President Fernando H. Cardoso Former President of Brazil
President César Gaviria Former President of Colombia
President Vicente Fox Former President of Mexico
President Ruth Dreifuss Former President of Switzerland
President Lech Wałęsa Former President of Poland, Nobel Prize winner.
President Aleksander Kwaśniewski Former President of Poland
George P. Schultz Former US Secretary of State
Jaswant Singh Former Minister of Defence, of Finance, and for External Affairs, India
Professor Lord Piot Former UN Under Secretary-General
Louise Arbour, CC, GOQ Former UN High-Commissioner for Human Rights
Carel Edwards Former Head of the EU Commission’s Drug Policy Unit
Javier Solana, KOGF, KCMG Former EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy
Thorvald Stoltenberg Former Minister of Foreign Affairs (Norway) and UN High Commissioner for Refugees
Gary Johnson Republican US Presidential Candidate
Professor Sir Harold Kroto Chemist, Nobel Prize winner
Dr. Kary Mullis Chemist, Nobel Prize winner
Professor John Polanyi Chemist, Nobel Prize winner
Professor Kenneth Arrow Economist, Nobel Prize winner
Professor Thomas C. Schelling Economist, Nobel Prize winner
Professor Sir Peter Mansfield Economist, Nobel Prize winner
Professor Sir Anthony Leggett Physicist, Nobel Prize winner
Professor Martin L. Perl Physicist, Nobel Prize winner
Mario Vargas Llosa Writer, Nobel Prize winner
Wisława Szymborska Poet, Nobel Prize winner
Professor Sir Ian Gilmore Former President of the Royal College of Physicians
Professor Robert Lechler Dean of School of Medicine, KCL
Professor A. C. Grayling Master of the New College of the Humanities
Professor Sir Partha Dasgupta Professor of Economics at Cambridge
Asma Jahangir Former UN Special Rapporteur on Arbitrary, Extrajudicial and Summary Execution
Dr. Muhammed Abdul Bari, MBE Former Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain
Professor Noam Chomsky Professor of Linguistics and Philosophy at MIT
Carlos Fuentes Novelist and essayist
Sir Richard Branson Entrepreneur and Founder of the Virgin Group
John Whitehead Chair of the WTC Memorial Foundation
Maria Cattaui Former Secretary-General of the International Chamber of Commerce
Nicholas Green, QC Former Chairman of the Bar Council
Professor David Nutt Former Chair of the Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs
Professor Trevor Robbins Professor of Neuroscience at Cambridge
Professor Niall Ferguson Professor of History at Harvard University
Professor Peter Singer Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University
Professor Jonathan Wolff Professor of Philosophy at UCL
Professor Robin Room School of Population Health, University of Melbourne
Sir Peregrine Worsthorne Former Editor of The Sunday Telegraph
Dr. Jan Wiarda Former President of European Police Chiefs
Sting Musician and actor
Yoko Ono Musician and artist
Sean Parker Founding President of Facebook, Director of Spotify
Bernardo Bertolucci Film Director
Gilberto Gil Musician, former Minister of Culture, Brazil
John Perry Barlow Co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation
Tom Lloyd Former Chief Constable of Cambridgeshire
Bob Ainsworth, MP Former UK Secretary of State for Defence
Peter Lilley, MP Former Secretary of State for Social Security
Tom Brake, MP
Dr. Julian Huppert, MP
Caroline Lucas, MP
Paul Flynn, MP
Dr. Patrick Aeberhard Former President of Doctors of the World
Lord Mancroft Chair of the Drug and Alcohol Foundation
General Lord Ramsbotham Former HM Chief Inspector of Prisons
Lord Rees, OM Astronomer Royal and former President of the Royal Society
Amanda Feilding, Countess of Wemyss Director of the Beckley Foundation

17 November 2011
House of Lords, London

23 November 2011

New Way Found To Enhance Effects Of Body's Own Marijuana

Results Underscore Cannabinoid's Potential as Basis of Safe Painkillers

Researchers have discovered a new way to enhance the effects of anandamide, a natural marijuana-like chemical in the body that provides pain relief.

A team of University of California at Irvine and Italian researchers, led by Daniele Piomelli of UC Irvine, identified an "escort" protein in brain cells that transports the endocannabinoid anandamide to sites within the cell where enzymes break it down, reports HealthCanal . The scientists found that blocking this protein -- called FLAT -- increases the potency of anandamide.

Compounds which boost anandamide's natural abilities could form the basis of pain medications that don't produce sedation, addiction or other central nervous system (CNS) side effects, according to previous work by the scientists. These side effects are common with existing painkillers such as opiates.

"These findings raise hope that the analgesic properties of marijuana can be harnessed for new, safe drugs," said Piomelli, a professor of pharmacology. "Specific drug compounds we are creating that amplify the actions of natural, marijuana-like chemicals are showing great promise."

For the study, which appears in the November 20 online edition of Nature Neuroscience, Piomelli and his colleagues used computers to analyze how FLAT binds with anandamide and escorts it to sites within the cell to be degraded by the fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) enzymes.

Anandamide has been called "the bliss molecule" because of its similarities tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a psychoactive cannabinoid in marijuana.

A neurotransmitter that's part of the body's natural endocannabinoid system, anandamide has been shown in studies by Piomelli and others to have analgesic, anti-anxiety and antidepressant effects. It's also important in regulating hunger and thus food consumption.

Blocking FAAH's activity enhances several effects of anandamide without generating the "high" produced by marijuana.

Piomelli and his team members speculate that inhibiting the action of FLAT (FAAH-like anandamide transporters) might be especially useful in controlling certain kinds of pain -- such as that caused by damage to the central nervous system -- and, interestingly, in curbing addiction to drugs such as cocaine and nicotine.

Researchers from UCI, Italy's University of Parma and University of Bologna, and the Italian Institute of Technology took part in the study, which was supported by grants from the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism, and the U.S. National Institute of General Medical Sciences.

21 November, 2011
Steve Elliott

21 November 2011

IACM-Bulletin of 20 November 2011

News in Brief

* USA: Legal action by advocates of medical cannabis use against crackdown on cannabis dispensaries in California
Attorneys for medical cannabis advocates on 7 November sought a temporary restraining order to put a stop to a federal crackdown on California cannabis dispensaries, claiming the effort by the state's four U.S. attorneys is unconstitutional. Plaintiffs asked U.S. District Court Judge Donna Ryu in Oakland to issue an order barring the government from arresting or prosecuting patients, dispensary owners or landlords of properties housing dispensaries.

The four federal prosecutors for California last month announced a broad effort to close cannabis clubs, in particular by sending letters to landlords who rent space to cannabis dispensaries threatening to seize their property under federal drug trafficking laws. Lawsuits of advocates of medicinal cannabis accuse the Federal Department of Justice of entrapping cannabis providers by reversing its own policy. "The conduct of the government officials and their statement led the nation to believe that the government had changed its policy in 2009, ensuring that those who comply with state medical cannabis laws would not be subject to federal prosecution," according to the suits. Medical cannabis advocates hailed the 2009 memorandum by the Department of Justice as the fulfilment of an Obama campaign promise to respect state law on medical cannabis.

More at: http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_MEDICAL_MARIJUANA_LAWSUIT?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT (Source: Associated Press of 7 November 2011)

***USA: Rhode Island
Rhode Island did not find increases in cannabis use by adolescents related to the state's 2006 legalization of medical cannabis, researchers say. Dr. Esther Choo from Rhode Island Hospital, and co-authors of a study on the issue said state-level legalization of medical cannabis five years ago raised concerns about increased accessibility and appeal of the drug to youth. The researchers compared trends in adolescent cannabis use in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, which has no medicinal cannabis law, between 1997 and 2009. The analysis of data on 32,570 students found that there were no statistically significant differences in cannabis use between states in any year. (Source: Health News of 6 November 2011)

***Norway: Medicinal use
Cannabis as medicine is a controversial issue in Norway. Several Norwegian doctors prescribe cannabis preparations to their patients on medical grounds, although it is not approved in the Norwegian market. The Health Ministry must approve the treatment, while a number of criteria must be met. In addition, patients must pay for drugs, which they can import from other European countries. Dr. Nils Olav Aanonsen, chief physician at Ullevål University Hospital in Oslo is one of the doctors who have prescribed cannabis preparations to their patients. Aanonsen believes the Norwegian regulations on cannabis preparations are too strict. He welcomes a new debate to approve cannabis preparations on the Norwegian market. Aanonsen estimates that about 500 Norwegians had need of cannabis preparations. (Source: adressa.no of 10 November 2011)

***USA: Washington
On 15 November federal agents and police raided state-sanctioned medical cannabis dispensaries in the Seattle area in the state of Washington. The Cannabis Defense Coalition, a non-profit advocacy group for cannabis, said on its website that 15 cannabis dispensaries in at least six western Washington cities were raided. (Source: Reuters of 16 November 2011)

***Europe: Sativex
The European Patent Office has granted a patent which protects the composition of the Sativex formulation. This patent has already been granted in the United States. In addition, Sativex is protected by a number of other patents related to different aspects of the product, including rights for certain plant varieties. (Source: GW Pharmaceuticals of 17 November 2011)

***Science: Intelligence
According to researchers of Cardiff University, UK, intelligence is a risk factor for cannabis use. In a group of 7904 British citizens who were followed since birth in 1970, in participants with a higher IQ at age 5 and 10, cannabis use at age 30 was twice as high as in participants with lower IQ. (Source: White J & Batty GD. J Epidemiol Community Health. 2011 Nov 14. [in press])

***Science: Anxiety
Animal research at the University of Nottingham, UK, showed that chronic administration of cannabidiol (CBD) increased anxiety in rats. Rats were treated for 14 days with CBD. Researchers concluded that "chronic administration of CBD produced an anxiogenic-like effect in clear opposition to the acute anxiolytic profile previously reported." (Source: Elbatsh MM, et al. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2011 Nov 15. [in press])

***Science: Migraine
Research at the University of Leuven, Belgium, showed that there was an increase binding to the CB1 receptor in the brains of 20 female migraine patients compared to healthy subjects. Scientists concluded that the increased CB1 receptor  binding, especially in brain regions that modulate pain, "supports the idea that endocannabinoid deficiency is present in female patients suffering from episodic migraine." (Source: Van der Schueren BJ, et al. Headache. 2011 Nov 11. [in press])

***Science: Fatty liver
According to animal research at Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute, USA, inhibition of endocannabinoid degradation increases production of triglycerides in the liver and induces insulin resistance. These effects were mediated by increased CB1 receptor signalling.  In insulin resistance cells do no longer respond adequately to insulin, which usually serves to bring glucose into the cells. Insulin resistance results in increased blood glucose concentrations. (Source: Ruby MA, et al. PLoS One.2011;6(11):e26415.)

***Science: THC in urine
According to investigations at the University of Pretoria, South Africa, the antiretroviral drug efavirenz, which is used in the treatment of AIDS, may cause positive results in urine screenings for THC. Thus, people who use efavirenz may erroneously be regarded as cannabis users. (Source: Oosthuizen NM, et al. Ann Clin Biochem. 2011 Nov 8. [in press])

***Science: FAAH inhibitor
Animal research at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, USA, shows that administration of an inhibitor of endocannabinoid degradation (phenylmethyl sulfonyl fluoride, PMSF) increases the effects of THC. PMSF increases the concentration of the endocannabinoid anandamide (AEA). Researchers wrote that "increased AEA levels may have acted additively with exogenously administered cannabinoids to increase cannabimimetic effects. These findings may account for the varying effect in response to marijuana in humans or cannabinoids in animals while also suggesting that metabolic inhibitors of AEA may potentiate marijuana's intoxicating effects in humans." (Source: Vann RE, et al. Neuropharmacology. 2011 Oct 31. [in press])

International Association for Cannabinoid Medicines (IACM)

20 November 2011

Slim Majority for Legal Marijuana, Overwhelming Support for Medical Pot

The latest poll to ask the American people their opinions on medical marijuana and marijuana legalization reveals some disturbing trends for opponents of marijuana prohibition.

21st Century Legalization Polls by major news and polling organizations (click for full size version)
According a recent CBS News poll conducted at the end of October, a slim majority of 51 percent continues to think that marijuana use should be illegal. But support for specifically allowing doctors to prescribe marijuana for serious medical conditions – or legalized “medical” marijuana – is far stronger: 77 percent Americans think it should be allowed.

CBS’s poll compares well to the bulk of polls on the issue over the past two years, which have ranged from 40% to 46% support for full-legalization.  It’s interesting to note that no news organization has ever shown a poll with majority support for full-legalization; the five polls showing 50% or greater support all come from Zogby, Angus Reid, and Gallup.

Still, even though most Americans support this, just three in 10 believe that the marijuana currently being bought in this country under state-authorized medical marijuana programs is being used in the way it has been authorized: for alleviating suffering from serious medical conditions.

In previous posts we’ve noted the gap between medical-only and full-legalization has shrunk from 44% to 20% in the Gallup Polls.  This CBS poll shows 77% nationwide for “Do you think doctors should be allowed to prescribe small amounts of marijuana for patients suffering from serious illnesses?” but also shows only 31% of the country believes “marijuana that is purchased in this country through state authorized medical marijuana programs is being used to alleviate suffering from serious medical illnesses”.  Majorities of Republicans (62%) and Independents (51%) and a plurality of Democrats (44%) believe “most of it is being used for other reasons”.

As usual, people between the age of 18-29 support legalization (52%) as do liberals (66%).  Greatest support geographically is again found in the West (48%).  But surprisingly, the Midwest (43%) beats the Northeast (41%) in support and Independents (48%) have greater support for legalization than Democrats (45%).  Also as usual, and still vexing for legalization proponents, is the gender gap of 11 points between men (46%) and women (35%).

18 November, 2011
Russ Belville

19 November 2011

EU Cannabis Statistics Support Decriminalisation for UK

An influential cross party group of MP's and members of the House of Lords have for the first time, directly recommended ministers consider decriminalising cannabis, there-by removing the Class B substance from the War on Drugs entirely.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group chaired by former MI5 chief Baroness Manningham-Buller have for the first time, used drug use statistics from abroad to illustrate the success which can be achieved in terms of reducing crime and public health risk with the decriminalisation of drugs.

In 2001 Portugal chose to go against the UN line by decriminalising the personal possession and use of all drugs.

It was a move which drew flack from many prohibitionists.

Whilst drug trafficking still carries the risk of a heavy prison sentence, drug users are no longer targeted by police.

Those that do come in to contact with law enforcement, are steered into substance education and awareness courses as opposed to the judicial system.

But for the many responsible drug users who remain in control of their habits, they have nothing to fear from the police.

Holland is another of our near neighbours which long ago decided cannabis didn't deserve its place on the banned substances list.
The Dutch government uses a gedoogbeleid, or a policy of tolerance, which allows for the controlled use of certain soft drugs such as cannabis. 

As well as the famous Dutch coffeeshop network, which attracts as many visitors to Holland as its more traditional cultural attractions, Dutch citizens are permitted to grow up to 5 cannabis plants for their own consumption.

Keeping cannabis users away from drug dealers. Often the first point of contact for harder drugs like heroin and cocaine.

As a result the Netherlands sees 9.5% of young adults (aged 15–34) consuming soft drugs once a month, compared to the UK under prohibition which sees 13.8% of young adults getting stoned.

Also the reported number of deaths linked to the use of drugs in the Netherlands, as a proportion of the entire population, is together with Poland, France, Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic the lowest of the EU.

In a direct challenge to politicians who support prohibition 'for the sake of a quiet life', Baroness Meacher said: “The Czech Republic and Portugal have decriminalised possession and use of small quantities of drugs. They have lower levels of problem drug use, lower levels of use of these drugs among young people, lower cocaine use, lower heroin use.

“It’s fairly clear that you do quite well if you have decriminalisation, so that’s one of the policies we think needs to be looked at."

In return the UK government currently remains silent.

'Dangers' are unknown

Most synthetic cannabinoids were designed for research purposes at a United States university by a retired chemist named John Huffman.

Mr Huffman aimed to achieve the benefits of marijuana without the high by testing the effects of cannabinoid receptors in the brain. The research eventually ceased, but in that time he and his team developed hundreds of synthetic compounds that affected these receptors. It was only a matter of time until others began using his chemical designs to make drugs.

CQ University professor and pharmaceutical chemist Dr Andrew Fenning said the human body had two chemical receptors that reacted to cannabinoids such as Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, the active ingredient in cannabis. These are the cb1 and cb2 receptors.

"They can react in several ways but essentially it's a lock and key situation. You need the right key to get the effects," Dr Fenning said.

"The problem with synthetic cannabinoids is that they just don't know. The dangers of using these drugs are really unknown, it all depends on how the receptors react.

"Basically there needs to be a lot more testing done because when you're tinkering with chemical structures you just don't know the potency levels and what it will do to the human body."

He said functionally and physiologically the chemicals do the same as marijuana as they target the same two receptors.

"But they are now tinkering on the fly, so the potency and toxicity levels are a complete unknown," Dr Fenning said.

"The funny thing is they could change one little thing in the chemicals and it may not work, people could be taking a placebo. On the other hand, it could be much more potent, with extremely strong reactions."

Dr Fenning said it takes 10 years to get a new pharmaceutical drug onto the market, with rigorous testing at many levels.

18th November 2011
Simon Green 

18 November 2011

Marijuana and Medical Marijuana

Marijuana, whose botanical name is cannabis, has been used by humans for thousands of years. It was classified as an illegal drug by many countries in the 20th century. But over the past two decades, there has been a growing movement to legalize it, primarily for medical purposes.

Medical marijuana use has surged in the 16 US states and the District of Columbia  that allow its use. But states and cities are also wrestling with the question of what medical marijuana is, or should be.

In Montana, 2011 saw the House and Senate vote to repeal the state’s six-year-old medical marijuana law. The repeal bill was vetoed by Gov. Brian Schweitzer. Even so, Mr. Schweitzer made it clear that he would like to see reform of the medical marijuana law, which has resulted in 28,000 registered users.

New Mexico’s Republican governor, Susana Martinez, also expressed interest in repeal in 2011. Colorado formulated some of the most detailed rules in the nation for growing and selling. Lawmakers in New Jersey have jousted with the governor over regulation.

In November 2010, Californians defeated Proposition 19, a ballot measure that would have legalized possession and growing of marijuana outright, and taxed and regulated its use. California had already reduced its penalty for possession , putting those caught with small amounts of the drug on the same level as those caught speeding on the freeway. Advocates for Proposition 19 had said that if marijuana were legalized, California could raise $1.4 billion in taxes and save precious law enforcement and prison resources.

Attorney General Eric Holder has insisted that the federal government would continue to enforce its laws against marijuana in California even if they conflict with state law. In an illustration of that conflict, in October 2011 federal officials warned dozens of marijuana dispensaries throughout California to shut down or face civil and criminal action. Specifically, four United States attorneys said that they would move against landlords who rent space to storefront operators of medical marijuana dispensaries whom prosecutors suspect of using the law to cover large-scale for-profit drug sales. Officials said they would also concentrate on properties used to grow marijuana, particularly in the agriculturally rich central part of the state.

Currently, 16 states allow the use of marijuana for pain relief, nausea and loss of appetite by people with AIDS, cancer and other debilitating diseases. Those laws, however, are at odds with federal law. The federal government continues to oppose any decriminalization of the drug. And while the Obama administration has signaled some leeway when it comes to medical marijuana, raids on dispensaries and growers by law enforcement agencies are still common — even in California, where the industry effectively began in 1996, with the passage of the landmark Proposition 215, which legalized medical marijuana.

Rules vary widely in the states that permit medical marijuana. Some states require sellers to prove nonprofit status — often as a collective or cooperative — and all states require that patients have a recommendation from a physician. But even those in favor of medical marijuana believe that the system is ripe for abuse or even unintentional lawbreaking.

Although party line positions defined the issue in Montana, with Republicans mostly lined up in favor of restriction or repeal, there is widespread agreement among legislators and residents that medical marijuana has become something very different than it was originally envisioned to be.

Sixty-two percent of voters approved the use of medical marijuana in a Montana referendum in 2004. But the real explosion of growth came only in 2010, after the federal Department of Justice said  in late 2009 that medical marijuana would not be a law enforcement priority. Since then, the numbers of patients have quadrupled to more than 27,000 — in a state of only about 975,000 people — and millions of dollars have been invested in businesses that grow or supply the product.

With a growing number of Americans favoring legalization — a Gallup poll released in October 2010 found a record 46 percent approving of legalization — perhaps no ballot measure in the country was more closely watched than Proposition 19 in California.

The California ballot measure would have allowed anyone over 21 to buy, possess, use or cultivate marijuana. It would have barred personal possession of more than one ounce as well as smoking the drug in public or around minors.

Some civil rights activists favored the legalization of the drug on the grounds that marijuana arrests are wildly disproportionate in their racial impact and adversely affect minorities.

But the measure was strongly opposed by law enforcement, which said it would actually end up costing the state in increased public health and safety expenses.

As more and more states allow medical use of the drug, marijuana’s supporters are pushing hard to burnish the image of marijuana by franchising dispensaries and building brands; establishing consulting, lobbying and law firms; setting up trade shows and a seminar circuit; and constructing a range of other marijuana-related businesses.

In July 2010, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced that it will formally allow patients treated at its hospitals and clinics to use medical marijuana in states where it is legal, a policy clarification that veterans had sought for several years.

The department directive resolves the conflict in veterans facilities between federal law, which outlaws marijuana, and the states that allow medicinal use of the drug, effectively deferring to the states.

Marijuana is the only major drug for which the federal government controls the only legal research supply and for which the government requires a special scientific review. The University of Mississippi has the nation’s only federally approved marijuana plantation. If researchers wish to investigate marijuana, they must apply to the National Institute on Drug Abuse to use the Mississippi marijuana and must get approvals from a special Public Health Service panel, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Food and Drug Administration

8 November, 2011
Times Topics
The New York Times

17 November 2011

Nimbin offers Obama a joint plan

Everyone knows that President Barack Obama has admitted to inhaling, and we imagine when he saw the 10 metre inflatable Big Joint in Canberra yesterday (Wednesday, 16 November) he knew he'd never get his lips around this one.

The President's visit was never going to be dull, but Nimbin group The HEMP (Help End Marijuana Prohibition) Party made sure of it.

The group gained approval from the National Capital Authority (NCA) to take along the inflatable mascot in the Authorised Assembly Area (AAA) in hope to catch Obama and the Australian Government's attention.

The idea was originally knocked back by the Australian Federal Police but they were encouraged to apply to the NCA. Hemp Party president Michael Balderstone said they were appreciative of their mission but had one request.

"They asked us to move up the back a bit. No big deal," Mr Balderstone said.

What the party want is to get the drug war on the agenda while Obama is in the country, because he has helped law reform and medical cannabis dispensaries across America.

"The President talks about smoking weed in his autobiography and he knows cannabis is a good medicine," Mr Balderstone said. "The reforms he has supported have had no discernable negative social consequences. What we want is to take it out of the too hard basket and talk about it."

Mr Balderstone said proper use and legalisation is all about education and he believes that it will create fewer problems when it comes to the negative connotations surrounding the drug.

"People doing something illegal are disrespecting the law and therefore will disrespect other laws," Mr Balderstone said.

The party claim the government could save a fortune in lots of areas; from enforcement and incarceration costs plus the consequent social disasters.

"Thousands of jobs can be created with the stroke of a pen simply by regulating this industry. We also believe it is a priority to normalise the lives of those involved in the current multi-billion dollar cannabis industry," Mr Balderstone said.

Mr Balderstone said the bottom line is pharmaceutical companies want the profits, and although he doesn't believe marijuana use is suited for everyone, bringing the cannabis culture out from the underground will help educate people about it.

"It can help with many illnesses including Crohn's disease, glaucoma and nausea from cancer. I am also confident in its anti-cancer properties as well as its use as a relaxant," Mr Balderstone said.

The HEMP Party delegation, now seeking candidates for the next Federal election, left Nimbin on Tuesday morning and took along a group of 12 including representatives from the Mullers and Packers Union.

"Finally pressure is mounting around Australia for true reform. It's an issue whose time has come we believe," Mr Balderstone said.

According to Mr Balderstone since Julia Gillard has been Prime Minister her only comment on cannabis is that she tried it once and didn't like it.

17 November, 2011
Mel Carrero
The Northern Rivers Echo