12 November 2012

Marijuana Smokers Breathe Easy Says The University of Alabama

As of January 10, 2012, a new study has been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association exonerating marijuana from the bad reputation of being as harmful to your lungs when smoked as tobacco cigarettes. Researchers at the University of California San Francisco and the University of Alabama at Birmingham completed a twenty-year study between 1986 and 2006 on over 5,000 adults over the age of 21 in four American cities. Study co-author Dr. Stefan Kertesz is a professor of preventive medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He explained that the studies measured the pulmonary obstruction in individuals with up to seven joint-years of lifetime exposure (one joint per day for seven years or one joint per week for 49 years). "What this study clarifies," Kertesz explains in a released video, "is that the relationship to marijuana and lung function changes depending on how much a person has taken in over the course of a lifetime."

Lung function was determined by testing the volume of expiration in the first second of exhaling and the amount of air a person can force out in one second after taking a deep breath. The higher an individual’s number, the better the lung functionality. The study found that at the level of one marijuana cigarette per week for 49 years, or one joint a day for seven years patients who only smoked tobacco had 24 fewer milliliters of volume in the first second of an exhalation than the average of someone who doesn’t smoke at all. Marijuana smokers who did not smoke tobacco had 0.7 more milliliters of volume. The marijuana-only smokers also had 8.2 milliliters more air exhaled after a full inhalation in comparison to non-smokers while tobacco-only smokers had 19 milliliters less. Researchers were surprised to find an increased airflow with increased exposure to marijuana up to a certain level. The results are surprising, because marijuana smoke contains similar noxious ingredients and chemicals as tobacco smoke, which is known to impair lung function. Until now it has been unclear whether regular marijuana smoking led to the same injuries to the lungs. It was speculated by Dr. Keresz that the way pot is smoked (the common exercise of holding one's breath after inhaling cannabis smoke to increase its heady effects) might have some cause to people to doing well with the lung function test. Pulmonologist, Dr. Donald Tashkin from the University of California also added that one reason marijuana smoke might not be as harmful as tobacco smoke, despite containing similar noxious ingredients, may be the fact that its active ingredient, THC, has anti-inflammatory effects. “We don’t know for sure,” he said, “but a very reasonable possibility is that THC may actually interfere with the development of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.”

Basically, though these studies do not depict what the consequences are of inhaling marijuana smoke, their findings suggest that occasional use of marijuana may not be linked with unfavorable consequences on pulmonary function.  Marijuana is designated by the U.S. government as a Schedule I drug, which declares it has no medicinal purposes.  Previous studies have shown that the drug can be used to treat multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, nausea, and pain.  It has been known to have beneficial effects on pain control, mood, appetite, and managing of other chronic symptoms.  Despite these facts, marijuana continues to be depicted as more damaging to us than it’s legal counterpart tobacco. Marijuana activists, medical patients, and recreational users alike will rejoice knowing the evidence shows otherwise.

Published: 02/08/2012 by Terrica America

08 November 2012

Colorado, Washington state legalise pot

In Washington it will no longer be illegal for adults aged 21 and over to possess a small amount of cannabis.
Colorado and Washington have enthusiastically leapt into history, becoming the first US states to reject federal drug-control policy and legalise recreational cannabis use.
The vote puts Washington and Colorado to the left of the Netherlands on cannabis law, and makes them the nexus of a new social experiment with uncertain consequences. National and international media watched as vote counts rolled into Initiative 502's election-night party in Seattle amid jubilant cheers.
"Today the state of Washington looked at 75 years of national marijuana prohibition and said it is time for a new approach," said Alison Holcomb, I-502's campaign manager and primary architect.
In both Washington and Colorado, voters backed legalising cannabis by a 55 per cent to 45 per cent margin. The third state with pot on its ballot - Oregon - turned a similar measure down by the same percentage.
In Washington, as of December 6, it will no longer be illegal for adults 21 and over to possess an ounce of marijuana. A new "drugged driving" law for marijuana impairment also kicks in then.
Tuesday's vote also begins a yearlong process for the state Liquor Control Board to set rules for heavily taxed and regulated sales at state-licensed cannabis stores, which are expected to raise $US1.9 billion ($A1.83 billion) in new revenue over five years.
Many legal experts expect the US Justice Department to push back and perhaps sue, but Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes said Seattle's US Attorney Jenny Durkan told him on Tuesday the federal government "has no plans, except to talk."
Initiative 502 ran a disciplined campaign with a tightly focused message, criticising what it called the failed "war on drugs" without endorsing marijuana use itself.
I-502 spent heavily, raising more than $6 million, including more than $2 million from Peter B Lewis of Ohio, chairman of Progressive Insurance.
A broad group of mainstream leaders - including former top federal law-enforcement officials, the King County sheriff, the entire Seattle City Council, public-health experts, African-American leaders and the state labour council - backed the measure. John McKay, US attorney in Seattle under the George W Bush administration, became a public face of the campaign.
The initiative faced surprisingly little organised opposition. The Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs and a state drug-treatment-prevention group were opposed, but did not raise money to counter I-502's $2.8 million TV-ad spending in October.
The loudest opposition came from some in the medical-marijuana industry, who said they feared being ensnared by I-502's DUI law, which does not exempt patients.

SBS World News Australia

8 NOV 2012, 9:09 AM   -   SOURCE: AAP

04 November 2012

Spain Study Confirms Hemp Oil Cures Cancer Without Side Effects

“The medical science is strongly in favor of THC laden hemp oil as a primary cancer therapy, not just in a supportive role to control the side effects of chemotherapy. The International Medical Verities Association is putting hemp oil on its cancer protocol. It is a prioritized protocol list whose top five items are magnesium chloride, iodine, selenium, Alpha Lipoic Acid and sodium bicarbonate. It makes perfect sense to drop hemp oil right into the middle of this nutritional crossfire of anti cancer medicines, which are all available without prescription.
Hemp oil has long been recognised as one of the most versatile and beneficial substances known to man. Derived from hemp seeds (a member of the achene family of fruits) it has been regarded as a superfood due to its high essential fatty acid content and the unique ratio of omega3 to omega6 and gamma linolenic acid (GLA) – 2:5:1. Hemp oil, is known to contain up to 5% of pure GLA, a much higher concentration than any other plant, even higher than spirulina. For thousands of years, the hemp plant has been used in elixirs and medicinal teas because of its healing properties and now medical science is zeroing in on the properties of its active substances.
Both the commercial legal type of hemp oil and the illegal THC laden hemp oil are one of the most power-packed protein sources available in the plant kingdom. Its oil can be used in many nutritional and transdermal applications. In other chapters in my Winning the War on Cancer book we will discuss in-depth about GLA and cancer and also the interesting work of Dr. Johanna Budwig. She uses flax seed oil instead of hemp oil to cure cancer – through effecting changes in cell walls – using these omega3 and omega6 laden medicinal oils.
Actually there is another way to use medical marijuana without smoking the leaf. According to Dr. Tod H. Mikuriya, “The usual irritating and toxic breakdown products of burning utilized with smoking are totally avoided with vaporization. Extraction and inhaling cannabinoid essential oils below ignition temperature of both crude and refined cannabis products affords significant mitigation of irritation to the oral cavity, and tracheobronchial tree from pyrollytic breakdown products.
Dr. Mikuriya continues saying “The usual irritating and toxic breakdown products of burning utilized with smoking are totally avoided with vaporization. Extraction and inhaling cannabinoid essential oils below ignition temperature of both crude and refined cannabis products affords significant mitigation of irritation to the oral cavity, and tracheobronchial tree from pyrollytic breakdown products.”
Rick Simpson, the man in the above mentioned videos, has been making hemp oil and sharing it with friends and neighbors without charging for it. In small doses, he says, it makes you well without getting you high. “Well you can’t deny your own eyes can you?” Simpson asks. “Here’s someone dying of cancer and they’re not dying anymore. I don’t care if the medicine comes from a tomato plant, potato plant or a hemp plant, if the medicine is safe and helps and works, why not use it?” he asks.
When a person has cancer and is dying this question reaches a critical point. The bravery of Rick Simpson from Canada in showing us how to make hemp oil for ourselves offers many people a hope that should be increasingly appreciated as money dries up for expensive cancer treatments. We are going to need inexpensive medicines in the future and there is nothing better than the ones we can make reasonably cheaply ourselves.
For most people in the world it is illegal so the choice could come down to breaking the law or dying. There is no research to indicate what advantages oral use of hemp oil vs. vaporization but we can assume that advantage would be nutritional with oral intake. Dr. Budwig Below work would sustain this point of view especially for cancer patients.
The Science
According to Dr. Robert Ramer and Dr. Burkhard Hinz of the University of Rostock in Germany medical marijuana can be an effective treatment for cancer. Their research was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute Advance Access on December 25th of 2007 in a paper entitled Inhibition of Cancer Cell Invasion by Cannabinoids via Increased Expression of Tissue Inhibitor of Matrix Metalloproteinases-1.
The biggest contribution of this breakthrough discovery, is that the expression of TIMP-1 was shown to be stimulated by cannabinoid receptor activation and to mediate the anti-invasive effect of cannabinoids. Prior to now the cellular mechanisms underlying this effect were unclear and the relevance of the findings to the behavior of tumor cells in vivo remains to be determined.
Marijuana cuts lung cancer tumor growth in half, a 2007 Harvard Medical School study shows. The active ingredient in marijuana cuts tumor growth in lung cancer in half and significantly reduces the ability of the cancer to spread, say researchers at Harvard University who tested the chemical in both lab and mouse studies.
This is the first set of experiments to show that the compound, Delta-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), inhibits EGF-induced growth and migration in epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) expressing non-small cell lung cancer cell lines. Lung cancers that over-express EGFR are usually highly aggressive and resistant to chemotherapy. THC that targets cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2 is similar in function to endocannabinoids, which are cannabinoids that are naturally produced in the body and activate these receptors.
“The beauty of this study is that we are showing that a substance of abuse, if used prudently, may offer a new road to therapy against lung cancer,” said Anju Preet, Ph.D., a researcher in the Division of Experimental Medicine. Acting through cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2, endocannabinoids (as well as THC) are thought to play a role in variety of biological functions, including pain and anxiety control, and inflammation.
Researchers reported in the August 15, 2004 issue of Cancer Research, the journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, that marijuana’s constituents inhibited the spread of brain cancer in human tumor biopsies.[vii] In a related development, a research team from the University of South Florida further noted that THC can also selectively inhibit the activation and replication of gamma herpes viruses. The viruses, which can lie dormant for years within white blood cells before becoming active and spreading to other cells, are thought to increase one’s chances of developing cancers such as Kaposi’s Sarcoma, Burkitt’s lymphoma and Hodgkin’s disease.
In 1998, a research team at Madrid’s Complutense University discovered that THC can selectively induce programmed cell death in brain tumor cells without negatively impacting surrounding healthy cells. Then in 2000, they reported in the journal Nature Medicine that injections of synthetic THC eradicated malignant gliomas (brain tumors) in one-third of treated rats, and prolonged life in another third by six weeks.
Led by Dr. Manuel Guzman the Spanish team announced they had destroyed incurable brain cancer tumors in rats by injecting them with THC. They reported in the March 2002 issue of “Nature Medicine” that they injected the brains of 45 rats with cancer cells, producing tumors whose presence they confirmed through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). On the 12th day they injected 15 of the rats with THC and 15 with Win-55,212-2 a synthetic compound similar to THC.
Researchers at the University of Milan in Naples, Italy, reported in the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics that non-psychoactive compounds in marijuana inhibited the growth of glioma cells in a dose-dependent manner, and selectively targeted and killed malignant cells through apoptosis. “Non-psychoactive CBD produce[s] a significant anti-tumor activity both in vitro and in vivo, thus suggesting a possible application of CBD as an antineoplastic agent.”
The first experiment documenting pot’s anti-tumor effects took place in 1974 at the Medical College of Virginia at the behest of the U.S. government. The results of that study, reported in an Aug. 18, 1974, Washington Post newspaper feature, were that marijuana’s psychoactive component, THC, “slowed the growth of lung cancers, breast cancers and a virus-induced leukemia in laboratory mice, and prolonged their lives by as much as 36 percent.”
Funded by the National Institute of Health to find evidence that marijuana damages the immune system, found instead that THC slowed the growth of three kinds of cancer in mice — lung and breast cancer, and a virus-induced leukemia. The DEA quickly shut down the Virginia study and all further cannabis/tumor research even though the researchers “found that THC slowed the growth of lung cancers, breast cancers and a virus-induced leukemia in laboratory mice, and prolonged their lives by as much as 36 percent.”
“Antineoplastic Activity of Cannabinoids,” an article in a 1975 Journal of the National Cancer Institute reports, “Lewis lung adenocarcinoma growth was retarded by the oral administration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabinol (CBN)” — two types of cannabinoids, a family of active components in marijuana. “Mice treated for 20 consecutive days with THC and CBN had reduced primary tumor size.”
Marijuana relieves pain that narcotics like morphine and OxyContin have hardly any effect on, and could help ease suffering from illnesses such as multiple sclerosis, diabetes and cancer.
According to Devra Davis in her book Secret History of the War on Cancer, 1.5 million lives have been lost because Americans failed to act on existing knowledge about the environmental causes of cancer. It is impossible to calculate the added deaths from suppressed ‘cancer cures’ but we do know of the terrible suffering of hundreds of thousands of people who have been jailed for marijuana use.
Hemp oil with THC included has the making of a primary cancer treatment, which even alone seems to have a great chance of turning the tide against cancer tumors. It has the added advantage of safety, ease of use, lack of side effects and low cost if one makes it oneself. Surrounded by other medicinal anti-cancer substances in a full protocol it’s hard to imagine anyone failing and falling in their war on cancer.
THC should be included in every cancer protocol.
Sodium bicarbonate is another excellent anti tumor substance that reduces tumors but is much more difficult to administer than THC hemp oil. Cannabinoids are able to pass through all barriers in the body like Alpha Lipoic Acid so simple oral intake is sufficient. With bicarbonate we need intravenous applications and often even this is not sufficient, often we have to use catheters and few doctors in the world are willing to administer this way.
In the end all cancer treatments that are not promoted by mainstream oncology are illegal. No licensed doctor is going to claim that are curing cancer with sodium bicarbonate though they will treat people with cancer explaining they are balancing pH or some other metabolic profile with this common emergency room medicine found also most kitchens of the world. More than several states have passed laws making medical marijuana legal but the federal government will not relax and let people be free to choose their treatments even if their lives depend on it.
Davis notes that the cowardice of research scientists, who publish thoroughly referenced reports but pull their punches at the end, by claiming that more research needs to be done before action can be taken. Statements like these are exploited by industry that buys time to make much more money. It is a deliberate attempt that creates wholesale public doubt from small data gaps and remaining scientific uncertainties.
They have done that with everything right up to and including sunlight. Everything is thought to be dangerous except the pharmaceutical drugs which are the most dangerous substances of all. Stomach wrenching chemotherapy and the death principle of radiation are legal yet safe THC laden hemp oil is not.
It is legal for doctors to attack people with their poisons but you can go to jail for trying to save yourself or a loved one from cancer with the oil of a simple garden weed. Our civilization has put up with this insanity but there is a great price being paid. In a mad medical world people die that need not and this is a terrible sadness that has destroyed the integrity and ethics of modern medicine.
The science for the use of hemp oil is credible, specific fact-based, and is documented in detail. There is absolutely no reason to not legalize medical marijuana and create an immediate production and distribution of THC hemp oil to cancer patients. Unfortunately we live in a world populated with governments and medical henchmen who would rather see people die cruel deaths then have access to a safe and effect cancer drug.
Meanwhile the Food and Drug Administration approved Genentech’s best-selling drug, Avastin, as a treatment for breast cancer, in a decision, according to the New York Times, “that appeared to lower the threshold somewhat for approval of certain cancer drugs. The big question was whether it was enough for a drug temporarily to stop cancer from worsening — as Avastin had done in a clinical trial — or was it necessary for a drug to enable patients to live longer, which Avastin had failed to do. Oncologists and patient advocates were divided, in part because of the drug’s sometimes severe side effects.”
The differences between Avastin and hemp oil are huge. First Avastin will earn Genentech hundreds of millions where THC hemp oil will earn no one anything. Second there are no severe or even mild side effects to taking hemp oil and lastly it is not a temporary answer but a real solution. Certainly hemp oil will ensure a longer life.”
22 October 2012

Israel encourages use of medical marijuana

Moshe Rute survived the Holocaust by hiding in a barn full of chickens. He nearly lost the use of his hands after a stroke two years ago. He became debilitated by recurring nightmares of his childhood following his wife's death last year. 

"But after I found this, everything has been better," said the 80-year-old, as he gingerly packed a pipe with marijuana. 

Rute, who lives at the Hadarim nursing home outside of Tel Aviv, is one of more than 10,000 patients who have official government permission to consume marijuana in Israel, a number that has swelled dramatically, up from serving just a few hundred patients in 2005. 

The medical cannabis industry is expanding as well, fueled by Israel's strong research sector in medicine and technology — and notably, by government encouragement. Unlike in the United States and much of Europe, the issue inspires almost no controversy among the government and the country's leadership. Even influential senior rabbis do not voice any opposition to its spread, and secular Israelis have a liberal attitude on marijuana. 

Now, Israel's Health Ministry is considering the distribution of medical marijuana through pharmacies beginning next year, a step taken by only a few countries, including Holland, which has traditionally led the way in Europe in legalizing medical uses of the drug. 

Marijuana is illegal in Israel, but medical use has been permitted since the early 1990s for cancer patients and those with pain-related illnesses such as Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis, and even post-traumatic stress disorder. Patients can smoke the drug, ingest it in liquid form, or apply it to the skin as a balm. 

A hot topic in America 
In stark contrast, medical use is still hotly contested in the United States, with only 17 states and Washington, D.C., permitting medical marijuana for various approved conditions. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says smoked marijuana is not medicine, and "has not withstood the rigors of science." In Europe, Spain, Germany and Austria have allowed or decriminalized some degrees of medical marijuana use. 

The numbers of patients authorized to use marijuana in Israel is still far lower than those in the U.S. states, where it is legal. Colorado, for example, has 82,000 registered users in a population of 5 million, compared the 10,000 in Israel, a country of 8 million people. 

But Israelis seem enthusiastic about advancing the industry. "

When push comes to shove, and people see how suffering people are benefiting, I'm sure everyone will get behind it," said Yuli Edelstein, Israeli Minister of Public Diplomacy, as he toured Israel's largest marijuana growing farm, Tikun Olam, on Thursday and lauded the facility as an example of Israel's technological and medical advancements. 

The Hadarim nursing home, which encourages medical marijuana use, gives its patients cannabis produced at Tikun Olam farm, tucked away on nearly 3 acres in the picturesque Galilee region. 

The company, one of around eight government-sanctioned grow-operations in Israel, distributes cannabis for medical purposes to almost 2,000 Israeli patients who have a recommendation from a doctor. The cannabis can be picked up at the company's store in Tel Aviv, or administered in a medical center. 

This year, the company also developed a marijuana strain used by a quarter of its customers, said to carry all the reported medical benefits of cannabis, but without THC, the psychoactive chemical component that causes a high. The cannabis is instead made with high quantities of CBD, a substance that is believed to be an anti-inflammatory ingredient, which helps alleviate pain. 

"This is just the tip of the iceberg. It's the future," says Zach Klein, head of research and development at Tikun Olam, whose logo reads "This is God's doing, and it's marvelous in our eyes." 

Itay Goor Aryeh, director of the Pain Management Center at the Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv, noted that THC was first isolated in marijuana by Israeli scientists in 1964. "So we are really on the cutting edge of not just the growing and distribution, but also on the basic science of cannabis," he said. 

Legalization allows research 
He said legalizing medical cannabis allows authorities to conduct more research and learn more about how to regulate its use. 

"It has to be researched more, it has to be regulated more, so we know what exactly we're giving the patient, which strains are better," Aryeh said. "If you don't allow it, you will never know." 

Aryeh and other proponents say medicinal marijuana is cost-effective and dramatically reduces patients' needs for other pain medications, like morphine, that can produce unwanted side effects. 

Ruth Gallily, a professor of immunology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, has been studying the supposed anti-inflammatory effects of CBD for the past few decades. "We're finally reaching the stage where it's becoming accepted, and not thought of as 'bad,' but we still have a ways to go," she said. "Now the next challenge may be the major drug companies accepting the plant." 

Inbal Sikorin, the head nurse at Hadarim Nursing Home, said the benefits of cannabis for her patients are undeniable. 

"We know how to extend life, but sometimes it's not pleasant and can cause a great deal of suffering, so we're looking to alleviate this, to add quality to longevity," she said, while administering cannabis to a patient using a vaporizer. "Cannabis meets this need. Almost all our patients are eating again, and their moods have improved tremendously." 

Rute, the nursing home resident, said the cannabis may not change his reality, but makes it easier to accept. 

His small room at the residence is adorned with pictures of his deceased wife and figurines of chickens, which he collects because he sees them as a symbol of pain and hope from his years in hiding during the Holocaust. 

"I've been a Holocaust child all my life," says Rute, recalling how his father died at the Buchenwald Concentration Camp in Germany, and how nights were cold in the barn where his neighbor kept him and his several siblings safely hidden. 

"I'm now 80 and I'm still a Holocaust child, but I'm finally able to better cope." 

The Detroit News 
4 November 2012

Use of Cannabis During Pregnancy

Warnings that cannabis causes birth defects date back to the late 1960s.1 Some researchers claimed to have found chromosomal abnormalities in blood cells taken from cannabis users. They predicted that young men and women who used cannabis would produce deformed babies.2 Although later studies disproved this theory,3 some current drug education materials still claim that genetic damage is passed on by cannabis users to their children.4

Today, researchers look for a direct effect of THC [for tetrahydrocannabinol, either of two physiologically active isomers, C21H30O2, from hemp plant resin] on the foetus. In animal studies, THC has been shown to produce spontaneous abortion, low birth weight, and physical deformities—but only with extremely large doses, only in some species of rodents, and only when THC is given at specific times during pregnancy.5 Because the effects of drugs on foetal development differ substantially across species,6 these studies have little or no relevance to humans. Studies with primates show little evidence of foetal harm from THC.7 In one study, researchers exposed chimpanzees to high doses of THC for up to 152 days and found no change in the sexual behavior, fertility, or health of their offspring.8

Dozens of studies have compared the newborn babies of women who used cannabis during pregnancy with the babies of women who did not. Mainly, they have looked for differences in birth weight, birth length, head circumference, chest circumference, gestational age, neurological development, and physical abnormalities. Most of these studies, including the largest study to date with a sample of over twelve thousand women,9 have found no differences between babies exposed to cannabis prenatally and babies not exposed.10 Given the large number of studies and the large number of measures, some differences are likely to occur by chance. Indeed, researchers have found differences in both directions. In some studies, the babies of cannabis users appear healthier and hardier.11 In others, researchers have found more adverse outcomes in the babies of cannabis users.12

When adverse outcomes are found, they are inconsistent from one study to another, always relatively minor, and appear to have no impact on infant health or mortality.13 For example, in one recent study, researchers reported a statistically significant effect of cannabis on birth length. The cannabis exposed babies, on average, were less than two-tenths of one inch shorter than babies not exposed to cannabis 14 Another study found a negative effect of cannabis on birth weight, but only for White women in the sample.15 In a third study, cannabis exposure had no effect on birth weight, but a small negative effect on gestational age.16 Overall, this research indicates no adverse effect of prenatal cannabis exposure on the physical health of newborns.

Researchers have also examined older children for the effects of prenatal exposure to cannabis. A study of one-year-olds found no differences between cannabis exposed and nonexposed babies on measures of health, temperament, personality, sleeping patterns, eating habits, psychomotor ability, physical development, or mental functioning.17 In two studies, one of three-year-olds,18 the other of four-year-olds,19 there was no effect of prenatal cannabis exposure on children’s overall IQ test scores. However, in the first study, when researches looked at Black and White children separately, they found, among Black children only, slightly lower scores on two subscales of the IQ test. On one subscale, it was children exposed to cannabis only during the first trimester who scored lower. On the other subscale, it was children exposed during the second trimester who scored lower.20 In neither case did the frequency or quantity of mothers’ cannabis use affect the outcomes. This makes it highly unlikely they were actually caused by cannabis  Nonetheless, this study is now cited as evidence that using cannabis during pregnancy impairs the intellectual capacity of children.21

Also widely cited are two recent case-control studies describing a relationship between cannabis use by pregnant women and two rare forms of cancer in their children. A case-control study compares people with a specific disease (the case sample) to people without the disease (the control sample). Using this method, researchers identify group differences in background, environment, lifestyle, drug use, diet, and the like that are possible causes of the disease.

A study of children with non-lymphoblastic leukemia reported a tenfold greater risk related to their mothers’ use of cannabis during pregnancy.22 A second study reported a threefold greater risk of rhabdomyosarcoma.23 These calculations were based on women’s reports that they used cannabis at some point during pregnancy. In the first study, ten out of the 204 case-group mothers (5 percent) reported cannabis use, compared to one out of the 204 control-group mothers (0.5 percent). In the second study, 8 percent of case-group mothers reported using cannabis, compared to 4.3 percent of controls. 

These studies do not prove that cannabis use by pregnant women causes cancer in their children. They report a statistical association based solely on women’s self-reports of cannabis use. It is likely that both groups of mothers under-reported cannabis use; in other studies, researchers have found that cannabis use by pregnant women typically ranges from 10 to 30 percent.24 There is reason to suspect greater under-reporting by control-group mothers, who were randomly selected and questioned about their cannabis use on the telephone. Because the mothers of the sick children were trying to help researches identify the cause of their children’s disease, they had more reason to be honest about their illegal drug use.

Like all case-control studies, these two studies identified many differences between case-group mothers and control-group mothers, all of which could possibly lead scientists to discover the cause of these rare forms of cancer. Other factors associated with childhood rhabdomyosarcoma include low socioeconomic status, fathers’ cigarette smoking, a family history of allergies, children’s exposure to environmental chemicals, childhood diets that include organ meats, mothers’ use of antibiotics during pregnancy, mothers being over age thirty at the time of the child’s birth, overdue delivery, and the child having had fewer immunizations.25 Without additional research, none of the factors that are statistically associated with childhood cancer can be identified as causes of childhood cancer. At this time, there is no corroborative evidence to link cannabis with cancer. In fact, in a recent study, researchers found significantly lower rates of cancer in rats and mice following two years of exposure to extremely large doses of THC.26

Since 1978, psychologist Peter Fried and his colleagues have collected longitudinal data on prenatal cannabis exposure as part of the Ottawa Prenatal Prospective Study (OPPS). Over the years, these researchers have administered hundreds of tests to the same group of children, assessing their physical development, psychomotor ability, emotional and psychological adjustment, cognitive functioning, intellectual capacity, and behaviour.

Out of all the OPPS studies and all the tests given, researchers have found very few differences between cannabis exposed and nonexposed children. At age one, researchers found that cannabis- exposed infants scored higher on one set of cognitive tests.27 At age three, the children of moderate cannabis users (one to five joints per week during pregnancy) had higher scores on one test of psychomotor ability.28 At age four, the children of women who smoked cannabis heavily during pregnancy (an average of nineteen joints per week) scored lower on one subscale of one cognitive test.29 However, at ages five and six, this difference was no longer present.30 When the children were six, the researchers added several new measures of “attentional behavior.” The children of heavy marijuana users scored lower on one computer-based test of “vigilance.”31 Eleven new psychological and cognitive tests, administered to six- to nine-year-olds, showed no statistically significant differences between the children of cannabis users and nonusers. Parents rated cannabis exposed children as having more “conduct problems,” but this difference disappeared after the researchers controlled for confounding variables.32

Despite the overwhelming similarities in the children of cannabis users and nonusers, in their published reports OPPS researchers consistently highlight the occasional negative finding. Fried believes that these findings underestimate the harms of prenatal cannabis exposure. He suggests that “more sensitive measures” are needed because:

instruments that provide a general description of cognitive abilities may not be capable of identifying nuances in neuro-behaviour that may discriminate between the cannabis exposed and non-cannabis exposed children. . . . Tests that examine specific characteristics that may underline cognitive performance may be more appropriate and successful.33

Recently, Fried predicted that a new test of “executive function” would reveal cannabis related deficits in preteen youngsters.34 A short time later, Fried announced that preliminary analysis of his data showed this effect was present.35 Almost immediately, his announcement appeared in U.S. government reports as evidence of cannabis s harm to the foetus.36 Additional reports of harm based on the OPPS sample, which now includes fewer than thirty cannabis exposed children, may be forthcoming—despite the fact that, according to Fried, the consequences of prenatal drug exposure typically diminish as children get older.37

After controlling for known confounding variables, Fried estimates that prenatal drug exposure accounts for 8 percent or less of the variance in children’s scores on developmental and cognitive tests—and this estimate is for alcohol, tobacco, and cannabis combined.38 In essentially all studies, cannabis contributes less than alcohol or tobacco.39 In addition, the findings differ from one study to another, and show no consistent relationship of foetal harm to either the timing or degree of cannabis exposure. While it is sensible to advise women to abstain from all drugs during pregnancy, the weight of current scientific evidence suggests that cannabis does not directly harm the human foetus.

1. F. Hecht et al., “Lysergic-Acid-Diethylamide and Cannabis as Possible Teratogens in Man,” Lancet 2 (1968): 1087. G. Carakushansky et al., “Lysergide and Cannabis as Possible Teratogens in Man,” Lancet 1 (1969): 150–151.

2. T. H. Maugh, “Marihuana: The Grass May No Longer Be Greener,” Science 185 (1974): 683–685. 

3. S. Matsuyama and L. Jarvik, “Effects of Marihuana on the Genetic and Immune Systems,” in R. C. Petersen (ed.), Marihuana Research Findings, 1976 (Rockville, MD: National Institute on Drug Abuse, 1977), 179–193. K. Morishima, “Effects of Cannabis and Natural Cannabinoids on Chromosomes and Ova,” in M. C. Braude and J. L. Ludford (eds.), Marijuana Effects on the Endocrine and Reproductive Systems (Rockville, MD: National Institute on Drug Abuse, 1984), 25–45.

4. Parents Resource Institute for Drug Education, Marijuana: Effects on the Male, (Atlanta, GA: PRIDE, 1996). W. R. Spence, Marijuana: Its Effects and Hazards (Waco, TX: Health Edco, undated). Peggy Mann, The Sad Story of Mary Wanna (New York: Woodmere Press, 1988), 30.

5. J. Herclerode, “The Effect of Marijuana on Reproduction and Development,” in R. C. Petersen (ed.), Marijuana Research Findings: 1980 (Rockville, MD: National Institute on Drug Abuse, 1980), 137–166. E. L. Abel, “Effects of Prenatal Exposure to Cannabinoids,” in T. M. Pinkert (ed.), Current Research on the Consequences of Maternal Drug Abuse (Rockville, MD: National Institute on Drug Abuse, 1985), 20–35. D. Hutchings and D. Dow-Edwards, “Animal Models of Opiate, Cocaine, and Cannabis Use,” Clinics in Perinatology 18 (1991): 1–22. M. Behnke and F. D. Eyler “The Consequences of Prenatal Substance Use for the Developing Fetus, Newborn, and Young Child,” International Journal of the Addictions 28 (1993): 1341–1391. T. Wenger et al., “Effects of Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol on Pregnancy, Puberty, and the Neuroendocrine System,” in L. Murphy and A. Bartke (eds.), Marijuana/Cannabinoids: Neurobiology and Neurophysiology (Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1992), 539–560.

6. A. M. Rudolph, “Animal Models for Study of Fetal Drug Exposure,” in C. N. Chiang and C. C. Lee (eds.), Prenatal Drug Exposure: Kinetics and Dynamics (Rockville, MD: National Institute on Drug Abuse, 1985), 5–16

7. P. A. Fried, “Postnatal Consequences of Maternal Marijuana Use,” in T. M. Pinkert (ed.), Current Research on the Consequences of Maternal Drug Abuse (Rockville, MD: National Institute on Drug Abuse, 1985), 61–72. M. S. Golub et al., “Peer and Maternal Social Interaction Patterns in Offspring of Rhesus Monkeys Treated Chronically with Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol,” in S. Agurell, The Cannabinoids: Chemical, Pharmacological, and Therapeutic Aspects (Orlando, FL: Academic Press, 1984), 657–667. J. Herclerode (1980), see Note 5.

8. D. M. Grilly et al., “Observations on the Reproductive Activity of Chimpanzees Following Long-Term Exposure to Marijuana,” Pharmacology 11 (1974): 304–307.

9. S. Linn et al., “The Association of Marijuana use with Outcome of Pregnancy,” American Journal of Public Health 73 (1983): 1161–1164.

10. P. H. Shiono et al., “The Impact of Cocaine and Marijuana Use on Low Birth Weight and Preterm Birth: A Multicenter Study,” American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 172 (1995): 19–27. E. M. Knight et al., “Relationships of Serum Illicit Drug Concentrations During Pregnancy to Maternal Nutritional Status,” Journal of Nutrition 124 (1994): 973–980S. K. Tennes and C. Blackard, “Maternal Alcohol Consumption, Birthweight, and Minor Physical Abnormalities,” American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 138 (1980): 774–780. J. Hayes et al., “Newborn Outcomes with Maternal Marijuana Use in Jamaican Women,” Pediatric Nursing 14 (1988): 107–110. P. A. Fried and C. M. O’Connell, “A Comparison of the Effects of Prenatal Exposure to Tobacco, Alcohol, Cannabis and Caffeine on Birth Size and Subsequent Growth,” Neurotoxicology and Teratology 9 (1987): 79–85. C. M. O’Connell and P. A. Fried, “An Investigation of Prenatal Cannabis Exposure and Minor Physical Anomalies in a Low Risk Population,” Neurobehavioral Toxicology and Teratology 6 (1984): 345–350. G. A. Richardson et al., “The Effect of Prenatal Alcohol, Marijuana and Tobacco Exposure on Neonatal Behavior,” Infant Behavioral Development 12 (1989): 199–209. S. Astley, “Analysis of Facial Shape in Children Gestationally Exposed to Marijuana, Alcohol, and/or Cocaine,” Pediatrics 89 (1992): 67–77. F. R. Witter and J. R. Niebyl, “Marijuana Use in Pregnancy and Pregnancy Outcome,” American Journal of Perinatology 7 (1990): 36–38.

11. M. C. Dreher et al., “Prenatal Exposure and Neonatal Outcomes in Jamaica: An Ethnographic Study,” Pediatrics 93 (1994): 254–60. K. Tennes et al., “Marijuana: Prenatal and Postnatal Exposure in the Human,” in T. M. Pinkert (ed.), Current Research on the Consequences of Maternal Drug Abuse (Rockville, MD: National Institute on Drug Abuse, 1985), 48–60.

12. E. E. Hatch and M. B. Bracken, “Effect of Marijuana Use in Pregnancy on Fetal Growth,” American Journal of Epidemiology 124 (1986): 986–993. J. Kline et al., “Cigarettes, Alcohol and Marijuana: Varying Associations with Birthweight,” International Journal of Epidemiology 16 (1987): 44–51. B. Zuckerman et al., “Effects of Maternal Marijuana and Cocaine Use on Fetal Growth,” New England Journal of Medicine 320 (1989): 762–768. P. A. Fried et al., “Marijuana Use During Pregnancy and Decreased Length of Gestation,” American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 150 (1984): 23–26. R. Hingson et al., “Effects of Maternal Drinking and Marijuana Use on Fetal Growth and Development,” Pediatrics 70 (1982): 539–546. P. A. Fried and J. E. Makin, “Neonatal Behavioral Correlates of Prenatal Exposure to Marijuana, Cigarettes and Alcohol in a Low Risk Population,” Neurotoxicology and Teratology 9 (1987): 1–7. M. D. Cornelius et al., “Prenatal Tobacco and Marijuana Use Among Adolescents: Effects on Offspring Gestational Age, Growth, and Morphology,” Pediatrics 95 (1995): 738–743. N. Day et al., “Prenatal Marijuana Use and Neonatal Outcome,” Neurotoxicology and Teratology13 (1991): 329–334. 

13. N. L. Day and G. A. Richardson, “Prenatal Marijuana Use: Epidemiology, Methodologic Issues, and Infant Outcome,” Clinics in Perinatology 18 (1991): 77–91. G. A. Richardson et al., “The Impact of Marijuana and Cocaine Use on the Infant and Child,” Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology 36 (1993): 302–318. M. D. Cornelius et al. (1995), see Note 12. C. D. Coles et al., “Effects of Cocaine, Alcohol, and Other Drug Use in Pregnancy on Neonatal Growth and Neurobehavioral Status,” Neurotoxicology and Teratology 14 (1992): 22–33.

14. N. Day et al. (1991), see Note 12.

15. E. E. Hatch and M. B. Bracken (1986), see Note 12.

16. P. A. Fried et al. (1984), see Note 12.

17. K. Tennes et al. (1985), see Note 11.

18. N. L. Day et al., “Effect of Prenatal Marijuana Exposure on the Cognitive Development of Offspring at Age Three,” Neurotoxicology and Teratology 16 (1994): 169–175.

19. A. P. Streissguth, et al., “IQ at Age 4 in Relation to Maternal Alcohol Use and Smoking During Pregnancy,” Developmental Psychology 25 (1989): 3–11.

20. See Note 18.

21. Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, Legalization: Panacea or Pandora’s Box (New York, 1995). Drug Watch Oregon, Marijuana Research Review 2 (1995): 4.

22. L. L. Robison et al., “Maternal Drug Use and Risk of Non-Lymphoblastic Leukemia Among Offspring,” Cancer 63 (1989): 1904–1911.

23. S. Grufferman et al., “Parents’ Use of Cocaine and Marijuana and Increased Risk of Rhabdomyosarcoma in Their Children,” Cancer Causes and Control 4 (1993): 217–224.

24. N. L. Day et al., “The Epidemiology of Alcohol, Marijuana and Cocaine Use Among Women of Childbearing Age and Pregnant Women,” Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology 36 (1993): 232–245.

25. S. Grufferman et al., “Environmental Factors in the Etiology of Rhabdomyosarcoma in Childhood,” Journal of the National Cancer Institute 68 (1982): 107–113.

26. National Toxicology Program, Toxicology and Carcinogenesis: Studies of 1-Trans-Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol in F344/N Rats and B6c3F1 Mice (Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1996).

27. P. A. Fried and B. Watkinson, “12- and 24-Month Neurobehavioral Follow-Up of Children Prenatally Exposed to Marijuana, Cigarettes and Alcohol,” Neurotoxicology and Teratology 10 (1988): 305–313.

28. P. A. Fried and B. Watkinson, “36- and 48-Month Neurobehavioral Follow-Up of Children Prenatally Exposed to Marijuana, Cigarettes and Alcohol,” Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics 11 (1990): 49–58.

29. Ibid.

30. P. A. Fried et al., “60- and 72-Month Follow-Up of Children Prenatally Exposed to Marijuana, Cigarettes, and Alcohol: Cognitive and Language Assessment,” Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics 13 (1992): 383–391.

31. P. A. Fried et al., “A Follow-Up Study of Attentional Behavior in 6-Year-Old Children Exposed Prenatally to Marijuana, Cigarettes, and Alcohol,” Neurotoxicology and Teratology 14 (1992): 299–311.

32. C. M. O’Connell and P. A. Fried, “Prenatal Exposure to Cannabis: A Preliminary Report of Postnatal Consequences in School-Age Children,” Neurotoxicology and Teratology 13 (1991): 631–639.

33. P. A. Fried, “Prenatal Exposure to Marijuana and Tobacco During Infancy, Early and Middle Childhood: Effects and Attempts at a Synthesis,” Archives of Toxicology 17 (1995): 240–241.

34. P. A. Fried, “The Ottawa Prenatal Prospective Study (OPPS): Methodological Issues and Findings—It’s Easy to Throw the Baby Out With the Bath Water,” Life Sciences 56 (1995): 2159–2168.

35. National Conference on Marijuana Use: Prevention, Treatment, and Research, sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (Arlington, VA: July 1995).

36. Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, “Marijuana: Its Uses and Effects,” Prevention Pipeline 8, no. 5 (1995): 3–5.

37. P. A. Fried, “Prenatal Exposure to Tobacco and Marijuana: Effects During Pregnancy, Infancy, and Early Childhood,” Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology 36 (1993): 319–337.

38. Ibid.

39. P. A. Fried, “Cigarettes and Marijuana: Are There Measurable Long-Term Neurobehavioral Teratogenic Effects?” Neurotoxicology 10 (1989): 577–584. N. Day et al., “The Effects of Prenatal Tobacco and Marijuana Use on Offspring Growth from Birth through 3 Years of Age,” Neurotoxicology and Teratology 14 (1992): 407–414. H. M. Barr et al., “Infant Size at 8 Months of Age: Relationship to Maternal Use of Alcohol, Nicotine, and Caffeine During Pregnancy,” Pediatrics 74 (1984): 336–341. P. A. Fried and B. Watkinson (1990), see Note 28. A. P. Streissguth et al. (1989), see Note 19. M. D. Cornelius et al. (1995), see Note 12. J. Kline et al. (1987), see Note 12. P. A. Fried (1995), see Note 33.

This article is excerpted from Marijuana Myths, Marijuana Facts: A Review of the Scientific Evidence by Lynn Zimmer, PhD, and John P. Morgan, MD 
For more information, visit www.drugpolicy.org.