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The NORML Stash Blog » cannabinoids http://stash.norml.org The Growing Truth About Cannabis Tue, 12 Feb 2013 01:23:20 +0000 en hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.3.2 Day Two from the 7th Patients Out of Time Conference http://stash.norml.org/day-two-from-the-7th-patients-out-of-time-conference http://stash.norml.org/day-two-from-the-7th-patients-out-of-time-conference#comments Sun, 29 Apr 2012 02:40:48 +0000 "Radical" Russ Belville http://stash.norml.org/?p=27165

Finishing up the day with Jacki Rickert from Wisconsin at the Patients Out of Time Conference in Tucson, Arizona

Today at the Patients Out of Time Conference we learned the latest research concerning cannabinoid therapies in the treatment of cancer, post traumatic stress disorder, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease), and Alzheimer’s disease.

NOTE: Edited videos with slides and close-ups will be available through Patients Out of Time’s Website.

UPDATE: My apologies.  Patients Out of Time has forced me to remove all of the videos I recorded from the conference.

Opening Remarks - Dr. Andrew Weil 

Cannabinoids and Cancer Care - Donald Abrams, MD 

Phytocannabinoids in the Treatment of Breast Cancer and Glioma Cell Cancer - Cristina Sanchez, PhD

Cannabis Oil and Skin Cancer - Robert Melamede, PhD 

Empirical Rationales for the Possibility of Cannabis Therapeutics in Post Traumatic Stress - Christopher Fichtner, MD

Practical Applications of Cannabis for Post Traumatic Stress - Bryan Krumm, RN, CNP

How to Help When There is No Hope - Vincent Palazotto

The Use of Cannabis for ALS - Jahan Marcu & Cathy Jordan (patient)

Can Cannabis Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease? - Gary Wenk, PhD

Question & Answer from the Faculty

Panel (partial recording): The ECS and Clinical Implications for Health Care: Clint Werner (Moderator), Andrew Weil, MD, Julie Holland, MD, Melanie Dreher, RN, PhD

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Day One from the 7th Patients Out of Time Conference http://stash.norml.org/day-one-from-the-7th-patients-out-of-time-conference http://stash.norml.org/day-one-from-the-7th-patients-out-of-time-conference#comments Sat, 28 Apr 2012 01:06:48 +0000 "Radical" Russ Belville http://stash.norml.org/?p=27162

7th Annual Patients Out of Time Conference, Tucson

If you wanted to know how the endocannabinoid system affects glaucoma, addiction, pain, and everything else in your body, then Day One of the Patients Out of Time Conference in Tucson was made just for you!

NOTE: Edited videos with slides and close-ups will be available through Patients Out of Time’s Website.

Listen to the entire day’s events (minus three presentations I missed or suffered a stream crash) at the bottom of the post or just watch the presentations you choose by clicking links below:

UPDATE: My apologies.  Patients Out of Time has forced me to remove all of the videos I recorded from the conference.

Overview of the Endocannabinoid System - Vincenzo DiMarzo, PhD

Care and Feeding of the Endocannabinoid System - John McPartland, DO

INTERVIEW: Oregon’s Jim Klahr for State Representative

The Endocannibinoid System and Neuropathic Pain - Andrea Hohmann, PhD

The Ocular Endocannabinoid System - Melanie Kelly, PhD

The Use of Cannabis with Glaucoma - Gary Storck (glaucoma patient & Elvy Musikka (federal medical cannabis patient)

The Senior Tour – Robert Platshorn

Raw Cannabis: A Dietary Essential Optimized Through Individualized Phytogenetics - William Courtney, MD

The Role of the Endocanabinoid System in the Regulation of Stress, Mood and Anxiety - Matthew Hill, PhD

INTERVIEW: Nurse Ed Glick on ACNA (Nurses & MedMJ)

The Endocannabinoid Systemand Addiction - Greg Gerdeman, PhD

Cannabis as an Exit Drug - Amanda Reiman, PhD, MSW

Research and Education on Cannabinoids: Update from Canada - Mark Ware, MD

Question & Answer from the Faculty

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The Top Ten Cannabis Science Stories of 2011 http://stash.norml.org/the-top-ten-cannabis-science-stories-of-2011 http://stash.norml.org/the-top-ten-cannabis-science-stories-of-2011#comments Wed, 28 Dec 2011 23:57:05 +0000 "Radical" Russ Belville http://stash.norml.org/?p=25997

EVERY demographic has increased its support for marijuana legalization since 2005

Yesterday we revealed The Top Ten “Reefer Madness” Stories of 2011.  Today we continue our Year-End Retrospective with a look at the biggest news stories of scientific research into cannabis, public opinion polls on legalization, and statistical research on cannabis consumers.  We call it The Top Ten Cannabis Science Stories of 2011.  Tomorrow we’ll continue with The Top Ten “Stupid Stoner Stories” of 2011 and Friday we conclude with the The Top Ten People in Cannabis of 2011.

The Top Ten Cannabis Science Stories of 2011 (audio mp3)

10. The Carbon Footprint of Cannabis

Cannabis Karri reported on a study that measured just how much electricity we’re using to grow cannabis indoors.

new report conducted and published by Even Mills, PhD, a respected and long time energy analyst along with Staff Scientists at the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory has concluded that Americans spend an amazing 1% of the entire national electricity consumption, or the equivalent of the output of seven large power plants on growing cannabis.

Since medical marijuana use has become so much more popular, and most of those states do not have a dispensary program, many more people are learning to grow marijuana indoors. The 20 terawatt-hours per year that marijuana growers use is due to the bright, often 24 hours a day lighting and an air change rate 60 times higher than a norml home. Even a modest indoor garden can have the same energy consumption rate of an entire data center. Since indoor cultivation of cannabis is a necessity to hide operations from authorities and others the energy bill to growers is about $5 billion each year. That extra energy to produce American cannabis is equal to the energy consumption of an extra 2 million average US homes. It also, unfortunately, produces greenhouse gas pollution equal to 3 million cars according to the new research.

9. Pot smokers are thinner and smarter than average

We have all suffered through jokes about cannabis consumers being fat, stupid couch potatoes.  So it was a joy in 2011 when two international studies found us to be thinner than our non-toking counterparts…

“We found that cannabis users are less likely to be obese than non-users,” [researchers said]. “We were so surprised, we thought we had [made] a mistake. Or that our results were due to the sample we studied. So we turned to another completely independent sample and found exactly the same association.”

…and smarter, too!

A new British study finds … men with high childhood IQs were up to two times more likely to use illegal drugs than their lower-scoring counterparts. Girls with high IQs were up to three times more likely to use drugs as adults. A high IQ is defined as a score between 107 and 158. An average IQ is 100. The study appears in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

None of this means taking up pot smoking is going to shed points and boost IQ.  It does mean that some popular stereotypes about us are completely unfounded.

8. Two-thirds of patients surveyed substitute marijuana for prescription medications

Many a medical marijuana activist can tell anecdotes of patients who’ve reduced or eliminated their need for opiate pain killers by substituting cannabis.  This year, Berkeley Patients Group surveyed their patients and found two-out-of-three had done just that.

In an anonymous survey, 66% of 350 clients at the Berkeley (Calif.) Patients Group, a medical marijuana dispensary, said that they use marijuana as a prescription drug substitute. Their reasons: Cannabis offered better symptom control with fewer side effects than did prescription drugs.

Those with pain symptoms said that marijuana has less addiction potential than do opioids. Others said marijuana helped to reduce the dose of other medications.

Speaking of the addiction potential of opioids…

7. Oxycontin is five times the “gateway drug” as marijuana

Prohibitionists have been using the “Gateway Drug” scare for years to frighten the public about legalization.  Despite every study blowing the concept out of the water, it still resonates with a large segment of the voters.  So I decided to take a look at the data to find out which drug is really the one with the greatest correlation to hard drug use, and it definitely wasn’t cannabis!

We cross-referenced the NSDUH numbers based on whether someone had ever tried marijuana. We found that only 1.5% of people who have toked became monthly cocaine users. For ecstasy, crack, meth, heroin, LSD, and PCP, less than 1% of the people who’ve tried pot are using those drugs regularly. Meanwhile, 2.9% of the people who’ve ever tried an legal analgesic (pain reliever) are regular cocaine users. For ecstasy, crack, and meth, more than 1% of who tried analgesics are regular users. People who tried analgesics are more than twice as likely as people who tried pot to use heroin regularly and three times more likely to use LSD regularly.

But if opponents want to cling to the idea that we should do everything in our power to stop someone from smoking that first marijuana joint, lest they become illegal drug addicts, then it is time to prohibit Vicodin, Lortab, Lorcet, and Oxycontin, those powerful legal opioid pain killers. The first Vicodin/Lortab/Lorcet leads to almost three times the risk of becoming a non-pot illegal drug user than the first joint and almost the same risk as smoking a joint every month. That first Oxycontin is more than five times the risk for drug abuse than the first joint.

6. Drug testing is still unreliable, inaccurate, unnecessary, invasive, and counter-productive

We drug test our citizens when we suspect they’re committing a crime, when they’re applying for a job, when they’re going to school, and when they’re in an accident.  Yet drug detection for marijuana is so unreliable and unscientific that its use is an affront to all free people.

First it is the “drug dog” that police and courts believe are akin to infallible scientific instruments instead of animals with instincts to please their human masters.

The accuracy of drug- and explosives-sniffing dogs is affected by human handlers’ beliefs, possibly in response to subtle, unintentional cues, UC Davis researchers have found.

The study, published in the January issue of the journal Animal Cognition, found that detection-dog teams erroneously “alerted,” or identified a scent, when there was no scent present more than 200 times — particularly when the handler believed that there was scent present.

Next it is the “drug lab” that may mishandle as many as one in ten tests.

An Indiana state lab wrongly reported 1 in 10 marijuana cases as positive, including some that were deliberately manipulated, an audit report indicated.

The audit’s findings showed errors in about 200 of 2,000 marijuana tests reported to law enforcement as having positive results, the Star said. This includes about 50 results the report said were consciously manipulated by lab workers.

Part of the justification for testing us for employment is workplace safety.  Yet, in medical marijuana states where tens or hundreds of thousands of citizens are legally using cannabis, we’ve seen drastic declines in workplace danger.

Prior to the beginning of the medical marijuana program [in Oregon], workplace injuries and illnesses that contributed to a lost workday stood at 3.4 per 100 full-time workers; in 2009 that rate is 2.3 per 100, a decline of 32%.  No-time-lost injuries and illnesses declined 40%, from 3.5 to 2.1 per 100.  Fatalities are down from 3.3 to 1.9 per 100, a drop of 42%.

These declines occurred while the medical marijuana patient registry grew by an average of a little more than 50% per year.

Another egregious use of drug testing is to make it a requirement of citizens seeking welfare assistance.  Florida’s law to do just that has been blocked while its (un-)constitutionality is determined, but in the time it was in effect, it cost Florida more than it saved.  It also found that welfare recipients were less likely to turn up positive than the general public.

The Department of Central Florida’s (DCF) region tested 40 applicants and only two tested positive for drugs, officials said. One of the tests is being appealed.

DCF said it has been referring applicants to clinics where drug screenings cost between $30 and $35. The applicant pays for the test out of his or her own pocket and then the state reimburses him if they test comes back negative.

Therefore, the 38 applicants in the Central Florida area, who tested negative, were reimbursed at least $30 each and cost taxpayers $1,140.

Meanwhile, the state is saving less than $240 a month by refusing benefits to those two applicants who tested positive.

Finally, the unintended consequences of drug testing became more apparent.  When marijuana is the drug that is the hardest to conceal on a drug test, people will turn to drugs that are easier to conceal.

As I looked at the data, I noticed that in the span from 2005 to 2011, the positive test rate for marijuana for all workplace drug tests (pre-employment, random, and post-accident) declined 20%, from 2.5% of approximately 2.4 million tests to 2.0%.  That’s about 12,000 fewer cannabis consumers who were caught by a pee test.

Meanwhile, oxycodone positives have increased 96% for all urine testing, although these tests are administered about one tenth as often (280,000) for oxycodone as for cannabis (2,400,000).  This despite the facts that while marijuana metabolites may be detected in urine for weeks, oxycodone metabolites are flushed from one’s system in two or three days.  Furthermore, random positives for oxycodone (1.20%) are almost twice as great and post-accident positives for oxycodone (1.80%) are nearly three-times greater than pre-employment positives for oxycodone (0.65%), which suggests to me that the pre-employment screens don’t work very well at keeping oxycodone users out of the workplace.

5. For past two years, more Americans arrested for marijuana than all other drugs combined despite arrest protection for America’s One Million Legal Marijuana Users

When somebody mentions “The War on Drugs”, remind them what we’re really talking about is a “War on Marijuana”.

Nationally, there were 1,638,846 drug arrests reported to the FBI, with 52.1% of those arrests for marijuana charges.  Last year, 51.6% of all drug arrests were for marijuana, showing a slight increase in marijuana as the majority of all drug arrests.  The last time marijuana made up a majority of the “War on Drugs” was 1985, when 55.6% of all drug arrests were for marijuana.

Keep in mind that these annual marijuana arrests continue to climb even as we reduce the number of marijuana users eligible for arrest in the medical marijuana state, users who grow and use the most marijuana.

Between one to one-and-a-half million people are legally authorized by their state to use marijuana in the United States, according to data compiled by NORML from state medical marijuana registries and patient estimates.  Assuming usage of one-half to one gram of cannabis medicine per day per patient and an average retail price of $320 per ounce, these legal consumers represent a $2.3 to $6.2 billion dollar market annually.

4. Drug Czar claims medical marijuana makes more young people smoke pot, despite fewer teens smoking pot

A popular refrain of the Drug Czar is that by calling marijuana “medicine”, we lead young people to think it is less dangerous, and therefore, use goes up.

“Emerging research reveals potential links between state laws permitting access to smoked medical marijuana and higher rates of marijuana use,” said Gil Kerlikowske, Director of National Drug Control Policy. “In light of what we know regarding the serious harm of illegal drug use, I urge every family – but particularly those in states targeted by pro-drug political campaigns – to redouble their efforts to shield young people from serious harm by educating them about the real health and safety consequences caused by illegal drug use.”

Except that medical marijuana’s been around on the West Coast for over a dozen years.  Between 2003 and 2009, as more states have adopted medical marijuana, nationally the rate of monthly teen use is on the decline.

In fact, eleven of the thirteen states that had medical marijuana as of 2009 saw declines in teen marijuana use, and the five that added it after 2003 saw double-digit declines.

From 2003 to 2009 in California, monthly teen use is up only 0.26%.  In Colorado, teen use is up 3.77% in that time frame.  Yet Wyoming, a state without medical marijuana, saw the greatest increase of 5.18%.  Furthermore, looking back before 2003, to 1996 and 1998 when the West Coast legalized medical marijuana, teen use is lower now than then.

3. The people really, really want to ask the President about the legalization of marijuana that half of them support

This year, the esteemed Gallup Poll finally recorded half of the US population in support of legalizing marijuana.

Gallup reports that the 50% nationwide support for legalization also represents the first time support has outweighed opposition.  Only 46% of Americans believe marijuana should remain criminalized, with 4% undecided.

Support for marijuana legalization remains greatest in the Western states (55%) and majorities support legalization in the Midwest (54%) and East (51%).  Only voters in the South still oppose marijuana legalization (44%).  Men still support legalization at a much greater rate than women (55% vs. 46%).

Support is also greatest among younger Americans (62%), Democrats (57%), and liberals (69%).  However, support for legalization has increased even in demographics generally opposed to legalization.  Compared to Gallup’s poll last year, support increased 4% points in the South, 12% points in the Midwest, and 6% points among 50-64, but fell 1% among 65+.  Support rose 6% points among Republicans, and 4% points among conservatives. Marijuana legalization is becoming more popular with just about everyone.

President Obama, seeking input from the people on policy questions, was stunned once again to find…

On the “We the People” petitions site of Whitehouse.gov, as of this writing, NORML’s “Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol” petition is #1 by a long shot.  It has garnered over 42,000 signatures.  It needed 5,000 signatures in 30 days to generate an official response from the administration, a figure it had topped in just over three hours.

And when he asked for videos from citizens on policy issues, another stunning result…

The top question, submitted by Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, garnered 13,842 votes – over 1% of all votes cast (people could vote for more than one question).

As a police officer, I saw how waging the war on drugs has cost a trillion dollars and thousands of lives but does nothing to reduce drug use. Should we discuss legalizing marijuana and other drugs, which would eliminate the violent criminal market?

Of the 193,060 people who voted more than 7% voted for the LEAP question.  That’s about one in fourteen people who took the time to Ask Obama.

2. National Cancer Institute drama over anti-tumoral effects of cannabis

A very high-profile battle over scientific integrity played itself out on the webpage of Cancer.gov, the government’s site for the National Cancer Institute.  It began when the site surprisingly updated its summary page on cannabis and cannabinoids.

The potential benefits of medicinal Cannabis for people living with cancer include antiemetic effects, appetite stimulation, pain relief, and improved sleep. In the practice of integrative oncology, the health care provider may recommend medicinal Cannabis not only for symptom management but also for its possible direct antitumor effect.

Cannabinoids may cause antitumor effects by various mechanisms, including induction of cell death, inhibition of cell growth, and inhibition of tumor angiogenesis and metastasis. [9-11] Cannabinoids appear to kill tumor cells but do not affect their nontransformed counterparts and may even protect them from cell death. These compounds have been shown to induce apoptosis in glioma cells in culture and induce regression of glioma tumors in mice and rats.

Then it appeared that somebody pressured NCI to revise its update to better align with the government’s prohibition of cannabis.  The paragraphs above were removed and replaced with:

The potential benefits of medicinal Cannabis for people living with cancer include antiemetic effects, appetite stimulation, pain relief, and improved sleep. Though no relevant surveys of practice patterns exist, it appears that physicians caring for cancer patients who prescribe medicinal Cannabis predominantly do so for symptom management.

Then NCI updated the “clinical studies” portion of the website to again highlight the anti-tumoral effects:

One study in mice and rats suggested that cannabinoids may have a protective effect against the development of certain types of tumors.

Decreased incidences of benign tumors(polyps and adenomas) in other organs(mammary glanduterus, pituitary, testis, and pancreas)were also noted in the rats.

Cannabinoids may cause antitumor effects by various mechanisms, including induction of cell death, inhibition of cell growth, and inhibition of tumorangiogenesis and metastasis.

Cannabinoids appear to kill tumor cells but do not affect their nontransformed counterparts and may even protect them from cell death.

1. Colorado’s 5ng/mL per se DUID bill dies again as new research backs higher thresholds for regular users

We tackled drug testing above in #6, but this story takes #1 for showing how science and the scientific method can actually beat back prohibition.  Colorado had proposed a 5ng of THC per milliliter of blood (5ng/mL) per se DUID, meaning: if you test positive on a drug test above 5ng/mL, you’re automatically guilty of DUI, whether you were impaired or not.

Naturally, many medical marijuana patients in Colorado complained that they are such frequent and heavy users of cannabis that they would never be under such a threshold.  Furthermore, most of them have developed a tolerance to cannabis’ effects that allows them to drive under its influence without impairment, much as we understand an “until you know how [Pill X] affects you, do not drive or operate heavy machinery” warning on a pharmaceutical.

The “pot critic” of Denver’s WestWord, William Breathes, decided to become the experiment by abstaining from cannabis use under controlled conditions.  After sixteen hours and a night’s sleep, upon awakening, presumably clean and sober, Breathes was tested at 13ng/mL.  This anecdotal report, splashed all over the Denver media, was also backed up by the latest scientific research:

It concludes: “A threshold of 2-3ng/ml THC as an indicator of recent drug use (i.e, smoking within the previous 6 hours) as recommended by Huestis et al appears to be valid only for occasional users. Heavy users might exhibit measurable cannabinoid concentrations in blood, even if the last cannabis use was more than 24 hours ago.… Therefore, cannabinoid concentrations in heavy users’ blood from a later elimination phase might not be distinguished from an acute use of an occasional user.”

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Stash for Wed, Jun 8, 2011 http://stash.norml.org/stash-for-wed-jun-8-2011 http://stash.norml.org/stash-for-wed-jun-8-2011#comments Mon, 13 Jun 2011 22:22:43 +0000 "Radical" Russ Belville http://stash.norml.org/?p=24542 Download Link: Secret Stash - Register to access
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National Cancer Institute expands lab studies page to highlight antitumoral effects of cannabinoids http://stash.norml.org/national-cancer-institute-expands-lab-studies-page-to-highlight-antitumoral-effects-of-cannabinoids http://stash.norml.org/national-cancer-institute-expands-lab-studies-page-to-highlight-antitumoral-effects-of-cannabinoids#comments Fri, 08 Apr 2011 22:52:00 +0000 "Radical" Russ Belville http://stash.norml.org/?p=23445

Hey, cancer! We're comin' for you!

First we praised Cancer.gov, the website of the National Cancer Institute, a part of the National Institute of Health, changing their website to acknowledge the antitumoral effects of cannabinoids.

Then we cursed Cancer.gov for scrubbing the reference to the antitumoral effects of cannabinoids.

Now Cancer.gov seems to have expanded its reference page on Laboratory/Animal/Preclinical Studies to go into great detail on the antitumoral effects of cannabinoids:

One study in mice and rats suggested that cannabinoids may have a protective effect against the development of certain types of tumors.

Decreased incidences of benign tumors(polyps and adenomas) in other organs(mammary glanduterus, pituitary, testis, and pancreas) were also noted in the rats.

Cannabinoids may cause antitumor effects by various mechanisms, including induction of cell death, inhibition of cell growth, and inhibition of tumorangiogenesis and metastasis.

Cannabinoids appear to kill tumor cells but do not affect their nontransformed counterparts and may even protect them from cell death.

In addition, both plant-derived and endogenous cannabinoids have been studied for anti- inflammatory effects.

…phytocannabinoids and endocannabinoids may be useful in the prevention and treatment of colorectal cancer

…THC is a potent and selective antiviral agent against Kaposi sarcoma-associated herpesvirus

Many animal studies have previously demonstrated that delta-9-THC and other cannabinoids have a stimulatory effect on appetite and increase food intake.

Cannabinoids may also contribute to pain modulation…

You heard it straight from your federal government at Cancer.gov.  Meanwhile over at DEA.gov

[Marijuana] has a high potential for abuse.  [Marijuana] has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.  There is a lack of accepted safety for use of [marijuana] under medical supervision.

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Stash for Tue, Mar 1, 2011 http://stash.norml.org/stash-for-tue-mar-1-2011 http://stash.norml.org/stash-for-tue-mar-1-2011#comments Wed, 02 Mar 2011 20:55:35 +0000 "Radical" Russ Belville http://stash.norml.org/?p=22479 Download Link: Secret Stash - Register to access
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Evidence: Cannabinoid Therapy Reduces Breast Cancer Tumors http://stash.norml.org/evidence-cannabinoid-therapy-reduces-breast-cancer-tumors http://stash.norml.org/evidence-cannabinoid-therapy-reduces-breast-cancer-tumors#comments Wed, 09 Feb 2011 20:20:29 +0000 CannaBob http://stash.norml.org/?p=21964

Cannabinoids kill breast cancer - let's not run from the cure.

Welcome to Room 420, where your instructor is Mr. Ron Marczyk and your subjects are wellness, disease prevention, self actualization, and chillin’.

Worth Repeating
By Ron Marczyk, R.N.
Health Education Teacher (Retired)

This one is personal. My wife of 32 years was diagnosed with breast cancer in the past year and subsequently underwent a double mastectomy. We are in the final stages of breast reconstruction. She has undergone five operations in the last 12 months, with one more to go.

Peer review means your study and its claims will be vetted by a panel of the best doctors and other medical professionals in that field, for critical review. They will try to find fault in its methodology before publication and its recommendations for possible human treatment.

For any cannabis-based study strong enough to stand up to this critical review, and for it to be published in a major journal within such a field as cancer research, is incredible. That’s exactly how strong the evidence for cannabis medicine is starting to become.

There are many great studies out there, and they are starting to become more frequent, but many are only published in medical journals which the public does not even know exist, and would have a hard time understanding. In addition, it doesn’t make it past media filters unless there is money to be made.

[Russ adds: For the latest study to show cannabinoids kill breast cancer, click here.  Why do you suppose such promising research is only trumpeted by NORML and other drug law reformers?  Why do you suppose the traditional anti-cancer organizations aren't screaming for a repeal of cannabis' Schedule I status to enable our researchers to fully unlock its potential?  You'd have to be really cynical to believe that the powers that be would rather make a ton of money on cancer treatments than actually cure it.]

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Top 10 drugs of 2010 far more dangerous than marijuana http://stash.norml.org/top-10-drugs-of-2010-far-more-dangerous-than-marijuana http://stash.norml.org/top-10-drugs-of-2010-far-more-dangerous-than-marijuana#comments Wed, 12 Jan 2011 20:07:26 +0000 "Radical" Russ Belville http://stash.norml.org/?p=21239 Marijuana is a Schedule I drug.  That means, according to the federal government:

But while the drug warriors were busy sounding the alarm about the new super-potent, wildly-addictive “Pot 2.0: It’s Not Your Father’s Woodstock Weed!”, according to Martha Rosenberg at CounterPunch, drug manufacturers were making billions in 2010 selling to Americans the following ten drugs that mimic some of marijuana’s medical effects yet are far more dangerous:

  1. According to research compiled by our own Paul Armentano in the new edition of NORML’s Emerging Clinical Applications For Cannabis & Cannabinoids: A Review of the Recent Scientific Literature, 2000 — 2011, “[T]he use of a standardized extract of Cannabis sativa … evoked a total relief … in an experimental model of neuropathic pain“.  Pfizer‘s Lyrica, Mylan Pharmaceuticals Topamax and GlaxoSmithKline‘s Lamictal are drugs that are commonly prescribed for pain and migraine.  Their side effects?
  2. All three drugs increase the risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors according to their mandated labels, in addition to the memory and hair loss patients report.

  3. The use of cannabis as an anti-depressant has been anecdotally reported for decades and recent research shows that in low doses, it can have an anti-depressant effect, but it seems to reverse if one takes too high a dose.  Regardless, you’re better off with the cannabis than with the side effects of Eli Lilly‘s Prozac, GlaxoSmithKline‘s Paxil, Pfizer‘s Zoloft, or other selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRIs):
  4. In addition to 4,200 published reports of SSRI-related violence, including the Columbine, Red Lake and NIU shootings, SSRIs can cause serotonin syndrome and gastrointestinal bleeding when taken with certain drugs. Paxil is linked to birth defects.

  5. Combine our first two conditions, pain and depression, which we’ve shown cannabis to be effective at treating, and now you have the conditions addressed by a class of drugs known as selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs).  Pfizer‘s Effexor, Eli Lilly‘s Cymbalta, and Pfizer‘s Pristiq are commonly marketed in a cross-over fashion to both depression and pain sufferers, who get all the same risks of side-effects as the SSRI’s listed above, plus…
  6. SNRI’s are also harder to quit than SSRIs. 739,000 web sites address “Effexor” and “withdrawal.”

  7. Dr. Donald Tashkin found that people who smoke marijuana have not only less head, neck, and lung cancer risk than those who smoke cigarettes, but actually also have lower risk than those who don’t smoke at all.  Some of my friends have told me smoking marijuana helped address cravings as they were trying to quit smoking tobacco, but whether it actually helps medically is not known.  What is known is that Pfizer‘s popular anti-smoking drug Chantix is much more likely to affect your mental health:
  8. After 397 FDA cases of possible psychosis, 227 domestic reports of suicidal behaviors and 28 actual suicides, the government banned pilots, air-traffic controllers and interstate truck and bus drivers from taking the antismoking drug Chantix in 2008.

  9. Many a toker can relate that they use marijuana at the end of a long busy stressful day to relax and unwind, especially if they are having a tough time getting to sleep.  The popular sleeping pill, sanofi-aventis‘s Ambien, you may remember from the story of US Rep. Patrick Kennedy crashing his car in a fit of “sleep-driving”:
  10. Law enforcement officials say it has increased traffic accidents from people who drive in a black out and don’t even recognize arresting officers.

  11. THC may have the most powerful tumor-inhibiting properties known to medicine, something our government has been aware of since 1974.  There are at least four different scientific studies showing cannabinoids to inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells.  But then legal cannabis would severely curtail the sales of Astra-Zeneca‘s Tamoxifen breast cancer prevention drug:
  12. As a breast cancer prevention drug, an American Journal of Medicine study found the average life expectancy increase from Tamoxifen was nine days. Public Citizen says for every case of breast cancer prevented on Tamoxifen there is a life-threatening case of blood clots, stroke or endometrial cancer.

  13. ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) affects millions of Americans.  Recently new research has shown that cannabis can have very positive results for those trying to control their disorder.  However, we’re much more likely to hear of someone with ADHD using Novartis‘s Ritalin, Johnson & Johnson‘s Concerta, Eli Lilly‘s Strattera, Shire‘s Adderall, especially on children with ADHD:
  14. ADHD drugs rob “kids of their right to be kids, their right to grow, their right to experience their full range of emotions, and their right to experience the world in its full hue of colors,” says Anatomy of an Epidemic author Robert Whitaker.

  15. As strange as it may seem, many patients with asthma report using cannabis to help open their restricted airways.  Cannabis is a bronchodialator and can be used in a vaporized form to avoid the respiratory distress from cannabis smoke.  But cannabis is incapable of killing you, unlike the long-acting beta agonists (LABA) Foradil Aerolizer, GlaxoSmithKline‘s Serevent Diskus and Advair, and Astra-Zeneca‘s Symbicort often used to treat asthma symptoms:
  16. Studies link them to an increase in asthma deaths, especially in African-Americans and children. They may have contributed to 5,000 deaths said Dr. David Graham at FDA hearings about the controversial asthma drugs.

  17. Another set asthma control drugs known as leukotrine receptor agonists are also far more dangerous to you than vaporizing cannabis, like Merck‘s Singulair and Astra-Zeneca‘s Accolate.
  18. Original FDA reviewers said asthma control “deteriorates” on Singulair and it may not be safe in children. Last month, Fox TV reported Singulair, Merck’s top selling drug, is suspected of producing aggression, hostility, irritability, anxiety, hallucinations and night-terrors in kids, symptoms that are being diagnosed as ADHD.

  19. Finally, while not technically a medical use, many people use cannabis as a way to relax, have fun, and socialize with others.  Stress can be very damaging to one’s body and mind and cannabis is one of the most popular drugs used to combat it.  The most popular drug for socialization and relaxation, of course, is alcohol, marketed as Anheuser-Busch InBev‘s Budweiser, MillerCoorsCoors Light, Pabst‘s Blue Ribbon, and Boston Beer Co.’s Sam Adams.  While moderate consumption of alcohol may have some minor health benefits, habitual over-consumption, according to HealthCheck Systems, can lead to:
  20. Arthritis - Increases risk of gouty arthritis
    Cancer - Increases the risk of cancer in the liver, pancreas, rectum, breast, mouth, pharynx, larynx and esophagus
    Fetal Alcohol Syndrome – Causes physical and behavioral abnormalities in the fetus
    Heart Disease – Raises blood pressure, blood lipids and the risk of stroke and heart disease in heavy drinkers. Heart disease is generally lower in light to moderate drinkers.
    Hyperglycermia - Raises blood glucose
    Hypoglycemia - Lowers blood glucose, especially for people with diabetes
    Kidney Disease - Enlarges the kidneys, alters hormone functions, and increases the risk of kidney failure
    Liver Disease – Causes fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis and cirrhosis
    Malnutrition - Increases the risk of protein-energy malnutrition,; low intakes of protein, calcium, iron, vitamin A, vitamin C, thiamine, vitamin B6 and riboflavin, and impaired absorption of calcium, phosphorus, vitamin D and zinc.
    Nervous Disorders – Causes neuropathy and dementia; impairs balance and memory
    Obesity – Increases energy intake, but not a primary cause of obesity
    Psychological disturbances – Causes depression, anxiety and insomnia

So why in the world would we prevent people from using the safe, natural, effective, non-toxic herb cannabis with so many proven benefits and so little risk of side effects?  Why would we force people to take a plethora of pills with proven dangerous side effects?  Why would we celebrate the use of poisonous alcohol and demonize the smoking of a benign weed?

2010 Reported Corporate Revenues:

Johnson & Johnson = $61.90 billion
Pfizer= $50.01 billion
GlaxoSmithKline = $45.83 billion
Novartis = $44.27 billion
Sanofi-Aventis = $41.99 billion
AstraZeneca = $32.81 billion
Merck & Co. = $27.43 billion
Eli Lilly = $21.84 billion
Anheuser-Busch InBev (2007) = $16.70 billion
MillerCoors = $3.03 billion
Pabst = $0.50 billion
Boston Beer Company = $0.46 billion
Every legal cannabis producing company combined = $0

Oh, wait, I remember…

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Stash for Wed, Nov 24, 2010 http://stash.norml.org/stash-for-wed-nov-24-2010 http://stash.norml.org/stash-for-wed-nov-24-2010#comments Wed, 24 Nov 2010 23:07:34 +0000 "Radical" Russ Belville http://stash.norml.org/?p=20592 Download Link: Secret Stash - Register to access
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Marijuana consumption by pregnant women may reduce infant mortality, more study needed http://stash.norml.org/marijuana-consumption-by-pregnant-women-may-reduce-infant-mortality-more-study-needed http://stash.norml.org/marijuana-consumption-by-pregnant-women-may-reduce-infant-mortality-more-study-needed#comments Wed, 22 Sep 2010 11:02:41 +0000 Jen Alexander http://stash.norml.org/?p=18653

No, no, we said marijuana consumption by pregnant women! You need to chill for about 21 years, mini-Cheech!

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

A total of 2,964 babies were drug-tested at birth to see if they were positive for drugs – cocaine, opioids or cannabis were studied. 44% of the infants tested positive for all varieties of drugs, including the 3 being studied. During the first two years of their lives, 44 babies from the original group died. Since statistics are a drag to slog through, I’ll cut right to the chase – the deaths per thousand live births – the numbers tell the story.

“No drugs at birth” deaths……. 15.7 deaths per 1000 live births

“Cocaine positive” deaths…….17.7 deaths per 1000 live births

“Opiate positive” deaths…….18.4 deaths per 1000 live births

“Cannabis positive” deaths…. 8.9 deaths per 1000 live births [5]

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

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

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

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

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

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

TABLE 3. Mortality Within 1 to 2 Years Among Infants (n = 2964) Who Were Screened for Gestational Exposure to Drugs by Meconium Analysis
Meconium Drug Screen N Total
Deaths per
1000 Live  Births
% of Total Deaths
Drug-negative 1658 26 15.7 59%
Drug-positive 1306 18 13.7 41%
Cocaine-positive[a] 903 16 17.7 36%
Cocaine only 457 6 13.2 14%
Morphine-positive[a] 599 11 18.4 25%
Morphine only 213 1 4.6 2%
Cannabinoid-positive[a] 338 3 8.9 7%
Cannabinoid only 157 0 0.0 0%
[a] Includes in combination with the other illicit drugs (cocaine, opiate, and/or cannabinoid).

Infant Mortality Chart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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