The federal government has a bit of a backward stance on marijuana. It labels it a Schedule I drug, a designation that means it has no notable medical benefits, making it difficult for scientists to study its uses.
Yesterday, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) introduced a bill to hopefully change that. Titled the Marijuana Effective Drug Study Act of 2017, it aims to relax the federal restrictions on studying medical marijuana. In his statement introducing the bill, he’s got puns.
He’s got lots of puns.
Today, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduced the Marijuana Effective Drug Study Act of 2017, or MEDS Act, to improve the process for conducting scientific research on marijuana as a safe and effective medical treatment. In introducing this legislation, Senator Hatch was joined by Senator Schatz (D-HI) and cosponsors Senator Chris Coons (D-DE), Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO), and Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC).
“It’s high time to address research into medical marijuana,” Hatch said. “Our country has experimented with a variety of state solutions without properly delving into the weeds on the effectiveness, safety, dosing, administration, and quality of medical marijuana. All the while, the federal government strains to enforce regulations that sometimes do more harm than good. To be blunt, we need to remove the administrative barriers preventing legitimate research into medical marijuana, which is why I’ve decided to roll out the MEDS Act.
“I urge my colleagues to join Senator Schatz and me in our joint effort to help thousands of Americans suffering from a wide-range of diseases and disorders. In a Washington at war with itself, I have high hopes that this bipartisan initiative can be a kumbaya moment for both parties.”
Can you count all those jokes? We’ve got “high times,” “into the weeds,” strains to enforce,” and “to be blunt,” among others.
Hatch took to the floor of the Senate to talk about his bill.
No, marijuana doesn’t solve everything. There is data to suggest it helps with chronic pain, and low enough doses help to relieve stress, but it’s safe to say that far more research needs to be done before any firm conclusions are made.
A brand new study, published in the journal AIDS, that looks into such links has made a rather striking suggestion. Namely, the anti-inflammatory properties of components of medical marijuana may help HIV patients retain their mental stamina for longer periods of time.
According to the work led by Michigan State University (MSU), a decline in cognitive abilities occurs in up to 50 percent of HIV patients. If more work does happen to corroborate this finding, this particular application of the erstwhile drug will be indisputably substantial.
“It’s believed that cognitive function decreases in many of those with HIV partly due to chronic inflammation that occurs in the brain,” lead author Norbert Kaminski, the Director of MSU’s Institute for Integrative Toxicology, explained in a statement.
“This happens because the immune system is constantly being stimulated to fight off disease.”
Taking blood samples from 40 HIV-positive patients, who varyingly did or did not use marijuana, the team isolated selections of white blood cells, before directly studying the effect marijuana had on them.
Specifically, they looked at monocytes, a type of white blood cell that originates in bone marrow before quickly entering the bloodstream. Monocytes can turn into two different types of cell, those that mark foreign bodies that need to be destroyed, or those that actually do the destroying.
So-called CD16+ monocytes often release certain proteins during their responses to infection, which can lead to inflammation within the body. This self-defense measure is often useful, but sustained inflammation can cause some damage. With no way to destroy the virus, these monocytes keep up this pro-inflammation response.
As the MSU researchers found, though, those that didn’t smoke marijuana had a far higher level of inflammatory cells compared to those who did imbibe, suggesting the substance has an anti-inflammatory property. In vitro experimentation using THC and isolated white blood cells seemed to confirm this.
“In fact, those who used marijuana had levels pretty close to a healthy person not infected with HIV,” Kaminski added.
Less inflammation in the brain could potentially help them maintain normal brain functions for far longer, they suggest.
Some caveats are needed, though. This was a small population size, so it’s too early to definitively describe a relationship between marijuana’s tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and the behavior of the immune system. It’s also noted that elevated numbers of CD16+ monocytes are “implicated” in HIV-linked inflammation of the brain, but a concrete cause-and-effect link appears to remain elusive.
Additionally, this wasn’t a longitudinal study, so you can’t yet say with confidence that those that smoke marijuana – which itself comes with some health risks in some cases – did have a better cognitive state after the fact.
Still, it’s definitely an interesting study, and one that more research will shed additional light on.
HIV is currently incurable – but contemporary anti-viral treatment does allow many of those afflicted by it to live an essentially normal life. In fact, it is now possible to produce (proof-of-concept) functional cures for the virus.
As is often apparent, most of the research that makes the headlines involves the hunt for a cure. The sort of work featured in this new study, which looks at how to mitigate the dangerous effects of the virus on the patient during their lifetime, is not often focused on as much – so novel work, like that conducted by MSU, is always welcome.
(CNN)Several African governments are considering tapping a lucrative natural resource.
More than 10,000 tons of cannabis are produced on the continent each year, according to a UN survey, which advocates believe could be worth billions of dollars in a rapidly expanding global market for legal weed.
African governments have not yet followed the trend of legalization seen in Europe and the Americas. But Lesotho’s recent announcement of the continent’s first legal license to grow marijuana is part of a wider shift toward more liberal policies.
From Morocco to South Africa, there is growing interest in cashing in on a valuable crop. But in each case there are unique challenges to face.
The tiny, landlocked nation has few natural resources. But Lesotho is a giant of the marijuana trade.
“Cannabis is grown almost everywhere in the country,” a UNESCO report found, noting the industry is a leading contributor to the economy in a country plagued by poverty. Much of this comes through illicit trade with Lesotho’s larger, richer neighbor, South Africa.
The government has now signaled its intentions to bring the business out of the shadows by awarding the first license for cultivation and sale to South African alternative medicine company Verve Dynamics.
However, no formal steps have been taken to legalize or regulate the vast network of existing farmers and traders.
The North African state is famous for its hashish and is second only to Afghanistan as a producer of the substance, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
Such dizzying numbers have underpinned a growing movement for legalization. In 2014, an opposition party in the Moroccan parliament with close ties to the monarchy proposed a bill to legalize marijuana production for medical and industrial use.
But the bill failed, and the movement suffered a further setback with the resignation of leading advocate Ilyas El Omari. There has also been opposition to legalization from conservative religious groups, and even cannabis farmers who are concerned their crop might lose value.
Malawi is well known for the prevalence and quality of marijuana production within its borders, including the sought after “Malawi Gold” strain.
The government is now cultivating hemp on a trial basis, ahead of potential legalization of the non-psychoactive cannabis strain for industrial uses such as fabric and food products. This represents a major development after a lengthy battle with drug control groups and religious leaders that fiercely opposed any softening of policy.
Both advocates and critics of legalizing hemp have suggested that marijuana could be next, a longstanding demand of the country’s Rastafarian minority, which claims that smoking ‘chamba’ is integral to their culture.
Ghanaians are heavy consumers of marijuana, according to the UNODC, which is prohibited but widely tolerated.
A pro-legalization campaign has been gathering momentum in recent years, with support from the former head of the Narcotics Control Board. The movement recently received another boost when the executive director of the Ghana Standards Authority suggested that state-led cultivation and export of marijuana could generate valuable income.
But a vociferous backlash from government officials and mental health experts showed this will not be easily achieved. The influential Christian Council of Ghana has also spoken out against legalization, warning this would “destroy the future of our young people.”
The continent’s last absolute monarchy is plagued by poverty, but boasts an abundance of marijuana.
Prominent public figures have suggested using the cannabis crop to boost the economy, including Swaziland’s housing and development minister, while the national commissioner of police has called for a study.
The Swazi House of Assembly has now appointed a committee to explore the possibility of legalization, according to recent reports.
However, similar proposals have been discussed for several years without moving forward, and police continue to make regular arrests for cultivation of marijuana.
One of the continent’s largest economies is also among its leading markets for marijuana, or “dagga” as it is locally known. South Africa produces around 2,500 tons a year, according to a UN report.
Several legal battles are ongoing over the future of the drug in South Africa. The Dagga Party won a landmark ruling this year to permit smoking in the home on privacy grounds, without changing the legal status of the herb.
The so-called “dagga couple” Julian Stobbs and Myrtle Clarke are going further in seeking the right to grow and consume marijuana, which could establish a far-reaching precedent.
The South African government has already published guidelines for medical marijuana, paving the way for legal licenses.
But medical authorities have warned that potential health risks may not be well understood, and public access will likely depend on the outcomes of clinical trials.
Getting medical cannabis in some states is harder than others. Apparently it’s so difficult in Pennsylvania that dudes are calling up an OB-GYN in an attempt at getting their hands on the stick icky.
After some local press revealed that Dr. Liang Bartkowiak of Altoona, Pennsylvania was licensed to prescribe medical marijuana, her office became inundated with phone calls from potential patients looking to book an appointment. The problem? Bartkowiak works at a gynecologist’s office, which treats women exclusively, and most of the phone calls were from men, the Alatoona Mirror reports.
“I was shocked,” Bartkowiak, told the Mirror. “We’re fielding phone calls from male patients who want to schedule appointments.”
While states like California operate relatively relaxed medical marijuana laws, allowing patients to access the plant with symptoms such as migraines, anxiety, and insomnia, the state of Pennsylvania has much stricter laws, and patients must have a “serious medical condition,” such as Epilepsy, cancer, and severe chronic or intractable pain.
Because of this, and due to the fact that the program is still quite new, only a number of doctors are allowed to prescribe cannabis as a treatment. Bartkowiak told the Mirror that she sought certification because she treats women with endometriosis and severe pain from surgeries.
With the opiate epidemic in full force, doctors like Bartkowiak are seeking alternative medicines in order to help treat pain.
While providing access to medical marijuana is a big step for Pennsylvania, the state is playing it quite safe by banning the use of smokable flower, following in the footsteps of states like New York. So it’s likely those dudes looking for medical cannabis wouldn’t be able to get access to the pot they were expecting, even if they did qualify.
Sorry, guys, but marijuana won’t be dropping from the sky in the near future. California has officially banned marijuana deliveries via “unmanned vehicles,” including drones.
Now that California has officially legalized pot, the California Bureau of Cannabis Control has released the Commercial Cannabis Business Licensing Program Regulations, outlining various emergency regulations on selling marijuana in the state. That means businesses have to abide by the state’s rules if they want to hold a commercial cannabis business license. And one such rule is an outright ban on autonomous marijuana deliveries, forcing companies to use manned vehicles to reach customers.
“Cannabis goods will be required to be transported inside commercial vehicles or trailers,” the bureau states. “Transportation may not be done by aircraft, watercraft, rail, drones, human powered vehicles, or unmanned vehicles.”
The bureau also has specific regulations on delivery vehicles and how drivers drop off marijuana. Drivers cannot use marijuana during their deliveries, and vehicles must be in-person through an “enclosed motor vehicle.” That means no self-driving cars, either, or autonomous weed robots.
“Cannabis goods may not be visible to the public during deliveries,” the regulations announce. “Cannabis goods may not be left in an unattended motor vehicle unless the vehicle has an active alarm system. Vehicles used for delivery must have a dedicated, active GPS device that enables the dispensary to identify the geographic location of the vehicle during delivery.”
Why did this 24 y/o become an Internet Exhibitionist?
These regulations spell bad news for a variety of California start-ups interested in the marijuana drone trade. MDelivers announced “the nation’s first fully-licensed drone delivery service” in April, and Eaze previously demonstrated how drones could be used to deliver weed to interested customers. For now, those dreams seem to be in jeopardy. At least in the Golden State, anyway.
There’s one bummer question haunting all the marijuana businesses popping up between British Columbia and Newfoundland.
How much do Canucks like weed, eh?
A year before recreational cannabis is expected to become legal in Canada, there’s an explosion in companies cultivating the stuff. At least 10 marijuana outfits have new listings this year on the TSX Venture Exchange and Canada Securities Exchange. Some 51 enterprises have gotten the green light to grow pot, and 815 applicants are in the queue. All told, it could be enough to raise the country’s raw-weed output more than tenfold.
This is where skeptics see froth. “If you ask people today why they don’t use, it’s a small percentage who say ‘because it’s illegal,”’ said Neil Boyd, a criminologist at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. “In many respects there might be an overestimation of demand.”
Long-time users and growers insist he’s wrong, but investors aren’t so sure. Producer MedReleaf Corp. tumbled as much as 28 percent last month in the worst debut for a Canadian IPO in 16 years amid concern pot stocks are overvalued. Shares of Canopy Growth Corp., the country’s first billion dollar marijuana start-up, are down 21 percent in the past three months.
The North American Medical Marijuana Index, which tracks leading cannabis stocks in the U.S. and Canada, has plunged 21 percent since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government in April unveiled its plan to legalize the drug by next July, 16 years after Canada permitted it for medical use.
Of course, some of the decline may be attributed to the situation in the U.S. Many in the Trump administration, Attorney General Jeff Sessions in particular, are no friends to the industry. For Canadian companies, the risk isn’t political.
“There seems to be a little bit of investor fatigue,” said PI Financial Corp. analyst Jason Zandberg. He said they’re having trouble differentiating between the producers, new and old, and what might give them competitive advantages.
That’s to be expected, according to marijuana bulls, in a brand-new market that hasn’t even arrived yet. Parliament still has to pass the recreational law (though there’s little question it’ll do so). Then the federal government will have to write rules on taxation, and each province will have to decide how to regulate distribution.
“Nothing is going to be perfect right off the hop,” said Jon Bent, a licensed medical marijuana grower who has been cultivating plants on his 11-acre farm outside Winnipeg for five years. “It’s baby steps — and the industry is moving quickly.”
The question is whether it’s going too quickly, considering the variety of estimates about how much recreational weed Canadians will end up regularly ingesting. Some educated guesses are that about 15 percent of Canadians partake now, legally and otherwise. That’s around 5.4 million people, roughly the population of Colorado, which gave the nod to recreational marijuana in 2014. Medical and recreational sales there rose 56 percent last year, to nearly $1 billion, according to Cannabase, operator of the state’s largest market.
One projection, from the Canadian Parliamentary Budget Officer, is that 4.6 million people age 15 and over will use cannabis at least once and consume 655,000 kilograms next year, and that 5.2 million will be doing so by 2021. Other reports peg future recreational consumption at 420,000 kilograms a year with sales reaching C$6 billion by 2021, Canaccord Genuity Group Inc. said in November. For its part, the government agency Health Canada anticipates a mature medical marijuana market will be around C$1.3 billion.
That could underestimate the number of Canadians who will refuse to buy from corporate weed growers, said Chad Jackett, 38, who runs a medical marijuana dispensary in Squamish, British Columbia, and uses cannabis oil everyday to treat nerve pain. His concern is that new regulations will sideline the independent farmers who advocated for the plant for years, and grow small amounts. “I will definitely not be using anything” from one of the big outfits, Jackett said. “If I don’t have enough of my own then I’ll be getting it from somebody else whom I trust.”
Underscoring how confusing it all is, a few alarms are being sounded that there won’t be enough to pass around on Day One. In fact, Colorado faced some shortages of legal supplies in the first year. A similar rush emptied shelves in Nevada, where sales started on July 1.
By 2015, Colorado had the opposite problem, according to Denver-based researcher Marijuana Policy Group, with supplies approximately 51 percent larger than demand. The average price sought by wholesalers for recreational flower has fallen 52 percent since lawful sales began, according to Cannabase.
None of this has dampened enthusiasm in some quarters in Canada. MedReleaf has raised C$100 million, all of which is going toward expanding capacity, said Chief Executive Officer Neil Closner. He said the disappointing IPO was due to a general market slowdown and “not a reflection of demand for our product.” Likes others in the business, he is confident Canadians will be keen enough to lawfully imbibe that the blossoming industry will be supported.
Bent, the pot farmer outside Winnipeg, is just as upbeat. Surveying part of his crop, in a room brimming with 30 bushy plants ripening under the glow of hot lamps, he said the oft-misunderstood reefer is definitely going mainstream. Even his cousin, a “religious librarian,” became a convert after experimenting in Denver, he said. “These are people who would never, ever try it” if it were illegal.
“It’s really gaining popularity and really starting to lose that stigma,” Bent said. “I see a lot of money being spent.”
Former public servants and police officers are finding opportunities in the countrys fledgling industry including some who were once adamantly anti-pot
One of Canadas most prominent marijuana activists has taken aim at former police officers who have entered the countrys fledgling cannabis industry, saying it was hard to stomach that those who spent years sending people to jail for pot offences are now poised to profit as the country moves towards legalisation.
Its a mix of hypocrisy and pure profiteering, Jodie Emery told the Guardian. They made a living off tax dollars for trying to keep people out of the cannabis business and now theyre going to position themselves to cash in.
The most controversial of these would-be entrepreneurs is Julian Fantino, a former Toronto police chief who once likened the decriminalisation of marijuana to legalising murder and, just two years ago, declared his complete opposition to legalisation.
For 17 years, Chalfonte LeNee Queen suffered periodic episodes of violent retching and abdominal pain that would knock her off her feet for days, sometimes leaving her writhing on the floor in pain.
“I’ve screamed out for death,” said Queen, 48, who lives in San Diego. “I’ve cried out for my mom who’s been dead for 20 years, mentally not realizing she can’t come to me.”
Queen lost a modeling job after being mistaken for an alcoholic. She racked up tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills, and her nausea interrupted her sex life. Toward the end of her illness, Queen, who stands 5-foot-9, weighed in at a frail 109 pounds.
Throughout the nearly two decades of pain, vomiting and mental fog, she visited the hospital about three times a year, but doctors never got to the bottom of what was ailing her. By 2016, she thought she was dying, that she “must have some sort of cancer or something they can’t detect,” Queen said.
But she didn’t have cancer. She had an obscure syndrome called cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, a condition only recently acknowledged by the medical community. It affects a small population — namely, a subset of marijuana users who smoke multiple times a day for months, years or even decades.
There’s no hard data on the prevalence of the illness. But in California and Colorado, which have loosened marijuana laws in recent years, emergency physicians say they’re seeing it more often. One study in Colorado suggests there may be a link.
Dr. Aimee Moulin, an emergency room physician at UC-Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, said she has seen a rise in the number of cases since California voters legalized recreational marijuana last November. She expects to see another increase after commercial sales are permitted starting in January.
Doctors say it’s difficult to treat the condition. There is no cure other than to quit using marijuana, and many patients are skeptical that cannabis is making them sick, so they keep using it and their vomiting episodes continue.
Doctors can do little to relieve the symptoms, since traditional anti-nausea medications often don’t work and there are no pills to prevent the onset of an episode. Patients may need intravenous hydration and hospital stays until the symptoms subside.
“That’s really frustrating as an emergency physician,” said Moulin. “I really like to make people feel better.”
Diagnosing the syndrome can also be frustrating — and expensive. There is no blood test to link the stomach ailment with marijuana use, so physicians often order pricey CT scans and lab tests to rule out other medical problems.
“Five years ago, this wasn’t something that [doctors] had on their radar,” said Dr. Kennon Heard, an emergency physician at the University of Colorado in Aurora, who co-authored the Colorado study showing a possible tie between the liberalization of marijuana and a surge of the vomiting illness. “We’re at least making the diagnosis more now.”
One surefire sign of the illness is when patients find relief in hot showers and baths. Queen said she would vomit repeatedly unless she was in a hot shower — so she’d stay in there for hours. Toxicologists say the heat may distract the brain from pain receptors in the abdomen but, like the syndrome itself, that phenomenon is not well understood.
The exact cause of the condition is still a mystery. Toxicologists say the chemical compounds in marijuana may throw off the normal function of the body’s cannabinoid receptors, which help regulate the nervous system.
Some people may be genetically predisposed to the syndrome, or marijuana’s potency or chemical makeup may have changed over time, said Dr. Craig Smollin, medical director of the San Francisco division of the California Poison Control System, who also works as an emergency physician at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital.
The vomiting link to cannabis is counterintuitive to many, because of its widely known reputation as an anti-nausea remedy for cancer patients.
“A lot of times, people just don’t believe you,” said Dr. John Coburn, an emergency physician at Kaiser Permanente in south Sacramento. Even after being told that quitting may help, some patients will visit the hospital multiple times before they stop smoking marijuana, Coburn said. “I can’t really tell you why. I mean, why do people ride motorcycles without helmets on?”
Cameron Nicole Beard, 19, of East Moline, Ill., said she struggled to believe her doctors about the link between pot and severe vomiting.
“Who wants to be told you can’t smoke marijuana, when you think marijuana can help?” said Beard, while recovering from a marijuana-related vomiting episode at a University of Iowa hospital in Iowa City, Iowa, last month. She said she had lost 20 pounds in 10 days.
Although there’s still no magic cure for a patient’s marijuana-related hyperemesis, Moulin and other doctors say they’re getting better at treating the symptoms, using old anti-psychotic medications and cream for muscle aches.
Dr. Heard said the cases in Colorado seem to have leveled off. But without hard data, and because the overall numbers are small, it’s hard to say for sure. Heard said he doesn’t believe cases of the pot syndrome increased after recreational use was legalized in 2012, because chronic users probably already had medical marijuana cards.
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Chalfonte LeNee Queen is still struggling to completely quit marijuana, but her symptoms are down to a dull stomachache. She now smokes a couple of times a day, compared with her near-constant use in the past. She said it’s the only thing that works for her depression and anxiety.
Queen is back to a healthy weight and hasn’t been to the hospital in a year. She said she wouldn’t want to discourage anybody from smoking weed; she just wants people to know heavy use can bring them some serious misery.
“Now, if I get sick, as sad as I’ll be and as upset and disappointed with myself as I would be, at least it’s a freaking choice,” she said.
Streaming giant creates The Netflix Collection, a selection of cannabis varieties based on shows including Orange is the New Black and Arrested Development
Netflix has co-created a set of cannabis strains based on a selection of its most popular original shows.
The set, called The Netflix Collection, will be sold as part of a pop-up event at Alternative Herbal Health Services in West Hollywood from 25-27 August to legal medical marijuana card-holding customers. Federal laws prevent the products being available by mail and Netflix will not be profiting from any of the sales.
Each strain was cultivated with the specific shows in mind, designed to complement each title based on their tone, a press release read. For example, sillier shows may be more indica dominant, while dramedies will be more sativa dominant to help the more powerful scenes resonate.
The shows featured include Orange is the New Black, which has spawned Poussey Riot, meant for kicking it with somebody, talking, making mad stupid jokes, Arrested Development, which has been labelled Banana Stand Kush ideally for a big yellow joint and Grace and Frankie, the Peyotea 73 an uplifting sativa hybrid.
Over just three days in a single Pennsylvania county this month, more than a hundred people reportedly overdosed on a type ofsynthetic marijuanaknown as K2.
Between July 7 and July 10, 102 people in Lancaster County were treated for K2 overdoses, according to CNN. By July 14, an additional 56 people suffered similar afflications, bringing the total number of K2 overdose patients in the county to 158 in just one week.
C. Robert May, director of Lancaster Emergency Medical Services, said none of the overdoses were fatal but patients symptoms were sometimes serious.
Were seeing very sick patients, individuals who have very low blood pressure, are unconscious, and theyre getting admitted to intensive care, May told CBS News. He added that the influx of overdose patients was taxing to local hospitals that are already well above capacity.
Asked to explain the troubling increase, May said a dip in the availability of heroin may have contributed to a spike in demand for the synthetic drug. Either that, he said, orjust some bad K2 has hit the street.
Typically composed of shredded plant material sprayed with lab-made cannibinoids the same psychoactive compound found in organic weed synthetic marijuanais far more powerful than the real McCoy, Barbra Roach, a Denver-based special agent at the Drug Enforcement Administration, said in an earlier HuffPost interview.
Its often impossible, however, to tell just how strong a dose of synthetic marijuana will be.
[Some] could be 1-to-800 times more powerful, some are 25 times more powerful, some are 5 times, said Roach. Because its lab-created, [the drugs makers] are constantly trying to change the analogs in it and the compounds so its like an unknown and then its not technically illegal, at least under federal law.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the chemical composition can differ wildly between different batches of synthetic marijuana which, other than the moniker K2, is also sold under brand names including Spice, Black Mamba, Kush and Kronic. As a result, these products are likely to contain substances that cause dramatically different effects than the user might expect, the institute said.
Misleadingly marketed as a legal or safer alternative to real cannabis, synthetic marijuanaspopularity has balloonedin recent years. According to theCenters for Disease Control and Prevention, the drug has been particularly in-demand among teens and young adults seeking an alternative to marijuana or a new experience with a hallucinogenic drug.
Many of the overdose patients in Lancaster County this month have been adults in their 20s, said May. Some have been teenagers.