Medicinal Cannabis

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U.S.: NIDA Study To Look At Whether Medical Marijuana Really Helps Patients

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But Can Patients Trust This Notoriously Anti-Marijuana Federal Agency?

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Does medical marijuana really help patients? A federal study, funded to the tune of $2.2 million, will soon take a look at that question. But can medical marijuana patients really trust the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), which has until now always refused to study the medicinal benefits of cannabis, instead concentrating on trying to find negative aspects to its use?

A grant from the NIDA will fund a four-year project that already began this month at the University of Michigan, reports Robin Erb at the Detroit Free Press. Researchers will track the progress of 800 medical marijuana patients.

A spokesperson for the NIDA told The New York Times in 2010 that the agency "does not fund research focused on the potential medical benefits of marijuana."

"As the National Institute on Drug Abuse, our focus is primarily on the negative consequences of marijuana use," said NIDA spokeswoman Shirley Simson.

In any event, Michigan, which has more than 135,000 patients enrolled in its four-year-old medical marijuana program, will be the site of the study. It is one of 19 (or 20, counting Maryland's weak law) states which allow the use of medicinal cannabis to treat pain, nausea, and symptoms from cancer, AIDS and other conditions.

Michigan: State Takes Second Shot At Forming Marijuana Panel, Almost 4 Years Late

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A Michigan panel convened in December for the first time to consider requests to add new medical conditions to the list of medical marijuana qualifications -- three-and-a-half years after a statutory deadline elapsed to create the board.

Michigan state officials now admit there was a bureaucratic foul-up in seating the panel. They have dismissed all its members, and are starting over, reports Scott Davis at the Lansing State Journal.

"We're moving as quickly as we can," said Jeannie Vogel, spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, which is in charge of the panel.

Medical marijuana advocates are frustrated that Michigan still doesn't have a way for patients to expand eligibility for medicinal cannabis. Under the 2008 ballot measure approved by 63 percent of state voters, residents can use marijuana with a doctor's authorization for specific ailments including cancer, glaucoma, AIDS and Crohn's disease.

"The state has dragged its feet terribly," said Martin Chilcutt of Kalamazoo, who sued the state last year over the interminable delay. "Frankly, they have been screwing around with it. They don't take the patients into consideration."

Ohio: Medical Marijuana Advocates Optimistic For 2014

OhioMedicalMarijuana

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Backers of Ohio's third attempt in less than two years to legalize medical marijuana believe that the third time's the charm. They insist their latest effort will be successful, as Michigan's was in 2008.

"There's far more interest in people backing this one, particularly those who want to bring people into the political arena in 2014," said Bob Fitrakis, a member of the Ohio Rights Group, which is behind the latest effort, reports Jim Provance of The Toledo Blade.

Both Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and the Ohio Ballot Board have approved language that would be shown to potential petition signers. But, skeptics point out, its two predecessors also reached that point, in late 2011 and early 2012, and both these efforts fizzled.

Ohio Rights Group members said they know the group will need financial support and probably a wealthy benefactor if it is to be successful at gathering almost 400,000 valid signatures from registered voters in the state.

Five of the six members making up the petition committee of the Ohio Rights Group were also on the petition committees for the 2011 and 2012 efforts, but they say they've learned some lessons along the way.

Unlike the first two medical marijuana petition drives, the proposed Ohio Cannabis Rights Amendment contains the political buzzword "rights."

Israel: Number of Doctors Prescribing Medical Marijuana To Double

IsraelMedicalMarijuana

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The number of doctors in Israel who are allowed to prescribe medical marijuana will be raised from nine to 20 by the end of 2013, a member of the Knesset said on Monday.

In what was described as a "raucous session," Likud MK Haim Katz, chairman of the Knesset Labor, Social Welfare and Health Committee, said that a subcommittee will be formed to discuss demands made by patients' groups to get easier access to cannabis to relieve pain and other effects of serious illnesses, reports Judy Siegel-Itzkovich of The Jerusalem Post.

Medicinal cannabis is currently used in Israel for cancer, multiple sclerosis, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), pain, insomnia, lack of appetite, and other symptoms.

The Israeli Health Ministry will get recommendations from the subcommittee, and will provide the subcommittee with reports to ensure that "all patients who need it will get it. If there is a need, we will solve the problem through legislation," Katz said. We want those who deserve it to get it, while those who are not entitled not to get it."

Law enforcement authorities voiced their usual overblown complaints about less-rigorous control of the medical cannabis society leading to illegal supplies entering the black market, and being obtained for non-palliative use.

Researcher: THC In Marijuana Could Keep HIV From Entering the Brain

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A researcher in Philadelphia says that THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, could keep the HIV virus from entering the brain.

THC can block inflammation and slow down HIV's ability to reproduce itself when it attaches to a specific protein, according to Dr. Servio Ramirez, who is assistant professor of pathology at the Temple University School of Medicine, reports Lynne Adkins at CBS Philly.

"The idea is to prevent a lot of these cells from moving into the brain during the course of infection and if you are able to suppress or somehow control hive replication in this particular immune cell, the whgole hope is that less of these cells would be entering the brain through the course of infection," Dr. Ramirez said.

Keeping HIV out of the brain is important, because many of the drugs currently used to control the virus cannot get into the brain or are not effective once there, according to Dr. Ramirez.

(Photo of Dr. Servio Ramirez: Lynne Adkins)

Oregon: Medical Cannabis Advocate Accused of Selling Marijuana

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Medical marijuana activist Lori Duckworth, 48, and her husband, Leland Duckworth, 49, on Thursday were raided at the Southern Oregon Cannabis Community Center, a downtown Medford storefront where thousands of Oregon patients got cannabis. The Duckworths are accused of selling marijuana.

Duckworth, a mother and grandmother, became the latest high-profile figure in Oregon's cannabis community to be caught up in a "drug investigation," reports Noelle Crombie at The Oregonian.

Oregon allows medical marijuana growers to recoup the costs of supplies and utilities when supplying cannabis to state-registered patients, but bans the "sale" of medical marijuana.

Raids on the Duckworths and others in southern Oregon came as state lawmakers were considering a bill that would legalize dispensaries. Lawmakers are also looking at a bill which would add post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to the list of conditions that can qualify patients to be authorized by a physician for medical marijuana.

Federal agents last year raided sites associated with James Bowman, reputedly one of Oregon's largest medical marijuana producers. Washington County law enforcement last year shut down The Human Collective, a dispensary that served as one of Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum's campaign stops.

Massachusetts: Medical Marijuana Patients Would Pay $50, Dispensaries $50,000 Annual Fee Under Plan

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Dispensary Licenses Would Cost $50,000 A Year Under Department of Health Plan

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health is proposing to charge medical marijuana patients $50 a year, and dispensaries an annual fee of $50,000.

Patients with a "verified financial hardship" would be allowed to request a waiver of the registration fee, subject to review and approval by the state health department, reports Kay Lazar of the Boston Globe.

Patients who qualify for a hardship license to cultivate (most patients won't be allowed to grow at home; all except those who are mobility challenged will be required to buy from dispensaries) would have to pay an additional $100 fee for the privilege, reports WCVB.

The proposed rules call for marijuana dispensaries to pay an initial $1,500 application fee, followed by a $30,000 charge for the second phase of the licensing process; both fees are nonrefundable, even if the application is denied.

Licensed dispensaries will then be required to pay an annual fee of $50,000. Dispensaries would also be required to pay a $500 annual registration fee for each of their employees.

Nevada: Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Clear Legal Hurdle

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A proposal to legalize medical marijuana dispensaries in Nevada will get a vote by the full Senate.

The Senate Finance Committee on Thursday unanimously approved Senate Bill 374, reports Brian Duggan at the Reno Gazette-Journal. The measure would create a system of regulated storefront dispensaries which would be taxed by the state.

The stores would be authorized to sell medicinal cannabis to authorized patients who are registered with the state. The bill needs 14 votes -- two-thirds of the Nevada Senate -- in order to pass.

Nevada voters in 1998 and again in 2000 approved measures to amend the state constitution to legalize the medicinal use of marijuana.

But state law never established a legal way for medical marijuana patients to actually get cannabis, other than by growing it themselves (presumably, with seeds given to them by their Fairy Godmother).

About 3,600 Nevada residents have medical marijuana cards.

Earlier this year, SB 374 sponsor Tick Segerblom (D-Las Vegas) took a bipartisan group of Nevada lawmakers to Phoenix to observe a legal dispensary operating under Arizona's medical marijuana program.

New Jersey: Governor Says He's 'Not Inclined To Allow' Children In Medical Marijuana Program

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Acting as if cannabis were alone among all medicines in somehow being uniquely dangerous and simply unacceptable to give children, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie on Monday said he is "not inclined to allow" children to participate in the state's medical marijuana program, despite the fact that state law says the program is open to minors.

"I'm very concerned, if we go down this slope of allowing minors to use this, where does it end?" Gov. Christie said lamely in justifying his decision to allow children to continue suffering.

The governor was responding to a question concerning a New Jersey Star-Ledger story about Vivian Wilson, a two-year-old girl with a severe, rare form of epilepsy called Dravet Syndrome, reports Susan K. Livio. Vivian got a medical marijuana ID card from the New Jersey Health Department in February, but her parents, Brian and Meghan Wilson of Scotch Plains, have been unable to find a psychiatrist to support Vivian's enrollment in the program.

New Jersey law requires the approval of a pediatrician, a psychiatrist and the child's prescribing physician -- three separate approvals -- before the family may buy cannabis on a child's behalf. Some readers may remember certain New Jersey politicians bragging about having the "strictest medical marijuana law in the nation;" now the real-world consequences of such "strictness" are plain for all to see.

California: Senate Moves To End For-Profit Sales of Medical Marijuana

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Meanwhile, L.A. Voters Weighing In Tuesday On Dispensary Regulations

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The California Senate on Monday approved a bill that would end all for-profit sales of medical marijuana in the state.

The proposed law would go further than then-Attorney General (now Governor) Jerry Brown's 2008 non-binding guidelines, in that it would make the nonprofit collective model mandatory for dispensaries, reports Stephen C. Webster at The Raw Story. Provisions in the bill, SB 439, would also put extensive records-keeping requirements on dispensary owners.

That would theoretically allow tax agents to look more closely at dispensary finances to ensure no profits are being taken; unfortunately, it would also expedite federal prosecutions if those records were successfully subpoenaed by the federal Department of Justice.

Brown issued the guidelines after law enforcement asked for clarification on who they could bust for medical marijuana. After California voters in 1996 approved medical marijuana, the Legislature in 2004 expanded and clarified the law in 2004 with SB 420, the Medical Marijuana Program Act, a system of voluntary regulations that established a licensing system and put limits on cultivation and sales.

But more than 200 cities around the state have banned medical marijuana dispensaries, actions which the California Supreme Court recently upheld.

California: San Diego Mayor Calls For Jury Nullification In Medical Marijuana Case

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

San Diego Mayor Bob Filner on Monday took on the federal government and its crackdown on medical marijuana. Filner held a press conference in support of medical marijuana patient Ronnie Chang, who was operating state-licensed dispensaries, calling for jury nullification in the case.

Chang's supporters say he was wrongfully arrested and persecuted in federal raids back in 2009, reports Sharon Chen at Fox 5 San Diego.

"Ronnie Chang has been in custody for about five months," said Terrie Best of San Diego Americans for Safe Access. "He has a very infirm mother he had been supporting and taking care of."

Chang's attorney, Michael McCabe, on Monday appeared before a federal magistrate judge to argue a temporary gag order against him be lifted. McCabe was criticized by supporters of the federal crackdown for appearing in a video blasting U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy, who has overseen the crackdown in Southern California.

The persecution of Chang is bias-driven and vindictive, according to McCabe.

Prosecutors wanted all material regarding the case removed from the internet and social networks, which makes one wonder why they are afraid of the truth. A federal judge wouldn't enforce the gag order, but instead McCabe agreed not to "try the case in front of the press."

The prosecutors came to their senses, backing down from their ridiculous request to remove information from the internet.

Illinois: Governor Deciding Whether To Sign Medical Marijuana Bill; Still 'Open Minded'

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Governor Pat Quinn holds in his hands the fate of medical marijuana in Illinois, but so far will only say he remains "open minded" on the measure in a Monday appearance.

Quinn, a Democrat, on Monday told the City Club of Chicago he is currently reviewing the medical marijuana bill the Illinois Legislature sent to his desk last week, reports the Huffington Post. The governor would not say whether he would sign the bill into law.

The Illinois Senate on Friday passed the bill on a 35-21 vote; it had already been approved by the House.

The bill had some conservative supporters, including GOP state Sen. Jim Oberweis of Aurora, who voted for the bill after saying he was "honestly undecided about this" during the Senate floor discussion. Oberweis later told the Illinois Review he came around to supporting the bill after a strong majority of his constituents supported it in a tele-townhall (never underestimate the power of letting politicians know how you feel).

Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon also supporters the bill, as well as a majority of Illinois voters, according to polling, and a coalition of almost 250 physicians.

It is "likely" Gov. Quinn will sign the bill, according to Chicago Magazine's Whet Moser.

New York: 82% of Voters Support Medical Marijuana

(Graphic: The Daily Chronic)Medical Marijuana Patients and Advocates Call for Immediate Passage of New York’s Bill

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A poll released on Monday by the Siena Research Institute found that 82 percent of New York voters support allowing seriously and terminally ill people to legally use marijuana for medical purposes if recommended by a doctor.

The poll of 623 registered voters also found that Democrats and Republicans are equally likely to support medical marijuana – for both groups, support registered at 81 percent. Meanwhile, members of the Independence and other parties showed even greater support (89 percent), and even 77 percent percent of self-described conservatives were in favor.

A proposal currently pending before the New York Legislature, the Compassionate Care Act – A.6357 (Gottfried) / S.4406 (Savino) – would allow healthcare practitioners to talk to their patients about medical marijuana and certify those with serious, debilitating illnesses so that they may have access to a small amount of medical marijuana to relieve their symptoms. The bill, which would create one of the nation’s most tightly regulated medical marijuana programs, also has the support of hundreds patients and healthcare providers and dozens of organizations across the state.

Illinois: Senate Approves Medical Cannabis Bill, Governor Urged to Sign Into Law

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By Michael Bachara, Hemp News Correspondent

Yesterday, the Illinois Senate voted 35-21 in favor of an historic bill that would allow people with certain ailments to use cannabis to ease their symptoms, if recommended by their doctor.

The bill, HB 1, which would allow Illinois residents with qualifying conditions the right to obtain 2.5 ounces every two weeks from a licensed dispensary, is expected to be signed by an "open-minded" Governor Quinn.

"We are embarking here on a way to achieve relief, compassionate relief, consistent with the law (with) a system which avoids abuse," according to the bill's sponsor, Democratic Sen. Bill Haine of Alton. "It's the tightest, most controlled legislative initiative in the United State related to medical cannabis."

"This is about individuals that are having a difficult time finding solutions to their cancer pains, that are finding other solutions and are going to the black market buying it anyway. We must find these solutions," Senator William Delgado, 2nd Legislative District (D), proclaimed on the Senate floor.

Proponents say cannabis can relieve continual pain without detrimental side effects of other pharmaceutical drugs.

Study: Marijuana Protects Against Damaging Effects of Social Exclusion

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Research published online May 14 in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science has shown that marijuana buffers people from experiencing the pain of social exclusion.

"Prior work has shown that the analgesic acetaminophen, which acts indirectly through CB1 receptors, reduces the pain of social exclusion," lead researcher Timothy Deckman of the University of Kentucky and his colleagues wrote in the study, reports Eric W. Dolan of The Raw Story.

The four-part study, including a total of 7,040 participants and three methodologies, was based on previous studies that showed an overlap between physical and psychological pain. Acetaminophen, found in over-the-counter pain pills like Tylenol, has been found to reduce both social and physical pain.

Acetaminophen and marijuana both affect cannnabinoid (CB1) receptors in the brain and both are used to treat physical pain.

For the first two studies, researchers looked at cross-sectional data from major national surveys. The first used data from the National Comorbidity Study and found marijuana users who reported loneliness had higher levels of self-worth and mental health than non-marijuana users who reported being lonely.

Maine: Residents Push For New Laws To Expand Medical Marijuana

(Graphic: Medical Marijuana Blog)By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Medical marijuana patients, growers and dispensary operators are pushing for new laws that would expand the number of patients who are authorized to legally use cannabis.

Between 13,000 and 15,000 Mainers are currently medical marijuana patients, reports Amy Sinclair at NECN. Ten thousand of those buy from the state's eight licensed dispensaries; the rest get their marijuana from private growers, known as "caregivers."

Lawmakers on the Health and Human Services Committee are considering six bills that would allow for more dispensaries, expand the list of qualifying conditions, and increase the number of plants caregivers are allowed to grow.

"I think the question is how can we get more medicine to patients from the dispensary system we currently have," said Tim Smale, executive director at the Remedy Compassion Center in Auburn, Maine.

Atop the wish list is a new law that would expand the list of qualifying conditions for which doctors may authorized the medicinal use of cannabis. Advocates want to expand the list to include post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), opiate addiction and other medical conditions as determined by doctors.

Study: Marijuana Helps To Control Diabetes

(Graphic: Green Drop Collective)By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

In a newly published paper, researchers have shown that marijuana can help with diabetes control.

Investigators from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) in Boston published a paper in the current issue of The American Journal of Medicine detailing how cannabis users have significantly lower fasting insulin, and are less likely to be insulin resistant than those who don't use pot, reports Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com.

The researchers noted that this was true even after excluding patients who had a diagnosis of diabetes.

The BIDMC team analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Survey between 2005 and 2010. Their research included data from 4,657 patients who completed drug use questionnaires. Of these, 579 reported currently using cannabis; 1,975 had used it in the past; and 2,103 reported never using it.

The team measured fasting insulin and glucose amounts using blood samples after patients had fasted for nine hours. They also evaluated insulin resistance via homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR).

Study: Smoking Marijuana Causes Complete Remission of Crohn's Disease With No Side Effects

There is a truth that must be heard!By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Smoking marijuana caused a "complete remission" of Crohn's disease in half the patients who took part in an eight-week clinical trial, according to data published in the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

Researchers at Meir Medical Center in Israel gave 11 patients with severe Crohn's disease two joints a day for eight weeks. Ten other patients were used as a control group.

The standardized joints contained 23 percent THC and 0.5 percent CBD. The other ten patients smoked placebo joints containing no active cannabinoids.

Smoking the marijuana for eight weeks resulted in a "complete remission" of Crohn's in five of the 11 subjects, according to researchers. Another five of the eleven test patients saw their symptoms reduced by about half.

"Subjects receiving cannabis reported improved appetite and sleep, with no significant side effects," researchers reported. Side effects are severe with corticosteroids used to treat the inflammation of Crohn's; they range from excessive facial hair and insomnia to high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and glaucoma, if used for extended periods.

Tommy Chong Says He's Cancer-Free, Thanks To Marijuana

There is a truth that must be heard!By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Stoner icon Tommy Chong announced this week that he is cancer free, having beaten prostate cancer with a treatment regimen including cannabis oil.

"I'm cancer free," Chong wrote in a blog post. "That's right, I kicked cancer's ass!"

Chong, half of the comedy duo Cheech & Chong, was diagnosed with prostate cancer last June, reports John R. Kennedy at Global News. He told CNN he believes he got it while serving time in a California prison in 2003-2004 for selling glass bongs over the Internet.

"I immediately looked an alternatives," the Canadian-born Chong wrote.

After his nephew in Vancouver, a medical student, suggested meeting with a doctor in Victoria, Chong followed his advice. "That doctor changed my diet and put me on supplements, and within a year I brought my PSA [prostate-specific antigen] numbers down drastically and eliminated the cancer threat," Chong wrote. "I also treated the condition with hemp oil (hash oil)."

"The magic plant does cure cancer with the right diet and supplements," Chong said. "I feel the best I've felt in years."

(Photo: Tommy Chong via Facebook)

U.S.: Marijuana Cannabinoids Could Point The Way To First Effective Medication For PTSD

There is a truth that must be heard!By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

In a first-of-its-kind study on the biochemical impact of psychological trauma, researchers have discovered a connection between the amount of cannabinoid receptors in the human brain and the chronic, disabling condition post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The findings, from New York University Langone Medical Center, appeared online Tuesday in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, reports Science Daily. They will also be presented this week at the annual meeting of the Society of Biological Psychiatry in San Francisco.

There are a number of treatments using psychotherapy and cognitive behavioral therapy for PTSD patients, but these methods aren't always available, reports Loren Grush at Fox News.

No pharmaceutical treatments have yet been developed to specifically target PTSD.

The NYU Langone Center researchers utilized brain imaging technology to highlight the connection between the number of cannabinoid receptors in the brain and PTSD. The cannabinoid receptors, known as CB1 receptors, are activated in the brain when a person uses marijuana, which can lead to impaired short-term memory and reduced anxiety.

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