Saturday, June 28, 2008

Marijuana Has Anti-Inflammatory That Won't Get You High

A compound in marijuana may be a potent anti-inflammatory agent that won't get people high, scientists say.

The finding could be a boon to sufferers of arthritis, cirrhosis, and other diseases. Existing drugs can be less effective for some people and can carry side effects, from stomach ulcers to increased risk of heart attacks.

Marijuana supporters have long argued that the plant's active ingredients, known as cannabinoids, are safe and effective treatments for pain, nausea, and other ailments.
The most active cannabinoid—delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC—is known to have anti-inflammatory properties. But it is also responsible for the plant's psychotropic effects.

Now researchers say that another cannabinoid, called beta-caryophyllene, or (E)-BCP, helps combat inflammation without affecting the brain.

(E)-BCP is already part of many people's daily diets, the researchers note. Foods that are particularly high in the compound include black pepper, oregano, basil, lime, cinnamon, carrots, and celery.

Essential oils from cannabis plants—whose leaves and flowers are used to make the marijuana drug—contain up to 35 percent (E)-BCP.

But even after decades of cannabis research, scientists hadn't previously known that the compound had anti-inflammatory properties.

"This is because the focus was on the classical cannabinoids [rather than (E)-BCP]," said lead study author Jürg Gertsch of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology.

Lone Receptor

Cannabinoids in marijuana are known to primarily affect two of the many molecular receptors in the human body.

The CB1 receptor is found in the brain and central nervous system and is responsible for the high people experience when they smoke pot.

The other receptor, called CB2, is found in tissues in the rest of the body and triggers a cascade of biochemical reactions that can help combat inflammation.

"Our interest is to exploit the pharmacological nature of the CB2 receptor," because it does not have psychotropic side effects, Gertsch explained in an email.

"Targeting the CB2 receptor could be a therapeutic strategy to prevent or treat diseases like Crohn's disease [inflammation of the intestinal tract], liver cirrhosis, osteoarthritis, and atherosclerosis."

THC activates both receptors, so it won't alleviate inflammation without also making people high.

But (E)-BCP affects only the CB2 receptor, according to the new study, which appears in today's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

As part of their research, the scientists engineered a strain of mice that lacked the CB2 receptor. The team then fed the modified mice and normal mice a diet rich in (E)-BCP.

When the scientists induced inflammation with chemicals, normal mice experienced an anti-inflammatory effect while the genetically engineered mice did not.

"This experiment shows that the anti-inflammatory effects are mediated via the CB2 receptor," Gertsch said.

Drug Building Block?

Stephen Safe, director of the Texas A&M University's Center for Environmental and Genetic Medicine, said he is impressed by the team's results both in mouse cells and in live mice.

"They did a good study," said Safe, who was not involved in the research.

He also noted that a lot of other studies have been finding that fat-soluble chemicals from plants activate many receptors in the body.

"A lot of these [come from plants that] have been used in traditional medicine," he said. "This is another example of that—but a bit of a sexy one."

In this case, he noted, Gertsch's team has identified some "petty good" activators of the CB2 receptor.

"Can they be further developed and modified into better anti-inflammatory drugs?" he asked. "Maybe. [(E)-BCP] could be a new model [compound] for drug design."


Monday, June 23, 2008

Marijuana Helps Anxiety Disorders


After years of prescription antidepressants that offered no relief from anxiety disorder, Patsy K. Eagan experiments with her drug of choice— marijuana, which for some may be the medicine to send SSRIs up in smoke

A thimbleful is all it takes. After a day’s work, I pinch off a small amount of marijuana and put it in a steel-tooth grinder. The flowers, covered in tiny white diamonds of THC, release a piney scent when crushed. I turn on the TV, and instead of taking a glass of wine with my evening news, I take out my vaporizer and set it on the coffee table.

Outside the walls of my bungalow in Oakland, California, I can hear the rush-hour traffic, but I’ve already changed into my Big Lebowski–style robe and slippers. I tap the ground flakes into a canister that I attach to another piece, this one with a bag on the end, and set both on the vaporizer. I flip the switch, and the bag slowly inflates with plumes of white smoke. Once it’s fully clouded, I attach a mouthpiece to the canister, put this to my lips, and press. On the inhale, the cannabinoids taste like sunned grass. My prescription for anxiety disorder didn’t always begin and end with an herb. But I’ve run through enough pharmaceutical drugs to know that pot dulls my panic better than any pill.

One could say I diagnosed myself in high school, when I recognized my symptoms in a psychology textbook. Finally, I had “generalized anxiety disorder” to describe the dread I felt of some future event that was overtaking my present. I usually sensed the panic attacks first in my chest. Then my vision would start to go to static, and my body would crumple to the floor. There I’d ride it out until the adrenaline ran its course.

Soon after I started to suffer several of these episodes a day (and so often that fear of another one kept me indoors), I sought out a psychiatrist. I told her about the times I’d be driving and convince myself that I was about to spin off the road—the looping, invented terrors. A little talk therapy and a prescription later, I discovered that Zoloft only exacerbated my panic and depression. I stopped taking the little white pills and cut out caffeine instead; I exercised and practiced meditation. For years I abstained from medication, and aside from the occasional pot smoking with friends, I swore off drugs entirely.

By the time I graduated from college, I knew all about the female hysteric and how anxiety was still cast as a womanly defect. Women experience generalized anxiety disorder at twice the rate of men. Every year, as many as 4.5 million American women are diagnosed with GAD—not including the several other permutations of anxiety disorders, namely social phobia, obsessive-compulsiveness, post-traumatic stress, and agoraphobia—for which, as with most mental illnesses, they are prescribed medications. Thus, I resisted pills for the backward “rest cure” and institutionalization they stood for: the only thing to be done for the hysterical female.

For the full artical visit:

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Teen Pot Use Falling In States With Medical Marijuana Laws

Washington, DC: States that have enacted legislation authorizing the use of medical cannabis by qualified patients have not experienced an increase in the drug's use by the general population, according to a report issued this week by the Marijuana Policy Project and co-authored by NORML Advisory Board Member Mitch Earleywine.

Among the twelve states that have legalized the use and cultivation of medical cannabis, all but one (New Mexico) have experienced an overall decline in teen marijuana use since the enactment of their medi-pot laws. (Data was unavailable for New Mexico, which passed its law last year.) In seven of the twelve states, marijuana use among young people declined at rates that exceeded the national average.

"Opponents of medical use of marijuana regularly argue that such laws 'send the wrong message to children,' but there is just no sign of that effect in the data," said Earleywine. "In every state for which there's data, teen marijuana use has gone down since the medical marijuana law was passed, often a much larger decline than nationally."

A previous 2005 review of medical cannabis laws and their impact on use reported similar findings, noting that teen use in California had fallen nearly 50 percent since the passage of that state's medi-pot law in 1996. A 2002 report by the General Accounting Office (GAO) concluded that state medical marijuana laws were operating primarily as voters and legislators had intended and had not led to widespread abuses among the general population.

For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director, at (202) 483-5500 or Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director,. Full text of the study, "Marijuana use by young people: the impact of state medical marijuana laws,"


Amsterdam smoking ban doesn’t apply to marijuana

The Netherlands' famous coffee shops, where marijuana is available over the counter, face the threat of extinction when the country goes smoke-free on 1 July.

Smoking dope is the raison d'être of the cafes which are scattered across the country, with the greatest and most famous concentration in Amsterdam. But when the tobacco ban comes in, the coffee shops will not be exempt.

This will lead to the paradoxical situation that only pure grass or cannabis resin, which are not covered by the ban, can be legally smoked in the shops.

Anybody rolling a tobacco-based joint will be breaking the law – but only because of the tobacco. "The new rule is nonsense," said Willem Panders, of the Dutch tobacco traders' union. "It will be almost impossible to enforce because how are you going to check if someone is smoking cannabis mixed with tobacco, or pure cannabis?"

But despite desperate lobbying, owners have failed to get the government to make an exception of them. "Coffee shops will be treated in the same manner as other catering businesses," the Prime Minister, Jan Peter Balkanende, said last week. "It would have been wrong to move towards a smoke-free catering industry and then make an exception for coffee shops. People would not have understood that."

At any one time up to 1,300 coffee shops are for sale across the country, but the Dutch catering magazine Horeca Vizier reports that the figure has jumped to 1,600 because of the ban.

Marc Jacobsen, of BCD, a national association of coffee-shop owners which has been urging the government to give them special status, told the online version of Der Spiegel: "In a cafe you come to drink something. In a restaurant you come to eat. But when you come to a coffee shop you come to smoke, so smoking has to be allowed in a coffee shop."

As in the rest of Europe the purpose of the ban is to protect the health of staff, who at present are obliged to inhale passively other people's smoke. But Sandy Lambrecht, the manager of the Bulldog coffee shop on the Leidseplein in the heart of Amsterdam, said: "The new rules are absurd. You come to a coffee shop to smoke, after all – it's ridiculous that we have to comply. The new rules are meant to protect employees like me, but the point is that we chose to work here."

Paul Wilhelm, the owner of De Tweede Kamer, one of Amsterdam's most famous coffee shops, founded in 1985, argued: "If the boys are old enough to be sent to Afghanistan, then you can't tell me that people want to protect them from smoke in the workplace. They're old enough to decide on their own. They can vote, they can go to war – but now they won't even be allowed to make this decision?"

Many British pubs re-opened their gardens when the smoking ban took effect, but most Dutch coffee shops are penned into tiny premises with no outdoor space. The solution in Bulldog is to create a separate, walled-off space for those who want to smoke, off-limits to staff.

"We're now having to build a new section in our coffee-shop with a glass partition and special air filters for those who choose to smoke non-pure cannabis," said Sandy Lambrecht. "It's a shame as it will change the very congenial ambience in here – half of our customers will be shut off behind a glass wall. Our customers will grumble, that's for sure."

But the Dutch Health Minister, Ab Klink, is impenitent. "A positive side effect of the smoking ban," he said, "may be that consumers who spend the whole day hanging out in coffee shops will find other things to do."

Cannabis cafe culture

Contrary to popular perception, cannabis is – technically – an illegal substance in the Netherlands. However the country's pragmatic drug policy has led to a division in the eyes of the law between "hard" drugs, such as cocaine or heroin, and "soft", like cannabis.

Holland's policy of non-enforcement towards cannabis consumption and possession goes back to 1976. Originally it applied to a quantity of less than 30 grams, but the amount coffee shops are able to sell to one person is now limited to five grams.

Cannabis cafes haveto stick to strict criteria. They must be licensed, cannot admit or sell drugs to minors under 18, and the advertisement of drugs is banned. In April 2007, new legislation forced the coffee shops to choose between serving alcohol and cannabis. The vast majority opted to serve cannabis.

Although cannabis is usually mixed with tobacco and smoked in a joint, it can be smoked – without tobacco – in a bong or pipe. It can also be consumed as a tea or in cake form, but the effect of the drug takes much longer to be felt.

Via: Belfast Telegraph

Thursday, June 19, 2008

N.Y. poised to OK marijuana for medicinal use

NEW YORK STATE — Richard Williams smokes marijuana regularly.

But he doesn’t consider himself a criminal, and doesn’t think he should be treated like one.

The 46-year-old Richmondville resident has been HIV positive for two decades. Smoking marijuana, he said, relieves the pain in his joints and helps him cope with persistent bouts of nausea. He has hepatitis C and a damaged liver, so he doesn’t want to take pain medication, which is processed by the liver.

Williams supports legalizing the use of medical marijuana in New York. He’s hoping the state Legislature will pass a law that does so before adjourning later this month.

“I don’t use other drugs,” Williams said. “I’m not a drug addict. … I’m speaking out because someone has to stand up for what’s right.”

Last year the Assembly passed a bill that would legalize medical marijuana; a new version of the bill has moved out of the codes committee, and another version is pending in the Senate. Those who support the bill are optimistic that this is the year New York legalizes medical marijuana.

The Assembly bill, sponsored by Rep. Richard Gottfried, D-Manhattan, would allow patients to use marijuana only if they have life-threatening or debilitating conditions, and only if their doctors believe it would be the most effective treatment. Patients and caregivers would register with the state and receive identification cards that would allow them to legally purchase marijuana for medicinal use. They would be allowed to grow up to 12 plants and to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana, though a state-regulated distribution system would eventually replace home cultivation. This transition would hinge on the federal government’s approval of the state-regulated distribution system.

Last year, the Assembly passed legislation legalizing medical marijuana for the first time, and this year’s version of the bill attempts to address the concerns that derailed its chances in the Senate. Some legislators felt that last year’s bill did not provide for adequate regulation; the new bill mandates that registered organizations such as pharmacies, nonprofit organizations created for the purposing of selling marijuana to chronically sick people and local health departments handle sale and distribution of the drug.

Twelve states have legalized medical marijuana, with New Mexico, which legalized medical marijuana last summer, the most recent to do.

The Marijuana Policy Project, a Washington, D.C., advocacy group that supports legalizing medical marijuana and overall reform of the country’s marijuana laws, is pushing the state to pass the Assembly legislation. Right now, television advertisements created by the group are running in the Capital Region, Long Island and the Buffalo area.


Burton Aldrich, 45, a quadriplegic from Kingston, appears in the 30-second television advertisement. “I don’t know if I would be around if it wasn’t for marijuana,” he says, in the advertisement. “It shouldn’t be a crime to treat pain and suffering.”

Aldrich became a quadriplegic in 1999, when he crushed his spinal cord in a diving accident. He has limited use of his arms and fingers, can wiggle his toes, and remains confined to a wheelchair. “I’m very fortunate,” he said, in a phone interview. “It could have been worse.” His body is wracked by intense spasms, and he experiences searing pain in his extremities, as well as pounding headaches that disrupt his sleep. He said he can’t take painkillers because they cause constipation. But through marijuana and meditation, he said he’s found a solution.

Aldrich tried marijuana around two years ago, while returning from a sailing trip with a friend. He was in pain, and his friend offered him some marijuana. “My spasms went away,” he said. “My pain went away like a bucket of water dropped on me.”

“I don’t flaunt it,” Aldrich said, of smoking marijuana. “I’m only pushing it because I don’t think it should be illegal. It’s a medicine.”

Williams and Aldrich both said they would rather grow their own marijuana than go to state-regulated distribution centers to acquire their drugs. They said they think the federal government is more likely to raid state-designated distribution centers than individuals growing marijuana for their own use.

The Marijuana Policy Project would like the federal government to legalize the use of medical marijuana. In lieu of that, the group supports efforts to legalize medical marijuana at the state level.

“As long as the federal government is opposed, the states are left to deal with it themselves,” said Dan Bernath, the assistant director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project. He said the federal government has made it clear that it will not target and raid sick individuals who are using marijuana to reduce symptoms and pain.

“There are sick people in New York who are relying on medical marijuana,” Bernath said. “They’re using it with a doctor’s recommendation, and right now they’re criminals for doing so. Arrest is always on their minds. It’s a real fear. They’re forced to go on the street and deal with drug dealers.” People who grow their own marijuana also risk running into trouble with the law, he said. “One of the maddening things about the illegality of medical marijuana is that its safety and efficacy has been established. … Real people really do need this. It’s just unconscionable to let them suffer when we could be doing something to help them.”

‘best treatment’

Treatments for cancer and HIV are always improving — for instance, the side effects from AIDS drugs are not nearly as debilitating as they once were — but that doesn’t mean there’s no need for medical marijuana, Bernath said. “There’s always going to be a subpopulation that finds medical marijuana to be the best treatment,” he said. “I don’t think anybody sees medical marijuana as a cure for everybody. But there are always going to be some people who will benefit.”

Williams, who has purchased marijuana for himself and friends who are chronically ill, is all too familiar with the risks of buying marijuana. On one excursion to the Bronx, a friend was arrested after buying marijuana for him.

He said marijuana also provides him with mental relief. “There are so many good things it does, and so few bad things,” Williams said. Because he is on disability, he buys marijuana when he can afford to, “not all the time.” He said he’s been living on disability since being forced to retire from his job as a press room supervisor.

“When I was working, marijuana helped me work and deal with the pain,” Williams said. “If I could afford it, and I didn’t have to worry about being busted, I’d probably use it more.”

Bernath said it’s difficult to determine how many New Yorkers would register as users of medical marijuana if it was legalized. In Rhode Island, he noted, fewer than 200 people have registered, but New York is a bigger state.


Sunday, June 8, 2008

Students pick marijuana over cigarettes

High school students in Florida are more likely to smoke marijuana than tobacco, according to a new report on adolescent health from the state Health Department.

About 16 percent of Florida high school students said they used marijuana in the past month versus 15.5 percent who said they smoked cigarettes, according to a 2006 government survey.

The difference is dramatic in Martin County where 24 percent of high school students say they’ve used marijuana in the past month, compared to 20 percent who used cigarettes. Martin County had a higher rate of teen tobacco and marijuana use than neighboring counties.

On the positive side for Martin County youth, the report showed they were more likely to get enough “vigorous physical activity” compared to statewide averages and neighboring counties.

About 46 percent of Palm Beach County high school students reported drinking alcohol in the past month, compared to 42 percent statewide, 40 percent in St. Lucie County and 45 percent in Martin County.

To read the full report, click here.

Via: The Palm Beach Post