• by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director September 21, 2015

    Chronic pain patients who use herbal cannabis daily for one-year report reduced discomfort and increased quality of life compared to controls, and do not experience an increased risk of serious side effects, according to clinical data published online ahead of print in the Journal of Pain.

    Researchers at McGill University in Montreal assessed the long-term health of 216 medicinal cannabis users with chronic non-cancer pain who consumed a daily standardized dose (12.5 percent THC) of herbal cannabis compared to 215 controls (chronic pain suffers who did not use cannabis). Subjects in study were approved by Health Canada to legally use medicinal cannabis and consumed, on average, 2.5 grams of herb per day, typically via inhalation or vaporization.

    Investigators reported that daily cannabis consumers possessed no greater risk than non-users to experience “serious adverse events.” Specifically, researchers identified no significant adverse changes in consumers’ cognitive skills, pulmonary function, or blood work following one-year of daily cannabis consumption. Medical cannabis consumers did report elevated risk of experiencing “non-serious adverse events” (e.g., cough, dizziness, paranoia) compared to controls; however, authors classified these to be “mild to moderate.”

    Pain patients who used cannabis reported a reduced sense of pain compared to controls, as well as reduced anxiety, depression, and fatigue.

    “Quality-controlled herbal cannabis, when used by cannabis-experienced patients as part of a monitored treatment program over one year, appears to have a reasonable safety profile,” authors concluded.

    The study is one of the first to ever assess the long-term safety and efficacy of medicinal cannabis. A prior health review of patients receiving medical cannabis monthly from the US federal government as part of the Compassionate Investigational New Drug program similarly reported that cannabis possesses therapeutic efficacy and an acceptable side-effect profile.

    Full text of the study, “Cannabis for the Management of Pain: Assessment of Safety Study,” appears online here.

  • by NORML September 3, 2015

    Canary App

    The mainstream media is abuzz about My Canary — the first-ever NORML-endorsed mobile app that quickly and accurately measures one’s personal performance to determine whether or not he/she may be under the influence of marijuana.

    National and international media outlets have profiled the app in recent weeks, including Fast Company, CNN Money, The International Business Times, The Daily Mail, GQ Magazine (French edition), Philly.com, The Denver Channel and Business Insider, among others.

    My Canary features four distinct mental and physical performance tests, designed to evaluate baseline performance, and then to compare subjects’ behavior against this established baseline. Potential deviation in baseline performance as a result of the use of cannabis, alcohol, prescription drugs, or even exhaustion, is readily identified by the app. Here is a video of Oregonian reporter Molly Harbarger engaging in a live demonstration of the My Canary application.

    Since its launch in mid-July, over 10,000 people have downloaded the application. As we approach Labor Day weekend, the makers of My Canary are offering the app for download for the discounted price of 99 cents. This promotion will be in effect from Thursday, September 3 through Monday, September 7.

    Canary is compatible with iOS 7.1 and iPhone versions 4S and newer.

    For more information visit: http://www.mycanaryapp.com.

    For more information regarding cannabis and psychomotor performance, please see: http://norml.org/library/driving-and-marijuana.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director September 2, 2015

    NORML is pleased to present the latest expanded/updated edition of the publication Emerging Clinical Applications for Cannabis & Cannabinoids — a comprehensive review of the latest peer-reviewed science specific to the safety and therapeutic efficacy of whole-plant cannabis and/or its components.

    The 2015 updated edition includes two additional disease profiles (Parkinson’s disease and PTS) and includes summaries of an additional 50+ relevant clinical and/or preclinical trials specific to cannabinoids’ therapeutic utility. Several existing sections, such as Chronic Pain, Diabetes, and Epilepsy, have been significantly expanded since the last edition (January 2013). Also updated is the Introduction to the Endocannabinoid System (authored by Dustin Sulak, DO) and Why I Recommend Medical Cannabis (authored by Estelle Goldstein, MD).

    With summaries and citations of well over 250 recent peer-reviewed studies, this updated publication is one of the most thorough and up-to-date source-books available specific to documenting the established therapeutic qualities of cannabis. The updated publication is available online here.

    Individual sections of this publication may be accessed at the links below:

    Author’s Introduction
    Introduction to the Endocannabinoid System
    Why I Recommend Medical Cannabis
    Alzheimer’s Disease
    Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
    Chronic Pain
    Diabetes Mellitus
    Gastrointestinal Disorders
    Hepatitis C
    Human Immunodeficiency Virus
    Huntington’s Disease
    Methicillin-resistant Staphyloccus aureus (MRSA)
    Multiple Sclerosis
    Parkinson’s Disease
    Post-Traumatic Stress
    Rheumatoid Arthritis
    Sleep Apnea
    Tourette’s Syndrome

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director September 1, 2015

    Strains of cannabis sativa and cannabis indica possess relatively few significant genetic differences and are often mislabeled by breeders, according to an evaluation of marijuana taxonomy published online last week in the journal PLOS ONE.

    Investigators from the University of Manitoba, the University of British Columbia, and Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia evaluated the genetic structure of a diverse range of commonly cultivated marijuana and industrial hemp samples.

    Researchers reported, “We find a moderate correlation between the genetic structure of marijuana strains and their reported C. sativa and C. indica ancestry and show that marijuana strain names often do not reflect a meaningful genetic identity.” They added, “This observation suggests that C. sativa and C. indica may represent distinguishable pools of genetic diversity, but that breeding has resulted in considerable admixture between the two. … Our results suggest that the reported ancestry of some of the most common marijuana strains only partially captures their true ancestry.”

    By contrast, authors determined, “[M]arijuana and hemp are significantly differentiated at a genome-wide level, demonstrating that the distinction between these populations is not limited to genes underlying THC production. … [This] difference between marijuana and hemp plants has considerable legal implications in many countries.”

    In the United States, federal law makes no legal distinction between hemp and cannabis.

    Authors concluded: “Achieving a practical, accurate and reliable classification system for cannabis, including a variety registration system for marijuana-type plants, will require significant scientific investment and a legal framework that accepts both licit and illicit forms of this plant. Such a system is essential in order to realize the enormous potential of Cannabis as a multi-use crop (hemp) and as a medicinal plant (marijuana).”

    Full text of the study, “The genetic structure of marijuana and hemp,” appears online here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director August 26, 2015

    Latest JAMA Studies Largely Fail To Support Past Claims About Marijuana And Brain HealthTwo new studies published online today in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) Psychiatry provide little support for previous claims that cannabis exposure is significantly harmful to the developing brain.

    The first study, which assessed the effects of cannabis exposure on brain volume in exposed and unexposed sibling pairs, reported that any identifiable differences “were attributable to common predispositional factors, genetic or environmental in origin.” By contrast, authors found “no evidence for the causal influence of cannabis exposure” on brain morphology.

    The trial is “the largest study to date examining the association between cannabis exposure (ever versus never used) and brain volumes.”

    The study is one of two recent clinical trials to be published in recent months rebutting the claims of a widely publicized 2014 paper which alleged that even casual marijuana exposure may be linked to brain abnormalities, particularly in the region of the brain known as the amygdala. In January, researchers writing in The Journal of Neuroscience reported “no statistically significant differences … between daily [marijuana] users and nonusers on [brain] volume or shape in the regions of interest” after researchers controlled for participants’ use of alcohol. Similarly, today’s JAMA study “casts considerable doubt on hypotheses that cannabis use … causes reductions in amygdala volumes.”

    A second study appearing today in the journal assessed whether cannabis use during adolescence is associated with brain changes that may be linked to an increased risk of schizophrenia. While researchers reported finding an association among male subjects who possessed a high genetic predisposition toward schizophrenia, authors reported that no such association existed among male subjects who were at low risk for the disease, or among females in either the high risk or low risk categories. The finding is consistent with the theory that early onset cannabis use may potentially exacerbate symptoms in a minority of subjects predisposed to the disease, but it contradicts claims that marijuana exposure is a likely cause of schizophrenia, particularly among those who are not already vulnerable to the disease.

    Abstracts of both new studies appear online in JAMA Psychiatry here and here.

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