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SCIENCE

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director December 16, 2013

    Cananbidiol (CBD), a non-psychotropic cannabinoid, alleviates psychotic symptoms and may hold promise as an alternative antipsychotic treatment, according to a review published in the November issue of the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.

    Investigators in the Netherlands and in the United Kingdom reviewed preclinical and clinical data on the use of CBD as an antipsychotic agent. Authors reported that both animal and human studies document the ability of CBD to mitigate symptoms of psychosis. Specifically, CBD administration is associated with improved symptoms in clinical evaluations of patients with schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease, and ketamine-induced dissociative and psychotic symptoms.

    Investigators also highlighted a 2012 double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled trial assessing CBD versus the prescription anti-psychotic drug amisulpride in 42 subjects with schizophrenia and acute paranoia. Authors reported that both CBD and the prescription drug were associated with “equally significant clinical improvement” in this patient population, but that cannabidiol “possessed significantly less side effects.”

    Researchers concluded: “[E]vidence from several study domains suggests that CBD has some potential as an antipsychotic treatment. … Given the high tolerability and superior cost-effectiveness, CBD may prove to be an attractive alternative to current antipsychotic treatment.”

    Previous human trials assessing the administration of CBD in healthy human subjects report that the cannabinoid is “safe and well tolerated.”

    Separate investigations of CBD, primarily in animal models, have documented the cannabinoid to possess a variety of therapeutic qualities, including anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, anti-epileptic, anti-cancer, and bone-stimulating properties. Recently, the FDA approved the experimental use of CBD extracts for the treatment of a rare form of intractable pediatric epilepsy known as Dravet syndrome. Preliminary clinical trials assessing the safety and tolerability of the compound in children are scheduled to begin imminently.

    Full text of the study, entitled “Cannabidiol as a potential treatment for psychosis,” appears online here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director November 13, 2013

    Nearly two-thirds of Americans disagree with workplace policies that allow employers to sanction an employee for his or her off-the-job consumption of cannabis, according to a just released HuffPost/YouGov poll.

    Sixty-four percent of the poll’s respondents, including 62 percent of self-identified Republicans, said that it is “unacceptable for a company to fire an employee for using marijuana during his or her free time” if the employee resides in a state that has legalized the plant’s adult use. An equal percentage of respondents similarly said that it would be unacceptable for an employer to fire an employee for after-hours drinking.

    Only 22 percent of respondents said that it is acceptable for employers to fire workers who consume cannabis legally after-hours.

    To date, the Supreme Court of three separate states — California, Oregon, and Washington — have all similarly ruled that an employee who uses cannabis legally while off the job can still be sanctioned by their employer.

    Forty-five percent of respondents in the HuffPost/YouGov poll agreed that it should always be unacceptable for an employer to sanction an employee for his or her off-the-job marijuana use, even if the use took place in a state that classifies cannabis as illegal.

    Conventional workplace drug tests detect the presence of inert drug metabolites, non-psychoactive by-products that linger in the body’s urine well after a substance’s mood-altering effects have subsided.

    The HuffPost/YouGov poll surveyed 1,000 adults and possesses a margin of error is +/- 4.8 percent.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director November 7, 2013

    The results of a first-of-its-kind worldwide survey of nearly 1,000 medicinal cannabis consumers shows that most patients prefer their medicine in the way that nature, not Big Pharma, intended it to be.

    Investigators from Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United States conducted a web-based survey consisting of 21 structured questions to assess patients’ perceptions of different types of cannabinoid-based medicininal products as well as their preferred modes of consumption. Over 950 subjects participated in the survey.

    The study’s findings appear in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs.

    Overall, subjects said that herbal cannabis preparations were more cost-effective and posed fewer side-effects than cannabis-derived pharmaceuticals. Participants also reported greater satisfaction with inhaled (via either smoking or vaporizing) forms of cannabis products as compared to oral dosing.

    “In general, herbal non-pharmaceutical CBMs (cannabinoid-based medicines) received higher appreciation scores by participants than pharmaceutical products containing cannabinoids,” the study concluded. “[O]ur data suggest that overall there is good satisfaction with whole plant preparations that are affordable and administered in an inhaled manner, or in the form of a tincture.”

    An abstract of the study, “The Medicinal Use of Cannabis and Cannabinoids — An International Cross-Sectional Survey on Administration Forms,” appears online here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director October 15, 2013

    The concomitant administration of various non-psychoactive plant cannabinoids demonstrates synergistic anti-cancer activity in human leukemia cells, according to preclinical trial data published online this week in the journal Anticancer Research.

    Investigators from Saint George’s, University of London assessed the anti-cancer potential of three non-psychoactive cannabinoids (cannabidiol, cannabigerol, and cannabigevarin) and their respective acids on two types of leukaemia cell lines. Authors reported that the administration of cannabinoids in concert with one another resulted in “in additive/mildly synergistic interaction.”

    They concluded: “Our findings indicate that cannabinoids act with each other in a way such that doses for therapy could be reduced without a significant loss of activity. … [T]his study adds further support to the idea that cannabinoids can have a role in the cancer setting, not only as single agents, but also in combination with each other.”

    Commenting on the study in a press release, lead author Wai Lui said: “These agents are able to interfere with the development of cancerous cells, stopping them in their tracks and preventing them from growing. In some cases, by using specific dosage patterns, they can destroy cancer cells on their own. Used in combination with existing treatment, we could discover some highly effective strategies for tackling cancer. Significantly, these compounds are inexpensive to produce and making better use of their unique properties could result in much more cost effective anti-cancer drugs in future.”

    Plant cannabinoids as well as endogenous cannabinoids have been consistently shown to be potent anti-cancer inhibitors in preclinical models, halting the proliferation of glioma cancer cells, prostate cancer cells, breast carcinoma, lung carcinoma, and lymphoma, among other cancer cell lines. NORML’s review of much of this literature appears online here.

    An abstract of the study, “Enhancing the activity of cannabidiol and other cannabinoids in vitro through modifications to drug combinations and treatment schedules,” appears online here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director October 8, 2013

    United States Supreme Court yesterday declined to review a lower court ruling upholding the federal government’s classification of cannabis as a Schedule I prohibited substance that lacks medical utility or adequate safety.

    In January, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that the US Drug Enforcement Administration had acted properly when it rejected an administrative petition calling for a scientific review of marijuana’s safety and therapeutic efficacy. Petitioners had requested a hearing to determine whether existing science contradicts the federal categorization of cannabis as a Schedule I controlled substance that possesses “a high potential for abuse;” “no currently accepted medical use in treatment;” and “a lack of accepted safety for the use of the drug … under medical supervision.” The DC Court of Appeals affirmed the DEA’s position that insufficient clinical studies exist to warrant a judicial review of cannabis’ federally prohibited status. On Monday, the US Supreme Court denied an appeal to review that decision, rejecting petitioners’ argument that adequate peer-reviewed studies already exist to sufficiently contradict the plant’s placement in Schedule I – the same classification as heroin and PCP.

    The DEA’s stance willfully ignores volumes of scientific studies. For example, a 2012 review of FDA-approved clinical trials assessing the safety and therapeutic efficacy of cannabis, published in The Open Neurology Journal, concluded: “Based on evidence currently available the Schedule I classification [of marijuana] is not tenable; it is not accurate that cannabis has no medical value, or that information on safety is lacking.”

    The case is Americans for Safe Access et al. v. Drug Enforcement Administration, case number 13-84, in the United State’s Supreme Court.

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