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SCIENCE

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director December 18, 2013

    Adolescent consumption of alcohol and tobacco fell to historic lows while self-reported annual use of cannabis held steady, according to survey data released today by the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor — which has been sampling teens consumption of various licit and illicit substances since the mid-1970s.

    But you wouldn’t know these facts if you read today’s mainstream media headlines.

    For example, the accompanying headline of McClatchy’s wire story inaccurately claims that marijuana consumption among young people rose between 2011 and 2012, stating “Feds decry rising marijuana use among kids”, despite the fact that the title of the study’s own press release affirms “The rise in teen marijuana use stalls.”

    Other news outlets, such as PBS News Hour (in which I am quoted here) predictably highlight the federal government’s talking point that adolescents’ perception of pot’s risk potential is dipping (e.g., ’60 percent of 12th grade students do not view marijuana as harmful’). Unreported is the fact that this trend is is not new, but is rather an ongoing one. According to the University’s year-by-year data, teens’ perceptions regarding marijuana’s risks first began declining in the early 1990s — a time that predates the passage of statewide medical cannabis laws or more recent statewide depenalization/legalization laws. (Looking for an explanation for this trend? Try this: More and more teens are wising up to the fact that cannabis is not as equally dangerous as heroin, despite the federal government’s claims to the contrary.)

    Overlooked in the mainstream media’s reporting is that the use of both alcohol and tobacco among all grades surveyed has fallen consistently since the mid-1990s and now stands at all-time lows. (In fact, more teens now acknowledge using marijuana than cigarettes, the study found.) Teens are also finding alcohol to be less availabile and are far less likely to engage in binge drinking now than ever before.

    By contrast, teens self-reported annual use of cannabis has largely held steady since the late 1990s but remains elevated compared to the historic lows reported in the earlier that decade. (Present use levels, however, still remain well below the highs reported in the late 1970s.) Approximately 8 out of 10 12th graders surveyed said that marijuana was “fairly easy” or “very easy” to obtain, a percentage that has remained largely unchanged since 2009, but is well below previously reported highs circa the late 1990s.

    Nevertheless, federal officials are utilizing the latest University of Michigan data to once again sound the alarm about cannabis, stating that the cannabis ‘problem’ is even “worse” than the data suggests while the Drug Czar once again tries to misleadingly link long-term trends to the passage of recent changes in law.

    And what no public officials wish to acknowledge is the obvious elephant in the room. The reality that an increasing number of teens are steadily turning away from the legally regulated intoxicants alcohol and tobacco — a factoid that once again affirms that the most effective way to keep substances out of teens’ hands isn’t through criminal prohibition; it is through legalization, regulation, and public education. So why does the federal government (as well as the mainstream media) acknowledge the effectiveness of this strategy when it comes to booze and cigarettes, but continue to turn its back on these common sense principles when it comes to pot?

  • 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.

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