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SCIENCE

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director August 12, 2015

    Study: Cannabis Users Less Likely To Be Obese, Possess Lower Diabetes RiskA history of cannabis use is associated with a lower likelihood of obesity and diabetes, according to population-based data published in the journal Obesity.

    Investigators from the Conference of Quebec University Health Centers assessed cannabis use patterns and body mass index (BMI) in a cohort of 786 Inuit (Arctic aboriginal) adults ages 18 to 74. Researchers reported that subjects who consumed cannabis in the past year were more likely to possess a lower BMI, lower fasting insulin, and lower HOMA-IR (insulin resistance) as compared to those who did not use the substance.

    Specifically, researchers reported that cannabis users possessed an average BMI of 26.8 compared to an index of 28.6 for non-users, after controlling for age, gender and other factors. Those subjects who reported using cannabis but never having used tobacco, or who were former users of tobacco, possessed on average the lowest BMI.

    Authors concluded: “In this large cross-sectional adult survey with high prevalence of both substance use and obesity, cannabis use in the past year was associated with lower BMI, lower percentage fat mass, lower fasting insulin, and HOMA-IR. … The inverse association observed in our work supports evidence from a larger proportion of previous cross-sectional and follow-up investigations. … As a result, cannabinoids from cannabis may be viewed as an interesting avenue for research on obesity and associated conditions.”

    Observational trial data published in 2013 in the American Journal of Medicine reported that subjects who consumed cannabis possessed favorable indices related to diabetic control compared to those without a history of recent marijuana use. Separate observational trial data published in 2012 in the British Medical Journal reported that marijuana users had a lower prevalence of type 2 diabetes and possessed a lower risk of contracting the disease than did those with no history of cannabis consumption, even after researchers adjusted for social variables such as subjects’ ethnicity, family history, and levels of physical activity.

    Cross-sectional data published in 2011 in the American Journal of Epidemiology similarly reported that the prevalence of obesity in the general population is sharply lower among marijuana consumers than it is among nonusers.

  • by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director August 6, 2015

    We read with interest the recent review of medical use of cannabinoids (1). As the authors attempt to emphasize, they focus on a heterogeneous collection of experiments that employed a range of treatments, including synthetic THC, CBD, and THC-mimicking drugs.

    mj_research

    Lay readers might inappropriately generalize these results specifically to whole plant medical cannabis  But few (only two) of these experiments were conducted using medical cannabis; most of the studies reviewed focused on outcome measures that do not address the plant’s potential advantages over a single, compound agent in pill form.

    For example, the authors conclude that evidence of individual, synthetic cannabinoids to help nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy was low in quality. Within hours of the publication of the paper, mainstream media coverage applied these conclusions to medical cannabis per se, not just medical cannabinoids (2). In fact, as the authors emphasize, only 6 of the 28 studies assessing nausea and vomiting used THC, and none of these actually employed vaporized or inhaled botanical cannabis. The dependent measures were also not sensitive to the key advantage of medical cannabis for nausea: speed of onset. (Inhaled medicines can work within seconds. Sprayed extracts require at least a half hour while cannabinoids in pill form can take multiple hours.)  The authors were generally careful about these caveats, but the disparate and inaccurate media coverage suggests that flagship journals in all fields now have to be even more diligent when cautioning readers about the inappropriate generalization of results. Despite increasing popularity, medical cannabis remains controversial and, apparently, newsworthy. As reviews of the effects of cannabinoids proliferate, authors, editors, journal staff, and journalists might welcome a reminder that cautions about interpretation need to be spelled out in more effusive, detailed, and thorough ways.

    Mitch Earleywine, Ph.D.
    University at Albany
    Department of Psychology
    Chair, NORML Board of Directors

    Paul Armentano
    National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML)

    Amanda Reiman, Ph.D.
    Drug Policy Alliance

    1) Whiting PF, Wolff RF, et al. Cannabinoids for Medical Use: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA, 2015: 313(24):2456-2473

    2) Seaman, AM. Medical marijuana: good evidence for some diseases, weak for others. Reuters. June 24, 2015. http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/06/23/us-marijuana-medical-evidence-idUSKBN0P31WT20150623

     

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director July 29, 2015

    The director of the US National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), Nora Volkow, believes that cannabidiol (CBD) – a nonpsychotropic cannabinoid – is “a safe drug with no addictive effects.” Volkow made the comments in an op-ed published by The Huffington Post.

    Volkow further acknowledged, “[P]reliminary data suggest that it may have therapeutic value for a number of medical conditions.”

    Preclinical studies have documented CBD to possess a variety of therapeutic activities, including anti-cancer properties, anti-diabetic properties, and bone-stimulating activity. Clinical and observational trials have documented the substance to possess anxiolytic, anti-psychotic, and anti-seizure activity in humans. Safety trials have further concluded the substance to be “safe and well tolerated” when administered to healthy subjects.

    To date, 15 states have enacted laws specifically permitting the possession of high-CBD formulated extracts for therapeutic purposes, primarily for the treatment of pediatric epilepsy.

    In a recent Time Magazine op-ed, Democrat Sen. Diane Feinstein (CA) and Republican Sen. Charles Grassley (IA) encouraged the Obama administration to “definitively determine if CBD has scientific and medical benefits,” and to “look at expanding compassionate access programs where possible, to benefit as many children as possible.”

    Under federal law, CBD — like cannabis — is defined as a Schedule I controlled substance with “a high potential for abuse … no currently accepted medical use, … [and] a lack of accepted safety for the use of the drug … under medical supervision.”

  • by Danielle Keane, NORML Political Director July 16, 2015

    Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, along with seven other Senators, has directed a letter tmj_researcho the Obama administration demanding regulators answer questions specific to the facilitation of research into the medical benefits of marijuana.

    Senators acknowledged the need for unbiased research. They wrote, “While the federal government has emphasized research on the potential harms associated with the use of marijuana, there is still very limited research on the potential health benefits of marijuana — despite the fact that millions of Americans are now eligible
    by state law to use the drug for medical purposes.”

    The Senators applauded a recent decision by the Department of Health and Human Services to eliminate the HHS Public Health Service review process. But they also acknowledged the drawbacks of NIDA’s monopoly on supply of marijuana for research purposes and the need for alternative providers.

    Senators also questioned marijuana’s current classification as a Schedule 1 drug under federal law and its classification under international treaties and if the FDA is prepared to call for the reclassification of cannabidiol.

    Addressed to the heads of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the letter signals to many that medical marijuana is becoming an even more important issue in the political sphere not only to voters but also to their elected officials.

    Co-signing the letter with Senator Warren  were Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.). The Senators are seeking a reply to their questions from the administration by August 31.

  • by NORML July 15, 2015

    Canary App Permits Marijuana Consumers To Gauge Their Personal Performance

    For over 45 years NORML has been at the center of national efforts to legalize responsible use of marijuana by adults. But missing from these efforts was an accurate way to measure impairment. Today we’re happy to announce such a way exists and it’s called Canary.

    “Canary is the first app to give consumers the scientific information they need to honestly and accurately evaluate their personal performance, privately, anytime, and anywhere,” says Allen St. Pierre, Executive Director of NORML.

    Available for iPhone® and iPad®, Canary combines decades of research and experience, specialized mental and physical performance tests, and sophisticated analysis to accurately measure impairment due to alcohol, medication, fatigue and even the subtle impact of marijuana.

    Download and Canary yourself: https://appsto.re/us/QYxB7.i

    As a special offer for NORML members, the first 500 downloads of Canary are free. Afterwards the app will be available for $4.99 and a percentage of each sale will go to support responsible consumption initiatives at NORML.

    Please try Canary and send us your feedback.

    Sincerely,

    The NORML Team

    P.S. For more information about responsible marijuana use visit:

    http://norml.org/about/intro/item/principles-of-responsible-cannabis-use-3

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    Contact: Allen St. Pierre: allen@norml.org, (202) 483-5500

    Organization: National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML)

    Web Site: www.norml.org

    Email: media@norml.org

    iTunes App Store: https://appsto.re/us/QYxB7.i

    Additional Contact: Marc Silverman: mycanaryapp@gmail.com

    Canary App Permits Marijuana Consumers To Gauge Their Personal Performance

    WASHINGTON, D.C., July 15, 2015. Representatives of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) today endorsed Canary, the first-ever mobile app that quickly and accurately measures one’s personal performance to determine whether or not a subject may be under the influence of marijuana. Available for iPhone® and iPad®, Canary combines decades of research and experience, specialized mental and physical performance tests, and advanced modeling and analysis to accurately measure behavioral or cognitive impairment. Interested parties may view a full demonstration of the Canary app:

    “NORML’s purpose is to influence public opinion to legalize the responsible use of marijuana,” said Allen St. Pierre, Executive Director of NORML. “Canary is the first app to provide consumers with the scientific information they need to accurately evaluate their personal performance, privately, anytime, and anywhere.”

    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.

    To form this overall picture, Canary uses state-of-the-art metrics and advanced features of the iPhone 4s and later, to measure and record:

    • Memory
    • Balance
    • Reaction Time and Divided Attention
    • Time Perception

    The Canary tests can be completed in two minutes and the results are immediately analyzed to determine the individual user’s performance level. Average performance data from a large group of unintoxicated individuals is used to assess impairment. For greater accuracy, users can set a unique personal baseline; then future tests are measured against this personal baseline.

    “Canary is the culmination of 60 years of combined technical and legal experience and thousands of peer-reviewed studies, including NASA, NHTSA, and DOD research, as well as upon thousands of studies specific to cannabis’ acute impact on cognitive and psychomotor functioning,” said Marc Silverman, Canary’s developer. “Canary measures key performance indicators that may be impacted by potentially impairing substances, including marijuana, while respecting users’ privacy. Canary doesn’t share users personal data with anyone.”

    “The identification of THC in blood is poorly associated with users’ impairment of performance,” said Leonard Frieling, a published author on the impact of marijuana on functioning and an a ttorney of 39 years. He is also a member of the NORML Legal Committee , Colorado NORML, and (while speaking for himself only) the first Chair of the Colorado Bar Association Marijuana Law Committee. “Canary is the first app to use performance science to help marijuana users consume more responsibly, ” he said. He added: “Of great importance is that Canary is not limited to marijuana’s impact, alcohol’s impact, or any specific cause of behavioral impairment. What we all need to know, on the spot, is ‘are we functioning up to our personal ‘normal’ standards?'”

    According to a recent Gallup poll, nearly half of Americans are concerned about how the implementation of statewide marijuana legalization laws may impact traffic safety.

    Such concerns pose a potential impediment to the enactment of additional marijuana law reforms. The Canary app seeks to respond to these concerns in a way that utilizes the best available science to assure personal responsibility and safety.

    For more information visit: www.mycanaryapp.com

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

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

    ###

    NORML’s mission is to move public opinion sufficiently to legalize the responsible use of marijuana by responsible adults. NORML’s Principle of Responsible Use state, “The responsible cannabis consumer does not operate a motor vehicle or other dangerous machinery while impaired by cannabis.” To read NORML’s full Principles, visit: http://norml.org/principles/item/principles-of-responsible-cannabis-use-3.

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