• by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director October 20, 2014

    Marijuana and the LawTestimony regarding the constitutionality of the federal statute designating marijuana as a Schedule I Controlled Substance will be taken on Monday, October 27 in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California in the case of United States v. Pickard, et. al., No. 2:11-CR-0449-KJM.

    Members of Congress initially categorized cannabis as a Schedule I substance, the most restrictive classification available, in 1970. Under this categorization, the plant is defined as possessing “a high potential for abuse, … no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, … [and lacking] accepted safety for … use … under medical supervision.”

    Expert witnesses for the defense – including Drs. Carl Hart, Associate Professor of Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry and Psychology at Columbia University in New York City, retired physician Phillip Denny, and Greg Carter, Medical Director of St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Institute in Spokane, Washington – will testify that the accepted science is inconsistent with the notion that cannabis meets these Schedule I criteria.

    “[I]t is my considered opinion that including marijuana in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act is counter to all the scientific evidence in a society that uses and values empirical evidence,” Dr. Hart declared. “After two decades of intense scientific inquiry in this area, it has become apparent the current scheduling of cannabis has no footing in the realities of science and neurobiology.”

    The government intends to call Bertha Madras, Ph.D., Professor of Psychobiology at Harvard Medical School and the former Deputy Director for Demand Reduction for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy under President George W. Bush.

    Additional evidence has been presented by way of declarations by Marine Sgt. Ryan Begin, a veteran of the Iraq War; Jennie Stormes, the mother of a child suffering from Dravet Syndrome – a pediatric form of epilepsy that has been shown in preliminary trials to respond to specific compounds in the cannabis plant; James Nolan, Ph.D. an associate professor of sociology and anthropology at West Virginia University and a former crime analyst for the US Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Christopher Conrad, noted cannabis author, archivist, and cultivation expert.

    This is the first time in recent memory that a federal judge has granted an evidentiary hearing on a motion challenging the statute which classifies cannabis to be one of the most dangerous illicit substances in the nation. Attorneys Zenia Gilg and Heather Burke, both members of the NORML Legal Committee, contend that the federal government’s present policies facilitating the regulated distribution of cannabis in states such as Colorado and Washington can not be reconciled with the insistence that the plant is deserving of its Schedule I status under federal law.

    They write: “In effect, the action taken by the Department of Justice is either irrational, or more likely proves the assertions made in Part I (B) of this Brief: marijuana does not fit the criteria of a Schedule I Controlled Substance.”

    Speaking recently in a taped interview with journalist Katie Couric, United States Attorney General Eric Holder expressed the need to revisit cannabis’ Schedule I placement under federal law. Holder said, “[T]he question of whether or not they should be in the same category is something that I think we need to ask ourselves, and use science as the basis for making that determination.”

    The testimonial part of the evidentiary hearing in United States v. Pickard, et. al., is expected to last three days.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director October 13, 2014

    Israeli investigators intend to evaluate the potential anti-tumoral effects of the canabinoid cannabidiol (CBD) in select cancer patients.

    Researchers at the Hassadah Medical Center in Jerusalem will conduct a Phase II clinical trial to assess the impact of CBD as single treatment in cancer patients who have failed to respond to conventional therapies. Participants in the trial will receive CBD therapy for a period of eight weeks.

    Data documenting the potent anti-cancer activity of various cannabinoids – including THC, CBD, and CBG – both in culture and in animals dates back to the mid-1970s. To date, however, virtually no clinical trials exist reproducing these results in human subjects.

    In August, pharmaceutical provider Insys Therapeutics announced that it had received orphan drug status for its proprietary formulation of CBD for the treatment of glioblastoma, a hard-to-treat, aggressive form of brain cancer.

    Organic CBD remains classified under federal law as a schedule I controlled substance.

    Further details of the forthcoming Israeli trial are available online from the clinicaltrials.gov website here. Patient recruitment has yet to begin for this study.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director October 7, 2014

    Marijuana Use Is Associated With Increased Survival In Brain Injury PatientsTraumatic brain injury (TBI) patients with a history of cannabis use possess increased survival rates compared to non-users, according data published this month in the scientific journal The American Surgeon.

    UCLA Medical Center investigators conducted a three-year retrospective review of brain trauma patients. Data from 446 separate cases of similarly injured patients was assessed. Of those patients who tested positive for the presence of marijuana, 97.6 percent survived surgery. By contrast, patients who tested negative for the presence of pot prior to surgery possessed only an 88.5 percent survival rate.

    “[O]ur data suggest an important link between the presence of a positive THC screen and improved survival after TBI,” the authors concluded. “This finding has support in previous literature because the neuroprotective effects of cannabinoids have been implicated in a variety of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and multiple sclerosis. … With continued research, more information will be uncovered regarding the therapeutic potential of THC, and further therapeutic interventions may be established.”

    The abstract of the study, “Effect of marijuana use on outcomes in traumatic brain injury,” appears online here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director September 25, 2014

    The administration of cannabidiol (CBD), a nonpsychotropic cannabinoid, is associated with improved quality of life in patients with Parkinson’s disease, according clinical trial data published online ahead of print in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.

    Investigators at the University of São Paulo in Brazil assessed the efficacy of CBD versus placebo in 21 subjects with Parkinson’s. Authors reported that the administration of 300 mg doses of CBD per day was associated with “significantly different mean total scores” in subjects’ well-being and quality of life compared to placebo.

    Separate assessments of CBD versus placebo reported that the cannabinoid did not appear to mitigate general symptoms of the disease, nor was it shown to be neuroprotective.

    “This study points to a possible effect of CBD in improving measures related to the quality of life of PD patients without psychiatric comorbidities,” investigators concluded. They added, “We found no statistically significant differences concerning the motor symptoms of PD; however, studies involving larger samples and with systematic assessment of specific symptoms of PD are necessary in order to provide stronger conclusions regarding the action of CBD in PD.”

    Clinical reports have previously indicated that both CBD and/or whole-plant cannabis may address various symptom’s of Parkinson’s disease, including improvement in motor symptoms, pain reduction, improved sleep, and a reduction in the severity of psychotic episodes.

    Survey data of patients with PD indicates that almost half of all subjects who try cannabis report experiencing subjective relief from the plant.

    The abstract of the study, “Effects of cannabidiol in the treatment of patients with Parkinson’s disease: An exploratory double-blind trial,” appears online here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director August 26, 2014

    Marijuana use by newly married couples is predictive of less frequent incidences of intimate partner violence perpetration, according to longitudinal data published online ahead of print in the journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors.

    Investigators at Yale University, Rutgers, and the University of Buffalo assessed over 600 couples to determine whether husbands’ and wives’ cannabis use was predictive of domestic abuse at any time during the first nine years of marriage. Researchers reported: “In this community sample of newly married couples, more frequent marijuana use generally predicted less frequent IPV perpetration, for both men and women, over the first 9 years of marriage. Moderation analyses provided evidence that couples in which both spouses used marijuana frequently were at the lowest risk for IPV perpetration, regardless of the perpetrator’s gender.”

    Stated the study’s lead author in a press release: “Although this study supports the perspective that marijuana does not increase, and may decrease, aggressive conflict, we would like to see research replicating these findings, and research examining day-to-day marijuana and alcohol use and the likelihood to IPV on the same day before drawing stronger conclusions.”

    According to a previous study, published in January in the journal Addictive Behaviors, alcohol consumption — but not cannabis use — is typically associated with increased odds of intimate partner violence. Authors reported: “On any alcohol use days, heavy alcohol use days (five or more standard drinks), and as the number of drinks increased on a given day, the odds of physical and sexual aggression perpetration increased. The odds of psychological aggression increased on heavy alcohol use days only.” By contrast, researchers concluded that “marijuana use days did not increase the odds of any type of aggression.”

    The abstract of the study, “Couples’ marijuana use is inversely related to their intimate partner violence over the first 9 years of marriage,” is online here.

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