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  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director November 14, 2016

    Marijuana researchMedical cannabis administration is associated with improved cognitive performance and lower levels of prescription drug use, according to longitudinal data published online in the journal Frontiers in Pharmacology.

    Investigators from Harvard Medical School, Tufts University, and McLean Hospital evaluated the use of medicinal cannabis on patients’ cognitive performance over a three-month period. Participants in the study were either naïve to cannabis or had abstained from the substance over the previous decade. Baseline evaluations of patients’ cognitive performance were taken prior to their cannabis use and then again following treatment.

    Researchers reported “no significant decrements in performance” following medical marijuana use. Rather, they determined, “[P]atients experienced some improvement on measures of executive functioning, including the Stroop Color Word Test and Trail Making Test, mostly reflected as increased speed in completing tasks without a loss of accuracy.”

    Participants in the study were less likely to experience feelings of depression during treatment, and many significantly reduced their use of prescription drugs. “[D]ata revealed a notable decrease in weekly use across all medication classes, including reductions in use of opiates (-42.88 percent), antidepressants (-17.64 percent), mood stabilizers (-33.33 percent), and benzodiazepines (-38.89 percent),” authors reported – a finding that is consistent with prior studies.

    Patients in the study will continue to be assessed over the course of one-year of treatment to assess whether these preliminary trends persist long-term.

    Full text of the study, “Splendor in the grass? A pilot study assessing the impact of marijuana on executive function,” appears online here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director August 27, 2013

    The administration of THC modulates emotional processing in healthy volunteers, according to placebo-controlled crossover trial data published online by the journal European Neuropsychopharmacology.

    Investigators from the United Kingdom and the Netherlands performed functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) on 11 healthy male subjects. Following the administration of THC or placebo, researchers assessed subjects’ brain activity during their exposure to stimuli with a negative (‘fearful faces’) content or a positive content (‘happy faces’). They hypothesized that THC administration would reduce subjects’ negative bias in emotional processing and shift it towards a positive bias. A bias toward negative stimuli has been linked to diagnoses of certain mental illnesses such as depression.

    As anticipated, authors reported a reduction brain activity after THC administration when subjects’ processed stimuli with a negative emotional content. Conversely, researchers reported increased brain activity following THC administration when subjects’ processed stimuli with a positive emotional content.

    They concluded: “These results indicate that THC administration reduces the negative bias in emotional processing. This adds human evidence to support the hypothesis that the endocannabinoid system is involved in modulation of emotional processing. Our findings also suggest a possible role for the endocannabinoid system in abnormal emotional processing, and may thus be relevant for psychiatric disorders such as major depression.”

    An abstract of the study, “The endocannabinoid system and emotional processing: A pharmacological fMRI study with ?9-tetrahydrocannabinol,” appears online here.

  • by Allen St. Pierre, Former NORML Executive Director May 25, 2012

    May 25, 2012

    Dear NORML supporters in AZ,

    Good news!

    The Arizona Department of Health Services (azdhs.gov) who administers the medical cannabis program is apparently soliciting information on peer-reviewed research for the efficacious use of cannabis for four new conditions for consideration of including on the list of conditions acceptable for use under the official program.

    Those four conditions under consideration are:

    *Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

    *Migraines

    *Depression

    *Generalized Anxiety Order

    The administrator, Will Humble, posted to the AZDHS blog on May 24th, 2012 that on “Friday afternoon” (May 25th), they are soliciting public comments both in person and online.

    The link to the blog post of May 24th:

    http://directorsblog.health.azdhs.gov/?p=2638

    The link to what Mr. Humble calls the “online comment tool” is:

    http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/VFSKND7

    Below is a news article from AZ affirming this effort that pushed on the wires late last night.**

    Medical cannabis patients in a number of other states have been able to expand the scope of these medical cannabis programs, but only with active participation in the political process.

    If you, a loved one or friend in AZ suffers from PTSD, migraine headaches, depression or anxiety, please take the opportunity afforded right now by AZDHS to let your public officials know that you support these pragmatic improvements to AZ’s nascent medical cannabis program.

    Kind regards and thanks for your help and support,

    -Allen St. Pierre
    Executive Director
    NORML
    Washington, D.C.
    director@norml.org

    **Mojave Daily News

    Arizona considering new uses for medical marijuana

    Published: Friday, May 25, 2012 1:12 AM MDT

    PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona is considering requests to expand its fledgling medical marijuana program to allow use of the drug for an array of conditions, including post-traumatic stress syndrome and migraines, beyond those allowed under the law approved by voters two years ago.

    The Department of Health Services, which is required under the 2010 law to consider requests to expand coverage, holds a public hearing Friday on the first batch of requests.

    Besides PTSD and migraines, the requests for covered conditions include depression and general anxiety disorder. The law already permits medical marijuana use for such medical reasons as cancer, glaucoma, AIDS, chronic pain, muscle spasms and hepatitis C.

    Even as the state considers expanding the program, it is still implementing a key part of the law.

    Friday is the deadline to submit applications to operate medical marijuana dispensaries. Up to 126 dispensaries will be permitted statewide, but only one per designated area. Those typically are either rural towns or parts of metropolitan areas.

    The process of awarding licenses to dispensaries that will sell marijuana to users was delayed by Gov. Jan Brewer’s reluctance to implement that part of the law.

    The state has awarded medical marijuana user cards to more than 28,000 people. Chronic pain is the most common medical condition, though users can have more than one. Most of the users also got permission to grow marijuana until there is a dispensary in their area.

    Arizona is among 17 states that have enacted laws allowing medical marijuana use, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

    States’ programs vary, and some already cover the additional medical conditions being considered by Arizona. For example, New Mexico allows medical marijuana use for PTSD, while California’s covered “serious medical conditions” include migraines. Meanwhile, Colorado’s decade-old program has denied petitions to add more than a dozen conditions, including PTSD, hepatitis C and depression.

    Marijuana is still illegal under federal law, but the Veterans Affairs Department in 2011 issued guidelines that permit patients treated at VA hospitals and clinics to use medical marijuana in states where it is legal. The guidelines don’t allow VA doctors to prescribe medical marijuana.

    Consideration of possible expansion of Arizona’s medical marijuana program follows efforts by the state to crack down on early abuses.

    State medical regulatory boards already have disciplined doctors for failing to adequately consider patients’ needs and conditions before recommending medical marijuana.

    The state Medical Board in February reprimanded one physician who wrote certifications for 483 patients without making required checks of a controlled-substance database.

    The Naturopathic Physicians Medical Board suspended another doctor’s license for failing to adequately examine patients and document their conditions before certifying them for medical marijuana.

    In advance of Friday’s hearing, Health Services Director Will Humble said he is most interested in peer-reviewed scientific studies, not personal testimony.

    “To me, it’s really about presenting good science,” Humble said. “To me, that’s the compelling information that we need.”

    Humble’s department has contracted with the University of Arizona to identify research relevant to the requests for expanded coverage. “I’m not aware of very much published literature to support adding those,” he said.

    Humble said he feels a need to be cautious about adding conditions because he doesn’t want patients to forego traditional medical treatment to opt for questionable benefits from marijuana.

    And he said Arizona’s law doesn’t allow the agency to remove a condition once it’s listed, so it would be troubling if scientifically reliable information later surfaces that undermines the value of approving medical marijuana for a particular condition.

    Brewer last year balked at allowing dispensaries, saying she feared state employees could face federal criminal prosecution. She later acquiesced after a judge ruled the state had no discretion implementing the dispensary portion of the law.

    The state already had received about 200 dispensary applications through close-of-business Wednesday, and Humble said he expected many more before Friday’s deadline.

    Copyright © 2012 – Mohave Daily News

     

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director December 29, 2009

    UPDATE!!! In a 12/29 e-mail communication with the San Diego Union-Tribune‘s Newsroom Operations Manager (in reference to their coverage below), she pledges: “I will follow up with our online staff right now. We will get it corrected or taken down.” Yet, as of 11am pst today the story still appears online in its original form. Those who live in southern California may also wish to voice their opinion at: http://www.signonsandiego.com/contactus/.

    For anyone who missed the worldwide corporate media’s hysterical anti-pot headlines last week, here’s a sampling:

    Cannabis more damaging to adolescent brains than previously known
    via Emax Health
    “New research shows that teens who consume cannabis daily can suffer anxiety and depression. Smoking marijuana can have long-term irreversible effects on adolescent brains, and is more harmful to teens than previously known.”

    Teen marijuana use affects brain permanently: study
    via CBC News
    “The findings suggest daily marijuana use by teens can cause depression and anxiety, and have an irreversible effect on the brain.”

    Pot damage on teens worse than thought
    via UPI wire services
    “Daily consumption of marijuana in teens can cause depression and anxiety, and have irreversible long-term effect on the brain, Canadian researchers say.”

    Cannabis brain damage worse in teens than thought: study
    via The Canadian Press
    “The effects of daily cannabis use on teenage brains is worse than originally thought, and the long-term effects appear to be irreversible, new research from McGill University suggests.”

    Sounds scary, huh? It’s meant to. Only there’s three serious problems with the mainstream media’s alarmist coverage.

    1) No adolescents — or for that matter, any human beings whatsoever — actually participated in the study.

    2) No actual cannabis was consumed in the study.

    3) No permanent brain damage was reported in the study.

    Don’t believe me? Well then, check out the actual source of the headlines yourself.

    Chronic exposure to cannabinoids during adolescence but not during adulthood impairs emotional behaviour and monoaminergic neurotransmission
    via PubMed

    “We tested this hypothesis by administering the CB(1) receptor agonist WIN55,212-2, once daily for 20 days to adolescent and adult rats. … Chronic adolescent exposure but not adult exposure to low (0.2 mg/kg) and high (1.0 mg/kg) doses led to depression-like behaviour in the forced swim and sucrose preference test, while the high dose also induced anxiety-like consequences in the novelty-suppressed feeding test. … These (findings) suggest that long-term exposure to cannabinoids during adolescence induces anxiety-like and depression-like behaviours in adulthood and that this may be instigated by serotonergic hypoactivity and noradrenergic hyperactivity.”

    To summarize: Investigators administered daily doses of a highly potent synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonist WIN,55,212-2 to both adolescent rats and adult rats for 20 days. Days following their exposure, researchers documented altered serotonin production in younger rats. (Why investigators presumed that the change in serotonin production would be permanent I have no idea. After the initial 20-day waiting period, researchers do not appear to have tested the rats’ serotonin levels ever again.) Researchers also documented supposed depression-like and anxiety-like behavior in certain rats, based on various elaborate animal models and preference tests.

    Yet somehow based on this speculative preclinical evidence, the mainstream media — in unison — proclaimed:

    Reefer badness
    via San Diego Tribune

    “A study of Canadian teenagers … found that smoking the illicit drug is harder on young brains than originally thought. Writing in the journal Neurobiology of Disease, researchers at McGill University in Montreal said daily consumption of cannabis in teens can cause significant depression and anxiety and have an irreversible long-term effect on the brain.”

    In truth, the purported ‘study’ never said anything of the sort!

    So why the does the MSM consistently get the story wrong when it comes to pot? You can check out my previous thoughts on the issue here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director May 12, 2008

    Feds: Teen use of pot can lead to mental illness
    via The Associated Press

    WASHINGTON (AP) —Depression, teens and marijuana are a dangerous mix that can lead to dependency, mental illness or suicidal thoughts, according to a White House report released Friday.A teen who has been depressed at some point in the past year is more than twice as likely to have used marijuana as teens who have not reported being depressed — 25 percent compared with 12 percent, said the report by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

    “Marijuana is a more consequential substance of abuse than our culture has treated it in the last 20 years,” said John Walters, director of the office. “This is not just youthful experimentation that they’ll get over as we used to think in the past.”

    “It’s not something you look the other way about when your teen starts appearing careless about their grooming, withdrawing from the family, losing interest in daily activities,” Walters said. “Find out what’s wrong.”

    Gotta love Walters’ remark about hygiene — which he appears to have taken almost verbatim from Above The Influence’s hateful propaganda film, Stoners In The Mist.

    Seriously though, it goes without saying that this so-called White House ‘report‘ (I use the term euphemistically here, given that said ‘report’ is under five pages and consists mostly of bar charts rather than text) is much ado about nothing. In fact, the only newsworthy aspect of this supposed ‘study’ is that the lapdog mainstream media gave it any coverage at all.

    In short, there’s nothing to the Drug Czar’s marijuana and mental health claims that NORML Advisory Board member Dr. Mitch Earleywine and I haven’t previously addressed in our essay here:

    Pot Smoking Won’t Make You Crazy, But Dealing With The Lies About It Will
    via Alternet

    Perhaps the most impressive evidence against the cause-and-effect relationship concerns the unvarying rate of psychoses across different eras and different countries. People are no more likely to be psychotic in Canada or the United States (two nations where large percentages of citizens use cannabis) than they are in Sweden or Japan (where self-reported marijuana use is extremely low). Even after the enormous popularity of cannabis in the 1960s and 1970s, rates of psychotic disorders haven’t increased.

    Ironically, just two days prior to the Drug Czar’s much ballyhooed press conference, Britain’s Advisory Panel on the Misuse of Drugs refuted the notion that pot use causes mental illness, stating, “The evidence for the existence of an association between frequency of cannabis use and the development of psychosis is, on the available evidence, weak.”

    A 2006 review by the same commission previously concluded, “The current evidence suggests, at worst, that using cannabis increases lifetime risk of developing schizophrenia by one percent.” And more recently, a highly touted meta-analysis in the British medical journal, The Lancet, reported that there is a dearth of scientific evidence indicating that cannabis use causes psychotic behavior, noting, “Projected trends for schizophrenia incidence have not paralleled trends in cannabis use over time.”

    (more…)