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  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director July 6, 2010

    Investigators and pundits alike are fond of calling for ‘more research’ into the safety and efficacy of marijuana and its active compounds. Ironically, when such calls are heeded and new research is published, nobody wants to talk about it.

    For example, researchers at the State University of New York (SUNY), Upstate Medical University in Syracuse published data in the June issue of the journal Pharmacology concluding that the administration of the plant cannabinoids delta-8-THC and delta-9-THC halted cellular respiration and tumor growth in human oral cancer cells. Specifically, investigators reported that cannabinoids were a “potent inhibitor” of Tu183 human cancer cells, a notoriously difficult to treat type of oral cancer.

    Of course, this is hardly the first time that pot’s compounds have been demonstrated to possess anti-cancer properties. As has been widely reported here and elsewhere, US government researchers were first aware of this finding over 35 years ago, and today there exist published scientific studies demonstrating that cannabinoids can inhibit the proliferation of a wide range of cancers — including brain cancer, prostate cancer, breast cancer, lung cancer, skin cancer, pancreatic cancer, biliary tract cancer, and lymphoma. Nonetheless, abstract prohibitionist concerns regarding marijuana’s supposed cancer risk continue to dominate the headlines while actual scientific studies debunking these allegations tend to go unnoticed.

    Similarly, preclinical data published online last week in the journal Cell Communication and Signaling reported that the administration of the non-psychoactive cannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD) increases adult neurogenesis (the active production of new neurons) in laboratory animals. Authors speculated that cannabis’ pro-neurogenic effects may explain why the plant appears to be useful in the treatment of certain neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease or ALS.

    As I wrote last week, to date there are now over 20,000 published studies or reviews in the scientific literature pertaining to marijuana and its active compounds — making marijuana the most studied plant on Earth. But what’s the point in further research if nobody even bothers to pay attention to the research that’s already been done?

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director May 26, 2010

    The mainstream media loves to spill ink hyping the allegation that marijuana causes mental illness, particularly schizophrenia. In fact, it was in March when international media outlets declared that cannabis use ‘doubled’ one’s risk of developing the disease. Yet when research appears in scientific journals rebuking just this sort of ‘reefer madness,’ it generally goes unreported.

    Such is the case with a pair of just-published studies slated to appear in the journal Schizophrenia Research. The first study, conducted by a team of researchers at various New York state hospitals, the Yale University School of Medicine, and the National Institutes of Mental Health assessed whether there exists a causal association between cannabis use and the age of onset of psychosis in patients hospitalized for the first time for an episode of schizophrenia.

    Despite previous media claims to the contrary, researchers concluded:
    “Although the onset of cannabis use disorder preceded the onset of illness in most patients, our findings suggest that age at onset of psychosis was not associated with cannabis use disorders. Previous studies implicating cannabis use disorders in schizophrenia may need to more comprehensively assess the relationship between cannabis use disorders and schizophrenia, and take into account the additional variables that we found associated with cannabis use disorders.”

    A separate study slated for publication in the same journal assessed the cognitive skills of schizophrenic patients with a history of cannabis use compared to non-users. Authors reported that patients with a history of marijuana use “demonstrated significantly better performance on measures of processing speed, verbal fluency, and verbal learning and memory” compared to abstainers. Marijuana use was also associated with better overall GAF (Global Assessment of Functioning) scores compared to those of non-users.

    Authors concluded: “The results of the present analysis suggest that (cannabis use) in patients with SZ (schizophrenia) is associated with better performance on measures of processing speed and verbal skills. These data are consistent with prior reports indicating that SZ patients with a history of CUD (cannabis use disorders) have less severe cognitive deficits than SZ patients without comorbid CUD. … The present findings also suggest that CUD in patients with SZ may not differentially affect the severity of illness as measured by clinical symptomatology.”

    Both study’s findings are in line with previous (though virtually unreported) research indicating that marijuana is unlikely to instigate incidences of schizophrenia in the general population, that cannabis use among patients with the disease is associated with higher cognitive function, and that at least some schizophrenics find subjective relief from symptoms of the illness by using pot. Nonetheless, odds are the nobody from the mainstream media will be champing at the bit to report on them.

    Bottom line: marijuana’s complex relationship with schizophrenia is far from understood, and likely won’t be for some time. But that doesn’t give the MSM a free pass to only promote one side of the story.

  • by Allen St. Pierre, Former NORML Executive Director December 31, 2009

    Help Support NORML’s End of Year Drive – Donate Now

    Dear NORML Supporter:

    It is not often that I feel compelled to write to NORML’s membership and supporters regarding the day-to-day operations of America’s leading marijuana lobby group. Then again, in my tenure as Executive Director of NORML and the NORML Foundation, there’s never been a time like right now.

    Over the past several months NORML’s public prominence and political influence has grown by leaps and bounds. As I write you today I’m reflecting upon two of the most significant – and productive – weeks in NORML history.  As we close the year 2009 I am proud to say that NORML has galvanized its position as the leading marijuana law reform organization. Why do I say this?  Take a look at the events of these two weeks late this fall, and decide for yourself:

    • Marijuana legalization in Massachusetts? NORML testifies ‘Yes!’
      On Wednesday, October 14, NORML’s Legal Counsel Keith Stroup and NORML Advisory Board Member Dr. Lester Grinspoon testified before the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Revenue in favor of House Bill 2929, ‘An Act to Regulate and Tax the Cannabis Industry.’ Members of NORML’s state affiliate, MassCann, also spoke on behalf of the measure, which was drafted by former NORML Board Member Richard Evans. The well-attended legislative hearing marked the first time that Massachusetts state legislators had ever publicly discussed legalizing marijuana, and the debate earned prominent media coverage throughout the state. 

    • California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger requests marijuana legalization debate
      In May Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger publicly called for a debate on the merits of marijuana regulation. This October NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano and CalNORML Coordinator Dale Gieringer obliged the Governor’s request, and provided his office with a comprehensive action plan for regulating marijuana production and distribution in California.

    • Obama to Justice Department: Back off on medi-pot prosecutions
      On Monday, October 19, U.S. Deputy Attorney General David Ogden issued a historic memorandum to federal prosecutors advising them to no longer "focus federal resources … [on those] whose actions are in … compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana." The directive upheld a campaign promise by President Obama, who had pledged that he would not use "Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws." Ever since the President took office NORML and other drug policy reform groups had lobbied the administration to follow through, in writing, with this sensible policy. Tellingly, the administration’s decision was hailed by the mainstream media as a major step toward the enactment of marijuana liberalization in America. Not surprisingly, NORML representatives spent the days immediately following the administration’s announcement speaking with dozens of mainstream media outlets, including CNN, MSNBC, The Associated Press, and The Christian Science Monitor, urging Congress to move expeditiously to make the administration’s policy changes into permanent law.

    • Mainstream media just can’t get enough pot
      Over the past month NORML has fielded multiple requests from producers at mainstream media, radio, and television outlets throughout the nation and the world. Notably, NORML’s staff participated in the production of Fox Business News weeklong series on the cannabis industry (air date October 19-23), Newsweek‘s five-part series on present and past marijuana policy (published October 16), and the October 14 edition of PBS’ News Hour with Jim Leher.  NORML has also recently received prominent coverage in periodicals such as the BBC, The Wall Street Journal, and Fortune Magazine. Unlike in past years – or even past months – the overall tone of all of these high profile features was favorable to marijuana law reform.  The underlying media message: marijuana is a commodity, not a moral threat, and it’s about time for America’s laws to start treating it that way.

    • The Drug Czar’s office comes calling
      On Monday, October 24 – at the request of the White House – I participated in a strategic conference call with Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske to discuss the drafting of the administration’s 2010 National Drug Control Strategy. You read that right: the Office of National Drug Control Policy reached out to NORML and requested NORML’s participation in crafting the administration’s future drug reform strategies. Yes, the same office that just one year ago inflicted the cannabis community with John Walters is now making house calls to NORML.

      My friends, the times are most definitely changing.

    • NORML testifies at California Assembly hearings on legalization
      Finally, to conclude two of my busiest weeks ever as NORML and NORML Foundation Director, on Wednesday, October 28, NORML’s Paul Armentano and Dale Gieringer traveled to Sacramento to testify before the California Assembly on Public Safety to urge legislators to stop arresting responsible marijuana smokers.  "The criminal prohibition of marijuana has not dissuaded anyone from using marijuana or reduced its availability; however, the strict enforcement of this policy has adversely impacted the lives and careers of millions of people who simply elected to use a substance to relax that is objectively safer than alcohol," Armentano told the Committee. "NORML believes that the state of California ought to amend criminal prohibition and replace it with a system of legalization, taxation, regulation, and education." Like in Massachusetts two weeks earlier, the day-long hearing and was the first of its kind to take place before the California legislature.

    So there you have it: two weeks in the life of NORML and the NORML Foundation.  Thank you for being there for us – so we can be there for you.

    As we conclude this momentous year I rest assured knowing that with your continued financial contributions, NORML and the NORML Foundation will be able to maintain its position as the most trusted and respected marijuana law reform organizations in the United States.  That remains our commitment to you – the cannabis consumer – as we look ahead to the success and victories that await us in 2010.

    With your generous support, we are ending marijuana prohibition. With your continued generous support, we’ll end marijuana prohibition once and for all.

    Cannabem liberemus,

    Allen St. Pierre
    Executive Director

    P.S. Please make your tax-deductible donation to the NORML Foundation in support of our national outreach and educational programs.

    If you’d rather your donation be employed for state and federal lobbying purposes, please make sure that the donation is directed to ‘NORML‘, where donations are not tax deductible.

    P.P.S. Donate $50 or more to either NORML Foundation (or NORML) and receive a copy of the new book ‘Marijuana is Safer, so why are we driving people to drink?‘ co-authored by NORML deputy director Paul Armentano.

  • 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 September 28, 2009

    I’ve written previously about the mainstream media’s propensity to under report and distort stories that challenge marijuana prohibition.

    Apparently my latest missive has hit a nerve — as it has quickly risen to become the most read story on Alternet.

    5 Things the Corporate Media Don’t Want You to Know About Cannabis
    via Alternet.org

    1. Marijuana Use Is Not Associated With a Rise in Incidences of Schizophrenia

    2. Marijuana Smoke Doesn’t Damage the Lungs Like Tobacco

    3. Cannabis Use Potentially Protects, Rather Than Harms, the Brain

    4. Marijuana Is a Terminus, Not a ‘Gateway,’ to Hard Drug Use

    5. Government’s Anti-Pot Ads Encourage, Rather Than Discourage, Marijuana Use

    Read the full text of the story here.

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