The administration of synthetic cannabinoid agonists limits HIV infection in macrophages (white blood cells that aid in the body’s immune response), according to preclinical data published in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology. Macrophages are one of the first type of cells infected by the HIV virus when it enters the body.
Investigators at Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia assessed the impact of three commercially available synthetic THC agonists on HIV-infected macrophage cells. Following administration, researchers sampled the cells periodically to measure the activity of an enzyme called reverse transcriptase (RT), which is essential for HIV replication. By day 7, investigators reported that the administration of all three compounds was associated with a significant decreased in HIV replication.
Stated a Temple University Health System press release: “The results suggest that selective CB2 (cannabinoid 2 receptor) agonists could potentially be used in tandem with existing antiretroviral drugs, opening the door to the generation of new drug therapies for HIV/AIDS. The data also support the idea that the human immune system could be leveraged to fight HIV infection.”
Patients living with HIV/AIDS frequently report consuming cannabis to counter symptoms of anxiety, appetite loss, chronic pain, and nausea, and one study has reported that patients who use cannabis therapeutically are 3.3 times more likely to adhere to their antiretroviral therapy regimens than non-cannabis users. In preclinical models, the long-term administration of delta-9-THC has recently been associated with decreased mortality and ameliorated disease progression in monkeys. In clinical models, cannabis inhalation is associated with decreased neuropathy and increased levels of appetite hormones in the blood of subjects with HIV infection.
The abstract of the study, “Attenuation of HIV-1 replication in macrophages by cannabinoid receptor 2 agonists,” appears online here.
Nearly nine out of ten Americans — including 80 percent of self-identified Republicans — now say that marijuana should be legal if its use is permitted by a physician, according to nationwide Fox News telephone poll of 1,010 registered voters. The poll, released today, was conducted by under the direction of Anderson Robbins Research (D) and Shaw & Company Research (R) and possesses margin of sampling error of ± 3 percentage points.
According to the poll, 85 percent of voters agree that adults ought to be allowed to use cannabis for therapeutic purposes if a physician authorizes it. The total marked an increase in support of four percent since Fox last polled the question in 2010 and is the highest level of public support for the issue ever reported in a scientific poll.
Although respondents were divided on whether they believed that “most people who smoke medical marijuana truly need it,” the overwhelming majority of voters nonetheless agreed that consuming the plant should be legal if a doctor permits it.
To date, eighteen states and Washington, DC have enacted laws authorizing the physician-supervised use of cannabis therapy. Medical cannabis legalization measures are presently pending in a number of additional state legislatures, including Illinois, New Hampshire, and New York.
Voters in the Fox News poll were less supportive of the notion of legalizing the non-medical consumption of marijuana. The poll reported that only 46 percent of voters favored broader legalization, while 49 percent of respondents opposed the idea. Self-identified Democrats (57 percent) were far more likely to support legalizing cannabis than Republicans (33 percent) or Independents (47 percent). Men (51 percent) were more likely to support legalization than were women (41 percent). Those age 35 or under were most likely (62 percent) to back legalization while those age 65 and older were least likely (31 percent) to be supportive.
By contrast, in recent months national polls by The Pew Research Center, YouGov.com, Quinnipiac University, and Public Policy Polling have reported majority public support for legalizing and regulating the adult use of cannabis.
Despite the overwhelming public support for medical marijuana law reform, legislation in Congress to amend federal law to allow for its use it states which permit it — House Bill 689, the States’ Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act — only possess 16 co-sponsors (less than four percent of the entire US House of Representatives). The bill has been referred to both the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Subcommittee on Health and to the House Judiciary, Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations — neither of which have scheduled the bill for a public hearing.
The federal government’s anti-drug efforts are inefficient and ineffective, according to a just released report issued by the Congressional watchdog agency, the US Government Accountability Office (GAO).
As if we didn’t know.
The GAO report assessed whether the Obama administration’s anti-drug strategies, as articulated by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (the ONDCP aka the Drug Czar’s office) in its 2010 National Drug Control Strategy report, have yet to achieve its stated goals.
The answer? They haven’t.
States the GAO:
“The public health, social, and economic consequences of illicit drug use, coupled with the constrained fiscal environment of recent years, highlight the need to ensure that federal programs efficiently and effectively use their resources to address this problem. ONDCP has developed a 5-year Strategy to reduce illicit drug use and its consequences, but our analysis shows lack of progress toward achieving four of the Strategy’s five goals for which primary data are available.”
In particular, the GAO criticized the administration for failing to adequately address rising levels of youth marijuana consumption. The GAO also rebuffed the ONDCP’s allegation that increased rates adolescent marijuana use are a result of the passage of statewide laws decriminalizing the plant or allowing for its therapeutic use.
“Other factors, including state laws and changing attitudes and social norms regarding drugs, may also affect drug use. We examined studies on three of these other factors, which we refer to as societal factors, which may affect youth marijuana use. … The studies that assessed the effect of medical marijuana laws that met our review criteria found mixed results on effects of the laws on youth marijuana use. … [S]tudies that assessed the effect of marijuana decriminalization that met our review criteria found little to no effect of the laws on youth marijuana use.”
You can read the full GAO report here.
In another positive sign of the times for cannabis law reform, please find below a new video from the Washington Post’s The Fold looking at a couple of different situations where parents faced the legal-moral dilemma of whether or not to follow a physician’s recommendation for their young child to use cannabis as a therapeutic. Dr. Ben Whalley From Reading University in United Kingdom is interviewed about his recent cannabinoid research into the use of pediatric cannabis medicine for children, for example, suffering from epilepsy. As a twenty plus year reader of the Washington Post, it is very hard for me to imagine prior editors (and publishers) who would have assigned and widely broadcast a piece that looked at the potential health benefits from cannabis (meaning that as the World War II generation, informed by their government-created ‘Reefer Madness’, that largely ran the storied newspaper until recently has had to logically yield and defer to a decidedly more cannabis-informed generation of Baby Boomers and younger).
Senate lawmakers today voted 42 to 4 in favor of House Bill 1101, which establishes a new 12-member state commission to promulgate medical cannabis research. House members had previously approved the measure, which now goes to the desk of Democrat Gov. Martin O’Malley, who is expected to sign it into law.
House Bill 1101 establishes an independent commission within the state Department of Health. The purpose of the commission is to request applications from academic medical centers to operate ‘medical marijuana compassionate use programs.’ The commission will decide which patients will qualify for the programs and it will license growers to provide cannabis for therapeutic purposes. Medical marijuana patients who are not participants in an authorized medical center program will not be legally protected from arrest. (Existing state legislation allows certain medical cannabis patients to raise an affirmative defense of medical necessity at trial.)
Full text of House Bill 1101 is available here. Once signed into law, the measure will take effect on October 1, 2013. However, media reports estimate that the programs are not likely to be up and running until 2016.