There is new hope that states with adult-use and medical marijuana laws on the books and states considering legalization or decriminalization will finally be able to stop worrying about the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) commandeering their police officers and sheriff’s deputies to enforce federal marijuana prohibition. A bipartisan group of United States’ Senators and Representatives introduced the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Entrusting States (STATES) Act on Thursday. It’s intent is to allow states to determine what marijuana laws are right for them.
Republican Cory Gardner of Colorado and Democrat Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts introduced the bill in the Senate. Republican David Joyce of Ohio and Democrat Earl Blumenauer of Oregon are co-sponsors of the bill they introduced in the House of Representatives. Upon introduction of the bill, its creators emphasized that their legislation would not make marijuana legal throughout the country – as if the name of the bill and its acronym weren’t revealing enough.
The bill’s bipartisan group of writers wants everyone to know the STATES Act is a states’ rights bill and not a legalize marijuana bill for obvious reasons – the biggest being that legislation ending federal marijuana prohibition would never pass Congress let alone get the support of Donald Trump, who said he’ll “probably” back the bill. But any legislation even misrepresented as a marijuana legalization bill would do lasting damage to the cannabis movement that has seen economies, government budgets, infrastructure and education improve while crime, opioid overdoses, suicides and healthcare costs decrease in states with adult-use or medical marijuana laws.
With the STATES Act, it will be nigh impossible for Conservatives to justify their opposition of the bill by calling it an endorsement of drug use. Politicians representing states that border states with adult-use or medical marijuana laws could claim the bill would only stretch their law enforcement and judicial budgets even thinner, but they couldn’t misrepresent the legislation to their constituents as an attempt to legalize marijuana. They could even request additional federal funding to address the increased law enforcement and judicial workload they anticipate, but they couldn’t vote “no” with the excuse of “I’m not about to legalize marijuana.” I mean, they could say that in their defense, but not without subjecting themselves to ridicule.
Another reason the bipartisan crafters of the STATES Act are making cannabis a states’ rights issue is because it appeals to a majority of the public. A Gallup poll conducted in June 2016 found that 55 percent of Americans prefer government power to be concentrated at the state level instead of the federal level, and Republicans are are four times as likely to support state power.
Giving more power to the states appeals to Republicans, Libertarians and even some Democrats. Hell, I’m a Socialist, and I support small government because I know Socialism, like all forms of governing, works most effectively and efficiently in people’s behalf when the number of people it governs is small and when that population is concentrated in a governable geographic area. Why? The answer was provided by the late Alan Thicke back in 1978: “Now, the world don't move to the beat of just one drum. What might be right for you, may not be right for some.”
Those are, of course, the opening lyrics to the “Diff’rent Strokes” theme song, and a more true statement could not be uttered let alone sung. The United States is a vast country that spans the spectrum of both geography and demography, which makes it difficult to govern. Americans experience such differing circumstances that what might be right for you, may not be right for some. Hell, in my home state of Montana you can drive eight hours and never leave the state, but the geography and the people change immensely. What works in the West probably won’t work in the East and vice versa. Marijuana legalization might be right for Californians, but it may not be right for Nebraskans. The STATES Act would allow states to choose what cannabis laws work best for their residents.
This isn’t the first time a bipartisan bill has been introduced to strengthen states’ rights to adopt and enforce marijuana laws as they see fit. I was on Capitol Hill as a student lobbyist for Students for Sensible Drug Policy five years ago when H.R. 1523, the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2013, was before the 113th Congress. It too sought to allow states to decide the legality of adult-use and medical marijuana by altering the Controlled Substances Act to exclude persons acting in compliance with state marijuana laws.
We felt way back then that this would be our path to ending federal marijuana prohibition, and while we weren’t going to get federal legalization, it was a compromise we were willing to make to appeal to Conservatives and get the legislation passed. I left the reception held after our lobby day filled with hope after hearing Democratic Congressman from Colorado Jared Polis and famed Conservative Grover Norquist agreeing that cannabis was an issue for states to decide by and for their respective residents.
According to Congress.gov, that bill is still before Congress, lost and forgotten by the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations since April 30, 2013. It has 28 cosponsors in the House, six of which are Republicans. The House version of the STATES Act already has 14 cosponsors in the House plus the two Representatives who assisted in drafting the bill. Eight are Republicans, so the new bipartisan bill is already appealing to more Conservatives than H.R. 1523.
This bipartisan group has high hopes for the STATES Act given what’s occurred since H.R. 1523 was introduced. The STATES Act does what H.R. 1523 would have. It amends the Controlled Substances Act to exclude persons acting in compliance with state and tribal marijuana laws. But it doesn’t eliminate all federal oversight. Distribution of cannabis at transportation facilities and rest stops would remain federally illegal and enforced. The STATES Act does a lot more than allow states to determine their own marijuana laws, though. It also addresses some of the issues that have resulted from states legalizing adult-use or medical marijuana, which should appeal to both sides of the aisle.
Back in 2011, I wrote that cannabis would be America’s best cash crop ever – even bigger than tobacco. Marijuana consumption has already far surpassed my expectations upon its legalization for adult- and medical-use, but industrial hemp is what’s going to make cannabis America’s best cash crop ever. It grows like a weed if you’ll forgive the pun, and can be used for virtually anything. It’s a stronger fiber than cotton and can be used to make textiles that last longer so our clothes don’t fall apart in the wash. It will make stronger rope, hopefully saving mountain and rock climbers’ lives, and cowboys, cowgirls and sailors headaches. Hemp seeds are also rich in fatty acids, protein, fiber and other important nutrients. Hemp can even be used as fuel, which ExxonMobil will no doubt exploit given its investment into biofuels. All that algae research ended up being nothing more than a good PR campaign because hemp is a much less intensive biofuel to produce than algae. You can even build a house out of something called hempcrete, and cannabis can also relieve your pain without getting you high. That’s right, cannabidiol, better known as CBD, has been proven to have pain-relieving, anti-inflammatory, and anti-anxiety properties without the psychoactive effects of THC. So cannabis can clothe you, feed you, shelter you, transport you and your things, relieve your pain, and even save your life while creating jobs and improving our environment by oxygenating the air. Along with solar and wind energy industries, industrial hemp will be one of the biggest contributors to the health of America’s economy and environment for years to come.
The STATES Act would make cannabis transactions legal, allowing cannabis providers to take methods of payment besides cash and store that money in a bank. Cannabis providers have had a justifiable fear of depositing their profits in federal banks subject to federal law. The federal government could seize those assets like they seize vehicles used to traffic drugs. No criminal charges need to be brought against the cannabis providers for them to lose their money either, as asset forfeiture is a civil action, not criminal.
Since its legalization in Colorado, many cannabis providers have hired motorcycle couriers to pickup and deliver literal saddlebags of money to be deposited in a safe somewhere. One California dispensary owner reportedly delivers $40,000 in cash in the trunk of his car every month simply to pay his taxes. The STATES Act would make those trips a thing of the past and likely result in fewer instances of theft.
So is 2018 finally the year federal marijuana prohibition ends? Some people think so, but ultra-Conservatives could get in the way, just as they did on a cannabis bill for veterans just last week. The STATES Act probably won’t have many supporters from the religious right, which will be its biggest obstacle to overcome. But now more than ever before, Senators and Representatives on both sides of the aisle are going to be more willing to consider the end of federal marijuana prohibition given what we’ve all learned from the experimentation spearheaded by states. Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia could all adopt medical marijuana laws this year, and if that doesn’t surprise you consider where we were five years ago, when Maryland relaxing criminal penalties for seriously ill people using marijuana was considered a win for cannabis advocates.
Your Senators and Representatives are not experts on cannabis and need you to inform them on the issue, so here’s a guide on how to do so most effectively. You’ll want to appeal to the humanity in them. Politicians are not cold robots. When they hear a story about someone using cannabis to treat their chronic back pain that otherwise would keep them bedridden, they can probably relate to that. They especially want to know if cannabis helped you kick your opioid addiction. They have friends and family struggling with the same problems with which the rest of us struggle, so speak or write from the heart. The facts will only bore them to the point they tune you out.
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Cannabis plants produce cannabinoids, or chemicals that can induce an effect on the body. When cannabinoids are produced by a plant they are called phytocannabinoids. Humans produce their own cannabinoids, called endogenous cannabinoids. Laboratory or synthetically produced cannabinoids are called synthetic cannabinoids.
The human body has a very intricate endocannabinoid (endogenous cannabinoid) system, with receptors throughout our brain, organs, glands, and immune system. Hence a wide variety of physiological responses, occur when these receptors are stimulated by cannabinoids. These include responses to sleep, memory, appetite, pain, immune response, mood, and cell damage repair and death, Research is currently investigating what endogenous chemicals the human body produces, but the majority of medical discussions surrounding cannabinoids includes the phytocannabinoids.
Cannabis plants produce many phytocannabinoids, but the most well known and studied include CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol). The latter is psychoactive, meaning it can give the user a feeling of euphoria. The former, CBD, in non-psychoactive and researched more than others for its medicinal benefits.
Now plants, just like animals, are classified from Kingdom (Plantae) down to Genus and species. Cannabis comes in a variety of species, including the major ones: C. sativa, C. indica and C. ruderalis.
C. ruderalis is less popular as it has a lower THC content. However it has “autoflowering” qualities, making them useful to cultivators, and if bred with C. sativa or C. indica could enhance the new hybrid in its reproduction.
C. sativa has a higher THC/CBD ratio, hence can provide more euphoria. It reportedly helps decrease anxiety, treat depression and increase appetite. It’s been touted to increase energy and boost creativity. It's also used to help manage attention deficit disorder. Although not approved yet in the US, an oral spray, nabiximol, has been developed and sold in multiple countries to treat neuropathic cancer pain. Its brand name is sold, by prescription, as Sativex® .
C. indica has a higher CBD content and has been used for its sedative properties. It's also used to help anxiety and induce appetite, but will additionally be used to treat pain and muscle spasms.
Epidiolex has received FDA approval to treat some seizures. Its high CBD component is credited for its anti-seizure activity.
There are multiple other strains, each touted to have their own unique properties. 420medbook.com provides the below table.
The challenge, however, is the lack of medical research in each of the different strains. And when a study does come out discussing the medical advantages or disadvantages to using cannabis medicinally, the specific strain may not be mentioned or easily found in the report.
I believe that various strains do have unique properties and there is an art to the field of medical marijuana but more research needs to be done and quickly to avoid random use of cannabis products for treatment of medical conditions.
If you’re a cannabis user living in one of the 42 states where cannabis is still illegal without a prescription, you’re probably planning to march down to your capitol building and lobby your representatives to end cannabis prohibition on April 20. To effectively lobby your representatives requires more than just the commitment to get off the couch one day a year to sit down with your representatives, or more likely, representatives of your representatives, and requesting they support legislation to legalize cannabis in your state.
I was lucky enough to win a scholarship from Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) to lobby my representatives in Washington D.C. in June of 2013 to legalize cannabis federally. It was a most rewarding experience, and I picked up a few things at a lobbying training seminar led by then executive director of SSDP, Aaron Houston. So here’s the cannabis user’s guide to lobbying on 4/20.
You have to understand that your representative isn’t going to appreciate you wasting his or her time or the time of his or her staff with your drug-induced ramblings. Even if you are a capable orator under the influence, just the appearance or odor of being stoned can undo all your good work and that of your sober comrades.
Getting arrested for smoking a joint at your capitol doesn’t look good, either, so if you must smoke, stay at home on 4/20, where you can still submit a comment to the Food and Drug Administration to remove cannabis from the list of Schedule I drugs. The FDA is requesting interested persons to submit comments concerning abuse potential, actual abuse, medical usefulness, trafficking, and impact of scheduling changes on availability for medical use of five drug substances: the cannabis plant and resin, extracts and tinctures of cannabis, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, stereoisomers of tetrahydrocannabinol and Cannabidiol. Comments are due by April 23.
If you wish to be treated as an equal by your representatives or their representatives, dressing as they do is a good place to start. You can’t expect your representatives to thoughtfully consider your recommendations if you’re wearing sweatpants and tennis shoes and look like you just rolled out of bed.
The dress code for members of state congress is business professional, which is exactly what you should be wearing while working in their arena. That’s either a suit or a collared shirt, slacks, a tie and dress shoes for men, and a business suit or an appropriate blouse and skirt or dress for women. “Appropriate,” in this case, refers to an appropriate amount of naked skin displayed, which should never be used as a means to your end. You want your representative to respect you, not covet you.
You’re not just selling your stance; you’re selling yourself. There’s hardly an instance you’re not selling yourself, but in this case, it’s especially important to approach the lobbying of your representatives as you would a job interview. Your interviewers should want to have you back when you leave.
Your representatives can’t dislike you and like your stance. They have to like you before they will even consider your stance. The old saying “you’ll catch more flies with honey than vinegar” is never more true than when lobbying your representatives. Turn up the charm to 11. Smile, and if you can make your representative laugh, you’ll be well on your way to achieving your first goal in lobbying your representatives: being liked.
It might not seem like it at times, but politicians are people, too. They have family and friends they love just like you, and appealing to their feelings will force them to empathize with you. Tell them a personal story of why you use cannabis and how it has helped you. Make yourself the hero of your story and make it easily relatable.
For example: “I suffer from degenerative disc disease that causes chronic lower back pain. Upon being diagnosed at 23 years old, I was immediately prescribed opioids to manage the pain. The plan was to manage the pain until it became surgical, which is when the pain travels down the back of a leg and past the knee. It took a year for my pain to become surgical, and had I not applied for and received a medical marijuana prescription in Montana during that time, I’d either be addicted to opioids or dead.
Once I received my medical marijuana prescription I had no need for the opioids, the dosage of which had increased almost every time I needed a refill. Cannabis is a safer and healthier means of managing chronic pain than opioids, and research has shown that medical marijuana laws may reduce deaths from opioid overdoses.
But people are struggling with ailments and diseases for which medical marijuana prescriptions aren’t allowed, too. I am also an alcoholic, and I’ve been alcohol-free since October 4, 2017. But I couldn’t imagine kicking alcohol without cannabis, and I and thousands of other alcoholics don’t qualify for medical marijuana prescriptions to treat our disease. Instead, we’re called criminals for treating our disease in a safe and healthy manner. So cannabis, a drug that’s never killed a single soul, remains illegal while more than 1,000 Minnesotans die annually from alcohol.”
A cannabis prohibitionist needs a reason to change their mind on cannabis legalization. If they find out their alcoholic family member could quit drinking with the help of cannabis, they’d be more likely to adopt your stance than if you were to feed them a bunch of statistics about fewer fewer deaths in states where medical marijuana is legal.
Your representatives are overwhelmed with legislation spanning a multitude of topics, so it’s unlikely they have a firm grasp on a specific topic unless it’s one of their campaign talking points. Given the reluctance of just about every politician to openly discuss cannabis, in almost every instance, you will know more about cannabis and the effects of cannabis prohibition than your representatives.
You are not lobbying your representatives because of your good looks. You’re lobbying your representatives because you know something they don’t that will help inform their eventual decisions on the matter. Deliver your message knowing you are an authority on the subject, and the confidence you exude will go a long way in persuading your representatives.
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With agents of United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement raiding 7-Elevens across the country intent on deporting illegal immigrants and punishing the companies that employ them, immigration reform is taking center stage this week in Washington, D.C.
Democrats have long hoped to provide a path to citizenship for immigrants temporarily allowed in the country under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, which allows children brought to America by family members illegally to remain in the country temporarily and acquire work visas. As of this writing, a federal injunction has blocked the Trump Administration from rescinding the work permits of these undocumented immigrants. But that's not a permanent solution.
A bipartisan group of Senators has come to an agreement on an immigration deal, but Donald Trump has not offered his support of the bill. The bill reportedly includes a path for DACA recipients to become citizens and changes to the State Department's diversity visa lottery program and family-based immigration policies while also providing a border security funding package.
Whatever the bipartisan deal looks like now, it’s going change drastically as negotiations take place to please the President become passable in the Senate and the House of Representatives. So what can we expect from the immigration negotiations?
Trump was asked if he would support a DACA bill that did not include money for the border wall he has proposed in a news conference, Wednesday at the White House. “No, no, no,” was his answer.
Trump won’t approve immigration legislation if it doesn’t approve funding for a border wall. It was his biggest campaign promise -- and that Mexico would pay for it. Mexico isn’t paying for it, and Senate Democrats won’t likely allow tax dollars to be spent on a border wall. But there’s still Ted Cruz’s bill to make El Chapo (Joaquín El Chapo Guzmán Loera) and profits secured from other drug lords to pay for the wall.
The Department of Homeland Security estimated in February 2017 that Trump’s border wall would cost roughly $21.6 billion. U.S. authorities are seeking the forfeiture of roughly $14 billion in profits from illicit drug trafficking by El Chapo.
U.S. attorney general Jeff Sessions gave Republicans leverage in negotiations by ending protections for states with legal marijuana, so Republicans could very well demand funding for a border wall in exchange for protections of medical and recreational marijuana providers and users.
That doesn’t mean Trump will be able to fund his border wall exclusively with taxpayer dollars, though. Congressional Democrats are already frustrated by a tax plan that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says will add $1.4 trillion to the federal deficit over the next decade. Even if Trump’s tax plan will raise America’s gross-domestic product by .5 percent annually, it still increases the federal deficit by $1.252 trillion. And now Congressional Republicans have their sights set on cutting Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security benefits.
Congressional Democrats will have to find some solace in fulfilling the dreams of Dreamers currently residing in America under DACA, because immigrants residing in the country under the State Department's diversity visa lottery program and family-based immigration policies will be deported en masse.
The ICE raids of 7-Elevens throughout the country are just the beginning. Refugees residing in America with Temporary Protected Status will likely have their statuses terminated and be forced to return to their home countries, which aren’t likely ready to receive them. Most of these refugees escaped natural disasters or war. It was announced Monday that nearly 200,000 TPS migrants from El Salvador must leave the country, and there are another 125,000 TPS migrants residing in American who could be next.
To give you a sense of who these TPS migrants are, 81 to 88 percent of them are employed, which is a considerably higher rate than the 63 percent of American-born citizens who are employed. They do work many Americans wouldn’t do if the jobs were available to them -- 51,700 work construction, 32,400 in food service, 15,800 are landscapers, 10,000 more take care of your kids in daycares and 9,200 work in grocery stores. Almost a third of all TPS migrants are paying mortgages, too.
Trump will chalk these deportations up as jobs created for Americans, but it won’t necessarily result in a strengthened U.S. economy. The Center for American Progress estimates "a policy of mass deportation would immediately reduce the nation's GDP by 1.4 percent, and ultimately by 2.6 percent, and reduce cumulative GDP over 10 years by $4.7 trillion."
Agriculture and construction industries are expected to be the industries hardest hit by mass deportations, so housing shortages will worsen as will agriculture exports due to a lack of a sufficient labor force. Americans aren’t suddenly going to flock to farms and ranches in search of jobs vacated by immigrants.
It’s also estimated that illegal immigrants and their employers pay between $7 and $12 billion into Social Security, which would further devastate the program if Congressional Republicans indeed cut funding for it.
So what we can expect from the immigration reform negotiations is: 1) some sort of border wall being built on the U.S.-Mexico border, 2) possible marijuana protections for states with legal and medical marijuana legislation in effect, 3) more deportations, and 4) a worse U.S. economy.
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While United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded Obama-era, federal protections for recreational marijuana businesses and users in states that have adopted legal cannabis legislation, that won’t affect states’ medical marijuana providers and users -- at least until Jan. 19.
Indications are that medical marijuana will be off the table when it comes to the Justice Department’s crackdown on cannabis. President Donald Trump went on the record in support of medical marijuana prior to the election, so it’s unlikely Sessions would act in a manner that could jeopardize his President’s reelection chances any further. But if Congress can’t come to an agreement to fund the government before Jan. 19, the Rohrabacher–Farr amendment prohibiting the Justice Department from spending federal funds to interfere with states’ implementation and enforcement of medical cannabis laws will expire.
The Rohrabacher-Farr amendment must be renewed each fiscal year to remain in effect, and is usually done so through omnibus spending bills. It was most recently renewed in a stopgap spending bill on Dec. 22, which expires Jan. 19. So if Congress fails to pass a budget for the fiscal year or at least another stopgap spending bill to fund the government temporarily, medical marijuana providers and patients will no longer be protected by Rohrabacher-Farr and subject to federal prosecution.
Sessions is making sure the Justice Department is prepared for the opportunity to enforce federal cannabis law. He appointed 17 interim U.S. attorneys general just days prior to rescinding the protections for recreational cannabis providers and users. The 17 temporary appointees can serve for 120 days before Trump must nominate permanent U.S. attorneys and seek to have them confirmed by the Senate. Sessions has empowered all 94 U.S. attorneys to enforce cannabis law as they see fit.
Republican Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado said he would block Trump's Justice Department judicial nominees until the decision is reversed. Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, a state where cannabis is legal to use by adults, insists that protecting states with legal cannabis legislation should be part of budget negotiations to avoid a government shutdown. If the government shuts down, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) would continue to be funded, so raids of both recreational and medical marijuana providers would be a possibility. Even if Sessions doesn’t crackdown on cannabis, he’s given Republicans some leverage in negotiating a new budget to fund the government. Perhaps in exchange for continued protection for medical and recreational marijuana states, Trump will get his border wall funded.
Regardless, medical and recreational marijuana providers and users haven’t been this vulnerable since before Rohrabacher-Farr went into effect in December of 2014. If the bipartisan condemnation of Sessions’ decision is any indication of what’s to come, protecting cannabis markets, both medical and recreational, will be a top priority over the next week.
As of January 2017, recreational cannabis markets had created 123,000 full-time jobs in America, and a recent report by New Frontier Data forecasts that tax revenues from legal marijuana sales were $559 million in 2017.
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The deepest of Republican values is to respect states’ rights, but attorney general Jeff Sessions isn’t doing so by asking Congress to let him prosecute medical marijuana dispensaries.
Sessions wrote a letter to Congress in May requesting protections of state marijuana laws that have been in effect since 2014 be undone so he can fill America’s already-full jails and prisons, both rural and urban, with non-violent, drug offenders. The Rohrabacher-Farr amendment doesn’t allow the Justice Department to spend federal dollars preventing states from enforcing their own marijuana laws. If that’s no longer the case, medical marijuana providers can expect Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) raids.
It’s no surprise to anyone familiar with Sessions that he’d want to lock up potheads. He’s long despised marijuana and went so far as to cite the opioid epidemic as a reason to enforce federal marijuana prohibition, because he’s either un- or misinformed, or just doesn’t care about the facts.
In states where medical marijuana is legal, either medically or recreationally, opioid overdose deaths are down considerably. States with medical cannabis laws had a 24.8 percent lower annual opioid overdose mortality rates compared with states without medical cannabis laws, a 2014 study revealed.
Sessions would be better served focusing his efforts on legalizing medical marijuana federally by rescheduling cannabis so it could be prescribed by doctors throughout America. Emergency department visits involving misuse or abuse of prescription opioids increased 153 percent between 2004 and 2011. So obviously the easiest way to slow this increase is to offer a prescription pain reliever that has never killed a soul and is already linked with fewer opioid overdoses.
These sort of Republicans like Sessions are the worst sort because they’re not even Republicans. They’re fascists. Only fascists would have an interest in governing what people do in the privacy of their own homes, including the bedroom.
If you think tax dollars should be spent to take a proven medicine away from people with debilitating pain or illness, you’re no Republican. And no Republican would advocate for bigger government, which is exactly what you’ll get if the Justice Department is allowed to spend your taxes busting medical marijuana providers.
Medical marijuana is supported by 94 percent of Americans according to this Quinnipiac poll. It has bipartisan support in Congress as well, so hopefully your representatives don’t cave to Sessions request. Contact your Senators and Representatives to express your opinion on the matter.
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For centuries, multiple civilizations have used cannabis to treat various medical conditions, including seizures. This week researchers from NYU Langone’s Comprehensive Epilepsy Center found a chemical in marijuana to do just that.
A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that a liquid medication containing cannabidiol, one of the many chemicals in marijuana, reduced convulsive seizures in children by half.
Created by GW Pharmaceuticals, Epidiolex, brand name, was the drug used in this study and has not yet received FDA approval.
As opposed to THC, tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, cannabidiol does not cause euphoria and has been the subject of many studies for its medicinal applications.
In this study, researchers tested 120 children with Dravet’s syndrome and found those given Epidiolex not only suffered less seizures, but 5% of the children were seizure-free during the 14 week trial.
Side effects, however, were reported such as fatigue, vomiting, diarrhea and anorexia (loss of appetite).
A seizure occurs when there is abnormal electrical activity in the brain. If the electricity doesn’t conduct properly, brain function gets disrupted. This could lead to convulsions (involuntary jerking movements), loss of muscle tone, changes in senses such as vision, hearing and smell, loss of bladder control, loss of consciousness and sometimes stroke, brain damage and death.
Epilepsy is a neurological disorder in which a person has recurrent, unprovoked seizures.
Dravet Syndrome is a rare genetic condition that starts in infancy. Children can suffer a variety of seizures and may eventually suffer from developmental delay and learning disorders. What makes Dravet Syndrome so severe is the fact that the seizures are refractory to many anti-seizure medications.
More research needs to be done in this area, but these preliminary findings give parents and the medical community hope that a pharmaceutical option could exist in the near future for these devastating and potentially fatal seizures.
Multiple states in the US currently allow recreational marijuana or medicinal use of cannabis and multiple more states may be following suit in upcoming elections.
Even those who support the legalization have concerns over driver safety and how to determine if one is impaired.
Breathalyzers are currently being developed and tested but are not ready for roadway spot checks. Moreover, breathalyzers may have difficulty accurately detecting both inhaled and ingested marijuana.
California law enforcement officers are piloting road-side saliva tests but objective data is still lacking regarding the accuracy of oral fluid tests.
Currently when law enforcement tests an impaired driver for marijuana use, a urine test can be performed which only looks for a metabolite called THC-COOH. Despite its abbreviation it is a non-psychoactive component of marijuana, as opposed to delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (delta-9-THC), which does cause euphoria. Hence the shortcoming to this testing method are twofold, as the non active THC-COOH isn’t even the correct metabolite to measure intoxication and it can linger in the body for weeks, hence not allowing an adequate quantitative measure to determining one’s impairment.
Two medical students, however, figured out what needs to be tested and how. Graham Lambert and Charles Cullison, both entering their third year at Touro University Nevada, performed research for an American College of Legal Medicine (ACLM) poster contest.
One of the lead researchers and osteopathic medical student Graham Lambert said, “This is an issue because it’s non-psychoactive. It stays in the body for long periods of time, long after any psychoactive effects.” Their research lead them to conclude that testing should instead look for an alternate THC metabolite, 11-OH-THC.
Why? Let’s break this down. Now both delta-9-THC and 11-OH-THC are psychoactive compounds that can be tested in the blood. However law enforcement has to determine whether euphoria was present and a factor in one’s unlawful driving. Both delta-9-THC and 11-OH-THC crosses the blood brain barrier, a semi-permeable endothelial cell barrier that helps decide what substances can enter and leave the brain. But 11-OH-THC’s is more readily active and can bind to the brain’s cannabinoid receptors tighter, lasting longer and causing more of a psychoactive effect.
Additionally, 11-OH-THC is a metabolite also seen in high quantities after ingesting marijuana edibles.
IMAGE FROM SAPAINSOUP.COM
In 2012, Sharma et al found the 11-OH-THC to last twice as long in the blood than delta-9-THC, which would make sense due its strong binding properties. Yet the psychoactive 11-OH-THC will rapidly be metabolized to an inactive form hence its presence on a test will signify activity rather than just “hanging around”.
Once Lambert and Cullison determined this, they went to Assemblyman Steve Yeager, D-Las Vegas, who is Chair of the Assembly Judiciary Committee. Yeager helped sponsor a bill, AB135 that would convert marijuana testing for drivers from the inaccurate urine test to a blood test that would look for specifically 11-OH-THC.
Also lead researcher and osteopathic medical student, Charles Cullison said, “Blood alone accurately shows the levels of hydroxy (11-OH-THC) and marijuana.”
In regards to getting the bipartisan law passed through the State Senate with a “Veto-less” majority, Cullison stated, “We couldn’t have done this without the help of many people.”
After Nevada lawmakers passed AB 135, Governor Brian Sandoval signed it into law. The antiquated urine testing will not be used to test drivers pulled over for possible DUI but a blood test instead.
The legal limit of marijuana that is measured in nanograms per milliliter ng/ml would be 2 ng/ml for delta-9-THC and 5 ng/ml for 11 Hydroxy-THC. This does not change with passage of AB135, nor do the circumstances surrounding when to test, as current protocols are in place once a person fails his sobriety test.
In 2015 Dr. Thad Ocampo and Dr. Tonya Rans published a paper looking at cannabis allergies that ranged from eczema to asthma to anaphylaxis.
Daily Mail now reports 36 million Americans could be allergic to marijuana, stating 73 percent of the 50 million people who react to pollen also have issues with cannabis – and the figure is rising. This comes as no surprise as marijuana is a plant that carries pollen. Those exposed to second hand cannabis may be at risk as well. In 1971, a 29 year old woman claimed to have smoked marijuana for the first time when she went into a full anaphylactic reaction, being unable to breath.
Cannabis sativa is one of the more common strains of cannabis used and its hypersensitivity could cause one to have any of the following:
Runny eyes, conjunctivitis
Image from Positive Vibrations
Cannabis indicia is the other more common strain, whose leaves are wider and may pose allergic risks as well. Dr. Ocampo and Rans also discusses cannabis seed encrusted seafood which caused an anaphylactic reaction in a patient who was not allergic to seafood.
EpiPens could provide support for those suffering reactions and may need to be on hand for those who smoke or are exposed to marijuana smoke.
Allergic reactions occur when an allergen enters the body and the immune system tries to reject it. This defense mechanism, however, could cause many symptoms, including bronchoconstriction, preventing one from being able to breathe. EpiPens provide epinephrine opening up the bronchioles and therefore allowing air exchange.
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In a study published in the journal Nature Medicine, researchers from Hebrew University and the University of Bonn discovered that daily marijuana use could help prevent the “slowdown” that occurs in our brains as we age.
THC, tetrahydrocannabinol, the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, was found to boost memory and learning, cognitive function, in older mice.
In the study, researchers gave THC daily to groups of mice who were 2 months old, one year old and 18 months old. Then the mice solved a water maze. The older mice who were not given the THC had difficulty recognizing familiar objects and navigating the maze. But those who were given THC scored similarly to younger vibrant mice, and did so for a month after the dosing stopped.
Now the younger mice given the THC appeared to score poorly compared to younger mice not given the THC. The study authors believe the THC is stimulating the brain’s endocannabinoid system, which is a biochemical pathway that slows down with aging.
It’s a system within the brain and spinal cord and peripheral nervous system with receptors that help regulate a variety of actions including memory, mood, appetite, and pain. The body makes its own “cannabinoids” which work at the synapse where neurotransmitters are released. Our own cannabinoids (endogenous cannabinoids, hence endocannabinoids) help regulate what is being neurotransmitted. Exogenous (outside) THC that is inhaled/ingested competes with a body’s own cannabinoids for these receptors causing changes in what signals get released.
This isn’t the first time marijuana has been found to improve brain health.
Previous studies found cannabis to increase brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) protecting brain cells and stimulating new cell growth. In 2008 a study in mice found THC to improve memory in older rats as well as decrease brain inflammation.
However in 2016 a study published in Nature found cannabinoids to activate CB1 receptors within the mitochondria of hippocampal neurons, which resulted in memory loss. Their study suggested that chronic use of marijuana permanently affected the brain cell’s mitochondria, thereby causing long term memory loss.
So is marijuana good for the brain or not? Studies in mice conflict however, researchers are slowly narrowing down why it helps and why it hurts. Give it more time before placing any bets….
LearnHealthSpanish.com / Medical Spanish made easy.
Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP is a Board Certified Family Physician. The Dr. Daliah Show , is nationally syndicated M-F from 11:00am-2:00pm and Saturday from Noon-1:00pm (Central) at GCN.