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Marijuana dispensaries save lives, new study shows

07/17/15
By Eric Levitz http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/marijuana-dispensaries-save-lives-new-study-shows

The United States has a problem with painkillers. During the past 15 years, America has seen a tremendous growth in both the sales of prescription opiates and the number of people who die each year from abusing them. More than 16,000 people fatally overdosed on prescription painkillers in 2013, accounting for 60% of all overdose deaths, according to the Center for Disease Control. But a new study suggests that some states have already stumbled onto a means of curbing this fatal epidemic: Easily-accessible marijuana.

For the study, researchers from the RAND Corporation and the University of California-Irvine (UCI) examined whether, in the years following legalization, states that legalized marijuana had experienced reductions in fatal overdoses and addiction treatment center admissions relating to opioid abuse. The researchers found that these states experienced significant reductions in both measures of opioid misuse — but only if they had also legalized marijuana dispensaries.

In the six states where doctors are allowed to prescribe marijuana, but where retail dispensaries are prohibited, the study found “no evidence” of “reductions in substance abuse or mortality.” But in those 18 states where medical marijuana shops are allowed, they found a 16% reduction in “opioid-related mortality” and 28% reduction in opioid-abuse treatment admissions.

Critics of marijuana dispensaries often accuse them of fostering an environment of de facto legalization. In some states, once a doctor provides a qualifying card, the patient can purchase marijuana virtually at will. As Vox’s German Lopez writes, “Just about anyone can go to Venice Beach in Los Angeles, pay around $40 for a card, and legally buy and smoke a joint within five minutes.”

But it may be this very ease of “abuse” that allows dispensaries to prevent fatal overdoses.

The Rand/UCI study found that there was no decline in the distribution of legal opioid painkillers in states with dispensaries. Thus, the researchers suggest that the reduction in painkiller abuse in these states comes less from patients switching their prescriptions, than from people who were taking illegally obtained opioids replacing the drugs with legal weed. In other words — the findings suggest that dispensaries may have saved the lives of some recreational pill-poppers, who quit hard drugs once they got a pot prescription.

Chronic marijuana use is not without potential harms. Although research has been limited because of government restrictions, at least some studies have found that such use can contribute to memory loss and amotivational disorder. But no one has ever died from smoking too much weed. And if further research shows that opening dispensaries really does turn a significant number of opioid abusers into potheads, legal weed may start to look like a sound prescription for America’s drug problem.

Marijuana may be helping to overcome painkiller abuse in America

WRITTEN BY

Katherine Ellen Foley
http://qz.com/452209/marijuana-may-be-helping-to-overcome-painkiller-abuse-in-america/
NETHERLANDS-DRUGS-MARIJUANAJuly 13, 2015

It’s yet another feather in the cap of those who champion legalizing pot in the US.
In a working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research (paywall), researchers observed that in US states with medical marijuana dispensaries, the number of admissions to rehabilitation facilities for pain medication and opioid overdoses has decreased by 15% and 16% respectively.
Other studies have looked at the relationship between legal marijuana use and opioid overdose, but this is the first study to track addiction to opioids as well.
Researchers examined the number of patients admitted to treatment centers in the US for painkiller addiction from 1992 to 2013; opioid-related deaths from 1999 to 2013; and the amount of prescription opioids legally sold to each US state from 2000 to 2011. They found that in states that maintain medical marijuana dispensaries, opioid painkillers are being prescribed at a similar rate to those state without marijuana dispensaries.
That suggests that most of the reductions in addiction and overdoses in states with marijuana dispensaries result from people seeking medical marijuana to alleviate their pain, as opposed to obtaining painkillers illegally. Additionally, they found that legalizing medical marijuana alone didn’t correlate with a decrease in addiction to and overdoses of opioid painkillers. Only states with laws protecting dispensaries saw the decrease.
There were an estimated 2.1 million people suffering from opioid substance abuse disorders in American in 2012, in a problem the Centers for Disease Control has dubbed an “epidemic.” While opioid painkillers (pdf) such as Vicodin, OxyContin, and Methadone can cause individuals to stop breathing if they overdose, it is almost impossible to overdose on marijuana.
The notion that medical marijuana is a safer alternative to opioid painkillers could be influential in boosting the number of US states (which currently stands at 24 plus the District of Columbia) that allow marijuana for medical use.
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Combination Of Medical Marijuana, Opioids Does Not Increase Substance Abuse Risk, Study Finds

With nearly half of the country having already legalized the use of cannabis for medical purposes, physicians prescribing opioids for pain management have another alternative at their disposal. As medical marijuana laws become more relaxed, practitioners now have the option of treating chronic pain patients with prescription opioids, medical cannabis or both. Among many, however, there’s a concern about the adverse effects in patients using both.

A new study in the May issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, a peer-review scientific journal focusing on substance-related issues, found that using medical marijuana along with prescribed opioids does not increase the likelihood of a patient abusing alcohol or other drugs. Researchers examined the data from 273 patients already receiving medical marijuana at a clinic in Michigan.

Taking the total number of study participants into account, more than 60% had admitted to using a combination of both medical marijuana and prescription opioids within the past month. The rate of co-occurring substance use between those who took prescription pain medication while using cannabis for medical purposes and those did not were similar — there were no significant differences, the report found.

Interestingly enough, subjects did report higher rates of alcohol and other drug use than the general population. There was no difference, however, between medical marijuana users who ingested prescription opioids and those participants who did not.

“In states where medical marijuana is legal, physicians should be aware that medical marijuana is a potentially safer and more effective treatment approach than opioids,” said lead study author Brian Perron, who has a doctorate from the School of Social Work at the University of Michigan.

(AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File)

A 2014 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine revealed that there were 25% fewer opioid-related deaths in states allowing the use of medical marijuana for patients suffering from chronic pain related to cancer and other conditions. The report, led by researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, reviewed deaths caused by opioid overdoses between 1999 and 2010.

Perron and his colleagues are looking into a longitudinal study, which will examine participants over the course of two years, on the topic to find out if patients will eventually develop substance abuse issues in the future. According to their grant proposal, “The resulting data will inform the debate surrounding medical marijuana use and could help shape strategies to identify and intervene with individuals at risk for problems related to substance use.”

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) classifies opioid misuse, abuse and overdose as an epidemic. Earlier this year, the CDC revealed that there were 16,235 deaths involving prescription opioids in 2013, an increase of 1% from 2012. In response, the CDC launched several initiatives. One of them included a campaign, titled “When the Prescription Becomes the Problem,” last month at the fourth annual National RX Drug Abuse Summit. The social media activity, designed to raise awareness of prescription painkiller abuse and overdose, ended on May 15 of this year.

Follow CJ on Forbes and Twitter for more coverage of end-of-life care and the culture of medicine.

10 diseases where medical marijuana could have impact

Dr. Sanjay Gupta puts medical marijuana under the microscope again with “WEED 3: The Marijuana Revolution” at 9 p.m. ET Sunday on CNN.

(CNN)Dr. Sue Sisley noticed an unexpected trend among her patients. The psychiatrist works with veterans who struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder, also known as PTSD. Many don’t like how they feel on all the meds they take to manage their anxiety, sleeplessness, depression and the flashbacks.

“There’s just a few medications on the market that work, and even these can be inadequate,” Sisley said. “They end up getting stuck on eight, 10, 12 different medications, and after taking so many, suddenly they’re like zombies.”

Some of these patients though were starting to feel better. They also seemed much more present. She wanted to know what was making a difference. They told her they found an alternative to all those medicines.

They were self-medicating with marijuana.

“I was really stunned and more and more patients were coming out of the shadows and disclosing to me that they were having some useful experiences with the marijuana plant,” Sisley said.

Drug addicted vets get a second chance

She appreciated the progress they said they were making, but like any good scientist she didn’t want to rely on anecdotal evidence. She wanted documented proof, clinical trials of large patient populations that run in the gold standard of a peer-reviewed journal that marijuana was the right approach to treating PTSD, or any other ailment for that matter. People use it to treat a variety of medical issues, such as multiple sclerosis, arthritis, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV, chronic pain, Alzheimer’s, cancer and others.

With medical marijuana legal in nearly half of the states, more doctors are wondering what impact this drug really has on people. They ask for dosage information. They want to know about its long-term impact on patients.

It’s 2015: Is weed legal in your state?

Sisley looked for answers to these questions in medical research, but she didn’t see much. When she decided to do the studies herself and applied for federal approval, she was met with miles of red tape and resistance — like many other researchers before her.

That’s because marijuana is one of the tightest-controlled substances under federal law. The U.S. government considers it a Schedule I drug, meaning the Drug Enforcement Administrationconsiders it to have no medical value. It’s right up there with heroin and LSD. To do research on marijuana, scientists need approval from several federal departments. And that approval is rare.

Most marijuana studies focus on the harm caused by the plant. The studies on its medicinal qualities are small, early stage or observational at best. “Mainstream physicians won’t come near the stuff, even if they hear that it works, because without the research, without it approved in legitimate practice guidelines, they are going to worry about their license and their professionalism,” Sisley said. “That’s why it is key to have randomized control trials for this to work.”

Medical marijuana stalls after Arizona researcher let go

A bipartisan bill — from Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, Cory Booker, D-New Jersey, and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York — called the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States Act of 2015 was introduced in the Senate in March that would ease some of those restrictions and make it easier to study the drug. But the legislation is in committee at the moment. If it does ever pass, and scientists can begin studying the drug in earnest, there are several areas they may target in addition to PTSD.

Here are 10 of them, based on the ailments people commonly use medical marijuana to treat. Again, because there is such limited research on this topic, these areas are based on results that CNN would typically not report on because the work is in a far too early stage to see if it really works. But that is the point some doctors and medical researchers are making.

AIDS/HIV

In a human study of 10 HIV-positive marijuana smokers, scientists found people who smoked marijuana ate better, slept better and experienced a better mood. Another small study of 50 people found patients that smoked cannabis saw less neuropathic pain.

Alzheimer’s

Medical marijuana and some of the plant’s chemicals have been used to help Alzheimer’spatients gain weight, and research found that it lessens some of the agitated behavior thatpatients can exhibit. In one cell study, researchers found it slowed the progress of protein deposits in the brain. Scientists think these proteins may be part of what causes Alzheimer’s, although no one knows what causes the disease.

Arthritis

A study of 58 patients using the derivatives of marijuana found they had less arthritis pain and slept better. Another review of studies concluded marijuana may help fight pain-causing inflammation.

Asthma

Studies are contradictory, but some early work suggests it reduced exercise-induced asthma. Other cell studies showed smoking marijuana could dilate human airways, but some patients experienced a tight feeling in their chests and throats. A study in mice found similar results.

Cancer

Animal studies have shown some marijuana extracts may kill certain cancer cells. Other cell studies show it may stop cancer growth, and with mice, THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, improved the impact of radiation on cancer cells. Marijuana can also prevent the nausea that often accompanies chemotherapy treatment used to treat cancer.

Chronic pain

Some animal and small human studies show that cannabinoids can have a “substantial analgesic effect.” People widely used them for pain relief in the 1800s. Some medicines based on cannabis such as Sativex are being tested on multiple sclerosis patients and used to treat cancer pain. The drug has been approved in Canada and in some European countries. In another trial involving 56 human patients, scientists saw a 30% reduction in pain in those who smoked marijuana.

Crohn’s disease

In a small pilot study of 13 patients watched over three months, researchers found inhaled cannabis did improve life for people suffering from ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. It helped ease people’s pain, limited the frequency of diarrhea and helped with weight gain.

Epilepsy

Medical marijuana extract in early trials at the NYU Langone Medical Center showed a 50% reduction in the frequency of certain seizures in children and adults in a study of 213 patients recently.

Glaucoma

Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness. Scientists have looked at THC’s impact on this disease on the optic nerve and found it can lower eye pressure, but it may also lower blood pressure, which could harm the optic nerve due to a reduced blood supply. THC can also help preserve the nerves, a small study found.

Multiple sclerosis

Using marijuana or some of the chemicals in the plant may help prevent muscle spasms, pain, tremors and stiffness, according to early-stage, mostly observational studies involving animals, lab tests and a small number of human patients. The downside — it may impair memory, according to a small study involving 20 patients.

Cannabinoid Physiology: Influence on Metabolism and Body Fat Regulation

There is accumulating scientific evidence that theendocannabinoid system plays an important role in how the body regulates energy (calorie) balance, as well as carbohydrate and fat metabolism. As such, the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is an oft-overlooked key in the regulation of body weight and body composition (note: “body composition” here refers to the relative amounts of lean mass and body fat).

Scientists have uncovered that endo/phytocannabinoids act via central (brain) and peripheral (gut, liver, muscle and fat) mechanisms. Central control of appetite, satiety, cravings, and food-seeking behavior involves a complex interplay between various centers of the brain. Different areas of the brain receive information in the form of nutrients, hormones, and signaling molecules from body fat tissue, the gut, blood, and peripheral sensory receptors.

It is accepted that endocannabinoids and certain naturally occurring phytocannabinoids in cannabis activate cannabinoid receptors type 1 and type 2 (CB1 and CB2 receptors), in addition to various other G-protein coupled receptor families (e.g., TRPV1, GPR55 and others). The CB1 receptor is believed to be responsible for most of the central effects of cannabinoids on hunger/satiety centers of the brain that affects appetite and energy intake.

Moreover, CB1 receptors have also been discovered to exist in the peripheral tissues outside of the brain, including key organs such as adipose (fat), liver, gut, pancreas, and skeletal muscle. The interplay of these central and peripheral mechanisms and their effects on body weight and body composition is currently under intense scrutiny.

Interestingly, over-activation of the endocannabinoid system, primarily via CB1 activation, has been suggested to contribute to increased abdominal obesity, glucose uptake into adipocytes (fat cells), and insulin resistance in muscle. This “metabolic dysfunction” sets up a vicious cycle whereby further insulin resistance in muscle and liver increases abdominal obesity and further CB1 over-activation, resulting in greater food-seeking behavior and increased appetite.

metabolic dysfunction's influence on appetite and weight loss

Animal studies have supported this hypothesis by showing that stimulation of CB1 receptor with anandamide induces both increased food intake and body weight gain. Proof-of-concept of the potential effectiveness of CB1 receptor blockade in humans has been established with preclinical and clinical studies of rimonabant, the CB1 receptor reverse agonist (i.e., it induces an opposite response vs. CB1 activators).

These studies have uncovered not only a reduction in food intake, but also improvements in body composition (e.g., preferential losses of body fat while retaining lean mass). In addition, treatment with rimonabant was accompanied by improvements in cardiometabolic risk factors beyond what would have been expected with weight loss alone.

Another study published in 2012 by Farrimond et al. examining the effects of different phytocannabinoids, such as cannabinol and cannabidiol, on feeding patterns in rats supports the theory that different cannabinoids modulate CB-1 receptors and hence appetite and metabolism with opposing effects. This study demonstrated that cannabinol increased food intake and body weight gain, while cannabidiol decreased food consumption and weight gain. Cannabigerol had a neutral effect on chow consumption and feeding behavior in this particular rat study.

Collectively, these studies have clearly demonstrated that dysregulation of cannabinoid physiology can have detrimental effects on whole body energy (calorie) homeostasis, glucose and lipid metabolism, and body composition. Conversely, optimizing ECS tone appears to have beneficial effects on metabolism and body composition regulation.

References:

Geurts L, Everard A, Van Hul M, Essaghir A, Duparc T, Matamoros S, Plovier H, Castel J, Denis RG, Bergiers M, Druart C, Alhouayek M, Delzenne NM, Muccioli GG, Demoulin JB, Luquet S, Cani PD. Adipose tissue NAPE-PLD controls fat mass development by altering the browning process and gut microbiota. Nat Commun. 2015. Mar 11;6:6495.

Di Marzo V. The endocannabinoid system in obesity and type 2 diabetes. Diabetologia. 2008 Aug;51(8):1356-67.

Romero-Zerbo SY, Bermúdez-Silva FJ. Cannabinoids, eating behaviour, and energy homeostasis. Drug Test Anal. 2014 Jan-Feb;6(1-2):52-8.

Després JP. The endocannabinoid system: a new target for the regulation of energy balance and metabolism. Crit Pathw Cardiol. 2007 Jun;6(2):46-50.

Rosenson RS. Role of the endocannabinoid system in abdominal obesity and the implications for cardiovascular risk. Cardiology. 2009;114(3):212-25.

Di Marzo V, Piscitelli F, Mechoulam R. Cannabinoids and endocannabinoids in metabolic disorders with focus on diabetes. Handb Exp Pharmacol. 2011;(203):75-104.

Liu B, Song S, Jones PM, Persaud SJ. GPR55: from orphan to metabolic regulator? Pharmacol Ther. 2015 Jan;145:35-42.

Farrimond JA, Whalley BJ, Williams CM. Cannabinol and cannabidiol exert opposing effects on rat feeding patterns. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2012 Sep;223(1):117-29.

Marijuana may be even safer than previously thought, researchers say

New study: We should stop fighting marijuana legalization and focus on alcohol and tobacco instead

By Christopher Ingraham February 23 at 9:10 AM
Compared to other recreational drugs — including alcohol — marijuana may be even safer than previously thought. And researchers may be systematically underestimating risks associated with alcohol use.

Those are the topline findings of recent research published in the journal Scientific Reports, a subsidiary of Nature. Researchers sought to quantify the risk of death associated with the use of a variety of commonly-used substances. They found that at the level of individual use, alcohol was the deadliest substance, followed by heroin and cocaine.

And all the way at the bottom of the list? Weed — roughly 114 times less deadly than booze, according to the authors, who ran calculations that compared lethal doses of a given substance with the amount that a typical person uses. Marijuana is also the only drug studied that posed low mortality risk to its users.

These findings reinforce drug safety rankings developed 10 years ago under a slightly different methodology. So in that respect, the study is more of a reaffirmation of previous findings than anything else. But given the current national and international debates over the legal status of marijuana and the risks associated with its use, the study arrives at a good time.

It’s important to note here that “safer than alcohol” doesn’t mean “safe, full stop.” Indeed, one of the more troubling lines of thought I see in some quarters of the marijuana legalization movement is that because marijuana is “natural,” or because it can be used as (non-FDA approved) “medicine,” it is therefore “safe.”

But of course, rattlesnake venom is natural too, and nobody would call that safe. And prescription painkillers are both medicinal and responsible for tens of thousands of deaths each year.

There are any number of risks associated with marijuana use. Most of these risks involve mental health issues, and most increase the earlier you start using and the more frequently you use.

That said, there are risks associated with literally anything you put in your body. Eat too much sugar and you’re on the fast track to tooth-rot and diabetes. Take in too much salt and you’re looking at increased odds of a stroke. Psychoactive substances, like marijuana and alcohol, aren’t at all unique for having risks associated with them.

What is unique is how these substances are treated under the law, and particularly the way in which alcohol and nicotine essentially get a free pass under the Controlled Substances Act, the cornerstone of the nation’s drug policy. This study’s authors note that legislative classifications of psychoactive drugs often “lack a scientific basis,” and their findings are confirmation of this fact.

Given the relative risks associated with marijuana and alcohol, the authors recommend “risk management prioritization towards alcohol and tobacco rather than illicit drugs.” And they say that when it comes to marijuana, the low amounts of risk associated with the drug “suggest a strict legal regulatory approach rather than the current prohibition approach.”

In other words, individuals and organizations up in arms over marijuana legalization could have a greater impact on the health and well-being of this country by shifting their attention to alcohol and cigarettes. It takes extraordinary chutzpah to rail against the dangers of marijuana use by day and then go home to unwind with a glass of far more lethal stuff in the evening.

Christopher Ingraham writes about politics, drug policy and all things data. He previously worked at the Brookings Institution and the Pew Research Center.

Members of congress stand up for Medical Marijuana shops

By Christopher Ingraham February 23 at 9:10 AM
Compared to other recreational drugs — including alcohol — marijuana may be even safer than previously thought. And researchers may be systematically underestimating risks associated with alcohol use.

Those are the topline findings of recent research published in the journal Scientific Reports, a subsidiary of Nature. Researchers sought to quantify the risk of death associated with the use of a variety of commonly-used substances. They found that at the level of individual use, alcohol was the deadliest substance, followed by heroin and cocaine.

Roughly 114 times less deadly than booze, according to the authors, who ran calculations that compared lethal doses of a given substance with the amount that a typical person uses. Marijuana is also the only drug studied that posed low mortality risk to its users.
These findings reinforce drug safety rankings developed 10 years ago under a slightly different methodology. So in that respect, the study is more of a reaffirmation of previous findings than anything else. But given the current national and international debates over the legal status of marijuana and the risks associated with its use, the study arrives at a good time.

It’s important to note here that “safer than alcohol” doesn’t mean “safe, full stop.” Indeed, one of the more troubling lines of thought I see in some quarters of the marijuana legalization movement is that because marijuana is “natural,” or because it can be used as (non-FDA approved) “medicine,” it is therefore “safe.”

But of course, rattlesnake venom is natural too, and nobody would call that safe. And prescription painkillers are both medicinal and responsible for tens of thousands of deaths each year.

There are any number of risks associated with marijuana use. Most of these risks involve mental health issues, and most increase the earlier you start using and the more frequently you use.

That said, there are risks associated with literally anything you put in your body. Eat too much sugar and you’re on the fast track to tooth-rot and diabetes. Take in too much salt and you’re looking at increased odds of a stroke. Psychoactive substances, like marijuana and alcohol, aren’t at all unique for having risks associated with them.

What is unique is how these substances are treated under the law, and particularly the way in which alcohol and nicotine essentially get a free pass under the Controlled Substances Act, the cornerstone of the nation’s drug policy. This study’s authors note that legislative classifications of psychoactive drugs often “lack a scientific basis,” and their findings are confirmation of this fact.

Given the relative risks associated with marijuana and alcohol, the authors recommend “risk management prioritization towards alcohol and tobacco rather than illicit drugs.” And they say that when it comes to marijuana, the low amounts of risk associated with the drug “suggest a strict legal regulatory approach rather than the current prohibition approach.”

In other words, individuals and organizations up in arms over marijuana legalization could have a greater impact on the health and well-being of this country by shifting their attention to alcohol and cigarettes. It takes extraordinary chutzpah to rail against the dangers of marijuana use by day and then go home to unwind with a glass of far more lethal stuff in the evening.

Christopher Ingraham writes about politics, drug policy and all things data. He previously worked at the Brookings Institution and the Pew Research Center.

Stop denying Veterans access to medicine !Please read and sign our petition !

 https://www.change.org/p/jeffrey-t-gering-stop-denying-veterans-access-to-the-medicine-they-need
Petitioning Acting Director of VA Desert Pacific and CEO of VA San Diego Healthcare Systems Jeffrey T. Gering and 2 others

This petition will be delivered to:

Acting Director of VA Desert Pacific and CEO of VA San Diego Healthcare Systems

Jeffrey T. Gering
National Center for Ethics in Health Care

Ethics Committee
Secratary of Veteran Affairs

Secretary Robert A. McDonald

Stop denying veterans access to the medicine they need.

Veterans in California are being denied services because one man disagrees with medical marijuana. The director of my local health care system, Jeffrey T. Gering, has chosen to deny veterans the medicine they need based on his personal opinion about the drug. Marijuana for medical use is legal in California, and many veterans use it to help deal with various health issues, including pain. They should not be penalized for using a drug that is legal. Tell Jeffrey T. Gering to stop discriminating against veterans who use medicinal marijuana and follow national VA policy.

Opiates are often used as a last resort when other pain relievers, including marijuana, have proven to be too weak. National VA policy states thatpatients participating in State marijuana programs must not be denied VHA services, yet Gering refuses to change his policy and by doing so puts many veterans at risk.

My name is Marcus Boyd. I am the Vice Chairperson of San Diego Americans for Safe Access and a service related disabled veteran. I use marijuana as my prefered pain reliever and I have been working to achieve safe access to medicinal marijuana for others for the past five years. While I make a conscious choice not to use opiates, if my pain gets worse, I want that option. Some vets, however, have no choice.  Often times those who use marijuana also need the more powerful opiate option to deal with their pain.

In November of 2014 after pressure from groups like mine, and his own ethics committee Director Gering promised to restore the local VA policy to align with national policy. However, this has yet to happen and every day he stalls, more vets are having to suffer.

Veterans have earned high quality health care and should not be discriminated against for using marijuana legally. If VA national policy allows for vets to have access to both opiates and marijuana then Director Gering shouldn’t take it upon himself to decide otherwise.

Tell Director Jeffrey T. Gering to stop putting his personal beliefs ahead of the health of veterans. Vets should have access to the medicine they need.

Veterans May Gain Easier Access To Medical Marijuana

safe_imageveteransA bill introduced in Congress would allow Department of Veterans Affairs doctors to recommend medical marijuana for their patients. bill introduced in Congress would allow DepartmentThe Veterans Equal Access Act. Introduced Thursday by Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) with 10 bipartisan cosponsors, would lift a ban on VA doctors giving opinions or recommendations about medical marijuana to veterans who live in states where medical marijuana is permitted.

“Post traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury are just as damaging and harmful as any injuries that are visible from the outside,” Blumenauer said. “Sometimes even more so because of the devastating effect they can have on a veteran’s family. We should be allowing these wounded warriors access to the medicine that will help them survive and thrive, including medical marijuana, not treating them like criminals and forcing them into the shadows. It’s shameful.”

Nearly 30 percent of veterans who served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars suffer from PTSD and depression, according to a 2012 report from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Some scientists have suggested that marijuana may help PTSD symptoms, which can include anxiety, flashbacks and depression. In a recent study, patients who smoked cannabis saw an average 75 percent reduction in PTSD symptoms.

“A clinical trial needs to be done to see what proportion and what kind of PTSD patients benefit, with either cannabis or the main active ingredients of cannabis,” said Dr. George Greer, who was involved in the study.

This year, federal health officials signed off on a study that would have examined the effects of five potencies of smoked or vaporized cannabis on 50 veterans suffering from PTSD. The study’s future still remains unclear because the federal government’s sole provider of medical-grade cannabis didn’t have the proper strains for the research to begin. Then the study’s lead scientist was fired from the University of Arizona, where the research would have taken place.

Currently, 23 states allow the medical use of marijuana. Ten of those states, as well as Guam which legalized medical marijuana this month, allow doctors to recommend medical marijuana for PTSD-related symptoms. The plant remains illegal under federal law for all uses.

ALSO ON HUFFPOST:

Marijuana Drastically Shrinks Aggressive Form Of Brain Cancer, New Study Finds

Over the past few years, research has revealed that marijuana can both destroy certain cancer cells and reduce the growth of others. Now, a new study in mice has found that when combined with radiation treatment, cannabis can effectively shrink one of the most aggressive types of brain tumors.

In a paper published Friday in the journal Molecular Cancer Therapies, a team of researchers from St. George’s University of London outlined the “dramatic reductions” they observed in high-grade glioma masses, a deadly form of brain cancer, when treated with a combination of radiation and two different marijuana compounds, also known as cannabinoids. In many cases, those tumors shrunk to as low as one-tenth the sizes of those in the control group.

“We’ve shown that cannabinoids could play a role in treating one of the most aggressive cancers in adults,” Dr. Wai Liu, one of the study’s lead authors, wrote in an op-ed earlier this week. “The results are promising…it could provide a way of breaking through glioma and saving more lives.”

NETHERLANDS-DRUGS-MARIJUANAIn an email to The Huffington Post, Liu pointed out that while research surrounding marijuana’s cancer-fighting properties is nothing new, his team is the first to document its effect on the disease when used alongside radiation. “The results showed that the final effect was superior to the sum of the parts,” he said. “Hopefully, these results will support calls for formal trials in humans to test these combinations.”

Liu and his colleagues examined mice that had been infected with glioma and subsequently treated with radiation alone or in combination with varying levels of two cannabis compounds: THC, the psychoactive compound associated with the “high” sensation, and CBD, which doesn’t produce psychoactive side effects.

They found that the tumors were best treated by low doses of both THC and CBD that, when used in concert, made the tumors more receptive to radiation treatment. “Our data suggests a ‘triple threat’ approach using all three may be of value,” Liu told HuffPost.

The researchers also found that together, the low doses of THC and CBD produced a similar effect to a large dose of either compound, which is noteworthy because it indicates that patients may ultimately experience fewer side effects.

THC and CBD are just two of the dozens of chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant. While research surrounding the therapeutic effects of these compounds has been limited, a team of scientists from the U.K. last year found that a combination of six different purified cannabinoids can kill the cancerous cells found in individuals with leukemia.

Meanwhile, when used alone as a form of treatment, THC has been shown to reduce the size of other cancerous tumors and stop the spread of HIV, and CBD strains of marijuana have had a profound effect on children and adults who suffer from debilitating seizure disorders.

Despite these findings, marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I drug in the United States, meaning the federal government believes it has no medicinal value. The federally-funded National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) grows a limited supply of marijuana in Mississippi, which is used for government sanctioned research. Whilecritics have long accused NIDA of only funding experiments that examine the substance’s negative effects, the agency has conducted a handful of studies that look at its potential benefits.

Although 23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes, many experts argue that the lack of federally regulated studies of cannabis limits doctors’ and scientists’ understanding of the full medical benefits of the plant, resulting instead in a trial-and-error attitude towards treatment.

“You can find publications from the ’70s and ’80s that show pure cannabidiol is an anti-convulsant,” Catherine Jacobson, the director of research at the Epilepsy Foundation, told HuffPost last month. “And here we are 40 years later and we still don’t have any new information about this.”

RELATED ON HUFFPOST:

Congress quietly ends federal government’s ban on medical marijuana

By EVAN HALPER
Nation Politics and Government

Tucked deep inside the 1,603-page federal spending measure is a provision that effectively ends the federal government’s prohibition on medical marijuana and signals a major shift in drug policy.

The bill’s passage over the weekend marks the first time Congress has approved nationally significant legislation backed by legalization advocates. It brings almost to a close two decades of tension between the states and Washington over medical use of marijuana.

Under the provision, states where medical pot is legal would no longer need to worry about federal drug agents raiding retail operations. Agents would be prohibited from doing so.

Should the U.S. legalize marijuana?
Bloomberg’s Olivia Sterns reports on the New York Times’ advocacy of the legalization of marijuana.
The Obama administration has largely followed that rule since last year as a matter of policy. But the measure approved as part of the spending bill, which President Obama plans to sign this week, will codify it as a matter of law.

Pot advocates had lobbied Congress to embrace the administration’s policy, which they warned was vulnerable to revision under a less tolerant future administration.

More important, from the standpoint of activists, Congress’ action marked the emergence of a new alliance in marijuana politics: Republicans are taking a prominent role in backing states’ right to allow use of a drug the federal government still officially classifies as more dangerous than cocaine.

“This is a victory for so many,” said the measure’s coauthor, Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of Costa Mesa. The measure’s approval, he said, represents “the first time in decades that the federal government has curtailed its oppressive prohibition of marijuana.”

By now, 32 states and the District of Columbia have legalized pot or its ingredients to treat ailments, a movement that began in the 1990s. Even back then, some states had been approving broader decriminalization measures for two decades.

The medical marijuana movement has picked up considerable momentum in recent years. The Drug Enforcement Administration, however, continues to place marijuana in the most dangerous category of narcotics, with no accepted medical use.

Congress for years had resisted calls to allow states to chart their own path on pot. The marijuana measure, which forbids the federal government from using any of its resources to impede state medical marijuana laws, was previously rejected half a dozen times. When Washington, D.C., voters approved medical marijuana in 1998, Congress used its authority over the city’s affairs to block the law from taking effect for 11 years.

Even as Congress has shifted ground on medical marijuana, lawmakers remain uneasy about full legalization. A separate amendment to the spending package, tacked on at the behest of anti-marijuana crusader Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.), will jeopardize the legalization of recreational pot in Washington, D.C., which voters approved last month.

Marijuana proponents nonetheless said they felt more confident than ever that Congress was drifting toward their point of view.

“The war on medical marijuana is over,” said Bill Piper, a lobbyist with the Drug Policy Alliance, who called the move historic.

“Now the fight moves on to legalization of all marijuana,” he said. “This is the strongest signal we have received from Congress [that] the politics have really shifted. … Congress has been slow to catch up with the states and American people, but it is catching up.”

The measure, which Rohrabacher championed with Rep. Sam Farr, a Democrat from Carmel, had the support of large numbers of Democrats for years. Enough Republicans joined them this year to put it over the top. When the House first passed the measure earlier this year, 49 Republicans voted aye.

Some Republicans are pivoting off their traditional anti-drug platform at a time when most voters live in states where medical marijuana is legal, in many cases as a result of ballot measures.

Polls show that while Republican voters are far less likely than the broader public to support outright legalization, they favor allowing marijuana for medical use by a commanding majority. Legalization also has great appeal to millennials, a demographic group with which Republicans are aggressively trying to make inroads.

Approval of the pot measure comes after the Obama administration directed federal prosecutors last year to stop enforcing drug laws that contradict state marijuana policies. Since then, federal raids of marijuana merchants and growers who are operating legally in their states have been limited to those accused of other violations, such as money laundering.

“The federal government should never get in between patients and their medicine,” said Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland).

evan.halper@latimes.com

http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-medical-pot-20141216-story.html

Laguna Niguel Man Brings Pot to Seniors

By PETER SCHELDEN / THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

LAGUNA NIGUEL – Bad experiences with marijuana dispensaries in Santa Ana, Lake Forest and Dana Point led Bill Leber into the world of weed.

While they all followed the law and required a doctor’s approval, Leber said the dispensaries he visited were run by young people, sometimes in seedy neighborhoods. After watching a “terrified” woman in her 70s try to buy marijuana from one, he decided it was time to give seniors an alternative.

Leber started Golden Angels Seniors Collective, a mobile dispensary. He said he has scrupulously followed state law and the Attorney General’s recommendations on how to form a collective.

Still, Leber’s collective is illegal under city laws, Community Development Director Dan Fox said. The City Council passed an ordinance in July prohibiting marijuana dispensaries and “use, cultivation or dispensing of marijuana” in Laguna Niguel.

“This does apply to mobile delivery services,” Fox said.

In San Clemente, which has a similar law, enforcement has proven difficult. Brent Panas, a San Clemente code enforcement official, said his department can’t cite mobile dispensaries unless they are caught in the act, which is difficult with a small staff.

Laguna Niguel has not stopped Leber from running his collective. He was, however, turned away from a recent health fair at the senior and community center because of city laws, an example of the legal issues associated with medical marijuana use he wants to educate seniors about.

A serious digestive problem that put Leber in the hospital is what led him to medical marijuana. A friend told him to try it for nausea.

“I had a 30 percent chance of making it out of the hospital,” Leber said.

He had tried the drug in high school, at the time deciding it wasn’t for him. During his illness, he found pot relieved his nausea without the side effects of prescription medicine. And he credits marijuana for getting him off two blood pressure medications.

Leber doesn’t fit the typical image of a marijuana user. A lifelong Republican and U.S. Army veteran in his 50s who voted for Ronald Reagan and belonged to the Young Republicans for Richard Nixon, Leber is active in the Rotary Club, the American Legion and local charity work. He said his marijuana use and advocacy would surprise even him, prior to his hospitalization more than a year ago.

“If you had told me before April 2009 that I’d be involved in this, I’d say you were nuts,” he said.

The city is taking a wait-and-see approach to pot. Legal issues may be resolved by courts by the time the city’s moratorium expires in July 2011.

Unlike the city, Leber decided too many local seniors “don’t have much time.”

One of his clients is having a double-mastectomy Friday. He said marijuana has helped ease her anxiety, increase her appetite during chemotherapy and has helped her back off from powerful pain medications.

“It isn’t recreational use for these people,” he said.

For full article: http://www.ocregister.com/news/marijuana-266043-leber-city.html