Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Latest Research on Medicinal Cannabis' Possible Future Uses

Sorry I haven't posted for a while, but I had important family business to attend to. Rather than rehash the last six months of research, I'll provide some links to some of the latest media releases on cannabinoid research.

Cannabinoids Linked to Colon Cancer Prevention:

Interferon-based therapy for chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is often limited by side effects including flu-like symptoms, fatigue, insomnia, loss of appetite, nausea, muscle and joint pain, and depression, which can lead to poor adherence, dose reduction, or treatment discontinuation.

Medicinal cannabis may relieve such side effects and help patients stay on treatment, according to a study published in the October 2006 European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

..and finally, an example of the ongoing conflict btween US Federal and State Laws:

DEA Raids State Medical Marijuana Dispensary

Friday, May 16, 2008

Cannabis Link to Heart Attack/Stroke Full of Flaws

It's all over the online press; 'Marijuana Use Linked to Heart Attack/Stroke' - 'Cannabis Could Cause Stroke'. On the face of it, and according to the summaries and interviews that have flooded the web in the past few days, it appears cannabis users are all doomed to die of heart disease.

If you haven't seen the headlines, I'll give you a sample to check out:

'Marijuana Use May Raise Risk of Heart Attack/Stroke' -
US News and Global Report

'Study Finds Possible Connection Between Marijuana Abuse And Stroke or Heart Attacks' -
Armenian Medical Network

'Marijuana May up Heart Attack/Stroke Risk: Study' -
Yahoo Health News

But then, someone smells a rat and digs a little deeper to find that there is something strange going on. Russ Belville, podcaster over at NORML, checked the figures and discovered exactly how misleading the mainstream media must be. You can read the above link to the blog, or check the NORML blog with much the same but prettier coding.

A U.S. group supporting legal sales and regulation of marijuana disputed the findings. Marijuana Policy Project spokesman Bruce Mirken said, for example, the study involved people who were extremely heavy users.

“I think the low end was 78 joints a week. That’s 10 or 11 joints a day,” Mirken said in a telephone interview.

“We’re talking about people who are stoned all the time. We’re talking about the marijuana equivalent of the guy in the alley clutching a bottle of cheap wine. If you do anything to that level of excess, it might well have some untoward effects, whether it’s marijuana or wine or broccoli,” Mirken added.

“Even if you take this finding at face value, it’s not at all clear that it has any relevance to the real world because there is still no data showing higher rates of mortality among marijuana smokers. If this was a significant cause of cardiovascular disease, where are the bodies?”

So instead of us smokers being the next wave of dead people, we're just being mislead with extreme science.
Russ Belville sorts the figures:

Mirken’s right. 78 to 350 joints a week? That’s 11 to 50 joints per day. Let’s see, the government-rolled joints weigh in at about ¾ gram each (you do know there are official US Federal Government joints, right?), but the folks I know roll them a bit bigger (even to the ridiculous cubit-sized 70-gram models). However, most researchers seem happy with the ¾ gram model, so let’s do the math:

Low-end = 11 joints/day = 11 x 0.75g = 8.25g/day = about 2 ounces / week
High-end = 50 joints/day = 50 x 0.75g = 37.5g/day = over 9 ounces / week

So if you are consuming daily enough cannabis to equal about one-half to two-and-one-half pounds per month, then you might run an increased risk of stroke, heart attack, and heart disease. Personally, I’m thinking that at $300 per ounce, you’re more likely to run the risk of bankruptcy!

Yet still, note that the study doesn’t check to see if the heavy marijuana users actually do have heart disease. The research done on the health effects of even heavy marijuana smokers show little if any difference between cannabis users and their non-using counterparts, and some studies even show a benefit from cannabis in treating hypertension.

However, overeating, drinking alcohol, and smoking tobacco are proven to have deleterious effects on the heart and on health. I doubt we’re going to see any major effort to arrest the users of those substances, though.

More information can be found at the Marijuana Policy Project website

After seeing this article, I got curious and find some average cannabis consumption rates from the real world. Now, I couldn't just go out and ask folks this sort of question, so I went where I knew I could get some pretty accurate answers. My online friends at Rollitup.org are helping to build a picture of average daily usage by smokers.

If you read this and you smoke, pop over and see the figures so far (this site is for 18+ Internet users sorry) Maybe you could join and contribute with your daily average usage.

Twelve hours into the poll, 42 punters have given their input with 40% of people being in the 1 to 2 gram window. There are only 4 users, or 9.5% that are doing more than 7 grams a day.
Hopefully this poll will get a few more contributing to get a good picture.
Personally, I doubt that we'll see a huge number of 7 gram plus smokers.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Anti-pot Blogger Censors and Deletes Pro-cannabis Comments

Time to rant. I was going to try and keep this blog civil. However...

I was polite. I pointed out his profile description and then suggested he do some research on the report he was quoting. I then pointed out how the ONDCP Director is obliged to discount or discredit any reports that might suggest that cannabis has medicinal uses. I then pointed the blog author to some research about cannabis and directed him to my blog.

I posted the comment and a couple of hours later I'd been banned from the comments page. The comment had gone up originally because I checked. I guess facts mean nothing to this author, so I'll respond to the blog post here. I won't pull the entire post apart though. My responses are inline (the bold text in the quote was added by Avi Green):

Teens who smoke cannabis risk being on dependency leash and mental illness

A new report being released by the US government warns of the hazards teenagers can face:
WASHINGTON - Depression, teens and marijuana are a dangerous mix that can lead to dependency, mental illness or suicidal thoughts, according to a White House report being released Friday.

A teen who has been depressed at some point in the past year is more than twice as likely to have used marijuana as teens who have not reported being depressed — 25 percent compared with 12 percent, said the report by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

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

Smoking marijuana can lead to more serious problems, Walters said in an interview.

For example, using marijuana increases the risk of developing mental disorders by 40 percent, the report said. And teens who smoke pot at least once a month over a yearlong period are three times more likely to have suicidal thoughts than nonusers, it said.

The report also cited research that showed that teens who smoke marijuana when feeling depressed were more than twice as likely as their peers to abuse or become addicted to pot — 8 percent compared with 3 percent.

Experts who have worked with children say there's nothing harmless about marijuana.

"I've seen many, many kids' lives negatively impacted and taken off track because of marijuana," said Elizabeth Stanley-Salazar, director of adolescent services for Phoenix House treatment centers in California. "It's somewhat Russian roulette. There are so many factors, emotional, psychological, biological. You can't predict the experimentation and how it will impact a kid."

The drug control policy office analyzed about a dozen studies looking at marijuana use, including research by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Overall, marijuana use among teens has decreased 25 percent since 2001, down to about 2.3 million kids who used pot at least once a month, the drug control office said.

While the drop is encouraging, Walters appealed to parents to recognize signs of possible drug use and depression.

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

In the first part of my comment to Avi, I quoted his 'profile' statement:

"...I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I do not know if I'll ever be as good as him, but I do my best."

I think I then suggested that rather than take one link to a Yahoo news post as reference, look for the original report from the ONDCP (PDF) and then check up the sources that the ONDCP has cited. Then do some research for anything that may contradict those reports and studies. I then explained to him how the Director of the ONDCP is obliged to lie when it comes to the cannabis debate. I chose not to make any comments about the rest of his post, but hey, he removed my comment, so I think I have the right to analyze this post fully now.

I'll leave you to read the rest of his post now, so you can decide what you think of Avi Green. My opinion is that he is more bigoted / racist than the people he accuses of same. I also believe that Avi Green would never let the truth get in the way of his blog, because the truth and facts don't count at 'Tel-Chai Nation', it's just another comic book fantasy. You will note that Avi lambasts a Canadian commenter in this post, and takes him to task for attempting to limit his right of free speech. Well, I guess I can add that I think Avi Green is a hypocrite. Besides limiting free speech in direct contrast to his published views on free speech, Avrem also contradicts his persona in an FAQ that says:

"...I'd been coming to the conclusion that he was simply too attached to the media establishment and the Main-Stream Media's (MSM for short) way of thinking, which is what some would call "politically correct." It's a viewpoint and an approach that I simply cannot identify with..."

So why do you quote mainstream media as if it were gospel Avrem?

Years ago, I knew an extremely racist 19-year old on a message board, supposedly from Perth, Australia, who said that he smoked weed "on occasion", and indicated that he hung out with some pretty shady characters, not unlike himself. You could wonder if his abuse of the substance led him in part to be racist, but who knows? What I certainly do know, is that he was one filthy little left-wing bigot, and I'm not even sure if he really was from Australia, because his last name, "Erceg" which he gave at one point, sounded more Hungarian.

Oh, and while we're on the subject, I also was once yelled at on another topic I once wrote by a blabbermouth named "Steve" who certainly did come from Canada, who wrote the following comment:

Your claim that marijuana destroys creativity is blatantly and totally false. Some people would claim that it enhances creativity, which I don't believe -- except to the extent that feeling relaxed might help.

You can't even count the number of people who used marijuana and were creative, however -- and it only takes one to prove you wrong. In addition to Carl Sagan, I present for your consideration Pierre Berton. Berton was the most famous and important Canadian non-fiction writer of all time. He wrote 50 books, and won the Governor-General's award three times, the Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal AND Golden Jubilee Medal, the Nellie Award for the best public affairs broadcaster in Canadian radio, and the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour. He was a Companion of the Order of Canada. While doing all this, he also enjoyed using marijuana for 40 years.

Before you say anything about marijuana and creativity, read Sagan's The Demon-Haunted World, and Berton's The Last Spike and The Arctic Grail. Then face facts.

Heh heh heh. Carl Sagan? That daydreamer? As Debbie Schlussel says:

Uh, wasn't that the same Carl Sagan who told us that Reagan's nukes would soon result in nuclear winter? Sagan died, nuclear winter never happened, and Ronald Reagan's steadfastness on our nuke build-up helped bring down the Communist Soviet Union. Sorry, but pot use does not equal genius, just fantasy.

That poor little putz from Canada who blabbered about Sagan and Berton sure does fantasize himself as well. He should pay attention to Debbie, who certainly knows a lot better than he does. "Steve" then went on to say, after I'd pointed out that people like him, from what I could tell, were ultra-leftists:

You obviously did not check the facts about Pierre Berton. If you had, you would know that my statements are true.

America's position on drugs is in fact ridiculous, and the majority of Americans know it, including such ultra-leftists as William F. Buckley, Jr.:

Whoops, that's where you know that something's wrong, when he doesn't properly acknowledge the fact that Buckley was an ultra-rightist (but a phony at that!). And when he starts insulting Americans by implying that they're stupid. In other words, this kook whose comments I display here was - what else? - an addict himself. Poor man. He must be out of his mind, and he's certainly an embarrassment unto Canada. And attempting to govern someone else's right to free speech, he dares? Dear dear dear.

And Berton, while he may not have deteriorated over the short term, certainly could have over the long term, and it's possible that he didn't even first chug cannabis when he wrote all his books. So message to "Steve": take your crud about Berton and Sagan and stick it down your bottom.

Lastly, why do I use the actual name of this drug instead of the slang "marijuana"? I gave the answer to that earlier. Yes, I think it's insulting, so I'm not using that particular slang again, period.

Update: The Washington Post has an interesting related article that tells how teenage girls are especially at risk if they gobble cannabis.
Avi, the Washington Post link reads the same as the Yahoo news link! Look, the report here says:
"Teen girls are especially at risk. In fact, three times
as many girls (12%) as boys (4%) experienced
depression during the year.
Another study confirms
that girls are more likely than boys to report feelings
of sadness or hopelessness (37% vs. 29%).

Substance abuse can compound the problem.
Girls who smoke marijuana daily are significantly
more likely to develop symptoms of depression and
anxiety: their odds are more than five times higher
than those of girls who do not smoke marijuana"
Hang on a minute! That last update wasn't there when my comment got posted! Avi, are you being a hypocrite and not allowing facts to get in the way of some hysteria?

Avrem, you throw insults around like confetti at a wedding. I would suggest that you have never heard of Carl Sagan except for the small snippet in some gossip columnist's rave about Kirsten Dunst and a reference to her friend's father.

I'm sure the last part of my comment re your post read:

I'm happy to debate this 'report' with you anytime Avi, as I believe this issue is too important to ignore.

The offer still stands.

Unfortunately I think you'll just call me an 'addict' and resort to childish postings much like this one (and yes, I do mean *my* post). It's much the same as yours.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Petitions, Videos and US Federal Cannabis Supply

I'm in the middle of researching and posting about the plethora of conflicting reports about cannabis/marijuana/THC/ and it's effects on human health. It is a far bigger job than I expected it to be (I want *real* information, not media blurb). So in the meantime, check this out...

First, a petition to the US Congress to ... well, it doesn't say. It does list a heap of information about the medicinal benefits of cannabis though. I guess you can sign it or leave it depending on your paranoia level.

Second, the Marijuana Policy Project has released a new series of commercials to be aired, including this one (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dH132JP5_Cc):

MINNEAPOLIS — Proponents of a bill to protect seriously ill patients from arrest for using medical marijuana with a doctor's recommendation released their latest TV ad today featuring former Fillmore County sheriff and state representative Neil Haugerud, who suffers from severe, intractable pain due to inflammation of the spine.

Opposition to the bill, which according to a new KSTP poll has the support of 64 percent of Minnesotans and has already passed the Senate, has been largely confined to a handful of members of the law enforcement community. Gov. Tim Pawlenty has threatened to veto the bill as long as law enforcement opposes it, but advocates and patients maintain that that opposition relies on false, misleading arguments.

"Law enforcement I think is stepping out of bounds," Haugerud says in the ad. "Law enforcement is there to enforce the laws in relation to what the law is – they really don't need to influence ... what the law should be." The new ad is online at http://minnesotacares.org/Ads_video.html.

"Neil Haugerud knows this issue from both sides – as a longtime sheriff, and now as a patient suffering severe pain every day, who might benefit from medical marijuana," said Neal Levine, director of state campaigns for the Marijuana Policy Project. "We urge the House to quickly send this to the governor’s desk, and hope that Governor Pawlenty will reject the misinformation coming from a few in law enforcement and sign this compassionate, tightly crafted bill into law."


The US Federal Government has an anniversary due. On the 10th of May, 1978, the US Federal Government began supplying medical marijuana to patients. Wha...? I hear you say? Read more at The Marijuana Policy Project website, or read a good coverage on Alternet.

And last but not least:

Mick Hume, a columnist at The Times Online recently posted this opinion piece online and has received some flak.

In part:

If there is anything duller than a dopehead, it is the endless debate about whether cannabis should be Class B or C. Frankly, who gives an F? The classification system makes as much sense as a spliffed-up student discussing moral philosophy. It bears little relation to the risks or popularity of any drug.

Magic mushrooms, for example, are Class A even though, as one doctor says, “it is doubtful whether they ever cause more than a bellyache”. Ecstasy's Class A status has not dissuaded a generation of users from inducing a dance-trance that appears more moronic than ecstatic. Ritalin remains a Class B drug, yet is freely doled out to “hyperactive” children. As for cannabis, its popularity has fallen since it was last downgraded to C.

Might that have something to do with those ministers admitting that they tried it? Perhaps Ms Smith's best preventative option would be to declare that dope is now officially classed C for Cool.

Or maybe new Labour should give up the attempt to reclassify itself as a Class A Government by waging another phoney war on drugs, and instead try inspiring young people with something more mind-expanding than dope.

Full opinion piece is here.

I responded with the following:

I think you've missed the point folks.

Mick is just saying what generations of non-smokers have possibly thought in their lifetimes. I think if you read the last four paragraphs where Mick finally gets to the point (are you *sure* you're not a closet stoner Mr Hume?), you'll see he has some valid points to make.

Mick Hume may not have any compassion for wannabe intellectuals who think a scoob at a party makes them a veteran cannabis expert and fighter 'for the cause'. He may also prefer a night on the piss in the pub, watching football with his mates rather than a few bongs around the lounge. However, he does make the point that the government should get off their arses, give up the 'class' argument and start teaching young people about the negative effects of cannabis abuse.

In my opinion, the education campaign should also point out the many medical benefits of marijuana, and the many uses for industrial hemp. Then we will be able to get away from the politicking and get some facts into kids' heads, rather than have them influenced by hysteria and propaganda from both sides of the pot argument.

Indica Man

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Reclassification Not The Answer in UK

Colin Blakemore writes in Comment is Free...

'Hysteria Over Cannabis is Getting in the Way of the Truth'

...The classification was changed in 2004. Ever since, the government has seemed uncomfortable. Successive Home Secretaries - Charles Clarke in 2005 and Jacqui Smith last year - have gone through the ritual of asking the ACMD if they are really sure.

What, then, are the concerns? First, cannabis remains the most commonly used illegal drug. But its use has been falling steadily since 2000, with no hint that this decline was affected by reclassification. Home Office statistics show that cannabis use by 16- to 24-year-olds has fallen by about 20 per cent since 2004. So, if we naively argue from correlations (the basis of so much of the evidence about harm), returning cannabis to B would be expected to increase its use.

Second, there is concern about the message that reclassification has sent. But there is no evidence that classification influences the attitude of young people to drugs. Amphetamines, cocaine and ecstasy are all runners-up to cannabis in the league table of popularity in this country - and they are all class A. Usage of cocaine has grown over the past eight years, as that of cannabis has declined. Third, there is, quite rightly, a particular worry about young people. Yet the the government's own figures show that only one 11-year-old in 150 has tried cannabis in the last year, while 4 per cent have sniffed glue and fully 21 per cent have drunk alcohol.

Indeed, glue-sniffing and drinking (neither of which is regulated under the Misuse of Drugs Act) are the dominant drug problems among school children. About 5 per cent of 11- and 12-year-olds admit to having been drunk at least once in the past month. And among all boys under the age of 16 who said that they had drunk alcohol in the past month, 11 per cent reported being involved in a fight and 2 per cent had ended up in hospital!

Finally, there is the issue of a possible link between cannabis use, especially the stronger varieties now on the street, and mental health problems. Parents are now more worried that their children will become schizophrenic than they were five years ago, that they would get a criminal record.

We should take very seriously the growing evidence of a link between cannabis smoking and psychosis. But this is still in the realm of correlation rather than causation. Cigarette-smoking and drinking are also very high among young people heading for schizophrenia, but no one has suggested that they cause psychosis. And what of the alarming stories of horrifyingly powerful 'skunk'? Some newspapers have told us that the level of THC, the active ingredient, in street cannabis today is 20 or 30 times higher than 10 years ago. That would be rather surprising, given that THC content was 7 per cent on average in 1995...

Read more here

Comment is Free

The Guardian

The Observer

Monday, May 5, 2008

Cannabis Legalization: Australia Should Look at The Netherlands

Following on from my previous post about Dr. Alex Wodak's thoughts on cannabis in Australia, we should take a good look at the latest financial figures in respect to cannabis in the netherlands.

The 'Crossroads' blog pointed me to this page on the NIS News Bulletin site. The NIS is a paper focussed towards Westerners in The Netherlands who only speak English.

They've reported on tax figures for the Dutch Government through the sale of cannabis in 'CoffeeShops'.

AMSTERDAM, 03/05/08 - The Dutch state earns 400 million euros annually in tax revenues from 'coffee shops,' as the Dutch cannabis cafes are called. Sales in the sector total around 2 billion euros, according to conservative estimates by TV programme Reporter.

Reporter calculates that the some 730 coffee shops in the Netherlands sell around 265,000 kilos of hashish and cannabis annually. The bulk of this is grown in the Netherlands. Although coffee-shop owners do not have to pay VAT, the tax service does calculate income tax at the highest rate of around 52 percent.

In fixing the tax rate, the tax service assumes that the selling price of grass is twice the purchasing price. In Amsterdam, where coffee shops often have non-price-conscious foreign tourists as customers, the tax man actually applies gross profit margins of 150 to 180 percent.

The Australian Government could do worse than at least consider a similar model to the Netherlands. Perhaps the revenue could be used for further medicinal research and education campaigns as Dr. Wodak suggested at Nimbin during Mardi Grass.

About Crossroads (from their site)
Crossroads is an English-language web magazine for expatriates in the Maastricht area. First launched in print form in December 2001, Crossroads caters to the many international institutes and the expatriate community in Maastricht.

Readers will find a fresh selection of local and national news, as well as a variety of exclusive in-depth articles about living and working in Maastricht.

In its online format, Crossroads aims at becoming a platform for dialogue and exchange of ideas by inviting readers to post in their own comments to the various news stories.

Crossroads is published by the Maastricht-based European Journalism Centre.

About the NIS News Bulletin (from their site):
Serving the Foreign Community
To non-Dutch speakers, understanding the Netherlands can be challenging. English-language news sources are scarce. And virtually without exception, they focus on ‘the expat’. But who is he?
Do non-Dutch speakers in the Netherlands really want to learn ‘what’s on’ and where to dine out?
Perhaps. But what about the diplomats, businesspeople and other international decision-makers who require accurate, reliable and timely information on political, social and economic developments? They read NIS News Bulletin.

Sell Cannabis at the Post Office!

Interesting news has come from the Nimbin MardiGrass. Dr. Alex Wodak, Director of the Alcohol and Drug Service at St Vincent's Hospital, Sydney Australia, has delivered a presentation advocating the full legalization of cannabis and using Australia Post as the delivery point to consumers.

The Northern Rivers Echo has good coverage here.

Dr Wodak has been the director of the Alcohol and Drug Service at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney since 1982. He is the president of both the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation and the International Harm Reduction Association and has published more than 200 scientific papers.

Doctor Wodak's model makes good sense from whatever side you look at it.

Dr Alex Wodak believes the reason cannabis is a big issue in Australia is because it is in such high demand, with more than two million people consuming it.

“In 1997, $5 billion was spent by people buying cannabis, twice as much spent by wine consumers, and because it’s illicit, it’s not taxed,” Dr Wodak said.

“If we can tax and regulate cannabis, then we could have health warnings like we do on tobacco, like ‘smoking might cause schizophrenia’; advertise help lines, so if people want to stop or cut down they can ring this number; restrict the age of sale, like alcohol, and not sell to pregnant women. We could use some of the income from taxes to pay for better prevention and treatment programs.”

He goes on to say:

Dr Wodak said that if cannabis was legalised, it could ensure people were aware how much tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, they were consuming.

“At the moment there is no control over THC concentration and it’s a drug regulated by criminals and corrupt police,” he said.
“Inevitably where there is contact between black-market criminals and police there is rampant police corruption. If we want to get tough on police corruption and the cause of it, then logically the thing to do is to tax and regulate cannabis to take the black market away from corrupt police.”

Dr Wodak said there was still more research needed on the links between mental illness and marijuana use.
“A lot of people with mental health problems smoke a lot, but it’s a chicken and egg question,” he said. “There is no doubt some people with schizophrenia start to smoke more to try and control the symptoms.

“There will be continued debate in the psychiatric fields about what can precipitate severe mental illness.
“There is more support for the notion that cannabis use can exacerbate a pre-existing mental health condition. In public policy the onus of proof should be on maximum public safety.”

Check out the Nimbin Hemp Festival 'Mardi Grass' here.
Update: The Sydney Morning Herald has reported as well.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Cannabis and Brain Cell Growth

Could it be possible that in the future, cannabis will help restore lost brain function?
It has been a long held belief among the anti-pot community that the evil weed Marijuana kills brain cells. I reported in an earlier post that researchers discovered that cannabinoids can actually kill GBM cancer cells while leaving healthy cells intact. I was looking through a few sites today and found some research that was done back in 2005 that suggests cannabinoids could induce brain cell growth as well as provide anti-depressant and anxiety relieving effects.

When will governments finally take notice of these studies and encourage and fund further research into cannabis and it's medicinal value? Prior to prohibition, cannabis was an ingredient in some sixty percent of all medicines in the US.

Cannabis has been proven to reduce or eliminate neurological pain .

The American College of Physicians has called for further research into cannabis' therapeutic value.

I guess that while there are job criteria that specify that people must lie about cannabis (I speak specifically about the Director of the US Office of National Drug Control Policy), it will continue to be an uphill battle to get cannabis the medicinal status that it deserves.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Water More Addictive than Marijuana

I love this comment! In a news article about South Australia banning bongs, some comments were posted. This one provides a perfect example of how facts and statistics can be manipulated; something that mainstream media and anti-pot propagandists do all the time.

'Matt' from Melbourne in Victoria (Australia) showed us how to do it:

In the 47 years since Cannabis Prohibition was formally established Billions of dollars have been spent trying to find a scientific basis for the lies of prohibition and the most they can come up with is that high level abuse of Cannabis "may" trigger schizophrenic symptoms in some of those people the have a genetic predisposition to schizophrenia. er deh and peanuts cause anaphylaxis in people with a genetic predisposition to peanut allergy! If you get a bad response to something you take DON'T USE IT. Just because a small number of people have a bad response to a substance, should we ban it for all? No, or we would have to ban just about everything in the world including water. According to strict scientific classification Water is an highly addictive psychoactive substance. Withdrawal symptoms include headache, nausea, delirium, hallucinations, coma and death. Overdose causes delirium intoxication and heart failure. We are all addicted and must keep up our habit daily to survive. the ratio between the medical effective dose (MED), I.e. a glass of water (200ml) and the fatal overdose (FD) (approx. 8 litres) is around 1:40. Most "pharmaceuticals" have a ratio of 1:15, Cannabis has a MED-FD Ratio of greater than 1:10000 So in fact Cannabis is actually "Safer" than water in that it is virtually impossible to overdose on it.

Thanks Matt, you've made me smile :o)

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Overdosing on Cannabis Would Require a Superhuman Effort

I've just been reading a report about cannabis on the 'Schaffer Library of Drug Policy' entitled:
Acute Effects of Marihuana.

This report contains some excellent information on various effects of cannabis. It covers a wide variety of subjects, including physical effects on body organs, cognitive effects, social effects and sections that explain psychosis episodes etc. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to know more about what they are smoking or eating. Here is a small sample of what's covered.


You've probably heard of stories about how much it would take to overdose on THC. Stories like "You'd have to eat a pound to OD" etc. Well, here are some figures from the report, based on research conducted around 1971 using two synthetic THC chemicals and an extract of THC from marijuana. The studies were conducted on rats, dogs and monkeys. These resulting figures gave them an estimate of how much a 70kg(154lb) human would need to take to match the doses administered to the animals:

The non-fatal consumption of 3000 mg/kg A THC by the dog and monkey would be comparable to a 154-pound human eating approximately 46 pounds (21 kilograms) of 1%-marihuana or 10 pounds of 5% hashish at one time. In addition, 92 mg/kg THC intravenously produced no fatalities in monkeys. These doses would be comparable to a 154-pound human smoking at one time almost three pounds (1.28 kg) of 1%-marihuana or 250,000 times the usual smoked dose and over a million times the minimal effective dose assuming 50% destruction of the THC by smoking.
In other words, it would be impossible for humans to ingest enough cannabis by eating or smoking to kill themselves with a THC overdose.

Deaths From THC

I've never heard of nor read, up until I read this report, of any THC related deaths. However, there appears to be some anecdotal reports of deaths from overdosing, but not in the standard sense (links added by Indica Man):

There is no conclusive evidence that short-term marihuana use alone directly results in any physical damage to man. A few scattered fatalities associated with marihuana use are occasionally reported. Most are from 19th century Indian experiences with large oral doses of charas (Deakin, 1880; Bouquet, 1951; Ewens, 1904, Walton, 1938; Indian Hemp Drugs, 1893). Brill et al. (1970) and Smith (1968) have noted that there have not been any reliable reports of human fatalities attributable purely to marihuana, although very high doses have been administered by users.

A frequently cited recent report from Belgium by Heyndrickx et al. (1970) describes an essentially negative pathological and toxicological study of a 23-year-old man found dead in the presence of marihuana, and hashish. A cannabinoid was detected in his urine. However, this finding in no way inculpates marihuana as the responsible agent. There are many possible causes of sudden death which are not toxins and do not produce observable pathology; e.g. anaphylactic reactions, insulin shock, cardiac arhythmias, etc.

A case report (Nahas, 1971) of an attempted suicide by smoking hashish, recently in France is even more anecdotal. An individual was reported to have smoked consecutively ten pipes of hashish containing approximately 200 mg of Delta 9 THC each before losing consciousness. But recovery occurred after supportive treatment.

Another case report (Hughes et al., 1970) relates severe diabetic coma with ketoacidosis after the ingestion of huge amounts of marihuana by a mental patient. However, it appears that the pronounced vomiting secondary to the marihuana ingestion caused a severe electrolyte imbalance and alkalosis. Possibly a vulnerable glucose-regulating system responded to the severe stress inappropriately. Retrospectively, there was no history of diabetes noted previously but this was not confirmed or ruled out by lab tests prior to the episode.

Several case reports (Henderson and Pugsley, 1968 King and Cowen, 1970; King et al., 1970; Lundberg et al., 1971; Gary and Keylon, 1970) noted acute severe, physiological disturbances and acute collapse (shock, chills and fever) subsequent to intravenous injection of suspensions of marihuana. These symptoms may have been due to an allergic reaction to injected foreign plant material, to a bacteremia and/or to the injection of insoluble particles which are filtered by the organs. The symptoms may be considered a complication of the mode of use, rather than results of the drug.

Go on, take the time to check this report out. It'll be time well spent.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

UK Prime Minister Shows Political Arrogance

Despite recommendations to keep cannabis a Class C drug in the UK, Gordon Brown will apparently be upgrading the plant to a Class B drug. One wonders why he bothered asking the advisory council to review the policy in the first place.

If this man refuses to accept the findings of a panel of 23 experts in their field, does he deserve the position he holds as leader of a country? But then, that's politics isn't it? Once in power, it doesn't matter what the People or the experts say, they, as in political leaders of most nations, will do as they please, so long as they stay on the side of the corporate giants.

I tend to think that the pharmaceutical industry is behind Brown's decision on cannabis. What other industry stands to lose the more money if cannabis laws are changed to a point where medicinal users can obtain or grow their own medicine without having to worry about being arrested? There are plenty of blogs and sites out there that have reported on the 'money trail' when it comes to cannabis illegality. I may expand that list in the near future. But then, maybe I'm just paranoid or mentally ill from smoking too much wacky weed. Maybe I should have listened to the Daily Mail.

Links to news about the Brown decision here:

Google News

Monday, April 28, 2008

Nerve Gas in Place of Cannabis? Scary.

OK, this possibility is a long way off according to the experts. However, it's a damn scary prospect in my opinion.

Organophosphorus Nerve Agents are those things that were developed in World War 2 and have been used in warfare, pesticides and terrorism ever since; tabun, sarin, soman, GF, and VX are just a few.

Thankfully, the discovery that OGs affect cannabinoid receptors in the brain was just something that scientists thought about as possible and then tested their theories on mice recently (as reported in US News Health section):

"This has great potential but it's years away from human application," said one expert, Dr. Dennis J. Patin, associate professor of clinical anesthesiology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. "I expect that some drug company will research further," he said.

And John Casida, senior author of the paper in the April 27 issue of Nature Chemical Biology, stressed that his team "report new fundamental mechanistic discoveries on the cannabinoid system, rather than proposing a medicine or treatment."

Well, thank your preferred god for that methinks.

I'm no scientist, but from what I could decipher in the report at NCB, certain organophosphate compounds act directly on the brains cannabinoid receptors, resulting in effects that are the same as cannabis, leading some to think that there could be a future in using some derivative of these compounds as a pain relief substitute for cannabis. That is, pot like pain relief but without the high.

For the medicotech geeks among you, here is the Abstract:

Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient of marijuana, has useful medicinal properties but also undesirable side effects. The brain receptor for THC, CB1, is also activated by the endogenous cannabinoids anandamide and 2-arachidonylglycerol (2-AG). Augmentation of endocannabinoid signaling by blockade of their metabolism may offer a more selective pharmacological approach compared with CB1 agonists. Consistent with this premise, inhibitors of the anandamide-degrading enzyme fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) produce analgesic and anxiolytic effects without cognitive defects. In contrast, we show that dual blockade of the endocannabinoid-degrading enzymes monoacylglycerol lipase (MAGL) and FAAH by selected organophosphorus agents leads to greater than ten-fold elevations in brain levels of both 2-AG and anandamide and to robust CB1-dependent behavioral effects that mirror those observed with CB1 agonists. Arachidonic acid levels are decreased by the organophosphorus agents in amounts equivalent to elevations in 2-AG, which indicates that endocannabinoid and eicosanoid signaling pathways may be coordinately regulated in the brain.

Is The Daily Mail Seriously Biased Against Marijuana/Cannabis?

The latest headline from the British 'Daily Mail' tells us that 'cannabis is making teenagers impotent'.

I had originally intended to post some facts about impotence on this post in relation to Marijuana and prescription drugs. However, I have always believed that the British Daily Mail has a serious bias against cannabis and anyone who might question that bias. So I did an experiment.

First, I posted a comment about the above article in the negative:

Has this new finding been reported in any medical journals? Has it been confirmed that cannabis use IS causing impotence in teenagers?
How many is 'most' in terms of a history of heavy cannabis use?
All I've seen in this article is conjecture. Terms like 'potential', 'potentially', and 'possibly'. Then we have a professor stating that she doesn't know if any research has been done on the subject, yet the professor is touted as one of the 'leading experts on male reproduction'!
Surely someone with those accolades would be aware of any research done on the subject.
It appears to me that this is just another propaganda piece designed to scare mums and dads into thinking their progeny could become infertile from smoking the 'evil weed'.

I then posted another comment in their version of a positive:

I am shocked at this finding. However, it doesn't surprise me in the least really. Marihuana has long been known to cause brain damage in people, so it's no surprise really that it can also make young people impotent. It's about time this drug was reclassified to a Class B drug. It is insidious in the way it works on peoples' minds. No wonder pot heads sit around all day doing nothing, they have no desire to do anything constructive, even procreate.

Both comments were posted using different names that are readily identifiable to me. Guess which one made the cut and got published and which one didn't. Check the comments here.

I have attempted to post critical comments about the Daily Mail's inaccurate reporting when it comes to cannabis before and have never seen these comments published. So, after this experiment I think I'd be justified in saying that they are biased against anything that might expose their shoddy, negative reporting about marijuana.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Danger! Aspergillus in Cannabis can kill you.

This is a warning for cannabis users and growers of the dangers of burying, or incorrectly drying/curing of your buds. This post is not intended to teach you the details of how to dry or cure, it'll just point out the fungi that can grow on badly processed marijuana and the dangers of these fungal growths, especially Aspergillus. It will also offer advice on how to prevent your weed becoming a host for these nasty fungi.

Most people will have heard stories about buying moldy weed, or buried weed that is supposed to be wicked smoke. Anecdotal evidence suggests there is only one fungus that will make you higher when it grows on weed. Unfortunately, in the vast majority of cases, the fungus that does grow on badly cured or stored weed can not only ruin your stash or make you sick, but in some cases, it can kill you.

The reason I'm making this post is because many people use cannabis to treat a variety of diseases that lower the bodies immune systems, which makes them more vulnerable to infections from these fungi.

What Causes a 'Bad Dry/Cure?'

A 'bad dry' is when your buds haven't dried properly. That is, the optimum moisture content for correctly dried bud should be more than 10 - 15%. Fresh cannabis generally has a moisture content of around 80%, so it is extremely important to get this moisture away from the crop. If not dried properly, the excess moisture in the cannabis will encourage growth of these pathogens.


Some growers recommend leaving the plants without water until just before you would normally water them again. This lowers the moisture content of the plants to help speed the drying process. To ensure that the plants reach their full potential, leave them in the dark for around 24 hours before harvesting. Experienced growers suggest that this will ensure optimum THC content. For medicinal cannabis users, this is important.

Drying and Curing to help prevent mould.

Drying should be done in a relatively cool, dark area. Heat and light tends to break down, or oxidize THC, lowering the quality of the final product. So, it is best to allow the drying bud to hang for a day or so, then introduce gentle air circulation to assist the moisture reduction process. It may also pay to rotate the harvest to ensure an even dry. It is also important to allow air circulation between your hanging crop. This discourages uneven drying and further prevents mould infestation. The drying process can take from threee to ten days, depending on temperature and air flow. The age old test for correctly dried material is to snap a stem. If it snaps, it's dry enough. If it still bends, it's still too moist. Monitor your drying crop daily.

Curing to prevent mould.

Most long time growers will take their dried buds and store them loosely in large sealable jars. Remember, air circulation is important. The jars should be checked daily and allowed to air with the lids open to release any moisture or ammonia build-up from the chlorophyll breaking down.
Curing can take from a week to a month, so keep an eye on them and do the odd smoke and/or squeeze test. You don't want over-dry buds because they'll end up tasting too harsh.

The Dangers of Aspergillus

Aspergillus fungus is found almost everywhere; compost, soil, other plants etc. In normal circumstances, the body can compete with this fungus and people suffer no ill effects. However, if you are susceptible to, or suffer from resperatory conditions such as asthma, or you have a disease that lowers you bodies immunity like Hepatitus or HIV, the risks of contracting an Aspergoillosis affliction increase dramatically.

Cases have been reported of deaths and near deaths of people who have smoked aspergillus contaminated cannabis.

The Lycaeum website has an excellent article that goes into more detail and I recommend you check it out.

One of the reasons why Timothy Garon has had problems obtaining a Liver transplant is due to many hospitals rejecting patients based on their past drug use. Timothy was prescribed Marijuana by his GP, but it still made no difference to the advisory boards of two hospitals. One of the reasons for the rejection was:

Many doctors agree that using marijuana — smoking it, especially — is out of the question post-transplant.

The drugs patients take to help their bodies accept a new organ increase the risk of aspergillosis, a frequently fatal infection caused by a common mold found in marijuana and tobacco.

More information on Aspergillus can found at The Aspergillus/Aspergillosis web site.

I have only covered one dangerous fungus that can found on badly cured cannabis. There are many more. The sites below can offer more information on both the fungi that attacks cannabis, and more detailed information about successful drying and curing...

A Pro medical cannabis submission to the NSW Govt.

Drying Marijuana Plants

Thanks for reading folks.
Preserving Marijuana Potency

Could Cannabis Derived Sativex have Killed a Trial Patient?

Could cannabis derived Sativex have killed a trial patient? Or was it the Ethanol carrier?

This is a tragic story. On the 3rd of March 2004, 69 year old Rene Anderson passed away as a result of a combination of complications, six months after ceasing a three week trial of the drug Sativex.

Sativex is a cannabis derived drug that contains the cannabinoid components delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). It is administered through a spray pump under the tongue or on the inside of the cheek.

Mrs Anderson developed symptoms of confusion and intoxication effects three days into the trial and eventually, after 23 days, stopped taking Sativex. Four months after ceasing the trial, a urine test showed no signs of the drug in her body. Sadly, her condition worsened to the point where she suffered numerous serious complications and eventually passed away in hospital.

The coroner, Christopher Dorries, who examined Mrs Anderson made a number of findings:

(Mrs Anderson died from) 'acute renal failure, acute tubular necrosis, ARDS following resolving pneumonia due to immoblility arising from "toxic brain syndrome", and diabetes mellitus'.

He went on to state that (the) 'initial drug reaction, whether in combination or singly, must have been a significant contributory factor in at least the initiation of the illness'.

The 'Manufacturing Chemist' website carries a report on the inquest which says in part:

'Mrs Anderson's immobility was unresolved despite over four months of hospital care and complicated by a wide range of other drugs,' stated GW* following the verdict. The company reported the other medications to have included tramadol, haloperidol, nitrazepam, simvastin, citalopram, losartan, frusemide, atenolol and doxazosin, a number of which specifically name 'confusion' as a side-effect, and Dorries did raise the possibility of 'serotonin syndrome', in which the interaction of drugs leads to an excess of serotonin in the brain, before saying that he 'found little reason to believe that this syndrome alone has brought about Mrs Anderson's death'.

*GW refers to GW Pharmaceuticals, the company manufacturing Sativex.

Mrs Anderson had a history of diabetes mellitus for 25 years and suffered from resistant hypertension, clinically significant depression and hyperlipidaemia (excess lipids in the blood).

A number of articles about this case appeared in newspapers and journals in 2005. However, there seems that another significant factor was never mentioned in any of the reports.

Sativex contains Ethanol.

The leaflet that comes with Sativex carries this warning:


This product contains approximately 50% v/v ethanol. Each spray contains approximately O.04g of alcohol. The usual daily dose will be greater than one spray. It may be harmful for those suffering from alcoholism. However, this should be taken into account if you have a condition which may be affected by alcohol, such as liver disease, or epilepsy.

Another problem with this is that alcohol is bad for diabetics. Long term consumption of alcohol will lead to low blood sugar levels (Hypoglycemia).

The MedicineNet site states:

If a person does not or cannot respond by eating something to raise blood glucose, the levels of glucose continue to drop. Somewhere in the 45 mg/dl range, most patients progress to neuro-glyco-penic ranges (the brain is not getting enough glucose). At this point, symptoms progress to confusion, drowsiness, changes in behavior, coma and seizure.

Now, given that some studies have shown that THC can increase the effects of ethanol, could it be possible that this combination resulted in exacerbating Mrs Anderson's Diabetes condition to a point where she developed further complications, ultimately leading to her death? Is it possible that a non-ethanol based form of Sativex may have prevented her death? I don't know, but it would be interesting to hear from some experts who may be able to study this theory further.

Thanks to Max at the 'Sports Blog' for piquing my interest in this story.

I'll leave the final comment to 'Schmoo', whose blog entry prompted me to follow this story up:

Ironically there is no record of anyone ever dying from cannabis - until a drug company tried to 'make it safe'.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Cannabis - more on the 'Gateway' Argument and Decriminalization Opposition

Yep, it's long, but worth a look...
'Cannabis is a Gateway Drug and therefore should not be legalized' is a common argument used by anti-cannabis proponents. The argument is usually put forward by people who believe that if you start smoking pot, you are more likely to end up using harder drugs such as LSD, Cocaine, Crack, Heroin and other chemical narcotics. Some more extreme anti-cannabis campaigners believe that the evil weed always leads to harder drug use and other crimes such as assaults burglary and even murder.

When the issue is looked at properly, the inevitable path to 'drug addicted destruction from smoking pot' argument starts to fall apart pretty quickly . So it's time look at some more (referenced) facts.

Before we get into the science, here is a quick overview of how the 'Gateway' myth started. Interestingly, this article shows that in the early days of Marijuana prohibition, the fear was that Heroin addicts would move on to Cannabis, not the other way around:

How Did The Marijuana Gateway Myth Get Started?

Quick excerpt:

The reason marijuana had to be outlawed, he said (Harry Ainslinger in 1937), was because it caused insanity, criminality, and death. One example he gave was of two young lovers who became so crazed after smoking a joint that they eloped and got married. Marijuana causes people to become so crazy that they get married. The other reasons he gave were no more sensible. The hemp industry representatives who testified were uniformly surprised and mystified to hear that a dangerous drug could be made from this widespread and common crop. The American Medical Association testified that they knew of no evidence that marijuana was a dangerous drug...

...In 1951, the story changed. Harry Anslinger was testifying for the Boggs Act about why he needed more money and men to enforce the marijuana laws. Just before he testified, the head of the Federal addiction research program testified that they knew for certain that all of the reasons that had been given for outlawing marijuana in 1937 were entirely bogus. They knew for certain that marijuana did not cause insanity, criminality and death. Anslinger was left with no reason for tougher laws so he made up -- on the spot, with not a shred of evidence -- the assertion that marijuana is the certain stepping stone to heroin addiction. He directly contradicted his own testimony from 1937. It has been the basis of US marijuana policy ever since.

Time for some science.

An article written by John P. Morgan, M.D. (d) and Lynn Zimmer, Ph.D (d), entitled 'The Myth of Marijuana's Gateway Effect' states in part:

The primary basis for this "gateway hypothesis" is a recent report by the center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA), claiming that marijuana users are 85 times more likely than non-marijuana users to try cocaine. This figure, using data from NIDA's 1991 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, is close to being meaningless. It was calculated by dividing the proportion of marijuana users who have ever used cocaine (17%) by the proportion of cocaine users who have never used marijuana (.2%). The high risk-factor obtained is a product not of the fact that so many marijuana users use cocaine but that so many cocaine users used marijuana previously.

It is hardly a revelation that people who use one of the least popular drugs are likely to use the more popular ones -- not only marijuana, but also alcohol and tobacco cigarettes. The obvious statistic not publicized by CASA is that most marijuana users -- 83 percent -- never use cocaine. Indeed, for the nearly 70 million Americans who have tried marijuana, it is clearly a "terminus" rather than a "gateway" drug.

The Australian National Council on Drugs (ANCD), the principal advisory body to the Australian Federal Government on drug policy, states in its document 'Cannabis: Answers to Your Questions' (PDF file link):

Question 12
What is the Current Evidence For Cannabis as a Gateway Drug?

Cannabis use, particularly regular use at a young age, increases the risk of other drug use. The link between cannabis use and the use of other illicit drugs is usually due to personal traits that make it more likely for the person to take part in risky behaviour.

Most people who use illegal drugs, like heroin or amphetamines, first used drugs like alcohol, tobacco or cannabis. These substances, but most usually cannabis, are seen as a “gateway” to the use of other drugs. The vast majority of people who do use cigarettes, alcohol or cannabis never use other illicit drugs. For example, while the majority of heroin users have used cannabis, only around 4% of cannabis users have used heroin.

The risk of using other drugs is greater for cannabis users who start regularly using at a young age and those who become dependent.The link between cannabis use and the use of other illicit drugs is usually due to personal traits(possibly even genetic) that make it more likely for the person to take part in risky behaviour. Mixing with people who use illicit drugs also means there are more opportunities to experiment.

Approximately 18 months ago, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported on a study led by Ralph E. Tarter, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh's School of Pharmacy. A quote from the article reads:

"It runs counter to about six decades of current drug policy in the country, where we believe that if we can't stop kids from using marijuana, then they're going to go on and become addicts to hard drugs."

The full text of this research is available on the Psychiatry Online website here.

For those who don't want to read the full text, here are the results and conclusions of the study as stated in the Abstract:

RESULTS: Twenty-eight (22.4%)of the participants who used marijuana did not exhibit the gateway sequence, thereby demonstrating that this pattern is not invariant in drug-using youths. Among youths who did exhibit the gateway pattern, only delinquency was more strongly related to marijuana use than licit drug use. Specific risk factors associated with transition from licit to illicit drugs were not revealed. The alternative sequence had the same accuracy for predicting substance use disorder as the gateway sequence.

CONCLUSIONS: Proneness to deviancy and drug availability in the neighborhood promote marijuana use. These findings support the common liability model of substance use behavior and substance use disorder.

In yet another study (available here in HTML, or here as a Microsoft Word Document), the findings were that although cannabis may have a gateway effect on a small number of (and I quote) "troubled youths", in the majority, there is no evidence to support cannabis as a drug that leads to narcotic use. The study states that a number of different factors contribute to further hard drug use, rather than cannabis being a cause.

Now, on to the DSM-IV.
This is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition. The main reference used around the world by psychiatrists, clinicians and researchers as well as insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies and policy makers.

In the section titled 'NCP Hallucinogen Phencyclidine and Cannabis Related Disorders' it gives the following information (Etilology:-The cause of a disease, the philosophical study of causation):



Individuals who abuse substances fail to complete tasks of separation-individuation, resulting in underdeveloped egos. The person is thought to have a highly dependent nature, with characteristics of poor impulse control, low frustration tolerance, and low self-esteem. The superego is weak, resulting in absence of guilt feelings for behavior.

Certain personality traits may play an important part in the development and maintenance of dependence. Characteristics that have been identified include impulsivity, negative self-concept, weak ego, low social conformity, neuroticism, and introversion. Substance abuse has also been associated with antisocial personality and depressive response styles.


A genetic link is thought to be involved in the development of substance abuse disorders. Although statistics are currently inconclusive, hereditary factors are generally accepted to be a factor in the abuse of substances. Research is currently being done into the role biochemical factors play in the problems of substance abuse.

Family Dynamics

A predisposition to substance use disorders is found in the dysfunctional family system. Often one parent is absent or is an overpowering tyrant, and/or another parent is weak and ineffectual. Substance abuse may be evident as the primary method of relieving stress. The child has negative role models and learns to respond to stressful situations in like manner. However, parents may be average, normal individuals with children who succumb to overwhelming peer pressure and become involved with drugs.

In the family the effects of modeling, imitation, and identification on behavior can be observed from early childhood onward. Peer influence may exert a great deal of influence also. Cultural factors may help to establish patterns of substance use by attitudes of acceptance of such use as a part of daily or recreational life.

So, we can argue that cannabis can lead to further drug use. However, it is in no way a primary cause of going on to harder drugs. In fact, it is probably easier to argue that cannabis is a terminus drug, meaning that the majority of people who use cannabis will never go on to use harder drugs.

On a final note, let's look at what has happened in The Netherlands since cannabis was decriminalized in 1976. One would expect that if the mainstream perceptions of the 'Gateway' theory were correct, then this country would be full of Heroin addicted kids and adults. From what I've read so far, this is far from the case.

First, in a study I have mentioned previously that is reported in the UCSC in 2004:

The study found no evidence that lawfully regulated cannabis provides a “gateway” to other illicit drug use. In fact, marijuana users in San Francisco were far more likely to have used other illicit drugs--cocaine, crack, amphetamines, ecstasy, and opiates--than users in Amsterdam, said Reinarman.
“The results of this study shift the burden of proof now to those who would arrest hundreds of thousands of Americans each year on the grounds that it deters use,” said Reinarman.

More on this study is available on the 'News-Medical' website here.

Another study, available here in full, found the following:

In Amsterdam, the access to cannabis type drugs developed from highly suppressed to almost universal and hassle free in the period between 1965 and 1980. We tested the theory that cannabis use will - almost automatically - result in (heavy) use of other drugs. Indeed, we found among almost 9,000 respondents out of 2 large household surveys in 1990 and 1994, that in Amsterdam cannabis use is an almost necessary condition for developing other drug use. However, most cannabis users in Amsterdam (75%) do not report other drug use. Also the 'never cannabis users' in Amsterdam do not consume other illicit drugs. Curiosity inasmuch as it develops in cannabis users to use other drugs is confined to cocaine and ecstasy, while heroin is almost excluded.

In order to test the 'stepping stone hypothesis' we formulated a testable series of such hypotheses, varying the terms but keeping the criterion stable. We arbitrarily stated that any of our stepping stone hypotheses would be confirmed if we could find 75% of the cannabis users to behave according to the hypothesis. None of the stepping stone hypotheses could be confirmed although data that approached confirmation could be found for a minority of users with the highest levels of cannabis involvement. Some statistical / epidemiological evidence for a stepping stone phenomenon that associates cannabis use to some type of use of other drugs is available for a small minority of cannabis users only.

Apparently, in Amsterdam where use of illicit drugs is made possible due to of hassle free (illicit) availability of that type of drug, the use of cannabis satisfies almost all curiosity. Small numbers of experienced cannabis users try other illicit substances, mostly cocaine and ecstasy. This is true for cannabis users who never experienced active law enforcement against individual drug use (the 'young' age cohort born in 1985 or later) as well as for cannabis users who were raised during the then existing regime of active law enforcement against cannabis and other individual drug use (the 'old' age cohort born before 1958). We confirmed that, if it occurs, other drug use always succeeds use of cannabis. We did not try to explain why this is so, nor why the large majority of cannabis users do not develop curiosity to use other drugs.

Levels of experience with other drugs than cannabis are very similar between different cannabis users in age cohorts raised during different regimes of law enforcement in relation to drugs.

Will Decriminalization Lead To Rampant Marijuana Use?

For those who wish to argue that cannabis decriminalization will lead to a marked increase in the use of the drug, you should read this report.

In summary:

Conflicting predictions have been made to the influence of decriminalisation on cannabis use. Prohibitionists forecast that decriminalisation will lead to an increase in consumption of cannabis, while their opponents hypothesise that cannabis use will decline after decriminalisation.

Most probably cannabis use among youth in the Netherlands so far evolved in two waves, with a first peak around 1970, a low during the late 1970s and early 1980s, and a second peak in the mid 1990s.

It is striking that the trend in cannabis use among youth in the Netherlands rather parallels the four stages in the availability of cannabis identified above. The number of adolescent cannabis users peaked when the cannabis was distributed through an underground market (late 1960s and early 1970s). Then the number decreased as house dealers were superseding the underground market (1970s), and went up again after coffee shops took over the sale of cannabis (1980s), and stabilised or slightly decreased by the end of the 1990s when the number of coffee shops was reduced.

However, cannabis use also developed in waves in other European countries. Apparently, general national trends in cannabis use are relatively independent of cannabis policy. To date, cannabis use in the Netherlands takes a middle position within the European Union. Apparently most cannabis use is experimental and recreational. The vast majority quits using cannabis after some time. Only a very small proportion of current cannabis users is in treatment. From international comparison, it is concluded that trends in cannabis use in the Netherlands are rather similar to those in other European countries, and Dutch figures on cannabis use are not out of line with those from countries that did not decriminalise cannabis. Consequently, it appears unlikely that decriminalisation of cannabis will cause an increase in cannabis use.

Can Cannabis Help Ease Depression? It May Depend On The Dosage.

For those of us who use cannabis to treat depression, the following should be of great interest, especially when considering how much we smoke or ingest. Dosage may have a significant impact on how marijuana affects depression.

A study published in the 'Journal of Neuroscience' last year has found that THC (one of the active ingredients in cannabis) may have a beneficial effect for Depression sufferers in low doses. However, higher doses can have a reverse effect.
The study was conducted on rats by doctors from the Neurobiological Psychiatry Unit, Department of Psychiatry, McGill University, Montréal, Quebec, Canada, and the Department of Psychiatry, Centre de Recherche Fernand Seguin, Hôpital L.H. Lafontaine, Université de Montréal, Quebec, Canada :

"Low doses had a potent anti-depressant effect, but when we increased the dose, the serotonin in the rats' brains actually dropped below the level of those in the control group. So we actually demonstrated a double effect: At low doses it increases serotonin, but at higher doses the effect is devastating, completely reversed."

The news article is available at Physorg.com

The full text of the research is available here.

More Evidence That Cannabis Reduces Neuropathic Pain

A study conducted last year suggests that smoking cannabis is an effective pain reliever. The majority of cannabis users most likely already know this, as did cannabis users over the past thousands of years. However, it will take more scientific research to convince decision makers of its effectiveness.
A summary of the study is available here.

Here is an excerpt:

The study used capsaicin, an alkaloid derived from hot chili peppers that is an irritant to the skin, to mimic the type of neuropathic pain experienced by patients with HIV/AIDS, diabetes or shingles – brief, intense pain following by a longer-lasting secondary pain. The subjects were healthy volunteers who inhaled either medical cannabis or a placebo after pain was induced. The marijuana cigarettes were formulated under NIH supervision to contain either zero, two, four or eight percent delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC.)

“Subjects reported a decrease in pain at the medium dose, and there was also a significant correlation between plasma levels of THC, the active ingredient in cannabis, and decreased pain,” said Igor Grant, M.D., F.R.C.P.(C), professor and Executive Vice-Chair of the Department of Psychiatry, the director of the CMCR. “Interestingly, the analgesic effect wasn’t immediate; it took about 45 minutes for the cannabis to have an impact on the pain,” he said.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

A Response To 'Why We Should Not Legalize Marijuana'

Ted Knapp, co-author of the 'FLC Law and Society, Science Health and Environment' blog posted an opinion piece on why cannabis should not be legalized. I took the opportunity to respond and have copied my comment below. The full post by Ted is available here.

Hello Ted

I would like to take the opportunity to respond to this post. I have been researching the effects of cannabis and its medicinal uses for around 30 years now, and continue to do so. Due to the length of this comment, I may also post the response on my blog.

Your first few statements:

"I think it is safe to say that marijuana is a gateway drug. Not many marijuana users decide to just stick with marijuana-most who do smoke cannabis lack even that kind of rational decission making. I believe that Marijuana leads to the adventurous travel to other drugs, since their drug provider sells multiple drugs, and the "highs" are not as satisfying after awhile of using marijuana."

Past research suggesting that cannabis is a 'gateway drug', has been superseded by research that suggests that drug use in general is based on a propensity to use drugs. That is, it doesn't matter whether your first experience with drug use is cannabis, alcohol or even cocaine. If you are of a particular mindset, you will most likely try other drugs. Most research papers, even those that do suggest cannabis is a 'gateway drug', summarize their finding by suggesting that even though cannabis is often the first illegal drug a person tries, it is not necessarily the cause of harder drug use. You should also realise that cannabis is the fourth most used drug in the United States, behind Alcohol, Tobacco and Caffeine. Using these fatcs, it could be concluded that coffee is a gateway drug as well. Research conducted in Amsterdam (one of the first countries to decriminalize cannabis) has found that users of cannabis in the main, do not move on to harder drugs.
There is no evidence to support your opinion that drug 'providers' sell other stronger drugs. Generally, you will find that cannabis dealers avoid selling harder drugs on moral grounds (as strange as that may seem). Further, dealers of harder drugs tend not to sell cannabis as the drug is harder to conceal than those such as cocaine or heroin.
There is no evidence to suggest that the 'high' associated with cannabis does becomes less satisfying through continued use.
"I do sympathize with those who truley need cannabis for it's medicinal properties, however even patients proclaim to enjoy smoking marijuana for the "high" rather than taking a pill with the same medicinal affects without the high."

Perhaps you should have clarified this by stating 'some' patients. The medicinal uses for cannabis are many and varied. The majority of pharmaceutical pain killers get people 'high'. These include Diazapam, Temazapam, Morphine, Serapax, Mogodon etc. Ask any person addicted to these prescription drugs and they will acknowledge that the 'high' is part of their addiction. The addictiveness of the legally available drugs that I have mentioned are far worse than cannabis, and the withdrawal effects from mid to long term use of these drugs are far more serious than those associated with chronic use cannabis withdrawal. Cannabis withdrawal for long time users is considered less problematic than that of caffeine withdrawal.

"...users who start smoking cannabis at a young age, even in mid-adult years, change into different people without the mental and comprehensive abilities that they had before smoking the drug."

There is no evidence to suggest that cannabis causes the effects you suggest. However, there is proof that whilst under the influence, short term memory is affected. Studies conducted have never shown that long term use results in cognitive impairment.
"Individuals who think that legalizing marijuana is "not a big deal", do not understand that people only smoke marijuana to truely escape from reality, and legalizing it only promotes the pathetic lifestyle."

Firstly, all recreational psychotropic/active drugs, including alcohol are used by some people as a form of 'escape'. Others use these drugs as a relaxant.
Secondly, I don't understand what you mean by 'pathetic lifestyle'. Are you suggesting that all cannabis users lead pathetic lives? Perhaps you should discuss that with the likes of Carl Sagan, Willie Nelson, Al Gore, Art Garfunkel, Dame Margo Fonteyn, Carrie Fischer, Dan Quayle, Dr Francis Crick, Hunter.S.Thompson, Jesse Ventura, John Kerry, Pablo Picasso and in fact, George Bush. This is a very short list of the hundreds of famous and/or successful people who have smoke, or currently do smoke cannabis.
"Yes, marijuana has been used for medicinal properties throughout thousands of years by numerous civilizations, but they did not have the technology to examine the true after affects of the drug...
...We have the information now that others long ago did not have, so we should follow what the brain scans print out-not the mistakes of history."

One of the most recent studies conducted on the medicinal benefits of cannabis has shown (through brain scans) that cannabis is very effective in reducing anxiety in people suffering from this psychological condition. Another study by SETH (http://www.sethgroup.org/) has shown that DELTA-9_THC kills GBH brain cancer cells whilst leaving healthy brain cells intact.
There are no studies currently in use that show any brain damage as a result of cannabis use, even in chronic users.
"However, if times get hard enough, legalizing it and throwing outrageous taxes on it would not be so much of a bad idea, since denial is sometimes unmatched."

I'm unsure of your point here. However, you would most likely find that cannabis sales would indeed decrease after legalization and outrageous taxation on same.Unlike Tobaco, cannabis is not physically adictive. Therefore, people would either discontinue use, or start growing it in their backyards. Or perhaps even go back to buying it on the blackmarket, the same as people do in places where tobacco is taxed at a high rate.

Thanks for taking the time to read my response to your post. I hope I have not offended you, as that is not my intention. I merely wanted to draw your attention to some facts, and hope that you might do some further research on the subject.

Kind regards,
Indica Man

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Cannabis used in Biblical Annointing Oil? Maybe, Maybe Not.

I've been reading quite a number of articles lately claiming that cannabis was one of the ingredients of Holy Anointing Oil that is described in the First Testament (Exodus 30:23).

On the one hand, pro cannabis groups claim that the translation of Sweet Cane (Acorus camalus) was a mis-translation and that it was actually kineboisim, the Hebrew word for cannabis. The explanations are expanded to show that 'Jesus' used the oil and the arguments go on to state that Jesus and his mates were stoners (not the rock throwing type) and used the oil to get their visions etc. Personally, I'd love to believe this theory for two reasons. One, it would give more weight to the argument for removing pot prohibition, especially amongst the god fearing politicians around the world. Secondly, I kind of like the idea that a major religious figure in Western society might have been using cannabis as a healing herb.

On the other hand, some Christian groups claim that it is all poppycock and that Acorus camalus was indeed the herb used in the anointing oil mix, and that the only reason the cannabis argument is being pushed is so that 'drugees' and 'pot-head stoners' have another excuse to push for legalization.

Unfortunately, it is hard to prove one way or the other whether cannabis was used.

I'll list some extracts and links from the pro 'camalus was cannabis' arguments first. Please note that many of these links lead to Christian and non-Christian discussion forums. If you want to read further, please follow the links as I don't want to start ripping selected passages from each link, lest I be accused of pulling paragraphs out of context.

One of the more compelling arguments, and the one that most pro groups rely on is that the 'Sweet Camalus' referred to in the Exodus description of the Annointing Oil was mis-translated and actually means 'kineboisin'. In fact, in 1980, the Hebrew University made this translation official.

Links that argue the Hebrew University ruling:

A Post on 'Debating Christianity'

The Green Earth Ministries


The Book of Thoth site

Cannabis Culture covered this theory in detail:

Now, let's look at some of the sites that denounce the theory:

Wayne Blank, the author of the Daily Bible Study pulls the theory apart:

Chris Tilling does similar:

An argument on 'Talk Jesus.com' that turns nasty:

Jesus is Saviour.com also denounces the theory

What I find a little disconcerting about the anti-'camalus is pot' arguments is that there seems to be a general trend to make abusive statements about those that agree with the idea that the anointing oil contained cannabis. I won't enter into the argument, because I don't really care what was in the oil. However, if the folks who vehemently argue that cannabis was NOT used in the oil and say that it must have been 'Sweet Camalus' or Sweet Cane, they may be shocked to know that Acorus camalus is a well known hallucinogenic plant:

Have a little look at this page:
Here is an extract:

"ACTIVE INGREDIENTS: Asarone and beta-Asarone

"EFFECT: A piece of 5cm (thick as a pen) is stimulating and evokes cheerful mood. A 25cm piece may lead to altered perception and hallucinations. Calamus is also an aphrodisiac, especially when used as an additive in your bathing-water

The most balanced description of calamus as used in Exodus' description of anointing oil is this:

fragrant cane
Keneh bosem in Hebrew. Ancient sources identify this with the sweet calmus (Septuagint; Rambam on Kerithoth 1:1; Saadia; Ibn Janach). This is the sweetflag or flag-root, Acoras calamus which grows in Europe. It appears that a similar species grew in the Holy Land, in the Hula region in ancient times (Theophrastus, History of Plants 9:7). Other sources apparently indicate that it was the Indian plant, Cympopogan martini, which has the form of red straw (Yad, Kley HaMikdash 1:3). On the basis of cognate pronunciation and Septuagint readings, some identify Keneh bosem with the English and Greek cannabis, the hemp plant. There are, however, some authorities who identify the 'sweet cane' with cinnamon bark (Radak, Sherashim). Some say that kinman is the wood, and keneh bosem is the bark (Abarbanel).

This information is available at the Navigating The Bible site where it describes much of the bible in a matter of fact way.