8-14-19 Cannabis-based health products are going mainstream – do they work?
A component in cannabis called CBD is claimed to help everything from Alzheimer's to anxiety. Despite a boom in sales, there's little evidence supporting the claims. “IT WILL cure, eliminate or definitely help any disease,” an assistant in a shop just around the corner from New Scientist’s office in London tells me. Although these extraordinary claims aren’t made on the product’s packaging, the substance it contains is quickly gaining a reputation among consumers as a cure-all. Pain, anxiety, depression, cancer, psoriasis, Alzheimer’s, irritable bowel syndrome – you name it, someone somewhere is saying this substance will help. This apparently miraculous compound is cannabidiol, better known as CBD, a component of cannabis. Growing health claims coupled with a relaxing of laws around the sale of CBD-containing products has seeded a surge in interest. Despite the willingness of some to tout CBD’s curative powers, there is limited evidence to back up these bold health promises. “The range of claims is actually quite startling, and I don’t know whether to be worried or amused,” says Harry Sumnall at Liverpool John Moores University, UK. Cannabis has long been suspected of improving health by those who use it. Since November 2018, UK doctors have been allowed to prescribe it in special cases (see “Medicinal cannabis”, right). The change in legalisation came after high-profile campaigning, including from parents whose children have a severe form of epilepsy that seems to respond to cannabis products. A growing number of US states have legalised the plant for medicinal and recreational use too.
7-25-19 Marijuana Use Similar to New Lower Rate of Cigarette Smoking
Americans' cigarette use continues to decline, hitting a new low in Gallup's 75-year trend. Currently, 15% of U.S. adults say they have smoked cigarettes in the past week, in marked contrast to the 45% who reported doing so in the 1950s. At the same time, 12% of Americans now say they smoke marijuana and 8% say they have vaped in the past week.
- Rate of marijuana use (12%) nearly matches cigarette smoking (15%)
- Percentage of adults who smoke cigarettes is at a 75-year low
- One in four Americans have smoked or vaped in the past week
7-19-19 Toronto walls off illegal pot shops with concrete blocks
Toronto has used giant concrete blocks to bar entry to a chain of illegal cannabis dispensaries operating in the Canadian city. The unlicensed chain has four locations and the city has been playing a cat and mouse game for months trying to shut them down. The city calls them "blatant, repeat, and serial violators" of the rules. Canada legalised recreational marijuana last year but only government-licensed stores are allowed to sell the product. This week, Toronto bylaw enforcement officers, with the help of police, raided the four locations, seized the product on the premises and placed concrete blocks in front of them all to block entry. The city has filed over 70 charges against employees, property owners and the businesses since last year, and police had issued several closure orders. Whenever the stores were locked by police and bylaw officers, the owners would simply break back in and continue as before, said Mark Sraga, director of the city's investigation services. "It got to the point where we've taken what we believe is a very significant and dramatic enforcement action," he said. The blocks were removed within days at two storefronts by the dispensary operators, but were replaced by the city. In an emailed comment, the "Cannabis and Fine Edibles" dispensaries called the move "a vigilante interpretation of flawed legislation". Toronto resident Jay Rosenthal spotted the concrete barricades in front of one store on Tuesday. Mr Rosenthal, who also heads a media company that focuses on the business of cannabis, said unlicensed stores have customers in part because of the time it has taken the province of Ontario to get its legal retail cannabis sector up and running. Toronto currently has five licensed, legal cannabis stores.
7-9-19 Teens less likely to use cannabis when it's legal, US study finds
Teenagers are less likely to use cannabis in places where the drug has been legalised, a new study suggests. Researchers at Montana State University looked at health surveys of US high school pupils between 1993 and 2017. While overall use of the drug among young people went up in the US, teen use declined by nearly 10% in states where recreational use was legalised. Some 33 states have legalised medical cannabis, while 10 states have also legalised recreational use. Cannabis use remains illegal in all states for people under the age of 18. Lead author of the study Mark Anderson told the Associated Press that the study, published in the medical journal Jama Paediatrics, "should help to quell some concerns that use among teens will actually go up". His team analysed data on about 1.4 million teenagers in the US, taken from the Youth Risk Behaviour Surveys, an annual national survey carried out by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. Dr Anderson said it was usually harder for teens to buy from licensed dispensaries - where proof of age is required - than from dealers, which could partly explain the drop. Cannabis sold in dispensaries is also often more expensive. Dr Anderson said that the researchers did not find a change after medical cannabis was legalised - only when the drug was legalised for recreational purposes. The results echo those of a previous study, published last December, that found cannabis use among teens in Washington dropped after the state legalised the drug in 2012. But the results contradicted a 2018 study from Colorado which found that the number of high school pupils who said they used cannabis stayed the same after recreational use was legalised in that state in 2014. Dr Anderson told the US broadcaster CNN that, because most states that have legalised cannabis did so recently, the team would need to continue to track the data and update their findings "in a few years".
7-8-19 US teens may be finding it harder to buy cannabis after legalisation
Does legalising cannabis make it easier for teenagers to access the drug? The largest study to date suggests not – and it may even have the opposite effect. In US states that have legalised recreational use of marijuana, fewer teenagers reported taking the drug after the laws were passed. The world is in the middle of a global reappraisal of the legal status of cannabis. Many regions have legalised or at least decriminalised its possession or trade in some form, including Canada, Spain, Uruguay and many US states. But critics argue that this might be particularly risky for teenagers, whose developing brains are thought to be more vulnerable to any harms. Mark Anderson of Montana State University and colleagues looked at existing data from an ongoing anonymous survey of teenagers’ behaviour, which has been carried out every other year since the 1990s. They wanted to see if there were any trends in drug use linked with changes in the law. The team got results from 27 states and Washington DC that have legalised its use for medical reasons and seven states that have legalised recreational use. They found there was little difference after medical use was legalised, but after recreational use was permitted, those surveyed were about 8 per cent less likely to say they had used the drug ever in the past month, or to have used it ten times or more. That might be because when cannabis has become legal, it starts being sold at licensed dispensaries that require proof of age, and these tend to displace criminal drug dealers. “Teens could just use fake IDs or have someone over 21 buy for them, but the point is that it is now more difficult than prior to the law being passed,” says Anderson.
6-28-19 High times in ancient China
Archaeologists have uncovered the first physical evidence of humans using marijuana to get high, high in the mountains of Western China, reports NPR.org. A chemical analysis of wooden incense burners from a 2,500-year-old burial ground revealed residues of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), weed’s psychoactive compound. The burners are thought to have been used in mortuary rituals in which participants would place heated stones in the wooden braziers and cover them with cannabis leaves—producing a suitably atmospheric haze. Signs of ancient marijuana use have previously been discovered at burial sites in Eurasia, but this find, in the Pamir Mountains, is the oldest and farthest east yet. Co-author Yimin Yang, from the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, says the smoke was likely being used “to communicate with nature or spirits or deceased people, accompanied by music.” The residue suggests the cannabis used had high levels of THC. Wild strains of the plant tend to have lower levels, but it’s unclear whether the ancient users cultivated the pot themselves or simply gathered a particularly strong batch.
6-13-19 Chinese tombs yield earliest evidence of cannabis use
Researchers have uncovered the earliest known evidence of cannabis use, from tombs in western China. The study suggests cannabis was being smoked at least 2,500 years ago, and that it may have been associated with ritual or religious activities. Traces of the drug were identified in wooden burners from the burials. The cannabis had high levels of the psychoactive compound THC, suggesting people at the time were well aware of its effects. Cannabis plants have been cultivated in East Asia for their oily seeds and fibre from at least 4,000 BC. But the early cultivated varieties of cannabis, as well as most wild populations, had low levels of THC and other psychoactive compounds. The burners, or braziers, were found at Jirzankal Cemetery, high up in the Pamir Mountains. The scientists think ancient people put cannabis leaves and hot stones in the braziers and inhaled the resulting smoke. It's possible that the high altitude environment caused the cannabis plants in this region to naturally produce higher levels of THC. There's evidence this can happen in response to low temperatures, low nutrient levels and other conditions associated with high elevations. But people could have deliberately bred plants with higher levels of THC than wild varieties. It's the earliest clear evidence of cannabis being used for its psychoactive properties. They appear to have been burnt as part of funerary rituals. The scientists used a method called gas chromatography-mass spectrometry to isolate and identify compounds preserved in the burners. To their surprise, the chemical signature of the isolated compounds was an exact match to the chemical signature of cannabis. The findings tally with other early evidence for the presence of cannabis from burials further north, in the Xinjiang region of China and in the Altai Mountains of Russia.
6-12-19 Tombs in China reveal humans were smoking cannabis 2500 years ago
Cannabis is often promoted as all-natural. Yet in fact wild marijuana isn’t psychoactive and people didn’t start growing mutant strains that could make them high until relatively recently – around 2500 years ago. So say researchers who have found “the earliest unequivocal evidence” of the use of cannabis as a drug – chemical traces of cannabis with high levels of THC, a key component, on wooden braziers found in tombs dating to around 500 BC. The tombs are in the Jirzankal Cemetery near the border of China and Tajikistan. This psychoactive cannabis was likely “smoked” as part of Zoroastrian funeral rites, but joints, pipes and bongs weren’t known in this part of the world. Instead, hot pebbles were put in a wooden container and the cannabis placed on top of the stones. The ritual probably took place in small tents that would fill with the smoke. No tents have been found at Jirzankal but one has been found elsewhere and the practice was described by the ancient Greek historian Herodotus writing around 440 BC: “The Scythians… throw it upon the red-hot stones; immediately it smokes, and gives out such a vapour as no Grecian vapour-bath can exceed; the Scyths, delighted, shout for joy.” An analysis of the wood and stones by Yimin Yang at the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing and colleagues revealed traces of cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabinol. THC – the substance in cannabis that makes people high – breaks down into cannabinol when exposed to air or light. Wild cannabis has very low levels of THC and would leave traces with similar amounts of cannabinol and CBD, Yang says, whereas he found much higher levels of cannabinol than CBD. That shows people had found or bred mutant strains of cannabis with higher THC levels by this time.
6-12-19 People may have smoked marijuana in rituals 2,500 years ago in western China
Mourners gathered at a cemetery in what’s now western China around 2,500 years ago to inhale fumes of burning cannabis plants that wafted from small wooden containers. High levels of the psychoactive compound THC in those ignited plants, also known as marijuana, would have induced altered states of consciousness. Evidence of this practice comes from Jirzankal Cemetery in Central Asia’s Pamir Mountains, says a team led by archaeologist Yimin Yang of the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing. Chemical residues on wooden burners unearthed in tombs there provide some of the oldest evidence to date of smoking or inhaling cannabis fumes, the researchers report online June 12 in Science Advances. Rituals aimed at communicating with the dead or a spirit world likely included cannabis smoking, the team speculates. Cannabis remains of comparable age have been found in several other Central Asian tombs, including a site in Russia’s Altai Mountains located about 3,000 kilometers northwest of the Pamir Mountains. But the discoveries at Jirzankal Cemetery offer an unprecedented look at how cannabis was initially used as a mind-altering substance, the researchers say. East Asians grew cannabis starting at least 6,000 years ago, but only to consume the plants’ oily seeds and make clothing and rope out of cannabis fibers. Early cultivated cannabis varieties in East Asia and elsewhere, like most wild forms of the plant, contained low levels of THC and other mind-altering compounds. Some of the earliest evidence for people smoking marijuana comes from the Greek historian Herodotus, who wrote of cannabis smoking roughly 2,500 years ago on the Central Asian steppes, about 2,000 kilometers west of the Pamir Mountains. But a determination of exactly when and where high-THC cannabis plants first developed and which people first smoked cannabis has long eluded scientists.
5-17-19 Cannabis plant evolved super high (on the Tibetan Plateau)
Cannabis may have had high origins. Where the plant comes from has been a bit of a mystery, but analysis of ancient pollen now suggests it evolved some 3 kilometres above sea level on the Tibetan Plateau. Intriguingly, this site is only a few hundred kilometres from a cave that researchers recently announced was once home to our ancient Denisovan cousins. Humans began exploiting cannabis deep in prehistory. Its seeds are a good source of protein and fatty acids, while fibres from its stems can be spun into yarn and made into textiles. Its flowers, meanwhile, are a source of cannabinoids which have been used as a drug for at least 2700 years. To find out where the plant evolved, John McPartland at the University of Vermont and his colleagues searched through scientific studies to pick out archaeological and geological sites across Asia where cannabis pollen has been found. Identifying cannabis pollen isn’t easy because it looks identical to the pollen of a closely related plant called the common hop, which happens to be used for flavouring beer. But McPartland and his colleagues believe it is possible to work out which species the pollen belongs to by considering the other pollen present at an archaeological site. This is because cannabis lives on open grassy steppes, so its pollen usually occurs with the pollen of steppe plants. The common hop, however, grows mostly in woodlands, so its pollen typically occurs with tree pollen. When McPartland and his colleagues applied this rationale, they discovered that the earliest occurrence of cannabis pollen in the geological and archaeological record is in northern China and southern Russia. From the distribution of the pollen, the team concluded that cannabis probably emerged on the Tibetan Plateau in the vicinity of Qinghai Lake, which is about 3200 metres above sea level.
4-18-19 Taxes from cannabis
The U.S. government collected $4.7 billion in taxes from cannabis companies in 2017. Marijuana is illegal under federal law, but cannabis businesses still have to pay federal taxes on gross income and are not allowed deductions or credits. Seven states also tax pot. Alaska, for example, takes $50 per ounce of marijuana buds.
4-5-19 The dangers of edible marijuana
Pot-infused brownies, gummy bears, and other cannabis “edibles” are often portrayed as a fun and harmless way to ingest cannabis, but a new study suggests that eating weed may be more dangerous than smoking or vaping the drug. Researchers looked at thousands of marijuana-related emergency room visits in Denver from 2014, when the drug was legalized in Colorado, to 2016, reports The New York Times. While edibles represented only 0.3 percent of the total weight sold of THC—the psychoactive compound in weed—they accounted for 10 percent of cannabis-linked ER admissions. Patients displayed markedly different symptoms depending on how they’d consumed the drug. Nearly half of the patients who’d taken edibles complained of intoxication, compared with less than a third of those who’d smoked marijuana. Those who used edibles were also more likely to experience acute psychiatric symptoms and cardiovascular issues such as an irregular heartbeat. The scientists say the most likely reason for the disparity is that ingested weed takes longer to produce a high than smoked cannabis does, so users think the drug isn’t working and take more. Lead author Andrew Monte notes that the only three deaths in Colorado that have been definitively linked to marijuana—two suicides and a murder—all involved edibles. “States moving to liberalize cannabis policy,” he says, “should consider keeping edibles out of the recreational marketplace.”
4-5-19 Kosher Pot
Some cannabis growers in California are paying Jewish rabbis to certify their products as kosher. Because the federal government still considers marijuana illegal, growers cannot apply for labels such as “Organic” or “GMO free.” That’s why growers are asking for kosher certification from rabbinical authorities, said Josh Drayton of the California Cannabis Industry Association. “Folks deserve to know that what they’re consuming is healthy.”
4-4-19 Street cannabis 'contains dangerous amount of faecal matter'
Cannabis resin sold on the streets of Madrid is contaminated with dangerous levels of faecal matter, a study says. Traces of E.coli bacteria and the Aspergillus fungus were found by analysts who examined 90 samples bought in and around the Spanish capital. The samples of hashish were wrapped up in plastic "acorns" were the worst offenders, reportedly because of the way they are smuggled into the country. Some 40% of these also had the aroma of faeces, the study's lead author said. Buying, selling and importing cannabis is against the law in Spain, as is using it in public - although it is technically legal to grow it for personal use, provided it is not publicly visible, and to consume it in private. José Manuel Moreno Pérez, a pharmacologist from the Universidad Complutense in Madrid, collected hashish samples (also referred to as hash or resin) directly from street dealers, both in the city and the surrounding suburbs. The aim was to determine whether the drugs sold were suitable for human consumption. His research team then separated the contaminated samples by shape, with some of them resembling "acorns" and others "ingots", to see if one shape had more contaminates than the other. The study, co-authored with Pilar Pérez-Lloret, Juncal González-Soriano and Inmaculada Santos Álvarez, has been published in the journal Forensic Science International. They found that 93% of the acorn-shaped samples contained dangerous levels of E.coli bacteria, as did 29.4% of the ingot samples. Some 10% of the cannabis samples were also contaminated with Aspergillus, a dangerous fungus that can cause serious health problems. Most of the samples tested - 88.3% - were not suitable for consumption. Mr Pérez later explained the contamination - and the smell - to the Spanish newspaper El País.
3-29-19 Potent weed linked to psychosis
People who smoke high-strength marijuana every day are four times more likely to develop psychosis than those who have never used the drug, according to the largest-ever study on weed and mental health problems. As evidence grows of a link between marijuana and psychotic disorders, the new study suggests that levels of THC—the drug’s psychoactive component—are a major factor. Researchers from King’s College London looked at some 900 people in Europe and Brazil who received their first diagnosis of a psychotic disorder from 2010 to 2015 and compared them with more than 1,200 healthy people from the same regions. The scientists found that daily marijuana users were three times more likely to be diagnosed with psychosis than those who never consumed the drug, and four times more likely if they used cannabis with a high concentration of THC. Overall, the researchers estimate, 24 percent of new psychosis cases were linked to daily high-potency cannabis use. Co-author Robin Murray tells TheGuardian.com that the findings have implications for the debate over marijuana legalization. “Unless you want to pay for a lot more psychiatric beds,” he says, “you need to devise a system where you would legalize in a way that wouldn’t increase the consumption and increase the potency.” (Webmaster's comment: People shoud smoke weed for medical reasons, not to cause medical problems!)
3-25-19 Edibles are tied to more severe health issues than smoking marijuana
People who ingest the drug are more likely to have psych or heart problems than those who inhale it. After Colorado voted to legalize marijuana in 2012, doctors in Denver noticed a surprising trend. Most people who visited the emergency room for cannabis-related complaints had smoked the drug. But those who ingested the drug were more likely to suffer more severe effects, including psychiatric symptoms and heart problems. Edibles — marijuana-laced products such as brownies, cookies and gummy bears — are being associated with “medical complications that we never knew were associated with marijuana,” says neuroscientist Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., who was not involved in the study. Out of 2,567 marijuana-linked visits to the ER in 2012–2016 at the University of Colorado Hospital in Denver, only about 9 percent — or 238 cases — involved edibles. But those cases involved proportionally more short-term psychiatric conditions, with 18 percent of edible users suffering symptoms such as anxiety and psychosis compared with about 11 percent of cannabis smokers, researchers report March 25 in Annals of Internal Medicine. Heart issues were also more prevalent among ER visitors who had eaten edibles: Eight percent of those patients were diagnosed as having symptoms such as an irregular heartbeat, or even heart attacks. By comparison, only 3.1 percent of marijuana smokers in the ER had such heart symptoms. The study, however, describes only a correlation; it does not show that smoking or ingesting marijuana actually leads to these conditions. Smoking marijuana, by contrast, was more likely to be linked with gastrointestinal issues, accounting for about 32 percent of all inhalation cases versus roughly 15 percent of the edible cases.
2-27-19 Engineered yeast can brew up the active ingredients in cannabis plants
Genes from the cannabis plant have been added to yeast strains to enable them to make cannabinoids, key chemicals from the plant that have therapeutic value. The “cannayeasts” should make it possible to turn sugar into pure forms of many different cannabinoids, and to do so more cheaply and with less environmental damage than farming. “It gives us access to all these rare cannabinoids that might even be better therapeutics,” says Jay Keasling at the University of California, Berkeley, who led the team behind the work. Our bodies produce cannabinoids to help regulate everything from memory to appetite. Marijuana plants make more than 100 chemicals that can also bind to the cannabinoid receptors in our nervous system. The main cannabinoid in cannabis is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is what makes people feel “stoned” when they take cannabis. The next most abundant is cannabidiol (CBD). This helps reduce the symptoms of some forms of epilepsy, and may be useful for treating a few other conditions too. Various forms of CBD, such as e-spliffs, have become fashionable lately, and are claimed to have all kinds of benefits. (CBD is legal in many countries where cannabis remains illegal.) But extracting pure CBD or THC from plants, or making it from scratch, is difficult and expensive. Keasling says the genetically modified yeasts will produce pure cannabinoids more cheaply. “We can beat the economics of growing it on farms,” he says. “In part, it’s because there is a lot of manual labour in clipping the buds and all the things you have to do to grow cannabis.” What’s more, producing chemicals in yeast is less environmentally damaging than growing large amounts of a plant just to extract a chemical that is present in tiny quantities, he says.
1-29-19 Cannabis cookies given to boy, 4, for temper tantrums
A California doctor is fighting for his licence after he prescribed cannabis cookies to a four-year-old boy. Dr William Eidelman, a natural medicine physician, said small doses of marijuana would help control the child's temper tantrums. The doctor misdiagnosed the child as having bipolar disorder and attention deficit disorder (ADD). The Medical Board of California ruled to revoke the doctor's licence but he has launched an appeal. The board did not seek to revoke the licence because the doctor had prescribed cannabis to a child, which is legal for medicinal purposes in the state of California. Dr Eidelman was investigated due to being "negligent in his care and treatment" - he had failed to consult a psychiatrist in the case or communicate with the school. The boy's father consulted Dr Eidelman in September 2012 because his son was misbehaving at school. The doctor recommended small amounts of the drug, which was revealed when the school nurse was asked to give the boy his cannabis cookies at lunchtime. As a child, the boy's father had ADHD and bipolar disorder himself and had a negative experience with prescribed medications at the time, saying he felt like a "human guinea pig". He started using marijuana later in life, saying it helped "calm him" and changed his behaviour towards his wife, towards whom he had previously "exhibited anger". The father had previously obtained the drug for his older son, who had also been diagnosed with ADHD and bipolar disorder. He said marijuana had had a "positive effect" on both his children. (Webmaster's comment: Since marijauna is even bad for undeveloped teenage minds this is every risky.)
1-26-19 America's CBD mania
The cannabis extract is being hailed as a miracle drug. Is there any evidence that it works?
- What is it? Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a compound in the Cannabis sativa plant that doesn't get you high.
- How is it ingested? Some puff it from a vaporizer, but it's mainly produced as an oil concentrate, allowing it to be mixed in juice or other liquids and consumed by drinking.
- So it's legal? It's actually in a gray area.
- How will that help? Without regulation, CBD products are marketed and labeled about as reliably as snake oil.
- Is CBD backed by science? Most findings are preliminary at best, since research on CBD itself began only a few years ago.
- Where do experts stand? Research may be sparse, but unlike, say, crystals and healing bracelets, CBD clearly does have biological effects.
- The GOP's embrace of hemp: The Republican Party's long-standing hostility toward cannabis was captured by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who famously said, "Good people don't smoke marijuana."
1-25-19 Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence
As marijuana continues its “inevitable march to legalization in all 50 states,” Americans have largely accepted the pot lobby’s claim that the drug is relatively harmless, said Reed Tucker in the New York Post. “But what if it’s not?” Alex Berenson, a former New York Times investigative reporter, has pored through decades of weed research and come up with a powerful case for caution. Tell Your Children makes clear the link between cannabis use and psychotic disorders—one study showed that heavy users have a six times greater chance of developing schizophrenia—and unearths scientific evidence that marijuana can be a gateway drug, leading to opiate or cocaine use. Meanwhile, he finds little proof of weed’s supposed medical value, instead discovering that it might worsen anxiety and PTSD and also raise the risk of testicular cancer. The uncertainty of weed researchers is “scarcely more reassuring than Berenson’s alarmism,” said Malcolm Gladwell in The New Yorker. Right now, we simply don’t know how damaging marijuana is to its millions of users. Most likely, weed sits somewhere in the middle on the drug continuum: far less benign than coffee, not nearly as pernicious as opioids. And so, as Berenson suggests, we might consider treating marijuana as we do alcohol or nicotine: legalizing it, but also passing laws that, however imperfectly, work to limit its use. For now, “the advice that seasoned potheads sometimes give new users—‘start low and go slow’—is probably good advice for society as a whole, at least until we better understand what we are dealing with.”
With doctor's advice and under prescription control legalizing
Medical Marijuana seems like a good idea, but the above scientific
facts will help you decide whether to support it or not.
Medical Marijuana Articles 2019