Severe chronic pain is usually treated with opioid narcotics and various synthetic analgesics, but these drugs have many limitations.

December 3, 2009 – Opioids are addictive and tolerance develops. The most commonly used synthetic analgesics – aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol), and nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen -are not addictive but they are often insufficiently powerful. Furthermore they have serious toxic side effects including gastric bleeding or ulcer and in the long run a risk of liver or kidney disease. Stomach bleeding and ulcers induced by aspirin and other NSAIDs are the most common serious adverse drug reactions reported in the United States. These drugs may be responsible for as many as 76,000 hospitalizations and more than 7,600 deaths annually. Acetaminophen is increasingly prescribed instead because it largely spares the digestive tract, but it can cause liver damage or kidney failure when used regularly for long periods. Medical researchers have estimated that patients who take one to three acetaminophen tablets a day for a year or more account for about 8% to 10% of all cases of end-stage renal disease, a condition that is fatal without dialysis or a kidney transplant.

Given the limitations of opioids and non-addictive synthetic analgesics, one might have expected pain specialists to take a second look at cannabis, but the medical literature again suggests little recent reconsideration. Cannabis may be especially useful for the kinds of chronic pain that people who survive catastrophic traumatic accidents have to live with the rest of their lives.

Martin Martinez is such a patient:
High school friends of mine made a daily springtime habit of smoking marijuana just outside the principal’s office windows, purposely blowing in billows of pungent smoke on the afternoon breeze. Being chased out of the yard by irate school officials heightened the drug’s effects as young hearts raced to join their buddies bursting with laughter. An outsider among outsiders, I was not fond of such games. Nor was I interested in the use of pot for purely social or recreational uses. Marvelous insights captivated my mind when stoned. As I grew older my use of cannabis developed beyond intuitive meditation and became the catalyst of many profound mystical experiences. Later in life I found that the moderate use of cannabis did not interfere with demanding physical tasks and skills such as building construction and home remodeling. While a large dose of marijuana would tend to make me feel less active, a smaller dose invigorated my vitality. I also rode a motorcycle in my youth. I felt that a small dose of marijuana actually increased my motor skills. By the age of 27 I had driven many thousands of miles while mildly stoned and had never caused an accident. Then one night a reckless driver swerved into my lane and crashed into me at a combined speed of 60 miles per hour. I was not expected to survive.

I suffered dozens of severe injuries in the crash, including 25 orthopedic fractures and massive skull fractures which severely crippled several cranial nerves. Two months after the crash I lay in bed a crumpled mass of pain. My IV fed me up to 10 milligrams of morphine every 7 minutes, 24 hours a day, but still I had trouble sleeping because the pain was so intense. I was told that I was not going to recover mobility and that I would spend the rest of my life connected to a medical facility. I could barely speak due to the nerve damage to my voice and throat. The constant pain in my eyes was excruciating. I was given morphine and other narcotics which incapacitated me, but did not reduce the pain in my eyes. Swallowing was a challenge which often resulted in choking and coughing fits lasting many minutes. As the weeks went by I began to suspect that the medications I was given were actually contributing to my neurological impairments by inhibiting concentration and depressing neurological responses. In addition, I was painfully aware that narcotics had a disastrous effect on my intestines.

One day I was visited by an outpatient who had AIDS. He told me a little about the medical uses of marijuana and he gave me a joint. I waited till late at night when the nurses were busy elsewhere. I smoked the joint in secret and my heart raced so much I feared that I might burst the scars of my recent surgery. But then the contraband was gone, the scent was dissipated, and outraged nurses still had not discovered me, so my heart rate slowed to a comfortable purr. I felt relaxed and at ease, but not stupefied. I could still sense the deep scars of my damaged nerves, but I was somehow mentally distanced from the pain in a way that morphine did not offer. I slept that night more soundly than I had since the crash.

I left the primary hospital as soon as I could talk my doctors into releasing me. I returned to my hometown and became an outpatient at a facility there. I continued to use narcotics and other pain medications prescribed by my doctors, but over the months and years I gradually replaced several prescription medicines with the use of cannabis. Nearly all of the drugs I had been given by doctors seemed to depress my mind and body, and the addictive quality of narcotics created numerous unpleasant psychological effects. Unlike narcotics, cannabis use imparted positive mental and physical stimulation, called euphoria, that encouraged my rapid recovery.

With the use of cannabis replacing sensory-depressive narcotics, I found myself recovering far beyond the expectations of my first 27 doctors. Five years after the crash I took some college courses and then began to work again. By the time I was well enough to maintain a full time carpentry job I was smoking hundreds of dollars worth of cannabis per month. Ten years after the crash, having spent in excess of $10,000 per year on unreliable qualities of cannabis, I was arrested for growing my own.

In my trial the prosecution proved that I was growing what they considered to be a “huge” amount of marijuana. The fact that I had possession of 88 plants was assumed to be evidence that I was a drug dealer. I proved that I had a legitimated medical necessity for the use of marijuana and that I also had a very substantial income in real estate development which precluded a profit motive. Using the harvest estimates of the Drug Enforcement Administration agent who testified against me and the consumption estimates of the physician who testified for me, the amount of cannabis seized might have lasted me up to two years and saved me up to $20,000. Eight of the jurors in my trial were sympathetic and voted to acquit me on the grounds of medical necessity. Four of the jurors agreed with the State’s contention that I had intended to sell my medicine. A mistrial was declared and I remained free.

Two months later police officers returned to my home. They held me and searched the premises without a warrant, discovering a much smaller cannabis garden than they had seized the year before. A vindictive State prosecutor arrived at my house and intentionally confiscated confidential communications to and from my attorneys. I spent a second birthday in a row deathly sick in bed after having been released from jail. Physically, emotionally, and economically bankrupt, unable to afford the enormous cost of another trial, and unable to obtain a public defender due to my ownership of severely over-mortgaged real estate, I accepted a “no jail-time” plea bargain deal which was broken the day before sentencing. The medical affidavits of Dr. Grinspoon and four additional physicians had no apparent influence on the imperious court. I was sentenced to 90 days in jail for the criminal act of cultivating cannabis for my own medical use.

I was on the brink of catastrophe, about to begin the second worst three months of my life, when a marvelous thing happened. Hundreds of people, including doctors, medical marijuana activists, other medicinal cannabis users, and other concerned citizens, started an organized telephone, fax, and letter-writing campaign which forced the State to review and reevaluate its disposition of my case. Thanks to the sincere efforts of numerous concerned persons all jail time was then commuted to 240 hours of community service and the imposition of urine analysis testing was waived. Although the criminal actions against me cost me two years of terrible hardship, at least the State eventually decided not to further endanger my health. By: Martin Martinez. Source.

December 3, 2009 – Marijuana is a complex substance containing over 60 different forms of cannabinoids, the active ingredients. Cannabinoids are now known to have the capacity for neuromodulation, via direct receptor-based mechanisms at numerous levels within the nervous system. These have therapeutic properties that may be applicable to the treatment of neurological disorders; including anti-oxidative, neuroprotective, analgesic and anti-inflammatory actions; immunomodulation, modulation of glial cells and tumor growth regulation. This article reviews the emerging research on the physiological mechanisms of endogenous and exogenous cannabinoids in the context of neurological disease.

Introduction
Over the past few decades, there has been widening interest in the viable medicinal uses of cannabis. The National Institutes of Health, the Institute of Medicine, and the Food and Drug Administration have all issued statements calling for further investigation. The discovery of an endogenous cannabinoid system with specific receptors and ligands has led the progression of our understanding of the actions of cannabis from folklore to valid science. It now appears that the cannabinoid system evolved with our species and is intricately involved in normal human physiology, specifically in the control of movement, pain, memory and appetite, among others. The detection of widespread cannabinoid receptors in the brain and peripheral tissues suggests that the cannabinoid system represents a previously unrecognized ubiquitous network in the nervous system. Dense receptor concentrations have been found in the cerebellum, basal ganglia and hippocampus, accounting for the effects on motor tome, coordination and mood state. Low concentrations are found in the brainstem, accounting the remarkably low toxicity. Lethal doses in humans has not been described.

The Chemistry of Cannabis
Marijuana is a complex plant, with several subtypes of cannabis, each containing over 400 chemicals. Approximately 60 are chemically classified as cannabinoids. The cannabinoids are 21 carbon terpenes, biosynthesized predominantly via a recently discovered deoxyxylulose phosphate pathway. The cannabinoids are lipophilic and not soluble in water. Among the most psychoactive is D9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in dronabinol (Unimed Pharmaceuticals Inc). Other major cannabinoids include cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabinol (CBN), both of which may modify the pharmacology of THC or have distinct effects of their own. CBD is not psychoactive but has significant anticonvulsant, sedative and other pharmacological activity likely to interact with THC. In mice, pretreatment with CBD increased brain levels of THC nearly 3-fold and there is strong evidence that cannabinoids can increase the brain concentrations and pharmacological actions of other drugs.

Two endogenous lipids, anandamide (AEA) and 2-aracidonylglycerol (2-AG), have been identified as cannabinoids, although there are likely to be more. The physiological roles of these endocannabinoids have been only partially clarified but available evidence suggests they function as diffusible and short-lived intercellular messengers that modulate synaptic transmission. Recent studies have provided strong experimental evidence that endogenous cannabinoids mediate signals retrogradely from depolarized post synaptic neurons to presynaptic terminals to suppress subsequent neurotransmitter release, driving the synapse into an altered state. In hippocampal neurons, depolarization of postsynaptic neurons and the resultant elevation of calcium lead to transient suppression of inhibitory transmitter release. Depolarized hippocampal neurons rapidly release both AEA and 2-AG in a calcium-dependent manner. In the hippocampus, cannabinoid receptors are expressed mainly by GABA-mediated inhibitory interneurons. Synthetic cannabinoid agonists depress GABAA release from hippocampal slices. However, in cerebellar Purkinje cells, depolarization-induced elevation of calcium causes transient suppression of excitatory transmitter release. Thus endogenous cannabinoids released by depolarized hippocampal neurons may function to downregulate GABA release. Further, signaling by the endocannabinoid system appears to represent a mechanism enabling neurons to communicate backwards across synapses in order to modulate their inputs.

There are two known cannabinoid receptor subtypes; subtype 1 (CB1) is expressed primarily in the brain, whereas subtype 2 (CB2) is expressed primarily in the periphery. Cannabinoid receptors constitute a major family of G protein-coupled, 7-helix transmembrane nucleotides, similar to the receptors of other neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine. Activation of protein kinases may be responsible for some of the cellular responses elicited by the CB1 receptor.

Neuromodulation and neuroprotection
As we are developing an increased cognizance of the physiological function of endogenous and exogenous cannabinoids it is becoming evident that they may be involved in the pathology of certain diseases, particularly neurological disorders. Cannabinoids may induce proliferation, growth arrest or apoptosis in a number of cells, including neurons, lymphocytes and various transformed neural and non-neural cells. In the CNS, most of the experimental evidence indicates that cannabinoids may protect neurons from toxic insults such as glutamatergic overstimulation, ischemia and oxidative damage. The neuroprotective effect of cannabinoids may have potential clinical relevance for the treatment of neurodegenerative disorders such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson.s disease, cerebrovascular ischemia and stroke. Both endogenous and exogenous cannabinoids apear to have neuroprotective and antioxidant effects. Recent studies have demonstrated the neuroprotective effects of synthetic, non-psychotropic cannabinoids, which appear to protect neurons from chemically-induced excitotoxicity. Direct measurement of oxidative stress reveals that cannabinoids prevent cell death by antioxidation. The antioxidative property of cannabinoids is confirmed by their ability to antagonize oxidative stress and consequent cell death induced by the powerful oxidant, retinoid anhydroretinol. Cannabinoids also modulate cell survival and the growth of B-lymphocytes and fibroblasts.

The neuroprotective actions of cannabidiol and other cannabinoids have been examined in rat cortical neuron cultures exposed to toxic levels of the exitatory neurotransmitter glutamate. Glutamate toxicity was reduced by both CBD (non-psychoactive) and THC. The neuroprotection observed with CBD and THC was unaffected by a cannabinoid receptor antagonist, indicating it to be cannabinoid receptor-independent. CBD was more protective against glutamate neurotoxicity than either ascorbate (vitamin C) or a-tocopherol (vitamin E).

Cannabinoids have demonstrated efficacy as immune modulators in animal models of neurological conditions such as MS and neuritis. Current data suggests that the naturally occurring, non-psychotropic cannabinoid, CBD, may have a potential role as a therapeutic agent for neurodegenerative disorders produced by excessive cellular oxidation, such as ALS, a disease characterized by excess glutamate activity in the spinal cord.

It is not yet known how glutamatergic insults affect in vivo endocannabinoid homeostasis, including AEA, 2-AG, as well as other constituents of their lipid families, N-acylethanolamines (NAEs) and 2-monoacylglycerols (2-MAGs). Hansen et al used three in vivo neonatal rat models characterized by widespread neurodegeneration as a consequence of altered glutamatergic neurotransmission and assessed changes in endocannabinoid homeostasis. A 46-fold increase in cortical NAE concentration and a 13-fold increase in AEA was noted 24 h after intracerebral NMDA injection, while less severe insults triggered by mild concussive head trauma or NDMA receptor blockade produced a less pronounced NAE accumulation. In contrast, levels of 2-AG and other 2-MAGs were unaffected by the insults employed, rendering it likely that key enzymes in biosynthetic pathways of the two different endocannabinoid structures are not equally associated with intracellular events that cause neuronal damage in vivo. Analysis of cannabinoid CB1 receptor mRNA expression and binding capacity revealed that cortical subfields exhibited an upregulation of these parameters following mild concussive head trauma and exposure to NMDA receptor blockade. This suggests that mild-to-moderate brain activity via concomitant increase of anandamide levels, but not 2-AG, and CB1 receptor density. Panikashvili et al demonstrated that 2-AG has an important neuroprotective role. After closed head injury (CHI) in mice, the level of endogenous 2-AG was significantly elevated. After administering synthetic 2-AG to mice following CHI, a significant reduction of brain edema, better clinical recovery, reduced infarct volume and reduced hippocampal cell death compared with controls occurred. When 2-AG was administered together with additional inactive 2-acyl-glycerols that are normally present in the brain, functional recovery was significantly enhanced. The beneficial effect of 2-AG was dose-dependently attenuated by SR-141716A (Sanofi-Synthélabo), an antagonist of the CB1 receptor [30]. Ferraro et al looked at the effects of the cannabinoid receptor agonist WIN-55212-2 (Sanofi Winthrop Inc) on endogenous extracellular GABA levels in the cerebral cortex of the awake rat using microdialysis. Win-55212-2 was associated with a concentration-dependent decrease in dialysate GABA levels. Win-55212-2 induces inhibition was counteracted by the CB1 receptor antagonist SR-141716A, which by itself was without effect on cortical GABA levels. These findings suggest that cannabinoids decrease cortical GABA levels in vivo.

Sinor has shown that AEA and 2-AG increase cell viability in cerebral cortical neuron cultures subjected to 8 h of hypoxia and glucose deprivation. This effect was observed at nanomolar concentrations, was reproduced by a non-hydrolyzable analog of anandamide, and was unaltered by CB1 or CB2 receptor antagonists. In the immune system, low doses of cannabinoids may enhance cell proliferation, whereas high doses of cannabinoids usually induce growth arrests or apoptosis.

In addition, cannabinoids produce analgesia by modulating rostral ventromedial medulla neuronal activity in a manner similar to, but pharmacologically distinct from, that of morphine. Cannabinoids have been shown to produce an anti-inflammatory effect by inhibiting the production and action of tumor necrosis factor (TNF) and other acute phase cytokines. These areas are discussed in great detail in a recent paper by Rice.
Glia as the cellular targets of cannabinoids

There is now accumulating in vitro evidence that glia (astrocytes and microglia in particular) have cannabinoid signaling systems. This provides further insight into the understanding of the therapeutic effects of cannabinoid compounds. Glial cells are the non-neuronal cells of the CNS. In humans they outnumber neurons by a factor of about 10:1. Because of their smaller average size they make up about 50% of the cellular volume of the brain. Glial cells of the CNS fall into three general categories: astrocytes, oligodendrocytes and microglia. Schwann cells and the less well-recognized enteric glia are their counterparts in the peripheral nervous system. Glia are ubiquitous in the nervous system and are critical in maintaining the extracellular environment, supporting neurons, myelinating axons and immune surveillance of the brain. Glia are involved, actively or passively, in virtually all disorders or insults involving the brain. This makes them logical targets for therapeutic pharmacological interventions in the CNS. Astrocytes are the most abundant cell type of the CNS. They express CB1 receptors, and take up and degrade the endogenous cannabinoid anandamide. The expression of CB2 receptors in this population appears to be limited to gliomas and may be an indicator of tumor malignancy. Two recent studies suggest that some of the anti-inflammatory effects of cannabinoids, such as the inhibition of nitric oxide (NO) and TNF release are mediated by CB1 receptors on astrocytes.

The most recent therapeutic role for cannabinoids in the CNS evolved from the discovery that cannabinoids selectively induce apoptosis in glioma cells in vitro and that THC and other cannabinoids lead to a spectacular regression of malignant gliomas in immune-compromised rats in vivo. The mechanism underlying this is not yet clear but it appears to involve both CB1 and CB2 receptor activation. A recent study comparing the antiproliferative effects of cannabinoids on C6 glioma cells suggests the involvement of vanilloid receptors.

Microglia are the tissue macrophages of the brain. In variance from other immune tissue but in accordance with their place in the CNS microglia appear to lack CB2 receptors on protein and RNA levels. Similar to their effect on peripheral macrophages, cannabinoids inhibit the release of NO and the production of various inflammatory cytokines in microglia. Interestingly, the inhibition of NO release seems to be CB1 receptor- mediated, whereas the differential inhibition of cytokines is not mediated by either CB1 or CB2 receptors, suggesting as yet unidentified receptors or a receptor independent mechanism. Irrespective, the potential of cannabinoids on inflammatory processes such as a mouse model of MS or future experiments on brain tumors in immunocompetent animal.

Nothing is known of the effects of cannabinoids on oligodendroglia. In the light of the clinical and experimental evidence suggesting the beneficial effects of cannabinoids in MS, investigations in this direction appear promising.

Future trends

A growing number of strategies for separating the sought-after therapeutic effects of cannabinoid receptor agonists from the unwanted consequences of CB1 receptor activation are now emerging. However, further improvements in the development of selective agonists and antagonists for CB1 and CB2 receptors are needed. This would allow for the refinement of cannabinoids with good therapeutic potential and would facilitate the design of effective therapeutic drugs from the cannabinoid family. Customized delivery systems are also needed; as the cannabinoids are volatile, they will vaporize at a temperature much lower than actual combustion. Thus heated air can be drawn through marijuana and the active compounds will vaporize and can easily be inhaled. Theoretically this removes most of the wealth hazards of smoking, although this has not been well studied. Recently, pharmacologically active, aerosolized forms of THC have been developed. This form of administration is achieved via a small particle nebulizer that generates an aerosol which penetrates deeply into the lungs.

From a regulatory perspective, the scientific process should be allowed to evaluate the potential therapeutic effects of cannabis, dissociated from the societal debate over the potentially harmful effects of non-medical marijuana use. This class of compounds not only holds tremendous therapeutic potential for neurological disease but is also confirmed as having remarkably low toxicity. Source.

Benefits of Cannabis Use

December 2, 2009 – New Jersey is poised to become the next state to allow residents to use marijuana, when recommended by a doctor, for relief from serious diseases and medical conditions.

The state Senate has approved the bill and the state Assembly is expected to follow. The legislation would then head to the governor’s office for his signature.

Gov. Jon Corzine, the Democrat who lost his re-election bid last month, has indicated he would sign the bill if it reaches his desk before he leaves office in January. It would likely be one of Mr. Corzine’s last acts before relinquishing the job to Republican Chris Christie.

Mr. Christie has indicated he would be supportive of such legislation, but had concerns that one draft of a bill he read didn’t have enough restrictions, a spokeswoman said.

The bill has been endorsed by the New Jersey Academy of Family Physicians and the New Jersey State Nurses Association.

Some lawmakers oppose the legislation, saying they fear the proliferation of marijuana dispensaries, as in California, where medical marijuana is legal. “It sends a mixed message to our children if you can walk down the street and see pot shops,” said Republican Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini.

Federal law bars the use of marijuana. But legislatures in several states, including California, Colorado, Michigan, New Mexico, Rhode Island and Vermont, permit use of the drug for medical purposes. Attorney General Eric Holder said earlier this year that federal prosecutors wouldn’t prosecute people complying with state medical marijuana laws.

The New Jersey bill would allow people with debilitating medical conditions to grow, possess and use marijuana for personal use, provided that a physician allows it after completing a full assessment of the patient’s history and condition. The conditions that are stipulated in the Senate bill include cancer, glaucoma and human immunodeficiency viruses.

State Sen. Nicholas Scutari, a Democrat who has led the fight for the medical-marijuana bill, said that was not a final list. He said the Senate bill would have to be reconciled with whatever the Assembly might pass.

Support for the legislation stems partly from sympathy for the plight of John Ray Wilson, a New Jersey resident who suffers from multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system. Mr. Wilson is scheduled to go on trial in December on felony drug charges, including operating a drug-production facility and manufacturing drugs. State police said they found 17 mature marijuana plants growing alongside his home in 2008. He has pleaded not guilty.

The Superior Court judge who will oversee the case has barred Mr. Wilson from explaining to the jury that he uses marijuana for his multiple sclerosis instead of more conventional medicines, which he said he can’t afford, since he has no medical insurance.

If convicted, Mr. Wilson faces up to 20 years in prison. “It definitely helps for pain,” Mr. Wilson said. “Stress can bring MS on. And I’m definitely under some stress.”

David Wald, a spokesman for the state attorney general, which is arguing the state’s position, said: “We’re prosecuting the law.”

At least two lawmakers, including Mr. Scutari, have asked Mr. Corzine to pardon Mr. Wilson. “I think it’s unfair,” said Mr. Scutari. “To try to incarcerate him for years and years doesn’t serve a good government function.”

The governor’s office said it wouldn’t comment on pardons involving an ongoing case.

Mr. Wilson’s case hasn’t persuaded Ms. Angelini, who voted against it in the health committee. As the executive director of Prevention First, an antidrug and antiviolence nonprofit, she said she was concerned that the bill would open the door for more liberal drug policies.

“If the drug laws are lax,” she said, “that can open it up to eventual drug legalization.”

By SUZANNE SATALINE. Source.

Wisconsin Senate and Assembly consider bill this month.

December 2, 2009 – Linda Moon felt crippled by medications prescribed for her by doctors.

“For three years, I laid in bed. I was almost comatose, and couldn’t move,” she said.

One day, the 50-year-old Fond du Lac woman threw away 25 different kinds of pills and turned to marijuana to treat chronic conditions that had left her disabled.

“I was able to get food in my system. I could get out of bed and I had a personality again,” Moon said.

She is among the supporters of a state medical marijuana bill co-sponsored by state Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, and Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Waunakee. If the legislation passes and is signed into law, a person with a prescription from a doctor could obtain up to three ounces of marijuana from a licensed dispensary or grow up to 12 plants at home.

The Jacki Rickert Medical Marijuana Act would cover people with cancer, AIDS, Crohn’s disease, Hepatitis C, Alzheimer’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder and other diseases that could be labeled serious medical conditions.

In October, the Obama administration announced that the federal government will not prosecute users or distributors of medicinal marijuana as long as they follow state laws. The announcement is the latest part of a trend that has seen several states, including Minnesota, take an increased interest in the issue.

Currently, 13 states have legalized marijuana for medicinal use.

Personal stories

Teresa Shepherd of Jackson chairs the community outreach committee for the new Milwaukee chapter of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

A gymnast and martial artist, the 34-year-old suffers from fibromyalgia, degenerative disc disease and arthritis.

“The medications I was given made me sicker than I was,” said Shepherd, mentioning Vicodin and Lyrica. “I have been unable to work for over a year now. I didn’t think there was any hope.”

Marijuana use put her back on her feet, with no side effects.

“The people coming forward — they aren’t just trying to get high,” Shepherd said. “These are intelligent people who do not want to live on disability.”

Shepherd said she goes through about an ounce and a half each month, obtained through people she most likely would not talk to otherwise in the black market.

“I’m coming forward for every fibromyalgia patient out there. I’m tired of the suffering,” she said.

Jeffrey Smith of Brillion was paralyzed from the chest down 20 years ago and lives in constant pain.

The drugs prescribed for him — Baclofen and Gabapentin — had ill effects and their dosages were life threatening, he said.

“The Gabapentin didn’t stop the pain so much as it gave me a ‘chemical lobotomy,’ made me too spaced out to speak. On the other hand, the use of cannabis hemp as a medicinal treatment has given me a greatly improved living quality. I can once again compose music, perform it and even write for two online magazines. It has given me a life that patented medication surely took away,” he said.

Pros and cons

Dr. Steve Harvey, anesthesiologist and board-certified pain physician with Aurora Health Care in Fond du Lac and Sheboygan, sees medical marijuana as playing a significant role in treating debilitating conditions caused by cancer and chronic pain.

“I think in the case of patients with nerve pain, shingles or post-shingle pain, with pain that radiates down the leg or arms, or herniated discs, it has a direct analgesic effect,” Harvey said.

Particularly useful, he said, is marijuana’s demonstrated anti-nausea effects on cancer patients.

“There are forms of cannabis available outside of smoking it. Any arrow in the quiver that is available to us can be very useful and I think that is being demonstrated in other parts of the country. Frankly, I don’t have a problem with it,” he said.

Marijuana opponent and Fond du Lac psychiatrist Dr. Darold Treffert says the push for medical marijuana is misdirected, unnecessary and holds great risk.

“I have treated patients with AODA problems, including marijuana, for over 40 years. And marijuana is not harmless. Whatever the benefits, if any, of making medical marijuana available by prescription are far outweighed by the risks of how easily in other states it has led to ‘sham clinics’ with mass diversion to street use,” he said.

In Michigan, which recently made medical marijuana available, there are 1,000 new applications per month from patients and growers, and a “cannabis college” has been established to teach students how to grow the plants most effectively. In dispensaries, the marijuana often has rather exotic, non-medicinal-sounding names.

“I sympathize, and do have compassion, for patients experiencing long term pain or other intractable problems. But the risks of diversion and all its attendant problems far outweigh the benefits of making medical marijuana (smoked) readily available, and there are other alternatives available for such circumstances without those risks,” Treffert said. “Research is under way to synthesize THC or other cannabinols that can be delivered in standardized doses in a conventional manner. I support that research. It is simply a more sensible and less dangerous way to proceed.”

Agnesian HealthCare was unable to provide a physician that would discuss the use of medical marijuana.

More views

State Rep. John Townsend said he opposes any marijuana use, and would vote against the bill.

“Under federal law, it is an illegal substance, and there may by some problems with that. Some state statutes allow medical marijuana, but my question is whether it is really being used for medical purposes — or is it recreational? And who is regulating this use? I’ve been in contact with the local medical community, and they are not in favor of it,” he said.

Disabled veteran Steve Passehl of Wittenberg broke three vertebrae during the Gulf War and has undergone 13 surgeries.

“Marijuana helps with spasms from my paralysis and neck injury. It helps me deal with chronic pain, fights my depression, and gets me to eat,” he said.

According to a story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, House and Senate Bills (AB 554 and SB 368) define how many people can be cared for and place caps on the amount of marijuana that can be available in compassion centers, as well as allowing production and distribution facilities.

Previous bills in Wisconsin relating to the topic failed despite occasional bi-partisan support.
By Sharon Roznik. Source.

Additional Facts
WHAT’S NEXT

# A hearing on the medical marijuana bill is set for Dec. 15 in front of the Senate and Assembly health committees. Written testimony can be e-mailed to Kelly.Johnson@legis.wisconsin.gov in state Sen. Jon Erpenbach’s office. The mailing address is Room 8 South, State Capitol, P.O. Box 7882, Madison, WI 53707-7882. Erpenbach’s office will make all submitted written testimony available to all members of both committees.
# The complete bill can be read at http://www.legis.state.wi.us/2009/data/AB-554.pdf.

December 2, 2009 – Stephany Bowen suffers from fibromyalgia, diabetic neuropathy and chronic pain from four back surgeries, a metal plate in the back of her neck and hypertension in her right leg.

Her daily ritual includes insulin, Vicodin and up to two bowls of marijuana, which she claims eases nausea caused by her medication and takes her mind off her pain.

She said she is unable to work and rarely leaves home. Her marijuana use is a crime under state law, but she is hopeful that one day that will change.

“I believe it does have medicinal qualities to it,” said Bowen, 46, of Penn Hills. “Since marijuana is grown naturally, it should be legal.”

Momentum supporting that position is growing. Since 1996, 13 states have legalized medical marijuana.

State Rep. Mark Cohen, D-Philadelphia, introduced House Bill 1393 in April that would legalize marijuana for medical purposes. A public hearing is scheduled tomorrow in Harrisburg before the House Health and Human Services committee.

The bill aims to ease the lives of suffering patients, take money away from the drug trade and create about $25 million a year in tax revenue from the sale of marijuana, Cohen said.

“The bill has a 1-in-4 chance of becoming law, but I think that health care groups will lean toward it,” he said.

Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-Luzerne, chairman of the subcommittee on drugs and alcohol, said the decision to legalize marijuana should rest with the medical community.

“Doctors should determine whether there’s a place for the drug in the treatment of their patients,” he said.

The American Medical Association last month changed its position on medical marijuana, urging the federal government to reconsider pot’s classification as a Schedule 1 drug. The goal is to clear the way to conduct clinical research and develop marijuana-based medicines, according to the association.

The AMA’s statement was a topic of conversation recently at the first meeting of Pittsburgh NORML, the local chapter of the National Organization for the Reformation of Marijuana Laws.

A group of about 20 members, who ranged widely in age and profession, discussed methods of spreading information about medical marijuana.

“We will be organized and professional,” said Patrick Nightingale, a Downtown defense attorney and founder of Pittsburgh NORML. “We’re not a bunch of freaks getting together to get stoned.”

Nightingale, a former Allegheny County assistant district attorney, said he supports complete legalization.

“It concerns me as an attorney that I’ve had to prosecute and defend folks for conduct no different than buying a six-pack or bottle of wine,” he said.

Tomorrow’s public hearing is a small step forward for supporters of the bill, but with just six co-sponsors there’s a chance it will never reach a vote, said Rep. Randy Vulakovich, R-Shaler.

“Marijuana is still considered a gateway drug, and a lot of the people who are fighting for this bill want to use the legislation as a step-off point for legalizing all marijuana,” said Vulakovich, a former police officer.

Gov. Ed Rendell maintains his position on medical marijuana, said spokesman Gary Tuma.

“If a reasonable, well-crafted bill reached his desk,” Tuma said, “he would sign it.” By Kyle Lawson Source.

About state House Bill 1393
Although federal law prohibits the use of marijuana, Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington permit the use of marijuana for medical purposes. In Arizona, doctors are permitted to prescribe marijuana. (The Obama administration recently directed federal prosecutors to back away from pursuing cases against medical marijuana patients.)

State House Bill 1393 would legalize marijuana for use by patients with cancer, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS or any other health issues that a licensed doctor deems treatable by marijuana in a manner that is superior to treatment without marijuana.

Patients who qualify would be required to have a registry identification card and possess no more than six marijuana plants and one ounce of pot.

To read the bill, go online, select “Bill #” at the top under “Find Legislation By,” type in “H 1393″ and click “Go”

Source: State House Bill 1393

All those in favor

A Gallup poll in October found that 44 percent of Americans were in favor of making marijuana legal — not just for medicinal purposes — and 54 percent opposed it. U.S. public support for legalizing marijuana was fixed in the 25 percent range from the late 1970s to the mid-1990s, but acceptance jumped to 31 percent in 2000 and has continued to grow throughout this decade, according to Gallup.

Source: http://www.gallup.com

Because hemp is the ultimate cash crop, producing more fiber, food and oil than any other plant on the planet.

December 1, 2009 – United States: Why Should Farmers Grow Hemp? According to the Notre Dame University publication, The Midland Naturalist, from a 1975 article called, “Feral Hemp in Southern Illinois,” about the wild hemp fields that annual efforts from law enforcement eradication teams cannot wipe out, an acre of hemp produces:

1. 8,000 pounds of hemp seed per acre.

* When cold-pressed, the 8,000 pounds of hemp seed yield over 300 gallons of hemp seed oil and a byproduct of
* 6,000 pounds of high protein hemp flour.

These seed oils are both a food and a biodiesel fuel. Currently, the most productive seed oil crops are soybeans, sunflower seeds and rape seed or canola. Each of these three seed oil crops produce between 100 to 120 gallons of oil per acre. Hemp seed produces three times more oil per acre than the next most productive seed oil crops, or over 300 gallons per acre, with a byproduct of 3 tons of food per acre. Hemp seed oil is also far more nutritious and beneficial for our health than any other seed oil crop.

In addition to the food and oil produced, there are several other byproducts and benefits to the cultivation of hemp.

2. Six to ten tons per acre of hemp bast fiber. Bast fiber makes canvas, rope, lace, linen, and ultra-thin specialty papers like cigarette and bible papers.

3. Twenty-five tons of hemp hurd fiber. Hemp hurd fiber makes all grades of paper, composite building materials, animal bedding and a material for the absorption of liquids and oils.

4. The deep tap root draws up sub-soil nutrients and then, when the leaves fall from the plant to the ground, they return these nutrients to the top soil for the next crop rotation.

5. The residual flowers, after the seeds are extracted, produce valuable medicines.

Our farmers need this valuable crop to be returned as an option for commercial agriculture.

While marijuana is prohibited, industrial hemp will be economically prohibitive due to the artificial regulatory burdens imposed by the prohibition of marijuana. When marijuana and cannabis are legally regulated, industrial hemp will return to its rightful place in our agricultural economy.

Hemp may be the plant that started humans down the road toward civilization with the invention of agriculture itself. All archaeologists agree that cannabis was among the first crops purposely cultivated by human beings at least over 6,000 years ago, and perhaps more than 12,000 years ago.

Restoring industrial hemp to its rightful place in agriculture today will return much control to our farmers, and away from the multinational corporations that dominate our political process and destroy our environment. These capital-intensive, non-sustainable, and environmentally destructive industries have usurped our economic resources and clear-cut huge tracts of the world’s forests, given us massive oil spills, wars, toxic waste, massive worldwide pollution, global warming and the destruction of entire ecosystems.

Prohibiting the cultivation of this ancient plant, the most productive source of fiber, oil and protein on our planet, is evil. In its place we have industries that give us processes and products that have led to unprecedented ecological crisis and worldwide destruction of the biological heritage that we should bequeath to our children, grandchildren and future generations.

Restore hemp! Source. By Paul Stanford

More Information on Hemp:
Why Can’t We Grow Hemp in America?
Hemp Facts
The Case for Hemp in America
The Versatility of the Incredible Hemp Plant and How It Can Help Create a More Sustainable Future

December 1 is World AIDS Day, an international day set aside by individuals and organizations to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS. The theme this year is “Human Rights and Access to Treatment.” Among other political and personal messages, patient advocates all over the world today will be talking to their friends, loved ones, media, and elected officials about the challenges HIV/AIDS patients face in access the health care they need. Let’s hope their voices will be heard.

The medical cannabis movement is intimately intertwined with the demand for safe access to medicine to treat the symptoms of HIV/AIDS. If it were not for the tireless crusading of men like Dennis Peron, a figurehead for medical cannabis and GLBT rights, Proposition 215 may never have been adopted. His desire to see safe and affordable access for loved ones truly changed the world.

Los Angeles medical cannabis and HIV/AIDS advocate Richard Kearns is one of many who joined Dennis in this compassionate work. Richard is a poet, prolific blogger, and outspoken advocate. He serves on the Board of Directors of one of the oldest legally organized and operated medical cannabis collectives in the Los Angeles area. He is also one of the most frequent speakers about medical cannabis before the Los Angeles City Council – something that matters as the city’s largest city struggles to adopt regulations for safe access.

Let’s not let World AIDS Day pass without honoring the commitment and sacrifices of patient advocates like Richard. More importantly, let’s take the opportunity to recognize our roots and stand in solidarity with the men, women, and trans-gendered people with HIV/AIDS who helped build the nationwide movement for safe access to medical cannabis. By Don Duncan. Source.

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