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.

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

Thousands Learn How to Grow Legal Medical Marijuana

November 30, 2009 – Don’t expect to pull an all-nighter at Med Grow Cannabis College.
Michigan’s first training center for medical marijuana education doesn’t ask students for their homework. There are no final exams. “We’re more of a trade school,” said Nick Tennant, Med Grow’s 24-year-old founder.

As states loosen their medical marijuana laws, institutions such as Med Grow are sprouting up, looking to educate potential caregivers about how to enter the cannabis industry the legal way.

Tennant opened the doors of Med Grow’s 4,800-square-foot facility near Detroit in September, about 10 months after voters approved the state’s medical marijuana act.
Always wanting to be his own boss, Tennant had dropped out of college to manage valet and auto-detail companies. But when his businesses contracted under the smothering recession, he looked to the medical marijuana industry for his next opportunity, months before the measure was up for public vote. “We knew the law was going to get passed,” he said.

In addition to Michigan, 12 states have legalized medical marijuana use: Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

Tennant fashioned part of his business model after California’s Oaksterdam University, which claims to be the country’s first cannabis college, opening in 2007. Oaksterdam has three campuses in California: Oakland, Los Angeles and North Bay. Spokeswoman Salwa Ibrahim said the institution, which staffs about 50 employees, has graduated about 5,500 students. Oaksterdam welcomes the country’s new crop of cannabis colleges, she said.
“We welcome competition,” she said. “Ultimately, what we’re trying to do is change laws locally and federally.”

Hawaii activist Roger Christie says he connects the high he sustains from marijuana use as a “spiritual” ritual, a practice he believes is legal under First Amendment religion protections. He has been an advocate of marijuana use and legalization for 23 years, he said. Only recently did he add educational outreach to his Hawaii Cannabis Ministry. After reading a news story about a continental cannabis college, he decided to add monthly seminars to his ministry’s repertoire this fall.

So far, he has educated about 60 people over two weekend seminars. A $100 donation covers the cost of classes and a hemp seed lunch. “We train people to grow people to grow the best cannabis humanly possible,” Christie said. Med Grow students cover an array of topics related to the budding industry over semester-long courses or seminars. The curriculum covers proper cultivation and breeding, cooking tips and recipes, how to start a care-giving business and Cannabis History 1010. “Students should feel very confident that they’re going to succeed,” Tennant said.

Medical Marijuana Classes Flourish

Tennant’s school employs 12 people, he said. About 60 students are taking courses during this cycle. Med Grow’s five-week semester program, which offers two tracks convening on Monday or Wednesday nights, costs $475. Unlike accredited academic institutions, there is no standard of practices for cannabis colleges in Michigan. Tennant provides his graduates with a paper certificate anyway. It isn’t required, but a student could use it to establish credibility as a professional caregiver, proving he or she is “not just some Joe Shmoe off the street,” he said.

Graduates of Tennant’s college won’t be leaving their training to set up mass dispensaries. Under Michigan law, state-registered caregivers are only allowed to provide marijuana to a maximum of five patients. In California, students of cannabis colleges have a few more options, Ibrahim said. Students come from out-of-state to become lobbyists, dispensary managers as well as caregivers.

“They can do whatever they want to do,” she said. Trey Daring, 26, moved to Daly City, Calif., after graduating from Old Dominion University, in Virginia, to work as an advocate for the cannabis movement. His favorite course is advanced horticulture — it’s the most useful, he said. He’ll graduate in mid-December. Parents ‘Not Necessarily Proud’ of Cannabis College Certification

Daring’s parents are uneasy about his advocacy of the drug because marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law, the government’s most restrictive category that also includes LSD, ecstasy and heroin, he said. “I feel like they’re understanding now but not necessarily proud,” he said. His classrooms are not that much different from ones he had in high school and college: dry-erase boards, PowerPoint presentations and knowledgeable instructors. Perhaps the part that’s most different is his classmates.

“There are a lot more people over 30 than probably outsiders would believe,” he said.
Med Grow students also run the demographic gamut. Tennant said his pupils include 18-year-old high school graduates, a 60-year-old pastor and former clients of his old auto-detailing business, some of whom find themselves struggling to keep their own businesses afloat. His instructors stress that their curriculum is for medicinal purposes only, not recreational tips, he said. “I run a very tight operation here,” he said.

The medical marijuana industry could potentially help Michigan’s battered economy, provided it is not abused, Tennant said. Ibrahim of California’s Oaksterdam University also sees cannabis as a way to contribute positively to a state’s economy. Oaksterdam’s Oakland campus recently moved into a 30,000-square-foot building and, she said, the school expects to educate about 1,000 students a month, double the capacity of the previous space. “It really is flourishing in this economy,” she said. “We’re evidence of it. We just moved into a larger facility when everything else seems to be downsizing.”
By Katie Sanders. Source

November 29, 2009 – Marijuana used for medicinal purposes has a history that dates back all the way until 2737 BC. The issue of Marijuana being used as medicine has been a long debated topic where people have been fighting for both sides and very little has been accomplished. People such as politicians have been fighting to say that marijuana is an illegal drug no matter the benefits. Marijuana offers a remedy to medications and treatments that have extremely painful and long lasting side effects.

Some states have taken action on the matter and voted to decriminalize the use of medicinal marijuana for people with serious illness’ that would benefit from the drug. With this came serious regulations dealing with the distribution, possession, and who can receive the product. Medications with side effects such as loss of appetite and vomiting leave patients with more pain and potentially additional health problems than the disease its self causes. With all of the advantages that Marijuana offers medically, and how enormously effective the drug works with reducing pain, it should be obvious that medicinal marijuana should be legalized for the purpose of treating patients that are unable to deal with their pain.

Cannabis, commonly known as marijuana, has a history that dates back to ancient times. The first recorded use of marijuana came in 2737 BC, when Emperor Shen-Nung of China prescribed cannabis to people to help treat illnesses such as constipation, gout, and malaria. Marijuana was used quite frequently in ancient times for uses in medicine, and it is believed that Gautama Buddha survived by eating nothing but cannabis seeds. Medical Marijuana in the United States of America is not a new discovery. In 1850, Marijuana was added into United States Pharmacopeia, a publication that contains legally recognized standards of every aspect of a drug, and was prescribed for numerous medical conditions including labor pains, nausea, and rheumatism until 1941 when it was removed from the publication.

During the time period between 1850- 1930, cannabis was beginning to lose its image of a medicine and was starting to be viewed as an intoxicant and was looked down upon. In the mid 1930’s, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Narcotics started an initiative to depict marijuana as a controlling addicting substance that could possibly lead to addiction.

With the gaining support of the people, along with the encouragement from the press, the federal government passed the marijuana tax act in 1937, which federally prohibited the smoking of marijuana for any purpose. In 1970, the government passed an additional bill known as the controlled substance act, which created five categories based on drugs usefulness. Marijuana was considered as a Schedule 1 drug which said that cannabis had a high potential for abuse, and no medicinal purposes. (Booth)

As states began to legalize medicinal marijuana, conflicts between federal and state laws became evident. Although marijuana was legal in the state of California, patients that were prescribed the drug were being arrested because medicinal marijuana conflicted with both the controlled substance act, and the marijuana tax act, and federal law always overrides state law. Not until the court case of Gonzales v. Raich did users of medical marijuana have protection against being arrested for breaking federal law.

The issue presented to the court asked, is the Controlled Substances Act a constitutional use of the Commerce Clause? The court voted 6-3 in favor of the defendant and stated that, “the Controlled Substances Act is an unconstitutional exercise of Congress’ Commerce Clause authority,” and finally users of medical marijuana were protected under law from being arrested for breaking federal law. (Gonzales v. Raich)

Marijuana is widely known as one of the safest, low risk active substances if used properly. To this day, there have been no recorded deaths due to an overdose, and there are very few dangerous side effects. In addition, there is no evidence to show that marijuana carries a risk of true addiction to the body.(Gottfried) The same cannot be said for other medications that are used to treat diseases such as AIDS, cancer, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, and epilepsy.

Serious life threatening diseases require extreme amounts of medication on a daily basis that have the potential of causing the body extreme harm and great amounts of pain. For example, when an individual is diagnosed with cancer, one of the only effective treatments for the drug is known as chemotherapy. The drug is delivered to the patient through an IV causing symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and extreme pain are all side effects of the drug and coping with the pain can put a person through hell. (McMahon) The main chemical in marijuana known as delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or TCH, is known to stimulate a person’s appetite when the drug is broken down by the body. Not only does TCH stimulate the body’s appetite, but it also helps alleviate the symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and pain that come along with the chemotherapy treatment.

Additionally, marijuana serves as an effective and long lasting treatment for glaucoma. Glaucoma is a disease when excessive pressure builds up on the eyeball, and almost always leads to loss of vision completely. Treatments for the disease include several different eye drops and oral medications, but with time the body builds an immunity to the drugs and they become ineffective. It has been proven that when smoked; marijuana reduces pressure on the eyeball making cannabis an excellent and long lasting way for glaucoma patients to deal with their pain. (Williams)

Similar to the treatment of cancer, hepatitis C also requires a long term treatment with medications that have very similar side effects to that of chemotherapy. Treatment for hepatitis C requires six months of therapy with the combination of two extremely potent drugs identified as interferon and ribavirin. Side effects of the treatment leave patients with severe fatigue, nausea, muscle aches, loss of appetite and depression. A recent study was conducted with the combined efforts of scientists at the University of California at San Francisco, and the Oakland substance abuse center. Researchers closely monitored the progress of 71 patients who were taking interferon and ribavirin to watch their progress. Out of the 71 patients, 22 of them smoked marijuana on a consistent basis to help ease the pain caused by the treatment. At the end of the six months, 19 of the 22 patients that used marijuana to help manage the effects of the treatment successfully completed the agonizing treatment while only 29 of the 49 people who chose not to use marijuana successfully completed the course. Months after the treatment, researchers went back to follow up and found that 54 percent of the group that were using marijuana during the treatment had no signs of the virus while only 18 percent of the non smokers achieved the same result. Although there was no documented evidence that shows the marijuana acted as a medicine itself to cure the illness, it appears that the people that chose to use marijuana were able to deal with the side effects and complete the treatment that many people are unable to endure. (Weiss)

Today in the United States of America, there are hundreds of laws prohibiting the use, possession, and distribution of marijuana. In the State of New Hampshire, possession of any useable amount is considered a misdemeanor and is punishable by up to one year in jail, and a fine of no more than 2,000 dollars. To this date, there have been 12 states that have decriminalized marijuana strictly for medicinal use. These states include Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. Although medicinal marijuana has been decriminalized in these states, laws have been put into effect to strictly regulate when a person can be prescribed and how much of the drug they will receive. In state of California, you must obtain written permission from a physician stating that you have a disease or illness that would benefit you from the use of marijuana. Under the law, eligible patients or their personal care givers are able to possess up to eight ounces of marijuana and no more than six marijuana plants. Patients are allowed to obtain more than state law allows under special circumstances if a physician decides that their patient would benefit from it. Frequent conditions that allow a physician to prescribe medicinal pot include cancer, anorexia, AIDS, chronic pain, glaucoma, arthritis, and migraines. (Akhavan)

Medical Marijuana is a largely debated topic that brings serious questions up. There have been thousands of studies conducted over the past century to find out if indeed marijuana has medicinal values. Marijuana has been shown to greatly reduce effects of medications that are given to patients with serious illnesses. Effects such as loss of appetite, nausea, and even depression are quite often side effects of treatments that could decide the fate of an individual’s life. Legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes leave some people thinking that the drug will be available to anyone who wants to get their hands on it. These views that people seem to have are completely irrational because such regulations have been placed on the drug that it is still almost impossible for people who are suffering to obtain medicinal marijuana legally.

Often times, people become so desperate because they have been suffering for so long, that individuals risk being arrested and take matters into their own hands and search out the drug illegally. People that need medical marijuana didn’t chose to have an illness that they are suffering from, it came upon them and there is nothing that anyone can do to cure it a lot of times. The fact that people are being arrested and punished because they are despite enough to risk going to jail to obtain medicinal marijuana saddens many people. Many states have realized how they are preventing their own citizens from obtaining medication that is only going to help, and have decriminalized the use of medicinal marijuana. With all the evidence that has been presented by world renown scientists that show the positive medical uses of marijuana, you would think that all 50 states would allows their citizens to obtain medical marijuana if they were suffering enough, not just 12. Source.

November 28, 2007 – If you have breast cancer, you may have considered the use of “medical marijuana” at some point during your chemo treatment. Smoking marijuana has provided some women with relief from the nausea and vomiting that can accompany chemo, relief that the range of normal side effect drugs weren’t able to give. Some states permit the legal use of medical marijuana; most don’t. Nevertheless, most women who want to try marijuana seem to be able to get it. Personally, I didn’t experience any severe problems with nausea. But I was astounded at the number of people who, prior to treatment, offered to get me a supply if I thought I needed it!

Now, doctors at the California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute in San Francisco have released a study, in the current issue of Molecular Cancer Therapeutics, that may in the future open the door to a much more critical use of marijuana: stopping the spread of metastatic breast cancer. It seems that a compound found in cannabis (the scientific name for marijuana), CBD, has been shown (in the lab) to stop the human gene Id-1 from directing cancer cells to multiply and spread.

California Pacific Senior researcher Pierre-Yves Desprez, in an interview with HealthDay News, noted that the Id-1 genes “are very bad. They push the cells to behave like embryonic cells and grow. They go crazy, they proliferate, they migrate. We need to be able to turn them off.”

Desprez and fellow researcher Sean D. McAllister joined forces just two years ago. Desprez had been studying the Id-1 gene for 12 years; McAllister was a cannabis expert, but not involved in cancer research. Together they found that Id-1 is the “orchestra conductor” that directs breast cancer cells to grow and spread. And that CBD inhibits Id-1; it turns it off, puts it to sleep, pick your metaphor. Bottom line, it neutralizes it. And the cancer stops spreading.

Both researchers pointed out that CBD is non-toxic and non-psychoactive. In other words, patients wouldn’t get high taking it. And its non-toxicity is an important attribute; Desprez and McAllister predict that, to be effective, patients might have to take CBD for several years. They also cautioned that smoking marijuana isn’t going to cure metastatic breast cancer; the level of CBD necessary to inhibit Id-1 simply can’t be obtained that way.

While studies are still very much in the preliminary stages, it’s interesting to think that a plant that has been used medicinally for nearly 5,000 years may in the future be a key element in controlling cancer. As recently as 1937 (when it was outlawed in the U.S.), marijuana (“cannabis sativa”) was being touted as an analgesic, anti-emetic, narcotic, and sedative.

Parke-Davis, once America’s oldest and largest drug manufacturer (and now a division of drug giant Pfizer), offered “Fluid Extract Cannabis” via catalogs. Until the invention of aspirin in the mid-1800s, cannabis was the civilized world’s main pain reliever. Now it’s illegal. Here’s hoping that someday soon cannabis returns, this time as a successful treatment for metastatic breast cancer.

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. — At most colleges, marijuana is very much an extracurricular matter. But at Med Grow Cannabis College, marijuana is the curriculum: the history, the horticulture and the legal how-to’s of Michigan’s new medical marijuana program.

“This state needs jobs, and we think medical marijuana can stimulate the state economy with hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars,” said Nick Tennant, the 24-year-old founder of the college, which is actually a burgeoning business (no baccalaureates here) operating from a few bare-bones rooms in a Detroit suburb.

The six-week, $485 primer on medical marijuana is a cross between an agricultural extension class covering the growing cycle, nutrients and light requirements (“It’s harvest time when half the trichomes have turned amber and half are white”) and a gathering of serious potheads, sharing stories of their best highs (“Smoke that and you are … medicated!”).

The only required reading: “Marijuana Horticulture: The Indoor/Outdoor Medical Grower’s Bible” by Jorge Cervantes.

Even though the business of growing medical marijuana is legal under Michigan’s new law, there is enough nervousness about the enterprise that most students at a recent class did not want their names or photographs used. An instructor also asked not to be identified.

“My wife works for the government,” one student said, “and I told my mother-in-law I was going to a small-business class.”

While California’s medical marijuana program, the country’s oldest, is now big business, with hundreds of dispensaries in Los Angeles alone, the Michigan program, which started in April, is more representative of what is happening in other states that have legalized medical marijuana.

Under the Michigan law, patients whose doctors certify their medical need for marijuana can grow up to 12 cannabis plants themselves or name a “caregiver” who will grow the plants and sell the product. Anyone over 21 with no felony drug convictions can be a caregiver for up to five patients. So far, the Department of Community Health has registered about 5,800 patients and 2,400 caregivers.

For Mr. Tennant, who is certified as both a caregiver and a patient — he said he has stomach problems and anxiety — Med Grow replaces the auto detailing business he started straight out of high school, only to see it founder when the economy contracted. Med Grow began offering its course in September, with new classes starting every month.

On a recent Tuesday, two teachers led a four-hour class, starting with Todd Alton, a botanist who provided no tasting samples as he talked the students through a list of cannabis recipes, including crockpot cannabutter, chocolate canna-ganache and greenies (the cannabis alternative to brownies).

The second instructor, who would not give his name, took the class through the growing cycle, the harvest and the curing techniques to increase marijuana’s potency.

Mr. Tennant said he saw the school as the hub of a larger business that will sell supplies to its graduate medical marijuana growers, offer workshops and provide a network for both patient and caregiver referrals. Already, Med Grow is a gathering place for those interested in medical marijuana. The whiteboard in the reception room lists names and numbers of several patients looking for caregivers, and a caregiver looking for patients.

The students are a diverse group: white and black, some in their 20s, some much older, some employed, some not. Some keep their class attendance, and their growing plans, close to the chest.

“I’ve just told a couple of people I can trust,” said Jeffery Butler, 27. “It’s a business opportunity, but some people are still going to look at you funny. But I’m going to do it anyway.”

Scott Austin, an unemployed 41-year-old student, said he and two partners were planning to go into medical marijuana together.

“I never smoked marijuana in my life,” he said. “I heard about this at a business expo a couple of months ago.”

Because the Michigan program is so new, gray areas in the law have not been tested, creating real concern for some students. For example, it is not legal to start growing marijuana before being officially named a caregiver to a certified patient, but patients who are sick, certified and ready to buy marijuana generally do not want to wait through the months of the growing cycle until a crop is ready. So for the time being, coordinating entry into the business feels to some like a kind of Catch-22.

Students say they are getting all kinds of extra help and ideas from going to class.

“I want to learn all the little tricks, everything I can,” said Sue Maxwell, a student who drives each week from her home four hours north of Detroit. “It’s a big investment, and I want to do it right.”

Ms. Maxwell, who works at a bakery, is already a caregiver — in the old, nondrug sense of the word — to a few older people for whom she thinks medical marijuana might be a real boon.

“I fix their meals, and I help with housekeeping,” Ms. Maxwell said. “I have an 85-year-old lady who has no appetite. I don’t know if she’d have any interest in medical marijuana, but I bet it would help her.”

Ms. Maxwell said her plan to grow marijuana was slow in hatching.

“We were talking at the bakery all summer,” she said. “Just joking around, I said: ‘I’m going to grow medical marijuana. I’m a gardener, I’ve always dreamed of having a greenhouse, I think it would be great.’ And then I suddenly thought, hey, I really am going to grow medical marijuana.” Source.

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