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Cannabis compound may halve seizures for patients with severe epilepsy


Cannabis compound may halve seizures for patients with severe epilepsy

By: Honor Whiteman – Medical News Today – April 19, 2017

For individuals with a severe form of epilepsy, a new study finds that the occurrence of seizures could be significantly reduced with a daily dose of cannabidiol – a chemical component of cannabis.
Researchers say that cannabidiol – an active chemical in cannabis – could help to reduce seizures for patients with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.

Researchers from the Ohio State University found that individuals with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS) who took cannabidiol every day for 14 weeks saw the frequency of atonic seizures fall by more than 50 percent.

Atonic seizures, also known as drop seizures, involve a sudden, brief loss of muscle tone.

Study co-author Dr. Anup Patel, of the College of Medicine at Ohio State, and colleagues recently presented their findings at the American Academy of Neurology’s 69th annual meeting, held in Boston, MA.

LGS is one of the most severe forms of epilepsy. The condition involves multiple types of seizures, including tonic, atonic, atypical absence, and myoclonic.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the onset of LGS normally occurs between the ages of 3 and 5 years, and the condition is estimated to affect between 1 in 50,000 and 1 in 100,000 children in the United States.

There is no cure for LGS, and the condition is extremely challenging to treat, as there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Anti-epileptic medications, such as valproate and lamotrigine, can help to control seizures, but many children who initially respond to such drugs develop tolerance to them later on.

However, the new study from Dr. Patel and colleagues suggests that cannabidiol may be a promising treatment strategy for LGS, after finding that the cannabis compound more than halved atonic seizure frequency in patients with the condition.

Cannabidiol and epilepsy

Cannabidiol is one of the more than 80 cannabinoids, or active chemicals, present in the cannabis plant.

Research has suggested that cannabidiol has therapeutic potential, with studies linking the chemical to reductions in anxiety and improvements in bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and other mental health conditions.

Studies have also indicated that cannabidiol may be a promising treatment strategy for epilepsy.

Dr. Patel and team decided to explore this association further by conducting a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial that assessed the effect of cannabidiol on patients with LGS.

The study involved 225 patients of an average age of 16 who had around 85 atonic seizures each month as a result of LGS.

All patients had failed to respond to an average of six anti-epileptic medications, and during the 14-week study period, they were using an average of three anti-epileptic drugs.

Throughout the duration of the study, patients were required to take either 10 or 20 milligrams of cannabidiol or a placebo every day, in combination with their current medications.

Atonic seizures more than halved with daily cannabidiol

Patients who took 10 milligrams of cannabidiol daily experienced a 37 percent reduction in atonic seizures overall, and 36 percent of these patients saw their atonic seizures reduced by at least 50 percent.

The effect was stronger with the higher cannabidiol dose; patients who took 20 milligrams of cannabidiol daily experienced an overall atonic seizure reduction of 42 percent, while a minimum of 50 percent reduction in atonic seizures was found for 40 percent of these patients.

Among patients who took the placebo, there was an overall reduction in atonic seizures of 17 percent, while 15 percent of patients saw their atonic seizures reduced by at least half.

Compared with patients taking the placebo, those taking cannabidiol were up to 2.6 times more likely to report improvements in their overall condition, say the authors.

Around 94 percent of patients taking the higher cannabidiol dose and 84 percent taking the lower dose experienced side effects, the researchers report. However, the researchers say that the majority of these side effects were mild to moderate, with the most common being a reduction in appetite and sleepiness.

Overall, Dr. Patel and colleagues believe that their results indicate that cannabidiol may be beneficial for patients with LGS.

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Teens Say Decision To Legalize Hasn’t Changed Their Views On Cannabis


Teens Say Decision To Legalize Hasn’t Changed Their Views On Cannabis

By: Nicole Thompson – Civilized Life – April 17, 2017

 

Some teens say their likelihood of using marijuana hasn’t changed since the Liberal government announced details of its legalization plan – though they say it’s made them more aware of information on both sides of the debate.

Government officials announced last week that cannabis would be made legal for recreational use by July 2018, and those aged 18 and over will be able to buy and grow a small amount of the drug for themselves.

But even as marijuana becomes more mainstream, several teens said their opinions about the drug have remained the same.

Julio Gonzales, 19, said he enjoys using marijuana in moderation, and he doesn’t expect that to change – even smoking pot feels less rebellious than it once did.

He said that in school, he was taught that marijuana was dangerous.

“They kind of classified it with a lot harder drugs like LSD or cocaine, you know? So there was always that kind of ’villain-y’ look at it. It being really bad for you,” he said.

He expects that the curriculum might change a bit, but he said he thinks teachers will still advise against teens using the drug.

He said he knows there have been studies that suggest marijuana use in teenagers can be harmful, so he’s in favour of legislation that restricts minors from smoking.

“I guess it’s also kind of hypocritical of me,” he said, adding that he smokes because he finds that it helps him concentrate on schoolwork.

Ellie Labbancz, who will be 14 next month, said the news of legalization hasn’t changed her thoughts about pot either – she is still staunchly against it.

She said she understands some of the positive arguments for access to marijuana, including that it could reduce drug trafficking and crime.

But overall, she said people could still abuse the drug, and that doesn’t sit right with her. She’s worried about the negative health effects, especially on young people’s brains.

Canadian Psychiatric Association President Dr. Renuka Prasad said in a statement put out on Thursday that early and regular cannabis use can affect memory, attention, intelligence and the ability to process thoughts. He said it can also add to the risk of mental health issues among people who are already vulnerable.

The CPA position statement on marijuana cites studies that suggest marijuana can interfere with the maturing process the brain goes through in adolescence. It recommended an age limit of 21, as well as quantity and potency limits for those under 25.

Todd Goncalvez, 18, said his opinion hasn’t changed in light of the legalization promise, and it’s not likely to make a difference in opinion – or frequency of use – among his peers.

“I don’t see how legalizing weed will make much of a difference in terms of limiting access to those under the legal age, since it’s already so widely available to kids as young as Grade 8 or 9,” he said.

During the legislation announcement Thursday, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale noted that Canadian teenagers are “among the heaviest users in the western world.”

The Canadian Tobacco Alcohol and Drugs survey in 2015 – the most recently available data from Statistics Canada – suggests that 20.6 percent of Canadians between ages 15 and 19 had used pot in the past year. Nearly 29 percent of people in that age group had tried it at some point in their life.

But in spite of the new legislation, Goncalvez said he thinks people are more likely to look at marijuana they way they look at cigarettes.

“Just like alcohol and cigarettes are legal and considered mainstream, weed will still be considered a ’cool’ thing to do,” he said.

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Sask. has more wiggle room to tax marijuana than rest of country, study says


Sask. has more wiggle room to tax marijuana than rest of country, study says

Too much tax could hurt effort to regulate market and generate revenue

By Samanda Brace – CBC News – Apr 11, 2017

Rosalie Wyonch, a policy analyst with C.D. Howe Institute, took a look at how the federal and provincial government could tax legalized pot. She found that marijuana should not be be taxed beyond the current tax rates.

“Simply by charging the existing sales tax at the current rate, and not adding any specific taxation to marijuana, both the federal and provincial government could generate $675 million,” Wyonch said on CBC Radio’s Afternoon Edition.y analyst with C.D. Howe Institute who researched how much governments should tax legalized pot. (supplied)

This would result in about 90 per cent of the market being regulated, she added.

“If they try to tax it too heavily they are simply undermining their own efforts to regulate production and enforcing safety standards,” said Wyonch.

It will drive more people to get their supply from the black market and hurt the provincial government’s chances of generating revenue through taxation, like it does with alcohol and cigarettes, she said.

However, Saskatchewan will have more wiggle room to add tax than other parts of the country because illegal weed is currently priced higher than legal weed here.

“Once you adjust for quality, a gram of illegal weed in Saskatchewan and Manitoba comes out to about $11.75 and a gram of legal weed is $10.20,” said Wyonch.

She said that the government has to be careful, though, before adding a tax to marijuana, because once the black market is faced with competition from registered legal suppliers, its sellers will lower prices.

But, Wyonch said, once the black market is snuffed out, registered legal suppliers will be able to create economies of scale that will allow for their production costs to drop. And governments will stand to generate even more revenue from higher taxation.

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More Canadian Employers Need To Cover Medical Marijuana


More Canadian Employers Need To Cover Medical Marijuana

BY: Jenna Valleriana – Huffington Post – April 6, 2017

Shoppers Drug Mart and Loblaws recently made headlines by announcing they will cover medical cannabis for their employees. This is a strong first step for Canada’s largest pharmacy chains, and sets a precedent which should be followed by other employers.

But the devil is always in the details. While these two chains should be praised for their progressive steps forward, we also need to ask who this coverage is provided for, how much is being covered, as well as how this fits with the overall long-term strategy to position pharmacies as the front-line dispensers of medical cannabis.

Coverage of cannabis under group insurance plans is quite rare in Canada. In 2015, for example, student Jonathan Zaid, who suffers from New Daily Persistent Headache, captured the attention of news across Canada for advocating, and eventually getting approval, for medical cannabis coverage at Waterloo University. This is atypical. This lack of coverage is often justified by the fact that cannabis does not have a drug identification number (DIN) in Canada. While we are quick to blame insurance companies for lack of coverage, it’s actually the employer who is the gatekeeper to providing this kind of coverage.

The new Shoppers and Loblaws coverage will extend to those who are using cannabis to “treat spasticity and neuropathic pain associated with multiple sclerosis (MS) and nausea and vomiting in chemotherapy for cancer patients,” and will pay out a maximum of $1,500 a year. There may also be room for additional coverage if employees have access to a Health Care Spending Account.

While reasonable for some conditions, a $1,500 cap amounts to roughly just under 0.5 grams per day.

This means that coverage is limited to those with MS, as well as those who are receiving treatment for cancer. While this seems reasonable at face value, looking at patient data for those actually registered in the Health Canada program demonstrates these two categories represent only a small proportion of those using cannabis for medical purposes with physician support.

For example, things like arthritis, HIV/AIDS, spinal and other chronic pain, PTSD as well as anxiety and depression are some of the most common reasons people are prescribed medical cannabis, which is fully outside the scope of coverage. The skeptic in me just has to question whether this is part of the strategy.

 

 

We also can’t ignore that this is also likely part of a bigger public relations campaign to position pharmacies as the primary dispensers of medical cannabis. Despite the Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPhA) initially rejecting pharmacies’ inclusion as the site of dispensing in an earlier version of the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) in 2013, in 2016 they cited an “evolution” in thinking primarily based on patient safety, the findings of an independent commission, and a public opinion survey conducted by the CPhA. Much like many other stakeholders, we are certainly seeing a change in opinions across health-care professionals.

But, if we are truthful, we can’t disconnect this change in position from the projected growth of the medical cannabis industry over the next decade. With recent numbers indicating almost 150,000 registered patients across Canada, things are growing faster than ever before in this industry. While it’s certainly smart business, it’s also OK for health professionals to change their mind — in fact, isn’t that often the goal of advocacy and educational efforts in cannabis?

 

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Hospitals Deny Patients Organ Transplants for Smoking Weed


Hospitals Deny Patients Organ Transplants for Smoking Weed

By: Rhett Jones – Gizmodo – April 4, 2017

While the tension between state and federal laws has created a difficult situation for cannabis users, there’s another factor that is complicating the changing attitude towards weed: hospitals. Though it isn’t legally mandated, many hospitals won’t allow people who use weed to be placed on organ transplant waiting lists.

According to an extensive report from Buzzfeed, policies for treatment of patients who need an organ transplant that test positive for cannabis use varies from hospital to hospital. The United Network for Organ Sharing manages the U.S. organ supply and it has no official policy for drug or alcohol use. If someone uses weed for medicinal or recreational use and they need an emergency organ transplant, they just have to hope they end up in a hospital that doesn’t consider that to be a problem.

The fact that over half of the states have legalized medical cannabis use and eight states have legalized recreational use doesn’t really matter. Buzzfeed contacted numerous hospitals across the country and found a variety of policies.

From the report:

The Nebraska Medical Center, in a state that prohibits all cannabis use, calls it “a complex issue that is dealt with on a case-by-case basis between the patient and their transplant team.”
At Massachusetts General Hospital, a hospital in a state that has legalized both medical and recreational marijuana, it’s a far different story. “If someone is abusing marijuana — either medically or recreationally — they would not be a candidate for transplant,” a spokesman said.
At the University of Utah Hospital, where Riley was initially treated, cases are evaluated individually, a spokeswoman said. “We do not have a specific policy regarding cannabis, but generally speaking,
we do not transplant organs in patients with active alcohol, tobacco, or illicit drug use or dependencies until these issues are addressed, as these substances are contraindicated for a transplant,” she said. The state of Utah bans both medical and recreational marijuana except for a very limited program geared toward treating people who suffer seizures.
The University of Vermont Medical Center, in a state that allows medical marijuana, said it has no policy related to cannabis, “but our position with patients is no smoking. Period.” At UW Medicine in Washington, where cannabis is legal for medical and recreational purposes, smoking of any kind is discouraged, but using cannabis “doesn’t necessarily exclude” a patient from a transplant. Some hospital transplant centers are amending their policies. At Yale-New Haven Transplantation Center at Yale University, a zero-tolerance policy on cannabis evolved to a 30-day window for potential transplant patients to clear cannabis from their systems.

In California, the first state to legalize the use of medical weed, legislation has attempted to address this issue. Denying a patient an organ solely based on their use of medical cannabis has been outlawed. But Stanford Health Care at Stanford University in Northern California still considers any kind of drug use a potential reason to leave a patient off of the transplant waiting list.

There are many different reasons that physicians give for their decision to treat cannabis users differently than other patients. Some say that inhaling the smoke can lead to fungal infections. Others worry that cannabis users aren’t as reliable as non-users and might not be as responsible with prescribed regimens to take care of their organs. These fears are mostly related to the short supply of organs, rather than a moral issue. Arthur Caplan, head of medical ethics at the NYU School of Medicine, tells Buzzfeed that many hospitals are “looking for some way to kick people off the list,” due to the high demand. More than 118,000 people are currently waiting for a suitable organ.

 

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Health Canada urged to clear way for medical pot insurance


Health Canada urged to clear way for medical pot insurance

By: Andrea Huncar – CBC News – April 4, 2017

Conventional pills did little to ease Jill Grindle’s PTSD and sleep disorder, but within months of turning to medical marijuana the Calgary mother says she was sleeping through the night.

Now she has another worry.

“It’s costing a pretty penny,” she said. “So what I do is I under-medicate greatly. I scrimp and I save and I only use it very sparingly.”

Like most Canadians, Grindle’s standard insurance plan doesn’t cover legally prescribed cannabis. For Grindle that adds up to $1,200 a month if she were to use her full four-gram daily allowance, so she gets by on one gram a day.

As the federal government prepares to legalize recreational marijuana by July 2018, Grindle is among the advocates calling on Health Canada  to clear the way for coverage of legally-prescribed pot.

With the exception of limited coverage for veterans and patients with health care spending accounts, the standard insurance of most Canadians doesn’t reimburse the cost of medical cannabis.

Kait Shane, director of community outreach with Calgary-based Natural Health Services, describes it as the “missing link,” noting Canadians can claim cannabis on their their tax returns and travel with it on federal flights.

“Every patient comes in and is kind of wondering the same thing. Can we be covered; will we be covered?” said Shane, whose Calgary-based company prescribes cannabis at several western locations including Edmonton.

She said the problem is that medical marijuana doesn’t have a drug identification number (DIN); a classification that requires going through a rigorous, expensive approval process required of all new drugs.

Kait Shane with Natural Health Services says out-of-reach cannabis prices push some patients to illegal sources.

“It’s a matter of lobbying … to get Health Canada to recognize it’s not feasible for them to go through the same trials as other drugs,” said Shane, who points out that unlike other narcotics, cannabis has been used for a long time.

Shane worries not insuring medical cannabis will alienate those who can’t afford to get it through licensed producers.

“High costs currently push many patients to seek alternative options through illegal avenues with zero testing protocols,” she said. “The lack of testing could put a patient’s health at risk.”

Joan Weir, director of health police at the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association, said the process is moving slowly, despite some employers adding coverage.

“There’s not a lot of good research on the impact of adding medical marijuana to your drug program,” said Weir. “So there needs to be a fair bit more research to make employers comfortable on including it as a benefit.”

Health Canada wasn’t immediately available for comment.

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Progressive Yarmouth physician talks about cannabis


Progressive Yarmouth physician talks about cannabis

BY: Carla Allen – The Vanguard – April 3, 2017

YARMOUTH – The use of medical marijuana is slowly gaining traction.

Although doctors were federally authorized by Health Canada in the spring of 2014 to write prescriptions for cannabis if they so choose – following guidelines and a protocol established by the Canadian Medical Association – not all choose to do so.

They can’t just walk into the office and ask for cannabis.

Dr. Roland Muise on the prescribing of cannabis as a medicine. (Guidelines and a protocol established by the Canadian Medical Association must be followed.)

A strong negative stigma remains, even among some physicians.

Dr. Roland Muise is one of several exceptions in the region. He graduated medical school in 1976 and has about 4,000 patients.

He shares one of his favourite stories to colleagues who still associate the use of cannabis with weed-smoking hippies.

“I have a patient in her 70s, who had severe disk disease with sciatic pain. Nothing would control her pain,” he said.

Although narcotics provided reasonable control, they left her feeling dizzy, nauseated and constipated.

“One day I said to her, ‘there’s something else we could try.’ She said, ‘What is it?’ I said, ‘medical marijuana.’

‘No way! I’m not a pothead,’” she said.

“I told her it wouldn’t have to be smoked, that it could be put in chocolate cookies. ‘She said, well…  maybe.’ We got the chocolate cookies and she take a little piece every day and off she goes.”

Dr. Muise embarked on an educational program and attended conferences on the use of cannabis. He continues to monitor results of scientific blind studies being conducted in other parts of Canada.

He says the place of cannabis is not as a primary treatment but rather as an alternative to conventional medications and treatments after they have been tried and the patient is either not tolerating the medication or they are not adequately controlling the issue to a desirable level.

He advises administering the treatment in oral form – either in an oil, a butter, or a food source (brownies, gummy bears)

Dr. Muise, who runs the chronic pain clinic at Yarmouth hospital with Dr. Alban Comeau, presents talks on pain management to the residents and the doctors. Part of that is teaching them about the role of cannabis, as well as opiates.

In June he will give a talk on safe opiate prescribing techniques.

“This is a huge thing right now. I’ve taken a lot of people off narcotics and put them on cannabis and they’re very fine thank you very much,” he said.

He stresses the importance of prescribing the correct cannabis component concentrations and dosage for individuals. Smoking marijuana is not recommended, as each joint is equal to five regular cigarettes, multiplying the potential for lung cancer, bronchitis and other forms of damage.

“Inhaled by vaporizer the effects last an hour to an hour and a half but taken in a food source it usually lasts six to eight hours and there is less chance of getting the euphoria. We don’t want to reach the euphoria, we want to keep to the pain control,” he said.

“If we keep it between 50 and 100 micrograms then we are in the pain control level. If we go over 100, then they start getting the side effects of euphoria, paranoia, lethargy, nodding off, etc.

Dr. Muise does have concerns about the legalization of marijuana for recreational use in 2018.

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7 REASONS WHY CANNABIS WILL DOMINATE THE WELLNESS WORLD IN 2017


7 REASONS WHY CANNABIS WILL DOMINATE THE WELLNESS WORLD IN 2017

By: Erin Magner – Well and Good – April 2, 2017

You could say that this 2017 wellness trend is lit—and it’s clear why: Although much more research still needs to be done on the health effects of marijuana use, several studies have indicated that extracts from the plant, in particular cannabidiol or CBD, could be a legit remedy for mood disorders, inflammation, chronic pain, and more modern ills. (Here’s a primer on how its compounds help people heal by working with the body’s endocannabinoid system.)

And the excitement around the herb’s health benefits isn’t just buzz either, says Jeffrey Egler, MD, of Parsley Health in Los Angeles. “It’s good science. The numerous benefits have been demonstrated and well-documented for years, if not decades. There’s still the legitimate debate about safety in some circumstances, particularly smoking it. But there are much cleaner products than others, as well as cleaner ways of dosing cannabis.”

So if pot’s healing potential is old news, why is there such a blaze of activity around it at this very moment?

1. You no longer have to light up to get lit

Back in the day, consuming cannabis was quite a process. You had to decode a long list of cryptic names. (Blue Dream or OG Kush?) You needed to roll a joint or pack a bowl with just the right dose, and most likely make a mess in the process. And then, of course, you actually had to smoke it—which is a pretty big turn-off for those who rely on their lungs to get them through half marathons and HIIT classes.

But now, a wave of new delivery methods are making the whole process much easier…and a bit healthier. Brands like W!nk and Quill have created vaporizer pens that dole out consistent doses of high-quality cannabis oil extract, while reportedly being gentler on the respiratory system than smoking.

2. Cannabis tonics are taking over healthy menus

Kale, apple, lemon…CBD? Cannabinoids are making a splash on the wellness beverage scene, too, with several new arrivals appearing in the last few weeks alone.

In New York, T Salon founder Miriam Novalle launched High Tea Today, a new line of loose-leaf and cold-brew teas made with an oil form of the medicinal compound—look for them soon at Hyatt Hotels and Fairway grocery stores. On the West Coast, buzzy LA restaurants Café Gratitude and Gracias Madre are also offering juices, smoothies, and cocktails with a hit of CBD oil, just in case guests want to get extra mellow over dinner. And nationwide, functional tonic brand Torii Labs just dropped Re-Leaf, a shot of the calming compound extracted from an organic strain that promises to soothe the nervous system, boost immunity, and calm inflammation.

3. Organic grass is stepping into the sunlight

Good news for those who won’t touch a conventionally grown tomato, let alone risk even a contact high from cannabis that isn’t grown responsibly: As marijuana prohibition comes to an end in many places, an increasing number of farmers are bringing their crops out of the darkroom and into the sunlight, turning to more natural growing methods in the process.

Flow Kana is a California-based brand that works only with small-batch, organic, sun-grown farmers in the “Emerald Triangle”—Mendocino, Humboldt, and Trinity counties in the state’s northern region. “You can’t replicate farming under natural sunlight,” enthuses Adam Steinberg, the company’s co-founder. “[Industry] studies have shown that sun-grown cannabis tends to have more terpenes, which dictate the smell and taste of the cannabis plant, than indoor [crops]. Plus, there are a lot of fungicides and pesticides used in indoor farming.”

4. Edibles are going gourmet

Forget the sketchy pot brownies and gummy bears of your sorority days. Cannabis edibles are being reimagined for a discerning, high-end customer who’s probably pairing her spiked chocolate with a (pricey) bottle of biodynamic wine, for example.

Cindy Capobianco says this shift is a long time coming. “The problem was that [edibles] weren’t labeled and didn’t have clearly defined doses. They looked like they were made in someone’s kitchen, sold in a plastic bag, and sealed with a staple.”

5. Cannabis communities are on the rise

Concerts are no longer the only places you can get high in a crowd. Cannabis circles are popping up from coast to coast, creating community around the ritual.

Want to try your hand at shibori fabric dying or macramé weaving in between tokes? Join one of the Make and Mary cannabis crafting workshops in Portland, OR. Interested in the farm-to-table food scene? Keep an eye on Flow Kana—in LA, they recently hosted a cannabis-inspired dinner with Outstanding in the Field, complete with weed pairings. Care to give your smoke sesh some women’s circle vibes? Check out a Cannabis Feminist event in LA, dedicated to making marijuana more accessible and appealing to women.

And for those seeking camaraderie in a virtual sense, education platform Green Flower Media just wrapped up its first ever 10-Day Cannabis Health Challenge, which encouraged participants to eat healthier, exercise more, journal, smoke weed everyday, and talk about the whole experience in an online community. (Hey, the green stuff is said to be a great compliment to a cleanse.)

6. Bud will be cropping up in the beauty aisle

“When someone tells us they don’t believe cannabis has any medicinal value, we don’t tell them to try an edible; we tell them to try a topical,” says Capobianco. “Virtually everyone becomes an instant believer.”

Why? CBD-infused body care products from brands like Lord Jones (which, in addition to edibles, also has a line of buzz-worthy lotions) and Apothecanna are adept at relieving inflammation, making them suitable for everything from muscle aches to eczema and psoriasis.

Facial-care lines from the likes of CannaCeuticals and CBD For Life are also causing a stir. Their antioxidant-rich, cannabinoidal extract-laden enzyme treatments, eye creams, serums, and more are being touted for their anti-aging properties. Expect the mainstream skin-care world—including clean beauty brands—to follow suit as regulations continue to relax.

7. Dispensaries are the new apothecaries

When many people imagine a marijuana dispensary, they think blacked-out windows and bulletproof glass. Not exactly full of healing juju, eh?

But that’s all starting to change. Many new shops are debuting with warm, old-school apothecary vibes—MedMen in West Hollywood, CA, Bud and Bloom in Santa Ana, CA, and Harvest‘s two San Francisco locations are all warm wood, open shelving, and staff as friendly as neighborhood pharmacists. (Harvest even invites guests to stay and hang out in its members-only co-working zones.)

 

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California: Contaminated Marijuana Discovered Among Medical Cannabis Supplies by Investigators


California: Contaminated Marijuana Discovered Among Medical Cannabis Supplies by Investigators

By: Denny Reulos – Newsline – April 2, 2017

California Distributors of marijuana are withdrawing products from their stands after most of their stocks of medical cannabis were discovered by investigators to be contaminated.

To deal with the problem, the California Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation pledged on Thursday to overhaul the safety regulations that guide medical marijuana testing.

According to NBC Los Angeles, although shop owners guaranteed that their products were clean, NBC4 I-Team found that a majority of marijuana products in California contain pesticides.

The investigators reported that 44 various cannabis products were purchased from different stores in Southern California, after asking if the items did not contain contaminants. The products were then delivered to Steep Hill Laboratories in Berkeley for testing. The tests found that around 93 percent of the marijuana held copious amounts of pesticides. In fact, the contamination levels were over the safety limits of other states with legal marijuana.

In an interview with NBC Los Angeles, Ms. Lori Ajax, Director of the state’s Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation said: “I think the goal of California is to make sure the public and patients have safe cannabis and so I think it is important that we test the product and that we’re testing for pesticides.

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Half of cancer patients using cannabis, say doctors


Half of cancer patients using cannabis, say doctors

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It’s a highly charged issue, and when it comes to medicinal cannabis, New Zealand – like many countries – is grappling with what to do about it.

Users have reported dramatic health benefits, and now some oncologists have told The Nation between 40 and 60 percent of their patients use it.

And support for its decriminalisation is coming from some unlikely quarters – such as Grey Power.

So rare and deadly is Dawn’s* type of cancer, she wasn’t given the option of chemotherapy.

“It’s a horrible, aching, umm piercing, stabbing pain,” she told The Nation. “Mostly I’ve got it on my left side, my tumours on my left side and they’re rubbing up against my plura.”

After beating breast cancer, she was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. She has 12 growing tumours – the pain is unrelenting and relief is hard to find.

“I’m probably in a unique position because I’ve tried everything.”

She had been on high doses of morphine and oxycodone to control her pain.

“I would get lots of hot and cold sweats… I get withdrawals,” Dawn said.

“It was okay for a while because I thought, ‘oh yes, I haven’t got the pain’. But the tumours were growing, so the more the pain came back, the more I’d have to take. So I was trying to stay at a level so I didn’t feel like I was too over the top, because I’ve been told I can take twice, three times as much – the amount that I take at the moment, I can only just function.”

There were other side-effects too. She says she became anti-social, and she lost a kilogram a week for 30 weeks.

“Once you haven’t got the pain, you forget about it. But when you’ve got the pain, it’s in your body, it’s in your brain, it’s just excruciating and ridiculous. And you think, all I want to do is get rid of it.”

If her life was ruled by the four-letter word of pain – then it’s been another four letter word that’s brought her some relief: dope.

“I vape the medicinal cannabis and I don’t find that onerous at this stage, and my family and friends think it is absolutely hilarious that I should be vaping. Am I allowed to say that?

Dawn is clear – she’s not a fan of cannabis for recreation. She never tried it, and doesn’t believe it should be legalised.

Using it now in its medicinal form is a last resort.

“There’s nothing left for me. There’s no other treatment. It’s about managing my pain.”

“If mum didn’t take medicinal cannabis, I truly believe that she wouldn’t be here,” said her daughter Toni, a medical student.

“The changes that I’ve seen in mum have, I would describe them as miraculous – but they’re just too good to be true that the medical system doesn’t believe it’s possible. But I’ve seen it with my own eyes, and it is.”

She’s crowdfunded money to make a documentary based on evidence based benefits of medicinal cannabis.

“Since I went public with the crowdfunding for this resource documentary about cannabis as a medicine, I’ve had huge feedback from medical practitioners, GPs, specialists and there’s not been any bad feedback.

“In fact there’s been about 12 or 15 doctors who have told me that they do help their patients to get it.

“There’s lots of doctors putting their neck on the line for these patients, and try and help them get access to something that is available overseas, and if these doctors who are providing access for their patients were to be found out, would probably be struck off.

“All they want to do is provide best practice for their patients, which is what we’re taught to do as practitioners.”

Doctors onside with medicinal cannabis

Dawn and Tori aren’t the only ones speaking out. Helen Kelly told The Nation last year about how medicinal cannabis was the only thing that helps her sleep through the night after cancerous tumours broke her back.

Anna Osborne too says taking medicinal cannabis has helped her while undergoing chemo, and a growing number of medical professionals are supporting their calls.

“I don’t want to see desperate people turned into criminals,” says oncologist Anthony Falkov.

Dr Falkov says 40 to 60 percent of his patients are using medicinal cannabis, and it may have benefits beyond pain relief.

“Essentially most patients use it firstly because they hope it’ll work and improve their cancer control rates, and that’s a very important thing that’s been missed in this debate about medical cannabis. It may well increase cancer control rates.

“Secondly, they’re using it for pain, and thirdly they’re using it basically for appetite stimulation, and a lot of them are using it for anxiety and nausea and vomiting.

He wants to see cannabis treated like any other serious medication.

“What I’d really like to see is not widespread legalisation of every form of cannabis, but allowing doctors to actually ask patients about their cannabis use; record what they take; evaluate the effectiveness of various products and actually be allowed to use cannabis in research protocols with cancers that are subject to normal ethical approval; going through ethics committees, and subject to normal clinical trial constraints.

“All I’d like really is for cannabis to be treated like any other medication.”

And there’s support from another unlikely quarter.

“Because our group has loved ones suffering from cancers, degenerative diseases, aches and pains, we are advocating for the inclusion of the homegrown cannabis plant to be added to our list of choice of treatment,” says Beverley Alridge of Otamatea Grey Power.

And there’s support from another unlikely quarter.

“Because our group has loved ones suffering from cancers, degenerative diseases, aches and pains, we are advocating for the inclusion of the homegrown cannabis plant to be added to our list of choice of treatment,” says Beverley Alridge of Otamatea Grey Power.

The Otamatea Grey Power branch is petitioning the Government to decriminalise cannabis for medicinal use.

“We never considered it. We had other issues like roading and things like that, and we started seeing that people around us were dying and they were dying in extreme pain, and people were getting sick,” she said.

“So we did all this research and found that cannabis is this wonderful plant. So no, we didn’t actually go looking for cannabis – we went looking for solutions, herbal solutions that would actually be able to cure us, because there was no pharmaceutical drug that would be able to help us.”

One of the arguments against the use of medicinal cannabis is that some patients – particularly young people, or those with mental health issues – could misuse it. The clinicians The Nation spoke to agree that it’s not for everyone, but in their experience, patients use it responsibly.

“These patients have tried prescription medicines and haven’t had success, and now use marijuana in judicious dosing,” said Rick Acland, former medical director at Burwood Hospital.

“I am impressed that people don’t seem to use it in an escalating manner.”

Dr Acland says 20 to 30 percent of his patients use it for spinal cord injuries. He believes New Zealand could follow a similar system to Canada.

The Canadian system works like this: patients can grow their own, get a grower to supply them or get government-supplied cannabis.

There are similar schemes in other countries like Israel, Uruguay, Finland, the Australian state of New South Wales, some US states and Washington DC.

The World Health Organization is also taking a look at reclassifying medical cannabis under international law.

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Shoppers, Loblaw employees covered for medical marijuana


Shoppers, Loblaw employees covered for medical marijuana

By: Lisa Wright – The Toronto Star – March 30, 2017

Canada’s largest pharmacy chain hopes to soon get the green light to sell medical marijuana – and now its store employees who need that prescription weed could be among its first customers.

Loblaw Companies Limited and Shoppers Drug Mart just announced in an internal staff memo that effective immediately it will be covering medical pot under the employee benefit plan up to a maximum of $1,500 per year.

Claims to insurance provider Manulife “will be considered only for prescriptions to treat spasticity and neuropathic pain associated with multiple sclerosis and nausea and vomiting in chemotherapy for cancer patients,” said Basil Rowe, senior vice-president of human resources at Loblaw Companies Ltd., owner of Shoppers, in the memo.

“These are the conditions where the most compelling clinical evidence and literature supports the use of medical marijuana in therapy,” explained Loblaw/Shoppers spokesperson Tammy Smitham.

“We will continue to review evidence as it become available for other indications (conditions),” she said.

Since cannabis does not yet have a Drug Identification Number recognized by insurers, it isn’t covered under typical drug spending. However, it will be covered through a special authorization process where plan members will pay and submit their claim after, said Smitham.

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‘Think about wine’: UBC lab reveals genes that give pot its characteristic flavours


‘Think about wine’: UBC lab reveals genes that give pot its characteristic flavours

By: Randy Shore – Vancouver Sun – March 29, 2017

Scientists at the University of B.C. have identified about 30 genes related to the characteristic flavours of cannabis, from the nose-wrinkling funk of skunk to the distinctive earthiness of purple kush.

The finding, published Wednesday in the journal Plos One, is a first step toward standardizing different varieties of B.C.’s iconic intoxicant.

As Canada hurtles toward a new legal environment for recreational cannabis, breeders and growers will be anxious to identify different varieties of cannabis for flavour, but also for their psychoactive effects and potency, said Jörg Bohlmann, a professor in the Michael Smith Laboratories.

The federal government pledged this week to legalize marijuana by July 1, 2018.

“When you have a quality product that people are willing to pay a high price for, they expect a well-defined and consistent product,” said Bohlmann. “Think about wine, when you buy a Merlot or a Chardonnay you know aside from certain subtleties what it will taste like.”

Bohlmann likens the complex interaction of dozens of flavour genes to the sound of an orchestra, in which each song is a specific combination of instruments of different tone and volume.

The flavours of wine and cannabis are heavily influenced by the presence of a variety of chemical compounds called terpenes produced by the plant in certain amounts, many of which are found in both wine grapes and cannabis flowers. The researchers scanned the genome of cannabis plants to identify genes known to be associated with flavour in other plants.“Think about wine, when you buy a Merlot or a Chardonnay you know aside from certain subtleties what it will taste like.” There are thousands of varieties of grapes found all over the world. GETTY IMAGES

“In the wine industry, grape varieties are highly standardized, but with cannabis it’s a bit of a wild west,” he said. “The plants have all sorts of names and when it comes to the cannabinoids — the psychoactive compounds — there is a scary level of variation in potency.”

Bohlmann has so far confined his work to flavour compounds and he avoids street terms like “pot” and even marijuana to sidestep the “shadier” elements of the business, while pursuing the science.

Medicinal marijuana growers and a soon-to-be legitimized recreational marijuana industry will be interested in flavour, but even more interested in defining and standardizing the therapeutic and psychoactive chemistry of cannabis, said UBC botanist Jon Page, founder of Anandia Labs, a biotech and cannabis testing firm.
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A how-to class teaches N.J. patients to cook with cannabis


A how-to class teaches N.J. patients to cook with cannabis

By: Jan Hefler – March 27, 2017 – The Philly

 

Vanessa Amador has created a niche business in New Jersey that’s designed to woo an exclusive and often-misunderstood clientele.

Though others may want to attend the unique cooking classes offered by Cannabi Kitchen in Turnersville, Gloucester County, only those who flash a photo ID issued by the state’s tightly regulated medical-marijuana program will be allowed in.

The curriculum: how to make cannabis-infused sweets, including banana walnut muffins, creamy chocolate candies shaped like marijuana leaves, and even green gummy bears and worms. More items — such as smoothies — could be added.

The students are required to bring one ingredient — one-eighth of an ounce of cannabis from one of New Jersey’s five licensed dispensaries, and it must be inside a container with an unbroken seal.  Whether the strain is Blueberry Kush,  AC-DC, or something else is up to the student.

“The classes are strictly for medical-marijuana patients — definitely not for people who might want to walk in,” said Amador, during an interview last week at the New Jersey Alternative Medicine clinic in Turnersville, where she is an office manager.  The clinic, which will host some of the classes starting in May, is run by Andrew Medvedovsky, a neurologist who specializes in pain management.

Medvedovsky writes recommendations for patients who suffer from one of the dozen or so medical ailments that qualify them to use marijuana in New Jersey and who meet the program criteria.  Many suffer from severe muscle spasms and neurological disorders.

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Former Mountie teaching safe workplace marijuana use


Former Mountie teaching safe workplace marijuana use

By: CBC NEWS – March 20, 2017

Ed Secondiak thinks workplaces need to educate their employees on safety with regards to cannabis in light of increased use and pending legalization.

The former RCMP officer said the goal isn’t to punish people, but to be proactive to avoid unintended consequences of marijuana use, like workplace accidents.

“We’re not concerned about whether it’s illegal or legal. Our concerns more so are the impact on the workplace, in particular with safety,” said Secondiak, who is president of the occupational health company ECS Safety Services.

Medicinal marijuana use is on the rise and the federal government has promised legalization legislation.

Rules similar to alcohol, except …

In light of that, Secondiak said there can be confusion about who can smoke marijuana before work.

He said the rules around recreational pot use are no different than regulations on alcohol. The substances are different, but intoxication at work remains the same.

However, he noted, people are prescribed pot and may need to use it at work.

‘We’re trying to make sure people go back home with all the parts they came to work with.’– Ed Secondiak, ECS Safety Services

The level of impairment varies from person to person based on factors such as the amount consumed, the method of consumption and their level of tolerance.

“In many cases you actually have to go through a trial and error to see how it’s affecting that employee,” said Secondiak

Employers should be open to discussing marijuana at work so they can collaborate with employees to find the best solution for everyone, he said.

Extra care with ‘safety sensitive positions’

Secondiak said it’s important that people don’t work in “safety sensitive positions” if they’re using recreationally or medicinally. A safety sensitive position is one where accidents, injuries or fatalities can happen, such as a machinery operator or a medical professional.

“We’re trying to make sure people go back home with all the parts they came to work with.”

Mettrum recalled its products after 'small amounts of Myclobutanil' were found.

Ed Secondiak has given several presentations on drug use in the workplace across Canada and says he’s witnessed a decline in workplace accidents in the aftermath. (Robert Short/CBC)

Employers may need to accommodate medicinal marijuana users who do work in safety sensitive positions by finding them a different role or examining types of leave, he said.

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Manitoba wants to set limit on marijuana consumption in public places


Manitoba wants to set limit on marijuana consumption in public places

BY: The Canadian Press – March 20, 2017 – CBC News

The Manitoba government is moving to set restrictions on marijuana similar to those on alcohol.

Proposed legislation would list marijuana as an intoxicant and ban people from consuming it in a vehicle.

Police would also have the right to suspend a driver’s licence for 24 hours — similar to an alcohol provision — if they thought a person was under the influence of pot.

Medical marijuana user and legalization advocate, Steven Stairs said he is disappointed by the proposed legislation.

He called it overly broad and said it fails to distinguish medical marijuana use from recreational consumption.

“If I’m a medical user and I have pot in my car, do I have to put it in my trunk too? That is kind of stupid,” he said.

“So the police can pull you over and say ‘you look stoned we’re going to arrest you,’ well what if I was really tired or what I have some allergies?” Stairs said.

“Unless you can prove how impaired I am with a tool or a test, I don’t think it’s fair.”

Under the new bill, marijuana, like tobacco, could not be smoked in enclosed public places.

Stairs also wants to know how the proposed legislation would impact people who use marijuana for medical reasons.

Justice Minister Heather Stefanson says the province is laying the groundwork for when the federal government legalizes cannabis.

“This is by no means the end of this this, this is just the beginning,” Stefanson said, adding more bills could be coming on marijuana restrictions and how it impacts drivers.

“We’re actually the only province across Canada that’s bringing forward this kind of legislation now to help deal with some of the safety and health issues, so we’re out in front of this,” Stefanson said.

If someone has “a trace of marijuana” in their system and is not impaired, they should not have their licence taken away, said Swan.

The Manitoba bill says public schools would be required to ban marijuana under their codes of conduct, even after it becomes legal.

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Study: People Prefer Medical Cannabis to Other Medications


Study: People Prefer Medical Cannabis to Other Medications

BY: Zawn Villines – March 20, 2017 – GoodTherapy

People taking psychoactive medications and drugs for conditions such as chronic pain tend to prefer medical cannabis to other drugs, including sedatives, opioids, and antidepressants, a study published in the International Journal of Drug Policy has found.

Many analysts have expressed concerns about the use of opioids to treat chronic pain. More than 183,000 people died of prescription opioid overdoses between 1999 and 2015 in the United States. Some research, such as a recent study that looked at states with medical cannabis laws, suggests access to medical marijuana could reduce opioid abuse.

Medical Cannabis: Alternative to Opioids and Other Drugs?

The study used survey data from 271 people registered to purchase medical cannabis. Participants answered 107 questions covering demographic data, use of cannabis, reliance on other drugs, and health history.

Survey respondents had been prescribed drugs for a range of reasons, including chronic pain, mental health conditions, and gastrointestinal issues. Overall, 63% reported using cannabis instead of prescription drugs. The most common drug class for which participants substituted cannabis was opioids, accounting for 30% of the total. Sixteen percent of participants used cannabis to replace benzodiazepines, and 12% used cannabis instead of antidepressants.

Cannabis was also a popular replacement for potentially addictive nonmedical drugs. Twenty-five percent of respondents used cannabis instead of drinking alcohol, 12% used it instead of cigarettes or tobacco, and 3% replaced illicit drugs with marijuana.

The study’s authors suggest side effects, concerns about addiction, and level of safety figure prominently among the decision to use cannabis instead of other drugs. Some medical cannabis users report cannabis works better than more traditional prescription drugs.

Barriers to Medical Marijuana Continue

The study found participants often faced barriers to accessing medical marijuana. More than half (55%) were charged for their cannabis prescription, with 25% paying more than $300 for the prescription. Some participants still purchased cannabis from unregulated sources despite having a prescription.

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