Cannabis Treatment for HypertensionRead More
By Dr. Nicola Davies
What Is Hypertension?
Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is a serious, chronic medical issue. It occurs when your blood pumps through your veins with too much power. People with hypertension are more likely to suffer from cardiovascular diseases and premature death. Blood pressure is measured in two parts: systolic pressure and diastolic pressure. The systolic pressure, the top number in blood pressure readouts, expresses how much pressure your blood applies to your artery walls when your heart beats. Since your heart is pumping, the blood pressure is higher and that is the reason the systolic is the top number. The diastolic pressure expresses how much pressure your blood applies to your artery walls between heartbeats. When your heart is not pumping, the pressure is lower and that is why the diastolic pressure is the bottom number. If your systolic pressure is higher than 140 mmHg or your diastolic pressure is over 90 mmHg, then you have hypertension.1 There are many ways to treat high blood pressure, including diet, exercise and maintaining a healthy weight, and studies now show that use of medical marijuana could be a viable treatment for this condition as well.
How Can Cannabis Help with Lowering Blood Pressure?
Cannabis as Dietary Supplement
A study on hypertensive rats, conducted by researchers at the Department of Human Nutritional Sciences, University of Manitoba, Canada, presents interesting results on the effects of the hemp seed (Cannabis sativa L.) on systolic blood pressure.2 In a two-month feeding experiment with spontaneous hypertensive rats, the normal systolic pressure was controlled or even decreased when they were fed with hemp seed protein (HPI) or protein hydrolysate (HMH) compared to a casein-only diet. After the third week of the experiment, the rats that had hemp seed protein hydrolysate added to their diet had statistically significant reduction of their systolic pressure compared to the other groups. In the second experiment with adult rats with established hypertension, the diets containing hemp seed peptides or proteins also had an antihypertensive effect compared to the other diet groups. Based on the findings of this research, hemp seed could potentially be used as a nutritional additive for the prevention and treatment of high blood pressure.
In an early placebo-controlled study amongst patients with glaucoma, marijuana smoking resulted not only in reduced intraocular pressure but also in decreased blood pressure.3 It has also been shown that five to ten minutes after marijuana consumption, subjects can experience tachycardia (a heart rate that exceeds the normal resting rate) and decreased blood pressure.4 A more recent study comprising US adults found that the marijuana smokers had 69 percent probability of not suffering from hypertension compared to non-smokers.5 Nonetheless, the same study demonstrated that the number of years of marijuana use is an important factor and that in the long-term, marijuana smoking can have negative effects on metabolic health. Indeed, research has shown that the sudden discontinuance of cannabis use in heavy users could increase blood pressure.6 Furthermore, the diastolic pressure of the study participants escalated from a mean (SEM) of 74.8 (0.7) mmHg while smoking marijuana to a mean of 81.8 (0.6) mmHg following cessation. Similarly, the mean systolic pressure raised from 129.6 (0.9) mmHg to 139.8 (0.8) mmHg and the mean arterial pressure was also increased.6
Cannabinoids in Vivo
The application of cannabis extracts in vivo has also demonstrated positive effects on blood pressure. Rimonabant, a cannabinoid CB1 receptor antagonist, could potentially lower blood pressure, especially in males. In a study where obese or overweight patients were given 20mg rimonabant as a means of controlling their weight, both their diastolic and systolic blood pressure decreased.7 This reduction was even more evident in patients with pre-existing hypertension. Other cannabinoid extracts, such as the main psychoactive ingredient of marijuana, Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and anandamide, caused low blood pressure in unconscious spontaneous hypertensive rats, and the effects of amandine were still evident even when the rats were conscious.
Mechanism of Cannabinoids and their Effects
Sándor Bátkai, PhD, and colleagues explored the relationship between the endocannabinoid system and the cardiovascular system, concluding that “endocannabinoids tonically suppress cardiac contractility in hypertension” and that “enhancing the CB1-mediated cardio depressor and vasodilator effects of endogenous anandamide by blocking its hydrolysis can normalize blood pressure.”8 They also argued that focusing on the endocannabinoid system could potentially lead to novel treatments for hypertension. Furthermore, follow-up research found that, “Functional CB1 receptors are present in vascular tissue as well as the myocardium,” and therefore “cannabinoid agonists and endocannabinoids exert major hypotensive and cardio depressor effects in vivo through the stimulation of CB1 receptors.”9 The authors maintain that pharmaceutical research on the endocannabinoid system could prove beneficial for treating high blood pressure and ischemic heart disease.
Indirect Ways of Cannabis Effects to Hypertension
Hypertension has many underlying causes, including smoking, obesity, lack of physical activity, a diet high in salt, excessive consumption of alcohol, stress, sleep apnea, genetics, adrenal and thyroid disorders, chronic kidney disease, genetics, and older age.10 Cannabis could be used to treat some of these conditions and, thus, indirectly treat hypertension.
Obesity: In a study of 4,657 US adult males and females, it was demonstrated that current marijuana use resulted in lower levels of fasting insulin and smaller waist circumference.11 Based on a study investigating marijuana use and metabolic syndrome among adults in the U.S., current cannabis users were 45 percent less likely to present with metabolic syndrome compared to those who had never used cannabis. For the middle-aged participants, the findings were more interesting, as both current and past users had lower probabilities of developing metabolic syndrome as opposed to those who had never used marijuana.12
Stress: In a review study, in which the author examined the effects of medicinal marijuana and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), it was concluded that marijuana use is associated with lower levels of PTSD.13 Neurobiological studies performed on animals and humans confirm these findings, but more research is needed.
What does the Future Hold?
Despite the numerous studies examining the effect of cannabis on blood pressure, there are no cannabinoid-based medicines produced which target hypertension. Even though the use of cannabis has been proven highly beneficial with reducing intraocular pressure and marijuana is legally prescribed to patients with glaucoma, there is still room for improvement to prove its benefits for lowering blood pressure. As there is not yet any study that focuses on the effects of marijuana and its extracts on hypertensive patients, the antihypertensive potential of cannabis is left largely unexplored. Ideally, more studies with hypertensive patients should be considered to provide reliable data which physicians can use to prescribe cannabis-based treatment for this condition.
- Eisenberg, J. M. (2012). Measuring Your Blood Pressure at Home. Center for Clinical Decisions and Communications Science. Retrieved February 21, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0041082/#conssmbp.s3
- Girgih, A. T., Alashi, A., He, R., Malomo, S., & Aluko, R. E. (2014). Preventive and treatment effects of a hemp seed (Cannabis sativa L.) meal protein hydrolysate against high blood pressure in spontaneously hypertensive rats.European journal of nutrition, 53(5), 1237-1246.
- Merritt, J. C., Crawford, W. J., Alexander, P. C., Anduze, A. L., & Gelbart, S. S. (1980). Effect of marijuana on intraocular and blood pressure in glaucoma.Ophthalmology, 87(3), 222-228.
- Merritt, J. C. (1982). Glaucoma, hypertension, and marijuana.Journal of the National Medical Association, 74(8), 715.
- Yankey, B. N., Strasser, S., & Okosun, I. S. (2016). A cross-sectional analysis of the association between marijuana and cigarette smoking with metabolic syndrome among adults in the United States.Diabetes & Metabolic Syndrome: Clinical Research & Reviews, 10(2), S89-S95.
- Vandrey, R., Umbricht, A., & Strain, E. C. (2011). Increased blood pressure following abrupt cessation of daily cannabis use.Journal of addiction medicine, 5(1), 16.
- Pacher, P., Bátkai, S., & Kunos, G. (2006). The endocannabinoid system as an emerging target of pharmacotherapy.Pharmacological reviews, 58(3), 389-462.
- Bátkai, S., Pacher, P., Osei-Hyiaman, D., Radaeva, S., Liu, J., Harvey-White, J., ... & Kunos, G. (2004). Endocannabinoids acting at cannabinoid-1 receptors regulate cardiovascular function in hypertension.Circulation, 110(14), 1996-2002.
- Pacher, P., Bátkai, S., & Kunos, G. (2005). Blood pressure regulation by endocannabinoids and their receptors.Neuropharmacology, 48(8), 1130-1138.
- Klodas,E. (2015).Causes of high blood pressure. (2015). WebMD. Retrieved February 23, 2017, from, http://www.webmd.com/hypertension-high-blood-pressure/guide/blood-pressure-causes#1
- Penner, E. A., Buettner, H., & Mittleman, M. A. (2013). The impact of marijuana use on glucose, insulin, and insulin resistance among US adults.The American journal of medicine, 126(7), 583-589.
- Vidot, D. C., Prado, G., Hlaing, W. M., Florez, H. J., Arheart, K. L., & Messiah, S. E. (2016). Metabolic Syndrome among marijuana users in the United States: an analysis of National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data.The American journal of medicine, 129(2), 173-179.
- Yarnell, S. (2014). The Use of Medicinal Marijuana for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Review of the Current Literature.The primary care companion for CNS disorders, 17(3).
Does CBD Convert to THC When Ingested? The findings from one study conclude it is possible.Read More
by Dr. Nicola Davies
Many people may be aware that cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-psychoactive constituent of the cannabis plant. New research, however, seems to indicate that this isn’t actually correct.
Cannabis strains high in CBD are popularly used as anti-inflammatories, as muscle relaxants and as general analgesics. Cannabis plants with high levels of delta 9–tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), on the other hand, are often smoked or ingested in order to produce feelings of euphoria and concomitant reductions in stress. Though high-CBD strains are often associated with indica varieties and high-THC with sativa varieties, this is not necessarily the case.
Executive Director of Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM), Valerie Corral, wrote in a 2007 unpublished study titled “Differential Effects of Medical Marijuana Based on Strain and Route of Administration: A Three-Year Observational Study” that, “Patients did not note major differences between the cannabis sativa and cannabis indica strains.” Corral concluded, “We hope that a reliable and accessible means of analysis will become available in the near future.”1 Corral’s hopes for the future are closer to being realized. New research carried out by Kazuhito Watanabe (PhD) and his associates at Daiichi College of Pharmaceuticals, Japan, resulted in a paper titled, “Conversion of Cannabidiol to Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol and Related Cannabinoids in Artificial Gastric Juice, and Their Pharmacological Effects in Mice.”2 The research has shown that variations in gastric juices can lead to a different result from that expected when taking CBD. So far, testing has only been carried out on mice and artificial gastric juices have been used, but the results provide food for thought and may pave the way for further studies with human participants.
Essentially, the study by Watanabe and his team has demonstrated that when CBD comes into contact with an artificial gastric juice, the non-psychoactive CBD is converted by those juices to the
psychotropic element delta 9–tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), as well as 9α-hydroxyhexahydrocannabinol (9α-OH-HHC) and 8-hydroxy-isohexahydrocannabinol (8-OH-iso-HHC). These two latter cannabinoids, known together as HHCs (hexahydroxycannabinols), were found to have THC-like effects on the laboratory mice. The researchers do point out, however, that the effects of the HHCs were not as strong as those of actual THC.
The main objective of the research was to show that THC is not the only psychoactive component of cannabis. The results suggest that sufficient attention needs to be paid to HHCs and their effect when they are combined with gastric juices during the digestive process. This could explain the anomalies in results for previous studies when the effects of CBD were tested on humans. As studies have so far only been conducted on mice, further research is required with humans to establish its applicability in the real world.
What causes the change to occur?
When people ingest cannabis in cakes or cookies, these usually contain some kind of sugar. The stomach becomes more acidic due to the sugars in these foods, as well as in any alcoholic drinks consumed when smoking or ingesting CBD. This acidity accelerates the change from CBD into THC, two HHCs and cannabinol (CBN).
What did the scientists measure?
The researchers began from the baseline of what has already been established about the effects of THC on the body: loss of sensation, drop in body temperature, prolonged sleep and reduced pain perception. The four aspects they chose to test were catalepsy (the loss of sensation or consciousness, inducing a rigid body), hypothermia (an abnormal drop in body temperature), pentobarbital induced sleep (deeper sleep when a barbiturate is given) and antinociception (the reduction in sensitivity to painful stimuli).
How did they do it?
Watanabe and associates isolated and purified THC, CBD and CBN from cannabis leaves using previously tried and tested methods. They placed the cannabinoids into an artificial gastric juice to observe the effects. Using a gas chromatograph, a sample solution was injected into the instrument, which then entered a gas stream of either helium or nitrogen used as carrier gas. The sample was then directed into a tube that separated the components. Results showed that CBD broke down into THC, two HHCs and CBN. To test the effects of these CBD components, the researchers administered small quantities to their experimental mice.
...when CBD comes into contact with an artificial gastric juice, the non-psychoactive CBD is converted by those juices to the psychotropic element delta 9–tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)...
How were changes measured and what did they find?
To test catalepsy, 24 mice were separated into three groups of eight and injected with THC, HHCs and CBN. Researchers waited fifteen minutes for the cannabis to take effect, then placed the front paws of the mice on a bar. If the mouse did not move its paws within 30 seconds, it was regarded as having a rigid or cataleptogenic reaction. The injection of THC affected the mice the most, and the HHCs were less effective than THC, but more so than CBN, which had very little effect.
For the hypothermic reactions test, mice were again divided into groups of eight and injected with THC, HHCs and CBN, respectively. Two hours later, their rectal temperature was taken. The results were consistent with the test for catalepsy, with THC causing the highest temperature drop. HHCs had an effect, but not as pronounced as THC, while injections of CBN did not produce any significant drop in temperature. Through its action on the central nervous system, THC prolongs deep sleep, so for this test, the researchers injected the mice first with the cannabinoids, and then gave them sodium pentobarbital fifteen minutes later to see how their sleep was affected. As expected, the mice given the THC slept the longest, those given HHCs slept less and those given the
CBN were least affected.
For the sensitivity to pain test, the mice were again given injections of the various cannabinoids, then twenty minutes later were given a 0.7 percent acetic acid solution and assessed on the amount of writhing produced by measuring abdominal contractions. Again, the results were consistent: THC produced the strongest block to pain with least writhing, the HHCs were somewhat effective, but less than THC and CBN had very little effect on pain blocking compared to the placebo group.
Further studies needed
Much research has involved the administration of THC and CBD to patients for symptoms such as fibromyalgia, Crohn’s disease and insomnia, but researchers have been circumspect in declaring their results and have called for further testing. Watanabe’s research, though conducted on mice, may hold true for humans – but that must be the subject of future studies. As Georgetown University Medical School’s Dr. Robert du Pont pointed out, there are an estimated 400 components in the cannabis plant, making it difficult to determine exactly which component is providing relief when cannabis is ingested for medical reasons.3
Could anomalies in results have resulted from the way gastric juices break down CBD within the human body? In a 2016 study published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, by John Merrick and associates, it was noted that, “In recent epilepsy research, pediatric subjects receiving orally administered CBD showed a relatively high incidence of adverse events (≤44%), with somnolence (≤21%) and fatigue (≤17%) among the most common.”4 This led the researchers to more closely investigate the accepted premise that CBD is non-psychoactive. They came to the conclusion that, “Gastric fluid without enzymes converts CBD into the psychoactive components Δ9-THC and Δ8-THC, which suggests that the oral route of administration may increase the potential for psychomimetic adverse effects from CBD.”
From recent studies, it seems that there is a need to find delivery methods that decrease the risk of psychoactive cannabinoids forming during the digestive process. To this end, Zynerba Pharmaceuticals Inc. has developed an innovative transdermal synthetic cannabinoid treatment that bypasses the gastrointestinal tract, thus avoiding bioconversion to psychoactive THC.5 This may be the way forward in using CBD to assist patients with medical conditions without them inadvertently experiencing unwanted psychoactive effects.
1. Corral, V.L., 2001. Differential effects of medical marijuana based on strain and route of administration: a three-year observational study. Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics, 1(3-4), pp.43-59.
2. Watanabe, K., Itokawa, Y., Yamaori, S., Funahashi, T., Kimura, T., Kaji, T., Usami, N. and Yamamoto, I., 2007. Conversion of cannabidiol to Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol and related cannabinoids in artificial gastric juice, and their pharmacological effects in mice. Forensic Toxicology, 25(1), pp.16-21.
3. Kleber, H.D. and Dupont, R.L., 2012. Physicians and medical marijuana. American Journal of Psychiatry, 169(6), pp.564-568.
4. Merrick, J., Lane, B., Sebree, T., Yaksh, T., O’Neill, C. and Banks, S.L., 2016. Identification of Psychoactive Degradants of Cannabidiol in Simulated Gastric and Physiological Fluid. Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, 1(1), pp.102-112.
5. Zynerba Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 2016. First and Only Synthetic CBD Formulated as a Permeation-Enhanced Gel Being Developed for Refractory Epilepsy, Osteoarthritis and Fragile X Syndrome. [ONLINE] Available at: http://zynerba.com/in-development/cbd-gel-zyn002/. [Accessed 21 July 2016].
The Black, White and Gray of Cannabis RegulationRead More
by David B. Bush
Talk about cannabis, especially in the realm of industrial hemp, invariably leads somebody to offer up the bromide that there are “gray areas” of the law. The law is vague and confusing, so it is said, which creates uncertainty about what is legal and what is illegal. But when I read the black letter of the law, I find little if anything that anyone would ever call gray. Federal drug laws may be a lot of things, including silly, counterproductive, and downright bad, but they are not vague or confusing. I find no shades of gray.
Make no mistake about it, cannabis plants, all cannabis plants, are classified under federal law as marijuana, a Schedule I controlled substance. Not only that, but most parts of the cannabis plants are also considered marijuana; in particular, the leaves and flowers. Nor does the law stop there. “Every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation” of marijuana is also classified as marijuana.
All varieties of cannabis plants contain dozens or hundreds of chemical constituents. These include cannabinoids, nitrogenous compounds, amino acids, proteins, glycoproteins, enzymes, sugars, hydrocarbons, alcohols, aldehydes, ketones, simple acids, fatty acids, esters, lactones, steroids, terpenes, non-cannabinoid phenols, flavonoids, vitamins, and pigments. To the extent that any are derived from the leaves or flowers of cannabis, federal law classifies them as marijuana. One might challenge the wisdom of that definition all day long, I certainly do, but disagreement over what the law says does not make it any less clear.
Colorado is experiencing a boom in the market for cannabinoid products derived from cannabis. Most noteworthy perhaps is Δ-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, the multisyllabic psychoactive goody that we have all come to know and love as THC, popularly consumed throughout the ages for its recreational and medical benefits. But there is a veritable alphabet soup of cannabinoids found in cannabis besides THC, dozens or hundreds of them. They include tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV), cannabidiol (CBD), cannabinol (CBN), cannabichromene (CBC), cannabigerol (CBG) and a host of others. Every single cannabinoid meets the federal definition of marijuana, because they are all derived from the leaves and flowers of cannabis. Every single one of them is a Schedule I controlled substance, making their unauthorized manufacture, possession and distribution a federal crime.
There is a flawed popular perception that the key to illegality in the world of cannabis is THC. But THC appears nowhere in the federal definition of marijuana. Federal law does not care whether a cannabis plant is chock full of THC or has any measurable concentration of the substance at all. It simply does not matter whether the stuff made from cannabis could give one a buzz or not. It is all equally illegal in the eyes of the law.
Many wish to believe that industrial hemp is different. A number of states, including Colorado, define industrial hemp to mean cannabis with a below-threshold concentration of THC in the plant tissue, generally recognized as no more than 0.3 percent by dry weight. Other than the narrow exception for academic research and development articulated in the 2014 Farm Bill, no similar distinction exists in federal law. But low concentrations of THC in industrial hemp does not help the plant avoid the onus of federal prohibition. Cannabinoid products are all classified as marijuana, regardless of the variety of plant from which they were made and regardless how much or how little THC the plant or the product made from it might contain.
Manufacture of cannabinoid products in Colorado is booming. But they are not being regulated in a consistent manner. Cannabinoid products made from what the state has defined as marijuana are strictly controlled under complex and pervasive regulations promulgated and administered by the Marijuana Enforcement Division in the Department of Revenue. In contrast, the only aspect of state-defined industrial hemp that is subject to regulation is cultivation, by the Department of Agriculture. Processing and sale of cannabinoid products made from industrial hemp is not regulated at all. In fact, Colorado law actually accords statutory immunity to anyone who processes and sells products made from legally registered and cultivated industrial hemp. Section 108(2) of the hemp regulatory statutes provides as follows: “[A] person engaged in processing, selling, transporting, possessing, or otherwise distributing industrial hemp cultivated by a person registered under this article, or selling industrial hemp products produced therefrom, is not subject to any civil or criminal actions under Colorado law for engaging in such activities.”
The stark difference in Colorado between the regulation of marijuana and industrial hemp presents a particular challenge to federal drug enforcement. In a now-famous memorandum authored by Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole on August 29, 2013, the U.S. Department of Justice effectively gave the nod to states such as Colorado to experiment with regulated cannabis markets. Federal law enforcement policy since issuance of the Cole Memorandum generally has been to avoid prosecution in states where cannabis is legal, provided that actors play by state rules and avoid implicating certain federal law enforcement priorities. One of the enumerated law enforcement priorities is to prevent the diversion of marijuana from a state where it is legal to another state where it is not. Therein lies the problem in Colorado. Diversion of cannabinoid products made from industrial hemp is now occurring on a large scale.
Transporting cannabinoid products made from industrial hemp across state lines places them in the stream of interstate commerce, where federal law, not Colorado law, controls. And federal law is clear: any product made from the leaves or flowers of any cannabis plant is marijuana. Interstate sales of cannabinoid products cannot be characterized as anything other than trafficking in a Schedule I controlled substance. Such activities not only break federal law, but they implicate at least one of the law enforcement priorities set forth in the Cole Memorandum, against diverting marijuana out of state.
So far, the federal government has been remarkably tolerant of interstate sales of cannabinoid products, other than for those rich in THC. Relatively few attempts have been made to impede their transport outside of Colorado. But that does not reflect any change in the law, only a relatively lax attitude by the current administration in Washington. That could change dramatically with the next administration, or for that matter, at any time. The current situation cannot continue. It exposes the regulated cannabis market in Colorado to the risk of significant intervention by federal law enforcement.
Recent calls have been made in some circles in Colorado for implementation of regulations that would apply to all cannabinoid products, without regard to the source material from which they were made. Such regulations would include licensing, standards for quality and content, labeling, and prohibitions against export out of state, as long as the products remained federally illegal. Not surprisingly, some in the industrial hemp sector have reacted with vehement indignation to such proposals. The very thought of having their industry lumped in with marijuana offends their self-image of moral superiority and entitlement to special protection. But the reality is otherwise. There is but one plant, cannabis. There is but one body of federal law against it. Cannabis has but one future. We must all sink or swim from the same boat.
Federal drug laws are bad and need to be changed. Prohibitions against cannabis, all cannabis, both marijuana and industrial hemp, should be abolished. But until that day comes, the State of Colorado must rationalize its current regulatory system to avoid implicating federal law enforcement priorities set forth in the Cole Memorandum.
As an industrial hemp attorney, I support regulation of the processing and sale of cannabinoid products, including those made from industrial hemp. I have little doubt that it is coming. Resistance to regulation might delay the day of reckoning, but cannot forestall the inevitable. The industrial hemp sector can choose to be part of the problem, by denying that there is one. Or it can be part of the solution, by working to create a sound, reasonable and fair system of regulation. I would respectfully counsel the latter.
David B. Bush is the managing member of David B. Bush, L.L.C. dba David’sLaw, a business law practice dedicated to furthering the successful development of industrial hemp in Colorado and throughout the United States. His web page is www.davidlawcolorado.com and he may be reached at [email protected].
Morning Sickness and MarijuanaRead More
by Dr. Nicola Davies
Severe morning sickness can cause dehydration, weight loss, and bleeding. These effects are sometimes so acute that women need to be hospitalized. However, small doses of marijuana have been found to be highly effective in the treatment of morning sickness, even in severe cases. Those who prefer the use of something non-psychoactive can utilize low-THC hemp oil, which also gives relief from morning sickness. Nevertheless, what concerns mothers-to-be is the possible impact of cannabis on the developing fetus. Dr. Nicola Davies investigates the historical, anecdotal, and scientific evidence surrounding this controversial use for medical marijuana.
Cannabis for Morning Sickness: Historical Evidence
Historical evidence suggests that various forms of cannabis have been used for the treatment of morning sickness for thousands of years. The earliest records date back to ancient Egypt, where women chewed hemp seeds as a cure for nausea during early pregnancy.
Records from China and Persia, dating back to the 7th century BC, also refer to the use of cannabis for morning sickness. According to Dr. Ethan Russo, in his work “Cannabis treatments in obstetrics and gynecology: a historical review”, female flowers or seeds were used. Presumably, treatment was administered in much the same way as we use cannabis today, whereby seeds are taken orally and flowers are smoked.
By the 19th Century, cannabis tinctures were being used in Europe and America as a treatment for a variety of conditions, ranging from headaches to morning sickness. However, in the 1930s, the U.S. media campaign against cannabis began, and various unsubstantiated claims regarding “Reefer Madness” became the sensational news of the day. This led to the banning of any form of cannabis, including non-psychoactive hemp, in 1937.
The end result of this ban was to effectively end modern research on the therapeutic effects cannabis; even today, researchers still have great difficulty obtaining approval for studies regarding the use of cannabinoids for therapeutic applications.
In 1994, Dr Melanie Dreher’s article on the use of cannabis as treatment for morning sickness among Jamaican women was published in the scientific journal Pediatrics. According to Dreher, Jamaican women smoke cannabisas a folk remedy for morning sickness, despite the fact that it is officially discouraged.
In 2002, Dr. Wei-Lin Curry, who herself suffered from a severe, life-threatening form of morning sickness known as Hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), published an anecdotal paper regarding her personal experience of medical marijuana as a treatment. She notes that conventional medicines are known to be “questionable” for the “long-term safety of the fetus,” as well as being expensive and limited in efficacy. Curry turned to medical marijuana as a last resort and found that two puffs in the evening and one in the morning were sufficient to cure her condition.
A 2006 survey, conducted in Canada and published in the Journal Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, found that 68 percent of respondents had tried cannabis as a treatment for morning sickness; 92 percent of these women said that cannabis was effective in treating their condition. Of these, 31 percent chose non-psychoactive hemp taken orally, 8 percent used high-THC tinctures and oils, and the rest smoked or used a vaporizer. The study calls for further research into the subject.
Could You Be Hurting Your Unborn Baby?
Excessive smoking of any kind reduces the oxygen available to unborn children, but recent studies seem to indicate that light medicinal marijuana use won’t adversely affect the fetus or later development of the child. Advocates of medicinal marijuana recommend the use of a vaporizer, rather than an unfiltered smoke, to limit oxygen depletion and the risks associated with ordinary smoking.
Although there have been many studies on the effects of cannabis on fetal health and subsequent childhood development after birth, few control for other factors, such as the use of alcohol and tobacco, and the socio-economic effects of the childhood environment on the subsequent development of children.
In 1997, however, Dr. J.P. Morgan and Dr. Lynn Zimmer reported, “Marijuana has no reliable impact on birth size, length of gestation… or the occurrence of physical abnormalities”; several other studies now seem to support this conclusion. Among these is a study of over 12,000 UK women, which took alcohol use, the mothers’ pre-pregnancy weight, caffeine use, and the use of other illicit drugs and smoking, into account. In 1999, a study of similar magnitude, conducted in the Netherlands, reached a similar conclusion.
But what about susceptibility to cancer? One of the most common forms of cancer to affect pre-adolescent children, acute myeloid leukemia, and its potential connection with maternal cannabis use, has been studied. The results showed no connection between maternal cannabis use and this condition.
Studies in which mothers admitted to combining cannabis with tobacco use and alcohol are less rosy in their results, but it could be argued that tobacco and alcohol are to blame for the problems that arise. There is certainly a large volume of evidence indicating that alcohol and tobacco can and do affect the health of unborn children and their subsequent development. However, heavy use of marijuana may also be found to have adverse effects on later childhood development, particularly verbal ability.
Lastly, the University of Bristol examined the use of alcohol, tobacco and cannabis during pregnancy in order to determine whether there was any correlation with the later development of psychosis in children. The study concluded that, while both alcohol and tobacco may increase the incidence of psychosis, there was no connection between cannabis use by mothers and psychosis in their offspring.
What if You Don’t Want to Get ‘Stoned’?
Although the use of THC as a means of suppressing nausea and vomiting has been widely studied and found to be effective, there are also at least three animal studies that indicate a reduction in nausea in mothers-to-be after using non-psychoactive CBD. This is the cannabinoid that is associated with low-THC hemp.
Henry Vincenty of Endoca, a Netherlands-based firm that specializes in the production of ultra-low THC hemp oil, says that the endocannabinoid system is not yet well understood. “We all produce natural endocannabinoids that are similar to those found in hemp, and pregnant women produce more endocannabinoids than usual, but no one’s quite sure why this happens. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence that low THC hemp oil can relieve morning sickness without psychoactive effects, but there is little scientific evidence at this time.”
Vincenty says that the main reason CBD has enjoyed less attention from the scientific community is that this cannabinoid was identified later than its better-known relative, THC. “We can’t guarantee that it will be effective against morning sickness, but we know that it works in a lot of cases.” Because orally administered treatments work more slowly than inhaled ones, Vincenty recommends using CBD oil as a preventative measure taken twice daily. “You may have to play around to find the right dose, but CBD oil is harmless and has no psychoactive effects. It has so little THC that you won’t even fail a drug test unless you take enormous amounts.”
So What Should We Conclude?
Cannabinoids can cure morning sickness, and scientific studies seem to indicate that they don’t harm the baby. THC has been more widely researched, but it is psychoactive and illegal in many states. Those who would prefer a non-psychoactive, legal option could consider trying low THC-hemp oil as an alternative.
The Specter of SpiceRead More
by Erin Hiatt
At the end of September in New York City, a 33-year-old Bronx woman gave birth to a baby girl in the bathroom of her boyfriend’s apartment. She cruelly and inexplicably threw the baby out of the seventh floor bathroom window. The building superintendent’s wife, cleaning the alleyway below, discovered the child, its umbilical cord still attached. Over the next few days, on the subway platforms, the street corners, and coffee shops, people shook their heads in upset, baffled and muttering, “How could someone do that?” Kenneth Bolton, who witnessed the woman being led in handcuffs to a waiting police car told The Daily Mail that she “was more like she was not human. She was deranged, like she was lost. You know, when someone has a look in their eyes like they don’t know where they are?” A coffee shop barista exclaimed, “They said the devil was in her eyes! I heard she was taking the K2!”
Julie Netherland, Deputy State Director of New York for the Drug Policy Alliance, wrote for The Huffington Post that, “[D]rug scares, according to scholar Craig Reinarman, have been a recurring feature of U.S. society for than 200 years. In his classic article, ‘The Social Construction of Drug Scares,’ he notes that they share a number of features, including media magnification of the problem, linking the drug to a ‘dangerous class,’ and scapegoating a drug for a wide array of public problems. Simply put, drug scares have been used for centuries to vilify particular groups of people to serve political ends.”
K2 is just one of the street names for synthetic marijuana, but it also goes by Spice, Scooby Snax, Diesel, and many more. It’s a chemical creation that has been around a lot longer than the news storm surrounding it, and it’s only marijuana in the sense that both whole-plant marijuana and synthetic, single compound Spice bind to the cannabinoid receptors in our brains. It’s often marketed as “herbal incense” and packaged in what resembles a trippy Kool-Aid packet marked with the words “not for human consumption.”
Because it’s very difficult to track the manufacturers of K2, there is really no way to know exactly what it’s made of, but it’s usually a collection of leaves, tobacco, or potpourri soaked in acetone and sprayed with chemicals called cannabimimetics. As the word connotes, these chemicals can mimic some of the effects of cannabis, and anecdotal reports suggest that it takes some aspects of the marijuana high, from the mellowest mellow to severe anxiety and paranoia, to the extreme. Drugs.com tells us that “some of the synthesized compounds in fake marijuana bind much more strongly to THC receptors than regular marijuana, which can lead to a more powerful, unpredictable, or dangerous effect.” Some of these chemical compounds have been identified as JWH-018, HU-210, CP 47, JWH-073, and JWH-398, to name a few. The DEA has added some synthetic cannabinoids to its list of Schedule I drugs, but of the hundreds of synthetics, only 40 are listed as illegal.
Less than the cost of a joint, synthetic marijuana can be found on the internet and in neighborhood bodegas and gas stations in largely poor, minority neighborhoods with large and visible homeless populations and creeping gentrification. New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton told The New York Daily News that, “Synthetic marijuana gives people abnormal strength, makes them dangerous”, and that “weaponized weed triggers nude psychotic rampages.” These claims have been largely debunked. In fact, Bratton’s story of a nude, psychotic rampage was actually drawn from a 12-year-old video of someone high on PCP, but was wielded all the same to kick up a synthetic marijuana fear-frenzy, a very familiar drug war tactic reminiscent of Reefer Madness.
The New York City Council has recently partnered with the DEA to crack down on K2 sellers, but the designer drug is notoriously slippery to criminalize. The moment one of the synthetic cannabinoids is made illegal, the manufacturers stop using it and make a new, legal one. If you are a clever chemist and don’t mind changing your formula, you can sell it legally, at least until law enforcement catches up with your newest creation.
A father in his 30s with two young daughters, Keith is a former addict who spent nine months in prison for possession of methamphetamine. Keith and his wife Sherie have been together for 10 years, and over that time she has seen him high on meth, marijuana, and Spice. Keith, after being drugfree for several years, tried Spice at the recommendation of a friend because it was legal and he didn’t want to go back to jail. Sherie says, “On marijuana, he was just happy. The biggest thing I had to worry about was that we’d run out of food. But on Spice, it was like watching him die before my eyes. It was like he was sedated, I would say ‘I don’t understand what you’re doing, you’re just a zombie.’”
Keith’s wife is not the only person to compare synthetic marijuana users to the walking dead; even The New York Times called the troubled and notoriously rough block between Park and Lexington Avenues on 125th Street in East Harlem “a street of zombies” because of its high number of visible K2 users. Netherland said that, “In New York City, many people use K2 to avoid a positive drug test because it doesn’t show up on a drug panel, and in order to receive social services, they have to have a negative test. It’s a large problem with the homeless and K2 is being used to stigmatize and drive them out.”
The aforementioned synthetic marijuana chemical JWH-018 is named for the man who created it, Clemson professor emeritus of organic chemistry, John W. Huffman. Intrigued by the discovery of the cannabinoid receptor, the system that THC stimulates and binds to, Huffman was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse to research how synthetic compounds would react with cannabinoid receptors. He synthesized many such compounds, the first in 1993. “The chemistry to make these things is very simple and very old,” Huffman told The Washington Post. “You only have three starting materials and only two steps. In a few days, you could make 25 grams, which could be enough to make havoc.” The Washington Post further writes that, “Huffman published his formula in series of papers, journals and a book called “The Cannabinoid Receptors.” No one is sure exactly what followed, but in 2008, a German forensic lab identified JWH-018 in what we now know as Spice.
Keith describes himself as an easy-going guy but found that on Spice he was either alarmingly zoned-out or on the verge of becoming completely unglued. “I had a friend who was on steroids, and my anger response was similar and the same as the crack addicts I had dealt with in the past. All the things that make you an adult instead of a child quickly dissolved.” He describes rising in the early morning hours and anxiously waiting for Sherie to get home from her graveyard shift so he could go to the head shop and replenish his supply. When she woke up some hours later, he would be sitting outside and staring blankly, having smoked his entire stash. Sherie says, “The second he told me he was gonna try it I was mad but he took it anyway because it was legal.”
“I had heard it was like weed. The high is instantaneous and it goes straight to your brain, like weed. But it’s not the same high, there’s like a sickness with it,” Keith explains. When the high would wear off about 45 minutes later, he would get nauseous, and smoking more was the only relief. Nausea is only one of the physical effects of synthetic marijuana; The Washington Post lists the others as extremely high blood pressure (stroke range), dilated pupils and red eyes, glazed expression, inability to speak, rapid heart rate (heart attack range), and possible kidney failure. “I did meth for years and years and I never slapped around a girl or got emotionally dependent. And one day I was scraping the pipe for the resin and she took the pipe from my hand and with that, there was no water under the bridge, everything was insurmountable.”
Sherie told Keith that he wasn’t allowed to do drugs inside the house, but he tried to sidestep that rule by using in the basement. “He kept saying, ‘it’s legal.’ He was cleaning his pipe and by that time I’d had it with the whole thing. I went downstairs to tell him he couldn’t do that in the house and he got angry, angry, angry. He was yelling in my face. And he grabbed my wrist and pushed me, so I ran away that night with our baby. I had to leave with my child and then he realized, ‘um, okay.’” By the time Sherie returned he had vowed to quit. And he did, saying that it was harder than stopping meth.
THC Magazine reached out to the NYPD, the District Attorney’s office, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and the Department of Consumer Affairs. All of them said they were unable to honor any requests about K2’s effects on local communities and law enforcement. Only at the request of a constituent did New York City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, who represents District 10 in Northern Manhattan honor a press request, and he regurgitated the press releases written by the NYC Health Commissioner’s office. He added one specific, saying that, “We at the city council are giving muscle to the NYPD and the DEA to make sure that we don’t go back to the ‘80s when we had crack cocaine. We are going to push back and any corner in the city is vulnerable.”
Despite the unwillingness of agencies to honor any information requests, what is abundantly clear is that the city’s response to synthetic marijuana has not been effective. The NYC homeless population is at an all time high and increasingly visible, and that has brought enhanced media scrutiny to the homeless, who have been struck hardest by synthetic marijuana. Rather than continuing to criminalize an already vulnerable population, Netherland suggests that elected officials examine the root of the problem and use prevention and regulation instead of the same old war-on-drugs, knee-jerk reaction to a crisis. The Drug Policy Alliance has been working with the New York Department of Health and in response to the surge in K2 emergency room visits (more than 3,000 in 2015 so far), they are launching a campaign to educate the public about synthetic marijuana, which is not only misunderstood but misconstrued. The differences between isolated chemical compounds and wholeplant cannabis are real and profound.
People have died taking synthetic marijuana and there have been dramatic, negative effects on vulnerable populations. Whole-plant marijuana has never killed anyone and hasn’t put entire populations at risk. Sherie concludes, “I personally think that Spice should not be sold to anyone. Spice is scary and it kills people and it almost ruined my life.”
Has the Cannabis Revolution Spread to Washington D.C.?Read More
by David Bush, esq.
It is said that revolutions begin in the streets, not in ivory towers. Popular acceptance of cannabis did not start with the federal government, but in spite of it. Twenty-three states, along with the District of Columbia, have legalized medical marijuana, while 13 others have legalized limited cannabis extracts for specific therapeutic use. Four states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana. Twenty-two states have enacted laws regarding industrial hemp. Over a dozen of them have authorized or intend to authorize commercial hemp production.
We are in the midst of a revolution where state governments are telling their citizens that they may engage in conduct that is still federally illegal. The feds continue to view cannabis, all forms of cannabis, as Schedule I Controlled Substances, the worst of the worst. For all intents and purposes, America is facing one of the greatest continuing acts of mass civil disobedience for the greater good since Paul Revere tattled on the British and ruined their police action to subdue the colonies. It is taking time for the folks in Washington to catch up with the rest of us.
But what is cannabis, anyway? What does it have to do with marijuana and industrial hemp?
Marijuana and industrial hemp are the same plant. Both are cannabis. The Genus cannabis finds expression in three nominal species, or sub-species, respectively called sativa, indica and ruderalis. What we commonly refer to as “marijuana” and “industrial hemp” are merely variants of these sub-species. Marijuana varieties tend to have higher concentrations of delta-9-tetranhydrocannabinol (THC), the stuff that gets people high. Industrial hemp does not. The most well known chemical constituent of cannabis other than THC is cannabidiol, or CBD. Because CBD is non-psychoactive, it is commonly associated with industrial hemp. But CBD can be extracted from any variety of cannabis, regardless of THC content.
Most of the current legislative initiatives at the federal level are directed towards legalizing either industrial hemp, or cannabis used for medical purposes. Medical cannabis products are popularly referred to as either “medical marijuana” or “therapeutic hemp,” generally depending upon whether they are used primarily for the benefits of THC or CBD.
Federal law makes no distinction between varieties of cannabis. Under the current version of the Controlled Substances Act, all varieties of the genus cannabis are considered “marihuana,” without regard to THC content. Certain parts of the cannabis plant that lack significant concentrations of THC and are incapable of propagation are excepted. They include sterilized seeds, oil pressed from seeds, seed residue (“cake”) and mature stalks. But because the cannabis plant itself is still considered a controlled substance, its cultivation is still prohibited, even to make legal products. The current annual value of the hemp industry in America exceeds $500 million and expanding. Almost all of that value derives from raw materials imported from enlightened foreign countries, where hemp cultivation is not only permitted, but encouraged. Congress is facing increasing pressure to allow a home-grown cannabis industry, at least for industrial and medical purposes.
The first crack in the federal legislative armor appeared in 2014, with enactment of section 7606 of the Farm Bill, codified as 7 U.S.C. § 5940, and aptly named “Legitimacy of Industrial Hemp Research.” The Farm Bill authorized state departments of agriculture and institutions of higher education to conduct “agricultural pilot program[s]” and “other agricultural or academic research.” But it permitted research only where the cultivation of hemp was already allowed under state law.
There is a growing movement in Congress to do more. Several proposals have been introduced that will either remove all federal restrictions on industrial hemp, or in the alternative, prevent the federal government from interfering in state-legal industrial hemp activities. Some initiatives extend to marijuana. Four such proposals are discussed below.
The bluntest instrument that Congress can wield in the struggle to reform cannabis laws is simply to prevent them from being enforced. Three initiatives recently approved in the House of Representatives would deny funding to the Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Administration to interfere with state-legal cannabis activities. The initiatives came in the form of amendments to H.R. 2578, an appropriations bill for the Departments of Commerce and Justice for the 2015-2016 fiscal year. The first amendment protects state-legal industrial hemp farming. The second guards industrial hemp research and development carried out under the Farm Bill. The third prohibits federal interference with the possession, distribution or use of CBD in states where it is legal. These measures do nothing to change the legal status of cannabis and, if signed into law, would last only as long as the fiscal year. But they are a step in the right direction.
Industrial Hemp Farming Act
The Industrial Hemp Farming Act was introduced in both the House (HR 525) and Senate (S 134). It seeks to create an exception under the Controlled Substances Act for industrial hemp, which is defined as cannabis with a THC concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis. HR 525 has 56 co-sponsors, including 37 Democrats and 19 Republicans. S 134 has six co-sponsors, two Democrats and four Republicans.
Therapeutic Hemp (Charlotte’s Web) Medical Access Act
Like the Industrial Hemp Farming Act, the Charlotte’s Web Medical Access Act (HR 1635) and the Therapeutic Hemp Medical Access Act (S 1333) aim to carve industrial hemp out of the Controlled Substances Act. But they coined a new term for industrial hemp by calling it a “cannabidiol-rich plant.” Curiously, the term is defined in the same way that industrial hemp is defined in the Industrial Hemp Farming Act, without any reference to CBD concentration. “Cannabidiol” is defined as CBD extracted from a “cannabidiol-rich plant.” Any CBD produced from marijuana varieties continues to be considered a Schedule I Controlled Substance. The bill would effectively grant industrial hemp growers a monopoly in the rapidly growing market for CBD products.
Respect State Marijuana Law Act
The simplest and undeniably the most radical proposal currently before Congress is HR 1940, called the “Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2015.” The bill would render the Controlled Substances Act inapplicable to “any person acting in compliance with State laws relating to the production, possession, distribution, dispensation, administration, or delivery of marihuana.” It would effectively force federal recognition and acceptance of any state law legitimizing recreational marijuana, medical marijuana and industrial and therapeutic hemp. HR 1940 has 11 co-sponsors, six Democrats and five Republicans.
None of the legislative measures described above have been scheduled for hearings in the committees to which they are assigned. Prospects for passage of any them in the 114th Congress are low, but the mere fact that they have been introduced with bipartisan support and multiple co-sponsors is cause for optimism and hope. The federal government has not yet caught up with the rest of America in declaring its self-destructive drug wars at an end. Legitimate cannabis industries in this country are still in their infancy. Reform of our oppressive, illogical and anti-business drug laws still has a very long way to go, but change is coming. Stay tuned.
Lupus and Medical MarijuanaRead More
by Dr. Nicola Davies
Testimonies from people claiming that smoking a joint or taking hemp extract has helped their symptoms of lupus abound in the media with some users elevating the healing qualities of the cannabis sativa plant to almost magical status.
While authorities worry about the psychoactive properties of the THC content of cannabis sativa, researchers are honing in on the non-psychoactive components of the plant, particularly cannabidiol (CBD).
Compounds within cannabis and their effect
There are two types of cannabis sativa, one with more THC and the other with very small amounts. Usually the plants with less THC contain higher levels of CBD. As a medicine CBD is of great value, as it does not produce the side effects associated with plants with high THC levels. This substance is attracting more attention as doctors discover new effects on the human immune system.
The cells of our central nervous system contain type 1 cannabinoid receptors (CB1) and these are located mainly in the brain. Type 2 cannabinoid receptors (CB2) are spread around the body in the peripheral nervous system, together with some CB1 receptors. THC may interfere with CB1 to produce the high and giggles associated with the use of marijuana, whereas CBD does not interfere with the user’s psychological and psychomotor functions. Both substances, however, reduce the pain and inflammation associated with lupus, which is why some sufferers like to smoke a joint or use hemp extract to alleviate their symptoms.
To date, research has focused mainly on animal studies and has indicated that CBD has the following effects: it reduces nausea, suppresses seizure activity, combats tumor and cancer cell growth, combats inflammatory disorders, has anti-oxidant properties that help in neurodegenerative disorders and helps in cases of anxiety and depression – all good news for lupus sufferers.
How lupus affects the body
Normally, the body’s immune system creates proteins (antibodies) in order to fight off viruses and bacteria by identifying another type of protein (antigens) on their surfaces. Lupus confuses the immune system so that it cannot tell the difference between the antigens on viruses and bacteria and its own healthy tissue. The immune system then attacks and kills both the invaders and the healthy cells resulting in inflammation, pain, and long-term tissue damage. This is why lupus is called an autoimmune disease – the body’s immune system is attacking its own healthy cells
People with lupus have symptoms varying in severity. Most suffer from fatigue, weight loss and a slightly raised temperature. They may develop joint pains and stiffness that is worse in the morning. Usually the many small bones in the hands and feet are more severely affected. The pain also tends to move from area to area but fortunately, although a little swelling may be experienced, it does not usually lead to arthritis. Sufferers will find skin exposed to the sun, like hands and face, are often sensitive to sunlight and the cheeks and nose develop the red butterfly rash typical of lupus.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) patients will usually have joint pains, skin rashes and tiredness. Impaired kidney, heart and brain function can occur in severe cases. Discoid lupus results only in skin rashes and the typical red butterfly marking across the nose and cheeks.
Women more likely to suffer from lupus
Women are ten times more likely to develop lupus than men and it typically occurs in women between the ages of 20-40 years, although people of all ages can be affected. Reasons for the onset of lupus are unclear but it is thought that it may be triggered by some medication, infection and even sunlight. Hormonal changes in women are also thought to play a role, which might explain why the prevalence is higher in women.
Cannabis can help
Research has shown that both THC and CBD work by changing critical molecules of epigenomes called histones. A complete set of DNA in a cell is called an epigenome and it tells the cell what to do by encoding for certain proteins – basically if it is a skin cell it must behave like a skin cell. Histones are spool-like proteins that wrap the DNA molecules into chromosomes that are inside the nucleus of the cell. Certain chemicals can change how tightly the histones wrap the DNA. If too tight they can prevent the gene encoding a protein within the cell – effectively turning the gene off. If loosening occurs, due to the chemical attaching onto the tail of the histone, then a formerly inactive gene may be turned on. This alteration leads to reducing inflammation in the body, and it is this reduction that can help people cope with lupus.
Heart, lungs and kidneys can be affected
With lupus, the pleura and pericardium tissues that cover the lungs and heart respectively can be inflamed; however, it is uncommon for the organs themselves to be affected. About 33 percent of people with lupus develop kidney inflammation leading to protein and blood leaking into the urine. Again this does not cause problems unless the lupus is very severe. As with most debilitating illnesses, depression can follow but it is not usually caused by lupus itself.
Effect on the brain
Because lupus results in general inflammation the brain is not exempt. Lupus patients may experience headaches, dizziness, even seizures and psychosis where the patient may have delusions, paranoia and hallucinations. Roughly 50 percent of people with lupus find it difficult to concentrate, struggle to remember things and are sometimes confused. Although this may not be noticeable to others, the person to whom this is happening will realize that things are not quite right. It is important to establish whether this is caused by the lupus or whether there is another cause.
Relief provided by cannabidiol
Relief from pain and inflammation can be achieved by taking capsules containing CBD but these are not easy to find. Hemp extract can be high in CBD but contains negligible THC and can be taken daily. Some people even juice the leaves of their CBD rich plants to obtain relief. It is reported that the cannabis allows them to regain their appetite and improve food digestion.
According to scientific studies, regulating inflammatory responses in lupus may be achieved through what is known as the peripheral cannabinoid receptor (CB2) coupled to G protein receptors primarily in immune cells. It is possible that when CB2 are stimulated, they induce leukocytes (cells within the blood and bodily fluids), to migrate to the sites of infection and inflammation thus playing a role in regulating the inflammatory response.
CBD does this through activating RHoA GTPases, which are a small group of G proteins. The G proteins act as molecular switches. A ligand is a signal-triggering molecule that binds onto a target protein at a particular site. The peripheral cannabinoid receptor (CB2) ligands may have a role to play in regulating the excessive inflammation of the body when lupus is present, causing the cells not to be so hyper responsive.
There is a need for more scientific research to be done on the effects on humans. Lupus patients in search of a cure, however, cannot wait for long-term studies to be completed and have been going ahead with self-medication if the country in which they live bans all products derived from cannabis sativa. In more enlightened countries they are able to buy medical marijuana products specifically for medical use.
Users are reporting that they are getting relief from the symptoms of their disease. Certainly they have a better quality of life. Meanwhile, research is on-going into whether, in addition to providing relief, the CBD in cannabis can actually cure lupus by causing cells to change the way they function.
MJNA vs. Project CBD and OthersRead More
by DJ Reetz
A recent settlement in the $100 million lawsuit filed by Medical Marijuana Inc. is being touted as a vindication of the company. In January, Medical Marijuana Inc., a publicly traded cannabis company that trades on the over the counter market under ticker symbol MJNA, filed a lawsuit aimed at a scathing report published by the non-profit advocacy group Project CBD that outlined some of the less than savory business practices that were involved in the formation of the company and notably contained several stark accusations about potentially harmful contaminants in Medical Marijuana Inc.’s flagship product, Real Scientific Hemp Oil. The lawsuit, filed in California’s Superior Court, targets several Colorado residents and business who contributed to the Project CBD report, as well as naming the report’s author, Project CBD’s founder, and the non-profit itself, all accused of libel, defamation and painting the company in a false light.
The recent settlement in the case centers on Stewart Environmental, an environmental testing lab that released a report to local cannabis activist Jason Cranford seeming to show a high amount of heavy metal contamination in a sample of RSHO submitted by Cranford. As part of the settlement Stewart CEO Dr. David Stewart released a video statement clarifying that the report issued to Cranford was preliminary, and that a follow up report showing acceptable levels of heavy metals was in fact the correct one. While the secondary report was noted in Project CBD’s critique, it is treated with skepticism, questioning as to whether it is authentic due to lack of a corrective action report, which is generally standard procedure when lab work is corrected. But the settlement with Stewart seems to be the definitive legal answer to the issue.
“It’s very unusual what happened,” concedes MMJ Inc. spokesperson Andrew Hard.
Also settling in the case is Jason Cranford, the Colorado grower and activist whose high-CBD strain Haleigh’s Hope gained national attention when it donated its name to a medical marijuana law passed in Georgia. Cranford played an integral part in the Stewart saga after he was approached by the parent of a child apparently sickened by a dose of RSHO. Cranford had previously left KannaLife shortly after the company had been acquired by MMJ Inc. and shortly thereafter began searching for problems with the products of the new parent corporation, according to the Project CBD report. In his search Cranford was contacted by a Colorado woman whose daughter had allegedly suffered gastrointestinal distress after ingesting RSHO. According to Project CBD, it was this syringe of RSHO that Cranford took to Stewart Environmental, where he received a report showing high amounts of lead among other potential contaminants and he then set out to make the findings known.
For his role in the situation Cranford was named as a defendant in MMJ Inc.’s lawsuit, and according to Hard, he has now recorded a video statement attesting to the validity of the statement from Stewart.
Cranford’s statement has yet to be released however, so its content remains unknown. Cranford himself seems defiant. Though barred from discussing the nature of the settlement, Cranford maintains that he believed the sample he was given to be genuine, and is adamant that the settlement was not the result of a jury or judge’s decision.
“They didn’t win a settlement in a courtroom,” says Cranford.
The settlement with Cranford and Stewart Environmental was quickly hyped by MMJ Inc., who spared no time in issuing press releases proclaiming victory. One story ran on the website cashinbis.com titled “Project CBD Report Confirmed False: Clearing the Air Around RSHO” touted MMJ Inc.’s settlement with Stewart and alluded to Cranford’s settlement and the video concession that a month later has still not materialized.
But while MMJ Inc. is claiming a victory, some of the claims in the Project CBD report remain unchallenged. Project CBD’s report also includes an accusation that a sample of RSHO tested by PhytaTech, a lab operating in Denver, contained hexane, an industrial solvent. According to Project CBD, this sample originated from Brandon Krenzler, an Oregon man whose daughter had allegedly been sickened by it, and while the provable chain of custody of the sample is nonexistent, neither PhytaTek nor Krenzler was included in MMJ Inc.’s lawsuit.
However, MMJ Inc. did see fit to include Cannlabs in its suit, as well as the company’s CEO Gennifer Murray. The Denver-based lab was responsible for an early test of Cranford’s sample that seemed to indicate a THC content above the .3 percent threshold set by the DEA as legally allowable for hemp products. Murray was also one of the first to pick up on Cranford’s accusations, and a Facebook post she made is the central exhibit in the case against her in MMJ Inc.’s lawsuit.
Murray was unavailable to comment for this story.
The Project CBD report also contains some insight into a short-lived venture between MMJ Inc. and Colorado-based Dixie Elixirs, a venture that contributed to the departure of Dixie’s chief scientist as well as the company’s head of production and extraction, allegedly over the potentially unsafe hemp paste Dixie was receiving from MMJ Inc. At the time, the hemp paste supplied to Dixie and used in the creation of MMJ Inc.’s own product was sourced by CannaVest, a company that is still partially owned by MMJ Inc.
“At the time this Project CBD report references, CannaVest was the sole exclusive supplier, it’s an important fact to note,” says Hard.
Despite owning 11.25 percent of CannaVest, MMJ Inc. and its subsidiaries are currently involved in several lawsuits against the company, one of which concerns the ownership of the RSHO trademark.
In addition to supplying the bulk material that went into the MMJ Inc.’s RSHO, CannaVest also shares origins with the company. Investment capital for both companies was secured by MMJ Inc.’s current CEO, Stuart Titus, according to Hard, and several of the central figures in CannaVest are mentioned by name in Project CBD’s report.
While the settlement in MMJ Inc.’s lawsuit may provide some closure, Project CBD isn’t backing down. The group has filed a motion to strike down the suit on the grounds that it is protected as free speech under the First Amendment. Project CBD Founder Martin Lee wouldn’t comment for this article due to the pending litigation beyond the following statement:
“Project CBD stands by its report 100 percent and we’re very proud of it.”
Whatever the outcome, the drawn out fight is sure to leave all sides bloodied, and definitive answers to the claims made against those involved may not come at all.
Cannabis as the Cancer KillerRead More
by Dr. Nicola Davies
Marijuana and its products are complex polypharmaceuticals consisting of the major cannabinoids [Delta (9) Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD)], several minor cannabinoids, terpenoids, flavonoids, and other compounds. In the 1970s, researchers first explored the anticancer properties of components of cannabis—the major cannabinoids. For more than a decade, research in animal models has suggested that THC and CBD have anti-tumor properties. Other studies have shown that the anti-tumor properties are selective for tumor cells and do not affect the normal cells.
In 2006, Dr. Manual Guzman and his colleagues from Spain published the results of the first human clinical trial of the effect of THC on tumors. The patients in this study had an aggressive form of brain cancer called glioblastoma multiformae. They had failed standard surgery and radiotherapy treatments, with clear signs that the cancer was progressing. The study, where THC was injected through catheters into the brain tumors, showed that THC was safe to administer in humans and did not increase tumor growth or decrease patient survival, apart from showing beneficial effects of the treatment on the patients in terms of shrinking of the tumors in two patients. Although this is a seminal study in human subjects that showed some effect of THC on cancer, it should be noted that THC was injected directly into the tumor and that the lifespan of the patients was not increased beyond the lifespan expected for terminal patients of this type of aggressive brain cancer. This was a small study of nine patients, and there was no control group.
In 2009, researchers from the same group in Spain published another study in the Journal of Clinical Investigation which showed that the tumor biopsies from two of the patients in the clinical trial study had shrunk due to a process called “autophagy” which was induced by THC. Autophagy is a normal process in the body that destroys cells and unwanted cellular components, and in this study it became apparent that THC accelerated this process.
In a study published in 2013 in Anticancer Research, Dr. Wai Liu’s team from University of London explored the ability of cannabinoids in treating leukemia. The study was carried out in leukemia cells. They tested the anticancer activity of each cannabinoid, for example, cannabigerol (CBG), cannabidiol (CBD), and cannabigevarin (CBGV). They found that the cannabinoids were able to interfere with the development of cancer cells by stopping their growth. In some cases, they found that by using a specific dosage pattern (where the treatment is given with no-treatment/recovery phase in between the treatment phases), cannabinoids could also destroy the cancer cells. Interestingly, it was also found that lower doses of the compounds were needed to achieve the same anti-cancer effect when these compounds were used in combination with each other.
In 2014, the same group from University of London published another piece of research in Molecular Cancer Therapeutics where they studied the effects of THC and CBD (in their pure and less refined form) alone and in combination with radiotherapy on glioma cell lines. They found a dose-dependent and duration-dependent increase in cell-killing ability when each cannabinoid was given alone. While the less refined form of THC seemed to be more efficacious than the pure form, CBD seemed to be more efficacious in the pure form than in the less refined form. A combination of THC and CBD could be seen to enhance the effects of radiation on cells as they increased the number of cancer cells that were killed by the treatment. The researchers then repeated the experiment on mice that had implanted glioma. They found that the tumors were treated the best when low doses of a combination of THC and CBD were used together with radiation. There was a dramatic response in that the tumor growth slowed down, and the tumor size reduced significantly.
Different mechanisms could explain the anti-tumor effects of cannabinoids, for example, causing cell death through a mechanism called apoptosis, stopping the cells from dividing, preventing the formation of blood-vessels in tumors, reducing the chance of cancer cells spreading through the body, or speeding up autophagy as described earlier. Different studies done on cancer cells show that some of the anti-tumor effects of cannabinoids are due to the cancer cells binding to the cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2. Other research shows that cannabinoids like CBD exert anti-tumor activity without the involvement of these receptors.
In addition to the effects that stop cancer from growing, CBD was found to have a chemo-preventive effect in mouse model of colon cancer as was demonstrated by Dr. Aviello and colleagues from Italy. The results were published in 2012 in the Journal of Molecular Medicine. Chemically-induced pre-cancerous and cancerous lesion formation was prevented when the cancer-causing chemical was given concurrently with CBD to the mice. Using cancer cells, the researchers found that CBD protected DNA from damage by oxidation, increased the levels of endocannabinoids (cannabinoids that are produced naturally in very tiny amounts by the body), and reduced cell growth. A later study by the same research group, published in Phytochemistry, showed that these effects were mediated via the CB1 receptor.
However, the picture so far about cancer and cannabis is not all rosy, as some research has also shown that, under some circumstances, the components of cannabis can actually encourage the growth of cancer cells.
In 2000, a research study was published in Journal of Immunology by Dr. Zhu and colleagues from UCLA that showed in mouse models of cancer that THC has the ability to suppress immunity against tumors and can thus actually promote the growth of tumors. Data from studies carried out on cancer cell lines by Dr. Hart and colleagues from Germany, published in Cancer Research in 2004, showed that concentrations of THC comparable to those found in the serum of patients after THC administration accelerates the growth of cancer cells.
Another study published in Journal of Immunology in 2005 by Dr. McKallip and colleagues from Virginia Commonwealth University in USA, again showed that THC can enhance cancer growth and spread by suppressing anti-tumor immune response. The study was carried out on cancer cell lines and mouse models of cancer.
That cannabinoids can have different effects (stopping or promoting tumor growth) depending on the cannabinoid dosage and levels of cannabinoid receptors present on the cancer cells was demonstrated by Dr. Cudabeck and colleagues from USA and was published in PloS One in 2010. Higher dosage was found to have anti-tumor activity than lower doses that actually promoted tumor growth.
Yet, another study by Dr. Lorente and colleagues from Spain published in Cell Death and Differentiation in 2011, described how cancer cells can develop resistance to cannabinoids and suggested that blocking a certain molecular pathway in the cells could actually prevent the cells from becoming resistant. However, robust studies on how this pathway can be blocked are needed.
It is important to be aware that there is absolutely no evidence that smoking marijuana can cure cancer: all the research carried out so far uses purified components of marijuana and uses doses that exceed way beyond what smoking can provide. Of course, there is also some evidence described above that lower doses of the active compounds can actually lead to cancer growth, hence, smoking marijuana by cancer patients will likely be more harmful than useful. Also, there are no robust studies so far in humans with a large number of patients and a control group where the cannabinoids are given in a non-invasive manner.
Overall, the research on cannabinoids so far gives us a hope that they may be effective in treating cancer one day. However, there is still a long way to go before the exact compounds, combinations of compounds, purity of these compounds, and the exact dose and dosage pattern that may be effective in preventing/curing cancer are established, and more large scale and robust human clinical trials are carried out.