Canvassing for Opinion - aka "Blairs Brain on Cannabis"

IMHO prohibition sentiment requires inherent addiction to status quo, an incapacity to visualise beyond the here and now and a desperate desire to know others might feel the same... Reform is not revolutionary, rather it is evolutionary. Having survived banging your head against a brick wall the evolutionist relishes having stopped. / Blair

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Cannabis not cause of lung cancer, Tashkin

"Protective Effect "Not Unreasonable";

Marijuana smoking -"even heavy longterm use"- does not cause cancer of the lung, upper airways, or esophagus, Donald Tashkin reported at this year's meeting of the International Cannabinoid Research Society. Coming from Tashkin, this conclusion had extra significance for the assembled drug-company and university-based scientists ( most of whom get funding from the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse ). Over the years, Tashkin's lab at UCLA has produced irrefutable evidence of the damage that marijuana smoke wreaks on bronchial tissue. With NIDA's support, Tashkin and colleagues have identified the potent carcinogens in marijuana smoke, biopsied and made photomicrographs of pre-malignant cells, and studied the molecular changes occurring within them. It is Tashkin's research that the Drug Czar's office cites in ads linking marijuana to lung cancer. Tashkin himself has long believed in a causal relationship, despite a study in which Stephen Sidney examined the files of 64,000 Kaiser patients and found that marijuana users didn't develop lung cancer at a higher rate or die earlier than non-users. [see BMJ, Comparing cannabis with tobacco-again/Blair] Of five smaller studies on the question, only two - -involving a total of about 300 patients-concluded that marijuana smoking causes lung cancer. Tashkin decided to settle the question by conducting a large, population-based, case-controlled study. "Our major hypothesis," he told the ICRS, "was that heavy, longterm use of marijuana will increase the risk of lung and upper-airways cancers."

The Los Angeles County Cancer Surveillance program provided Tashkin's team with the names of 1,209 L.A. residents aged 59 or younger with cancer ( 611 lung, 403 oral/pharyngeal, 90 laryngeal, 108 esophageal ). Interviewers collected extensive lifetime histories of marijuana, tobacco, alcohol and other drug use, and data on diet, occupational exposures, family history of cancer, and various "socio-demographic factors." Exposure to marijuana was measured in joint years ( joints per day x years that number smoked ). Controls were found based on age, gender and neighborhood. Among them, 46% had never used marijuana, 31% had used for less than one joint year, 12% had used for 1-10 j-yrs, 5% had used 10-30 j-yrs, 2% had used for 30-60 j-yrs, and 3% had used for more than 60 j-yrs.

Tashkin controlled for tobacco use and calculated the relative risk of marijuana use resulting in lung and upper airways cancers. A relative risk ratio of .72 means that for every 100 non-users who get lung cancer, only 72 people who smoke get lung cancer. All the odds ratios in Tashkin's study turned out to be less than one! Compared with subjects who had used less than one joint year, the estimated odds ratios for lung cancer were .78 for 1-10 j-yrs [according to the abstract book and .66 according to notes from the talk] .74 for 10-30 j-yrs; .85 for 30-60 j-yrs; and 0.81 for more than 60 j-yrs. The estimated odds ratios for oral/pharyngeal cancers were 0.92 for 1-10 j-yrs; 0.89 for 10-30 j-yrs; 0.81 for 30-60 j-yrs; and 1.0 for more than 60 j-yrs. "Similar, though less precise results were obtained for the other cancer sites," Tashkin reported. "We found absolutely no suggestion of a dose response."

The data on tobacco use, as expected, revealed "a very potent effect and a clear dose-response relationship -a 21-fold greater risk of developing lung cancer if you smoke more than two packs a day." Similarly high odds obtained for oral/pharyngeal cancer, laryngeal cancer and esophageal cancer. "So, in summary" Tashkin concluded, "we failed to observe a positive association of marijuana use and other potential confounders."

There was time for only one question, said the moderator, and San Francisco oncologist Donald Abrams, M.D., was already at the microphone: "You don't see any positive correlation, but in at least one category, it almost looked like there was a negative correlation, i.e., a protective effect. Could you comment on that?" [Abrams was referring to Tashkin's lung-cancer data for marijuana-only smokers, 1-10 j-yrs.]

"Yes," said Tashkin. "The odds ratios are less than one almost consistently, and in one category that relationship was significant, but I think that it would be difficult to extract from these data the conclusion that marijuana is protective against lung cancer. But that is not an unreasonable hypothesis."
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Monday, October 24, 2005

HartfordCT IllicitDrugs, Burden & Policy Oct21&22

HartfordCT conf on Illicit Drugs, Burden and Policy Oct21&22
Date: Sun, 23 Oct 2005 16:37:07 -0400
From: clifford thornton
----- Original Message -----
From: To:
Sent: Sunday, October 23, 2005 3:50 PM
Subject: ARO: HartfordCT conf on Illicit Drugs, Burden & Policy Oct21&22

I write to share some observations about the just concluded Hartford conference, chaired by Dr. Bob Painter (a retired thoracic [chest&lungs] surgeon; wasn't that doctom's specialty?), the world's whitest "minority leader" (says his business card; he's a Republican city councillor to a Democratic Hispanic mayor). The fingerprints of
Cliff Thornton, however, were all over the conf content (w Dr. Bob's enthusiastic cooperation and "cover"). I attended being only 2 hrs away in Boston and enjoyed the company of CliffT, Nick Eyle, VCL/Seattlites
RogerG & Rachel, EricS (soon to issue a report on mature vs. immature drug use), DaleG (what doesn't he know about the history of cannabis in America?), Jack Cole, Doug McVay, Dean Becker (I ask forgiveness of
others present; at my age I have only so much memory left). As I cannot join many of you out West next month, I valued an east coast nip of reform elixir. Weep not for me, however: December opens for me at NORML's Key West Legal Conf (Atty's Branch of NORML, aka ABNORML).

I could write a far longer article, about the content of the conf, the public leadership of Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez, the importance of a conference in a state capitol, the value of diversity both in the audience and on the panels, the invaluable cooperation of Trinity College, and the visibility of a conference hosted by the City, the College and the nonprofit foundation of health insurer Aetna (which financed the conference, and whose exec director (a latina attorney) gave a moving keynote address about destigmatizing addiction during which she discussed her own struggle w chronic depression.

To value the time of my colleagues I will share only two observations, concerning legalization and the conference as a template/model/prototype. First, the "L" word. I recall long discussions on the list in time past about whether to "admit" the L word and its capacity to alienate or attract the under-educated (silent or default prohibitionists aren't stupid, it's just that everything they think they know happens to be wrong). I respect the considered opinion of many who feel marijuana or even all drug decrim is an acceptable public topic, but that the L word is a "bridge too far" beyond the mainstream w the capacity to scare more than persuade.

Whatever may have been the reality "then," this is now and in 2006 the need to prove that prohibition has failed is fading; it's conceded by the mainstream. To endorse Doug McVay's recent post on the elevator speech (and to the legion of McVay fans on this list aware of his past health concerns, I am pleased to report he looks & feels great), the unconverted but open minded are more concerned w what the alternative looks and sounds like, whether you call it legalization, regulation, normalization, destigmatization or liberation. I watched a mayor, a
judge, a state prison commissioner, city councillors, doctors & therapists, recovering addicts, nurses, teachers, Hispanic and black community activists assume w/o questioning the failure of current policy and the need for an alternative involving more treatment and fewer police. Opinions differed, but legalization was mentioned many times as a tool for better public health and safer neighborhoods, not as pie-in-the-sky or a worsening of current conditions. No one ran screaming from the room. While most spectators were sympathetic to reform, many were merely fed up w prohibition & struggling for an alternative.

The law enforcement panel attempted to opine otherwise, but even they (w some exceptions, like the DA who said the problem w current policy was that there was too little public "shame" for drug use and users) used the rhetoric of treatment first, even tolerating relapse (once). The police chief angrily denounced such experiments in his grandchildren's neighborhood, but later expressed (privately) genuine curiosity with how reform would "work." I could go on about the prohibition panelists, but the point is their "demand reduction" lip-service to treatment demonstrates their failure of ignoring or demonizing legalization. My observation: Prohibition no longer "owns" the "L" word as a scare-tactic in public discourse; we have a growing opportunity to explain what we mean, although that opportunity comes with a risk of confirming the lay-person's fear of change worsening the status quo. Let's work on those elevator speeches.

Lastly, on the conf template. Involving the police, the state prosecutor's office and the DEA early in the presentation was powerful. They spent some time "shamelessly" promoting "more of the same" and claiming (vaguely) the failures of Amsterdam, Zurich and Baltimore, but the contrast between their "policy views" and reformers' framing of the public health question and the regulation policy answer struck me as quite educational & enlightening to the unconverted. Also, since they are part/most of the problem, they ought not be excluded from problem-solving; after we win, we will have to work together (at least at the municipal and state level; screw the feds, oops, sorry for the intolerant comment).

A panel of the state prison commissioner, deputy commr (the commr wanted to but could not attend) of mental health and addiction services and the former chief judge of the local drug court, while staking out some kinder and gentler turf for abstinence and coerced treatment, struck me as sharing far more common ground w reformers than prohibitionists. Beyond their excellent content, obtaining their participation was a major score for "us."

Sr Judge Burnett of DC, modeling black professional criminal justice experience with the criminal justice system, exemplified a powerful source for policy change virtually immune from criticism. Demographic studies about the Hispanic community, female addiction, testimony of recovered addicts now delivering therapy, juvenile justice workers, DaleG's stories of how Oakland has survived medicalized mj distribution without an earthquake (so far), all provided knowledgeable and respected views about practical change from prohibition to regulation.

The panel on drug use management (incldg as a star, prof. & psycho-pharmacologist Robert Heimer of Yale's Public Health School) provided invaluable info on the role of drugs in drug abuse management, even for a mental health law practitioner like me. We can all say that "treatment works," but it's useful to know more about what and why, particularly because prohibitionist coerced-abstinence "treatment" funds so many junk-science narco-therapy programs for mj users.

The conf closed on the compelling issue of what can be done now by cities and local activists, within the framework of federal prohibition laws and state prohibition enforcement (sidebar: Prohibition, the most
expensive unfunded federal mandate for state law enforcement, except for the fed's invaluable source country and border interdiction success). RogerG/Rachel are working up a list of "little changes" for distribution, but there's doable work to reduce the harm of prohibition.

My observation on the template: You can, with stamina (thanks to Trinity for the nonstop food&drink) pack a quite comprehensive education into two days, with a big city as the focus. Every city has players in this issue, its containment (current policy), frustrated health care delivery experts, frustrated community activists, academic experts, addiction survivors and law enforcement. To be seen is whether the connections made by local activists at such confs can be harnessed to provide an ongoing source of political organizing and pressure on state legislators and municipal leaders (this city happens to have a mayor who is ready to lead a neighborhood parade without fearing soft on crime demagoguery).

Law Office of Michael D. Cutler
Cell: (617) 816-6056
Fax: (1-253) 322-9606
PO Box 1234
860 657 8438
Hartford, CT 06143
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Thursday, October 20, 2005

Scoop: Helen lucky prostitution is legal

"It is just as well for Helen Clark that the prostitution law reform bill was carried. Otherwise she would be a prime candidate for prosecution."

Wellington lawyer Michael Appleby, who is Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party Leader, said that getting into bed with Peter Dunne - a moraliser with little electoral support - was a low blow for a Prime Minister to deliver. 'Like a small kid at a birthday party, Dunne's long list of demands in exchange for a ministerial position include threats against the Kyoto agreement and the recent ground-breaking prostitution law reform,' Mr Appleby said.

'It was most notable that first place on Dunne's list was a renewed block on the development of a common sense policy on cannabis. So, yet again, the legal status of cannabis is defining the makeup of the government.'

'NZ levels of cannabis use and uptake, meanwhile, show no sign of remission under this law that has evaded all accountability,' said Mr Appleby.

With over 100,000 cannabis prosecutions since Helen Clark has been PM, there are going to be a lot of very angry people out there over this, especially because Dunne - who purports to be anti-drug - is a conspicuous friend of the alcohol, tobacco and gambling industries.

On the positive side, Dunne's new job in Health should give him access to all the research available in the cannabis field which, if he bothers to read, will make him realise that his brand of common sense hasn�t been all that common or sensible.

'Little wonder many young New Zealanders exhibit so little respect for the system, and its double standard-based moral messages,' said Mr Appleby."
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Public Health Officers Call For Drug Policy Reform

The British Columbia Health Officers Council issued a report in Oct. 2005 calling for wide-ranging changes in Canada's drug control policies.
The Vancouver Sun reported on Oct. 18, 2005 ( "Health Officers Want Drug Law Changes") that "In a strident, progressive paper, the province's public health professionals say it's time to address the harmful effects of the criminal prohibition against substances such as heroin and marijuana.
They say the laws are based on racism and cultural biases, not evidence of harm, and that the prohibition causes far more damage to health and to society. 'The current regulatory regime in Canada places most of these substances in either legal [tobacco and alcohol], prescription [morphine, benzodiazepines] or illegal [marijuana, cocaine, heroin] drug status,' the paper says.
'It is important to recognize that these classifications are not based in pharmacology, economic analysis or risk-benefit analysis, but stem from historical precedent and cultural preference.'
There is a growing consensus in Canada that there should be an exploration of other drug control mechanisms with possible adoption of strict regulatory approaches to what are currently illegal drugs.'"

Titled, A Public Health Approach To Drug Control in Canada, the paper recommends reform of federal and provincial laws and international agreements that deal with illegal drugs, development of national public health strategies to manage all psychoactive drugs, including alcohol and prescription drugs, improved monitoring and more education."

Blair Anderson
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Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Marijuana less cancerous than tobacco

United Press International - Health Business - Marijuana less cancerous than tobacco: "By STEVE MITCHELL
Senior Medical Correspondent

WASHINGTON, Oct. 17 (UPI) -- Marijuana is less carcinogenic than tobacco smoke and may even have some anti-cancer properties, new research suggests.

Robert Melamede, chair of biology at the University of Colorado in Boulder, reviewed studies of the illicit drug and published his findings in the Oct. 17 issue of Harm Reduction Journal.

Melamede's conclusion is certain to factor in the medical-marijuana debate, because the cancer-causing potential of the drug is one of the reasons often cited by those who oppose legalizing it for medicinal uses. He said he was motivated to investigate the issue because the Drug Enforcement Administration has made the argument that marijuana has four times the amount of tar contained in tobacco smoke, so it is potentially carcinogenic.

'I said, 'Let's see what's true because the government doesn't have a very good record on telling the truth about cannabis,'' Melamede, who classifies himself as a medical-marijuana advocate, told United Press International.

He said the studies indicated although marijuana smoke does contain carcinogens, it does not appear to induce cancer because of its unique pharmacological properties. Lung cancer, for example, is caused by a combination of carcinogens in conjunction with nicotine found in tobacco smoke.

'It's the nicotine that's really the cancer-promoting agent,' he explained. 'That's absent in marijuana smoke so you don't have that enhancing factor.'

Studies to date have not linked marijuana smoking with the lung, colon, rectal and other cancers associated with tobacco smoking, Melamede said. In addition, other studies have indicated compounds found in cannabis might even kill certain cancers, including lung, breast, prostate and skin, as well as leukemia and lymphoma, and a type of brain cancer called glioma."
"The government has insisted there are no pros and there are only cons of marijuana, but this is totally lacking in science and totally lacking in any realistic credibility," Melamede said.
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Sunday, October 16, 2005

MarijuanaNews.Com, Freedom has nothing to fear from the truth

Steve Tuck Now �Free� and Getting Proper Medical Care. Will Return to Humboldt to Confront Medical Marijuana Cultivation Charges. The Many Issues In a Complex Case.
Neville Yates case linked to Tuck affair....
MarijuanaNews.Com, Freedom has nothing to fear from the truth: "Barbarism In New Zealand: Lies Have Consequences. Severely Handicapped Man Faces Prison for Growing Seven Plants! "
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Saturday, October 15, 2005

Cannabinoids and neurogenesis [Eurodrug]

Predictably the media follows the story of the brain's cannabis and chemistry, the gradient of truth slopes towards reform daily - this time from our side of the ledger of benefits and harms.

The more we know, the more unjust this law becomes.

New Scientist, Globe and Mail (Canada) and Forbes all well worth a read, the spin "ours is 100 times more potent than your pot" pot is the gist of it, while logic and anecdote suggests the herb reliably reports efficacy at 1% on their data, or two orders of magnitude more powerful 'in effect' than its synthetic and all at near zero cost.

Could such a perfect pill exist?


-------- Original Message --------
Subject: [Eurodrug] WILD! Forthcoming study - cannabinoids and neurogenesis
Date: Fri, 14 Oct 2005
From: andria efthimiou

New Scientist

The Journal PDF.

Matt Paul Armentano wrote:
Expect to see some of the wires this afternoon/evening report on a preclinical study (to be published in the Journal of Clinical Investigationfinding that the administration of synthetic cannabinoids promotes embryonic and adult hippocampus neurogenesis in rats.

See also: Globe and Mail, Science and Health

Study Turns Pot Wisdom on Head By Dawn Walton Source: Globe and Mail Calgary -- Forget the stereotype about dopey potheads. It seems marijuana could be good for your brain. While other studies have shown that periodic use of marijuana can cause memory loss and impair learning and a host of other health problems down the road, new research suggests the drug could have some benefits when administered regularly in a highly potent form. Most "drugs of abuse" such as alcohol, heroin, cocaine and nicotine suppress growth of new brain cells. However, researchers found that cannabinoids promoted generation of new neurons in rats' hippocampuses. Hippocampuses are the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory, and the study held true for either plant-derived or the synthetic version of cannabinoids. "This is quite a surprise," said Xia Zhang, an associate professor with the Neuropsychiatry Research Unit at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon. "Chronic use of marijuana may actually improve learning memory when the new neurons in the hippocampus can mature in two or three months," he added. The research by Dr. Zhang and a team of international researchers is to be published in the November issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation, but their findings are on-line now. The scientists also noticed that cannabinoids curbed depression and anxiety, which Dr. Zhang says, suggests a correlation between neurogenesis and mood swings. (Or, it at least partly explains the feelings of relaxation and euphoria of a pot-induced high.) Other scientists have suggested that depression is triggered when too few new brain cells are created in the hippocampus. One researcher of neuropharmacology said he was "puzzled" by the findings. As enthusiastic as Dr. Zhang is about the potential health benefits, he warns against running out for a toke in a bid to beef up brain power or calm nerves. The team injected laboratory rats with a synthetic substance called HU-210, which is similar, but 100 times as potent as THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), the compound responsible for giving marijuana users a high. They found that the rats treated regularly with a high dose of HU-210 -- twice a day for 10 days -- showed growth of neurons in the hippocampus. The researchers don't know if pot, which isn't as pure as the lab-produced version, would have the same effect. "There's a big gap between rats and humans," Dr. Zhang points out. But there is a lot of interest -- and controversy -- around the use of cannabinoids to improve human health. Cannabinoids, such as marijuana and hashish, have been used to address pain, nausea, vomiting, seizures caused by epilepsy, ischemic stroke, cerebral trauma, tumours, multiple sclerosis and a host of other maladies.

There are herbal cannabinoids, which come from the cannabis plant, and the bodies of humans and animals
produce endogenous cannabinoids. The substance can also be designed in the lab. Cannabinoids can trigger the body's two cannabinoid receptors, which control the activity of various cells in the body. One receptor, known as CB1, is found primarily in the brain. The other receptor, CB2, was thought to be found only in the immune system. However, in a separate study to be published today in the journal Science, a group of international researchers have located the CB2 receptor in the brain stems of rats, mice and ferrets. The brain stem is responsible for basic body function such as breathing and the gastrointestinal tract. If stimulated in a certain way, CB2 could be harnessed to eliminate the nausea and vomiting associated with post-operative analgesics or cancer and AIDS treatments, according to the researchers.

"Ultimately, new therapies could be developed as a result of these findings," said Keith Sharkey, a gastrointestinal neuroscientist at the University of Calgary, lead author of the study. (Scientists are trying to find ways to block CB1 as a way to decrease food cravings and limit dependence on tobacco.) When asked whether his findings explain why some swear by pot as a way to avoid the queasy feeling of a hangover, Dr. Sharkey paused and replied: "It does not explain the effects of smoked or inhaled or ingested substances."
==================== ends ==================================

Forbes Magazine HealthDay News
Marijuana Compound Spurs Brain Cell Growth
By Alan Mozes, HealthDay Reporter

When it comes to the controversy surrounding medical marijuana, an international team of researchers is busy stirring the pot by releasing findings that suggest the drug helps promote brain cell growth while treating mood disorders. According to the study in rats, a super-potent synthetic version of the cannabinoid compound found in marijuana can reduce depression and anxiety when taken over an extended period of time. This mood boost seems to be the result of the drug's ability to promote the growth of new brain cells, something no other addictive drug appears able to do, the researchers say. The findings, which appear in the November issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation, remain preliminary, however.

"Our results were obtained from rats, and there's a big difference between rats and humans," said study co-author Dr. Xia Zhang, of the neuropsychiatry research unit in the department of psychiatry at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Canada. "So, I don't really don't know yet if our findings apply to humans. But our results indicate that the clinical use of marijuana could make people feel better by helping control anxiety and depression."

The new findings come on the heels of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June granting federal authorities the power to stop doctors from prescribing marijuana. That decision also bars individuals from cultivating the herb for medical purposes. The decision overrides laws currently on the books in 11 states which had legalized the use of marijuana for patients receiving a doctor's approval. According to the ruling, the Supreme Court justices made their decision on the basis of interstate commerce regulations rather than on an evaluation of the pros and cons of medical marijuana use.

But does medical marijuana work? To help settle that question, Zhang's team focused on the potential of a synthetic laboratory-produced form of the cannabinoid compound naturally found in the marijuana plant. Humans and other animals also naturally produce the compound, and are known to have cannabinoid receptors lying on the surface of cells in the nervous system and the immune system. Prior research has shown that, when exposed to cannabinoids, these receptors can provoke an anti-inflammatory and anti-convulsive response. They can also instigate a range of psychotropic effects such as euphoria. The current study focused on a particular formulation of synthetic cannabinoid known as HU210 -- a compound which Zhang described as the most powerful cannabinoid in the world.

The authors explored both the short-term and long-term effects of exposure to HU210 in rats. To measure the drug's short-term response, they gave adult rats a single injection of HU210. To study the same drug's effect over the longer term, the researchers gave a separate group of adult rats twice-daily injections of the cannabinoid over a two-week period. Autopsies revealed that by the end of the 10-day HU210 treatment regimen, new neurons had been generated and integrated into the circuitry of the hippocampus region of the rat's brains. This process, known as neurogenesis, was still in evidence a full month after treatment had been initiated.

Neurogenesis was not triggered in response to brain cells being killed through cannabinoid exposure, the researchers add. In fact, HU210 injections did not appear to prompt any loss of neurons in the hippocampus. Cannabinoid use appeared to boost mood, as well: According to the scientists, behavioral tests suggest that long-term treatment reduced the rodent's anxiety- and depression-linked behaviors. For example, one month post-treatment, treated rats deprived of food for 48 hours were quicker than similarly deprived, non-treated rats to begin eating food when it was finally offered to them in an unfamiliar environment.

The researchers believe treated rats may have been less anxious in the manner they handled this novel situation. They stress the results were not related to cannabinoids' appetite-stimulating effects, since the treated rats' eating behavior was similar to that of untreated rats when they were offered food in a familiar setting. Treated rats also responded in a less anxious manner to swimming and climbing tests, and displayed shorter periods of immobility compared with untreated rats. The latter finding was interpreted to mean that HU210 had an antidepressant effect on rats receiving the cannabinoid over the longer term.

However, while long-term administration of higher doses worked to reduce anxiety and depression, lower doses did not appear to have the same effect, the researchers added. Zhang and his associates credit cannabinoid-linked neurogenesis with the apparent mood shifts seen in the animals. The hippocampus area of the brain where the neuronal growth occurred is key to the regulation of stress and other mood disorders, Zhang's team point out. This region is also important to the control of cognitive processes such as learning and memory. Among the common addictive drugs, marijuana alone appears able to promote neurogenesis when used over time and in the right dosage, the researchers say.

In contrast, prior research has demonstrated that chronic administration of cocaine, opiates, alcohol and nicotine inhibits brain cell growth. "If our results can be confirmed in humans, we should anticipate the chronic use of marijuana as a medical treatment for anxiety and depression," Zhang said. However, he cautioned that "this treatment is not the same as smoking marijuana. Whether smoking marijuana can produce the same effect, we just don't know." Dr. Perry G. Fine, a professor of anesthesiology at the University of Utah School of Medicine Pain Research Center, said more than enough data has already been gathered to confirm medical marijuana's potential benefits. "It's great that there's new science, but to me this is no longer an epiphany," he said. "It's just proving what's been long-suspected. We're behind the curve with the cannabinoids largely because of the stigma of marijuana going years and years back." "I think most people with clinical expertise in the area of palliative medicine know that if patients had access to all the tools we currently have, we could certainly do a whole lot better to help people live with multiple chronic diseases," he added. "The social policies are way behind our technology, and that's where we need some catching up."

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Friday, October 14, 2005

UPI - Marijuana may spur new brain cells

Attention: the Editor(s), PRESS, DOMPOST, NZHerald.

Dear Sirs,

Would you please be so kind to pass this peer reviewed 'ground breaking research' from November issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation, on to Rosemary McLoud, and your health journalists who may wish to pick up the story if only to restore a bit of reason and facts back into the drug policy debate.

Marijuana may spur new brain cells

Marijuana may spur new brain cells / By STEVE MITCHELL

WASHINGTON, Oct. 13 (UPI) -- Scientists said Thursday that marijuana appears to promote the development of new brain cells in rats and have anti-anxiety and anti-depressant effects, a finding that could have an impact on the national debate over medical uses of the drug.

Other illegal and legal drugs, including opiates, alcohol, nicotine and cocaine, have been shown to suppress the formation of new brain cells when used chronically, but marijuana's effect on that process was uncertain.

Now, a team led by Xia Zhang of the department of psychiatry at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon may have found evidence the drug spurs new brain cells to form in a region of the brain called the hippocampus, and this in turn reduces anxiety and depression.

Marijuana appears "to be the only illicit drug whose capacity to produce increased ... neurons is positively correlated with its (anti-anxiety) and antidepressant like effects," Zhang and colleagues wrote in the November issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation. The paper was posted online Thursday.

In the study, rats were given injections of HU210 -- a synthesized version of a cannabinoid chemical found in marijuana -- twice per day for 10 days.

Zhang told United Press International this would be "a high dose" of smoked marijuana, but he added he is not certain how many equivalent joints it would take or whether patients now using the drug typically would be getting this much HU210.

Although HU210 was injected, Zhang said there would be no difference if it was obtained by smoking marijuana.

The rats showed evidence of new neurons in the hippocampus dentate gyrus, a region of the brain that plays a role in developing memories.

Zhang's team suspected the new brain cells also might be associated with a reduction in anxiety and depression, because previous studies had indicated medications used to treat anxiety and depression achieve their effect this way.

To find out, they treated rats with HU210 for 10 days and then tested them one month later. When placed in a new environment, the rats were quicker to eat their food than rats that did not receive the compound, which suggested there was a reduction in anxiety behaviors.

Another group of rats treated with HU210 showed a reduction in the duration of immobility in a forced swimming test, which is an indication the compound had an anti-depressant effect.

Asked how he thought the findings might impact the debate over using marijuana to treat medical conditions, Zhang said, "Our results indicate cannabinoids could be used for the treatment of anxiety and depression."

He added that his view is "marijuana should be used as alcohol or nicotine," noting "it has been used for treating various diseases for years in other countries."

Last June the U.S. Supreme Court voted 6-3 that the federal ban on marijuana supersedes the laws of certain states that allow the substance to be used for medicinal purposes, such as the treatment of pain, nausea in cancer patients and glaucoma. Eleven states have passed laws legalizing marijuana use by patients with a doctor's approval, including California, Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.

The Bush administration, through the Department of Justice's Drug Enforcement Agency, began conducting raids in California in 2001 on patients using marijuana. Two of those arrested by the DEA -- Angel Raich, who suffers from brain cancer, and Diane Monson, who used the drug to help alleviate chronic back pain -- sued Attorney General John Ashcroft, requesting a court order to be allowed to grow and smoke marijuana, which led to the Supreme Court decision.

Paul Armentano, senior policy analyst with the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, told UPI he thought the findings "would have a positive impact on moving forward this debate, because it is giving ... a scientific explanation that further supports long-observed anecdotal evidence, and further lends itself to the notion that marijuana, unlike so many other prescription drugs and controlled substances, appears to have incredibly low toxicity and as a result lacks potential harm to the brain that many of these drugs have."

The DEA Web site, however, contends that "marijuana is a dangerous, addictive drug that poses significant health threats to users," including cancer and impaired mental functioning.

Armentano said this is a distortion of what scientific studies actually show. Studies in animals indicate marijuana actually may protect against many forms of cancer, rather than cause the disease, he said. In addition, studies in marijuana smokers have found little evidence of cognitive deficits, and even when they do, the defects disappear if the person stops smoking for 30 days.


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Rosemary McLeod - Cannabis a right to die for

Cannabis a right to die for,2106,3441901a11095,00.html
13 October 2005
Rosemary McLeod

It's a weird religion that encourages people to practise a rite that causes cancer. Isn't it time we stopped deferring to the Rastafarian cult and pointed this out?

The one undoubtedly cheerful outcome of the general election is that the Greens' Nandor Tanczos is now looking for a real job.

It was his role to attract youth votes on account of his groovy religion, his dreadlocks, his skateboarding and his call to legalise cannabis.

I used to watch him sauntering along Lambton Quay, knowing that he could well end up with a fat parliamentary pension at my expense for his pains. No wonder he looked so chipper.

Remember, last time around, the legalisation of cannabis was high on the Greens' list of priorities, and so was their showcase Rasta. This time they placed Tanczos lower on their party list, a sign, maybe, that they'd started to think about more than trying to look groovy, a hard ask at the best of times for ageing square dancers.

No electorate would ever have chosen Tanczos, an aspect of MMP that amuses me. Voters can give a resounding kick up the backside to a candidate, only to discover that they're saddled with them anyway; they're on a party list.

Was this fully understood when we embraced MMP?

How the Greens could reconcile their cannabis policy with Sue Kedgley's war against unhealthy eating has always been baffling.

She would thunder on about sprays used around battery chooks and strawberries while he explained that smoking dope was, for him and so many others, a spiritual thing that they should be legally allowed to do. Even as he left Parliament, Tanczos insisted that cannabis is "just a weed".

Weed or not, it will kill many more people from lung cancer than a sprayed strawberry ever will.

Opium poppies are just weeds, too, as are all toxic plants somewhere in the world.

That doesn't mean they're natural or good for you. It means anyone with half a brain avoids them. Weeds aren't harmless.

Ground-breaking research reported this week should hopefully bury the issue of legalising dope, and with it the cause of the skateboarding, ageing advocate formerly known as an MP.

Richard Beasley, of the Medical Research Institute, has found that heavy cannabis use could well explain why Maori have the world's highest lung-cancer rate.

Encouraged, no doubt, by the many advocates for dope, Maori � from children to elders � are using it in epidemic proportions, he says.

The drug is more cancer-inducing than tobacco. Smoking three joints a day is equivalent to smoking a packet of 20 cigarettes. Smoking three or four a day causes chronic bronchitis at the very least.

Beasley's work was among background material Wellington Coroner Garry Evans referred to when he urged last week that government policy on illegal drugs be changed from "harm minimisation" to active campaigning against drug use.

Unlike Tanczos, blinkered by his dreadlocks, Evans deals with the real consequences of drug use.

Cannabis is widely tolerated among Maori, and also widely used, says Beasley's research. That Maori also have the world's highest lung-cancer rate can hardly be a coincidence. What sort of a religion could be happy with this?

Of course, no-one forces Maori to smoke dope in their droves, but the confusing messages we give about it can't help.

It used to be the same with tobacco companies, who visited newsrooms regularly when I was a young reporter, handing out freebies. There was no proof, they insisted, that smoking led to lung cancer.

Yes, tobacco companies are wicked multinationals, but self- interest also motivates cannabis lobbyists. They are users who want it to be OK, even if it is harmful.

In reality, no-one, least of all the police, cares a lot about any adult having a couple of joints in their pocket, but what we ought to care about, surely, is the effect of their advocacy on kids. It has only helped to undermine the common-sense messages of health professionals about cannabis and, by association, other recreational drugs.

Old stoners have survived long years of sucking on dope, but not all their mates have. If they were less self-centred, they'd think about the situation Maori are in, and wonder if our high rate of youth suicide is linked to cannabis. It's a freedom issue, they say � as if freedom to kill yourself is so worth having.

(Dear Rosemary, none of your highly speculative analysis is supported by science or effective social policy as it stands. The problems you cite are all occuring on your [philosophical] watch, not ours, suggesting it is your protocols that at the root of the problem, and not those of reform. /Blair)

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LTE: Maori, Marijuana and Morality

Letter to the Editor
The Press

13 October, 2005

Dear Sir,

Cannabis and Maori health is being elevated to morality masquerading as science where 'epidemic proportions' and youth to elder use is given without comparison to non-maori populations.

New Zealand's youth uptake and adult use is second to none and at levels where genetics have little to do with the facts stated in this appalling public health journalism proffered as ground breaking science. "But cannabis might not be as safe as the proponents of its legalisation say" is a disingenuous strawman and reeks of manufactured consent. The articles author, coroner and concerned medical researchers might profit from asking the crucial question, that even if safety concerns are true, on whose watch is this prevalence and any attendant harm occurring? Certainly not the legalisers.

Damage to lungs from cannabis is confounded by many cannabis users also using tobacco. Leo Hollister of the Stanford University School of Medicine, writing for the journal of The American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics finds that "As yet, it is far easier to find pulmonary cripples from the abuse of tobacco than it is to find any evidence of clinically important pulmonary insufficiency from smoking of cannabis.". What we have is another case of cannabis related harms being 'largely overstated' as found by our own Health Select Committee's 1998 and 2002 inquiries and yet more reason to see the tension in drug policy resolved a soon as possible. Harm minimising reform is not accountable for intergenerational use, genetic predisposition or double standard impediments to health promotion whereas the set and setting of prohibition is.

Blair Anderson, Director, EFSDP.ORG

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Wednesday, October 12, 2005

MedPot Abuse: International implications

Steve Tuck Was Held In Whatcom County Jail WITHOUT MORPHINE!
He Is In Agony! Case to Be Federalized, But We Won't Know Until Tuesday. His Life Is In Danger.
Richard Cowan has it nailed, as usual, he's on the case!
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Sunday, October 09, 2005

When the right approach is wrong

From the Left - Chris Trotter - Otago Daily Times (7.10.05)
[Chris Trotter is editor of the New Zealand Political Review.]

When the right approach is wrong

   THE POPULARITY and proliferation of television shows exposing our appalling parenting skills raises some interesting questions about society's attitude toward experts and expertise.
   Supernanny, Demons to Darlings, Little Angels all have three factors in common: obnoxious children, clueless parents, and the intervention of an all-wise expert. Their entertainment value lies in the startling transformation which the expert is able to effect, usually in very short order, in the behaviour of Mum, Dad and the kids. The most interesting thing about the advice which these experts dispense is how closely it conforms to the scorned precepts of “political correctness”.
   Treating even very young children as small but independent individuals, with thoughts and feelings of their own, is shown to be a much more successful strategy than ordering them about like puppies.
   Even more clearly demonstrated in these programmes is the utter futility of corporal punishment. Parents who thrash their kids invariably make family life worse, not better.
   If the only lesson this new brand of reality television teaches us is that physical and verbal violence against children is one of the prime generators of human psychopathology then it will have fulfilled an immensely valuable social function.
   The saddest thing about these shows is that they lead so few people to extrapolate from the microcosm of the family to the macrocosm of society in general. 
   Right-wing ideologues never tire of reminding us that, “As the family goes, so goes the nation”. But if this is true then what conclusion should we draw from the fact that so many families are dysfunctional? That so many people reach adulthood without knowing what it is like to be reasoned with? That so many parents, by their actions, teach their children that violence directed against the weak and the vulnerable is a perfectly legitimate method of social control?
   The truth is that the Right does not believe in treating every person as a thinking, feeling individual with hopes and aspirations to be respected and, if possible, fulfilled. Nor does it have any fundamental objection to violence, provided that it is only ever meted out by the powerful against the powerless and never the other way around.
   In other words, the ongoing dysfunctionality of both family and nation are absolutely crucial to the success of the social and economic forces to which the Right has always been beholden.
   That is why the Right is so opposed to the “nanny state”. Not for them the wise, softly-spoken child psychologist who quietly observes the goings on in this or that desperate household and who then works co-operatively with the harried parents to modify the outrageous behaviour of their little “demons”.
   No matter what the issue — the repeal of section 59 of the Crimes Act, sex education in schools, the “harm minimisation” approach to educating young people about substance abuse — the Right’s approach is always the same: that these are matters best left to the judgement of parents.
   Never mind that it is parents who are beating toddlers with sticks, belts and electric cords and getting away with it. Ignore the fact that it's the parental refusal to adequately prepare their offspring for the onset of puberty that condemns so many teenagers to STD infections and unwanted pregnancies. Don’t worry about the sheer hypocrisy of Mum (zonked on Valium) or Dad (rampant with Viagra) throwing up their hands in horror because junior’s been found in possession of a joint.
   That six young people have recently lost their lives as a result of inhaling solvents (which are freely available over the counter at any dairy) is a tragedy for their parents, their siblings, their friends and their communities. What it is not is an excuse for the Wellington coroner to launch an all-out attack on cannabis, a herbal intoxicant which, in the 4800 years that it has been ingested by human beings, has never killed anyone.
   If ever there was a case for calling on expert advice and heeding it, it is the whole field of substance abuse. “Harm minimisation” is only the beginning. Equally important is asking why some of our best and brightest feel so alienated from society that they are willing to risk death getting out of it.
   If Nandor Tanczos is looking for something worthwhile to do outside Parliament, he could do a lot worse than to devote himself to taking drug education out of the hands of ignorant parents and authoritarian prohibitionists and returning it to people who actually know what they're talking about.

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Friday, October 07, 2005

State ready for medicinal marijuana

Oshkosh Northwestern - State ready for medicinal marijuana: "Poll Question: Under Wisconsin law, the use of marijuana is illegal, including for medical purposes. Currently in Wisconsin Legislature, there is a bill pending that would allow people with cancer, multiple sclerosis, or other serious illnesses to use marijuana for medical purposes, as long as their physician approves. Do you support or oppose this bill?

Poll results

Overall: 75.7 percent support, 18.2 percent oppose, 6.2 percent other"
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Thursday, October 06, 2005

One in 50 Victorians drugged drivers

One in 50 Victorians drugged drivers

One in 50 Victorian drivers tested positive for drug use, according to police, five times the rate of motorists found to be driving drunk.

Victoria Police announced that 10,546 drivers had been tested for drug use since new roadside testing was rolled out in December last year.

Acting Deputy Commissioner Noel Ashby said 213 drivers had revealed signs of recent methamphetamine or cannabis use, and the high rate of drugged-driving rate was a concern.

The rate of motorists caught out by breath tests for alcohol is one in every 250 drivers in Victoria.

"Not only is using illicit drugs illegal, but those who use drugs and then get behind the wheel are a real danger on the roads," Mr Ashby said.

[and the proof is... given prevelence figures for cannabis, these figures are surprisingly low! /Blair)

"Police are out there and will be doing what they can to get drug-affected drivers off the road and increase safety."
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Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The Drug War: An Alternative Approach

More 'stakeholder' developments in Christchurch's Sister City... Seattle
Submitted by Amy on October 4, 2005

The Social Action Committee of Temple Beth Am presents
a forum on the Drug War: An Alternative Approach.

Start: 10/09/2005 - 10:00am - 12:00pm
Speakers include:

Why Drugs Should Be Legalized
Norm Stamper, former Police Chief, City of Seattle

The Disparate Impact of Drug Prosecutions Upon the Minority Communities
Lisa Daugaard, Public Defender

Different Legislative Approaches to the Drug Problems
Adam Kline, Chair, Judiciary Committee, Washington State Senate

The Economic Impact of the Drug Wars
Roger Goodman, Director, Drug Policy Project, King County Bar Association

Temple Beth Am is located at 2632 NE 80th St, Seattle
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Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Coroner blasts drug education

Coroner blasts drug education | HEALTH | NEWS | "Coroner Garry Evans says the current official policy of harm minimisation, which accepts that young people will take drugs and tries to make it safer, sends the wrong message."

Pauline Gardner for Drug Czar, says Tevor Grice!

How comic.....
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Monday, October 03, 2005

Blair's message for Turiana

kevin oconnell wrote:
i like nandor but he really has mis-managed his core constituency (the alcp) you say hes only himself to blame. maybe he'll be a bit more of a team player now he's not in the ivory tower. cheers

What is it the Greens  don't understand?
(and Nandor going by his last 'its the police waste/costs' disconnect)
Prevention is necessary. Keeping our guiding principles in mind, prevention must be part of a vision of the role of governance as a way of fostering human initiative and a vision of ethics and public health that focus on autonomy. In that sense, it is not an instrument of control, but rather a tool to help set people free. And in the case of cannabis, being set free does not mean not using, but rather having the ability to take a position on and think about the reasons for using and the ability to deal independently with at-risk behaviour.
[Conclusion, Chapter 16 "Prevention" , Report of the Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs, Sept.  2002]

It reads like it should be a bottom line for Turiana talks!

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