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, July 20, 2010

Naming, Shaming and Stereotype Threat

Research reveals mixed results for the effects of cannabis on cognitive functioning.

These divergent results might stem from stereotype threat (ST), which occurs when individuals believe that a group to which they belong is inferior, resulting in poor test performance.
Widespread media coverage of purported cannabis-related deficits in cognitive functioning may elicit ST among cannabis users, particularly among men, who may be more likely than women to identify with the cannabis-user stereotype.
(Philipstown, Napier anyone?)

Gender moderates the impact of stereotype threat on cognitive function in cannabis users.  Looby Alison; Earleywine Mitch,  Addictive behaviors 2010;35(9):834-9 University at Albany, Department of Psychology, Albany, NY 12222, United States.
To investigate this hypothesis, cannabis users (30 male, 27 female) read a summary of research indicating either that cannabis produced deficits (ST condition), or that cannabis actually created no changes in cognitive functions. Participants then completed cognitive tests. Examination of the gender x condition interaction revealed significant results on 4 tests: the California Verbal Learning Test-II immediate recall task, the Controlled Oral Word Association Test for number of words generated and number of switches between clusters, and the Digit Symbol Substitution Task.

Males exposed to ST performed worse on all tests compared to men not exposed to ST, while women exposed to ST performed better than women not exposed.

These results suggest that cognitive deficits observed in male cannabis users may be attributed to ST rather than decreased functioning.

Surprisingly, women in the ST condition scored higher than controls.

Perhaps female users do not identify with the typical cannabis stereotype. This study highlights the importance of disconfirming relevant stereotypes prior to examination of the cognitive abilities of cannabis users.
[ I also found  Peer influence and gender differences in problematic cannabis use among individuals with social anxiety. Journal of anxiety disorders 2006;20(8):1087-102 instructive. /Blair ]

April 12th, 2010 | by J.Marcu |
(The following post is from a Science Column which appears in the West Coast Leaf newspaper )

Each year thousands of articles are published about cannabis and cannabinoids.

Because of this promising research, scientists and doctors around the world are taking interest in cannabinoids. Part of the excitement comes from established data showing that cannabinoid receptors may be the most abundant protein in the human brain, and humans also produce a natural, THC-like compound, anandamide. In the first few months of 2010 a wide range of relevant research articles have already been published. Among the highlights: Researchers at the University of Leiden analyzed cannabis smoke and vapor by comparing their effects at the cannabinoid type 1 receptor (CB1R) (1). Both smoke and vapor activate the cannabinoid receptor equally, but vaporization is more efficient because fewer compounds are destroyed or degraded. However, what was shown for the first time was that terpenoids, the fragrant molecules such as myrcene, are a major component of the smoke and vapor.

The authors believe compounds such as myrcene may contribute to therapeutic benefits of medical cannabis.
Guinea pig studies suggest that the cannabinoid type 2 receptor (CB2R) may be helpful in preventing asthma (3). The development of asthma is linked to the activation of C-fibers, and researchers did find that CB2R activation, but not CB1R, could prevent the activation of C-fibers.Activating CB2R could be important in attenuating HIV-associated inflammation, which ultimately leads to destruction of parts of the body such as neurons, resulting in changes in cognitive and motor functions.
When HIV infects a cell, it releases viral proteins that create inflammation and attract healthy immune cells. One such viral protein called tat causes immune cells to arrive at the site of infection and usually become infected by HIV. Tat appears to be inhibited by cannabinods that activate the CB2R. THC and CP55,940 were both able to inhibit tat-mediated attraction and thus suppress this aspect of HIV/AIDS (4).

The cannabinoid receptors are also abundant in the gut. A lot of work has studied the therapeutic role of cannabinoids to treat diseases of the intestines such as infections, irritable bowel syndrome, abdominal pain, etc. Cannabinoids help control the two main functions of the gut: digestion and host defense. The collective research on this subject was reviewed and the authors suggest that academia and industry should fully develop cannabinoids as a treatment for diseases of the gastro- intestinal tract (2).

Nearly every week positive research on cannabis and cannabinoids is published by labs around the world. Despite the promising implications, the work of these pioneering scientists often goes unnoticed in media and the 'science sections' of national newspapers. Furthermore, medical schools do not provide any classes on cannabinoids, which forces patients to stay up-todate with the research on their own, in order to better inform their doctors of potential benefits of cannabis.
These examples offer a glimpse of a blossoming research field. By discussing cannabis research with doctors, other patients, friends and family you can prevent more studies from remaining unnoticed, underreported, or misunderstood.

Send your science questions to

 1) Fischedick et al. Cannabinoid Receptor 1 Binding Activity and Quantitative Analysis of Cannabis sativa L. Smoke and Vapor. Chem. Pharm. Bull. 58(2) 201—207 (2010)
2) Izzo et al. Cannabinoids and the gut: New developments and emerging concepts. Pharmacol Ther (2010).
3) Fukuda et al. The Cann. Receptor Agonist WIN 55,212-2 Inhibits Antigen-Induced Plasma Extravasation in Guinea Pig Airways. Int Arch Allergy Immunol 12;152(3):295-300 (2010)
4) Raborn et al. Cann. Inhibtion of Macrophage Migration To the TAT protein of HIV-1 is linked to the CB2 canabinoid receptor. JPET (2010).

 Blair Anderson  ‹(•¿•)›


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Friday, July 16, 2010

Arming Police Means More Drug War Casulties

NORML President Phil Saxby today warned that arming all frontline police could spell more drug related violence and propel New Zealand further and deeper into the "war on drugs".

"I am very concerned by the level of ‘fighting talk’ displayed by the Police at this moment and do not want to see armed officers going into every house they come across that smells of cannabis."

Phil Saxby pointed out that official figures showed 15% of adult Kiwis use cannabis every year. "That is over 400,000 * New Zealanders put at risk and would only mean disaster for New Zealand," he said. "The Police Association has already warned that this move would actually mean more people getting shot."

"In the so-called ‘war on drugs’, some – perhaps most – of those people could be young. Someone’s teenage son or daughter is growing some cannabis for themselves in their flat when the police come knocking about something unrelated, smell drugs and come in with weapons."

"Statistically, 18 – 25 year olds are the most likely users of illegal drugs, which means as a group they are most at-risk of being caught up in any violent outcome associated with drug use."

"It might be someone’s 15 year-old who happens to be at the local tinny-shop when a raid goes down, guns drawn. This is not the New Zealand anyone wants to see."

"In the United States, warrant less searches by armed police regularly end in the suspect's fatality, often when no drugs are actually found."

"NORML has deep compassion for the shot officers and their slain dog but arming police is not the answer. Ending the criminalisation of all drugs – cannabis most urgently of all – is."

"Decriminalisation is just a beginning", says Phil Saxby. "We should be aiming at a regulated, taxable market for all low-risk drugs."  (um, just like we have in Class D "restricted substances regulations" Phil!  /Blair)

"Growing cannabis is not a violent crime but arming oneself with a gun and then using it to protect an illegal and highly valuable crop is. By regulating the supply of cannabis, we will reduce the number of situations when police will need to use guns."

*figure derived from the Law Commission’s discussion paper (Feb 2010) on the Misuse of Drugs Act.
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Monday, July 12, 2010

Sabin: "Liar Liar Pants on Fire"

Cato InstituteImage via Wikipedia
Commenting on Auckland SuperCity Mayoral candidate Simon Prast's community safety initiative, a former policeman [a job that entails never ever telling lies] came out with;

"Cannabis use has increased to highest levels, overall drug use has increased to highest levels in Portugal since they've relaxed their drug laws a few years ago," says drug educator Mike Sabin.

OK, so what did Portugal really do.... here from TIME magazine last year. (see Drugs in Portugal: Did Decriminalization Work?)
However, the media can only come up with... "its last weeks news, no story there!".
Mike Sabin, your a liar... now sue me!

"Judging by every metric, decriminalization in Portugal has been a resounding success," says Glenn Greenwald, an attorney, author and fluent Portuguese speaker, who conducted the research. "It has enabled the Portuguese government to manage and control the drug problem far better than virtually every other Western country does."

Compared to the European Union and the U.S., Portugal's drug use numbers are impressive. Following decriminalization, Portugal had the lowest rate of lifetime marijuana use in people over 15 in the E.U.: 10%. The most comparable figure in America is in people over 12: 39.8%. Proportionally, more Americans have used cocaine than Portuguese have used marijuana.

The Cato paper reports that between 2001 and 2006 in Portugal, rates of lifetime use of any illegal drug among seventh through ninth graders fell from 14.1% to 10.6%; drug use in older teens also declined. Lifetime heroin use among 16-to-18-year-olds fell from 2.5% to 1.8% (although there was a slight increase in marijuana use in that age group). New HIV infections in drug users fell by 17% between 1999 and 2003, and deaths related to heroin and similar drugs were cut by more than half. In addition, the number of people on methadone and buprenorphine treatment for drug addiction rose to 14,877 from 6,040, after decriminalization, and money saved on enforcement allowed for increased funding of drug-free treatment as well.

Portugal's case study is of some interest to lawmakers in the U.S., confronted now with the violent overflow of escalating drug gang wars in Mexico. The U.S. has long championed a hard-line drug policy, supporting only international agreements that enforce drug prohibition and imposing on its citizens some of the world's harshest penalties for drug possession and sales. Yet America has the highest rates of cocaine and marijuana use in the world, and while most of the E.U. (including Holland) has more liberal drug laws than the U.S., it also has less drug use.

"I think we can learn that we should stop being reflexively opposed when someone else does [decriminalize] and should take seriously the possibility that anti-user enforcement isn't having much influence on our drug consumption," says Mark Kleiman, author of the forthcoming When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment and director of the drug policy analysis program at UCLA. Kleiman does not consider Portugal a realistic model for the U.S., however, because of differences in size and culture between the two countries.

But there is a movement afoot in the U.S., in the legislatures of New York State, California and Massachusetts, to reconsider our overly punitive drug laws. Recently, Senators Jim Webb and Arlen Specter proposed that Congress create a national commission, not unlike Portugal's, to deal with prison reform and overhaul drug-sentencing policy. As Webb noted, the U.S. is home to 5% of the global population but 25% of its prisoners.

At the Cato Institute in early April, Greenwald contended that a major problem with most American drug policy debate is that it's based on "speculation and fear mongering," rather than empirical evidence on the effects of more lenient drug policies. In Portugal, the effect was to neutralize what had become the country's number one public health problem, he says.

"The impact in the life of families and our society is much lower than it was before decriminalization," says Joao Castel-Branco Goulao, Portugual's "drug czar" and president of the Institute on Drugs and Drug Addiction, adding that police are now able to re-focus on tracking much higher level dealers and larger quantities of drugs.

Peter Reuter, a professor of criminology and public policy at the University of Maryland, like Kleiman, is skeptical. He conceded in a presentation at the Cato Institute that "it's fair to say that decriminalization in Portugal has met its central goal. Drug use did not rise." However, he notes that Portugal is a small country and that the cyclical nature of drug epidemics — which tends to occur no matter what policies are in place — may account for the declines in heroin use and deaths.

The Cato report's author, Greenwald, hews to the first point: that the data shows that decriminalization does not result in increased drug use. Since that is what concerns the public and policymakers most about decriminalization, he says, "that is the central concession that will transform the debate."

Blair Anderson

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Monday, July 05, 2010

Alcohol, Knives and Cops

re alcohol and parental consent: Parental law set to stop teen drinkers

"This is a really delicate balance because National is not in the business of getting into people's homes on issues like this and telling them how to run their lives," he [Key] said last night. (NZHerald, July 5, 2010)

The Alcohol (and other drugs) review and political dialog cannot be reconciled without considering the implications of John Key and Tony Ryall's position on Cannabis prosecutions and the human rights abuse that underpins 'illicit' drug policy. It gives licence to this 'invasive' and potentially racist in its application anti-drug abuse initiative. I have no doubt that the question being asked in the NH poll will attract high support for 'banning'. Such a question does not count the costs, nor measure the social impact, unintended consequences of removing parental authority and trusts. It is DRUG POLICY that is broken. And it is DRUG POLICY that has to be fixed. 

National needs to stop treating adults like children while expecting children to behave like adults.

And lets stop pretending our topical knife legislation has no connection to the rejection of the social mores and rule of law. Or that the Police Clearance rates have nothing to do with the 20% increase in cannabis convictions. (40% in Northland).

Cannabis is making the Police look good.

Blair Anderson, Mayoral Candidate, 'the real Super City', Christchurch, NZ.
50 Wainoni Road, Christchurch, 
ph nz  (643) 389 4065   nz cell 027 265 7219
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Saturday, July 03, 2010

Pharmacy Board Says Cannabis is Medicine

Oregon Pharmacy Board Says Cannabis is Medicine: Decision Bolsters ASA's Federal Petitions on Medical Use
The latest indication of the scientific consensus on the medical uses of cannabis comes from the Oregon Board of Pharmacy, which officially reclassified the drug as a medicine last month. 
After months of deliberation and input from scientist, physicians and patients, the board voted 4-1 to move marijuana from Schedule I, reserved for highly dangerous drugs with no medical use, to Schedule II. The action follows action by the Oregon legislature in August 2009, when it passed a bill directing the pharmacy board to reclassify marijuana to an appropriate schedule.
Although 14 states have adopted laws making the medical use of cannabis legal, and four have classified cannabis as medicine, it is still listed as a Schedule I substance by the federal government.
cannabis"When a state public health and drug regulatory body takes such an action, it sends a clear message to the federal government," said Caren Woodson, ASA's Director of Government Affairs. "They should approve the petition on rescheduling cannabis they've been sitting on for eight years, as well as ASA's petition on correcting the denials of its accepted medical uses."
Congress defined cannabis as a substance with a high potential for abuse and no medical value in 1970, when it enacted the Controlled Substances Act. Requests to change that classification have been rejected by federal officials in the past, and the latest petition to reschedule cannabis has been under consideration since 2002.
That petition -- filed by the Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis, of which ASA is a member -- has been passed to the DEA with a recommendation from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Acting DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart, who awaits confirmation by the Senate, will have the final say on the matter.
"DEA Administrator Leonhart has yet to demonstrate that she understands the science on medical cannabis," said Woodson. "But this is nonetheless an opportunity for the Obama Administration to make good on its pledge to base policy on scientific findings."
As part of its new National Strategy, ASA is developing a national grassroots campaign in support of the CRC petition. The campaign, which will launch this fall, will press local, state and federal officials to acknowledge the medical consensus on the therapeutic utility of cannabis and support the rescheduling effort.
Further Information:
Oregon legislation (SB 728) instructing BOP to reclassify marijuana
Oregon Board of Pharmacy page on reclassifying marijuana

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