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Commentary on cannabis news and information.
Curated by Adrian Columb
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When It Comes To Handling Drugs, We Need To Be Transparent

When It Comes To Handling Drugs, We Need To Be Transparent | Cannabis Comments | Scoop.it
The reality is that people are dying, contracting diseases and being criminalised at extraordinary levels simply because they use drugs. Silence or a failure to challenge the status quo will mean that Australia is actually reaffirming the much derided and rightly ridiculed "A drug free world -- we can do it" agreement of the 1998 UNGASS and condemning millions more to tragic and harmful consequences because they use drugs or have become dependent on drugs.
Adrian Columb's insight:
Australia's intentions for the UNGASS discussions of the future of global drug strategy in New York this April remain unclear despite many world leaders and experts decrying the War On Drugs as an abject failure. The Australian government has an ace up its sleeve though, in that many Aussies are completely ignorant to the dangers imposed on them by the prohibition of drugs, so the concept of legalisation hasn't yet solidified as a realistic better option in their consciousness.

 The mass-brainwashing of the prohibition-era has successfully replaced rational consideration of the issues with propaganda that currently masquerades as the truth. Politicians know they can win office on the anti-drugs ticket and prohibition is the lifeblood of the thriving legal and punishment industries, so the public is kept fearful of drugs through the media. Aussies have lived under prohibition on the isolated island for so long that Drug War hysteria has almost completely eclipsed reality.

 The UNGASS meetings happen just once every decade... maybe for the next meeting we'll be ready to embrace the terrifying possibility of legalising cannabis and other drugs because prohibition of such substances is clearly much more dangerous for users and society than the drugs themselves. Or could our leaders be brought to task on this issue now so that their strategy at the upcoming conference reflects the opinions of the experts, and avert another decade of unacknowledged fallout from failed prohibitionist drug policies?

http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/gino-vumbaca/when-it-comes-to-handling-drugs-we-need-to-be-transparent_b_9482950.html
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Cannabis-based drug to be made available to NSW children with epilepsy - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Cannabis-based drug to be made available to NSW children with epilepsy - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) | Cannabis Comments | Scoop.it

A small number of children with drug-resistant epilepsy will soon be able to access a new cannabis-based drug in New South Wales which is showing promise in relieving the symptoms.

Adrian Columb's insight:

Australia's federal and state governments and its doctors are doing everything possible to maintain the status quo while appearing to "treat sick children" through clinical trials of Epidiolex (which is CBD extracted from hemp aka Cannabis Ruderalis, not Cannabis Sativa) for children with epilepsy.

It seems that nothing much will change anytime soon. In fact these clinical trials could be destined to produce negative results since CBD in the absence of THC is anecdotally reported as being not very effective for epilepsy. It would be convenient for them to be able to say they tested cannabis and it didn't work... that's a distinct possibility now.

 

Cannabis will probably be legal for recreational use long before most medicinal users get their doctors support since clinical trials of the real medicine in cannabis ie THC are probably years away from happening.

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Most medical-pot permits issued for undisclosed conditions

Most medical-pot permits issued for undisclosed conditions | Cannabis Comments | Scoop.it
The vast majority of medical-marijuana certificates in Massachusetts -- more than 90 percent -- were issued to patients who have not been diagnosed with one of the eight pre-qualifying conditions established under state law, according to new data
Adrian Columb's insight:

Of the 26 US states that allow medical cannabis, Massachusetts is one of only three which allows doctors to actually do their jobs, and to fulfill their Hippocratic Oaths to "Do no harm." Physicians are provided with but not limited to a list of conditions for which they can recommend cannabis, including ALS, Parkinson's, Glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, MS, Cancer, Hepatitis C, and Crohn's. Over 90% of patients receiving cannabis through the program do not have one of those conditions.
 

Cruel prohibitionists say that this large number of patients suffering from "other" symptoms or conditions is indicative that many people must be gaining access when they don't actually need it, but that couldn't be further from the truth. All this statistic really demonstrates is that science hasn't yet scratched the surface of cannabis' medical potential in clinical studies for all the situations it can treat, due to several decades during which research on cannabis has been illegal.


Most other US states that have programs specify symptoms, conditions, or even symptoms occurring within particular conditions (eg, wasting from HIV/AIDS, spasticity from MS, convulsions from Epilepsy, etc), to the exclusion of everyone else. These (Shindler's) lists determine who suffers and who gets to live happy, healthy lives (and in many cases who lives and who dies), based simply on the delusion that if regulators cant see the evidence then efficacy doesn't exist.
 

This "evidence based" approach means that unless cannabis has been studied in a lab for a particular medical situation then there is no efficacy, even if a patient (or as is often the case many patients) has tried the medicine and it works. That's like telling a blind person that the world doesn't exist even though they can hear it loud and clear. What absolute rubbish!
 

Patients should be allowed to use cannabis while the research base is catching up. There is no harm in it and there is a lot of harm in prohibiting it. While some patients will suffer in silence if they are denied access, many others will just access it illegally and tell their story of medical use to a judge and jury if they ever get caught.


These murder-lists allow governments to play God. They are inhumane prohibitionist ignorance and hatred in their purest form. How can politicians or government cronies dare to play doctor without medical training? How dare they toy with people's lives as though they were just numbers on a spreadsheet?
 

Allowing doctors to practice empirical medicine (ie, trial and error through dose titration of promising medicines when there are no known dosage schedules) is the only humane way provide cannabis to patients while the evidence-base is still being produced.
 

In fact, if governments want to limit the number of people who can access cannabis medicinally and enforce the prohibition on other patients then they should have to provide convincing evidence that cannabis does not work or is significantly dangerous for a particular symptom or condition.
 

They also need to have explored a range of different cannabinoid and terpene profiles for their studies to be taken seriously, as cannabis contains many medicines depending on the concentration of its components and some profiles may work well or not for different types of patients.
 

In the meantime though, no humane society can stand by and let people suffer unnecessarily, be it from their medical situation or from the cruel illegality of their medication. Any state or country that claims to support the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (which includes the right to medical treatment) needs to allow doctors to treat patients using every possible resource to ease their suffering, whether clinical science has caught up with common-knowledge, and whether society's less compassionate factions like it or not.

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Costly marijuana has Minnesota patients opting to buy illegally

Costly marijuana has Minnesota patients opting to buy illegally | Cannabis Comments | Scoop.it
Just two months after Minnesota launched its medical marijuana program, some patients say they are back to buying the drug illegally in order to afford it.
Adrian Columb's insight:

Minnesota's new medical marijuana program is one of the most restrictive in the USA (apart from the CBD-only states of course). It allows capsules and extracts for use in a very limited number of conditions (not even chronic pain), but not flowers. The legal products cost a lot more than the cannabis available on the black market, so are unaffordable for many who nonetheless deserve proper medical care. Some patients also report the legal products don't work as well as the illegal ones.
 

As such one in three patients who began using the new system a couple of months ago have not returned for more medicine, reverting to the black market instead. Nobody knows how many patients didn't even bother adopting the legal system in the first place due to such concerns, let alone how many who's conditions don't qualify for treatment. So, many patients are still faced with the choice of breaking the law or suffering terribly (medically and/or financially) in order to just feel well.

What to do? Would you run a petrol car on lighter fluid just because it sort of works (but not really) and is legal, but over 3 times the price of gasoline which for some reason was made illegal? Most wouldn't risk damaging their car or ruining their finances (and many would seek an illegal source of gasoline). Neither should patients have to choose between cheap and effective illegal medicines and expensive, less effective medications.

What were the state's legislators thinking? Surely its a lot more humane to just allow sufferers of all symptoms and conditions for which cannabis is of benefit to use the best medicines possible, and to provide those at fair prices so as to not force patients to use the black market.

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Five Things to Know About "Regulated" Medical Marijuana in California

Five Things to Know About "Regulated" Medical Marijuana in California | Cannabis Comments | Scoop.it
Just before midnight on Friday, lawmakers in Sacramento agreed upon and passed onto Gov. Jerry Brown a package of legislation that promises to regulate the...
Adrian Columb's insight:

In 1996 Californian voters passed Proposition 215 which created an affirmative defense for the use and supply of medical marijuana, and its recommendation by doctors. It was a beautiful thing that the power of the popular vote overturned the nay-saying haters in one fell swoop - truly democracy in action. It also started the ball rolling towards where we are now with medical marijuana legal in more than half the US states and many countries including Canada, Germany, Israel, The Czech Republic, The Netherlands, Spain, and Portugal among others. And even better, due to overwhelming public demand the rest of the world is now tentatively watching their neighbours and considering taking the plunge also.
 

The main problem with the system created by Prop 215 was that while it represented the will of the people, it didn't have the support of the Californian state government so to this day remains almost completely unregulated. Among many other issues, this created a situation where unscrupulous people can set up grow operations or dispensaries (sometimes many per block) which provide medicines that are sometimes of questionable quality and unknown potency to both registered patients and potentially to non-patients also, with little risk of repercussions.
 

Patients are therefore put in danger from substandard/contaminated medicines and unknown/inaccurate potencies. For medicine producers and suppliers the rules stipulated strict not-for-profit operations that limited their ability to operate effectively and expand to meet market demand as necessary. For many years the lack of regulation also left medical practitioners under constant threat of losing their licenses. Chaos flourished and many patients, growers and dispensers rorted the system.
 

On a broader scale this 'wild west' reputation of California gave the international media all the ammunition they needed to discredit the entire concept of medical marijuana as a hoax invented by radical activists trying to legalise a "dangerous drug", and set back the movement towards rational policies over two decades in most other places around the world.
 

As Australia delves into the question of how to provide a medicinal cannabis scheme the Californian train-wreck of a medical marijuana program has been touted as the wrong way to go and I tend to agree that the laissez faire approach shouldn't be considered (at least not now while the public is still suffering PTSD from the drug war and not thinking rationally).
 

For example, as the state of Victoria deliberates on its plans to deliver supply to patients (with or without collaboration with the other states or the federal government), Australian Sex Party Leader Fiona Patten has been quoted as welcoming the news, but said strong measures needed to be in place to ensure Victoria didn't fall into a "slack Californian system" that sees the product "distributed on every street corner."
 

With over half the US states having now legislated to provide well-controlled medical marijuana programs, and the real threat of legalisation for recreational use looming for California as a likely result of the 2016 elections, the state government was apparently forced to act or potentially lose to opportunity do so. They have agreed to set up a regulator to oversee the medical marijuana industry which will have rule making powers that will come into effect in 2018.
 

So what could the new regulator hope to achieve when its rules go into effect? For patients it will hopefully mean assurance of product potency and purity, which would allow them to follow strict dosage regimes that have been proven effective for their conditions. However it also mean that they may face extra costs to pay for these advancements which is not in the spirit of Prop 215, the non-profit element of which was intended to keep the cost of medicines affordable for patients.
 

Under such regulations doctors will be able to be more sure that their patients are receiving the best possible medical care, and (assuming it moves to federal Schedule 2 sometime soon as is planned) will enable them to prescribe rather than just recommend cannabis, using accurate dosage regimes that emerge from current and future clinical trials. This will no doubt facilitate increased confidence that incorporating cannabis into their medical arsenals will not threaten their medical licenses or impair their ability to "do no harm" as their Hippocratic oaths demand.
 

For growers and dispensers such rules may mean that they will have to compete for licenses (which could be limited in number), and if approved will need to comply with strict rules in order to retain them, all of which will add to costs. But in the end a set of guidelines will provide much needed certainty that the industry has been demanding for many years. And as this article from the San Francisco Weekly magazine points out they will be able to use their profits for commercial expansion and even activism should they choose to. And for police the new regulator will also give more certainty as to what is and what is not a viable target for their aggression.
 

The creation of a regulator for medicinal marijuana in California is pretty much win-win for everyone concerned. Its instigation is the result of hundreds of hours of collaboration between politicians, government bodies, patient representatives and the supply industry. This was a historical first in a place where adversarial prohibitionist dogma has held back such discussions for so many years. Hopefully California will one day be perceived as providing an effective medical cannabis program for its patients.
 

Its important to note though that while Prop 215 has its drawbacks as described above, it also contained a catch-all phrase in its wording which states that cannabis can be recommended to whichever patients for whom its use could be of benefit, and to this day is the only U.S. state legislation to do so. This has opened the door to its use to treat many symptoms and conditions that have not been tested in clinical trials (which will take many years to complete from when the bans on research were recently lifted).
 

California has therefore been able to provide care to countless patients for over two decades while most of the rest of the world couldn't even accept the medical value of cannabis let alone allow or fund scientists to study it. Were it not for that clause in Prop 215, many Californians would have suffered horribly over the years and people around the world with those same conditions would never have known that cannabis is safe and effective for them to use to treat themselves (and therefore wouldn't be demanding it in their countries now).
 

In effect Prop 215 made California a giant, living, breathing clinical trial of cannabis that 20+ years on has provided some promising and even some completely amazing results that have showed the world the truth about the healing potential of cannabis. In this sense California still has the only truly compassionate program in the USA, the other 25 states which have medical programs dictating which patients deserve better lives and which don't.
 

Prop 215 allows doctors to practice what is known as empirical medicine which they are trained in, that is the process of trial and error through dose titration of medicines to see what works for each individual patient. Every other medical marijuana program in the USA is therefore just a watered-down substitute for real medical care.


All things considered though, it is high time that California regulated its booming medical marijuana industry for the sake of all concerned parties, but the planned regulator body should be fair and even handed. Most importantly the spirit of Prop 215 needs to live on in whatever commercial medical marijuana program emerges from this metamorphosis.
 

For starters, medicines need to remain affordable to patients, while the industry should be able to make fair profits, and hopefully there is some room for the state to take some tax revenues on top but lining their coffers should not be the priority.
 

The provision of licenses to sell, manufacture and/or grow products for medical use should be tightly regulated to ensure quality, but not exclusionary in terms of unrealistic requirements or unreasonably limited availability so as to not freeze out current suppliers and home-growers unnecessarily, or deter newcomers from growing and/or supplying medicines. The forces of supply and demand should be ample to determine just how many competitors can comfortably exist in the market place before it becomes over-saturated, but with exponential demand for medicinal marijuana evident such limitations may never even be relevant.
 

And most importantly, the rules regarding which patients can receive a license to posses medicinal cannabis products should never be limited to a list of symptoms or conditions, and should remain the exclusive domain of California's doctors, not of politicians or governments. If bureaucrats want to play doctor they should go to medical school!

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The Scientist | The story of Raphael Mechoulam and the endocannabinoid system

The Scientist | The story of Raphael Mechoulam and the endocannabinoid system | Cannabis Comments | Scoop.it
Adrian Columb's insight:

The resounding message from this new documentary about the life and career of "the grandfather of cannabinoid research", Israeli Professor Raphael Mechoulam (who discovered THC, CBD and the human endocannabinoid system they effect) is that while there is clearly enormous potential, researchers have only just scratched the surface of all there is to learn about one of the most important biological systems in mammals and the natural medicines that affect it, and that clinical trials in humans need to proceed as soon as possible so we can finally begin to learn more about the myriad potential treatments and preventative medicines that cannabis offers. Its well worth watching;)

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Experimental Medicine in ADHD - Cannabinoids

Experimental Medicine in ADHD - Cannabinoids | Cannabis Comments | Scoop.it

A study investigating the effects of cannabis-based medication Sativex on behaviour and cognition in adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has produced promising results that should lead to a full clinical trial of efficacy.

Adrian Columb's insight:

An experimental trial of treating ADHD using Sativex cannabinoid spray (with its almost equal proportions of THC and CBD extracted from herbal cannabis) was recently concluded at the King's College in London by Professor of Molecular Psychiatry Philip Asherson and his team, producing promising results. The study was conducted on the premise that "Adult patients with ADHD commonly report an improvement in behavioural symptoms when using cannabis with some reporting a preference towards cannabis over their ADHD stimulant medication."

The researchers have now finished analysing the data, and while a full clinical trial is necessary to produce strong evidence of efficacy, their results nonetheless point towards cannabis being an effective medicine for ADHD. A full report will be published soon, but I managed to get some promising preliminary findings from Professor Asherson as follows:
 

"Using Nominal significance (unadjusted for multiple testing) we see significant improvements in hyperactivity-impulsivity. We also see non-significant trends for inattention, affective lability and cognitive performance on the QbTest. Although findings are mainly non-significant the effect size estimates are generally large. The sample is of course also very small being a total of 30 cases with only 15 on Sativex and 15 on placebo. These data are therefore highly suggestive of real effects in a positive direction and are sufficient to warrant further investigation in larger samples with the expectation that the trends will be significant in larger samples.
 

One key question I have is the relative effects of CBD and THC - could all the effects come from CBD and 'side effects' from THC? It would be useful to test these separately.
 

We found that people needed only very low doses to have an effect. 2 sprays rather than one generally caused minor 'adverse effects'. Most used around 4-6 sprays a day and thought this was sufficient (we individually titrated for each person).
 

It is of note that cognitive performance increased and did not decline - which runs contrary to previous data on non ADHD controls.
 

We are in the process of providing a formal detailed report."
 

In other words, these scientists are on the way to proving that cannabis effectively treats ADHD. This is the best news so far for the many thousands of patients and parents who are already using it to treat ADHD illegally (who's lives will be changed forever when the medication becomes legal), those lucky enough to already be using it legally (who would benefit from proven dosage regimes), and for those countless others who would consider using it if it was it a legally prescribed medicine.

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Medicinal cannabis Bill endorsed by committee, Greens leader urges quick action

Medicinal cannabis Bill endorsed by committee, Greens leader urges quick action | Cannabis Comments | Scoop.it
A Federal Bill to establish a body to regulate medicinal cannabis should be passed after changes are made, according to a committee that's spent six months working through health, legislative and legal concerns.
Adrian Columb's insight:

The Australian Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee's Recommendation 3 regarding changes to the proposed federal Regulator of Medicinal Cannabis Bill before it should be passed states that "The committee recommends that the Bill is amended to address issues raised about its interaction with the existing Commonwealth regulatory framework for medicinal products, including the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989, the Narcotics Drug Act 1967 and relevant customs legislation."

Recommendation 4 deals with Australia's specific obligations under the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (1961), and will be discussed separately as it offers some insight into how the scheme may actually function.


And Recommendation 5 states that "The committee recommends that the Commonwealth government consult with its state and territory counterparts about the interrelationship of relevant laws to ensure a consistent approach to accessing medicinal cannabis and to facilitate compliance with any such access scheme and Australia's international obligations."

The Bill's sponsor, Australian Greens Leader Senator Richard Di Natale told ABC News that all these concerns can be overcome. He also said "The committee has indicated that there are some minor technical changes needed to ensure that the legislation is consistent with our international treaty obligations, they're minor technical issues."
 

Clearly these recommendations are intended to be about connecting the dots to make sure our new legislation meshes well with the old structure both domestic and international. At face value exploring how a new regulator would fit into the existing legal and governmental frameworks are logical steps, however their implementation should not be used as an opportunity to clip the new Regulator's wings.


On the contrary, all concessions should be made to ensure that the Regulator has the powers required to get the job done, and limiting or otherwise changing existing legislation and/or modifying current government functions (eg, the TGA and the Department of Health as a whole) to accommodate its needs should certainly be explored.

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Justin Trudeau: Liberal government would look at overturning convictions for marijuana crimes

Justin Trudeau: Liberal government would look at overturning convictions for marijuana crimes | Cannabis Comments | Scoop.it
Canadians sitting in prison or stuck with a criminal record for crimes related to marijuana have a reason to vote Liberal in this October’s federal election.
Adrian Columb's insight:

If the Liberal Party of Canada wins this year's Federal election they will not only decriminalise cannabis nationally, but also plan to consider commuting the sentences of those convicted for marijuana-related crimes. Party leader Justin Trudeau says "it is time that Canada adjusted to the reality that controlling and regulating marijuana is a way of both protecting our kids, protecting the public, and ensuring that we are not financing gangs to millions and millions of dollars." Oh Canada... what a place! If only politicians in the rest of the world were also ready to acknowledge the truth that prohibition is much more dangerous than regulation.

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Report – Parliament of Australia

Report – Parliament of Australia | Cannabis Comments | Scoop.it

Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee issues highly anticipated report supporting the Regulator of Medicinal Cannabis Bill, pending some improvements.

Adrian Columb's insight:

The Australian Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee has issued a set of recommendations designed to improve the proposed federal Regulator of Medicinal Cannabis Bill before it should be passed, however, what they mean by some of their statements is ambiguous.

The first clarification required is in Recommendation 1 which states "The committee supports, in principle, the access to products derived from cannabis for use in relation to particular medical conditions where the use of those products has been proven to be safe and effective." The first point that many in the cannabis community are already up in arms about is the use off the term "products derived from cannabis" because it seems to indicate that cannabis flowers will be excluded. 

Many patients fear it means that only pharmaceutical products (eg, Sativex) will be available, while others believe that concentrates, extracts and edibles should also be available under that definition. From reading the entire report its reasonably clear that it means all of the above including flowers.

But not just any flowers... cannabis flowers to be consumed for medicinal purposes will probably need to be grown under standardized conditions al la the current Canadian system where a small number of licensed producers set up multi-million dollar cannabis growing facilities that grow "research-grade" flowers which have consistent medicinal properties batch-to-batch and therefore dose-to-dose, within a medically acceptable margin of error. 

The result of standardisation is that doctors will be able to use accurate dosage regimes (either from clinical trials results or established through titration) for specific products that contain consistent cannabinoid and terpenoid profiles. A doctor could look up a proven dosage regime for any patient's condition and then prescribe a number of grams per day of a particular cannabis product such as Bedrocan's Bediol flowers, which converts easily into Xmg of THC and Ymg of CBD per day (or per other specified period, eg per hour).

Doctors are currently necessary in the supply chain because they are the only ones who will be able to prescribe cannabis, so their needs must be met in the form of Milligram measurements of active components in each medicine they prescribe. They have all sworn to "do no harm" and are trained to believe these measurements are intrinsic to achieving that objective. By following such practice it takes the onus of potential dangers to patients away from the doctors, so they should then be willing to prescribe it.

In short, the standardisation process translates cannabis use into the language of alopathic medicine which doctors understand. For this we should rejoice as patients will finally receive legal cannabis flowers! It also means however, that home-grown or farm-grown cannabis will probably not be possible since the resulting products would not be standardised. This will have most activists considering rioting in the streets due to the likelihood that big companies will freeze out the current cottage industry of underground compassion clubs and other medicinal growers from participating in the new industry.

There is another way, but it requires bending the rules of alopathic medicine, so its going to be a tough-sell. Home-growers and farmers could send samples of their products (Eg, flowers) to testing labs just like the "research-grade" growers do, resulting in accurate measurements of each sample's medicinal contents. The products could then be labelled eg, 17% THC and >1% CBD and patients could use that information to select the right products to meet their prescription needs in terms of Milligrams of THC, CBD, etc per period.

The problem with this is that doctors would then need to directly prescribe Mgs of THC, CBD, etc per period rather than Mgs of specific products that contain those milligrams. Its a mental leap of logic and a change they will seek to resist. They will argue that there is potential for harm, but that is hogswash. Medicinal products and the medicines they contain are one and the same, and should be interchangeably used by doctors and their patients as necessary.

And just briefly for now, the remainder of Recommendation 1 also needs to be clarified, specifically what is meant by "...for use in relation to particular medical conditions where the use of those products has been proven to be safe and effective." At first glance it seems the statement could mean that only conditions for which clinical trials evidence already exists could get access which would be tragic. 

It is clear however from the committee's further recommendations that other evidence could well be considered. In particular recommendation 2 states the Bill should be "amended, if necessary, to establish mechanisms by which scientific evidence about medicinal cannabis products can be assessed to determine their suitability for use in the treatment of particular medical conditions." That would indeed be a great result.

Over all it seems that progress regarding this Bill comes close to so far so good, but there is definite room for improvement even in the first recommendation. Significant further issues raised in the Senate Committee report need to be clarified and addressed, much of which will explored here soon.

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Uruguay Stands Up to UN on Marijuana Legalization

Uruguay Stands Up to UN on Marijuana Legalization | Cannabis Comments | Scoop.it
Uruguay's National Drug Board argues the repressive anti-marijuana policies adopted prior to legalization are "more dangerous than the drug itself."
Adrian Columb's insight:

The United Nations claims the law approved by Uruguay that legalises cannabis possession and commerce “is incompatible with what is stipulated in the 1961 [Single] Convention [on Narcotic Drugs],” an international treaty limiting the production, manufacture, export, import, and distribution of different types of psychoactive substances including cannabis.

According to Uruguay's JDN (National Drugs Board) Secretary Milton Romani, his country's legalisation of marijuana has “kicked the hornet’s nest” but Romani says Uruguay “will not pull back,” arguing that the repressive anti-drug policies adopted prior to the law are “more dangerous than the drug itself.” He explained they are not “talking about revising the conventions, but rather about upholding the ultimate goals of these treaties, which explicitly say they seek to improve humankind’s health and well-being.”

Its an incredible leap forward that a country has stepped up to do the right thing and is holding their ground against the international community's resistance to change. Cannabis use is a public health issue, not a criminal one and the rest of the world's governments must also come to realise that prohibition of cannabis is much more dangerous than cannabis itself.

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Senators give medical marijuana the green light

Senators give medical marijuana the green light | Cannabis Comments | Scoop.it
Health Department warns move could conflict with Australian law and an international convention.
Adrian Columb's insight:

The bureaucrats fear change so they are up in arms about the proposed Regulator of Medicinal Cannabis Bill which plans to completely side-step the TGA. The health department are shamefully attempting to sustain their stranglehold monopoly on defining and supplying the medicines we use because the health sector stands to lose untold revenues when patients can grow their own medicines and treat themselves. On 10th August the decision about this bill will be known, so now is the time to write to your federal MPs and Senators, and implore them to support it regardless of whatever inhumane red tape, foot-dragging and dummy-spitting our government departments attempt to throw up in obstruction, as its people's lives they are toying with by delaying this any longer!

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Top medical experts say we should decriminalize all drugs and maybe go even further

Top medical experts say we should decriminalize all drugs and maybe go even further | Cannabis Comments | Scoop.it
The drug war isn't working, they say.
Adrian Columb's insight:
In the lead up to the UN General Assembly discussion of the failed War on Drugs this April, a group of world-leading experts have issued a review of the state of global drug policy, concluding that the prohibitionist anti-drug policies of the past 50 years "directly and indirectly contribute to lethal violence, disease, discrimination, forced displacement, injustice and the undermining of peoples right to health." They recommend decriminalisation and a move towards legalisation, regulation and supply of all currently illegal drugs.

The main barrier to countries going their own way on this issue is the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (1961) which enforces a global punitive approach to drugs that is reflected in laws across the world (except Uraguay and five US states' currently-illegal foray into legal cannabis). They say the Single Convention is based on an outdated and incorrect understanding that prohibition helps in any way when it is in fact the most dangerous thing about drug use.

These experts agree that all drugs should be made legally available via regulated markets to encourage safety through known purity and potency, and to separate users from the criminal underworld that currently supplies them and the legal troubles that go with it. They say this would eliminate the artificial dangers currently imposed by the failed Drug War.

When pure drugs are supplied legally through regulated markets, drug use will become dramatically safer (and in fact reasonably-safe) for both users and the societies that suffer terribly due to the dangers imposed by the current prohibition.
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5 Prominent Business Leaders Who Support the Legalization of Marijuana -- The Motley Fool

5 Prominent Business Leaders Who Support the Legalization of Marijuana --  The Motley Fool | Cannabis Comments | Scoop.it

Calling the ban on marijuana the "biggest con ever perpetrated."

Adrian Columb's insight:

Several of the most prominent business-people support the complete legalization of cannabis around the world. It speaks volumes that these thought-leaders recognize that the war on drugs has failed. Their support could help induce real change, as between them they have the resources and influence required to convince international publics, governments and the UN that cannabis is safe and should be legal, and that continuing to prohibit it is extremely dangerous.
 

Multi-billionaire George Soros says "regulating and taxing marijuana would generate billions in tax dollars, while simultaneously saving billions in enforcement and incarceration costs," and "that "honest and effective drug education" is the key to keeping our kids safe and informed."

Other prominent supporters of full legalization include founder of Whole-foods Markets John McKay and PayPal co-founder, owner of Leafly.com and venture capitalist Peter Thiel. George Zimmer, 50-year cannabis user and founder and former CEO of Men's Wearhouse says the ban on marijuana is the "biggest con ever perpetrated."

Multi-billionaire Sir Richard Branson says "the trillion dollar war on drugs has persisted for 40 years even though it is the most dismal global policy failure of our time. Millions of otherwise productive lives are wasted in jail for marijuana possession and other nonviolent drug violations. California alone could raise an estimated $1.4 billion in annual revenue if it taxed and regulated the sale of marijuana -- so imagine the revenue that is keeping the underworld in business."
 

Sir Branson has also joined forces with a group of world political leaders including many current and former presidents of various countries in a quest to convince the UN General Assembly on Drugs in 2016 that regulation of all drugs would be much safer than prohibition. Lets hope they can convince the UN that the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961 should be amended immediately to allow cannabis to be legalized around the world at the discretion of national governments.

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Can Marijuana Treat Schizophrenia? -- The Motley Fool

Can Marijuana Treat Schizophrenia?  --  The Motley Fool | Cannabis Comments | Scoop.it
GW Pharmaceuticals' marijuana study in schizophrenia raises questions over how effective cannabidiol is at treating the disease.
Adrian Columb's insight:

GW Pharmaceuticals have had mixed results from clinical trials of their cannabis-derived products. They had a great start with Sativex showing efficacy for Multiple Sclerosis and Tourette Syndrome, and more recently with Epidiolex showing such promising results in a Phase 2 trial for epilepsy it is now in a Phase 3 (broad population) study. However, unconvincing results from a study of Sativex for chronic pain, and from their new study of Cannabidiol for Schizophrenia have disappointed patients and no doubt the company alike.
 

Could it be that they initially trialed specific products to treat conditions for which anecdotal evidence of the efficacy of herbal cannabis sativa (or in the case of epilepsy, hemp) was abundant, so it was a no-brainer to prove they worked in a lab? Or could it be they were just lucky? Maybe it was a combination of both.
 

Whatever the reason, patients around the world are now receiving effective treatments where none previously existed, so that work has been life-changing for many. An old friend of mine made edibles for her mum's MS at great expense and risk - my hope is that she's now being treated with Sativex and free from the perils of the black market and potential prosecution, all because these clinical trials results cleared the way.
 

So what could be the problem with the more recent studies? Could it be that GW are now guessing at which cannabinoids (alone or in combination) might best treat specific conditions? Maybe they haven't really understood what THC and CBD do when administered separately or in combination with each other in various proportions.
 

Investigating Sativex (with its 50% THC : 50% CBD ratio) for chronic pain must have seemed like another no-brainer since so many pain patients report benefits from herbal cannabis, so why were the results unconvincing? The problem could well have been that CBD blocks the action of THC, so with enough CBD the benefits of THC are almost completely nullified. Its like trying to ride a bike with the handbrake on... not much happens!
 

Using Sativex for chronic pain (which apparently requires a lot of THC's effect to treat) could therefore be too much blocker (CBD's effect) and not enough pain killer (Ie, THC's effect). If that is the case, no wonder the clinical trial didn't show efficacy. Another possibility is that particular terpene profiles treat pain better than others, for example high levels of the analgesic Myrcene which only occur in indica strains. Those terpenes may not be significantly present in Sativex as it is apparently is made from a mixture of extracts of a hemp strain (for CBD) and a sativa strain (for THC), and not from an indica strain.
 

Similarly, trialing CBD alone for Schizophrenia may yet be a promising direction, but CBD-rich strains are not commonly available to the illegally self-medicating public (or the illegal recreational market) in most of the world, yet many with the condition nonetheless self-medicate with cannabis. So the anecdotal evidence once again points to THC as being a tremendously effective medicine, while CBD has only shown moderately promising results for treatment of Schizophrenia in research labs.

It is allegedly possible that high-THC, low CBD products may exacerbate psychotic symptoms, but that should be established in a lab rather than through speculation. Maybe a 50%:50% ratio is as much THC-effect as Schizophrenics can handle without suffering adverse effects, or maybe not. Whatever those limits may be, they need to be explored clinically in order to provide sufferers with the best possible treatments.
 

GW's hit-and-miss approach is therefore potentially wasting a lot of time while patients are suffering, and their investors may be wondering if they bet on a company that pushes an expensive range of snake oils.
 

Wouldn't it be more efficient for GW to trial a range of cannabinoid profiles for each symptom or condition they hope to treat with their medicines? Maybe they should be trialing:
 

* 100% THC
* CBD and THC combined in various ratios, eg,
- 75% THC : 25% CBD
- 50% THC : 50% CBD (Ie, Sativex)
- 25% THC : 75% CBD, and
* 100% CBD (Ie, Epidiolex).
 

The therapeutic actions of the various terpenes in cannabis (which modulate the effects of THC) no doubt also play a role in treating many conditions, and should be thoroughly explored in order to fine-tune treatment.
 

That approach would cover a lot of uncharted scientific ground very quickly, as opposed to the "two steps forward, one step back" of their current research strategy.
 

Clinical trials such as these are the studies that doctors use to decide whether to prescribe cannabis products including flowers, extracts, infusions, tinctures (like Sativex), etc to patients, and they are also what legislators around the world use to determine who should get access, so its important that they be comprehensive (or at least that their limitations are noted as areas requiring further investigation).


Come on GW... its not rocket science! Its just a plant after all.

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Study finds no link between teen marijuana use and poor later-life health

Study finds no link between teen marijuana use and poor later-life health | Cannabis Comments | Scoop.it
A study has revealed there is no link between teenage marijuana use and the development of physical and mental health problems later in life.
Adrian Columb's insight:

A long-term study at the University of Pittsburgh titled "Chronic Adolescent Marijuana Use as a Risk Factor for Physical and Mental Health Problems in Young Adult Men" monitored 14 year old males through to age 36. Based on some prior studies they expected to find a link between teen marijuana use and the later development of psychotic symptoms (delusions, hallucinations, etc.), cancer, asthma or respiratory problems, but they found none. The study also found no link between teen marijuana use and lifetime depression, anxiety, allergies, headaches or high blood pressure.
 

Lead researcher Jordan Bechtold PhD said “there were no differences in any of the mental or physical health outcomes that we measured regardless of the amount or frequency of marijuana used during adolescence,” adding that while "it’s a very complicated issue and one study should not be taken in isolation” he believes this work will "inform the debate about legalization of marijuana." Of that there is no doubt.
 

The world's leaders have long touted the fact that there are no long-term safety studies of cannabis as a reason not to allow its use, but now we have some evidence that cannabis is safe for long-term use. Its particularly great that the target demographic was teen males as the supposed damage to the developing brain is also often bandied about as justification for the drug war, and this study shows that such damage is merely a figment of our collective imagination.
 

Hopefully our leaders will start to listen to reason as more and more insurmountable evidence stacks up to show that cannabis is as safe as substances like tea or coffee, and is far safer than the alcohol and tobacco they peddle on every corner.

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Cannabis cultivation trial set for Victoria

Cannabis cultivation trial set for Victoria | Cannabis Comments | Scoop.it
The looming decision, which is likely to be controversial, follows high profile campaigns by several Victorian families using cannabis oil to treat chronically ill children, often in cases where legal medicines have not worked.
Adrian Columb's insight:

The Melbourne Age ran this front page exclusive today outlining the Victorian state Government's soon to be announced plan to allow licensed growers to produce medicinal cannabis to be supplied to patients under exceptional circumstances. The system they propose is seemingly based on the new Canadian model for licensed production where large-scale players with multi-million-dollar secure growing facilities supply the nation's needs. Its assumably also somewhat based on the Dutch model of distribution through pharmacies, as that is how we control the supply of "medicines." 

Its brilliant that its front page news as it shows the seriousness of the matter in the eye's of the voting public, however the legalisation of a completely benign yet promising herbal medicine probably only deserves to be on page ten at best. The story states "Victoria does not have the power to allow cannabis to be imported. Although the secretary of the federal health department can make exceptions, the approval process for imports is seen as so strict, the commission does not believe the government could guarantee supply or quality on a long-term basis."

This frames the situation so that the Victorian Government's proposed program (based on recommendations from the recent Victorian Law Reform Commission enquiry) is designed to prevent a proportion of the potentially very large tax and other revenues from ending up in the Commonwealth coffers, diverting it to the state government coffers instead. 

Their first move therefore had to be a show of no confidence in the federal government's ability to come through with the goods, but at this stage I agree that the federal situation is nowhere near settled, and Premier Andrews cant afford to stand around waiting while the regulator is set up. He made an election promise to provide medicinal cannabis urgently, and he darn sure needs to follow through if he wants a chance at a second term.

So this first recommendation makes sense as it opens the door (by compassionate necessity) for a Victoria-based licensed production industry (ie, like there is for opium poppies).

The story goes on to say that "In an earlier discussion paper, the commission canvassed what it called "state controlled cultivation", where the Victorian government would be directly responsible for growing cannabis for medicinal purposes, giving it the greatest control..." The VLRC has clearly shifted from the concept of the state government growing and selling exclusively to the concept of licensed producers where they just oversee it and take the tax. 

This shift may have come in response to the prospect of absolute public outrage among those already growing medicines who could not then legitimise their operations, and that other potential entrepreneurs could not enter the market. Another possible reason for this change of stance may have come from assessment of the costs and work involved in setting up a government monopoly industry which would require contracting growers, security, support staff, etc and setting up a massive grow operation, which is not within their field of expertise and would be a giant hassle for them to get their heads around and fund.

Also, if they license producers and there's a massive diversion to the black market they can just revoke licenses from the growers and throw the book at them for the breach, rather than have the book thrown at the government (as they would be to blame for any breaches if they were running it all directly). 

Whatever the reasons for their change of heart, the VLRC issues paper issued some months ago indicated that the government will strive to limit production so it closely matches demand, so that no large surpluses exist that could be diverted to the illicit market and that is no doubt still of significant concern. The potential danger here is that if the bar is set too high in terms of licensing requirements and other costs and/or if too few licenses are issued to cover the number of people who want to grow for the medical market, then growers and patients will just continue to operate in the black market, circumventing the government scheme completely.

The Age story continues "The looming decision, which is likely to be controversial, follows high profile campaigns by several Victorian families using cannabis oil to treat chronically ill children, often in cases where legal medicines have not worked." This says to me, "we want it to be perceived as controversial even if 80% of the public agree it should be available. We want to maintain the status quo of the general prohibition so we can keep the public scared of drugs in general in order to be able to govern them effectively. No one should know that cannabis is completely safe while we can still win elections off its prohibition. The game is not up yet!"

Its interesting they mention the Pallets (a couple who ran a compassion club but are now up on trafficking charges despite the Premier's commitment to providing the best medical care to patients). In fact Dr. Ian Freckelton (head of the VLRC enquiry) told a patient who presented alongside him at the Melbourne Medicinal Cannabis Symposium earlier this year to "keep going" with treating her child using cannabis, so it seems bizarre that the cops are still actively reducing supply.

Maybe the police didn't get the memo or maybe arresting the Pallets was a warning shot over the heads of the other current medicinal producers so they will keep their heads down, and to curb their enthusiasm about continuing their operations under the upcoming legal medical cannabis scheme... "don't worry about continuing your life's work, [there's a lot of money in it so] the government will take over from here, thanks".

Maybe the Pallets have been made an example of by the cops because the police are feeling threatened by the oncoming changes and wanted to stifle any opposition to their reign of terror on patients and everyone else alike. Its almost too coincidental that the Pallets stuck their necks out by speaking about their compassion club publicly at the VLRC hearing and then got raided a few weeks later. Or maybe the cops were at the hearing just looking for some low hanging fruit... one last feast before the banquet could be taken from them.

Whatever the case, I suspect that Premier Andrews' government might be a bit dismayed it has happened, and may wish the cops hadn't flexed their muscles in that way as its seemingly contrary to his election promises and his commitment that noone should have to choose between effective medical treatment and breaking the law.


The news article also states that "Concerns have also emerged about the quality of illegally-sourced medical cannabis oil. The Age reported last year that forensic testing of medical marijuana revealed dramatic variations in the contents of the product, which is often spruiked over the internet by unregulated producers who make bold claims about the benefits." This says to me that the government needs to publicise reasons why patients cant grow it themselves or buy it from a compassion club, in order to justify tight control over the system.

The journalist is right that products vary widely, but that issue can be easily solved by implementing laws that require mandatory safety and potency testing in combination with comprehensive labeling (rather than just licensing a handful of mega-growers who can produce standardised products). Maybe they mean that standardisation is necessary for products to be used medically (or maybe they haven't worked out that that is where the Federal bill is heading). With any luck the Victorian government will accept that through potency and safety testing all cannabis products can be safely prescribed it terms of milligrams of THC, CBD, CBN, etc as doctors require.

In general this announcement is good news for patients, as they should soon have medicines that can treat their illnesses. Having licensed farmers isn't a terrible situation if the bar is set low enough to allow legitimisation of existing compassionate growing operations. If it is set so high that only large growing operations are possible such as could be launched by companies like Phytotech, Auscann, Bedrocan (or the other fourteen Canadian producers) then many people who believe in the cottage industry's role will be up in arms and demanding new, fairer rules (and breaking the laws in their absence).

Remember though, in order to fulfill his promise Premier Andrews just needs to provide medicinal cannabis to patients and families who need it. He may not care too much about the future of a group of renegade compassionate growers who broke the ground that's now allowing him to turn an illicit cottage industry into a large-scale licit industry that these small players probably can't afford to be part of.

Within a couple of weeks the government will show us the details of their plan, and the real struggle for achieving a fair deal where all stake-holders' needs are met can begin.

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Cannabis for Treating Psychiatric Problems? A Clear Yes, Maybe. - Mad In America

Cannabis for Treating Psychiatric Problems? A Clear Yes, Maybe. - Mad In America | Cannabis Comments | Scoop.it
Marijuana is now legal in two states, and legal for medical use in 23 states and the District of Columbia. Polls show the majority of Americans support cannabis legalization, and more and more of the country is joining the legalization trend. As a counselor working with people diagnosed with psychosis and mental illness I am often asked about my opinion and clinical experience — as well as my personal experience — with medical cannabis.
Adrian Columb's insight:

There is a lot of stigma surrounding psychiatric conditions, most of which is designed to enshrine the profession of psychiatry (and its pharmaceutical industry sponsors) in their role as exclusive keepers of the inner mind, the rest of which is based on perpetuated ignorance in society. In purely scientific terms, psychiatric conditions are usually described as being based on neuro-chemical imbalances. Psychiatric medications are therefore usually designed to up-regulate down-regulated receptors (or vice versa) in particular parts of the brain that have been shown to influence specific mental functions.
 

For example, anti-depressants (SSRIs, etc) create happiness where there was depression by enhancing serotonin levels, anti-psychotic meds create calmness where there was mania by reducing dopamine levels, anti-epileptic medicines create stillness out of spasms by slowing down the speed of neurotransmission, and psycho-stimulants (eg, Ritalin, dexamphetamine, etc) create focus where there was inattention or hyperactivity by enhancing dopamine levels.
 

There is a degree of common-sense to the practice of psychiatric prescribing that helps doctors to avoid potentially devastating mistakes that can put patients at risk. For example, doctors don't usually prescribe an antidepressant to someone who is manic (because the patient could become hyper-maniac, ie, psychotic).
 

Similarly, they wouldn't usually prescribe a psycho-stimulant for someone who is borderline-psychotic (because they may become completely psychotic and this could lead to further unnecessary diagnoses), and so forth. Its a bit hit and miss, but by this principle they try to avoid pushing patients in the wrong direction neuro-chemically-speaking. Its not rocket-science... it just makes makes sense.


On the surface, hacking our internal systems in this way seems logical, and the results for patients can be life-changing, but the side-effects can also be devastating. This is why weighing the risk/benefit analysis as to whether use, or discontinue use of such powerful tools is a terribly difficult decision for many patients, particularly when there is seemingly no other option but to use the medicines or live with unwanted symptoms of mental conditions.
 

For example, when taking SSRI medicines, people with depression can gain weight at a startling rate which (particularly for those who already have body-image issues) can serve to compound their depression, so these patients are taking a med that perpetuates the need for its use, and thus many patients never get well. Anti-psychotic meds have the potential to zombify patients, robbing them of their personalities, the very tool they need to exist harmoniously in society.
 

So too, Epilepsy medicines can (among many unwanted side effects) cause severe constant nausea and can in fact cause convulsions. ADHD meds can cause insomnia, lack of appetite, anxiety, mood-swings, psychosis, etc. Many psychiatric meds are also strongly addictive and most also have the potential to induce suicidal thoughts (and in turn, suicides).
 

This situation begs the question why hack the system and suffer such unwanted side-effects, when a perfectly good user interface already exists in cannabis, which has an almost benign side effects profile? Just as the countless psychiatric medicines are designed for many particular purposes and each has list of potential side-effects, cannabis has infinite possible variations in its medical effects and potential side effects.
 

The effects and side-effects depend largely on the strain of each sample and the methods used for its processing, preparation and consumption. Therefore the exact same principle to not push patients in the wrong direction neuro-chemically can be applied to cannabis.


For example, products from indica or indica-dominant strain plants are sedative so can be useful for those who need to rest (eg, those battling cancer), but for others who wish to remain functional are not usually appropriate medicines (except for inducing sleep at night time).
 

Similarly, pure sativa or sativa-dominant strain-based products are useful as stimulants for helping ADHD sufferers to focus, but for those with non-ADHD brains can cause (albeit usually temporarily) hyperactivity, anxiety or even mania.
 

High CBD strains (either hemp, hemp/sativa or hemp/indica hybrids) can significantly reduce or eliminate siezures in epileptic patients however for ADHD (inattentive sub-type) sufferers they can interfere with concentration so are not usually appropriate (though these can be useful for ADHD and hyperactive and combined sub-types). And so forth.
 

Thus, each cannabis "product" (be it cured and curated flowers, whole-plant extract, Co2 oil, wax, shatter, edible, tincture, suppository, or some other variation) has its own benefits, risks and appropriate uses just like the pharmaceutical products. In a perfect world each cannabis strain and its derivative products would come with the same warning of most modern pharmaceutical drugs... "take only as directed".
 

The problem is that the clinical data that doctors rely on to guide their directions largely doesn't exist yet for cannabis (due to a decades-long stifling global moratorium on research that is only now beginning to be lifted), so we need to rely on our common sense and human tribal lore on the subject.
 

For centuries, and particularly the last 50 years or so humans have been experimenting with cannabis to see what works for which ailments, so we already know the basics as they relate to mental health. Since there is no overdose potential, a lot of ground has been covered already by those seeking to heal themselves.
 

We are aware that high-THC products can send some patients into psychosis, so those predisposed (eg, the manic) should avoid such products. We know that high-CBD or indica products can cause drowsiness for most patients and lack of mental focus for other patient groups. Hybrids of the different species provide effects somewhere in-between the profiles of their parents, while concentrates and extracts will usually provide amplified effects similar to those of the flowers they were made from. The rest is just fine-tuning.
 

Cannabis isn't for everyone who suffers from a psychiatric condition but it does a darn good job of accommodating most patients' mental health needs. In the end it comes down to prescription based on assessment of the potential risks and benefits of each medicine as they relate to each patient's particular circumstances, and based on what is known about the available products, their potency and constituent active and inactive ingredients (in this case cannabinoids and terpenes). It has a name... its called practicing medicine!

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Neville happy at cannabis report

Neville happy at cannabis report | Cannabis Comments | Scoop.it
FORMER Member for Hinkler Paul Neville is delighted a Senate committee has thrown its weight behind the legalisation of medicinal cannabis.
Adrian Columb's insight:

As Chairman of the Australian Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee Senator Ian Macdonald told the media recently, "there are a number of technical and jurisdictional issues that need consideration before the [Regulator of Medicinal Cannabis] Bill can proceed through the Senate."

In particular, the Committee's Recommendation 4 deserves analysis, as it shows the path Australia has agreed to follow under the United Nations' guidelines. It states that "The committee recommends that the Bill is amended to ensure that medicinal cannabis products can be made available in Australia consistent with Australia's international obligations, including under Articles 23 and 28 of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (1961)."


So what are these requirements? The Single Convention places the same restrictions on cannabis cultivation that it does on opium cultivation. Article 23 and Article 28 require each Party to establish a government agency to control cultivation. Cultivators must deliver their total crop to the agency, which must purchase and take physical possession of them within four months after the end of harvest. The agency then has the exclusive right of "importing, exporting, wholesale trading and maintaining stocks other than those held by manufacturers."
 

If Australia is to comply with the letter of the Single Convention then home-grow and carer-grown products are probably not going to be possible, unless of course if all crops were delivered to the regulator for distribution. Countries such as Israel and The Netherlands have managed to comply with the requirement of having a central government-controlled distribution center, but do countries actually need to comply?
 

An example of non-compliance is seemingly obvious in Health Canada's new system of 15 licensed producers which post products directly to patients which is at odds with this requirement, so clearly there is some room for flexibility in the interpretation and implementation of this rule. In fact, Canada's former long-standing system of a single government-licensed producer in combination with much-favoured home-grown and carer-grown products was also in violation of the Single Convention, as personal and carer growers were similarly not required to sell their crops to the government for distribution.
 

Health Canada's original program of one licensed producer was discontinued due to low uptake and lack of satisfaction among patients, mostly due to high product cost (particularly in comparison to home-grown/carer-grown products), lack of face-to-face customer support, unsatisfactory quality and a lack of a variety of strains to meet varying medical needs (particularly in comparison to the services of illegal compassion clubs).
 

These are all issues that the proposed Australian Regulator of Medicinal Cannabis will need to overcome in order to keep patients from returning to their black market suppliers, and which may not be compatible with the UN Single Convention's outdated doctrine on the topic.
 

And lets suppose for a moment the new Regulator manages to provide satisfactory quality, variety and affordability to patients... will that be enough to deter challenges to the law in the courts by patients and carers seeking the right to grow their own medicines?
 

Canada's courts (which offer precedent cases for Australia's British legal system) have recently upheld an injunction against Health Canada, allowing patients to continue to grow their own medicines because the 3 judge panel unanimously agreed that some medical marijuana users would be caused ‘irreparable harm’ by not having the right to grow their own medical marijuana.
 

A German court has also recently granted three patients the right to grow because of such issues (denying two others because their proposed growing premises were not secure enough). No doubt this battle could be fought and won in Australia's courts as well.
 

The other alternative of course is that the UN Single Convention be changed to allow countries to exercise more discretion and to make their own rules regarding medicinal cannabis production and distribution.
 

The Single Convention will be under review at the UN's 2016 United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Drugs. The argument for regulation of all drug use being led by Sir Richard Branson and a swathe of current and former leaders of many countries who acknowledge its failure to meet its stated objective "to improve humankind’s health and well-being,” and the argument for improved to medical access to cannabis being led by a group of patient-representative organisations from around the world (including the U.S. based Safe Access Now).
 

But that is in the future, and Australia needs to act now. Hopefully sense will prevail over robotic adherence to the outdated, outmoded and soon to be re-assessed international laws implemented by the ignorant fools and hypocrites who were leading the U.N. over half a century ago (as has clearly happened in Canada).
 

Patients and carers deserve the right to grow their own medicines and if the law doesn't allow it then many will simply break the law and tell the judge it was a medicinal crop on court day. Surely the courts and legal profession have better things to do than harass the sick and dying about where their medicines come from.
 

Australia's leaders need to find the courage to do the right thing by patients and refute the Single Convention's inhumane requirements rather than take the politically safer option of monopolising production and supply of the medicine as the U.N. dictates.

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Cannabis Bill ‘has majority support’

Cannabis Bill ‘has majority support’ | Cannabis Comments | Scoop.it

A bill to allow medicinal cannabis crops to be grown commercially in Australia is likely to pass federal Parliament this year, Liberal Senator Ian Macdonald says.

Adrian Columb's insight:

Recommendation 2 issued by the Australian Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee regarding changes to the proposed federal Regulator of Medicinal Cannabis Bill before it should be passed states that "The committee recommends that the Bill is amended, if necessary, to establish mechanisms by which scientific evidence about medicinal cannabis products can be assessed to determine their suitability for use in the treatment of particular medical conditions."
 

This suggests that a scientific rather than dogmatic approach will be used to assess which patients should be given which medicines, and would be a great leap forward for Australia. It is therefore disheartening that one of the co-sponsors of the proposed bill Liberal Senator Ian Macdonald has apparently told the Herald Sun newspaper that the Regulator would specify cultiv­ars bred to produce high levels of beneficial cannabinoids and negligible levels of the drug Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Surely we are beyond that point by now. THC is clearly the main medicine in cannabis according to most of the conclusive research currently available, and its what many Australians are already using to heal themselves and/or reduce their suffering. CBD clearly plays a role for some patients (Eg, epileptics) however its definitely not the answer for most patients. If it was we'd be talking about a medicinal hemp program not one for cannabis overall.
 

Nonetheless, the goal of setting up a new regulator separate from the TGA is to take these decisions out of the hands of politicians and health department cronies. The idea is to let a panel of our expert researchers and physicians decide which cannabinoids should be used for which conditions in collaboration with at least one patient representative.
 

Maybe Senator Macdonald hasn't read the fine-print of the Bill, but as he's not directly quoted on this point by the Herald Sun, maybe the journalist or their editor(s) got it wrong or made it up and should print a retraction to clear up any misconceptions.

If the worst should happen and the federal scheme is limited to just low-THC products then the black market will continue to grow and thrive as demand for products containing the primary medicinal cannabinoid, THC, continues to skyrocket. Surely a core goal of the scheme must be to reduce the need for patients to rely on the black market, not necessitate it.

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UBC's Cannabis Access Regulations Study looks at Canada's medical marijuana rules

UBC's Cannabis Access Regulations Study looks at Canada's medical marijuana rules | Cannabis Comments | Scoop.it
New research out of UBC is examining how regulations and red tape are affecting patients who have come to rely on the plant’s therapeutic benefits.
Adrian Columb's insight:

Canada's medicinal marijuana program is in a state of flux, with a court injunction upholding the right to grow cannabis for some patients while others are forced to buy their medicine from a handful of growers licensed by Health Canada. Many others access it through Compassion Clubs which operate in a "gray area of the law" but are technically illegal, a situation which can potentially land patients in legal strife. 

A new study at the University of British Columbia will soon report findings about what kind of changes related to access patients have seen, who is getting access through legal programs and who isn’t and why, whether services offered under legal programs are meeting patients’ needs, and are they able to access medical marijuana in a timely manner. It will also consider whether,patients are able to afford their medicine from different sources, how they feel about the quality and nature of services of different sources, and overall does the system provide “reasonable access” as it sets out to. 

These are all challenges that other countries will need to address in developing their own medicinal cannabis access schemes and a lot can be learned from the successes and failures in Canada, so this report should provide important insight for legislators everywhere. As researcher conducting the study Rielle Capler says “Ideally, people wouldn’t have to go outside the law to get their needs met.…Maybe this information will support that goal.”

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Could a regulated cannabis market help curb Australia's drinking problem?

Could a regulated cannabis market help curb Australia's drinking problem? | Cannabis Comments | Scoop.it

Seven out eight Australians aged 14 and over have had a drink in the last 12 months, 20% drank enough (more than 14 drinks per week) to put their long-term health at risk, and 28% drank heavily enough on an occasion to be at risk of injury (5 or more drinks at least once a month). No-one can convincingly contest that, in Australian society, the problems from alcohol are much greater than the problems from cannabis.

Adrian Columb's insight:

The intrinsic harmfulness of alcohol in terms of health problems, casualties and social harms is more than three times that of cannabis. In a 2010 study published in The Lancet, expert ratings of the harmfulness of 20 psychoactive substances on 16 different criteria, including harm to others as well to as to the substance user gave alcohol the highest score (72 out of 100). Cannabis scored 20.

Alcohol is not only legal, but easily and cheaply available and heavily promoted, yet enormous police and emergency resources are devoted to alcohol-related problems. Meanwhile the social harms attributable to cannabis use are negligible, yet enormous resources are channeled into enforcing its prohibition. Politicians (and the police who serve them) have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo, as their ability to win elections by being "tough on drugs" is dependent on the drug-naive segments of the public remaining terrified of illicit drugs and those who use them.

Isn't it time we look at drugs like alcohol and cannabis in terms of their individual potential for harm, instead of being blinded by hysterical rhetoric from desperate politicians? Its clear that cannabis should be legal for adult use and that alcohol should be more tightly controlled. When will our leaders do what is right for the people?

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$9m medical cannabis trial to kick off in the Hunter

$9m medical cannabis trial to kick off in the Hunter | Cannabis Comments | Scoop.it
PHOTOS: THIRTY Hunter residents will be the first Australians to take part in clinical trials on the effects of cannabis for terminally ill patients.
Adrian Columb's insight:

NSW Premier Mike Baird's first clinical trial of cannabis (both vaporised herbs and a pharmaceutical) for chemotherapy related symptoms in the terminally ill has begun in Newcastle with an experimental trial in a small subject group that will lead to a full clinical trial. Its fantastic that they are testing herbs, but patient reports indicate that the most medical value is in whole plant extracts so that is actually what they should be testing. They will also need to have an understanding of the different strains of cannabis, their unique constituent cannabinoid profiles and terpene profiles (which modulate the effects of the cannabinoids), and their effects in different ratios.


To produce research-grade cannabis (which is standardized during growing so that each dose delivers the same amount of each medicine within a medically acceptable margin of error) with the various profiles that many patients are already using to treat themselves will take years, however many of the most common prescriptions are already available in the five products made by Bedrocan in the Netherlands. These range from a low THC:high CBD hemp strain, a hemp strain crossed with a sativa strain that contains THC and CBD in almost equal measures, an indica strain with high THC and sedatory terpenes to encourage rest, through to two high THC sativa strains of different potency and terpine profiles. For research purposes each of their strains is also available as a whole plant "oil" extracted with ethanol and each also has a placebo which has the same terpene profiles but none of the cannabinoids. Why not use these tools? Why re-invent the wheel?


When the researchers discover which profiles work best for which symptoms they can then breed plants with similar profiles locally, eg under license from Bedrocan until they manage to breed plants with the profiles tested (also within a medically acceptable margin of error). Cannabis has a myraid of different medicinal effects depending on the potency and proportion of each cannabinoid and terpene in relation to each other, so its just not good enough to trial one strain of cannabis and say you have given it due diligence! Similarly its not good enough to trial just Sativex (CBD and THC in an almost 1:1 ratio) and say you've tested the pharmaceutical options as THC alone is often much more effective and is available as Dronabinol in some countries).
 

The NSW government cannot hope to produce meaningful results to best treat patients unless its clinical studies are based on an understanding of the huge potential variations in the medical effect of different strains of flowers and products derived from them including extracts, as well as the different pharmaceutical options, and the ways that people are already using these products to treat themselves.

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