Former Prohibitionist Congressman Introduces Bill for Medical Marijuana Research

Former Prohibitionist Congressman Introduces Bill for Medical Marijuana Research
In a move that can only be described as stunning, former Republican marijuana prohibitionist, Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah introduced a bill in Congress which would encourage far greater research into the medical benefits of cannabis. On September 13, 2017, Sen. Hatch stood before his peers and delivered an impassioned speech about how cannabis has already demonstrated some very profound healing properties, as well as the ability to improve quality of life for people suffering from various kinds of chronic pain.

An abrupt philosophical change

In his words, “The federal government strains to enforce regulations that sometimes do more harm than good. To be blunt, we need to remove the administrative barriers preventing legitimate research into medical marijuana, which is why I’ve decided to roll out the MEDS Act.” So what is responsible for this seeming about-face in Sen. Hatch’s philosophy? Apparently, the plight of a close friend figured strongly into his thinking, and even though he still opposes recreational use, his thinking about medical marijuana has indeed been drastically altered.

Sen. Hatch has an unnamed friend who had been forced to ingest nearly 20 pills a day to manage pain, and some of these were fairly powerful opioids. After trying medical cannabis, this friend was able to discard all the pills, including the opioids, and rely solely on the medical cannabis for full relief. Right before his own eyes, Hatch witnessed the near-miraculous effects of pain relief, as well as the extremely effective substitution of cannabis for opioids.

What’s included in the MEDS Act 

This is no lightweight, half-hearted bill introduced by Sen. Hatch – these are the highlights of the features included in the bill:

  • Requires the Attorney General to increase the national marijuana quota as soon as is practicable, in order to meet the changing medical needs of our society
  • Requires the National Institute on Drug Abuse to put forth ‘best practices’ recommendations for the growing and overall production of marijuana, with the expectation that crops would be then used for medical research
  • Make marijuana much more accessible for groups involved with legitimate research into medical marijuana, and for the production of marijuana derivative drugs which have FDA approval
  • Encourage more medical research into the uses of marijuana, specifically by streamlining the registration process and removing barriers to research. This would not be dependent on having marijuana re-classified from its current Schedule I status as a ‘dangerous drug’.
  • Prevent the Department of Health and Human Services from instituting any new requirements or protocols which would tend to inhibit research into the usage of medical marijuana.

Impact of the speech and the bill

The impact of Sen. Hatch’s bill could be far-reaching indeed. If passed, sorely needed research into medical marijuana should proceed at a much faster and less inhibited pace. It would also represent a concession by the federal government that medical cannabis can be an effective tool for many health conditions, and for fighting the opioid crisis. Lastly, it will be seen as one stark example of the changing attitude in our society over the unjust stigma formerly attached to the amazing cannabis plant.


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Does Cannabis Affect Memory?

Most of us have seen movies which depict cannabis users as delightfully scatterbrained, and afflicted with a euphoric detachment from reality, accompanied by any number of humorous side effects, one of which is complete loss of memory. But does cannabis really have any effect on short-term memory, or is that something just written into movie scripts to generate laughs?

It should be acknowledged at the outset, that this is a very difficult area to measure accurately, because there are different types of memory, e.g. short-term memory and long-term memory. It also should be noted that the effects cannabis can have on memory are largely determined by which strain of cannabis is in question, how often it’s used, and what dosage is consumed.

Short-term effects

While it should be acknowledged that available information on this subject comes from limited studies, there does seem to be certain facts which consistently emerge, relative to the connection between cannabis usage and its effect on memory.

  • Formation of new memories– studies suggest that cannabis users do not form new memories as readily as during periods of non-usage
  • No blackouts– cannabis users do not experience the memory blackouts that binge drinkers do, when they simply cannot recall specific details of things that happened while they were under the influence
  • Recall difficulty– it appears there is some difficulty in remembering events and situations which occurred during periods of usage, and even for several hours afterward, until the effects wear off
  • Development of tolerance– frequent users of cannabis generally develop a tolerance to any memory impairment effects, so that the impact is less and less over time
  • Temporary effects– in all known studies on the subject, it was clear that any impact on memory was temporary in nature, and involved no long-term impairment


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Long-term effects

In one of the few studies conducted on long-term effects of cannabis usage, Professor Reto Auer from the University of Lausanne in Switzerland surveyed over 3,000 Americans over a period of 25 years.

Specifically testing for verbal recall, his results showed that cannabis users who smoked every day during that time were able to recall 8.5 out of 15 words. The control group, consisting of individuals who either smoked very little or not at all, could recall nine out of 15 words at each point during the testing.

Positive cannabis effect on memory?

One of the most interesting aspects in the study of cannabis effects on memory, is that it might actually help to protect rather than degrade memory.

Several studies have demonstrated that high levels of cannabidiol (CBD), which is the non-psychoactive cannabis component, may actually impart a therapeutic benefit. This can serve to prevent cognitive degradation.

CBD protects against damage caused by alcohol

Research in its early stages points at the fact that CBD seems to protect against damage caused to the brain by alcohol abuse.

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has reported findings that CBD is able to prevent brain cell destruction due to alcohol abuse, by as much as 60%. Related studies suggest that CBD also acts as a neuro-protectant, and serves to prevent the onset of many diseases which affect the brain such as dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.

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Amazing Dietary Benefits of Cannabis

In the view of Dietitian Jessica Aragona, the next best thing might be the most nutritious plant ever discovered by humanity with some amazing dietary benefits of cannabis. That’s undoubtedly saying a lot of course, but there is some strong evidence to back up the notion that cannabis has some powerful nutritional advantages.

For instance, it is a terrific source of protein, it’s very easy to digest, and it’s rich in Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, which are known to provide numerous health benefits.

For those who follow a vegan lifestyle, cannabis is also dairy-free, gluten-free, and 100% vegan, so it can fit right in with that lifestyle.

Raw dietary benefits of cannabis

Raw cannabis is not psychoactive unless it is first heated, but it still contains two very powerful compounds which are disease-fighting dynamos; cannabidiol (CBD), and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

When these two are ingested like any other vegetable (for example mixed in with a salad, blended into a smoothie, or juiced into a liquid) they produce some tremendous health benefits to the consumer.

Dr. William Courtney is credited with being a prime move in the ‘Raw Greens’ movement, and helped to reveal many of these benefits by devising a method for raw cannabis juicing.

In one of his best-known cases, a woman named Kristen Petuski-Courtney experienced an astounding return to good health after suffering through years of chronic illnesses which left her virtually debilitated. All medical treatments had failed her for years until she was introduced to raw cannabis juicing – and her miraculous recovery began.

The woman in this case is far from an isolated success however. As Dr. Courtney himself says, “Whether Sativa, Indica, Ruderalis, male, female, hermaphrodite, native, feral, bred for fiber, seeds or medicinal resin, cannabis is the best source for beneficial cannabinoids. Over 50 patients have used only cannabinoids to put their cancer in remission, and over 150 have found symptomatic relief.”

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Medical conclusions

Dr. Courtney’s medical conclusions about the benefits which accrue from ingesting raw cannabis are startling, and may hold the promise of medical breakthroughs in the future.

He has found that ingesting cannabis raw is far more effective than smoking it, because the properties of cannabinoids are degraded through heating, and lose their therapeutic effectiveness.

Raw cannabis however, triggers activation in the brain’s own cannabinoid system, and that results in the release of antioxidants in the body. As most people are aware, antioxidants serve as cleaners in the body, and cause the removal of many kinds of damaged body cells. This in turn, increases the efficiency of all other cells in the body, which are no longer burdened by weakened or damaged cells.

While smoking cannabis does treat the symptoms of many pains and illnesses, raw consumption seems to be far superior in terms of providing a healthy and therapeutic boost to the body’s systems, and possibly curing the causes of those problems.

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Cannabis and Exercise: A Surprising Relationship

You might think that there’s no relationship between cannabis and exercise, since the two are rarely mentioned in the same sentence.

Medical marijuana to treat chronic pain, overcome appetite loss, and relieve anxiety, while recreational marijuana is generally consumed in the context of relaxation and entertainment.

So how does cannabis affect the body when you engage in strenuous exercise?

Reactivation of THC

Most people are aware that the main active ingredient in cannabis (THC), is stored by the human body in fat cells.

Research has shown that ingested THC can actually be reactivated and consumed by the body for nearly a month after ingested.

As a person engages in strenuous exercise, the body begins to burn off fat and small amounts of THC are released back into the bloodstream. Naturally enough, this has a similar effect to ingesting a small amount of cannabis.

Tests demonstrated clearly that THC levels in the bloodstream increase by as much as 15% directly after exercise, although two hours later, all of that increase had disappeared.

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Stimulation through physical exercise

Physical exercise has always been a great way to combat illnesses and strengthen the muscles of the body, including the heart. It also has the desirable side effects of decreasing anxiety and helping to manage stress.

Scientific research has confirmed that during at least moderate exercise, the endocannabinoid system of the body is activated in much the same way as it is when consuming cannabis.

The endocannabinoid system is associated with managing appetite, easing pain, and influencing memory and mood in a person.

It’s thought by scientists that cannabinoids are produced by the body to manage the discomfort produced by exercise. When this information is coupled with consumption, it becomes clear that there is a double effect to the body’s own cannabinoids with those previously ingested and stored in fat cells.

Cannabis and insulin levels

The American Journal of Medicine (AJM) recently published a study that shows cannabis users routinely have around 16% less insulin stored in their bloodstream before eating, than non-consumers. That same study also discovered that consumers generally had smaller waistlines than non-consumers, and that their insulin resistance levels were 17% lower.

Insulin is the hormone that helps manage glucose in the bloodstream, and if it isn’t present in the right amounts, it can cause obesity, as well as a slew of other problems.

The AJM study found a clear correlation between cannabis and exercise and more efficient metabolic function. So it would seem that cannabis consumption partners pretty well with exercise, rather than inhibiting it as many people might think.

How Cannabis Interacts with Drugs

Almost all chemical compounds interact in some way with other compounds.

Caffeine for instance, is known to interact with at least 82 drugs, roughly 25 of which are currently classified as at least moderately severe interactions. In the case of how cannabis interacts with drugs, almost all of these have been classified as relatively mild, and as a matter of fact, in many cases some of these drugs seem to work more effectively in conjunction with cannabis.

Cannabis and blood sugar

Some available evidence suggests that insulin resistance is decreased, that the metabolic process is improved, and that blood sugar control is also improved by the ingestion of cannabis. Several studies have found that cannabis users experience a lower rate of diabetes than non-users of cannabis, although it is not known exactly why this is so.

It should also be pointed out that when cannabis is combined with other drugs, it may have the effect of lowering glucose levels too much, which means it’s safest to not use cannabis in tandem with any other drug, when the point is to lower glucose levels.

Cannabis and blood pressure

Cannabis is known to activate both the CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors in the body, and this triggers a response which reduces blood flow in the coronary arteries.

Although reports of adverse effects of combining cannabis with blood pressure medications are extremely rare, it should at least be stated that cannabis may compound the effects of other blood pressure medications, and should therefore be consumed with caution by high blood pressure patients.

Cannabis and heparin

When cannabis is ingested together with heparin or warfarin, both of which are used as blood thinners, the possibility exists that the THC/CBD may enhance the blood thinning effect. By slowing down or reducing the metabolic rate of either of these two drugs, their total impact can be significantly increased.

When blood thinners are made more effective than they should be, there is a corresponding increase in the potential for bleeding in the consumer, since the blood’s normal coagulating process is inhibited.

Cannabis and alcohol

It should be noted at the outset that consuming anything else with alcohol is a bad idea, and mixing it with strong drugs like opioids is an even worse idea. However, since alcohol and cannabis are frequently mixed in recreational settings, many people probably wonder what the legitimate effects are of one upon the other.

Not enough research has been conducted in this area, but preliminary findings suggest that alcohol does increase THC levels in the blood, although there is no evidence to support the idea that THC increases alcohol level in the blood.

However, there are some interesting statistics from limited studies which have found that when the two of these substances are used together, ingesting more cannabis generally causes the consumer to drink less alcohol. The reverse is not true though, since drinking more alcohol seems to also stimulate the desire to consume more cannabis.

In any case, when these two substances are consumed at the same time, the net effect is to degrade the consumer’s sense of awareness more than if either one were consumed alone. From this, it can be inferred that the two should never be consumed together when potentially dangerous activities are to follow, for instance driving a car.

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How to Calculate THC and CBD Levels in Cannabis

THC-structureThere is no standard in the cannabis industry which is used universally to calculate the THC and CBD levels in cannabis or of any cannabis product, and since there is no standard, cannabis growers and testing facilities understandably have many different methods for calculating the THC content.

THC content of course, is a significant point to know about any strain of cannabis

Or any cannabis product, because THC and CBD are the active ingredients in cannabis and cannabis oils which produce the euphoric effects, and provide much of their appeal.

A little bit about THC

Contrary to popular belief, the cannabis plant does not manufacture THC, but instead generates THCA, which is a compound that has no psychoactive properties at all, but which can be converted into THC through a process known as decarboxylation.

Believe it or not, right up to the moment cannabis is lit up in a cigarette, it is still non-psychoactive – but once it gets heated up by a match, a lighter, or a vaporizer, decarboxylation takes place and the THCA gets converted into THC.

That’s why on existing cannabis products, the labels contain information relating to Potency Analysis, and the label lists the percentage content of THC, THCA, and total THC. Typically the THC level is very low – something in the neighborhood of 1% – because the THC will not actually be present in the cannabis until a heat source is applied. Therefore it makes sense that the THCA percentage is much higher, perhaps somewhere around 23%, and then the total THC percentage is usually a figure somewhat less than the THCA percentage.

If that doesn’t sound right, it’s because there’s another element that factors in there, and that relates to THC weighing less than THCA.

Once THCA gets converted into THC, it will represent a lower percentage of the overall contents, simply because it’s lighter than the THCA was in the container’s original condition. It’s also true that some THC will be lost in the decarboxylation process, so that not all THCA gets converted into THC, which is another contributor to the lower-than-expected total THC figure.

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The bottom line

So how can the actual THC content be calculated in any given cannabis strain or related product?

The theoretical maximum amount of THC which is present in any cannabis product can be calculated by a specific formula with a fair degree of accuracy, although it assumes 100% conversion of THCA into THC, and in reality, that will only happen under ideal conditions.

The formula is as follows:

Total Potential THC = (.877 x THCA%) + THC%

So if the original THC was 1% and the original THCA was 23%, the Total THC = (.877 x 23.0) + 1.0 or 21.17%

There are of course, a few caveats to this formula, one of which has already been mentioned above, but it also assumes that the product you have in hand has been accurately labeled by the grower or tester.

It also depends on exactly how the cannabis is consumed, because as the temperature rises to activate the decarboxylation process, above a certain threshold that process breaks down somewhat, and the conversion is less effective and less predictable.

In any case, if you really want to know approximately how much active THC is in the strain of cannabis you’re holding, get out your pencil and paper, and re-live the glory days of high school Math with the formula above.
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Cannabis to treat Insomnia Sufferers

Acute insomnia is a condition which affects almost all people at some point in their lives, and it’s generally triggered by some kind of stress that is encountered during the daytime.

Typically this insomnia occurs sporadically

It is not a persistent condition like chronic insomnia would be. Chronic insomnia affects more than 1 billion people globally, and often occurs three or more times per week for those who are afflicted by it.

In addition, about 50% of all seniors are troubled with insomnia, and in most chronic cases, the cause is associated with a long-term health issue, which explains the persistent nature of the issue.

These causes can be

  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Some forms of cardiovascular disease,

These can interrupt the sleeping patterns regularly of those who suffer from it.

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At least in the case of acute insomnia, the major cause of sleeplessness is attributed to stress, so anything which can be done to relieve stress is a useful treatment option. Exercising more and eating healthy foods are both good ways to help relieve stress, and for those who are so inclined, calming practices like yoga can also banish stress to a certain degree.

Treatment options for chronic insomnia are necessarily a bit more involved, since the cause is generally attributed to some other health condition which requires its own specific program of treatment.

Sleeping pills have not been shown to have the kind of significant impact which a sufferer might expect, in many cases only adding 10 or 15 minutes of sleep per night. Other more powerful medications, for instance Xanax or Valium, can be extremely addictive and are not recommended, except in extreme cases.

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New treatments for insomnia… Cannabis

A growing body of research now supports the fact that cannabis is an effective treatment option for people who suffer from lack of sleep.

The National Institute of Health (NIH) conducted a recent study, and found that people suffering from insomnia who consumed THC (the active ingredient in cannabis), fell asleep much more quickly and more easily than the control group of people who did not ingest THC.

Studies also indicate that subjects sleep longer and better after having consumed THC, with fewer interruptions during the night, and a decrease of awakenings overall.

THC induces longer periods of “Deep Sleep”

Additional studies have also demonstrated that THC induces longer periods of deep sleep among consumers, and this is extremely beneficial, because it is the deep sleep state which plays the most significant role in the body’s natural restorative processes overnight.

Further studies indicate that men and women who suffer from breathing problems such as sleep apnea are often able to breathe much easier as they sleep, after having ingested THC.

Medical research is now discovering what many cannabis consumers have known for years – that it can be a very effective agent for aiding in the sleep state which is deeper and lasts longer.

Can Cannabis Treat Migraine Headaches?

In the past decade, cannabis has been found to be highly effective at providing treatment options for several medical issues. As legalization spreads throughout this country, additional research is almost certain to discover many new ways that cannabis can be used to treat health problems.

It has already been proven extremely effective at reducing stress and anxiety, lowering blood pressure, relieving various types of aches and pain in the body, and has even shown promise in the treatment of some forms of cancer.

All these uses have contributed to the groundswell of support which cannabis has received in many states for medical applications.

To the growing list of possible medical uses, one more may soon be added; for treating migraine headaches. As most people are aware, migraines are severe headaches characterized by blurry vision, increased sensitivity to light, disorientation, nausea, and sometimes even a disruption of coordination.

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Current treatments for migraines

Migraines are currently treated in two ways, in a preventative mode, and after the fact, when a migraine is already in progress.

When one is in process, pain relief medications are generally used, for instance acetaminophen, opioids, and steroid hormones.

To prevent the onset of a migraine, various drugs are used which are classed as anti-convulsants, anti-depressants, and anti-inflammatories, as well as some types of cardiovascular drugs. To complement the use of these drugs, migraine experts often recommend acupuncture, tai chi, yoga, and massage therapy, in addition to ingesting specific herbal supplements and vitamins.

Cannabis treatment of migraines

Since one of the primary medical benefits of cannabis centers around the treatment of pain, it would figure that cannabis might be an effective way to handle the acute pain associated with migraine headaches.

It can also aid a migraine patient in getting to sleep, restoring appetite, and reducing stress or anxiety, which often attend those intervals between headaches. The nausea and vomiting, which commonly accompany a migraine, can also be mitigated to a large extent by the anti-emetic effects of cannabis, which work to reduce or eliminate nausea.

Another very positive aspect of cannabis use in the treatment of migraine headaches would be to eliminate the dependence that a migraine sufferer might develop for prescription drugs. By replacing most of those opiate-classed drugs with a more benign treatment program, the need for powerful prescription drugs can be reduced or completely done away with.

More testing and research will be necessary of course, before cannabis can be anointed as the one-stop wonder treatment for migraines, but the fact that its known properties manage the symptoms of migraines very well, would seem to point toward cannabis as a treatment with tremendous potential for alleviating the unpleasant and often debilitating effects of migraine headaches.

The Effect of Marijuana on the Brain and Body

There have been some studies done on the effects of marijuana on the brain and body over the past 10 years, but not many because marijuana is still labeled as a Schedule 1 Drug by the FDA. Which means it is really hard to do proper research on the plant, the effects it has on the body, and the medical enhancements it can produce as well.

But there has been a recent report released this past month (January 2017), by The National Academics of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, that has combined a mass majority of the studies that have been conducted.

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THC Interactions

Tetrahydrocannabinol, commonly referred to as THC, is the active ingredient in weed that makes us feel high. It communicates with human rewards systems in the brain that makes us feel happy and releases dopamine. Some studies suggest that this can be an issue if people smoke too much marijuana because it causes us to feel less during our natural rewarding experiences.

Heart Racing

The National Institute of Drug Abuse’s report states that heart-racing is another effect marijuana can have on the body. Within the first couple puffs, marijuana makes your heart rate rise, but it does not mean it increases the risk of a heart attack.

Sense of Time

It could have an effect on your cerebellum and basal ganglia, two parts of the brain that regulate a person’s coordination, balance, reaction time, and posture. A 1998 study showed that it could possibly alter the blood flow to the brain, which could have an impact on our sense of time; moving faster or slower.

Our Appetites

Ever wondered why we get hungry when we smoke weed? A recent study conducted on mice reported that marijuana could affect a part of our brain that is associated with our appetites, making us think we are hungry when we really aren’t.

Memory Functions

Marijuana can also have an effect on our memories. Several studies have concluded that weed can interfere with our short-term memories, but that it tends to be in less frequent users than more frequent users.

Depression and Anxiety

Some studies suggest that weed has an impact on people that deal with depression and anxiety.

“One study from the Netherlands suggests that smoking weed could raise the risk of depression for young people who already have a special serotonin gene that could make them more vulnerable to depression.” – Erin Brodwin, Kevin Loria, Business Insider

It could also increase the risk of schizophrenia in frequent users, which is a big concern.

Sports

Some athletes believe smoking marijuana could help some their athletic achievements. Researchers believe this could be because it essentially “numbs” the body; it reduces inflammation and is used as a pain relief to help them during their workouts.

Good Effects and Medical Enhancements

Marijuana also has ways of helping a lot of health issues with CBD, or cannabidoil. It has been known to treat children with epilepsy, Crohn’s Disease, and many other chronic health issues including anxiety disorders.

It also has other health benefits treating inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, seizures, Dravet syndrome, and many more.

Regular Use linked to Brain Changes

In short, many researchers believe that those who are most vulnerable to brain changes are people who start ingesting at a young age.

Still Questions

There are still so many questions to be answered about the effects of marijuana on the brain and body. Once the FDA decides to reschedule the drug to anything higher than a Schedule 1, there will be more ways for scientists and researchers to learn more about the recreational and medical effects and treatment.

Proposals to Grow Marijuana at Home

The White House, House of Representatives have recently received two proposals to allow people to grow marijuana in their home. One bill would allow 6 plants per household while the other bill would allow 6 plants per adult in each house hold, which would be 12 plants in total.

The bill received its main support from people who have trouble finding the proper medical marijuana plants in dispensaries or medical marijuana clinics for medical conditions.

Meagan Holt, of Mill Creek, Washington, said she has trouble getting the right kind of plants for the oil that alleviates her 4-year-old daughter Madeline’s intractable epilepsy, which didn’t respond to some 20 pharmaceuticals that doctors prescribed. She has people willing to grow the specific strain of marijuana she needs and give it to the family, but under current law that’s illegal. – Jim Camden, The Spokesman

The bill, along with other changes to the current marijuana laws in the state, would also allow people to share a certain amount of the plant to others as well. The hearing will be on Monday with a committee vote in the upcoming weeks.

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