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by mzchief

“Demonize It, Prosecute It, Shut It Down, Then Grab The Market”

9:47 pm in Uncategorized by mzchief

Replacement for Dice in Monopoly Due To Rationing During World War II (from Wikimedia Commons)

Replacement for Dice in Monopoly Due To Rationing During World War II (from Wikimedia Commons)

It may be 4/20 but the not so fabulous news may be that after all that work done by activists to break barriers to the legalization and even decriminalization of cannabis, the US government has simply made the markets safe just in time for their complete capture by Big Pharma. Remember the JustSayNow campaign and the review of Sativex, a liquified form of marijuana from the British prescription drug maker GW Pharmaceuticals? Well according to Kyle Daly in “Is Big Pharma set to corner the American market on medical marijuana?” (The American Independent, Apr. 19, 2011), GW Pharmaceuticals announced a licensing agreement with drug giant Novartis last week and the Japanese international prescription drug company, Otsuka, has just wrapped Phase II clinical trials for GW of Sativex.

Otsuka declined to comment to The American Independent on how close Sativex is to FDA approval or how far along the Phase III trials are, but Phase III is typically the final step in a drug’s path to pharmacies. Even getting to Phase III means the FDA has signed off on earlier test results and needs to see them confirmed in a large-scale study before advancing the drug.

Did I hear the gnashing of teeth? Wasn’t it coincidentally only last week that Washington state Gov. Chris Gregoire (D) received a letter from the Department of Justice “warning of the potential for criminal prosecutions of state employees who engage in the production of medical marijuana” although it is now legally authorized in the state? Yeah, I noticed that too.

by mzchief

JustSayNow! — Arizona, Oregon & South Dakota Need Your Generosity

3:29 pm in Uncategorized by mzchief

Bake Sale(from “Bake Sales for Chemo,” by abby jean, Mar. 16, 2010)

Your generosity and efforts to turn out the vote is especially appreciated in jurisdictions that aren’t getting financial assistance like this (click here to help Arizona, click here to help Oregon, click here to help South Dakota). Also, join Just Say Now’s Day of Action on Saturday, Oct. 30th for one more push just after the Stewart/Colbert Rally to Restore Sanity.

by mzchief

Psychophysiological Coherence: “The Groove Is In The Heart”

8:59 pm in Uncategorized by mzchief

In prior posts (here and here), we have learned of the non-toxic, anti-cancer and anti-aging ("free-radical scavenger") properties of a typical component of the cannabis ("marijuana") plant called cannabidiol (CBD). We have also learned through review of some animal research that CBD is associated with the growth of new neurons in the brain. At this juncture, let me explicitly enunciate that the human body and, in specific, the brain are in actuality very elastic. I mentioned previously that it has been demonstrated that humans can and do build new neural pathways as has been again shown through the clinical application of computer-aided biofeedback technology in brain rehabilitative therapy and cognitive performance enhancement. The growth rates of cells and tissues (some organs are heterogeneous cell collections while others are not) of the body vary. For instance, in an adult human it can take about six months after a root canal for the bone cells to fill the holes left from the tooth extraction. Next, there tends to be the popular notion that the brain is the control center of the body. The fact of the matter is that it is not.

In 1915, Walter Bradford Cannon, M.D., discovered the stress response– changes in emotions are accompanied by predictable changes in heart rate, blood pressure, respiration and digestion– and thereby made a significant contribution to psychology and medicine. However, Cannon presumed that the brain was in control of the entire process.

In 1960s and 1970s John and Beatrice Lacey were some of the first modern psychophysiological researchers to examine information flow between the brain and the heart and observe that the heart communicates with the brain in ways that significantly affect human perception and reactions to the world. In 1974, French neurophysiologists Gahery and Vigier discovered a neural pathway and mechanism whereby input from the heart to the brain could "inhibit" or "facilitate" the brain’s electrical activity ("Inhibitory effects in the cuneate nucleus produced by vago-aortic afferent fibers." Brain Research. Volume 75, Issue 2, 26 July 1974, Pages 241-246. DOI:10.1016/0006-8993(74)90744-6.). Working with cats, Gahery and Vigier stimulated the vagus nerve and found that the brain’s electrical response was reduced to about half its normal rate. Therefore, the new evidence suggested that the heart and nervous system were not simply following the brain’s directions as previously assumed since Cannon.

In 1991, an early pioneer in neurocardiology, Dr. J. Andrew Armour, introduced the concept of a functional "heart brain." Armour found that:

The heart’s nervous system contains around 40,000 neurons, called sensory neurites, which detect circulating hormones and neurochemicals and sense heart rate and pressure information. Hormonal, chemical, rate and pressure information is translated into neurological impulses by the heart’s nervous system and sent from the heart to the brain through several afferent (flowing to the brain) pathways. It is also through these nerve pathways that pain signals and other feeling sensations are sent to the brain. These afferent nerve pathways enter the brain in an area called the medulla, located in the brain stem. The signals have a regulatory role over many of the autonomic nervous system signals that flow out of the brain to the heart, blood vessels and other glands and organs. However, they also cascade up into the higher centers of the brain, where they may influence perception, decision making and other cognitive processes.

The new research showed that the brain and nervous system was really a "distributed parallel processing system" composed of distinct but interplaying groups of neuronal processing centers disbursed throughout the body. Further, the heart had its own built-in nervous system that functions and processes information independently of the brain or the previously identified nervous system (e.g. why a heart transplant works; also see "The heart reinnervates after transplantation." Ann Thorac Surg 2000;69:1769-1781.).

Another piece of the heart-brain communication puzzle was provided by research on the hormonal system. In 1981, the heart was reclassified as an endocrine or hormonal gland when Atrial Natriuretic Factor (ANF) was isolated. ANF, a hormone produced and excreted by the heart, has a regulatory effect on the blood vessels, the kidneys and the adrenal glands and a large number of regulatory regions in the brain.

Dr. J. Andrew Armour and research team found that the heart contains a cell type known as "intrinsic cardiac adrenergic" (ICA) cells ("Capacity of intrinsic cardiac neurons to modify the acutely autotransplanted mammalian heart." J Heart Lung Transplant. 1994 Sep-Oct;13(5):847-56.). Such cells are considered "adrenergic" because they synthesize and release catecholamines (norepinephrine and dopamine), neurotransmitters previously thought to be produced only by neurons in the brain and ganglia outside the heart. An even more recent discovery is that the heart also secretes oxytocin, the "cuddle" or "love" hormone. Beyond its well-known functions in childbirth and lactation, recent evidence indicates that this hormone is also involved in cognition, tolerance, adaptation, complex sexual and maternal behaviors as well as in the learning of social cues and the establishment of enduring pair bonds. Concentrations of oxytocin in the heart are as high as those found in the brain (also see "Chronic Oxytocin Treatment Mediates Heart Rate Responses Following Social Isolation." 2007).

These findings show that the heart is actually:

a highly complex, self-organized information processing center with its own functional "brain" that communicates with and influences the cranial brain via the nervous system, hormonal system and other pathways. These influences profoundly affect brain function and most of the body’s major organs, and ultimately determine the quality of life.

{snip}

[w]hile two-way communication between the cognitive and emotional systems is hard-wired into the brain, the actual number of neural connections going from the emotional centers to the cognitive centers is greater than the number going the other way. [This in part explains] the tremendous power of emotions, in contrast to thought alone. Once an emotion is experienced, it becomes a powerful motivator of future behaviors, affecting moment-to-moment actions, attitudes and long-term achievements. Emotions can easily bump mundane events out of awareness, but non-emotional forms of mental activity (like thoughts) do not so readily displace emotions from the mental landscape.

So, an even more sophisticated application of recent research beyond the aforementioned computer-aided cranial brain-centric biofeedback technique is the self-moderated biofeedback technique of "meditation" or "psychophysiological coherence":

[..] individuals can gain more conscious control over the process of creating increased coherence within and between the mental and emotional systems than might be commonly believed. This, in turn, can lead to greater physiological coherence, manifesting as more ordered and efficient function in the nervous, cardiovascular, hormonal and immune systems. We call the resulting state psychophysiological coherence, as it involves a high degree of balance, harmony and synchronization within and between cognitive, emotional and physiological processes. Research has shown that this state is associated with high performance, reduced stress, increased emotional stability and numerous health benefits.

by mzchief

Dr. Jocelyn Elders Says “Lift the Prohibition on Marijuana”; Phonebank With Just Say Now!

9:53 am in Uncategorized by mzchief

Dr. Jocelyn Elders, a former US Surgeon General who served under the Clinton Administration, gave a succinct television interview October 17, 2010 on CNN urging removal of the ban on marijuana prohibition:

I don’t think it would make a bad situation worse. I don’t think much could be worse than the present situation that we have when we have the highest number of people in the world being criminalized– many for nonviolent crimes related to marijuana. What I think is horrible about all of this is that we criminalize young people and we use so many of our excellent resources– police resources– for things that are not causing us any problems.

More than sixty-five law professors across the country have also signed an open letter calling for ending marijuana prohibition:

For decades, our country has pursued a wasteful and ineffective policy of marijuana prohibition. As with alcohol prohibition, this approach has failed to control marijuana, and left its trade in the hands of an unregulated and increasingly violent black market. [..]

Our communities would be better served if the criminal justice resources we currently spend to investigate, arrest, and prosecute people for marijuana offenses each year were redirected toward addressing unsolved violent crimes. In short, the present policy is causing more harm than good, and is eroding respect for the law.

Moreover, we are deeply troubled by the consistent and dramatic reports of disproportionate enforcement of marijuana laws against young people of color. Marijuana laws were forged in racism, and have been demonstrated to be inconsistently and unfairly applied since their inception. These are independent reasons for their repeal.

Especially in the current economic climate, we must evaluate the efficacy of expensive government programs and make responsible decisions about the use of state resources. We find the present policies toward marijuana to be bankrupt, and urge their rethinking.

Please help lift the prohibition on marijuana by phone banking with Just Say Now.

by mzchief

Key Cannabis Plant Compound Found to Have No Degrading Effect On Human Memory

6:40 pm in Uncategorized by mzchief

The first study to suggest that a key cannabis ("marijuana") plant compound, cannabidiol (CBD), can mitigate the interference of Δ9-THC ("THC") with memory formation was lead by Dr. Valerie Curran, PhD, a psychopharmacologist from University College London also studying the effects of cannabis use on creativity at the Beckley Foundation, Oxford, UK.

To test this hypothesis, Curran and her colleagues traveled to the homes of 134 volunteers, where the subjects got high on their own supply before completing a battery of psychological tests designed to measure anxiety, memory recall and other factors such as verbal fluency when both sober and stoned. The researchers then took a portion of the stash back to their laboratory to test how much THC and cannabidiol it contained.

The subjects were divided into groups of high (samples containing more than 0.75% cannabidiol) and low (less than 0.14%) cannabidiol exposure, and the data were filtered so that their THC levels were constant. Analysis showed that participants who had smoked cannabis low in cannabidiol were significantly worse at recalling text than they were when not intoxicated. Those who smoked cannabis high in cannabidiol showed no such impairment.

{snip}

Ilan attributes the positive finding of Curran and her team to their more powerful methodology in analysing subjects’ own smoking preferences. In the United States, government policy dictates that only marijuana provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse can be used for research — and it "is notorious for being low in THC and of poor quality", says Ilan.

Lester Grinspoon, professor emeritus of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachussetts, who has studied the effects of marijuana on patients since 1967, says that Curran’s study is important."Cannabis with high cannabidiol levels will make a more appealing option for anti-pain, anti-anxiety and anti-spasm treatments, because they can be delivered without causing disconcerting euphoria," he says.

- from "Key ingredient staves off marijuana memory loss," published online, Oct. 1, 2010, Nature. doi:10.1038/news.2010.508

Dr. Curran argues that cannabidiol studies could provide insight into the mechanics of memory formation and reveal therapeutic benefits for disorders involving memory impairments. The research was published October 1, 2010 in the British Journal of Psychiatry ("Impact of cannabidiol on the acute memory and psychotomimetic effects of smoked cannabis: naturalistic study," The British Journal of Psychiatry (2010) 197: 285-290. doi: 10.1192/bjp.bp.110.077503).

by mzchief

Pre-Clinical Study Shows Marijuana Compound Inhibits Tumor Size, Growth and Metastasis of Human Cancer

3:28 pm in Uncategorized by mzchief

Last week there was some pretty hot pre-clinical science news pre-published on-line in the journal, Breast Cancer Research and Treatment. Cannabidiol (CBD; note the benzene ring contained within the molecular structure), is one biochemical constituent in the cannabis ("marijuana") plant of which "only THC [Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol] is psychoactive." "At least 66 other cannabinoids are also present in cannabis, including cannabidiol (CBD), cannabinol (CBN) and tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) among many others, which are believed to result in different effects from those of THC alone.[7]" ("Marijuana," accessed Sept. 28, 2010).

In the pre-clinical study conducted under lead researcher, Sean McAllister, PhD at The California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute, cannabidiol (CBD) was delivered directly to cells and found to inhibit tumor mass size, proliferation and invasion of human cancer cells. Also, it was demonstrated that treatment with CBD significantly reduces primary tumor mass as well as the size and number. For more than ten years, McAllister and his scientific team have been investigating the genes responsible for the spread of cancer. Cannibadiol was found in 2007 to inhibit the gene that controls the spread of cancer:

According to cancer researcher Yvez Desprez, Ph.D., "The problem is not the cancer itself, the problem is the spread of the cancer. When this type of gene [Id-1] is expressed, the cells basically go crazy and they’re very aggressive and they metastasize everywhere in the body." Dr. McAllister says, "We could expect that if we create really effective inhibitors against it, we could potentially treat many types of aggressive cancers." (from "Marijuana compound could help fight breast cancer," Nov. 19, 2007, ABC’s KGO-TV San Francisco).

One of the most exciting aspects of this announcement is that CBD may provide one of the only low- or non-toxic therapeutic alternatives to conventional chemotherapy and its associated adverse effects:

Invasion and metastasis of aggressive breast cancer cells are the final and fatal steps during cancer progression. Clinically, there are still limited therapeutic interventions for aggressive and metastatic breast cancers available. Therefore, effective, targeted, and non-toxic therapies are urgently required. Id-1 [..] has recently been shown to be a key regulator of the metastatic potential of breast and additional cancers. We previously reported that cannabidiol (CBD), a cannabinoid with a low toxicity profile, down-regulated Id-1 gene expression in aggressive human breast cancer cells in culture. [.. W]e determined pathways leading to the down-regulation of Id-1 expression by CBD and consequently to the inhibition of the proliferative and invasive phenotype of human breast cancer cells. [.. T]wo different syngeneic models of tumor metastasis to the lungs were chosen to determine whether treatment with CBD would reduce metastasis in vivo. We show that CBD inhibits human breast cancer cell proliferation and invasion [..]. Moreover, [..] we then show that treatment with CBD significantly reduces primary tumor mass as well as the size and number of lung metastatic foci in two models of metastasis. Our data demonstrate the efficacy of CBD in pre-clinical models of breast cancer. The results have the potential to lead to the development of novel non-toxic compounds for the treatment of breast cancer metastasis, and the information gained from these experiments broaden our knowledge of both Id-1 and cannabinoid biology as it pertains to cancer progression. (from "Pathways mediating the effects of cannabidiol on the reduction of breast cancer cell proliferation, invasion, and metastasis," Sept. 22, 2010)

Although this is the very careful, conditional language of the bench scientist, this is a pretty big deal– even for research considered at an early stage.

Cancer Research UK investigator, Dr. Joanna Owens, says:

[.. t]he findings will need to be followed up with clinical trials in humans to see if the CBD is safe, and whether the beneficial effects can be replicated. Several cancer drugs based on plant chemicals are already used widely, such as vincristine – which is derived from a type of flower called Madagascar Periwinkle and is used to treat breast and lung cancer. It will be interesting to see whether CBD will join them. (from "Cannabis compound ‘halts cancer’" Nov. 19, 2007, BBC News)