Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Meet Haley: The Innocent Face of CBD Oil in North Carolina

On July 16, 2015, with little fanfare, Governor Pat McCrory signed into law a bill that legalized CBD oil in North Carolina.

In that moment, the Tar Heel state joined dozens of other US states in legalizing some form of CBD oil, the substance developed from marijuana and used for the treatment of certain medical conditions.

The Governor’s signature meant that, from the 1st of August, 2015, board-certified neurologists across North Carolina could recommend CBD oils to any patient suffering from intractable epilepsy.

This was the culmination of a push to legalize CBD oil in North Carolina that really picked up the pace when Republican Representative Pat McElraft met a then-5-year-old Haley Ward, who suffers from CDKL5, a genetic disorder that can result in dozens of seizures each and every single day.

Hope For Haley

Sponsoring the bill, and naming it “Hope for Haley,” McElraft told of meeting Haley and having her heart touched. In that moment, she knew she had to do something to help.

Upon hearing of the difficulty Haley’s mother, Sherena, and parents of children suffering from similar afflictions were having in obtaining CBD oils to use in treating the seizures, Representative McElraft decided to pursue the legalization of this particular strain of medical marijuana.

Haley therefore became the face of the fight to legalize CBD oils in North Carolina.

Two Years On

Haley, now 8 years old, lives in a state where CBD oil is legal (albeit, with restrictions), and she is beginning to see the benefit.

Prior to legalization, Haley’s mom wanted her daughter to have the chance to take “Charlotte’s Web,”  a type of CBD oil made in Colorado and named for Charlotte Figi (who brought to light the possibility of utilizing CBD for kids). It was this fact that prompted Pat McElraft to act as she came to realize that mothers were travelling to the Centennial State, where it is legal to purchase CBD oil, and spending valuable time apart from their families when they need them most.

Now, Haley’s mom, Sherena, and mothers like her can legally purchase CBD oil in North Carolina. And this has made a world of difference to young Haley.
However, finding the correct product and dosage was not as straightforward as Sherena might have hoped.

In an update given to WBTV’s Molly Grantham, she told of the trial and error in finding the CBD oil that worked best for her daughter.

As a brief overview, Haley was started on the pharmaceutical version called Epidiolex (as recommended by the original state law). This was a trial drug with artificial flavoring. Unfortunately, the flavoring did not agree with Haley, and she became quite unwell.

Sherena took Haley off this version after only five days. She then tried Charlotte’s Web.

Before this, Haley was experiencing around ten seizures per day. After taking Charlotte’s Web, she was down to around 40 for the week.

However, Sherena felt there was still improvements to be had, and so, after a period of research, she began Haley on Palmetto Harmony CBD oil, made by a company in neighboring South Carolina. This brought Haley down to only two seizures per week.

The seizures then increased once more, primarily because the oil had began to build up in Haley’s body. After altering the dosages, Haley was back on track once again.

So, What Is CBD Anyway?

CBD is the shorthand for Cannabidiol, a natural substance extracted and separated from specific varieties of cannabis, often known as hemp.
Unlike the most abundant and perhaps best known constituent of cannabis, the cannabinoid known as THC (which has psychoactive effects), CBD does not get its users “high.”

And, while its benefits seem to aid children like Haley with certain disorders, it should be noted that there are still gaps in what we know and understand about its effects. The substance is safe and legal, yet its precise health benefits are still up for debate and are generating a great deal of research.

North Carolina’s Epilepsy Alternative Treatment Act

As touched upon earlier, the legal status of medical marijuana and CBD oil in North Carolina can perhaps be described as complicated.

In 2014, Governor McCrory signed the North Carolina Epilepsy Alternative Treatment Act into law. This was subsequently amended a year later to ensure neurologists no longer needed to be affiliated with a pilot study in order to recommend the use of hemp extract for epilepsy treatment. It also redefined “hemp extract” to adjust the percentage requirements for certain cannabinoids.
The Act, as amended, will ensure individuals with intractable epilepsy will be exempt from criminal penalties for using and possessing hemp products that contain at least 5% CBD and less than 0.9% THC, provided it has been approved by a neurologist affiliated with one or more hospitals in the state.

The Act does not, however, allow the in-state production of hemp extracts and states that the hemp extract must be acquired from another jurisdiction – that is to say, patients must cross state lines to a state where medical marijuana is legal in order to purchase a CBD oil product from a dispensary.

As it stands, the Marijuana Policy Project does not class North Carolina as a medical marijuana state due to the restrictions currently in place.

And, while the law has allowed minors, such as young Haley Ward, to avail themselves of the benefits of CBD oils, it is not yet the ideal solution many had hoped for.

To give you an idea of the complicated nature of the law, this is typically what lies in wait for NC’s epilepsy patients and their families who wish to try CBD oil in North Carolina:
  • Qualified patients must find and work with a neurologist who is affiliated with a licensed North Carolina hospital.
  • The neurologist may then approve a caregiver to dispense the hemp extract.
  • The caregiver must then, in theory, legally obtain the hemp extract from a state where medical marijuana is legal before returning to North Carolina.
All in all, this is an incredibly costly endeavour, filled with hassle and stress for the caregiver. And traveling to another state and back could also mean being in breach of the laws of states through which the caregiver would have to travel.
For North Carolina, “Hope for Haley” was a good start. But there’s still a long way to go.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Ancient Hemp–4 ancient uses for the plant

The earliest records of hemp use and cultivation date back over 10,000 years. 

According to MIT historians hemp was likely the first plant cultivated by humans for textile uses. Archaeologists have found scraps of hemp cloth in Mesopotamia (modern Iran and Iraq) that date to 8,000 BC.

There is also evidence of hemp cord from the same era in Taiwan. 
Hemp cloth found in Mesopotamia has the noteworthy claim of being the oldest evidence of human industry–as well as a cornerstone of use for hemp by the ancients.  The Chinese were known to use hemp for cloth and it  makes an appearance in late antiquity in the grave of Aregund, one of the earliest French Queens.  

1. Ancient Hemp Cloth. 

  hemp history
Ancient Chinese hemp paper

Although papyrus dates back further, paper-making originates in China around 250 BCE.  Hemp was a common material used by the Chinese in early paper-making.

Hemp cultivation was widespread in post-neolithic ancient China.  The Chinese used hemp to make many materials, including paper.  There is a record dating to the Sung Dynasty (500 AD) telling the story of the legendary, semi-mythical Emperor Shennong teaching the Chinese people how to cultivate hemp.  Shennong (The ‘Emperor of the Five Grains’) is also credited with giving knowledge of herbal medicine to the Chinese.  Although many of these stories are likely apocryphal (Shennong is considered a deity in Chinese folklore) China does boast the longest continuous history of hemp production.

2. Ancient hemp Paper 

Moving west, Hemp and Cannabis were mentioned in the ancient Indian text the “Atharvaveda” and referred to as the ‘Sacred Grass’–as such, it was one of the 5 sacred plants of India. Bhang was a preparation of female Cannabis plants that were drank ritualistically as an offering to the god Shiva.

3. Ancient hemp/Cannabis ritualsBhang –i.e. “Bhang”

As you move slightly more west geographically and a little bit forward in ancient history, the use of hemp and Cannabis becomes more and more common. The Scythians of ancient Iran were known to leave hemp as a tribute in the tombs of the dead; and hemp rope makes an appearance in Greece around the year 200 BCE.  The famous Greek historian Plutarch speaks of the Thracian use of hemp and cannabis–as does Pliny the elder speaks of hemp rope in in his “Natural History” written in the first century AD.

Imported hemp rope made an appearance in England in about 100 AD. It was brought there by the Romans who were engaged in conquest of the island.

Hemp history
Hemp was used for rope by the ancients.

4. Ancient hemp rope, and tributes

The stigma surrounding hemp (and cannabis) is truly an aspect of modern history.  Weighing a nearly 10,000 year history of use of industrial hemp against an 80 year ban on growing in the United States raises some interesting questions. Perhaps the ancients knew something we don’t.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Cannabis Oil Saves a Airdrie girl With a Severe Form of Epilepsy

Three years ago, during the darkest time of her life, Airdrie mom Sarah Wilkinson told her two sons to say their goodbyes to their ailing sister Mia.

Then seven years old, Mia had just been revived from the longest seizure of her young life, thanks to a dose of ketamine (a potent drug used as horse tranquilizer, and known as Special K on the street) beyond the maximum allowed for children.

“We came home and my husband and I discussed how we were going to tell our boys,”  said Wilkinson, still choking back tears from the memory.

“We sat them down and just said, ‘we’re not going to have her for much longer, so you need to give her as much love as you possibly can.’ ”

That night, as she lay in bed with her husband James, the heartbroken mom thought she’d try one final option in hopes of saving her little girl.

Cannabis oil, she’d read, had shown some promising results for children suffering from epilepsy, and it was that last desperate hope that Wilkinson clung to.

“I wasn’t ready. It didn’t feel like it was time to say goodbye.”

Mia was born with a very rare form of pediatric epilepsy called Ohtahara syndrome, and just 29 minutes after she was born she suffered her first seizure. Thousands upon thousands were to follow.

From childbirth for the first several years of her life, Mia endured as many as 100 seizures per day, taking a daily regimen of anti-seizure medications that left her little more than a zombie, and at one point caused acute liver failure. In most cases, Ohtahara syndrome is fatal within the first two years.

Today, Wilkinson is getting ready to send her nearly 11-year-old daughter to school for the first time this September. Mia’s now also able to say ‘mamma’ while grooving, fittingly, to Lady Gaga’s Born this Way, simple things that seemed unthinkable just three years ago.

Since taking her first dose of cannabis oil in July 2013, Mia has suffered no seizures. While she remains severely disabled, unable to walk or talk, the progress since she began taking the medication, extracted from dried marijuana buds, cooked in a slow cooker and then mixed with coconut oil, has been miraculous.

But even after two years of remarkable turnaround, including being successfully weened off her other medication, Wilkinson was told Mia would no longer be given a prescription for cannabis oil in Alberta.

“I just broke down in tears. It was just a kick to the gut almost,” she said.
After going public on the denial of the life changing medication, Wilkinson was deluged with offers of help. She finally took Mia to a clinic in St. Catharines, Ont., last September where a doctor was more than willing to prescribe cannabis oil.

Wilkinson has since found a doctor at Calgary’s Natural Heath Services clinic, who is able to renew Mia’s prescription, without having her leave the province. 

Alberta Health Services didn’t make anyone available to comment on its policy regarding medical cannabis for children, offering a statement instead.

“Alberta Health Services does not support the prescription of medical marijuana for pediatric patients with epilepsy at this time,” reads the statement, the same provided to media a year ago when doctors refused to renew her prescription.

“Health Canada has not approved medical marijuana for treatment of seizures in Canada, and AHS is unaware of any studies, data or recognized epilepsy organizations that recommend or endorse the use of medical marijuana in pediatric patients with epilepsy.”

The family’s very public battle to provide the drug for Mia has made Wilkinson something of a shepherd for other parents desperate to try the medication in hopes it may help their own children suffering from severe epilepsy.

Wilkinson said her hope is Mia and other “trailblazers” will turn the tide against the stigma of cannabis, and recognize the real medical benefits to some users, like little Mia.

“I just wish this would have been a first line treatment for her epilepsy as opposed to a last resort,” she said.

“I think in 20 to 30 years we’ll look back on this as a pretty dark history with cannabis prohibition. You just can’t argue with her medical records when literally nothing else worked.”

Friday, August 5, 2016

How Does Marijuana Affect the Body

Marijuana, or cannabis, has been used for at least 5,000 years and has an extensive history of traditional uses as an industrial material and a botanical medicine all throughout Asia, Africa, Europe, and America.1
Read on to learn more about medical marijuana’s healing benefits, how it has gotten its bad rap, and find out why you’d want your own state to approve its use, too.

What Is Medical Marijuana?

The term “medical marijuana” refers to the use of the whole, unprocessed marijuana plant and its pure extracts to treat a disease or improve a symptom. It must be sourced from a medicinal-grade cannabis plant that has been meticulously grown without the use of toxic pesticides and fertilizers.
Marijuana’s incredible healing properties come from its high cannabidiol (CBD) content and critical levels of medical terpenes and flavonoids. It also contains some tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the molecule that gives the psychoactive effect, which most recreational users are after. Through traditional plant breeding techniques and seed exchanges, growers have started producing cannabis plants that have higher levels of CBD and lower levels of THC for medical use.
Although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not yet approved medical marijuana, more and more physicians are starting to reverse their stand on the issue and swear by its effectiveness and health benefits.
In a previous CBS interview US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy acknowledged that marijuana may be useful for certain medical conditions. Likewise, CNN's chief medical correspondent and neurosurgeon Sanjay Gupta also made a highly publicized reversal on his marijuana stance after the production of his two-part series "Weed."

How Does Medical Marijuana Work and What Diseases Can It Help Treat?

Historically, marijuana has been used as a botanical medicine since the 19th and 20th centuries. Today, marijuana’s claim as a potential panacea is backed up by countless studies crediting its healing potential to its cannabidiol content.
Cannabinoids interact with your body by way of naturally occurring cannabinoid receptors embedded in cell membranes throughout your body. There are cannabinoid receptors in your brain, lungs, liver, kidneys, and immune system. Both the therapeutic and psychoactive properties of marijuana occur when a cannabinoid activates a cannabinoid receptor.
There’s still ongoing research as to how far it impacts your health, but to date, it's known that cannabinoid receptors play an important role in many body processes, including metabolic regulation, cravings, pain, anxiety, bone growth, and immune function.2
Dr. Allan Frankel, a board-certified internist in California who has successfully treated patients with medical marijuana for less than a decade, has personally seen tumors virtually disappear in some patients using no other therapy except taking 40 to 60 milligrams of cannabinoids a day.
Other common ailments being treated with medical marijuana include:
  • Mood disorders
  • Degenerative neurological disorders such as dystonia
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Seizures
CBD also works as an excellent painkiller and works well in treating anxiety issues. Cannabis oil, on the other hand, when applied topically has been proven to heal sunburn overnight.

How to Obtain and Use Medical Marijuana

In states where medical marijuana is legal like California, Colorado, Vermont, and New York, you can join a collective, or a legal entity consisting of a group of patients that can grow and share cannabis medicines with each other. By signing up as a member, you gain the right to grow and share your medicine.
A patient at the age of 18 can secure a medical cannabis card recommendation letter if their attending physician or doctor of osteopathic medicine (D.O.) advises or agrees to it. With your medical cannabis card, you now have the liberty to choose the collective you want to belong to.
Medical marijuana can be administered to patients using one of the following methods: 3,4
  • Inhalation – Allows the patient to titrate the dosage. It has an instantaneous effect as the medication is rapidly taken into the lungs and quickly absorbed through the capillaries into the bloodstream. The effects of inhaled cannabis will last approximately four hours.
  • Smoking – Can be done using a joint or the cigarette form (hand-or machine-rolled), a pipe, or bong (water pipe). While smoking medical marijuana by joint is believed to be inefficient because the medication goes with the smoke as the cigarette burns, smoking small amounts using a water pipe is more advisable because the cool smoke is less irritating to the airway.  
  • Vaporization – Like a nebulizer treatment, cannabis can be heated to a temperature that will release the medication in vapors to be inhaled by the patient.
  • Sublingual (under the tongue) or oramucosal (in the oral cavity) delivery Made possible using oils or tinctures, it is readily delivered into the bloodstream and provides a rapid effect. Tinctures can be administered through a dropper under the tongue or sprayed in the mouth to be absorbed in the oral cavity. This is highly recommended for non-smoking patients.
  • Oral ingestion – Non-smokers can also take medical marijuana through pills or mandibles, which are edible cannabis products in the form of teas, cookies, or brownies. The primary drawback of this approach is that because cannabinoids are fat-soluble, there may be issues when it comes to absorption, depending on the patient’s metabolism. A good workaround for this problem is using cannabis butter, which fat-soluble cannabinoids blends well with.
  • Topical application – Cannabis can be applied as an ointment, lotion, or poultice for treating skin inflammations, arthritis, and muscle pain. It is unclear how cannabinoids are absorbed transdermally, although its credit should also go to the more soluble terpenoids and flavonoids that also have anti-inflammatory properties.
Keep in mind: making sure that your medicine has been sourced from a medicinal-grade cannabis plant without the threat of chemical residues, which may cause further harm, should also be a top-notch priority.

Potential Side Effects of Medical Cannabis

Dr. Margaret Gedde, a Stanford-trained MD PhD pathologist and award-winning researcher who specializes in the therapeutic use of cannabis, says the only concern you’ll have to worry about medical marijuana is the psychoactivity of THC or its ability to make you feel “high.” Although in some cases, THC may be beneficial, too, especially for patients suffering from severe pain.
But aside from that, cannabis is generally safe to use. You can also avoid this side effect by specifically looking for high CBD and low THC marijuana formulations.
The risk brought by different versions of synthetic marijuana should also be considered. Imported from Asian countries under the guise of potpourri, herbal incense, and even plant food, the synthetic powder is mixed in a lab and shipped to the US, where retailers spray it onto a leaf─ often an herb or a spice─ that can be smoked, just like pot. It binds to cannabis receptors in your body up to 1,000 times more strongly than standard marijuana, as well as producing gripping effects on serotonin and other receptors in your brain.
You can't overdose on real pot, but you CAN overdose on synthetic versions─ and it doesn't take very much. Most people don't realize how dangerous synthetic marijuana can be. Unlike medical marijuana, synthetic marijuana is not only void of any healing component, but may also put you at risk of serious side effects, including:
  • Stroke
  • Brain damage
  • Seizure
  • Kidney problem
  • Cardiac problem
  • Acute psychosis
  • Tachycardia (an abnormally rapid heart rate)
  • Hypokalemia (a deficiency of potassium in the bloodstream)
I highly recommend inquiring to your physician or D.O. about reputable medicinal-grade marijuana plant growers or credible apothecaries near your area that sell natural cannabis products for medicinal purposes.

If Marijuana Is SO Beneficial, Why Is It a Schedule 1 Drug?

In one of my interviews with Dr. Frankel, he explained how people have forgotten cannabis as a botanical medicine and became known as a notorious form of illegal drug:
"What happened in the '60s and '70s was that due to desires for psychedelia, the changes in the war in Vietnam, and the war on drugs with Nixon, the types of strains that were available and the demand for psychedelia changed. Before we knew it, CBD—due to a lack of 'stoniness'—was bred out of the plant."
As a result of growers breeding out the all-important CBD, marijuana became known primarily as a plant that gets you high. Its original medicinal properties and uses largely fell by the wayside.
Currently, marijuana is classified as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, a category specifically for the most dangerous illicit drugs, such as heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), and ecstasy. Based on the 1970 Controlled Substance Act, drugs from this group:
  • Have a high potential for abuse
  • Have no accepted medical use in the US
  • Have lack of accepted safety under medical supervision
Personally, I find it disheartening that something as promising as marijuana is being demonized due to inappropriate use.
It’s such a shame, too, that the federal government seemed so careless in approving the recreational use of marijuana (which made the ongoing cycle of substance abuse and addiction in our country even worse), but played it tough when it comes to approving medical cannabis, which could potentially benefit countless of people by improving many conditions and taking the place of a number of synthetic drugs. Who would not want that? Well, clearly, not those whose bottom line would be affected.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Pot for pain is picking up speed

Pot for pain is picking up speed. Should it?

Like many people, economist W. David Bradford says he was under the impression that medical marijuana was something only young people would be interested in. At least, that’s what he thought until his own research began showing otherwise.
In mid-July, he and Ashley C. Bradford, his co-researcher and daughter, published one of the more compelling studies about medical marijuana to date. Theirreport, which ran in the journal Health Affairs, looked at data on prescriptions filled by Medicare enrollees from 2010 to 2013—and found that older people who qualified for Medicare were, where appropriate, making use of medical pot. Not only that, they also found that when states legalized medical marijuana, prescriptions dropped significantly for painkillers and other drugs for which pot may be an alternative. Doctors in a state where marijuana was legal prescribed an average of 1,826 fewer doses of painkillers per year.
Since 1999, overdose deaths in the U.S. involving opioids (prescription painkillers and heroin) have quadrupled. Meanwhile, estimates suggest opioid abuse racks up over $72 billion in medical costs alone each year in the U.S., and the Bradfords’ report found that states with medical marijuana laws saved $165.2 million per year in medical costs. So while it remains contentious, a growing number of experts some medical experts and even some states are considering the idea that medical marijuana should play a critical—and legal—role in combating the nation’s painkiller epidemic.
“What we hope people take away from this is that when marijuana becomes available as a clinical option, physicians and patients together are reacting as if marijuana is medicine,” says Bradford, the Busbee Chair in Public Policy at the University of Georgia.
Marijuana is a Schedule 1 drug according to the federal government, and many lawmakers and doctors remain resistant to the idea that marijuana has a place in medicine. Some doctors also argue medical marijuana isn’t well regulated. Others say there’s simply not enough scientific evidence to know for certain that people can improve their pain with cannabis, or kick a painkiller habit.
But other experts, like Dr. Donald Abrams, chief of the Hematology-Oncology Division at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, says anything that makes a dent in an epidemic that kills 80 Americans every day is worth consideration—especially since medical pot is proving in studies to be an effective treatment for pain. “If we could use cannabis, which is less addictive and harmful than opioids, to increase the effectiveness of pain treatment, I think it can make a difference during this epidemic of opioid abuse,” says Abrams who has investigated the effect of cannabis on pain for over a decade. “We are hampered by the fact that it is still difficult to get funding for studies on cannabis as a therapeutic,” he adds.
Still, the movement has momentum. In April, Maine became the first state to consider adding opioid addiction to the list of ailments that medical marijuana can treat. The health department ultimately denied the petition, but proponents like Dr. Dustin Sulak, a licensed osteopathic physician in Maine who treats people with medical marijuana, says it helped start a conversation about pot as a potential solution. “Cannabis enhances the pain relief of opioids and if they are working together, [the effect] is more powerful,” he says.
Sulak practices with Integr8 Health, a health care practice with around 15 providers in Maine and Massachusetts who treat about 20,000 people using medical cannabis. About 70% of the people use medical marijuana for chronic pain, and others use it for conditions like nausea from chemotherapy drugs or cancer. Among over 1,000 people Sulak recently surveyed at Integr8 Health, half said they used cannabis in combination with opioids to treat their pain, and the majority of those people said they either stopped opioids completely or reduced their dosage of opioids over time.
“You don’t see this anywhere else,” says Sulak. “Instead you see people coming back and asking for more and more opioids.”
The idea that marijuana may treat pain and combat addiction is not without precedent. A study published in 2014 in the journal JAMA found that states with medical marijuana laws experienced a nearly 25% drop in deaths from opioid overdoses compared to states that did not have those laws. That may be because medical marijuana, which often relies on compounds from the cannabis plant called cannabinoids, has been found in many studies to help pain management. For example, a 2015 analysis of 79 studies also published in JAMA reported a 30% or greater reduction in pain from cannabinoids compared to a placebo. Studies suggest cannabinoidsinteract with receptors in pain activity centers located in the brain and spinal chord. There’s also some suggestion that they have anti-inflammatory effects.
In February 2016, Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren wrote a letterto the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) asking the agency to look into the “effectiveness of medical marijuana as an alternative to opioids for pain treatment in states where it is legal.”
In 2015, Minnesota added chronic pain as one of the conditions that could be treated with medical cannabis. The Boston Herald reports that some Massachusetts clinics are treating people addicted to painkillers with pot, though the state’s health department does not have an official position on that therapy. So far Maine has come closest to officially adding opioid addiction to the list of conditions pot can treat successfully.
It will likely be quite some time before medical marijuana is a standard and widely accepted alternative to painkillers — but, says Bradford, he’s seen changes over time. “I think we are seeing much more openness to the use of medical marijuana,” he says. Whether state lawmakers agree, remains to be seen.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Endogenous Cannabinoids: Homemade Cannabinoids Live Inside You

Endocannabinoid System

It comes as a surprise to many people that we have a system in our bodies capable of producing its own cannabinoids without you ever picking up a hemp or cannabis product.  According to the Journal of Nature Reviews Drug Discovery, the discovery of this system occurred some time in the mid-1990s, after scientists found membrane receptors (known as CB receptors) used by the psychoactive compound delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. Some scientists thought that THC acted on individual body cells, but this discovery proved that notion wrong. As it is understood now, we wouldn’t actually get “high” from THC in cannabis plants at all if we did not have an endocannabinoid system. Other species in the world cannot get “high” because they lack this feature in their anatomy.
According to the Journal of Comparative Neurology, such a system is common in many creatures including in mammals, birds, amphibians, fish, sea urchins, leeches, mussels, and even the most primitive animal with a nerve network, the Hydra. However, the presence of CB receptors has not been seen in terrestrial invertebrates (or any member of the Ecdysozoa). Surprisingly, no specific bindings of the synthetic CB ligands [(3)H]CP55,940 and [(3)H]SR141716A were found in a panel of insects: Apis mellifera, Drosophila melanogaster, Gerris marginatus, Spodoptera frugiperda, and Zophobas atratus.
Another study confirming the endocannabinoid system in humans was one done on runners in 2003. This study showed that male college students running on a treadmill or cycling on a stationary bike for 50 minutes had their endocannabinoid system activated. This study was among the first evidence to suggest alternative explanations for exercise’s ability to induce analgesia, or “runner’s high,” in people.
Other good preliminary knowledge to have before we dive into endogenous cannabinoids is about the four subtypes of receptors in the endocannabinoid system upon which they can act. We usually only talk about two, but these four types are…
  • CB1 (first cloned around 1990),
  • CB2 (first cloned around 1993),
  • WIN, and
  • abnormal-cannabidiol receptors (abn-CBD) or anandamide receptor.
Some might be yet to be discovered, since truncated forms of the CB1 receptor (like CB1A) have also been found.
Also important is knowing where CB1 and CB2 receptors are generally located. According to an article in the Journal of Current Neuropharmacology, “CB1 receptors are abundant and widely dispersed throughout the brain. Their distribution has been mapped by autoradiographic studies, immunohistochemical techniques, in situ histochemistry, and electrophysiological studies. CB1 receptors have shown particularly high levels of expression in cortex, basal ganglia, hippocampus, and cerebellum and low levels of expression in brainstem nuclei.”  In contrast, CB2 receptors are found mostly on white blood cells and in the spleen.

Endogenous Cannabinoids – What are these chemicals you make?

First thing to know regarding endogenous cannabinoids is that they are synonymous with endocannabinoids. “Endo” simply means “within” or “internal” while “genous” comes from the same root word as “generate” or “genesis” – in other words, “make” or “create.” The words “endogenous cannabinoids” and “endocannabinoids” will be used interchangeably.  Endocannabinoids serve as intercellular “lipid messengers” signaling molecules that are released from one cell and activating the cannabinoid receptors present on other nearby cells. The first endogenous cannabinoid to be isolated and structurally characterized in 1992 was arachidonylethanolamide, commonly known as anandamide, and it was taken from a pig brain.


Fun fact: The name for this chemical comes from the Sanskrit word ananda, which means “bliss.” This study published in the Journal of Neurochemistry shows how anandamide works. Anandamide can bind to membranes in two ways. Either it does this transiently, quickly passing, or it does so when it is “transfected with an expression plasmid carrying the cannabinoid receptor DNA.” Transfection, in biology terms, is a method of introducing genetic material. An expression plasmid can affect the gene expression in cells. The anandamide also inhibits the forskolin-stimulated adenylate cyclase in the transfected cells.  What all this means is that “anandamide is an endogenous agonist that may serve as a genuine neurotransmitter for the cannabinoid receptor.” Anandamide affects how CB1 receptors do or don’t get activated.
Anandamide is synthesised by the hydrolysis of the precursor N-arachidonoyl phosphatidylethanolamine, which is catalysed by the enzyme phosphodiesterase phospholipase D. After release from the postsynaptic terminal, which is the receiving part of the connection (synapse) between two nerve cells (neurons), anandamide interacts with presynaptic cannabinoid receptors. Deficiencies can have unpleasant results, as this study about neuropathic pain in mice shows. Anandamide plays a role in pain, mood, appetite, and memory and is the most extensively studied endogenous cannabinoid.       

2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG)

Like anandamide, 2-AG is also an endogenous ligand for CB1 receptors. According to a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience, it is the most prevalent endogenous cannabinoid ligand in the brain. The study, which observed self-administered injections of squirrel monkeys, also pointed to data suggesting that 2-AG plays a role in drug-taking behaviors. The monkeys were shown to exhibit an addictive behavior when given 2-AG. Its role in the organism overall is still being established, but recent studies show that it plays a role in the regulation of the circulatory system via direct and/or indirect effects on blood vessels and/or heart. It is synthesised by cleavage of an inositol-1,2-diacylglycerol, which is catalysed by phospholipase C.

Virodhamine (OAE)

This endogenous cannabinoid is a CB1 partial agonist but is a CB1 antagonist in vivo (in the body). It was discovered in June of 2002. Virodhamine is arachidonic acid and ethanolamine joined by an ester linkage. In the hippocampus, its concentrations are similar to those of anandamide. In peripheral tissues that express the CB2 receptor, however, it was found in amounts that were 2- to 9-fold higher than anandamide.
At the CB2 receptor, it acts as a full agonist. It sometimes can antagonize other endocannabinoids in vivo; for example, it can inhibit anandamide transport. In a study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology, it was shown to relax rat mesenteric arteries through endothelial cannabinoid receptors. It can do this to the human pulmonary artery via two mechanisms: It activates the putative endothelial cannabinoid receptor, and it initiates the hydrolysis of virodhamine to arachidonic acid and subsequent production of a vasorelaxant prostanoid through COX.  

In Retrospect: Clearing Up Misinformation

Here are some things you need to understand about how CBD relates to these endogenous cannabinoids. CBD is not itself an endogenous cannabinoid; however, it acts on CB receptors in a similar manner to some endogenous cannabinoids, like OAE. THC and CBD both influence the way that natural endocannabinoids carry out their jobs. Sometimes, they are agonists in one spot and antagonists for another.

In Conclusion..

We hope that this helps clear up some information about the endogenous cannabinoids involved in the endocannabinoid system. It is perhaps commonly thought when hearing about this system that we produce things like CBD in our bodies, but this isn’t quite so. We produce very similar chemicals that do very similar things that also influence how cannabinoids like CBD and THC will interact with our CB receptors or other receptor sites.  Some are ligands for synaptic reactions, and some are agonists/antagonists

We want to know: How has this expanded your perspective on the usefulness of cannabinoids? Leave a comment. In order to understand more about cannabidiol specifically, we have a great resource page on our website that neatly compiles must-know facts so you don’t have to do the arduous digging. Please don’t hesitate to ask us any further questions.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Marijuana is no longer a threat, police say

When the DEA surveyed over 1,000 law enforcement agencies as to what they saw as their biggest drug threats, marijuana came in at the bottom of the list. Furthermore, it was named by only 6 percent of survey respondents.
As far as drug threats go, pot has been declining steadily since the mid-2000s, even as states have moved to legalize medical and recreational marijuana during that time period.
By contrast, nearly 75% of police departments cite heroin and meth as their top drug threat. After rising sharply from 2007 to 2013, abuse of prescription painkillers has subsided considerably in the past two years.

It all points to something that drug policy experts and researchers have known for a long time: compared to other recreational substances, including alcohol, marijuana is really not that harmful (if harmful at all.) It’s probably safer and even more beneficial than many people think.
State and local police agencies also say that marijuana is not a big facilitator of crime. Only 6 percent said that marijuana was the most serious driver of violent crime in their communities in 2015, and 5 percent said it was the biggest contributor to property crime.  This contradicts arguments posed by some high ranking law enforcement officials that marijuana is somehow responsible for an increase in murders in the last year.
Despite this shift in thinking, as well as increasing legalization across the country, arrests for marijuana possession continue.
Though legal in many places, marijuana is by far the most widely used illegal drug and likely affords many law enforcement officers an easy and accessible arrest. But these arrests have serious consequences for the people involved, and they divert time and resources that could be better focused on more serious crimes, like rape and murder.
Add to that that the Department of Justice continues to aggressively pursue and prosecute these cases even in places like California where some use of the plant is legal.
The DEA’s latest drug threat assessment makes a solid argument for smarter policing: If marijuana is so low on the totem pole, while heroin and meth are a big worry, then devote less time and resources to the former and more to the latter. The report states that over 46,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2013. It fails to mention that not a single one of those overdoses was caused by marijuana.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

THC:CBD relieved pain in cancer patients better than opiate pain medicine

This study compared the efficacy of a tetrahydrocannabinol:cannabidiol (THC:CBD) extract, a nonopioid analgesic endocannabinoid system modulator, and a THC extract, with placebo, in relieving pain in patients with advanced cancer. In total, 177 patients with cancer pain, who experienced inadequate analgesia despite chronic opioid dosing, entered a two-week, multicenter, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, parallel-group trial. Patients were randomized to THC:CBD extract (n = 60), THC extract (n = 58), or placebo (n = 59). The primary analysis of change from baseline in mean pain Numerical Rating Scale (NRS) score was statistically significantly in favor of THC:CBD compared with placebo (improvement of -1.37 vs. -0.69), whereas the THC group showed a nonsignificant change (-1.01 vs. -0.69). Twice as many patients taking THC:CBD showed a reduction of more than 30% from baseline pain NRS score when compared with placebo (23 [43%] vs. 12 [21%]). The associated odds ratio was statistically significant, whereas the number of THC group responders was similar to placebo (12 [23%] vs. 12 [21%]) and did not reach statistical significance. There was no change from baseline in median dose of opioid background medication or mean number of doses of breakthrough medication across treatment groups. No significant group differences were found in the NRS sleep quality or nausea scores or the pain control assessment. However, the results from the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer Quality of Life Cancer Questionnaire showed a worsening in nausea and vomiting with THC:CBD compared with placebo (P = 0.02), whereas THC had no difference (P = 1.0). Most drug-related adverse events were mild/moderate in severity. This study shows that THC:CBD extract is efficacious for relief of pain in patients with advanced cancer pain not fully relieved by strong opioids.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Cancer / Oncology Breast Cancer Alcohol / Addiction / Illegal Drugs Cannabis reduces tumor growth in study

The main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis - tetrahydrocannabinol - could be used to reduce tumor growth in cancer patients, according to an international research team.

Previous studies have suggested that cannabinoids, of which tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is one, have anti-cancer properties. In 2009, researchers at Complutense University in Spain found that THC induced the death of brain cancer cells in a process known as "autophagy."

illustration of cancer cells

When human tumors in mice were targeted with doses of THC, the researchers found that two cell receptors were particularly associated with an anti-tumor response.

The researchers found that administering THC to mice with human tumors initiated autophagy and caused the growth of the tumors to decrease. Two human patients with highly aggressive brain tumors who received intracranial administration of THC also showed similar signs of autophagy, upon analysis.

The team behind the new study - co-led by Complutense University and the University of Anglia (UEA) in the UK - claims to have discovered previously unknown "signaling platforms" that allow THC to shrink tumors.

The researchers induced tumors in mice using samples of human breast cancer cells. When the tumors were targeted with doses of THC, the researchers found that two cell receptors were particularly associated with an anti-tumor response.

"THC, the major active component of marijuana, has anti-cancer properties. This compound is known to act through a specific family of cell receptors called cannabinoid receptors," says Dr. Peter McCormick, from UEA's School of Pharmacy.
"We show that these effects are mediated via the joint interaction of CB2 and GPR55 - two members of the cannabinoid receptor family. Our findings help explain some of the well-known but still poorly understood effects of THC at low and high doses on tumor growth."
However, the team is unsure which receptor is the most responsible for the anti-tumor effects.
Dr. McCormick says that there has been a "great deal of interest" in understanding the molecular mechanisms behind how marijuana influences cancer pathology. This has been accompanied by a drive in the pharmaceutical industry to synthesize a medical version of the drug that retains the anti-cancer properties.

"By identifying the receptors involved we have provided an important step towards the future development of therapeutics that can take advantage of the interactions we have discovered to reduce tumor growth," says Dr. McCormick.

Why patients should not 'self-medicate' with marijuana

Cancer patients should not be tempted to self-medicate, Dr. McCormick warns:
"Our research uses an isolated chemical compound and using the correct concentration is vital. Cancer patients should not use cannabis to self-medicate, but I hope that our research will lead to a safe synthetic equivalent being available in the future."
Medical marijuana has been in the news a lot over the past week, with Governor Andrew Cuomo signing the Compassionate Care Act, which makes New York the 23rd state to legalize the medical use of this drug.

Medical News Today also recently reported on how the city of Berkeley in California - which was the first state in the US to allow the medical use of marijuana, back in 1996 - has passed a law that requires the four marijuana dispensaries in the city to provide free medical marijuana to low-income patients who are prescribed this medication.

Meanwhile, Arizona have broadened the range of conditions for which medical marijuana can be prescribed as a treatment. As well as conditions such as cancer, chronic pain and muscle spasms, marijuana can now be prescribed as a form of palliative care for post-traumatic stress disorder.