A major study has shown that THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the most abundant psychoactive cannabinoid in cannabis, plays a key role in protecting neurons from the damaging effects of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Researchers at the Salk Institute released the results and analysis of the study, which were published in Nature. The study showed that THC was able to both protect neurons from the degenerative effects of the amyloid beta plaques and relieve the damaging inflammation these plaques cause.
“Although other studies have offered evidence that cannabinoids might be neuroprotective against the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, we believe our study is the first to demonstrate that cannabinoids affect both inflammation and amyloid beta accumulation in nerve cells,”
said Salk Professor David Schubert, the senior author of the paper.
The research involved modifying neurons to have high amounts of amyloid beta to cause the same plaque formation seen in the neurons of Alzheimer’s patients. Left alone, these neurons developed inflammation and died. But when researchers exposed identical neurons to cannabinoids, the inflammation was reduced as well as the plaque, allowing the cells to live.
What’s more, the study shows that THC relieves the specific type of inflammation caused by Alzheimer’s. Typically, conventional NSAID drugs block COX receptors, relieving a variety of inflammatory conditions. This study provided evidence that the neuron’s LOX receptors are the true culprits of inflammation caused by the plaques in Alzheimer’s, suggesting why NSAID drugs have proven to be ineffective in treating the disease. While the study showcases the medicinal qualities of cannabis, it also provides insight into the pathology of Alzheimer’s and other inflammatory conditions that don’t respond to conventional drugs.
One major criticism that the researchers addressed was the fact that they used neurons instead of a mouse model. Many believe that it’s the activation of other brain cells besides neurons that contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s. Conducting a new study with a mouse model or a clinical trial would be the next step in furthering the research. In the meantime, this study has pinpointed the factors involved in Alzheimer’s inflammation, and that cannabinoids may be key in treating this devastating disease.
Derek Peterson, Chairman and CEO of the publicly-traded company Terra Tech Corp, was denied a life insurance policy based on his affiliation with the cannabis industry.
A letter was sent to Peterson by Mutual of Omaha, notifying him that “we cannot accept premium[s] from individuals or entities who are associated with the marijuana industry.”
The letter from Mutual of Omaha to Derek Peterson, denying him life insurance coverage.
The letter, dated June 13th, contains significant grammatical errors that affect the meaning of the response, such as, “WE ARE REGULATED BY THE AGENCIES OF THE,” which calls into question the reasoning behind their decisions, whether it be a fear of a specific government threat or simply an excuse.
“This was to get some additional coverage for me personally, my family,” said Peterson. “On a personal level, to have something like this happen, where I can’t get protection for my family … it just seems ridiculous and archaic at this point.”
On his application, Peterson stated that he uses marijuana, in accordance with Mutual of Omaha’s policies that require an applicant to disclose any and all relevant information regarding the health of the insured.
Peterson’s entrepreneurship within the cannabis industry includes retail businesses in Oakland, California and Nevada, as well as a significant medical cannabis growing operation in Oakland. Due to Terra Tech Corp’s status as a publicly traded company (TRTC), Peterson has experience working with the SEC and other government entities. Access to banking services has been notoriously difficult for employees of the cannabis industry, but obtaining life insurance policies has not been a known issue until now.
While 25 states have legalized medical cannabis and four have legalized recreational cannabis, federal prohibition has kept large financial institutions from interacting with cannabis businesses and individuals. While banks may be attempting to protect their reputation, the results of denying these services have been deadly.
Financial expert Julie Hill of the University of Alabama School of Law points out that “knowingly engag[ing] in a monetary transaction in criminally derived property of value greater than $10,000.”
“These and other laws make it very risky to accept any money that you know comes from a marijuana business, regardless of whether you are a bank,” she said. “This is one account that probably won’t make them much money, yet it could potentially be a really large headache,” she said. “It’s easier to say ‘No, thank you’ than to try to figure out if it would actually cause negative repercussions.”
While the Senate has been making strides in allowing cannabis business to access financial services, banks are self-regulated and are legally allowed to create their own policies, even if they are based on reputational concerns.
Photo credit: Terra Tech Corp
Macedonia has become the latest nation to legalize medical marijuana, with the first medicines becoming available by the end of May.
Health Minister Nikola Todorov has stated that the program will serve those who are, “suffering from serious illnesses, such as malignant diseases, multiple sclerosis, HIV and childhood epilepsy.”
Polling has shown that Macedonians support medical marijuana, with 70 in favor of using cannabis for medicinal purposes. In contrast, only 34 percent were in favor of legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes.
Since Macedonia took a legislative approach to legalizing medical marijuana, the ministry held a public debate back in November so citizens could voice their concerns. Once cancer patient described his experience of using black market cannabis to treat his lymphoma.
“I had a lymphoma cancer. I was using the [cannabis] oil and I got cured and I know several other examples like mine… The cause for unsuccessful treatments lies in the low quality of marijuana being sold on the black market, which is normal when medical marijuana is illegal,”
said Filip, a man from Skopje.
Marija Darkovska Serafimova, the head of the State Pharmacological Bureau which regulates medications throughout the country, admitted that “there is some research that indicates that the use of cannabis products helps,” but did not seem to think the data was conclusive. However, she did recognize the importance of regulated medical cannabis.
“Legalization would allow patients to get cannabis with a verified and standardized quality,”
Macedonia is now the 14th country in the European Union to legalize medical marijuana.
On Monday May 16th, a medical marijuana bill that enables previous legislation to become functional, was forwarded to Gov. John Bel Edwards for his signature. Three days later, the bill was signed into law.
Medical Marijuana in Louisiana has been slow to start. The program began last year, but there were no provisions for how the program would be regulated, how medical cannabis would be cultivated and who would oversee the growing operations. Republican Senator Fred Mills sponsored the bill in an effort to get Louisiana’s medical cannabis program up and running. In the meantime, patients have been waiting for years for safe access to medical marijuana.
“The wait was excruciating, but so worth it,” said medical marijuana advocate Katie Corkern, who wants to treat her son Connor’s epilepsy with the drug. “I woke up this morning and was thinking, it’s not going to pass because I’ve been doing so much research. There were people who I thought were definitely going to vote for it who changed their minds.”
The House offered no debate, and the bill passed 22-14.
The program will be limited and will take time to implement, requiring patients to wait an additional one to two years. That time will be spent selecting an official grower approved by the state and licensing up to ten distributors. Louisiana State University and Southern University have until September 1st to decide whether or not they want to participate as official growers. If neither choose to participate, the state will select a private company. A 7 percent tax based on the grower’s sales to the distributors will be paid to the Department of Agriculture, who will be responsible for regulation.
Along with cancer, spastic quadriplegia (a type of cerebral palsy) and glaucoma, qualifying conditions that are being added as a result of the new bill include epilepsy and other seizure disorders, HIV/AIDS, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), chronic pain, severe nausea, anorexia, Crohn’s disease, ALS, muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis. Smokable medical cannabis will not be allowed in Louisiana, but rather an oil or tincture form that can be administered and ingested orally.
A small but significant change was made to the bill’s language, based on concerns by physicians. The word “prescription” was changed to “recommendation” so that doctors could protect themselves from federal drug laws and maintain their DEA licensing.
Opposition to the bill came mostly from law enforcement, who feared that a medical marijuana would lead to rampant, unregulated use of marijuana within the state. These concerns were ultimately set aside when lawmakers and citizens described the suffering of their loved ones with debilitating medical conditions.
Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has previously suggested he would end prohibition of marijuana. should he be elected. At a rally in Puerto Rico on Monday, Sanders answered an audience’s question: “Would you legalize marijuana?”
He responded in the affirmative: “Si. You see, my Spanish is good enough to know that word.”
Sanders has been clear on his position regarding the Controlled Substances Act, which ranks cannabis in the same category as heroin. He reiterated this to the crowd in Puerto Rico.
“We’ve got marijuana and heroin together, that’s pretty crazy to my mind,” he said.
His views on the failings of the War on Drugs have also been voiced in October 2015.
In the United States we have 2.2 million people in jail today, more than any other country. And we’re spending about $80 billion a year to lock people up. We need major changes in our criminal justice system – including changes in drug laws.”
Sanders has focused on the failures of the War on Drugs as a reason to legalize cannabis.
Presidential candidates running for office in 2016 have been more vocal about cannabis legalization than ever before, regardless of their position.
Hillary Clinton has stated she would consider rescheduling marijuana from a Schedule I to a Schedule II substance, but seems to think no research has been done on the benefits of cannabis, despite plenty of evidence indicating otherwise. She may be unaware that significant research is being conducted in other countries.
“…the problem with medical marijuana is there’s a lot of anecdotal evidence about how well it works for certain conditions, but we haven’t done any research. Why? Because it’s considered what’s called a Schedule I drug and you can’t even do research in it.”
While Clinton can be labeled as a weak ally in the legalization movement, Republican candidate Donald Trump has more or less supported medical marijuana.
“I know people that have serious problems… and… it really, really does help them,”
he said to Bill O’Reilly.
Sanders is an example of the growing support for cannabis legalization that has nothing to do with personal use and more to do with public safety, public health and the mass incarceration of U.S. citizens for minor drug crimes.