DEA Chief Claims Cannabis Is Not Medicine…Again

DEA Chief Claims Cannabis Is Not Medicine…Again

During a speech at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio last week, Drug Enforcement Administration Chief Chuck Rosenberg disparaged the use of cannabis as medicine…again.

“If it turns out that there is something in smoked marijuana that helps people, that’s awesome,” he said. “I will be the last person to stand in the way of that. … But let’s run it through the Food and Drug Administration process, and let’s stick to the science on it.”

The call for FDA approval of medical cannabis is a common one, especially among those who can’t muster actual opposition based on the facts about marijuana. As much as they’d like to pretend that the FDA is the final authority on whether something can be used as a safe medicine, the dozens of FDA-approved prescription drugs that were later recalled belie that notion.

Beyond that, millions of people rely on medical cannabis every day to treat various ailments with a great deal of success. But it seems none of that matters to people like Chuck Rosenberg.

This is not the first time Rosenberg has said something completely uninformed about cannabis. In late 2015 he called medical marijuana a “joke,” and it would seem that in the 18+ months since, he has done no research on the issue whatsoever.

chuck-rosenberg-marijuana-is-not-medicine

Those who support marijuana legalization for medicinal purposes have no problem with more research. But to claim that marijuana is not medicine just because the very fallible people at the FDA have not deemed it so is either ignorant or a calculated effort to deceive the public. Since information on marijuana as medicine is readily available to anyone with an Internet connection, I would lean toward the latter.

As time goes on, the DEA proves more and more just how useless it is; a waste of taxpayer money to the tune of billions of dollars every year, with no end in sight. As much as we would all like to believe that the DEA’s reign of error will be over soon, the federal government is not known for dismantling agencies that waste taxpayer money. If anything, they just throw more money at the problem and hope things get better.

People like Chuck Rosenberg having power over marijuana policy in this country is hurting millions of citizens every day. Patients know that marijuana is medicine because they have seen it work. Chuck Rosenberg would see it too, if he ever bothered to look.

Originally published: The Marijuana Times

San Diego DA Charges James Slatic and Others Just Weeks After Being Ordered to Return Seized Assets

San Diego DA Charges James Slatic and Others Just Weeks After Being Ordered to Return Seized Assets

Many of our readers are familiar with the case of James Slatic, the former owner of Medwest Distribution, a California company that supplied cannabis extracts to dispensaries legally under CA law. After the DEA and local law enforcement raided his business early in 2016 and seized his family’s assets, James and his attorneys fought the San Diego District Attorney’s office for more than a year, culminating in a victory earlier this month when a judge ordered the D.A.’s office to return more than $100,000 to the Slatic family.

One of the oddest aspects of the case was the fact that the D.A. had not charged James or anyone in his family with a crime. That changed last week when – almost 16 months after the raid – James, two of his executives and one of his attorneys were all charged with multiple felonies relating to conspiracy and the manufacturing of a controlled substance.

One has to wonder, why now? Is it a response to the order to return assets? Is it some sort of revenge? Or does the D.A. really believe she has a case and just took a really, really long time to bring charges?

The addition of Slatic’s attorney, Jessica McElfresh, to those charged is another anomaly in a strange case.
“At the outset I would say that it is always very difficult to charge an attorney for legal advice being requested by the client,” Defense Attorney Marc Carlos told NBC 7 in San Diego. “The attorney must act in the best interests of the client and sometimes that means safeguarding their interests so that they do not incriminate themselves. That being said, the attorney has an ethical duty to act within the ethical cannons of the state bar and applicable laws. An attorney cannot actively engage in activities which obstruct justice. Under these circumstances that DA will have to prove that she acted with criminal intent in conspiring to violate the law. This is extremely difficult given the ethical duties of the attorney.”

According to the D.A.’s complaint:

On December 24, 2015, MedWest attorney JESSICA MCELFRESH emailed JAMES SLATIC about the inspection that occurred on April 28, 2015. McElfresh told Slatic that the inspectors “were clearly suspicious.” McElfresh continued to say “I had to keep a very, very close eye on the retired SDPD investigator…Gary Jaus…. He’s a very smart man, and I had to walk a very fine line between being very nice and trying too hard to keep him focused on me.” McElfresh continued to say “I didn’t flirt (wouldn’t have worked), but I just kept focusing on the papers…. I’m convinced they walked away knowing it wasn’t a dispensary in the typical sense… but it probably seemed like something other than just paper. That just wasn’t what they were under mandate to look for, and hey, we did a very good job.”

McElfresh continued to say “they’ve been there once and went away, operating under the theory that no actual marijuana is there. We did a really, really good job giving them plausible deniability – and it was clear to them it wasn’t a dispensary. But, I think they suspected it was something else more than paper.” It’s clear that this case is far from over and that the D.A.’s office is not going to let it go.

“I am already out of business,” James Slatic said. “How are these charges in the interest of the public good? This is a waste of the taxpayers’ money.”

Originally published: The Marijuana Times

Ohio Supreme Court Justice Calls for the Legalization of Marijuana

Ohio Supreme Court Justice Calls for the Legalization of Marijuana

Ohio Supreme Court Justice William O’Neill recently made news when he called for the legalization and taxation of cannabis in a speech he made in front of the Wayne County, OH Democratic Party. As the lone Democrat holding statewide office in Ohio, and as someone who is considering a run for Governor next year, O’Neill is an important player within the party.

Pointing out the success of legalization in states like Colorado, O’Neill said that doing the same in Ohio could generate hundreds of millions of dollars to combat drug abuse and restore mental health services.

“The time has come for new thinking,” he said. “We regulate and tax alcohol and tobacco and imprison people for smoking grass.”

As many will remember, voters in Ohio had a chance to legalize marijuana possession, sales and home growing for adult use in 2015 – a chance they soundly rejected by almost 30 percentage points. After the defeat of Issue 3 and the disappearance of groups that claimed they were going to get legalization on the ballot in 2016, the Ohio legislature passed a limited medical marijuana law that officials in the state continue to struggle to implement.

In his speech touting the advantages of legalizing cannabis – among other things – O’Neill also called for the release of all non-violent marijuana offenders from jail as part of a legalization plan.

The current Ohio Governor, Republican John Kasich, is no fan of cannabis. He told Stephen Colbert in 2015, “The problem with marijuana is this: We don’t want to tell our kids, ‘Don’t do drugs, but by the way, this drug’s OK.’” Specious reasoning to be sure; after all, does anyone really think that the legality of tobacco and alcohol is sending the message to kids that these things are ok for them to try? There are many things that adults do that kids are not allowed to do, including driving, voting and dying in a war. Children are familiar with the concept that adults do some things that they can’t or shouldn’t.

The time has come for “new thinking” and to see someone like a sitting state Supreme Court justice talking about this issue openly is a huge step. If he does run for Governor next year you can be sure that legalization will be a part of the discussion, at least on the Democrat side. Maybe voters in Ohio will soon get another chance at adult use legalization or, a less likely scenario, the Ohio legislature will pass a bill to send to the state’s new Governor, William O’Neill.

Only time will tell, but the notion is on the table – which is the first step to getting it codified into law.

Originally published: The Marijuana Times

Why Cannabis Relieves PTSD Symptoms

Why Cannabis Relieves PTSD Symptoms

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that occurs when an individual is exposed to one or more traumatic events such as sexual assault, combat, etc. PTSD is sometimes accompanied by other psychiatric disorders, such as obsessive compulsive disorder. PTSD patients suffer hyperarousal with insomnia, social isolation, negative flashbacks, avoidance and anxiety. Chronic, untreated PTSD leads to disrupted brain chemical turnover and the patient becomes hyper-responsive to stressors. PTSD patients may exhibit dissociative behaviors or arousal, emotional or dysphoric symptoms, or a combination.

PTSD affects approximately 8 million Americans per year and is particularly prevalent among war veterans and low-income individuals.

Currently, no effective, approved or specialized treatments are available for PTSD patients, and instead they are being treated with conventional psychiatric drugs. Recently, clinicians have slowly begun to realize the ill-effects of these drugs and also looking into research studies on how cannabis might help PTSD.

The Neurobiology of PTSD

The dysfunctional neurobiology of PTSD encompasses neurotransmitters’ imbalance, including noradrenergic and serotonergic mechanisms in addition to neuroanatomical disruptions. These pathobiological events contribute to dysregulation of the endocrine, cardiovascular, immune and autonomic nervous systems – which collectively leads to PTSD. Due to the involvement of multiple factors, PTSD patients present with a broad range of symptoms that further complicate the treatment approach.

Neuroimaging studies have elucidated the key role of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in the management of central neurobiological pathways. For example, CB1 receptors are upregulated and low CB1 receptor occupancy by anandamide is common in the amygdala-hippocampal-cortico-striatal neural circuits of PTSD patients. These events contribute to dysregulation of threat-related processing in response to previous traumatic exposure, resulting in a cascade of neurological changes and amygdala hyperresponsivity. These anomalies are responsible for increased vigilance or attention to trauma-related stimulation and hyperarousal, which are common in individuals with PTSD.

Exposure to stress events triggers certain neurons in the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus and also the release of the adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH), and the latter stimulates the release of stress-causing corticosteroids (glucocorticoids). These hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis abnormalities deleteriously affect the brain and immune functions, as well as the brain’s ability to manage the stressors. Persistent release of corticosteroids leads to impaired hippocampal neurogenesis, reduced dendritic branching, behavioral problems, and addictive and memory disorders. Endogenous ECS signaling is critical for stress adaptation and intrinsic regulation of HPA axis.

Endocannabinoids and PTSD: Connecting the Dots

Physiologically, the endocannabinoid system plays a vital role in the function of the prefrontal cortex, which is involved in information processing, the subcortical arousal system and regulation of cholinergic inputs. The ECS may also be involved in the disruption of conditioned fear and facilitating adaptation to aversive situations. Modulation of hippocampal memory and plasticity via the ECS could be the best therapeutic option to treat PTSD.

Dysfunctional ECS architecture has been reported in depressive disorder patients with characteristic changes in CB1 receptors and its ligands.

Altered ECS signaling negatively affects the functions of the HPA axis. Although short-term HPA axis activation is beneficial to cope with stressors, persistent or long-term activation may lead to neuropsychiatric disorders with negative effects on metabolism, mood and cognition. Activation of cannabinoid receptors in the prefrontal complex could augment serotonergic neurotransmission and elicit antidepressant effects. Regulation of HPA output might be achieved by retrograde ECS signaling in the hypothalamus, and administration of cannabinoid ligands, such as phytocannabinoids, could activate the HPA axis indirectly by stimulating the noradrenergic and serotonergic neurotransmission. Phytocannabinoids act on both limbic and paralimbic centers, and reduce the activity of the hypothalamus and amygdala.

Higher rates of suicidal behavior have been reported in PTSD patients, which could be due to negative mood and anxiety. Researchers believe that altered G-protein signaling (CB1 receptor mediated) in the prefrontal cortex may contribute to the suicidal thoughts or behaviors.

We know that medical cannabis has antidepressant-like properties which may be useful for treating mood disorders, suicidal behaviors and PTSD. According to one report, reduction in frequency, severity of, and even complete cessation of suicidal behaviors were observed in most of the patients in New Mexico’s Medical Cannabis Program for PTSD.

It is clear that the activation of the ECS contributes to the disruption of aversive memories, anxiety, and improves stress-coping behaviors and reactivity to threat signals. In this way, cannabinoids might help PTSD patients to effectively manage their symptoms, and also to prevent the relapse of symptoms, after exposure to a stressor or stressful event.

PTSD War Veterans

It’s no secret that many veterans return from war with PTSD, and many of them self-medicate with cannabis. Those who have a hard time getting access to cannabis may turn to alcohol and other illicit substances, despite knowing about their harmful effects. Unfortunately, the reality is that current rules governing Veterans Affairs stop doctors from prescribing medical cannabis to PTSD veterans.

If we look closely into the motives of cannabis use by PTSD vets in an unbiased manner, we can see the coping-oriented cannabis use to (self) treat fears, poor sleep quality, negative associative memories, emotions and anxieties.

Yes, cannabis does help to relieve depression and facilitate sleep onset in short-term users, but long-term abusers may suffer sleep disturbances. In low doses, cannabinoids could elicit anxiolytic effects through their effects on hippocampal memory and plasticity.

How Does Cannabis Help PTSD?

Research evidence points out the inverse relationship between the lower levels of anandamide and occurrence of PTSD. In normal humans, the endocannabinoid (anandamide) activates the same receptors that are activated by phytocannabinoids. The underlying cause of PTSD is an endocannabinoid deficiency, in which the body lacks production of adequate levels of endocannabinoids to activate innate receptors that are associated with the regulation of mood perceptions, flashback memories, behaviors, metabolism and digestion. In such cases, medical cannabis comes into the play, binds with respective receptors and relieves the PTSD symptoms.

If we have normal CB1 receptor signaling, our brain has the ability to fade away all our traumatic memories, which we can consider as ‘gifted’ and beneficial forgetting. If we suffer impaired CB1 signaling or endocannabinoid deficiency, we are more prone to impaired fear extinction, negative or aversive and repetitive flashback memories with chronic anxiety, which are the cardinal features of PTSD. In response to, or to compensate for, the endocannabinoid deficiency, the body produces more endocannabinoid receptors, which actually have no agonists to bind with.

According to a Brazilian study, THC is more potent than CBD in attenuating fear memories. In combination, THC and CBD could potentially relieve PTSD symptoms with minimal – but very tolerable – side effects.

Emerging evidence has pointed out that CBD has the potential to treat neuropsychiatric disorders by interacting with serotonergic receptors and dopaminergic systems. A pre-clinical study found that cannabis treats these problems by influencing the nucleus accumbens VTA circuit of the mesolimbic system, which is responsible for positive neuronal and behavioral effects and also for the disruption of formation of negative associative memories. CBD achieve this via functional interaction with 5-HT1A receptor signaling mechanisms. However, the exact mechanism of emotional processing modulation is still unknown.

In an experimental induced-fear test, in which animals were previously exposed to painful sensation and potential electric shock, CBD-treated laboratory animals exhibited less stress when they were nearing the electric maze. This study demonstrated the fearful sensation alleviating benefit of CBD, which could be helpful in treating PTSD veterans who are exposed to life-threatening situations in battles.

Studies have suggested that THC-mediated activation of CB1 receptors present in the medial prefrontal cortex could lead to memory reactivation or retrieval. However, CBD could counter this effect as well as other negative psychotropic effects of THC, and help to effectively manage PTSD symptoms. Even in sub-effective doses, a combination of THC and CBD could mitigate dysfunctional aversive and fear memories, locomotor activity and anxiety-related behaviors.

Phytocannabinoids are also helpful for treating alcoholism, which is highly common in PTSD patients. A patient survey study found that PTSD patients prefer cannabis over alcohol and other illicit substances because the side effects are minimal and temporary.

Medical cannabis use tends to reduce aggressive behaviors, which is also common in PTSD patients. Additionally, these patients report significant reductions in anger and irritability. Cannabis strains containing both THC and CBD in equal ratios may prevent psychotic-like behaviors.

Conclusion

Even with co-occurring psychiatric illnesses, cannabis treats PTSD by influencing the neurobiological pathways and modulating the neurotransmitters, bringing these anomalies back to normalcy. Due to Schedule I classification and legal barriers in conducting controlled clinical trials, treatment safety information is still lacking.
It could be a decade or more before we see the FDA’s approval of cannabis-based drugs for the treatment of PTSD. With the mounting evidence, psychiatrists and clinicians should recommend this simple solution for PTSD management, at least in states where marijuana is currently legal.

Originally published: The Marijuana Times

Organizers of Denver’s 4/20 Rally Fined, Banned from Holding Event for 3 Years

Organizers of Denver’s 4/20 Rally Fined, Banned from Holding Event for 3 Years

The annual 4/20 rally in Denver has become quite an event, especially over the last few years, with recreational marijuana sales being legal in the state. Some even consider Denver the 4/20 capital of the United States; but all that may be coming to an end after circumstances at this year’s rally seemingly got out of hand with long lines, toppled fences and mounds of trash strewn all over Denver’s Civic Center Park.

Things were so bad that they prompted the editorial board at The Denver Post to speak out and urge organizers and revelers to grow up and try not to embody every negative stoner stereotype imaginable.

“The list of regrettable and gross misdeeds includes leaving Civic Center – Denver’s front lawn – something of a trash heap for workers, residents and visitors to consider as thanks for our awfully open-minded legal-cannabis system,” they wrote.

Now Denver Parks and Recreation officials have announced their verdict on what went down on 4/20: they have slapped rally organizers with more than $12,000 in fines and have banned the event from taking place in the city or county for the next 3 years.

“After a thorough review of the event, substantial violations of city requirements were found,” said Happy Haynes, executive director of Denver Parks and Recreation.

“We will continue to ensure that events in our parks are safe, compliant and of high quality, and we remain focused on protecting Denver’s parks and facilities which are valuable assets to our city and our residents.”

For their part, rally organizers claim that volunteers did their job and cleaned up all of the trash left behind, but that overnight the full trash bags left in the park for pickup were ripped open by someone, perhaps a homeless person or persons looking for food or cans. They say the city is using that as a pretext to ban an event that promotes a message they don’t like.

Organizers plan on appealing the city’s decision and say they will take the matter to court if necessary. If the ban stands, the “4/20 capital of the U.S.” may be without an official celebration on the holiest of all high holidays for the next few years.

No matter what the outcome, however, things like this reflect poorly on the cannabis community as a whole in the eyes of the public. Whether that is fair in this case is a matter for debate; but the perception is not one that can be ignored. Although some laws are changed, the stigma built up over the last 80+ years still remains in many ways. Many still look down on “stoners” and stories like this simply serve to echo what they already believe.

Mistakes happen and events won’t always go perfectly. But when it comes to public perception, we must remember that – as a community – we have very little room for error.

Originally published: The Marijuana Times

(Photo: CBS Denver)

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