Medical Cannabis Oil Distribution On The Horizon In Georgia

Medical Cannabis Oil Distribution On The Horizon In Georgia

As a beacon of hope for patients in Georgia, an executive director has finally been appointed by the Access to Medical Cannabis Commission to oversee the next stages of development for the state’s medical marijuana program.

Andrew Turnage, who has experience as executive director for both the Georgia State Board of Cosmetology and Barbers and the Georgia Board of Nursing, was selected over four other applicants. 

“We have one goal, and that’s to get oil for families in need,” Turnage said to Valdosta Today. “Think about families that have struggled to have their basic needs met during this pandemic. We have families in Georgia that have struggled for years to get this basic need, low-THC oil, and our task will be to ensure that they receive it.”

Turnage came highly recommended for the position by The Goodwin Group, an executive recruiting firm that reportedly consulted with cannabis industry experts before making the recommendation. 

“Mr. Turnage not only has the experience The Goodwin Group recommended, but specifically in the area of state licensing, which is essential to getting us up and running and producing low-THC oil,” said the commission’s chairman and principal surgeon at the Atlanta Neurological & Spine Institute, Dr. Christopher Edwards.

Turnage will be responsible for establishing the selection process for licensing cultivation and distribution businesses as well as lab-testing and system regulations. At least six cultivation licenses are expected to be awarded, but the timeline for when the legal distribution system is expected to be in place has not been released. 

According to the program’s website, conditions that qualify a person to be able to apply for the Georgia Medical Marijuana Program include:

  • Cancer, when such diagnosis is end stage or the treatment produces related wasting illness or recalcitrant nausea and vomiting 
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, when such diagnosis is severe or end stage 
  • Seizure disorders related to diagnosis of epilepsy or trauma related head injuries 
  • Multiple sclerosis, when such diagnosis is severe or end stage 
  • Crohn’s disease 
  • Mitochondrial disease 
  • Parkinson’s disease, when such diagnosis is severe or end stage 
  • Sickle cell disease, when such diagnosis is severe or end stage 
  • Tourette’s syndrome, when such syndrome is diagnosed as severe 
  • Autism spectrum disorder, when (a) patient is 18 years of age or more, or (b) patient is less than 18 years of age and diagnosed with severe autism 
  • Epidermolysis bullosa 
  • Alzheimer’s disease, when such disease is severe or end stage 
  • AIDS when such syndrome is severe or end stage 
  • Peripheral neuropathy, when symptoms are severe or end stage 
  • Patient is in hospice program, either as inpatient or outpatient 
  • Intractable pain
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from direct exposure to or witnessing of a trauma for a patient who is at least 18 years of age

A Brief History

It all began in 2015 when Georgia lawmakers approved legislation to allow registered medical marijuana patients in the state to possess and use up to 20 fluid ounces of low-THC cannabis oil. In order to qualify as “low-THC” the oil must contain no more than 5 percent of the psychoactive cannabinoid, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). 

Last year, the state appointed members to the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission, and an executive director was just elected by that board in May of 2020.

In five years of program development, patients still have no way to legally purchase the oil within state lines. Registered patients and caregivers are forced to obtain the medicine on the black market, where it is neither regulated nor lab-tested, or buy it in another state, breaking federal laws to drive it across state lines. 

Georgia legislators have been aware all along that a system for distribution needed to be established. In 2017, a top Georgia lawmaker even made headlines when he admitted to smuggling medical marijuana into the state for patients who were suffering.

Program Expansion

The chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant that translate into the effects felt, and deliver medicinal value to the consumer, are called cannabinoids. Cannabinoids, like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), work synergistically in a process known as the entourage effect. Simply put, this means that these cannabinoids are more effective when they are able to work as a team than when they are used separately. This is why many proponents insist that whole plant medicine or full spectrum cannabis oils are more effective treatment options than CBD oil that contains 5 percent or less THC. For many patients, low-THC oil and CBD isolates simply are not enough to treat debilitating symptoms. 

Now that Georgia is one step closer to providing patients with safe, reliable access to medical cannabis oil, many hope the next step will be expanding the law to include different forms, more methods of delivery, and higher potency options.

Legal Marijuana States Have Lower Opioid Use, New Studies Show

Legal Marijuana States Have Lower Opioid Use, New Studies Show

Letting people legally access marijuana appears to reduce reliance on addictive opioids, two new studies published by the American Medical Association find.

“Medical cannabis laws are associated with significant reductions in opioid prescribing in the Medicare Part D population,” concludes one paper from researchers at the University of Georgia, Athens. “This finding was particularly strong in states that permit dispensaries, and for reductions in hydrocodone and morphine prescriptions.”

The second study, from scientists at the University of Kentucky and Emory University, noted that “marijuana is one of the potential nonopioid alternatives that can relieve pain at a relatively lower risk of addiction and virtually no risk of overdose.” It found that laws allowing medical cannabis or recreational marijuana “have the potential to lower opioid prescribing for Medicaid enrollees, a high-risk population for chronic pain, opioid use disorder, and opioid overdose.”

“Marijuana liberalization may serve as a component of a comprehensive package to tackle the opioid epidemic,” the researchers conclude.

The two papers, released Monday by JAMA Internal Medicine, a publication of the AMA, looked at use of opioids such as fentanyl by people enrolled in Medicare and Medicaid, with both examinations finding that states with legal marijuana access saw lower reliance on the pharmaceutical drugs.

And the easier the access to legal marijuana, the lower the rate of opioid prescribing.

“States with active dispensaries saw 3.742 million fewer daily doses filled; states with home cultivation only [laws] saw 1.792 million fewer filled daily doses,” one of the studies, which focused on medical cannabis laws, found.

The other new paper shows that while medical marijuana is associated with reduced opioid prescriptions, recreational laws have an even greater effect.

“State implementation of medical marijuana laws was associated with a 5.88% lower rate of opioid prescribing,” the authors wrote. “Moreover, the implementation of adult-use marijuana laws, which all occurred in states with existing medical marijuana laws, was associated with a 6.38% lower rate of opioid prescribing.”

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) recently suggested that pharmaceutical companies oppose marijuana legalization for selfish reasons.

“To them it’s competition for chronic pain, and that’s outrageous because we don’t have the crisis in people who take marijuana for chronic pain having overdose issues,” she said. “It’s not the same thing. It’s not as highly addictive as opioids are.”

The results of the new studies add to a growing body of research indicating that legal marijuana access is associated with reduced opioid issues.

In 2014, for example, a previous JAMA study showed that states with medical cannabis laws have roughly 25 percent lower opioid overdose rates.

A separate analysis published in February concluded that “legally protected and operating medical marijuana dispensaries reduce opioid-related harms,” suggesting that “some individuals may be substituting towards marijuana, reducing the quantity of opioids they consume or forgoing initiation of opiates altogether.”

And previous work by Ashley and David Bradford of the University of Georgia, who authored one of the new studies released on Monday, showed broad reductions in Medicare and Medicaid pain prescriptions when state medical cannabis laws went into effect. Their new paper builds on that by zeroing in on opioid painkillers and showing that the type of state marijuana law has an effect on the reduction in prescriptions.

“The type of [medical cannabis law] matters,” David Bradford said in an email. “Dispensaries have the biggest effect.”

The other paper, by the Kentucky and Emory researchers, tabulated reductions in opioid prescriptions associated with changes in laws, finding that medical cannabis policies lead to 39.41 fewer opioid prescriptions per 1,000 enrollees annually and that the effect for recreational legalization was even larger.

“Furthermore, the implementation of adult-use marijuana laws was associated with a 9.78% lower Medicaid spending on prescription opioids, equivalent to an annual saving of $1,815 Medicaid spending per 1,000 enrollees,” the study found. “The implementation of medical and adult-use marijuana laws was also associated with a lower rate of Medicaid-covered prescriptions for nonopioid pain medications of 8.36% and 8.69%, respectively.”

The research teams behind both new studies said that medical cannabis shows promise as a partial solution to opioid issues.

“Combined with previously published studies suggesting cannabis laws are associated with lower opioid mortality, these findings further strengthen arguments in favor of considering medical applications of cannabis as one tool in the policy arsenal that can be used to diminish the harm of prescription opioids,” the Bradfords’ Georgia team wrote. “Furthermore, a growing consensus suggests that cannabis can be used to effectively manage pain in some patients. If initial licit prescriptions for opioids can be reduced, then there is a plausible theoretical pathway to anticipate that opioid misuse and abuse could also fall.”

When legal marijuana is available, some patients appear to be more likely to choose it instead of prescription pain pills that can lead to addiction or overdose.

“Most opioid use disorder and overdose cases occurred in patients with legitimate prescriptions from health care professionals for pain management. Marijuana liberalization, therefore, may have benefited these patients by providing them with legal protection and access to marijuana as an alternative relief from their pain conditions,” the Kentucky and Emory team wrote. “The widespread public support will bring medical marijuana laws to more and more states for years to come, which may help decrease the use of prescription opioids in pain management and the adverse consequences, such as opioid use disorder and overdose.”

Those researchers also noted that “marijuana may help ease opioid withdrawal symptoms.”

“Thus, marijuana liberalization potentially reduced prescription opioid use on 2 fronts, serving as a substitute for opioid pain medications, and as a complement to opioid use disorder treatment,” the wrote. “The potential of adult-use marijuana laws to reduce the use and consequences of addictive opioids deserves consideration, especially in states that have been hit hard by the opioid epidemic.

See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:

Legal Marijuana States Have Lower Opioid Use, New Studies Show

Cannabis to Streamline Relief and Medical Treatments for Senior Citizens

Cannabis to Streamline Relief and Medical Treatments for Senior Citizens

Cannabis treatments are designed for all ages, from children (mostly low-THC derivatives) to senior citizens. According to statistics from the National Survey of Drug Use and Health, the latter group is currently getting more familiar and becoming more receptive to medicinal cannabis treatments.

In Washington state, cannabis usage in individuals over the age of 65 went up from 0.9 percent to 2.4 percent between 2011 and 2014.

The rise of extremely potent prescription opioids is mostly to blame for the development of this trend. Some elderly patients are concerned about the devastating effects of harmful opiates on the liver, digestive system and the mind (promoting depression and laziness).

cannabis-medical-treatments-for-senior-citizens

Senior citizens have several choices to choose from when using cannabis to treat various medical conditions. For arthritis, which affects more than 50 million adults in the US, such individuals can utilize topicals and oils for direct, immediate relief. In most cases, this form of treatment has very limited cerebral effects on the patient. Cannabis with high THC content is suitable for senior citizens who are dealing with chronic pain and disruptive sleeping habits.

“A lot of these people think it’s just smoking a joint, but when they hear that there are non-smokable options, and more discreet, healthier, more convenient options, that’s something that really appeals to them,” explained Aron Swan, general manager of Silver State Relief in Sparks, Nevada.

Nowadays, with a plethora of strains available on the market, individuals can find options that closely matches their tolerance, personality and personal preference. According to Jacob Falconer, a professional budtender, senior citizens who are into medical cannabis prefer high CBD strains. Such variants are effective in addressing cognitive function, anxiety and chronic pain, without the “couch-locking” effects commonly associated with high THC strains.

cannabis-medical-treatments-for-senior-citizens

Like new technology, adoption of medical cannabis in elderly groups is greatly hindered by lack of access and education. Most senior citizens have a reserved, conservative stance on cannabis, due to the prohibition era. As a result, they need to be updated about new laws and regulations surrounding cannabis products. This process is difficult for older demographics who are in nursing homes and aren’t comfortable with using modern devices, like mobile phones and smart TVs.

“The number one thing for seniors is being able to educate them,” said 55-year-old California resident Bob Leber. “There’s a huge educational process at the beginning, and this lowers their anxiety and their apprehension.”

To cater to the elderly, some medical dispensaries are changing the way they do business. In California, popular cannabis dispensaries, like Harborside Health Center establishments in Oakland and San Jose, offer discounts to their senior customers.

Other dispensaries are making their shops welcoming to elderly groups by adding amenities and designs that are more attractive to such individuals. For example, a clean, quiet facility helps make some older customers feel they’re in a medical clinic, as opposed to a recreational head shop filled with loud music and hazy decorations. Some medical cannabis establishments go even further by installing handicap spaces in parking lots, with attendants ready to assist patients as they arrive at the dispensary.

Scientists Study Effects Of Alcohol & Cannabis On Aggression

Scientists Study Effects Of Alcohol & Cannabis On Aggression

Scientists researching the effects of alcohol and cannabis on aggression recently proved what many people already know – alcohol makes people more aggressive, and cannabis makes people less aggressive. The researchers recruited a balanced group of drinkers, smokers, and sober participants for their trial, and utilized a series of tests to gauge their aggression.

After the intoxicated participants were pass through the study, they were asked to take the tests again a week later sober to act as a sorts of additional control group. On a side note, those familiar with the research on this topic would know that alcohol is both more addictive and harmful than cannabis.

This team followed the most respected protocol available, choosing a random controlled trial as the study’s format. The trial was comprised of separate tests. The first test was a “single category implicit association test”, in which participants are asked to match positive and negative words with photos showing aggressive actions.

The second test was a computer game in which the participants were told they were able to win money by pressing buttons in a game against another study participant. In this head-to-head competition, the participants were actually playing against a computer controlled opponent. The researchers gauged the aggression level of the participants, by asking each to self score their level of aggression on a 100-point scale before and after each test.

Those who were in the alcohol group were observed to have increased subjective levels of aggression when intoxicated. In other words, the drinkers in the study self-reported that they felt more aggressive when drunk as compared to when they are sober. Conversely, the smokers in the study self-reported that they felt less aggressive when high.

When playing the computer game during the study, the drinkers tried harder to undermine their opponents when drunk, whereas the smokers acted less aggressive in the game while high. Shocking! Anyone with personal experience of both alcohol and cannabis already knows this from first-hand experience.

The researchers summed up the findings of their research by concluding that “the results in the present study support the hypothesis that acute alcohol intoxication increases feelings of aggression and that acute cannabis intoxication reduces feelings of aggression.” Stories of crazy people doing crazy things while high are “tragic outliers”, and do not reflect the reality of the effects.

 

Study Shows THC Protects Neurons from Damaging Effects of Alzheimer’s Disease

Study Shows THC Protects Neurons from Damaging Effects of Alzheimer’s Disease

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.

kristin kloc

Scientists Can Now Make THC from Yeast

Scientists Can Now Make THC from Yeast

When it comes to cannabis cultivation, an entire crop can be ruined by fungi, but scientists in Germany are using one fungus in particular to grow cannabinoids that until now were produced exclusively by the plant.

Which fungus is growing the two most commonly known cannabinoids, psychoactive tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and non-psychoactive cannabidiol (CBD)? Yeast.

On the heels of the announcement that yeast had been genetically engineered to produce opiods, which are normally only derived from the poppy plant, the University of Dortmund team published a research paper in the journal Biotechnology Letters, in September, documenting the discovery. The data regarding yeast which produces cannabidiol is unpublished at this time.

Oliver Kayser, a biochemist at the University of Dortmund and member of the research team, explained that they are eager to find a solution to the conflict facing European regulators who do not want to legalize cannabis cultivation, but cannot ignore that cannabinoids are medicinally effective. Kayser commented,

“They are in fear that these plants will be grown and will support some illegal farming.”

Yeast cannot compete with the production efficiency of the cannabis plant yet, however. For now, the yeast can only coax a minimal amount of THC, whereas a plant can produce upwards of 30 percent per dry weight.

“Cannabis is hard to beat.”

explained Dr. Jonathan Page, an adjunct professor at the University of British Columbia who participated in the research efforts with the University of Dortmund team.

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