Events from around the country have made the future of legal medical marijuana use in America unclear at best. Medical marijuana dispensaries are facing pressure from federal agencies and even local governments that are forcing them out of business.
The federal government’s view of pot has not changed much since the first states started passing medical marijuana laws. Though states may pass laws allowing the use of pot for medical reasons, the federal law is clear in banning all marijuana use.
“Marijuana’s illegal under federal law and there are many things I could do as a result of that,” said U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag in an interview on NPR about possible legal action against large dispensaries. “I could bring a criminal action. I can bring a forfeiture action or both.”
“A marijuana industry is not off limits. And, if we have significant grow operations, if we have for-profit operations, certainly if those operations are having other impacts, negative impacts on their communities, that it isn’t something that we’re able to ignore.”
Two San Francisco dispensaries, the decade-old HopeNet and the 8-year-old Lower Haight, closed their doors at the end of July after receiving warnings from Haag that threatened the owners with property seizure and stiff prison terms if they did not seize operations.
“The Justice Department sent our landlord one of those nasty letters,” said HopeNet co-founder Catherine Smith in an interview with a local news station. “So this is our D-Day, we have to leave.”
There have been federal raids high-profile sellers like Richard Lee of Oakland and Harborside Health Center, known from its role on the Discovery Channel series, “Weed Wars”. The feds have shut down dispensaries throughout California.
The federal government’s renewed focus may worry many advocates of medical marijuana, but U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesmen Bill Solomon gave a statement to The Arizona Republic that suggested the feds are seeking a targeted approach.
“Specifically, the Department of Justice is focusing its limited resources on significant drug traffickers, not seriously ill individuals and their caregivers who are in compliance with applicable state medical-marijuana statutes,” Solomon said.
However, the federal threat is not the only one faced by medical marijuana advocates, users and suppliers. Local governments have taken steps to try to curb the use of medical marijuana.
The city council of Los Angeles voted unanimously to ban pot shops at the end of July 2012, which meant receiving a vote from an admitted medical marijuana user. The city made the move in response to an explosion in the number of dispensaries and reports of public and illicit use of the drug. There are more than 760 registered dispensaries in the city with another estimated 200 without proper registration.
The ban on dispensaries doesn’t ban access to marijuana. Medical patients and caregivers will be able to grow and share pot in groups of three or less. Patients can also go to dispensaries in other cities. The ban may be overturned depending on the results of a pending court case.
Other cities in the country have tried to undercut their state’s medical marijuana laws by enacting local laws that recriminalize use of the drugs. In Michigan, three cities in the Detroit Metropolitan area had anti-medical marijuana laws blocked by the State appeals court.
On Oct. 16, a federal court will hear oral arguments in a decade old rescheduling petition filed by a marijuana advocacy group. The group, Americans for Safe Access, want the DEA to reclassify marijuana from Schedule I (meaning highly addictive with no medical value) to a classification that would reflect the drug’s medical benefits. It will be the first time the medical merits of pot will be examined in a federal courtroom since 1994.
Despite the setbacks in America, there is evidence that the medicinal marijuana use will continue to grow on the international scene. Use of pot as a treatment option has begun to spread worldwide.
Isreal has become the world leader in the use of cannabis for medical treatment. What first began in the bone marrow transplant cancer ward in Isreal is now used by more than 10,000 patients who have government licenses to consume the drug.
“It’s not like we’re kids and we’re getting high and going out and partying. You take it, you’re by yourself usually, you just do it because you want to be in a better place. You don’t want to sit and stew in the pain,” says the whelelchair-bound Susan Malkah, who has been using cannabis for about two years. “It’s natural, it helps, you don’t have to fill your body full of chemicals. It’s terrific.”
The American company, Medical Marijuana Inc., plans to bring cannabis-based medical products to the 27 members of the European Union over the next two years. The company has establish the Canipa Holdings firm in Romania to handle the approval and marketing process.
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Recent Study Discovered CBD Helps Fight Against Heroin Addiction
The legalization of cannabis across some states promises to bring medicinal properties that can help alleviate ailments such as anxiety, depression, and popularly, some cases of Parkinson’s disease.
However, a part of making it legal also enable people to make subjective ailments such as depression and anxiety a reason to purchase the drug and get ‘high.’
Popularly, cannabis has been told to be a gateway drug that allows a person to test the waters before proceeding to something stronger. Ironically, a new study shows that cannabis has the possibility of reversing the effects of addiction.
Researchers from the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York announced that CBD oil helps limit particular cravings and help reduce anxiety for heroin users.
The cannabidiol or CBD is a compound extracted from Cannabis plant that has shown significant potential as a form of medication. Moreover, CBD does not interact with any receptors that causes a person to get high.
“To address the critical need for new treatment options for the millions of people and families who are being devastated by this epidemic, we initiated a study to assess the potential of a nonintoxicating cannabinoid on craving and anxiety in heroin-addicted individuals,” said lead study author Yasmin Hurd, director of the Addiction Institute at Mount Sinai in a statement.
Particularly, Hurd indicates the American opioid epidemic that took the lives of 300,00 people and will continue to do so unless people find ways to address the problem. Hurd tells NBC, “We’re too slow to address addiction in our society. When the flu comes up and the measles comes up, we have so many people trying to help. But we don’t have the same kind of urgency with addiction.”
Primarily, drug addiction is a very tricky and challenging area to study due to every individual’s varying attitudes and behaviors towards drug use. It’s even harder when they’re trying to perform the study on a hundred people through the course of a number of weeks.
Moreover, there is the risk of exposing the participants in a possible case of a relapse. It is known that the hardest part of getting off heroin addiction isn’t the physical longing for the drug. Particularly, medications like methadone and buprenorphine are available to help target the same pathways opioids take to relieve the physical longing.
Sometimes the most challenging part with addiction is avoiding the risk of a relapse. Working around relapse-tense situations is like walking on thin ice. They can be triggered by emotions, sounds, and anything that addicts could associate with their drug use and cause them to suddenly and instinctively crave the drug to alleviate the anxiety. This is where the study shows to have great promise.
Researchers found out that participants who received CBD administration significantly showed reductions in drug cravings. Further, the same participants showed lesser symptoms of anxiety when images of people taking drugs were shown. Moreover, they’ve discovered that CBD had a lasting effect on reducing drug cravings and anxiety, and extending well over when the CBD was supposedly flushed out of the system.
The study could potentially aim at addressing the anxiety factor in drug addiction therapy, which is currently lacking in the industry.
The research consisted of a small group of 42 drug-abstinent men and women aged from 21 to 65 years old who had a history with heroin disorder. They gave half of the participants 400mg or 800mg of CBD oil once daily and the other half with a placebo. The study then experimented on three separate occasions: immediately following administration, 24 hours after CBD or placebo administration, and seven days after the third and final daily CBD or placebo administration.
However, the study is still at its early stages of development, and further investigation is required to fully claim that CBD has anything to do with the results shown. It still is a possibility that other factors may have contributed to the positive findings of the study or, even an entirely different set of external factors.
On the positive side, this is a great breakthrough study that could potentially open the door for more research on alleviating anxiety related to drug abuse, and potentially close the doors on risks of future relapse scenarios.
Breast cancer is a global problem that takes people’s lives as swiftly as they come. More particularly, the disease attacks women the most. In 2018, the disease killed over 500,000 women from over 2 million diagnosed cases.
The key idea with these kinds of ailments will always fall under the lines of “prevention is always better than cure.” However, despite major advances in technology that allows us to detect such diseases like in genetics and modern imaging throughout the years, the disease still comes as a surprise and for some, it comes too late.
Unfortunately, a late diagnosis would require more aggressive treatment that’s usually weighed by more medical expenses, all the while dangling on the hope for uncertain outcomes.
Breast cancer is known as the disease of the developed countries where the United States ranks 22nd after countries like Belgium, France, the United Kingdom, and Australia–all from the top 10. However, people from developed countries aren’t the most vulnerable to the disease.
Specifically, countries in less developed countries have a higher chance of death. In 2018, the WHO noted that 50% of the declared cases come from developing countries and 58% of which died from the disease. In other words, receiving news about breast cancer in poorer countries could easily be a death sentence.
Breast cancer survival rates range from 80% or over in North America, Sweden, and Japan to around 60% in middle-income countries, and below 40% in low-income countries, the WHO states.
Moreover, the WHO said that “the low survival rates in less developed countries can be explained mainly by the lack of early detection programs, resulting in a high proportion of women presenting with late-stage disease, as well as by the lack of adequate diagnosis and treatment facilities.”
This is what motivated four women from John Hopkins University to find a solution that could potentially mitigate the mortality rate in developing countries due to breast cancer, as TechCrunch reports. Namely by the biomedical engineering undergrads Laura Hinson, Madeline Lee, Sophia Triantis, and Valerie Zawicki.
They identified that women from developing countries experience trouble with treating late-stage breast cancer because a check-up is more of leisure rather than a necessity. With that in mind, cutting costs on detecting medical paraphernalia could dramatically change the outcome for these women.
What these women did was create a new device based on the idea of a core-needled biopsy tool. The tool has a lower risk of contamination than the reusable devices that are currently on the market. Moreover, being reusable, it poises itself from a cheaper vantage point compared to the disposable needles that are the only available alternative as of the moment.
“We’ve designed a novel, disposable portion that attaches to the reusable device and the disposable portion has an ability to trap contaminants that would come back through the needle into the device,” says co-founder, Triantis. “What we’ve created is a way to trap that and have that full portion be disposable and making the device as easy to clean as possible… with a bleach wipe.”
The new, low-cost, disposable core needle biopsy tool can beneficially impact physicians and nurses, through reducing costs and waste, and would decide on having more screening technologies on-hand.
Though, poised as a revolutionary device in breast cancer technology, it would still need to go under medical trials and won’t be available in the market until a couple of years. “Once we get that process solidified and finalize our design we will wrap up our benchtop testing so we can move toward clinical trials by next summer, in 2020,” Zawicki says.
The four women are currently on the process of filing patent rights and developing the final design of the product under the startup they’re calling Ithemba, which means “hope” in Swahili.
At the same time, they are on the process of doing benchtop tests on the device and will look to file a 510K to be certified as a Class 2 medical device.
Zawicki says that it could be anywhere from three to five years before the device makes it on to the market, but there’s the potential for partnerships with big companies in the biopsy space that could accelerate that time to market.
Groundbreaking Discovery Paves Way To A New Understanding Of Lupus
For a very long time, the medical world has had very little understanding of the autoimmune disease called lupus, but the dark days for victims of this deadly disease may come to an end as researchers were finally able to determine what causes it.
In a groundbreaking discovery, researchers from Australian National University (ANU) found out and successfully demonstrated that previously ignored genetic mutations are a significant cause of lupus.
Lupus (lupus erythematosus) is a collection of autoimmune diseases in which the human immune system becomes hyperactive and attacks healthy tissues. Symptoms of these diseases can affect many different body systems, including joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, heart, and lungs. The most common and severe form is systemic lupus erythematosus.
The landmark discovery, entitled “Functional rare and low-frequency variants in BLK and BANK1 contribute to human lupus,” was recently published in Nature Communications Journal. The study was able to “demonstrate the functional consequences of rare and low-frequency missense variants in the interacting proteins BLK and BANK1, which are present alone, or in combination, in a substantial proportion of lupus patients. The rare variants found in patients, but not those found exclusively in controls, impair suppression of IRF5 and type-I IFN in human B cell lines and increase pathogenic lymphocytes in lupus-prone mice.”
With the discovery, a new set of understanding on the cause of the disease can be paramount in developing new treatments to put an end to the pain caused by this uncured illness and can potentially save lives in the future.
The main researchers of the study were ANU’s Dr. Simon Jian, Dr. Vicki Athanasopoulos, and Professor Carola Vinuesa. Because of them, the day when the understanding of lupus is finally over. Dr. Jiang, one of the researchers, working on the study, has spent six years analyzing the genetic instructions locked in DNA, which lead to the disease.
“We have shown for the first time how rare gene variants that occur in less than one percent of the population cause lupus and how these variants drive the disease in the body,” said Dr. Jiang, from the Centre for Personalised Immunology, an NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence at ANU.
Dr. Jiang noted that until their study, these genetic variants were neglected and their effect on autoimmunity and related auto-immune diseases were negligible. But the new research showed otherwise.
“We’ve shown how most lupus patients harbor those so-called rare gene variants and how these rare gene variants cause immune cells to no longer work properly […] When the cells no longer work, your immune system struggles to distinguish viruses and bacteria from self, leading to lupus,” said Dr. Jiang.
The groundbreaking discovery can pave the way to a new series of targeted and personalized treatment to people living with lupus and other autoimmune diseases.
“I’ve already started treating people who have these rare gene mutations with targeted therapies instead of bombarding their immune system with non-specific treatments that have lots of side effects—which is the current mainstay of therapy […] And because the genes we have worked on are linked to other autoimmune diseases, our discovery could also be applied to conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and type 1 diabetes.”
Interestingly, according to the researchers, the discovery can also help medical doctors and researchers determine how severe an individual’s lupus is, on top of the way the said disease can be targeted through personalized treatment.
“Lupus is a disease that can be very hard to diagnose. You can have a lot of illnesses that look like lupus, smell like lupus, but we can’t formally call it lupus […] It now will only take a few weeks to get a patient’s genome sequence. We can look at how the immune system is behaving, take blood tests, and with genome sequencing, we can fit the pieces together and see if it is lupus,” Dr. Jiang added.
As a pioneering discovery, Dr. Jiang considers their work as his personal success story and a victory in itself for he has seen so many people who have lupus.
“When I was a junior doctor, I had a patient in her 40s who died because of an autoimmune condition, and we just could not figure out what was wrong. That shouldn’t happen, and it affected me a lot. I’d like to think if she came to me nowadays I’d be able to do something different. I hope I’d be able to save her life,” he said.
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