Gov Pat Quinn

Illinois Governor Signs Hemp Research into Law

On Tuesday, Democrat Governor Pat Quinn has signed a law that will allow universities and the Illinois Department of Agriculture to study industrial hemp for research purposes.

Industrial hemp is a distinct variety of the plant species cannabis sativa L. that contains less than one percent of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Hemp can be used in the production of plastics, fuel, textiles and food.

Quinn signed legislation, House Bill 5085, authorizing state universities to cultivate industrial hemp, in order to research the plant. The bill was passed unanimously in the state’s Senate in May, and was approved by the House shortly after with an 831 to 34 vote.

Those wanting to participate in the pilot program will have to notify the state and local law enforcement and provide reports to the state.

Illinois will join more than a dozen states, including Hawaii, Nebraska, South Carolina, Tennessee and Utah earlier this year, that have enacted legislation redefining hemp as an agricultural commodity and authorizing state-sponsored research and/or cultivation of the crop.

Last updated: 8/28/14; 2:10pm EST

medical cannabis- Iowa

Iowa’s Medical Cannabis Program Discussed at Public Hearing

Iowa Department of Public Health officials held a public hearing Tuesday morning to discuss the rules they have drafted to administer the new medical cannabis law.

The forum was organized to hear feedback from the community, which was attended by family members, caretakers and medical professionals from six different locations across the state.

Earlier this year, Iowa lawmakers approved a program allowing patients with severe epilepsy to have access to medical cannabis oil. The legislation, which took effect July 1, has been ineffective at providing children access to the oil because of the rules and procedures that state leaders have implemented.

Many advocates are pushing for a broader program, so that medical cannabis could be used as a treatment for other diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease and chronic pain.

The state law gives prosecutorial immunity to people in possession of cannabidiol, a non-smokable oil extract of cannabis with a low THC level, to treat severe epilepsy. However, the law does not allow cannabis oil to be produced in Iowa. Because of this law, Iowa residents are forced to obtain it from another state and would have to pass through states that do not have medical cannabis programs, breaking state and federal law in the process.

Deborah Thompson, the Department of Health’s policy advisor, said that her agency will review applications. Additionally, she said that officials hope to begin issuing registration cards before the end of the year.

Last updated: 8/28/14; 12:30pm EST


Alzheimers Disease

Study Finds Cannabis Compound May Slow or Halt Progression of Alzheimer’s Disease

A new preclinical study suggests that a compound in cannabis may serve as a potential treatment for patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

A recent study, conducted by neuroscientists at the University of South Florida, shows that extremely low levels of the compound in cannabis, known as delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, may slow or halt progression of the disease. Findings from the experiments, using a cellular model of Alzheimer’s disease, were reported online in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Researchers from the USF Health Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute showed that extremely low doses of THC reduce the production of amyloid beta, found in a soluble form in most aging brains, and prevent abnormal accumulation of this protein, a process considered one of the pathological hallmarks evident early in the disease. Additionally, the low concentrations of THC selectively enhanced mitochondrial function, which is needed to help supply energy, transmit signals, and maintain a healthy brain.

“THC is known to be a potent antioxidant with neuroprotective properties, but this is the first report that the compound directly affects Alzheimer’s pathology by decreasing amyloid beta levels, inhibiting its aggregation, and enhancing mitochondrial function,” said study lead author Chuanhai Cao, PhD and a neuroscientist at the Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute and the USF College of Pharmacy. “Decreased levels of amyloid beta means less aggregation, which may protect against the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Since THC is a natural and relatively safe amyloid inhibitor, THC or its analogs may help us develop an effective treatment in the future.”

According to the researchers, at the low doses of THC studied, the therapeutic benefits appear greater than the risks of toxicity and memory impairment associated with THC.

“While we are still far from a consensus, this study indicates that THC and THC-related compounds may be of therapeutic value in Alzheimer’s disease,” said study co-author Neel Nabar, MD/PhD candidate. “Are we advocating that people use illicit drugs to prevent the disease? No. It’s important to keep in mind that just because a drug may be effective doesn’t mean it can be safely used by anyone. However, these findings may lead to the development of related compounds that are safe, legal, and useful in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.”

The body has a system of cannabinoid receptors that interacts with naturally-occurring cannabinoid molecules. These molecules function similarly to the THC isolated from the cannabis plant. Dr. Cao’s laboratory is currently investigating the effects of a drug cocktail consisting of THC, caffeine and other natural compounds in a cellular model of Alzheimer’s disease. The investigators will advance to a genetically-engineered mouse model of Alzheimer’s shortly.

“The dose and target population are critically important for any drug, so careful monitoring and control of drug levels in the blood and system are very important for therapeutic use, especially for a compound such as THC,” Dr. Cao stated.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as many as 5 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, with numbers projected to reach 14 million by 2050.

Source: Chuanhai Cao, Yaqiong Li, Hui Liu, Ge Bai, Jonathan May, Xiaoyang Lin, Kyle Sutherland,  Neel Nabar and Jianfeng Cai; “The Potential Therapeutic Effects of THC on Alzheimer’s Disease,” Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, DOI: 10.3233/JAD-140093.

Last updated: 8/28/14; 10:45am EST

Cannabis Oil

Momentum Gained for Legalization of Medical Cannabis Oil in Australia

MP Warren Entsch has joined the push to legalize the use of cannabis for medical purposes in Australia.

Mr. Entsch is drafting a bill that will allow for legal trials of cannabis to treat individuals with life-threatening illnesses including cancer, multiple sclerosis, and epilepsy. He is one of a multi-party group of federal MPs who are working on the bill focused on cannabis oil.

Mr. Entsch told ABC radio that if the trials were successful, there would be a bill introduced calling for the legalization of medical cannabis and for it to be added to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. He said that if the drug is effective it should be made available like any other life-saving or life-enhancing drugs.

In Victoria, Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews said cannabis would be available for medical treatment if Labor gained office in November. The party plans to decriminalize cannabis oil used in treating certain conditions, such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, glaucoma and HIV/AIDS. The measure follows public campaigns by families who have successfully treated their children with cannabis when other medicines have not worked.

Norfolk Island was set to become the first Australian Territory to trial medical cannabis; however the plan was halted by Commonwealth government. Earlier this month, health minister Robin Adams approved Tasman Health Cannabinoids (Tascann) to grow a trial cannabis crop for a local trial evaluating the drug. Last week, the decision was overturned by former Liberal MP Gary Hardgrave, who revoked the local license to grow the crop. Tascann may challenge the decision.

Last updated: 8/26/14; 3:25pm EST


Syqe Inhaler

Cannabis Inhaler Device Effective in Reducing Nerve Pain

A recent study found that administration of a single dose of whole-plant cannabis through a thermal-metered inhaler is effective and well tolerated among patients suffering from neuropathy, or nerve pain.

According to results from a study, published in the Journal of Pain and Palliative Care Pharmacotherapy, vaporized, whole-plant cannabis reduced chronic neuropathic pain by 45 percent.

Israeli physicians assessed the efficacy of a novel, portable metered-dose cannabis inhaler in eight individuals diagnosed with chronic neuropathic pain. The investigators used a Syqe inhaler, essentially a vaporizer that heats the mature, unfertilized female flower buds to release therapeutic vapor without burning it.

Researchers reported that the vaporizing device administered an efficient, consistent and therapeutically effective dosage of cannabinoids to all individuals in the study. The authors said that a significant 45 percent reduction in pain intensity was noted 20 minutes after inhalation, turning back to baseline within 90 minutes. The adverse effects were minimal, reversible and well tolerated. Seven of the participants experienced lightheadedness for the first ten minutes following inhalation, but the effect receded rapidly thereafter.

According to the authors, this trial suggests the potential use of the Syqe Inhaler device as a smokeless delivery route of medical cannabis, adding a much needed treatment in the limited number of effective therapies for the management of chronic pain. They noted that results from this study are consistent with recent clinical trials that enrolled patients suffering from chronic neuropathic pain of various etiologies.

To access the study, click here.

Last updated: 8/26/14; 2:05pm EST


Study Finds Fewer Opioid Overdose Deaths in States with Access to Medical Cannabis

Access to medical cannabis is associated with nearly 25 percent fewer prescription drug overdoses each year compared to states where medical cannabis is illegal, a new study suggests.

The study comes during a time of increased painkiller abuse. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), roughly 100 Americans die every day from narcotic painkiller overdose. In 1999, there were 4,030 opioid overdoses. This has increased significantly, with 16,651 opioid overdoses reported in 2010. Approximately 60 percent of deaths from opioid analgesic overdoses occur in patients who have legitimate prescriptions.

The study, published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, found that deaths associated with the use of opiate drugs fell in 13 states after they legalized medical cannabis, indicating that the alternative treatment may be safer for patients suffering from chronic pain related to cancer and other conditions.

Researchers said that states that pass medical cannabis laws see their overdose death rates decrease dramatically in the years immediately afterward, strengthening over time. Deaths were nearly 20 percent lower in the first year after a state’s law was implemented, and 33.7 percent lower five years after implementation.

Lead author Marcus A. Bachhuber, MD, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholar at Penn and the Philadelphia VA Medical Center said that although evidence for the pain-relieving properties of cannabis is limited, some studies have suggested that it may provide relief for some people. “In addition, people already taking opioids for pain may supplement with medical marijuana and be able to lower their painkiller dose, thus lowering their risk of overdose,” Dr. Bachhuber said.

Cannabis and opioids stimulate similar areas in the brain’s pathways, therefore medical cannabis laws may change the way people misuse or abuse opioid painkillers.

The authors noted that the exact mechanism underlying these study results is unclear and the study does not prove a direct cause-and-effect relationship between medical cannabis laws and overdose deaths. They did suggest that as more states implement medical cannabis laws, future studies should examine the association between such laws and opioid overdoses to confirm their findings.

Sources: JAMA Internal Medicine; University of Pennsylvania Health System

Last updated: 8/26/14; 11:10am EST

Insys Therapeutics

Insys’ Pharmaceutical CBD Granted Orphan Drug Status for Glioblastoma Multiforme

On Monday, Insys Therapeutics, Inc. announced that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted orphan drug designation (ODD) to its investigational glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) drug.

The agency granted this designation to Insys’ pharmaceutical cannabidiol (CBD) for the treatment of GBM, the most common and most aggressive malignant primary brain tumor in humans. The designation provides Insys with some financial incentives to support development and seven years of US marketing exclusivity if the drug is approved. The drug has also received ODD for its potential to treat Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome and Dravet Syndrome, rare forms of epilepsy.

“We are pleased to have received orphan drug designation for this aggressive and often incurable form of brain cancer. We look forward to advancing development of this product and offering a potential efficacious treatment for patients,” said Michael L. Babich, President and Chief Executive Officer.

The company also announced that it has recently entered into an exclusive licensing agreement with California Pacific Medical Center on behalf of its Research Institute (CPMCRI) based in San Francisco to license CPMCRI’s patent rights related to the usage of cannabinoids for the treatment of GBM. Insys is collaborating with Dr. Sean McAllister at CPMCRI with respect to his pre-clinical research focusing on the ability of CBD to sensitize GBM to current standard of care chemotherapy treatment.

“Based on previous research conducted with CBD to treat brain tumors, we believe that there is supportive evidence for the use of CBD as an adjunct treatment in GBM and eagerly anticipate the results from our in-vivo models to further support clinical studies in humans,” said Dr. McAllister.

In addition to GBM, Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome and Dravet Syndrome, Insys is evaluating the potential use of pharmaceutical CBD in several additional indications including adult epilepsy, chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy, and addiction in cocaine, amphetamines and opioids.

Source: Insys Therapeutics, Inc.


Wales Approves Sativex for Treatment of Spasticity Associated with Multiple Sclerosis

Wales has become the first country in the UK to approve the use of a cannabis-based medicine to treat symptoms of patients with multiple sclerosis (MS).

Wales is the first UK nation to approve NHS funding for Sativex (nabiximols), an oral spray derived from cannabis.  Welsh health minister Professor Mark Drakeford approved NHS funding of the drug, following a recommendation from the independent All Wales Medicine Strategy Group (AWMSG).

AWMSG’s decision comes despite a recommendation made earlier this year in a draft guidance by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) that the drug should not be made available in England and Wales, determining that the drug was not cost effective. With AWMSG’s approval, clinicians in Wales can now prescribe the medicine to treat muscle spasms in MS patients, should other forms of treatment not provide satisfactory results. Patients must show an improvement in symptoms after a trial period of receiving the drug.

AWMSG’s decision is in contrast to the guidance NICE has published in its draft Clinical Guideline on the management of multiple sclerosis in primary and secondary care, which concluded that Sativex was not recommended for use by the NHS. The MS Trust has been in communication with NICE and have requested a delay in the publication of the final guidance to enable further engagement with the MS community and ensure that the final guideline offers the best available care for MS patients.

Sativex was developed by GW Pharmaceuticals and is being marketed in the UK by Bayer Schering Pharma. The drug is a combination of two extracts from the cannabis sativa plant: delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). The drug is available as a spray to be administered onto the oral mucosa.

“We are extremely pleased that people with MS in Wales will finally have better access to Sativex. As a charity we have campaigned over a long period for Sativex to be widely available because of the significant impact that MS spasticity can have on daily activities. We just hope that this recommendation will now lead to Sativex being more easily accessible in the rest of the UK,” said Amy Bowen, Director of Service Development, MS Trust.

In a clinical trial evaluating Sativex in over 500 MS patients, 48 percent had a 20 percent or more improvement in their spasticity. Among those who responded, about 75 percent had an improvement of greater than 30 percent in their spasticity score within four weeks when compared to those taking placebo.

MS is a neurological condition which affects around 100,000 people in the UK, according to the Multiple Sclerosis Society. Most people with the condition are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 40, but it can affect younger and older people too. MS is significantly more common among women. Roughly three times as many women have MS as men. MS symptoms include vision problems, balance problems and dizziness, fatigue, bladder problems, and stiffness and/or spasms. Additionally, the condition can affect memory and thinking and have an impact on emotions.

Sources: MS Trust; All Wales Medicines Strategy Group

Last updated: 8/21/14; 2:45pm EST

Medical Cannabis- Florida

Florida’s Amendment 2 Debated in a Community Conversation

Both advocates and those opposing use of medical cannabis gathered in Florida on Wednesday to discuss a proposal to amend the state constitution to allow medical cannabis in Florida.

Panelists gathered at the State College of Florida Bradenton campus for “A Community Conversation” discussing Amendment 2 at length. Panelists included Jessica Spencer, statewide coalition director for the Vote No on 2! Campaign; Palmetto Police Chief Rick Wells; medical marijuana researcher Greg Gerdeman; and Bob and Cathy Jordan of Parrish, activists for medical cannabis. The discussion was moderated by Bradenton Herald Editorial Page Editor Chris Wille and SCF President Carol Probstfeld.

On November 4, Florida residents will vote on Amendment 2, which would legalize the use of medical cannabis for patients with debilitating diseases determined by a licensed Florida physician. For Amendment 2 to pass, 60 percent of voters must vote in favor of the measure. If the measure passes, Florida will join the 36 other states with loosened laws on marijuana use.

Wells said that he is not opposed to medical cannabis, but is opposed to the amendment. He said that his brother-in-law struggles with a serious medical condition for which medical cannabis could be beneficial for as his illness progresses. However, he is still opposed to the amendment.

“I think that the wording in the amendment is too broad,” Wells said. “I believe there’s still too many unanswered questions on the amendment that really don’t give voters a true understanding of what they’re voting on in November.”

Gerdeman, an assistant professor of biology at Eckerd College, has studied cannabis for several years. Although he does not believe that medical cannabis is a “magic remedy,” he does believe patients could significantly benefit from more than what is currently available in the state of Florida.

“I think patients could benefit a great deal from more than what is accessible in Florida, and I think that is an understatement,” he said.

Currently in Florida, a non-euphoric marijuana known as Charlotte’s Web is legal for treatment of patients with conditions, such as cancer and epilepsy. Amendment 2 would legalize the smoking of medical cannabis and significantly expand the patients that could access the drug.

Each independent poll has shown a majority of respondents are in favor of the legalization of medical cannabis in Florida.

Last updated: 8/21/14; 1:00pm EST

Prime Wellness

Connecticut’s First Medical Cannabis Dispensary Opens

On Wednesday, Connecticut’s first medical cannabis dispensary opened in South Windsor.

Prime Wellness of Connecticut, the first of six dispensaries in the state, held its grand opening Wednesday event at its new facility. The dispensary will not distribute cannabis products until mid-September, but staff encouraged eligible patients to come in for a consultation.

The dispensary said that it expects to receive a multitude of different products from the four licensed producers in the state, which will vary in the ratios of cannabinoids (THC/CBD) and terpenoids, as well as the forms in which they can be administered. They will offer a large variety of strengths for many of the consumable products, starting off on the very low end of the spectrum and incrementally increasing to strong dosages, in order to guarantee that there is a product to satisfy all patients’ needs and tolerances.

The grand opening gave potential customers the chance to see its facilities, meet pharmacists and cannabis producers, and get general information.

Medical cannabis is legal for treatment of 11 different illnesses including cancer, Parkinson’s disease, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, cachexia, wasting syndrome, Crohn’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity. To be eligible, patients must be registered with the state’s Medical Marijuana Program. The dispensary said roughly 150 patients have signed up for consultation with doctor approval.

For individuals in Connecticut that wish to schedule a free consultation, visit:

Last updated: 8/21/14; 10:40am EST