Medical Cannabis and a Parkinsonism Treatment

While much of the medical and pharmaceutical industries are seeking solutions to Parkinson disease via chemical, man-made means, there are other therapies which do not require habit-forming and potentially harmful medications. According to a new study, medical cannabis has been shown safe and effective in the treatment of Parkinsonism. Now that so many states are making the plant medicine legal, patients are finally getting access to a treatment which can help to improve their lives without incurring unnecessary risk.

The standard treatment for Parkinson disease has long been levodopa, L-dopa for short. Doctors have thus far been kept in the dark about plant medications such as medical cannabis. L-dopa comes with a host of potential side effects and difficulties with use. Patients who are on a steady regimen of the drug are warned to not miss any doses. The drug can interfere with sleep, bowel movements, and cause forgetfulness and confusion. When a patient is constipated for too long and the bowel becomes impacted, excess toxicity can build up causing unnecessary secondary problems.

Levodopa is also known to cause depression, suicidal thoughts, hives, and rapid heartbeat. Some elderly patients have been disturbed by nightmares brought on by the drug and they have fallen out of bed as a result. In an elderly patient, a fall can result in a broken hip. When a Parkinsonism patient is immobilized by a broken hip, the disease is known to develop at a rapid pace. Even with out the debilitation of a broken hip, a patient might cease activities due to the drug-related depression. Patients might consider all of these side-effects and be on the lookout should they arise, lest they cause secondary problems and further erode their ability to enjoy a full life.

Meanwhile, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a review in late April, 2014 which recommended the continuation of levodopa therapy. The abstract made no reference to patients’ risk of side-effects or secondary problems which might arise as a result of using the pharmaceutical. Nor was it stated whether the study was funded or influenced by interested parties in the pharmaceutical industry. Once it was common practice for journals to report potential conflicts of interest, but that reporting stopped in light of the fact that so many studies were tainted. Without further information, it should be assumed that pharmaceutical industry is involved in studies related to their products.

Medical cannabis does offer an effective, and safe, treatment for those suffering Parkinsonism. The medical journal Clinical Neuropharmacology recently released an observational study which offers new hope to those enslaved by the dual demons of pharmaceutical drugs and Parkinson disease. The study was small and preliminary, but promising. Twenty-two patients were observed after smoking cannabis using five separate measures of Parkinson disease symptoms.

The study qualified the improvements in the study participants as ″significant″ especially on the pain and sleep scores. The authors suggested that larger, more comprehensive studies commence. Given that there has been no clear evidence that medical cannabis treatment is addictive nor harmful in any way, it is clear that more states need to make this safe and effective medicine available to its citizens which suffer Parkinsonism.

By Hobie Anthony

Sources:
JAMA
PubMed
Medline
MayoClinic

Smooth Sailing in Colorado on 4/20 Just What Rec Cannabis Industry Needed

Colorado passed another crucial cannabis test last weekend, and it couldn’t have come at a better time for the state’s fledgling recreational marijuana industry.

The annual 4/20 holiday went relatively smoothly in the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. Not necessarily from an operational standpoint – long lines at the Cannabis Cup led to numerous complaints – but certainly when it comes to the behavior of recreational cannabis consumers who gathered at a rally downtown and other related events to celebrate.

The weekend turned out like everyone involved in the cannabis business expected: “mainstream and mellow,” as a headline on Al Jazeera America’s website put it.

And profitable, too. Cannabis commerce was alive and well, with companies reporting brisk business. In fact, many marijuana businesses raked in record sales, which will equate to a surge in tax revenue for the state.

This all led to some positive PR for Colorado’s fledgling recreational cannabis industry, which entered the weekend under a cloud after several unfortunate events involving edibles.

Sure, some people might be put off by the sight of tens of thousands of stoners gathered together all at once, smoking marijuana in public despite a ban on doing so. Authorities did issue several dozen citations for public consumption, and several people were taken to detox.

But the same thing happens at sporting and alcohol-related events all the time, and anyone who was expecting that no one would light up is way out of touch.

What’s notable is that there were no serious incidents involving marijuana use, despite heavy consumption and an intense media spotlight on 4/20 events. This sends a message to the rest of the country: legalized marijuana doesn’t create chaos, even when large crowds gather and consume it.

On the business side, 4/20 offered the world a window into the possibilities this industry holds going forward.

We’ll get a better idea of the extent of 4/20-related commerce when the state releases tax data for April in the summer. But it’s clear that the economic impact – especially when considering the influx of tourists – was huge. That could help convince politicians in other states to get on board with marijuana legalization.

Additionally, organizers of the main rally downtown put on a much more professional event than in the past, which further boosts the credibility of the industry as a whole. Long lines formed at the dozens of cannabis companies (such as Leafly and drink manufacturer CannaEnergy) with vendor booths, and some businesses gave out product samples to the crowd. The atmosphere felt similar to other mainstream events that occur in downtown Denver on a regular basis.

Last weekend could have been a recipe for disaster.

The industry was already under the microscope after a man shot his wife after consuming infused candies and a tourist jumped to his death from a hotel balcony after eating a marijuana cookie, which fueled criticism of marijuana businesses and legalization in general.

A few images of incapacitated tourists who scarfed down high-potency edibles being rushed to emergency rooms or committing serious crimes – or the type of shooting that marred the 420 gathering in Denver last year – would’ve increased scrutiny on the industry at the worst possible time.

Instead, the ambulance sirens remained silent, and the scores of police and reporters on hand seemed a bit bored. The recent incidents involving edibles can be seen for what they are: isolated, and not necessarily directly tied to cannabis.

While Colorado and other states do need to address some issues tied to edibles, the responsible use of cannabis by consumers last weekend could go a long way towards easing recent concerns over legalized marijuana.

By Chris Walsh

Medical Marijuana State Action in 2014

Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD


April 2, 2014 -- Medical marijuana moved up the legislative agenda in many states this year -- even in the most conservative parts of the country.

Utah became the 21st state to approve medical marijuana in late March when Gov. Gary Herbert signed the legislation into law.

In Maryland, lawmakers are working on a bill that would expand the availability of medical marijuana.

And legislatures in eight other states are looking at legalizing medical marijuana in 2014.

In Florida, voters will consider a ballot measure in November to legalize medical marijuana. Activists are working on getting medical marijuana on the ballot in Nebraska and Ohio and have until this summer to gather signatures. Alabama may allow people to possess marijuana as long as they're using it for medical reasons. Indiana may ease the penalties for possessing marijuana.

"It's a movement that has a groundswell of grassroots support," says Dianne Hoffmann, director of the law and health program at the University of Maryland's Francis King Carey School of Law in Baltimore. "People are going to their legislators and saying they find it helpful to their illness, and these are sympathetic cases a lot of the time."

Legislatures in four states -- Missouri, Georgia, Tennessee, and Mississippi -- also considered medical marijuana laws, but those bills did not pass.

Changing Attitudes About Marijuana

Marijuana is classified under federal law as an illegal drug with no medical value, but 21 states and Washington, DC, have rules that allow medical marijuana. Two states, Colorado and Washington, have legalized it for recreational use as well. A recent WSJ/NBC poll showed that 55% of adults across the country think marijuana should be legalized and sold by a regulated business.

"We are reaching a critical mass," Hoffman says. "Enough states have passed medical marijuana laws that state legislators can say, 'Well, this many states have passed it, so it can't be that disastrous.'"

Also fueling the activity is President Obama's decision not to enforce the federal law. The Justice Department has said that federal prosecutors shouldn't enforce federal marijuana laws as long the states are following their own rules.

"So as long as there isn't a broad-based federal crackdown, states will continue to do what they want when it comes to marijuana," says John Hudak of the Brookings Institution, a think tank based in Washington, DC. "And the polls are giving legislators cover to support medical marijuana laws."

States Taking Action

Here's a roundup of medical marijuana legislation in 2014.

Utah: The state passed a bill this month to legalize for medical use a marijuana extract made of less than 0.3% of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical in marijuana that causes the "high" in marijuana.

Maryland: A bill is pending to expand a 2013 law that allows state medical institutions to use marijuana for research. The bill would give patients more access by allowing more doctors and others to provide marijuana for medical reasons.

Florida, Kentucky, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Wisconsin: All have legislation pending that would allow marijuana for medical purposes.

In addition to the pending state law legalizing medical marijuana, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order in January that allows medical centers to use marijuana for research.

SOURCES:Diane Hoffmann, director of the law and health care program, Francis King Carey School of Law, University of Maryland, Baltimore.John Hudak, Brookings Institution.Morgan Fox, communications manager, Marijuana Policy Project.ProCon.org.Marijuana Policy Project.Omaha.com: "Petition aims to put medical marijuana to Nebraska vote."Wall Street Journal online: "WSJ/NBC Poll: Solid Support for Legal Marijuana."Indiana General Assembly: Senate Bill 314.Georgia General Assembly: House Bill 885.Utah Defenders: "HB1-5: Medical Cannabis Proposal in Utah."LegiScan: "Maryland House Bill 881."Omaha.com: "'Will’s Law' would approve cannabis oil for epilepsy."Reuters.com: "Georgia bill would seek limited access to medical marijuana strain."NBC4i.com: "2014 Pivotal for Medical Marijuana in Ohio."Huffington Post: "Eric Holder Says DOJ Will Let Washington, Colorado Marijuana Laws Go Into Effect."Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Medical Marijuana Bill Falls Short."Associated Press: 'Utah governor holding ceremony for limited medical marijuana law for epilepsy."Baltimore Sun: “Medical marijuana deal near.”