December 2017

This Little Canadian Town Has Become the Nations Pot Capital

All it took was a little marijuana to lift this Canadian town’s spirits.

Smiths Falls, Ontario — population 8,885 — is seeing a revival of fortunes since medical marijuana producer Tweed Inc. set up shop four years ago in an abandoned Hershey Co. chocolate factory. The company, since renamed Canopy Growth Corp., has become the world’s largest publicly traded cannabis producer and is the town’s largest private-sector employer.

“We’re recognized as the pot capital of Canada — and we’re proud of that,” Mayor Shawn Pankow said in an interview from the town hall, a two-story brick building erected in 1859 on the main street. “The local economy is certainly far better today than it was before Tweed came to town.”

Smiths Falls is on the rebound, with more younger people relocating to this town 75 kilometers (47 miles) southwest of the capital in Ottawa. There’s renewed interest in commercial property, new businesses are arriving and there’s even the odd bidding war on homes.

“We’re seeing positive impacts really across the economy,” said Pankow, 52, who also runs a financial advisory firm. “People are recognizing that Smiths Falls is a community that’s on the upswing.”

Canopy has since become one of the darlings of the Canada’s benchmark stock exchange. It’s the S&P/TSX Composite Index’s best performer in 2017 with returns of more than 250 percent as of Friday at noon in Toronto, and is up 40 percent in the past week alone with pot stocks surging ahead of legalization both in Canada and in California.

Town Welcome

Tweed took over a former Hershey factory with ambitious plans to grow medical marijuana. Today, the firm has 360 employees — a well-educated workforce that runs the administration, research, growing operations, packaging and shipping from the facility that still has signage and other remnants of its chocolate past. Construction crews hammer away on the next expansion. The parking lot is packed.

“Smiths Falls welcomed us and we appreciated that,” said Chief Executive Officer Bruce Linton, who says he’s tapping local labor, suppliers and businesses as much as possible as the business gears up for the legalization of marijuana in Canada next summer. “The effect is the town becomes more desirable, and as it becomes more desirable my ability to recruit people who are senior or worldly increases.”

It’s a stark contrast from a decade ago, when Smiths Falls faced an industry exodus with the shutdown of a Stanley Tools Manufacturing facility and a shuttering of the Hershey plant. That followed months later by the closure of the Rideau Regional Centre for the developmentally disabled. The closures affected more than 1,500 people — one-fifth the population.

Smiths Falls has faced ebbs and flows of industry throughout its history, stemming back about 190 years when crews came to build the Rideau Canal connecting Ottawa with Kingston. Decades later, the Canadian Pacific Railway arrived to provide a rail connection to the outside world, helping support commerce.

Reinvents Itself

“It’s a town that constantly reinvents itself,” said Leisa Purdonbell, 33, who oversees the historical collections in the basement of an 1860s-era house that doubles as a museum. “Businesses have come and gone.”

Frost & Wood Co., which began making farming equipment in 1846, evolved into a munitions factory during the Second World War that once employed 1,200 people before it closed in 1955. Coca-Cola Co. bottler Rideau Beverages was around until the 1970s.

RCA Victor, which came to town in 1954, helped introduce The Beatles to North America: the band’s vinyl single “Love Me Do” was pressed at the plant in 1963. RCA Victor, which employed 350 people at its height, left in 1978.

Hershey came in 1963 and within 25 years had 750 workers and a bustling plant that drew thousands of visitors. At one point, the town’s water tower boasted an image of a Hershey bar and the slogan “Chocolate Capital of Ontario.”

Low Point

“When we received notification of Hershey’s leaving and pulling out, and then Rideau Regional quickly after that, we kind of hit that low point,” Purdonbell said. “Thankfully, at the moment, it seems that everybody’s changed their way of thinking into something more positive, and I think businesses see that as they’re coming into the community.”

Four Degrees Brewing Co. recently opened. European canal boat operator Le Boat has occupied an 1840s-era Lockmaster’s House on the waterway that bisects town. It’s ramping up plans to bring 16 rental boats next summer for tourists to cruise the Rideau Canal, a UNESCO world heritage site.

Linton, whose company has soared to a market value of more than C$4 billion ($3.1 billion), sees room to further improve Smiths Falls. He wants to expand a retail area at his plant to draw visitors — akin to days when busloads of tourists toured Hershey’s and bought broken chocolate bars on the cheap. Beyond that, he’d like to see more restaurants, meeting places and a hotel to make it a destination spot.

Hotel Needed

“What the town lacks is a really great place for people to actually stay,” Linton said.

Aside from the hubbub over weed, Smiths Falls has another claim to fame: It’s the hometown of Brooke Henderson, the 20-year-old golfer who ranks sixth in earnings this year on the Ladies Professional Golf Association circuit. 

“We’ve been to Ireland and people there are not familiar with Canopy Growth Corp. or Tweed, but they know who Brooke Henderson is,” Pankow said. “Brooke has been really the face of the community over the last few years, and I would say she still probably carries a bigger presence.”

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    American expat fights for his life after falling off roof in Bali while chasing monkey who stole his Pittsburgh Steelers cap

    A Florida man living in Indonesia is fighting for his life after he plunged 33 feet off a rooftop while chasing a monkey that had snatched his favorite Pittsburgh Steelers cap, according to a report out Saturday.

    Jeff “Swede” Swedenhjelm, 40, reportedly was diagnosed with severe spinal damage by hospital officials in Bali, and is paralyzed from the chest down.

    “Our utmost concern is to get Swede out of Bali and into a country with a spinal specialist” such as Singapore, his daughter, college student Lyric Swedenhjelm, told Northwest Florida Daily News.

    His daughter also said her dad is in a medically-induced coma and on a ventilator.

    The family has started raising money through GoFundMe to cover the estimated costs of the travel and medical care, which Lyric said could amount to $60,000.


    Relatives said the man was chasing a money that had stolen his Pittsburgh Steelers cap.  (AP, File)

    She added that her father moved to Bali years ago and has neither money nor medical insurance. 

    Their fundraising effort has already pulled in over $58,000. It depicts Swedenhjelm at the hospital and includes quotes attributed to him:

    “A few nights ago, in Bali, I had an accident that has crippled me from the chest down, and has only allowed me to feel a tingling sensation in hands and arms. Obviously this is going to incur a great deal of medical expenses.”

    The message adds, “I am hopeful that the time we shared on this wonderful planet has given me enough love and respect in your heart to make you want to help. I have never been the one to ask for help, especially in monetary form, but any help will be taken to heart. Thank you all in advance. One Love. <3 Swede.”

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    Records: ‘Spiritual leader’ punished kids who died on farm

    A woman acting as a “spiritual leader” to a small group of people living on a Colorado farm ordered two girls kept in a car without food or water weeks before their bodies were found, according to one member of the group.

    Madani Ceus faces murder charges along with Nashika Bramble, the girls’ mother, for the death of 10-year-old Makayla Roberts and 8-year-old Hannah Marshall. Three other adults also face charges of fatal child abuse.

    Officials investigating the case have been tight-lipped about how the girls died and how they came to the farm. Court records unsealed by a judge at the request of KOTO Community Radio and the Telluride Daily Planet revealed the group members’ belief that Ceus was a spiritual leader and allegations that she ordered the girls punished while the group was living on the property outside Norwood, about 30 miles (48.2 kilometers) west of the ski resort town of Telluride.

    According to the affidavit unsealed this week, the farm owner told San Miguel County Sheriff investigators that he met a group of nine people, including four children, at a gas station outside Grand Junction in May and invited them to use the land. The man, named Frederick Blair, said he soon joined the group members living there in tents and cars.

    The document doesn’t give any information about how the group came together before Blair met them.

    Blair said Ceus, a 37-year-old from Haiti, told the others to call her “Ama” or “Yahweh” and ordered that the girls stay in a car without food or water because she considered them “unclean.”

    The document says that another member of the group, Nathan Yah, told police that the girls were allowed to leave the car to use the bathroom and did receive food and water. When police interviewed Ceus, she “would not say who was responsible” for making the girls stay in the car, according to the record.

    Ceus told police that at first she provided food for the entire group but later told Bramble she couldn’t keep doing it. Bramble and Blair began getting items from a local food pantry, Ceus told police.

    Attorneys separately representing Bramble and Ceus declined comment on Wednesday. The San Miguel County coroner’s office hasn’t determined what caused the girls’ deaths.

    Blair told police that Ceus didn’t have any weapons but he was afraid of her and felt others were under Ceus’s “direction and control.”

    According to the document, Blair told his father about the girls’ deaths on Sept. 8. Blair’s father, who lives in Texas but was visiting Colorado, called the sheriff’s office. When deputies searched the property, they found the girls’ bodies inside a gray car registered to another woman who was with the group. Officers said the bodies “had been in the car for an extended period of time.”

    Blair later told police that he believed the girls died in June. The record says Blair remembered a sheriff’s deputy visited the property for an inspection at some point after the girls died. Blair used to grow medical marijuana there but had stopped.

    Blair said he and Yah then covered the car with a tarp.

    All five adults facing charges in connection with the girls’ deaths are due court on Nov. 20 in San Miguel County.

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    More pregnant women are using pot, study finds

    (CNN)More pregnant women seem to be using pot — sometimes to ease the nausea of morning sickness or heightened anxiety — and a new study suggests that this slight rise in marijuana use is most pronounced among those younger in age.

    The prevalence of marijuana use among a sample of moms-to-be in California climbed from 4.2% to 7.1% from 2009 through 2016, according to a research letter published in the journal JAMA on Tuesday.
    Among pregnant teens younger than 18, marijuana use climbed from 12.5% to 21.8%, and among women 18 to 24, marijuana use climbed from 9.8% to 19%, the researchers found.
      That research involved only certain women in California, but a separate study of pregnant women across the United States, published in JAMA in January, found that those who reported using marijuana in the previous month grew from 2.37% in 2002 to 3.85% in 2014. The women were 18 to 44.

        This is your body on weed

      Doctors caution that the health effects of marijuana on a fetus remain unclear but could include low birth weight and developmental problems, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many of the chemicals in marijuana, like tetrahydrocannabinol, known as THC, could pass through a mother’s system to her baby.
      The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that “women who are pregnant or contemplating pregnancy should be encouraged to discontinue marijuana use” and “to discontinue use of marijuana for medicinal purposes in favor of an alternative therapy.”
      Additionally, “there are insufficient data to evaluate the effects of marijuana use on infants during lactation and breastfeeding, and in the absence of such data, marijuana use is discouraged,” according to the recommendations.

      Why more pregnant women are using weed

      The new research involved 279,457 mothers-to-be, 12 and older, who were in the Kaiser Permanente Northern California health care system. The study participants completed questionnaires about their marijuana use and took a cannabis toxicology test during their standard prenatal care visits from 2009 through 2016.
      The women were screened for marijuana use at approximately eight weeks’ gestation.
      The researchers found that the prevalence of marijuana use, based on self-reports or toxicology results, soared among all age groups, but the biggest rise was among those 24 and younger.
      “We were concerned to find that the prevalence of marijuana use in pregnancy is increasing more quickly among younger females, aged 24 and younger, and to see the high prevalence of use in this age group,” the study’s lead author, Kelly Young-Wolff, licensed clinical psychologist and research scientist at the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Division of Research, wrote in an email.
      For other age groups, the researchers found that marijuana use rose from 3.4% to 5.1% among women 25 to 34 and from 2.1% to 3.3% among women older than 34.

        Getting clean while pregnant

      Pregnancy in adolescents has been linked to increases in behaviors such as drinking and marijuana use, and pot use could have a disproportionate effect on the increase seen among teens in the study because the adolescent participant group had fewer members than the adult groups.
      For instance, moms-to-be younger than 18 years were only 1.4% of the overall sample in the study, but 18 to 24 were 15.8%, 25 to 34 were 61.6%, and older than 34 were 21.2%.
      Additionally, “we were unable to distinguish prenatal use before versus after women realized they were pregnant,” Young-Wolff wrote.
      “Marijuana is detectable in urine approximately 30 days after last use and this varies with heaviness of use and marijuana potency,” she said. “it is possible, but unlikely, that some toxicology tests identified prepregnancy use.”
      The findings also were limited to data on pregnant women within one health care system in a limited geographic area of California.
      All in all, “the paper is not surprising, and the findings of a rise in marijuana use during pregnancy is consistent with recent attention to marijuana and legalization in various states,” said Dr. Haywood Brown, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Duke University School of Medicine, who was not involved in the new study.
      An advantage of the study, he added, was that women not only self-reported marijuana use but also were screened for marijuana — and he thinks the study findings are age-related, as the largest increase in marijuana use was among adolescents and young adults.
      As the study showed the highest increase in marijuana use among women 24 and younger, that age group might hold clues as to why there has been an overall increase, said Dr. Robyn Horsager-Boehrer, professor and chief of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Texas Southwestern’s William P. Clements Jr. University Hospital.
      “Think about marijuana use from their perspective, especially in Northern California. California legalized medical marijuana use in 1996, so they have grown up with the idea of it not only not being illegal but being a medical therapy,” said Horsager-Boehrer, who was not involved in the study.
      “With the proximity to Oregon and Washington, they also have experience with any use being legal,” she said. “So I think the idea that use is rising is just because of the greater legal exposure to marijuana that women have today versus 20 years ago.”
      Young-Wolff noted in her email that the study itself did not investigate reasons for the rise in marijuana use among pregnant women.

      Doctors warn against drinking, too

      Along with advising against marijuana use, doctors have long advised pregnant women to avoid drinking alcohol during pregnancy.
      As it turns out, the research remains unclear as to just how little a pregnant woman could drink without harming her child.
      But doctors in the US warn that drinking any alcohol while pregnant could come with medical risks, such as the possibility of miscarriage, stillbirth, or physical and behavioral problems in the baby.
      Guidelines in the United Kingdom also note that if you are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, the safest approach would be not to drink alcohol at all.

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      “I have found that women frequently fall into two groups during pregnancy. There are those who want to reduce risks of bad things happening to as close to zero as possible and improve outcomes any way they can. These women start folic acid, lose weight and reduce medication exposure of any kind before becoming pregnant. They absolutely don’t smoke, drink or use any drugs during pregnancy,” said Horsager-Boehrer, who is an editor of the Your Pregnancy Matters blog.
      “Then there’s the other group who take a more pragmatic view of pregnancy. They know there are potential risks involved with many decisions they make involving medication exposure, alcohol use and smoking, but they decide those risks are acceptable, especially if the risks are not well-defined or conclusive,” she said.
      “For individual patients, I think they need to ask themselves what their goals are for the pregnancy and how they are going to achieve them — essentially make a decision on which camp they are going to be in,” she said.

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      Peru legalises medical marijuana in move spurred by mother’s home lab

      Proposal to decriminalise the drug came after police raided a makeshift laboratory where a group of women made cannabis oil for their sick children

      Lawmakers in Peru have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a bill to legalise medical marijuana, allowing cannabis oil to be locally produced, imported and sold.

      With a vote of 68-5, Perus Congress approved the bill which will be written into law in 60 days, once regulations for producing and selling cannabis have been set out.

      Alberto de Belaunde, a governing party lawmaker and advocate of the proposal, said: Weve ensured that thousands of patients and their family members will enjoy a better quality of life.

      This is a historic moment and my dream is that empathy and evidence can continue to defeat fears and prejudices, he told the Guardian.

      This was not an abstract debate, it had a human face, he added.

      The legislative approval followed a government proposal to decriminalise the medical use of marijuana for the treatment of serious and terminal illnesses after a police raid in February on a makeshift laboratory where a group of mothers made marijuana oil for their sick children.

      The laboratory was in the home of Ana Alvarez, 43, who founded the group Buscando Esperanza or Searching for Hope to treat her 17-year-old son Anthony who suffers from a rare and severe form of epilepsy called Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, as well as tuberous sclerosis, which causes tumours to grow on the brain and other organs.

      Were very happy with the fact that Peruvian law has approved this, Alvarez told the Guardian. But were not totally satisified.

      We want associations like ours to be included in the production of this natural medicine, she said, adding that the new bill only allowed strictly regulated local production of cannabis oil, precluding organisations like hers.

      She was also worried that imported marijuana derivatives would be too expensive for her to buy for her son and for the families of other patients. The homemade oil was made for a fraction of the cost, she said, and came in different varieties for the personalised use of more than 300 patients.

      We would have liked the patients associations to be have been allowed to produce their own cannabis oil, De Belaunde agreed, adding it could be possible through university investigations into medicinal marijuana, which are now permitted.

      After Colombia, Peru is the largest producer of coca, the leaf used to make cocaine, and it has a thriving illegal drug trade. It is now the sixth country or territory in Latin America to legalise the use of cannabis in some form.

      The medicinal use of cannabis oil is now legal in Perus neighbours Colombia and Chile as well as in Puerto Rico. In Uruguay, marijuana cultivation and use is permitted in all its forms.

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      Corey Feldman Ticketed On Misdemeanor Marijuana And Traffic Charges In Louisiana

      A small town police department in Louisiana had to jail

      In addition to that, Mangham cops searched the bus and found both marijuana and prescription pills — and Feldman ended up being cited with possession of marijuana, speeding, and driving with a suspended license.

      Feldman quickly paid a fine and was released to go about his business.

      He tweeted about the ordeal (below):

      The band had been on their way to play the Live Oaks Bar and Ballroom in nearby Monroe, Louisiana that night before they got stopped — it appears, of course, that the show was called off.

      For what it’s worth, the group has another show tonight in Houston — and Feldman, tweeting about his whole ordeal, has indicated it’ll go off as planned.

      Let’s just hope everybody is OK and the prescriptions come out so charges will go away!

      [Image via FayesVision/WENN.]

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      California ‘weed fortress’ had 35,000 marijuana plants inside, cops say

      Southern California police seized 35,000 marijuana plants from a weed “fortress” and shut down an operation they believed was bringing in millions of dollars a month.

      San Bernardino Police said they detained eight people Wednesday when police and federal agents raided a warehouse that was converted into a multi-level grow house. They said the once-abandoned warehouse was recently outfitted with a 12-foot fence, “fortified doors” and surveillance cameras.

      Investigators also raided three properties all owned by Stephanie Smith, 43, of Pacific Palisades, and found marijuana plants in each residence.


      Smith was being investigated but she was not arrested or charged with a crime, police said. The eight people detained at the warehouse were also not charged.

      CBS Los Angeles reported Smith was taking in millions of dollars per month. 

      Police found marijuana plants in three properties owned by Stephanie Smith.  (San Bernardino Police Department)

      Authorities began investigating the operation after they received complaints from neighbors beginning two months ago, CBS News reported.

      Police said the four-story warehouse contained thousands of marijuana plants. The property’s electric bill was a staggering $67,000 a month, police said.

      San Bernardino Police Lt. Mike Madden called the operations “the biggest grow” he has ever seen in his 26 years on the force.


      Although marijuana was legalized in California, the state required people who grow the plants to have the necessary licenses and permits, Madden explained. Smith did not have the proper requirements needed to grow

      “Marijuana has been legalized, but there are stringent requirements,” Madden said. “It’s not that you just get to set up shop where you want to set up.”

      Recreational marijuana sales in the state begin on Jan. 1 but medical marijuana has been legal in California for decades.

      Police told CBS Los Angeles the marijuana discovered “would go up in smoke.”

      The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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      Overall teen drug use stable, but marijuana edging up, survey finds

      (CNN)Teen drinking, smoking and drug use overall are stable, but the percentage of teens using marijuana is increasing, according to a new report from the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research.

      This year’s edition of the Monitoring the Future report, an annual survey of drug and alcohol use and attitudes among Americaneighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders, found that the percentage of students who had used pot in the previous year increased to 24%, up 1.3% from 2016.
      Nearly 40% of all 12th-graders surveyed had used some sort of illicit drug in the past year, while 55.7% of them had used alcohol. Nearly 28% of 10th-graders had used an illicit drug, and 37.7% of them had alcohol in the past year. For eighth-graders, the percentage who had used illicit drugs in the previous year was just 12.9%, while 18.2% had had a drink.
        The study, which is in its 43rd year, assesses about 45,000 students from 380 public and private secondary schools across the country.

        Fewer teens see pot as dangerous

        The increase in marijuana use was enough to boost the percentage of teens who used illicit drugs overall. This is the first time in seven years that there has been a statistically significant increase in marijuana use, said Richard Miech, lead author of the studyand a research professor who studies drug use trends at the University of Michigan.
        However, rates for both marijuana and illicit drug use overall are still lower than their peak in 1997, when 42.7% of 12th-graders had used any illicit drug and 38.5% had used marijuana in the previous year. In fact, overall drug use has generally been trending downward for all three grades since 2013.
        Miech said the increases in marijuana use aren’t surprising.
        “Typically, as adolescents see less risk of marijuana use, the prevalence (of use) increases,” he said. “And today, levels of perceived risk from marijuana use are at the lowest levels we’ve ever seen in decades. “
        Last year’s survey found that 68.5% of 12th-graders disapproved of regular marijuana use. This year, that percentage dropped to 64.7%. Miech and his colleagues also found that high school seniors from states with medical marijuana laws were more likely to have vaped marijuana and consumed marijuana edibles than those in states that had more restrictive laws.
        Eight states and the District of Columbia have loosened laws on recreational marijuana use, according to NORML, a nonprofit geared toward marijuana law reform.
        The perception that marijuana is not dangerous has been driven in part by society, said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a part of the National Institutes of Health. Volkow’s group funded the study.”Certainly, that leads to the idea that the marijuana can not be so harmful.”
        In fact, more high school seniors now use marijuana on a daily basis than smoke cigarettes. When asked how frequently they had used in the past month, just 4.2% of 12th-graders said they smoked cigarettes every day, but 5.9% said they used marijuana.
        Both Miech and Volkow said increased marijuana use was somethingto be on the lookout for. “My fear is that we may be seeing the start of a long-term increase in marijuana use among youth,” Miech said.

        Vaping trends

        The survey also noted that while cigarette use continued to decline, nearly one in three 12th-graders had vaped over the past year. Vaping involves using an electronic cigarette, hookah or similar device and inhaling the vapors or aerosols. When asked what they had inhaled, over half of the seniors surveyed (51.8%) said they had used only flavored vaping liquids.
        What was even more striking was that 11.1% of high school seniors said they had vaped with marijuana or hash oil, and nearly a third had vaped with nicotine.
        “We are especially concerned, because the survey shows that some of the teens using these devices are first-time nicotine users,” Volkow said.
        Miech agreed: “There is considerable concern that vaping can led to use of cigarettes.” He pointed to a recent analysis published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics of nine studies that found that even when controlling for factors like impulse and perceived risk of smoking, teens who vaped were more likely to experiment with cigarettes in the future.

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        The rate of students vaping overall remained relatively the same as in 2016. However, 2017 was the first year the survey asked detailed questions about what substances students vaped.
        Though much of the larger national conversation about drugs has focused on opioid overdoses, teen use of heroin and prescription narcotics like oxycodone remains low, the survey found.

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        Study Suggests Marijuana Could Help HIV Patients Maintain Their ‘Mental Stamina’

        No, marijuana doesn’t solve everything. There is data to suggest it helps with chronic pain, and low enough doses help to relieve stress, but it’s safe to say that far more research needs to be done before any firm conclusions are made.

        A brand new study, published in the journal AIDS, that looks into such links has made a rather striking suggestion. Namely, the anti-inflammatory properties of components of medical marijuana may help HIV patients retain their mental stamina for longer periods of time.

        According to the work led by Michigan State University (MSU), a decline in cognitive abilities occurs in up to 50 percent of HIV patients. If more work does happen to corroborate this finding, this particular application of the erstwhile drug will be indisputably substantial.

        “It’s believed that cognitive function decreases in many of those with HIV partly due to chronic inflammation that occurs in the brain,” lead author Norbert Kaminski, the Director of MSU’s Institute for Integrative Toxicology, explained in a statement.

        “This happens because the immune system is constantly being stimulated to fight off disease.”

        Taking blood samples from 40 HIV-positive patients, who varyingly did or did not use marijuana, the team isolated selections of white blood cells, before directly studying the effect marijuana had on them.

        Monocytes are the largest type of white blood cell. cenksns/Shutterstock

        Specifically, they looked at monocytes, a type of white blood cell that originates in bone marrow before quickly entering the bloodstream. Monocytes can turn into two different types of cell, those that mark foreign bodies that need to be destroyed, or those that actually do the destroying.

        So-called CD16+ monocytes often release certain proteins during their responses to infection, which can lead to inflammation within the body. This self-defense measure is often useful, but sustained inflammation can cause some damage. With no way to destroy the virus, these monocytes keep up this pro-inflammation response.

        As the MSU researchers found, though, those that didn’t smoke marijuana had a far higher level of inflammatory cells compared to those who did imbibe, suggesting the substance has an anti-inflammatory property. In vitro experimentation using THC and isolated white blood cells seemed to confirm this.

        “In fact, those who used marijuana had levels pretty close to a healthy person not infected with HIV,” Kaminski added.

        Less inflammation in the brain could potentially help them maintain normal brain functions for far longer, they suggest.

        Some caveats are needed, though. This was a small population size, so it’s too early to definitively describe a relationship between marijuana’s tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and the behavior of the immune system. It’s also noted that elevated numbers of CD16+ monocytes are “implicated” in HIV-linked inflammation of the brain, but a concrete cause-and-effect link appears to remain elusive.

        Additionally, this wasn’t a longitudinal study, so you can’t yet say with confidence that those that smoke marijuana – which itself comes with some health risks in some cases – did have a better cognitive state after the fact.

        Still, it’s definitely an interesting study, and one that more research will shed additional light on.

        HIV is currently incurable – but contemporary anti-viral treatment does allow many of those afflicted by it to live an essentially normal life. In fact, it is now possible to produce (proof-of-concept) functional cures for the virus.

        As is often apparent, most of the research that makes the headlines involves the hunt for a cure. The sort of work featured in this new study, which looks at how to mitigate the dangerous effects of the virus on the patient during their lifetime, is not often focused on as much – so novel work, like that conducted by MSU, is always welcome.

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        Medical Marijuana Should Not Be More Strictly Controlled, Says The World Health Organization

        A lot of outlets today are reporting that the World Health Organization (WHO) says medical marijuana has no health risks. While that’s not quite true, a report from the organization does say that it should not be put under stricter control.

        That report yesterday suggested “scheduling” certain drugs, including carfentanil, which is an analogue of the prescription opioid fentanyl.

        Scheduling means that strict drug control measures can be put in place on certain drugs. It seems that medical marijuana will not be put on this list.

        The recommendation comes from the Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD), which met in November to review several psychoactive substances. The WHO has endorsed the latest report.

        “There is increased interest from Member States in the use of cannabis for medical indications including for palliative care,” the WHO writes. “Responding to that interest and increase in use, WHO has in recent years gathered more robust scientific evidence on therapeutic use and side effects of cannabis and cannabis components.”

        They said that the ECDD have conducted an initial review of the cannabis compound known as cannabidiol (CBD). Recent evidence from animal and human studies have shown “that its use could have some therapeutic value for seizures due to epilepsy and related conditions.”

        They added that it was “not likely to be abused or create dependence as for other cannabinoids,” unlike other cannabinoids like Tetra Hydro Cannabinol (THC). However, they did not go so far as to say there are “no health risks”, as some places are reporting.

        As a result of this study, the ECDD said that current information did not justify scheduling cannabidiol. A more comprehensive review of how cannabidiol should be handled has thus been postponed to May 2018, when a more detailed review of cannabis and cannabis-related substances can be undertaken.

        The ECDD did recommend, however, that a drug called carfentanil should be placed under the most stringent level of international control, which is Schedules I and IV. This drug is intended for animal use only, not humans, but it is sometimes taken with heroin or by people who believe they are taking heroin.

        “Carfentanil can produce lethal effects at extremely small doses equivalent to a few granules of salt, and has potential use as a chemical weapon,” the WHO writes. “It can thus be highly toxic and has been associated with hundreds of deaths and intoxications, notably in North America,” they added, noting that 64,000 people died from overdosing in the US in 2016, most of which were from synthetic opioids similar to carfentanil.

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