The perception of its widespread medical benefits have made the chemical a rallying cry for legalization advocates.
The first thing to know about CBD is that it is not psychoactive; it doesnt get people high. The primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). But THC is only one of the scores of chemicals known as cannabinoids produced by the cannabis plant.
So far, CBD is the most promising compound from both a marketing and a medical perspective. Many users believe it helps them relax, despite it not being psychoactive, and some believe regular doses help stave off Alzheimers and heart disease.
Despite the government ruling, CBD is widely available over the counter in dispensaries in states where marijuana is legal.
CBD first came to public attention in a 2013 CNN documentary called Weed. The piece, reported by Dr Sanjay Gupta, featured a little girl in Colorado named Charlotte, who had a rare life-threatening form of epilepsy called Dravet syndrome.
At age five, Charlotte suffered 300 grand mal seizures a week, and was constantly on the brink of a medical emergency. Through online research, Charlottes desperate parents heard of treating Dravet with CBD. It was controversial to pursue medical marijuana for such a young patient, but when they gave Charlotte oil extracted from high-CBD cannabis, her seizures stopped almost completely. In honor of her progress, high-CBD cannabis is sometimes known as Charlottes Web.
In April, a committee at the Food and Drug Administration took the unprecedented step to recommend for approval Epidiolex, an epilepsy drug containing a plant-sourced cannabinoid, cannabidiol (CBD). In June, the FDA will vote on approving the drug, which has been shown in limited studies to be effective for those suffering from severe epilepsy.
Maria Selvas seven-year-old daughter, Aliana, has epilepsy and has found relief from seizures with CBD.
But treating her daughters seizures with CBD has put Selva at significant risk, and she has mixed feelings about the FDAs potential approval of Epidiolex. In October 2017, Child Protective Services charged Maria and her husband with severe medical neglect, and removed Aliana from her parents care.
Aliana Selva was six-years-old and on vacation with her family in Los Angeles when she had her first tonic-clonic seizure. She had experienced a few mild seizures as an infant, but the doctors assured Maria and her husband, Jo Selva, that these seizures were common and she would likely grow out of them. For nearly four years, the Selvas thought the doctors were right.
Then, on March 31, 2016, Aliana had two seizures.
The Selvas rushed Aliana to the emergency room, where she was examined and released. The doctor said the hospital would forward the exam notes to a neurologist in the Bay Area, where the Selvas lived. When they returned home, a neurologist called and said Aliana needed to be put on the anticonvulsant drug, Keppra.
I remember asking her, so, is there a diagnosis? Maria says. It just seemed so strange, we didnt even know what was wrong but we were already putting her on medication for it.
Within a few minutes of giving Aliana the first dose of the drug, Alianas personality transformed dramatically.
Alis normally a very sweet, gentle little girl, Maria says, After giving her that first dose of Keppra, she was super aggressive and irritable. She went from jumping on the bed, saying she wanted to have a dance party to sobbing and banging her head against the wall. She didnt care that she was hurting herself. It was completely outside her personality. It was insane. It wasnt Ali.
Keppra rage, Dr. Bonni Goldstein, former Chief Resident at Los Angeles Childrens Hospital, said immediately when she heard Alis story (Aliana goes by both her full name and the nickname). Goldstein hasnt treated the Selvas and wasnt previously familiar with their case, but she has dealt with her share of children with epilepsy, both on and off Keppra. She practiced pediatric emergency medicine for thirteen years before switching gears to focus on cannabinoid therapies. Goldstein has seen Keppra work well for many patients, and shes seen many others have precisely the reaction Maria described.
The possible behavioral side effects of Keppra in children are well documented, including hostility and aggression.
Maria took Ali off of the drug after a week. I was uncomfortable with the whole thing, Maria said. We didnt have a diagnosis, no one explained to me how this medication was supposed to work, how long she needed to be on it, anything. They hadnt even met the doctor who prescribed it.
Over the next year, Ali had a handful of absence seizures (characterized by brief lapses in attention, absence seizures usually last 1-2 minutes). A neurologist diagnosed Ali with epilepsythe first diagnosis shed receivedand ordered an MRI. The results were normal (Normal results for MRIs and/or EEGs are not uncommon in cases of epilepsy).
In May 2017, the Selvas moved to Southern California. That summer, there was a slight uptick in the frequency of Alis absence seizures. This development worried the Selvas, but Keppra seemed like an extreme response. Years earlier, they had heard about treating seizures with CBD oil, a non-psychoactive compound found in cannabis. But Maria said, as soon as I heard it had to do with marijuana, I brushed it off.
Now, however, desperate for alternatives to Keppra, they started looking into CBD. It had been covered in the national media in 2013 when Charlotte Figi, a six-year-old with a severe form of epilepsy, dramatically improved after using the oil. There was so much research about how CBD was non-psychoactive and helpful for kids like Ali, Maria said. And crucially, there were no significant side effects. A veterinarian friend told Jo about the success shed had treating epileptic animals with CBD oil. A health store near their home sold CBD oil, so they decided to give it a try. It wasnt FDA approved, they understood that. But it was better than their child banging her head against the wall in rage.
In July of 2017, Ali started a very low dose of CBD oil, administered orally. We were really cautious, Maria said. For the first few weeks, we only gave her two drops per day. We found out later that the dose was too low to have any impact, but we wanted to start slow.
At the end of the first week of school, Ali had a brief absence seizure in class. A few after, , Ali had a much more extreme (tonic-clonic) seizure. Maria brought Ali to the emergency room, where she seized a second time. She wet herself; she may have been biting her tongue, Maria recalls. It was awful.
Frightened by this sudden escalation, the Selvas reluctantly consented to a restarting a daily dose of Keppra IV to stop the seizing. At the same time, they also increased Alis dose of CBD.
Once again, the Keppra rage returned; Ali was, according to Maria, hyper, aggressive, clumsy. Within a week, the Selvas decided to stop administering Keppra. When the Selvas met with a neurologist the following week, they asked about alternatives to the medication; he refused to discuss alternative treatments with them. This [Keppra] is what she should take; if you don't like it and you want something natural, you need to go somewhere else, Maria later texted a friend.
Dr. Julie Griffith, a neurologist in San Rafael, California, isnt familiar with the Selvas case and therefore couldnt comment on it directly, but she stresses that if one medication doesnt work for a patient, a neurologist could suggest several other medications that might be better tolerated. According to the Selvas, no such offer was made.
Intent on finding someone who could talk to them about alternatives, the Selvas switched insurance companies. The Selvas also met with school administrators and agreed on a plan regarding Alis seizures: If she had one that lasted less than five minutes, the school would call her parents to come pick her up. If it lasted more than five minutes, theyd call the Selvas and an ambulance.
Two weeks later, the plan was enacted. Ali had an absence seizure in class and Jo came to pick his daughter up from school, telling staff they were using CBD oil and looking for a new neurologist after switching insurance plans.
Several days later, Maria received a call from Loretta Lopez of Child Protective Services.
CPS wanted to do a home inspection and assess the safety of Alis home environment. It didnt sit well with us, Maria says, but we also thought, lets invite them in and show them that we have nothing to hide.
During the inspection, the Selvas recounted Alis medical history and Lopez asked to see the medication Ali was taking. The Selvas produced both the Keppra and the CBD oil, and informed Lopez that they were only using the CBD oil. (The Daily Beast tried to contact Lopez for this story, but the County of Orange Social Services Agency declined on her behalf due to state confidentiality laws.)
Maria thought it went well. She [Lopez] seemed like she was on our side. She kept saying, I know theres a reason for everything youre doing, I just want to help you make that clear. She told us that shed get back to us Tuesday or Wednesday with a report. Maria signed a form saying CPS could access Alis medical files as well as a safety plan affirming that they would take Ali to the hospital if she had a seizure.
It was an unsettling experience, but the Selvas were more confused than scared. I figured she was just going to call Tuesday or Wednesday and say everything you said checks out, case closed.
Maria was wrong. The following Wednesday, Lopez called Maria saying they needed to have an urgent, in-person meeting. Maria was confused: In her mind, theyd done everything to be accomodating:Theyd given permission for CPS to view Alis medical records and to speak with her doctor; theyd allowed CPS into their home, shown them the kids living environment, and met both parents. How could Lopez still have concerns about her kids safety?
The Selvas agreed to meet, but said they wanted an attorney present. This, they were told, was against CPS policy. You can bring anyone you want, a senior social worker told the Selvas, just not an attorney.
The policy of prohibiting attorneys at team meetings is standard in California. Orange County Social Services wouldnt comment on any particular case but directed The Daily Beast to their policy regarding attorneys at team meetings here.
Without the protection of a lawyer, the Selvas felt like they needed more time to understand what they were potentially up against. Could they have the meeting over the weekend or the following Monday instead?
That wont work, Maria recalls the social worker saying, Were just going to go ahead and get Juvenile Dependency Court involved.
For what? Maria recalled asking. We dont even know what the results of your investigation are or what were being charged with.
The meeting was supposed to be when they found out all that information, the Selvas were told. But by refusing to meet that day without an attorney, the social worker told them, they were choosing not to participate and CPS had no other choice but to move forward with getting a warrant and Juvenile Court.
When the call ended, Jo and Maria immediately started contacting lawyers. We were so in the dark, Maria says. They said they were going to get a warrant, but for what?
In retrospect, Maria sees her confusion as naivete. In this perfect world you picture, you have to be a bad parent to get your child taken away.
The following evening, Maria and Jo Selvas child was taken away.
The knock came just after 8 PM on Saturday, October 28. Through the peephole, Maria saw three police officers outside her door. They said they were doing a welfare check.
Thats when Maria started streaming the incident on Facebook Live. In the video, Jo speaks to the police officers through the closed door. He asks what a welfare check entails, and asks if they have a warrant. The officer explains that they dont need a warrant for a welfare check. Jo says he and Maria will come outside to talk, but are going to close the door behind them. The police agree. The video is dark, but seconds after opening the door, Jo is handcuffed.
Once in handcuffs, the police tell Jo that they do have a warrant, one that allows them to take Ali into protective custody. The officers read the warrant to the handcuffed Jo and he pleads, shes going to freak out if she doesnt have us by her side. Shes epileptic and everytime she gets anxiety she has seizures.
The video is over an hour long and concludes with Maria asking Ali, who appears unperturbed and smiling, dressed in Strawberry Shortcake pajamas, what she wants to bring with her to go spend the night somewhere really nice.
Ali spent the next three nights at Orangewood Childrens Home in Orange County. Her parents were allowed one supervised 30 minute visit per day. On the second day, Ali started asking to go home. It had stopped being this adventure for her, Maria said. Her hair wasnt brushed and her breath was stinky. I wanted to ask if she was brushing her teeth and everything, but its hard.When you only have 30 minutes with your child, are you really going to talk about brushing teeth? She kept asking why she couldnt come home. I kept saying, Im sorry; Im working on it.
Epidiolex, the drug which is set for FDA approval, is a product of GW Pharmaceuticals. The FDA was impressed with positive results from three randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials. The drug will likely be approved for patients with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome, two severe, rare forms of epilepsy. While Aliana's epilepsy is not severe enough to meet the expected criteria for the drug, the studies indicate the therapeutic potential of cannabidiol in treating seizure disorders.
Allison Ray Benavides, a social worker in San Diego and mother of an epileptic child believes that CPS is targeting vulnerable families with these cases. She told The Daily Beast, in San Diego, theres a group of us moms who have kids with seizure disorders and use CBD oil. Theres only one mom in our group who has had a problem with CPS: the single mom whose husband is in prison. She believes the Selvas were vulnerable in a different way, you can draw a clear line from CPS to this young, hispanic family living in a very conservative county (Orange County). If they were white and living in Newport Beach, this never would have happened.
This rings true to Ursula Kilmer, of Redding, California. Shes been battling CPS for the same reason as the Selvas. Kilmers son has Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome (a severe form of epilepsy). When she was able to use CBD oil in lieu of other anticonvulsants, His seizures stopped completely. But CPS alleges medical neglect, and Kimler has been ordered to put her son back on drugs that do not prevent his seizures and, she believes, makes them worse.
Kimler has spent the last nine months trying to appease CPS and have the courts condone her use of CBD oil. Im exhausted, she says, I just want to be able to give my kid the stuff that helps him.
On November 1, three days after she was taken, the Selvas were granted temporary custody of their daughter and saw, for the first time, what the official charges against them were: Severe medical neglect.
Griffith is among the neurologists who think CBD is promising for many cases, but has concerns about the unregulated market and quality control. She also believes more research needs to be done on the effect of CBD on developing brains. That said, when presented with a hypothetical situation in which a parent is treating their childs seizures with CBD oil, Griffith said, If theyre trying to treat the seizures, that certainly doesnt sound like neglect.
On December 5, 2017, the Selvas case was dismissed by Juvenile Dependency Court.
To this day, the Selvas dont know for sure who reported them to CPS. Goldstein understands the confusion that mandated reporters like school nurses and social workers have about cannabinoid therapies. Its one of the reasons shes started an educational program for people who are in a position to intervene.
Goldsteinwho stressed that she is a physician unassociated with the cannabis industry adamantly believes that [cannabis] must be treated the way youd treat any other prescription drug; if a family is being responsible and has medical supervision, and is using cannabis to treat a medical condition, you should not call Child Protective Services on them because that is absolutely not neglect.
As for Aliana, shes seeing a new neurologist who understands the efficacy of CBD for seizure disorders and is monitoring her closely. Emotionally, however, the trauma of the ordeal lingers. She gets scared at night now, something that never happened before.
Maria understands how she feels. I thought as a parent, I had rights, Maria said., Now theres this fear that CPS could just come through the door and take my kids away.
Industry leaders descended on the capital this week amid hopes the country at large is slowly embracing legalization
More than 200 cannabis industry leaders descended upon Washington this week in the hopes of persuading the US Congress to embrace the growing movement for marijuana legalization.
The marijuana business owners and advocates bustled between the hallways of the House and Senate, meeting with hundreds of congressional offices and rallying on the Capitol lawn over a three-day lobbying tour organized by the National Cannabis Industry Association.
The event, which brought members representing 23 states and the District of Columbia, was not the first of its kind. But the advocates hailed a new front in the battle for federal marijuana reform against the backdrop of a rapid evolution on how the issue is perceived in the nations capital.
Theres an air of legitimacy around our group that makes me hopeful that the stigma is going to fall away, said Blake Mensing, a cannabis attorney from Massachusetts who helps clients obtain local permits and state licenses for adult use cannabis businesses.
With public opinion polls showing record support among Americans for marijuana legalization, its little surprise that the high has spread to Congress.
Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have taken a flurry of actions in recent months that signal the shifting tides.
Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate majority leader, fast-tracked a bill in April that would legalize industrial hemp. The historical ban on hemp, which is derived from the cannabis plant, has long imposed barriers on the agriculture industry.
McConnell found an ally in his daily sparring partner Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader, who announced his support for the proposal this month.
The marijuana industrys efforts include pushing for legislation that would grant legal marijuana businesses access to financial services, among other measures to prevent the federal government from prosecuting businesses that are in compliance with state laws.
The states have already proven that replacing the criminal marijuana markets with tightly regulated and transparent small businesses is working, said Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA). Now the responsibility falls on Congress to reform federal laws so that the legal cannabis industry can be treated fairly, like any other legitimate business sector.
NEW YORK (CNN)New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has told top brass at the city’s police department to stop arresting people who are caught smoking marijuana in public, according to a City Hall aide.
This weekend, the mayor told the NYPD to issue summonses for smoking pot in public, instead of making arrests.
The NYPD has already begun a working group to evaluate its marijuana enforcement procedures and present its recommendations within 30 days, at the mayor’s request. The mayor made it clear this weekend that ending public marijuana smoking arrests is one of the changes he wants.
Any changes to NYPD’s policy on smoking in public would not take effect until the end of the summer.
NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Public Information Phil Walzak told CNN that the 30-day working group is already underway, and that the issue is “certainly part of that review.”
“The working group is reviewing possession and public smoking of marijuana to ensure enforcement is consistent with the values of fairness and trust, while also promoting public safety and addressing community concerns,” Walzak said.
Manhattan to end prosecution
De Blasio’s call to end arrests comes after both the the mayor and Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance made big announcements about marijuana enforcement on May 15.
The mayor publicly called on the NYPD to come up with a plan to make changes to its marijuana enforcement policies in the next month, and Vance said he would end prosecution of marijuana possession and smoking cases, starting August 1.
Under the current policy in Manhattan, people are arrested, fingerprinted and have to appear in court.
Last year, cops in Manhattan arrested people for smoking or possessing small amounts of marijuana a little more than 5,500 times. A disproportionate number of those arrested were minorities.
“The dual mission of the Manhattan DA’s office is a safer New York and a more equal justice system,” Vance said Tuesday. “The ongoing arrest and criminal prosecution of predominantly black and brown New Yorkers for smoking marijuana serves neither of these goals.”
Vance, a Democrat who is in his third term, said his office was discussing with New York City police and de Blasio what exceptions there should be to the policy.
New York Police Commissioner James O’Neill said that, while the department doesn’t target minorities, “there are differences in arrest rates, and they have persisted going back many years, long before this current administration. We need an honest assessment about why they exist … “
O’Neill said NYPD officers should not make arrests that don’t impact public safety.
Under the DA’s new policy, people who violate the law would be issued summonses. The NYPD does this in cases where possession is the most serious charge a person would face, O’Neill said.
According to the New York State courts system, police officers issue a criminal court summons when certain laws have been violated. “Most people who receive a summons are not arrested and fingerprinted unless they fail to show identification,” its website says.
Marijuana is a Schedule I drug under federal law and is illegal. Some states, like New York, have decriminalized marijuana, making it a violation and not a crime to possess small amounts of cannabis.
Medical marijuana is legal under New York law, but cannot be smoked.
In the year-and-a-bit since Donald Trump took office, Americans have witnessed a neck-wrenching 180-degree turn on an array of policy topics. One of the biggest has been with regard to drugs.
Between anti-marijuana moves by Trumps attorney general, Jeff Sessions, and apparent interest by the administration in making passing a drug test a condition for receiving food stamps in states that request it, Trump and key figures in his administration seem eager to jump back to a time in history when drug use that has become more or less accepted in society is again disqualifying and indeed criminal. And where Trump goes, the GOP often follows.
But is the Trump administration truly set on achieving this? Those of us watching drug policy debates in the era of Trump are feeling a little (OK, a lot of) whiplash.
The direction in which Sessions wants to take the country is clear. So too are Republicans views with regard to food stamps and drug testing.
With Trump, things are a bit murkier. He generally cultivated an anti-drug message with his death penalty for heroin dealers chat. Hes pushed that message in other ways too, such as the little noticed controversy in February, when Israel put the brakes on a plan to export marijuana to the U.S., apparently because Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu didnt want to piss off Trump. Trump also claims never to have smoked pot, something that some pot advocates view as inherently likely to predispose him against cannabis.
Outside of Trump, the GOP itself seems to be in the midst of an evolution on pot. Or, at least, a process of self-discovery. Gardner was so adamant that states rights on the matter be respected that he threatened to hold up any nominees to the Department of Justice until Sessions and Trump backed down. Weve also learned that John Boehner is joining the board of a cannabis companya pretty big turnaround for a former speaker of the House known more for his love of wine than weed.
So what the heck is going on with the GOP and pot? The short answer is: a lot. But though much of it seems contradictory, there is still an obvious, ultimate direction. The GOP will, in the end, follow Gardner and Boehners path, even if that feels like an Olympic gymnast-level flip-flop for a lot of voters.
It used to be that the only pro-decriminalization or pro-legalization Republicans were Libertarians who voted GOP because they wanted tax cuts and a tiny bit more fiscal restraint (with the exception, perhaps, of some prominent figures at National Review who always took a surprisingly pro-decriminalization line on marijuana).
More recently, however, the pro-decriminalization ranks have been joined by the Koch brothers, especially Charles Koch, who champions criminal justice reform and sees issues like pot decriminalization and mandatory minimums reform as obviously related.
There are also Republicans from states where marijuana laws have been liberalized, leading to a booming new sector of the economy.
Gardner is one such figure. But more Gardners are on the way. While Sessions may believe the War on Drugs has failed because it has been prosecuted with insufficient zeal, youve got a whole raft of states represented by Republican officeholders who manifestly believe that the anti-pot aspect of it, at least, is stupid.
Its certainly economically unhelpful. Nine states have fully legalized recreational pot (including Alaska, a deep red state, and Colorado, Nevada, and Mainepurplish ones with GOP elected officials). Twenty-nine states have legalized medical marijuana (including the magenta-ish states of North Dakota, Arkansas, Montana, and West Virginia, and swing state New Hampshire).
Rank-and-file Republican voters are becoming much more opposed to the War on Weed too, according to an October 2017 Gallup poll. Maybe thats because veterans (who Republicans love to champion) claim marijuana helps them with physical and psychological battlefield injuries. Maybe its because of claims that legalization could help combat the opioid epidemic, which is ravaging Republican areas. Maybe its because Republicans are hearing from unlikely marijuana advocates like Michelle Malkin.
Or maybe its because Republicans still tend to consider themselves pro-business, and the pot business is growingfast. According to a report last year from Arcview Market Research, across North America, legal pot sales in 2017 were on pace to hit $9.7 billion. Thats 33 percent growth against the previous yearevidence of a booming market. Many Republicans may oppose pot use personally. But basically all Republicans love making and keeping money.
Whatever it is, the reality is this: The ranks of pro-legalization Republicans, like plants on weed farms, will continue to grow over time, while those sharing Sessions views will shrink and shrivel and decline. Thats a good thing, in terms of achieving limited government goals, and expanding personal libertysomething todays GOP could do with getting back to focusing on.
The debate may seem muddied now. But its heading in a very clear direction.
At the Ganja Goddess Getaway, yes, there are yoga classes and spiritual talks but the mother lode comes from the spliffs, edibles and pot-infused mocktails that aid the healing
Wearing a T-shirt with the slogan Mary Jane Smokewear, a woman with long, grey pigtails crawled towards me, offering a hit off a balloon bag inflated with marijuana vapours. I was sitting cross-legged under a Ganja Goddess Getaway-branded gazebo on a perfect California afternoon and it was the umpteenth time that day that a stranger had come over, unprompted, to share their weed.
The bag was just one way my fellow ganja goddesses were getting high. Plates piled with spliffs, giant blunts, laced caramel-pecan candies and fruity mocktails enhanced with pot-infused tinctures also made the rounds. At one point, I was handed a wizard pipe packed with a tiramisu. Where a domestic goddess might use cream and ladyfingers, a ganja goddess gets baking with alternating layers of green and hash.
This is a canna-holiday, California-style. After new laws permitting recreational marijuana use came into effect in the state on 1 January, canna-visionaries wasted little time integrating their product into the regions aspirational aesthetic. You can tour the sun-grown, craft cannabis fields of the norths Humboldt County while in Los Angeles marijuana chef Chris Sayegh plans to open the citys first high cuisine cannabis restaurant (working name: Herb).
(CNN)Last year, cops in Manhattan arrested people for smoking or possessing small amounts of marijuana a little more than 5,500 times. A disproportionate number of those arrested were minorities.
“The dual mission of the Manhattan DA’s office is a safer New York and a more equal justice system,” Vance said. “The ongoing arrest and criminal prosecution of predominantly black and brown New Yorkers for smoking marijuana serves neither of these goals.”
Vance, a Democrat who is in his third term, said his office was discussing with New York City police and the mayor what exceptions there should be to the policy.
New York Police Commissioner James O’Neill on Tuesday announced a working group will take the next 30 days to look at the enforcement measures by the department.
He said that, while the department doesn’t target minorities, “there are differences in arrest rates, and they have persisted going back many years, long before this current administration. We need an honest assessment about why they exist … .”
O’Neill said NYPD officers should not make arrests that don’t impact public safety.
Under the DA’s office new policy, people who violate the law would be issued summonses. The NYPD does this in cases where possession is the most serious charge a person would face, O’Neill said.
Under the current policy in Manhattan, people are arrested, fingerprinted and have to appear in court.
The DA’s office said this creates enormous costs for the legal system and alienates too many people.
“Such arrests can significantly impact job searches, schooling, family members, immigration status, and community involvement,” the DA said. There are often no punitive, rehabilitative or deterrent purposes in these cases, the DA said.
CNN reached out to the offices of district attorneys in other boroughs to see whether they are considering similar measures. Brooklyn already has a similar policy.
Queens County wants to wait to comment until after the 30-day NYPD working group analysis.
“It is our understanding that Mayor Bill de Blasio has directed the New York City Police Department to review its policy and practices. We will await the results of that review,” a spokesperson for Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown said.
Marijuana is a Schedule I drug under federal law and is illegal. Some states, like New York, have decriminalized marijuana, making it a violation and not a crime to possess small amounts of cannabis.
Medical marijuana is legal under New York law, but cannot be smoked.
States around the country — 29 of them, plus Washington DC — have legalized medical marijuana.
The American public largely supports the legalization of medical marijuana. At least 84% of the public believes the drug should be legal for medical uses, and recreational pot usage is less controversial than ever, with at least 61% of Americans in support.
Even though some medical benefits of smoking pot may be overstated by advocates of marijuana legalization, recent research has demonstrated that there are legitimate medical uses for marijuana and strong reasons to continue studying the drug’s medicinal uses.
There are at least two active chemicals in marijuana that researchers think have medicinal applications. Those are cannabidiol (CBD) — which seems to impact the brain without a high— and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — which has pain relieving properties and is largely responsible for the high.
But scientists say that limitations on marijuana research mean we still have big questions about its medicinal properties. In addition to CBD and THC, there are another 400 or so chemical compounds, more than 60 of which are cannabinoids. Many of these could have medical uses. But without more research, we won’t know how to best make use of those compounds.
More research would also shed light on the risks of marijuana. Even if there are legitimate uses for medicinal marijuana, that doesn’t mean all use is harmless. Some research indicates that chronic, heavy users may have impaired memory, learning, and processing speed, especially if they started regularly using marijuana before age 16 or 17.
For some of the following medical benefits, there’s good evidence. For others, there’s reason to continue conducting research.
Jennifer Welsh contributed to an earlier version of this story.
The best-supported medicinal use of marijuana is as a treatment for chronic pain.
A recent report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine said there was definitive evidence that cannabis or cannabinoids (which are found in the marijuana plant) can be an effective treatment for chronic pain.
The report said that is “by far the most common” reason people request medical marijuana.
There’s also strong evidence medical cannabis can help with muscle spasms.
That same report said there’s equally strong evidence marijuana can help with muscle spasms related to multiple sclerosis.
Other types of muscle spasms respond to marijuana as well. People use medical marijuana to treat diaphragm spasms that are untreatable by other, prescribed medications.
It doesn’t seem to harm lung capacity, and may even improve it.
Researchers looking for risk factors of heart disease tested the lung function of 5,115 young adults over the course of 20 years. Tobacco smokers lost lung function over time, but pot users actually showed an increase in lung capacity.
It’s possible that the increased lung capacity may be due to taking a deep breaths while inhaling the drug and not from a therapeutic chemical in the drug.
The smokers in that study only toked up a few times a month, but a more recent survey of people who smoked pot daily for up to 20 years found no evidence that smoking pot harmed their lungs, either.
The National Academies report said there are good studies showing marijuana users are not more likely to have cancers associated with smoking.
It may be of some use in treating glaucoma, or it may be possible to derive a drug from marijuana for this use.
Marijuana decreases the pressure inside the eye, according to the National Eye Institute: “Studies in the early 1970s showed that marijuana, when smoked, lowered intraocular pressure (IOP) in people with normal pressure and those with glaucoma.”
For now, the medical consensus is that marijuana only lowers IOP for a few hours, meaning there’s not good evidence for it as a long term treatment right now. Researchers hope that perhaps a marijuana-based compound could be developed that lasts longer.
It may help control epileptic seizures.
Some studies have shown that cannabidiol (CBD), another major marijuana compound, seems to help people with treatment-resistant epilepsy.
A number of individuals have reported that marijuana is the only thing that helps control their or their children’s seizures.
However, there haven’t been many gold-standard, double-blind studies on the topic, so researchers say more data is needed before we know how effective marijuana is.
It also decreases the symptoms of a severe seizure disorder known as Dravet’s Syndrome.
During the research for his documentary “Weed,” Sanjay Gupta interviewed the Figi family, who treated their 5-year-old daughter using a medical marijuana strain high in cannabidiol and low in THC.
The Figi family’s daughter, Charlotte, has Dravet Syndrome, which causes seizures and severe developmental delays.
According to the film, the drug decreased her seizures from 300 a week to just one every seven days. Forty other children in the state were using the same strain of marijuana to treat their seizures when the film was made — and it seemed to be working.
The doctors who recommended this treatment said the cannabidiol in the plant interacts with brain cells to quiet the excessive activity in the brain that causes these seizures.
Gupta notes, however, that a Florida hospital that specializes in the disorder, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Drug Enforcement agency don’t endorse marijuana as a treatment for Dravet or other seizure disorders.
A chemical found in marijuana stops cancer from spreading, at least in cell cultures.
One 2014 study found that marijuana can significantly slow the growth of the type of brain tumor associated with 80% of malignant brain cancer in people.
Still, these findings in cell cultures and animals don’t necessarily mean the effect will translate to people — far more investigation is needed.
It may decrease anxiety in low doses.
Researchers know that many cannabis users consume marijuana to relax, but also that many people say smoking too much can cause anxiety. So scientists conducted a study to find the “Goldilocks” zone: the right amount of marijuana to calm people.
According to Emma Childs, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Illinois at Chicago and an author of the study, “we found that THC at low doses reduced stress, while higher doses had the opposite effect.”
A few puffs was enough to help study participants relax, but a few puffs more started to amp up anxiety. However, people may react differently in different situations.
THC may slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease
The 2006 study, published in the journal Molecular Pharmaceutics, found that THC (the active chemical in marijuana) slows the formation of amyloid plaques by blocking the enzyme in the brain that makes them. These plaques kill brain cells and are associated with Alzheimer’s.
Jody Corey-Bloom studied 30 multiple sclerosis patients with painful contractions in their muscles. These patients didn’t respond to other treatments, but after smoking marijuana for a few days, they reported that they were in less pain.
The THC in marijuana seems to bind to receptors in the nerves and muscles to relieve pain.
It seems to lessen side effects from treating hepatitis C and increase treatment effectiveness.
Treatment for hepatitis C infection is harsh: negative side effects include fatigue, nausea, muscle aches, loss of appetite, and depression. Those side effects can last for months, and lead many people to stop their treatment course early.
But a 2006 study in the European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology found that 86% of patients using marijuana successfully completed their Hep C therapy. Only 29% of non-smokers completed their treatment, possibly because the marijuana helps lessen the treatment’s side effects.
Marijuana also seems to improve the treatment’s effectiveness: 54% of hep C patients smoking marijuana got their viral levels low and kept them low, in comparison to only 8% of nonsmokers.
Marijuana may help with inflammatory bowel diseases.
University of Nottingham researchers found in 2010 that chemicals in marijuana, including THC and cannabidiol, interact with cells in the body that play an important role in gut function and immune responses. The study was published in the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics.
The body makes THC-like compounds that increase the permeability of the intestines, allowing bacteria in. But the cannabinoids in marijuana block these compounds, making the intestinal cells bond together tighter and become less permeable.
But the National Academies report said there isn’t enough evidence to be sure whether marijuana really helps with these conditions, so more research is needed.
Researchers from rheumatology units at several hospitals gave their patients Sativex, a cannabinoid-based pain-relieving medicine. After a two-week period, people on Sativex had a significant reduction in pain and improved sleep quality compared to placebo users.
Other studies have found that plant-derived cannabinoids and inhaled marijuana can decrease arthritis pain, according to the National Academies report.
Marijuana users tend to be less obese and have a better response to eating sugar.
A study published in the American Journal Of Medicine suggested that pot smokers are skinnier than the average person and have healthier metabolism and reaction to sugars, even though they do end up eating more calories.
The study analyzed data from more than 4,500 adult Americans — 579 of whom were current marijuana smokers, meaning they had smoked in the last month. About 2,000 people had used marijuana in the past, while another 2,000 had never used the drug.
The researchers studied how the participants’ bodies responded to eating sugars. They measured blood-sugar levels and the hormone insulin after participants hadn’t eaten in nine hours, and after they’d eaten sugar.
Not only were pot users thinner, their bodies also had a healthier response to sugar. Of course, the study couldn’t determine whether the marijuana users were like this to begin with or if these characteristics were somehow related to their smoking.
While not really a health or medical benefit, marijuana could spur creativity.
Contrary to stoner stereotypes, marijuana usage has actually been shown to have some positive mental effects, particularly in terms of increasing creativity, at least in some contexts. Even though people’s short-term memories tend to function worse when they’re high, they actually get better at tests requiring them to come up with new ideas.
Researchers have also found that some study participants improve their “verbal fluency,” their ability to come up with different words, while using marijuana.
Part of this increased creative ability may come from the release of dopamine in the brain, which lowers inhibitions and allows people to feel more relaxed, giving the brain the ability to perceive things differently.
Cannabis soothes tremors for people with Parkinson’s disease.
Medical marijuana is legal in Israel for multiple conditions, and a lot of research into the medical uses of cannabis is done there, supported by the Israeli government.
Marijuana may help veterans suffering from PTSD.
In 2014, the Colorado Department of Public Health awarded $2 million to the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (one of the biggest proponents of marijuana research) to study marijuana’s potential for people with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Naturally occurring cannabinoids, similar to THC, help regulate the system that causes fear and anxiety in the body and brain.
Marijuana is approved to treat PTSD in some states already — in New Mexico, PTSD is the number one reason for people to get a license for medical marijuana.
But there are still questions about the safety of using marijuana while suffering from PTSD, which this study — which has taken a while to get off the ground — will hopefully help answer.
Animal studies suggest that marijuana may protect the brain after a stroke.
Research from the University of Nottingham shows that marijuana may help protect the brain from damage from a stroke by reducing the size of the area affected by the stroke — at least in rats, mice, and monkeys.
This isn’t the only research that has shown neuroprotective effects of cannabis. Some research shows that the plant may help protect the brain after other types of brain trauma.
Marijuana might even protect the brain from concussions and trauma.
Lester Grinspoon , a professor of psychiatry at Harvard and marijuana advocate, recently wrote an open letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. In it, he said the NFL should stop testing players for marijuana, and that the league should start funding research into the plant’s ability to protect the brain instead.
This is a complicated one, because it involves effects that can be both positive and negative. Marijuana disturbs sleep cycles by interrupting the later stages of REM sleep. In the long run, this could be a problem for frequent users.
However, for people suffering from serious nightmares, especially those associated with PTSD, this can be helpful, perhaps in the short term. Nightmares and other dreams occur during those same stages of sleep. By interrupting REM sleep, many of those dreams may not occur. Research into using a synthetic cannabinoid — similar to THC but not the same — showed a significant decrease in the number of nightmares in patients with PTSD.
Additionally, even if frequent use can be bad for sleep, marijuana may be a better sleep aid than some other substances that people use. Some of those, including medication and alcohol, may potentially have worse effects on sleep, though more research is needed on the topic.
Cannabis reduces some of the pain and nausea from chemotherapy and stimulates appetite.
One of the most well-known medical uses of marijuana is for people going through chemotherapy. There’s good evidence that it’s effective for this, according to the National Academies report.
Cancer patients being treated with chemo suffer from painful nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite. This can cause additional health complications.
Marijuana can help reduce these side effects, alleviating pain, decreasing nausea, and stimulating the appetite. There are also multiple FDA-approved cannabinoid drugs that use THC, the main active chemical in marijuana, for the same purpose.
Marijuana can help people who are trying to cut back on drinking.
Marijuana is safer than alcohol. That’s not to say it’s risk-free, but cannabis is much less addictive than alcohol and doesn’t cause nearly as much physical damage.
Research published in the Harm Reduction Journal found that some people use marijuana as a less harmful substitute for alcohol, prescription drugs, and other illegal drugs. Some of the most common reasons patients make that substitution are that marijuana has less negative side effects and is less likely to cause withdrawal problems.
Some people do become psychologically dependent on marijuana, and it is not a cure for substance abuse problems. But from a harm-reduction standpoint, it can help.
Still, it’s worth noting that combining marijuana and alcohol can be dangerous, and some researchers are concerned that this scenario is more likely than one in which users substitute a toke for a drink.
Medical marijuana legalization seems to reduce opioid overdose deaths.
While there are a number of factors behind the current opioid epidemic, many experts agree that the use of opioid painkillers to treat chronic pain has played a major role. It’s very risky to take powerful drugs that have a high risk of causing overdose and high addiction rates. Marijuana, which can also treat chronic pain, is far less risky.
Several studies have shown that states that allow medical marijuana have fewer opioid deaths. This effect seems to grow over time, with states who pass these laws seeing a “20% lower rate of opioid deaths in the laws’ first year, 24% in the third, and 33% in the sixth,” according to Stat News.
It’s hard to say that deaths went down because of medical marijuana legalization and not other reasons. But because the effect seems to get stronger the longer marijuana remains legal, researchers think marijuana is a likely cause of the decline in opioid deaths.
Read the original article on Business Insider. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Copyright 2017.
If you go to a doctor and ask them to recommend you medical marijuana, don’t expect them to fully understand how the drug works, both for you as an individual patient and in general as a therapy. Because no one really does.
With more and more states legalizing marijuana for medical or recreational use, cannabis is shedding its stigma and entering the mainstream. That means folks who’ve shied away from the stuff are getting better access, and exploring cannabis as a non-addictive treatment for ailments like pain. But that new interest is running smack dab into a big problem plaguing medical cannabis: The research on what marijuana can actually treat, what components of the plant matter, and how different patients respond to them, is severely lacking.
Just how much doctors are struggling with it becomes clear today in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. A study reveals that half of surveyed oncologists say they recommended marijuana to patients in the last year. But half of those didn’t think they actually had sufficient knowledge to make those recommendations.
The biggest question for oncologists is what cancer symptoms cannabis can really treat. The survey found respondents split when it comes to the treatment of pain: A third of oncologists said cannabis is equally or more effective than standard pain treatments, a third said it was less effective, and a third didn’t know. “But there seemed to be clear consensus that medical marijuana is a good adjunct to standard pain treatment, so a good add-on medication,” says Ilana Braun, lead author and chief of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute's Division of Adult Psychosocial Oncology. In fact, two-thirds of respondents said it’d be a good supplemental treatment.
According to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine—which last year published a massive, big-deal review of cannabis research—“there is substantial evidence that cannabis is an effective treatment for chronic pain in adults.” It’s also been shown to help control nausea and vomiting.
Now, doctors have long prescribed a synthetic THC called dronabinol, aka marinol, for the treatment of nausea and weight loss. Problem is, side effects include paranoia and “thinking abnormal.” Beyond that, you wouldn’t want to try to get high on it because it’s missing the galaxy of other active compounds in cannabis. “If it worked—it rarely does work—but if it really did work it would be abused on the streets,” says physician Allan Frankel, a pioneer in medical cannabis. “For 15 cents a pill? That's how bad marinol is.”
The reason, Frankel says, is the so-called entourage effect, the interaction of dozens of other cannabinoids in marijuana like CBD (which is an extremely effective treatment for seizures, by the way) that may produce different therapeutic effects. So by that logic, with marinol, patients aren’t getting the full effect of the cannabis plant.
And that full effect would be? Well, nobody really knows—in part because the US government makes the stuff very, very difficult to study. In the eyes of the feds, it’s still a very illegal schedule I drug, the most tightly controlled category, and the DEA decides who gets crop to research. Researchers don’t have access to a variety of strains that might produce a variety of benefits, given different levels of CBD and THC and other compounds.
Even if you could study lots of different strains, it’s not always possible to tell what a patient is going to get at the dispensary. Flowers can be mislabeled, and the THC content of oils doesn’t always match what’s on the label. “Composition standardization is a giant mess,” says Jeff Raber, CEO of the Werc Shop, a lab that tests cannabis. “So for an ultra traditional doctor, I can understand where they're like, Man, we don't really know what that is, is that OK? It's not standardized like a pharmaceutical product.”
A doctor can’t just say, Take two marijuana pills and call me in the morning. And on a physiological level, we all handle cannabis differently. “Even if I tell everybody, go inhale a tenth of a gram, their inhalation depths and absorption rates are going to be different,” says Raber.
“Unfortunately, we are going a little bit blind,” says physician Bonni Goldstein, medical director of the Canna-Centers, which provides cannabis consultations for patients. “But what I'm finding in clinical experience is I learn from every patient, and so we try to use the scientific research that we do have.”
So doctors like Goldstein try to tailor cannabis as best they can for a patient’s needs. Her patients have the luxury of attentive, personalized cannabis consultations. “Someone retired who has cancer who doesn't have to get up in the morning and get somewhere may be able to take bigger doses during the day,” says Goldstein, “versus a mom of four who has kids in and out of activities, who has breast cancer.”
But your typical oncologist isn’t going to sit down with a patient for an hour to walk through their lifestyle and needs. So patients are left to experiment with dosages on their own, or consult with their local dispensary.
Because it turns out that dispensaries have some experience dosing cannabis. “Some of the top dispensaries that have been doing this for a while know this better than anybody else,” says Rob Adelson, president and CEO of Resolve, which makes a smart inhaler for medical marijuana patients. “There's still so much about the pharmacokinetics of this plant that we just don't know yet. So asking a doctor to come in to try to solve the problem without any more data than the dispensary has is hard.”
What Adelson sees cannabis promoting is a new paradigm of medical care. “We've heard this from many doctors, that they might not know about medical cannabis, might not want to promote it, and that a patient comes in and says, ‘I'd like to try it,’” he says. “And patients bring studies with them." That inversion of responsibility has its downsides: An elderly patient might not be aware of side effects like dizziness, for example. But at the same time, it's impossible to overdose. For better or worse, if doctors don't feel they have the knowledge to appropriately prescribe a drug, patients will fill that void.
More cannabis science
Another big unknown with cannabis is the issue of safety. Namely, the stuff that's grown in the wilds of California can be very, very dirty.
It turns out Oregonians are good at growing cannabis too good.
In February, state officials announced that 1.1m pounds of cannabis flower were logged in the states database.
If a million pounds sounds like a lot of pot, thats because it is: last year, Oregonians smoked, vaped or otherwise consumed just under 340,000lb of legal bud.
That means Oregon farmers have grown three times what their clientele can smoke in a year.
Yet state documents show the number of Oregon weed farmers is poised to double this summer without much regard to whether theres demand to fill.
The result? Prices are dropping to unprecedented lows in auction houses and on dispensary counters across the state.
Wholesale sun-grown weed fell from $1,500 a pound last summer to as low as $700 by mid-October. On store shelves, that means the price of sun-grown flower has been sliced in half to those four-buck grams.
For Oregon customers, this is a bonanza. A gram of the beloved Girl Scout Cookies strain now sells for little more than two boxes of actual Girl Scout cookies.
But it has left growers and sellers with a high-cost product thats a financial loser. And a new feeling has descended on the once-confident Oregon cannabis industry: panic.