All posts tagged: US healthcare

What is CBD? The ‘miracle’ cannabis compound that doesn’t get you high

The cannabis-derived chemical is non-psychoactive, and while federally illegal has been hailed as a cure for disease

In early May, a federal court declined to protect cannabidiol (CBD), a chemical produced by the cannabis plant, from federal law enforcement, despite widespread belief in its medical value.

The ruling was contrary to existing evidence, which suggests the chemical is safe and could have multiple important uses as medicine. Many cannabis advocates consider it a miracle medicine, capable of relieving conditions as disparate as depression, arthritis and diabetes.

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.

While studies have shown CBD to have anti-inflammatory, anti-pain and anti-psychotic properties, it has seen only minimal testing in human clinical trials, where scientists determine what a drug does, how much patients should take, its side effects and so on.

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.

CBD has been sought for its healing properties. Illustration: George Wylesol

After Charlottes story got out, hundreds of families relocated to Colorado where they could procure CBD for their children, though not all experienced such life-changing results. Instead of moving, other families obtained CBD oil through the illegal distribution networks.

In late June, the US Food and Drug Administration could approve the Epidiolex, a pharmaceuticalized form of CBD for several severe pediatric seizure disorders. According to data recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the drug can reduce seizures by more than 40%. If Epidiolex wins approval it would be the first time the agency approves a drug derived from the marijuana plant. (The FDA has approved synthetic THC to treat chemotherapy-related nausea.)

Epidiolex was developed by the London-based GW Pharmaceuticals, which grows cannabis on tightly controlled farms in the UK. It embarked on the Epidiolex project in 2013, as anecdotes of CBDs value as an epilepsy drug began emerging from the US.

While parents treating their children with CBD had to proceed based on trial and error, like a folk medicine, they also had to wonder whether dispensary purchased CBD was professionally manufactured and contained what the package said it did. GW brought a scientific understanding and pharmaceutical grade manufacturing to this promising compound.

Fortunately, like THC, CBD appears to be well tolerated; as far as I can tell, there are no recorded incidents of fatal CBD overdoses.

Since Weed first aired, GWs stock has climbed 1,500%.

GWs first drug Sativex, which contains both CBD and THC, is available as a treatment for MS-related spasticity in Canada, Australia, and much of Europe and Latin America. The company is also studying cannabinoid-based drugs as a treatment for autism spectrum disorders, an aggressive brain tumor called glioblastoma, and schizophrenia.

Other industries, not subject to the strict regulations governing pharmaceuticals are eager to develop their own CBD products, everything from joints and vape pens to skin creams and edibles which may or may not have valid medical use.

In Los Angeles, its among the latest wellness fads. It can be found in cocktails, and an upscale juice shop will even add a few drops of CBD infused olive oil to a beverage for $3.50.

  • High time is the Guardians column about how cannabis legalization is changing modern life. Alex Halperin welcomes your thoughts, questions and concerns and will protect your anonymity. Get in

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Mary JaneWhat is CBD? The ‘miracle’ cannabis compound that doesn’t get you high
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Is marijuana a medical miracle? The truth is, we still don’t know

Whats the evidence behind medical cannabis? While many attest to its healing powers, research into the full potential has long been legally restricted

Is marijuana a medical miracle? The truth is, we still don’t know

Is marijuana a medical miracle? The truth is, we still don’t know

Whats the evidence behind medical cannabis? While many attest to its healing powers, research into the full potential has long been legally restricted

Read more:

Mary JaneIs marijuana a medical miracle? The truth is, we still don’t know
read more

Is marijuana a medical miracle? The truth is, we still don’t know

Whats the evidence behind medical cannabis? While many attest to its healing powers, research into the full potential has long been legally restricted

Is marijuana a medical miracle? The truth is, we still don’t know

Is marijuana a medical miracle? The truth is, we still don’t know

Whats the evidence behind medical cannabis? While many attest to its healing powers, research into the full potential has long been legally restricted

Read more:

Mary JaneIs marijuana a medical miracle? The truth is, we still don’t know
read more

California, Nevada and Massachusetts vote to legalize recreational marijuana

How Americans voted on a range of ballot initiatives around the country

Voters around the US cast ballots for a diverse range of initiatives that seek to reform laws on marijuana, the death penalty, climate change and more. Below are results in the most important contests.


Approved: California voters approved recreational marijuana, a huge victory in the fight for cannabis legalization, paving the way for the largest commercial pot market in the US.

Approved: Massachusetts also voted for recreational pot, extending legal weed from coast to coast.

Approved: Nevada became the third state to approve a recreational cannabis law, making the west an even stronger region for marijuana sales.

Approved: Earlier in the night, Florida voters passed a constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana, the first victory in a string of high-profile cannabis measures on Tuesdays state ballots.

Approved: North Dakota was the second state to approve medical weed, with the approval of Measure 5, which approves the use of marijuana to treat a number of diseases, including cancer, Aids, epilepsy and hepatitis C.

Approved: Arkansas also passed a medical cannabis measure that would allow patients with specific conditions to buy medicine from dispensaries licensed by the government.

Rejected: Arizona was the first state to vote against its marijuana measure, with the news early on Wednesday morning that voters have rejected Proposition 205. The measure would have legalized recreational pot.

Approved: Montana residents voted to expand the states medical marijuana system with the passage of Initiative 182, which removes limits on the number of patients providers can serve. Proponents of the measure argued that the existing restrictions blocked patients from accessing care.

Advocates and opponents agree that Californias Proposition 64 is the most important cannabis measure America has seen and could be an international game-changer for marijuana policy in the US.

California, which recently overtook the UK to have the fifth largest economy in the world, is expected to have a recreational marijuana market greater than Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska combined, said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance.

When I talk to everybody from allies to government officials in Mexico and I ask them whats it going to take to transform the debate, he said, the response to me is when California legalizes marijuana.

Too close to call: As of Wednesday afternoon, a recreational measure in Maine was still too close to call.

Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize recreational marijuana in 2012, paving the way for Oregon, and Alaska to follow suit.

As medical and retail cannabis operations have spread across the US, legal marijuana has become the fastest-growing industry in the US, with some analysts projecting sales to reach $22bn by 2020.

People gather for an election watch party put on by supporters of a legal marijuana initiative in Phoenix, Arizona. Photograph: Nancy Wiechec/Reuters

Although dozens of states have also taken steps to authorize medical marijuana or decriminalize pot, cannabis remains an illegal drug at the federal level.

Opponents of legalization, who have spent millions campaigning against this years measures, have argued that pot shops pose public safety risks and lead to an increase in adolescent drug abuse.

But supporters of the measures have argued that ending marijuana prohibition is critical for eliminating the war on drugs that has fueled mass incarceration and disproportionately affected people of color.

Some studies have also cast doubts on fears that legalization leads to higher rates of teen abuse, and backers of legalization further point to the big tax revenues the commercial industries have raised, exceeding initial projections.

Keith Humphreys, professor of psychiatry at Stanford University and an expert in drug policy, predicted that as more states legalize pot, there will be a continual decline in marijuana arrests.

Youll see plunging prices all over, he added, and youre going to have a lot more consumption.

Tuesdays victories could encourage other states and Congress to pursue similar reforms, said Mason Tvert, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project.

It emboldens legislators to take on the issue and treat it more seriously.

Supporters of medical marijuana wave signs at passing traffic at a street corner in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Photograph: Amy Beth Bennett/AP

Death penalty

Rejected: California rejected a high-profile measure to repeal the death penalty, which would have ended capital punishment and taken 741 inmates off of death row, instead sentencing them to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Too close to call: As of Wednesday afternoon, the states competing death penalty measure Proposition 66, designed to speed up executions was still too close to call. If it passes, the measure would be a major loss for death penalty opponents across the nation, who have fought for years to make California a leader in repealing capital punishment.

Approved: Oklahoma passed a measure to reaffirm the states commitment to the death penalty after the state attorney general suspended executions last year. Question 776, known as the Allow Any Execution Method, protects the death penalty in the constitution, blocking it from being declared cruel or unusual punishment.

Approved: Nebraska voters passed an unusual ballot measure to reinstate the death penalty after state lawmakers repealed it in 2015. The vote is a big loss for opponents of capital punishment given that Nebraska was the first conservative state to repeal the death penalty in more than 40 years.

The lethal injection facility at San Quentin state prison in California. Photograph: Eric Risberg/AP

Minimum wage

Approved: Arizona became the first state to raise the minimum wage on Tuesday night, with a Proposition 206 victory, raising the rate to $12 an hour by 2020. The measure also requires employers to provide paid sick time to workers.

Approved: Washington states proposal to raise the minimum wage to $13.50 an hour was also successful on Tuesday.

Approved: Colorado voters also approved a measure to increase the minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020, which some studies suggest will boost incomes for 20% of households in the state.

Approved: Maines minimum wage increase proposal was another victory on Tuesday, solidifying a successful night for the Fight for $15 labor movement that has fought to make salary improvements for low-wage workers a national issue. Maines Question 4 also calls for $12 by 2020.

Rejected: South Dakota was an outlier this year with a referendum on whether to lower the minimum wage for workers younger than 18. But residents voted against the states Referred Law 20, which would have exempted youth from South Dakotas new minimum wage, increased to $8.50 in 2014.

The Fight for $15 labor movement helped put minimum wage increase initiatives on the ballot in Arizona, Colorado, Maine and Washington. Photograph: UPI / Barcroft Media

Climate change

Rejected: Washington residents voted against a measure called Initiative 732, which called for the first carbon tax in the US. It would have cost emitters $25 for each ton of carbon dioxide from 2018. It would have increased gradually over the course of 40 years to $100 a ton.

Rejected: Florida voters said no to Amendment 1, a measure that would have restricted the ability of homeowners to sell electricity they create through rooftop solar panels to the grid. Environmental groups said the measure was fundamentally dishonest because it was backed by the states large utilities and could have hurt the regional solar industry.


Rejected: Colorado has voted against the creation of a single-payer healthcare system that would have made the state the first in the country to have universal, government-run healthcare. Amendment 69, also known as ColoradoCare, would have created a $36bn health system designed to ensure that every resident of the state is served. The program, which called for a new 10% payroll tax, would have replaced the private health insurance system. The defeat is a big win for major medical providers such as Anthem and Kaiser, which helped finance the opposition campaign.

Rejected: A California health proposal that received national attention thanks to an endorsement from US senator Bernie Sanders ultimately failed to earn enough votes. The state rejected Proposition 61, which would have restricted California from spending more on prescription drugs than the prices paid by the US Department of Veteran Affairs.

Opponents had spent $109m against the proposition, which the pharmaceutical industry strongly opposed. Sanders had said he hopes the measure would spark a national movement to lower drug prices.

Colorado is voting on a single-payer healthcare system, and California is voting on prescription drug prices. Photograph: Voisin/Phanie/Rex/Shutterstock


Approved: Washington state passed the first gun control ballot measure of the night, with the approval of Initiative 1491, which allows courts to issue protection orders to remove an individuals access to firearms, such as domestic abusers.

Approved: California voters followed suit, passing a proposal that requires people buying ammunition to undergo background checks and outlaws possession of high-capacity ammunition magazines.

Approved: Nevada voters narrowly passed a measure to expand background checks, requiring that firearm transfers go through a licensed dealer. The proposal exempts transfers between immediate family members.

Rejected: Gun control advocates were dealt a major blow in Maine with the narrow defeat of Question 3, a measure that called for universal background checks. The proposal was supported by billionaire Michael Bloomberg and would have been a big victory for gun safety groups in a state that has traditionally supported gun rights.


Approved: A group of San Franciscos tech billionaires and millionaires successfully passed a measure to ban tents that homeless people use to sleep on the street. Opponents have slammed Proposition Q funded by venture capitalist Michael Moritz, angel investor Ron Conway and hedge fund manager William Oberndorf as a cruel proposal that further criminalizes homeless people without providing new funding for housing or services. Critics have also pointed out that local shelters have long waitlists for beds and that city workers already conduct regular sweeps of homeless encampments.

Approved: In Los Angeles, another city that has struggled with a homeless epidemic, voters approved a measure that creates a $1.2bn investment over 10 years to support housing and programs through the issuance of bonds.

Both San Francisco and Los Angeles have high-profile measures aimed to tackle homelessness in the west. Photograph: Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

Other initiatives

Rejected: California voted against Proposition 60, a controversial proposal that would have required pornography performers to wear condoms during film shoots. Performers opposed the measure, arguing that industry testing protocols are effective and that the proposal would have opened the door for private citizens to file lawsuits against producers and actors.

Approved: Indiana and Kansas both passed so-called right to hunt measures on Tuesday by wide margins.

Those victories are part of an ongoing movement to enshrine a constitutional right to hunt and fish. Since 1996, 18 states have amended their constitutions to establish hunting and fishing as inalienable rights.

The measures are politically popular, even though critics have argued that there are no legitimate threats to hunting or fishing.

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Mary JaneCalifornia, Nevada and Massachusetts vote to legalize recreational marijuana
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