[Canniseur: The importance of empirical cannabis research cannot be understated. The fact is, cannabis researchers have been regulated to single-sourced, crap cannabis. Thank you Sen. Schatz for prodding the NIH and FDA along in this valuable direction.]
For years, the government has provided low-quality weed to cannabis researchers. But rather than improve the quality, the feds are now directing scientists to buy their own weed.
Federal health agencies have advised cannabis researchers to procure research-quality weed from state-legal retailers, rather than rely on the low-quality schwag that the DEA makes available for research.
This March, Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) sent a letter to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requesting information about their plans to support cannabis research. The senator asked the agencies to detail their clinical research agendas, propose recommendations to improve the “quality and validity of cannabis research,” and to detail the “impacts of regulatory barriers for cannabis research,” Marijuana Moment reports.
In response, acting FDA Director Norman Sharpless and NIH Director Francis Collins wrote that they were in favor of clinical cannabis research. “A larger body of rigorous research, including on cannabis and cannabinoid products that are already in use or that could be developed into FDA-approved medications, is key to furthering our understanding of their potential medical benefits and risks,” the directors wrote.
The letter also acknowledged that there are “a variety of barriers to conducting research on cannabis and cannabinoids.” The agencies note that the DEA does allow the University of Mississippi to grow cannabis to be distributed to researchers, but added that limiting production to a single provider limits “the diversity of products and formulations available to researchers.”
Gallery — Fuck-Tons of Weed That No One Is Smoking Except Cops:
The reality of the situation is even bleaker than the letter describes: the weed produced by the University of Mississippi is so bad that researchers haven’t been able to use it. In a recent interview, Dr. Mahmoud ElSohly, director of the government’s only legal weed farm, said that he deliberately limits research weed to a THC content of 8 percent, because stronger weed is too sticky to work in his professional joint-rolling machine. (Is he not aware of the joint rolling machines and tools of 2019?)
After countless angry letters from scientists and politicians, the DEA began accepting applications from other institutions wishing to grow legal weed for research. The DEA sat on these applications for three years, but in July, a federal judge ruled that the agency must explain the reason for its delay. Last month, the DEA finally announced that it would begin considering these applications, but gave no timeline for approving new growers.
Given the seemingly endless delays in this process, the NIH and FDA advised licensed researchers to just buy their own high-quality cannabis in states where it is legal.
“NIH and FDA support enabling researchers holding Schedule I licenses for marijuana to obtain products from state authorized dispensaries,” Collins and Sharpless wrote, according to Marijuana Moment. “Such products could be used for basic or clinical research, provided such materials to be used in clinical studies also comply with FDA chemistry, manufacturing, and control requirements for materials to be used in research conducted under an investigational new drug application.”
The health officials also noted that the Schedule I classification of cannabis interfered with research, and subsequently recommended “streamlining the process for conducting research with cannabis and other Schedule I substances.”
This is the second time that Sen. Schatz has gotten the federal government to admit to the medical value of psychedelics and cannabis. In response to another of the senator’s letters, Collins and Sharpless acknowledged that psychedelics like LSD, ketamine, and psilocybin all had promise as therapeutic medicines.
[Canniseur: Great idea to both to help find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease as well as get people laughing and high all at once. What could be better. I want to go!]
Actor and comedian Seth Rogen is hosting a weed-friendly, adults-only charity carnival to raise money for Alzheimer’s research. The Hilarity for Charity County Fair, which will be held in Los Angeles next weekend, will feature a range of comedians, celebrities, rides, food — and pot.
Rogen gained first-hand familiarity with Alzheimer’s when his mother-in-law was diagnosed with it at age 55. In 2012, Rogen founded Hilarity for Charity to raise money to help combat this disease. In 2014, Rogen even testified before Congress, urging politicians to fund Alzheimer’s research. At the hearing, the actor couldn’t resist making a joke about weed.
“First I should answer the question I assume many of you are asking: Yes, I’m aware this has nothing to do with the legalization of marijuana,” he said, Marijuana Moment reports. “In fact, if you can believe it, this concerns something that I find even more important.”
This year’s charity carnival will allow Rogen to unite his passion for curing Alzheimer’s with his love of weed. “We here at Hilarity for Charity love to fight Alzheimer’s disease, but we also love rides, food, alcohol and weed!” said Rogen in a promotional video. “We also love trying to be good people so that in the event there is an afterlife, we don’t go to hell.”
Comedians Adam Devine, Andrew Rannells, Ben Feldman, Casey Wilson, Ilana Glazer, Ike Barinholtz, Jeff Ross, Josh Gad, Kate Micucci, Nick Kroll, Regina Hall and Riki Lindhome are scheduled to participate in the event. Tony Hawk is scheduled to do a halfpipe skateboard performance, and musician Anderson Paak will also perform.
At this stage, it is unclear exactly what role weed will play in the event, but the carnival is definitely being advertised as pot-friendly. Comedian Josh Gad tweeted that “this is the only fair I will attend this year other than my children’s book fair which has a lot less readily available weed.”
This carnival is not the only way that cannabis can help the millions of people suffering from Alzheimer’s. In 2016, a research study discovered that THC and other cannabinoids can help brain cells remove toxic beta-amyloid proteins, which are believed to contribute to the progression of Alzheimer’s. Most pharmaceutical medicines approved to treat symptoms of this disorder have minimal effect, but new research indicates that a combination of THC and CBD can help effectively treat this serious ailment.
[Canniseur: There’s so much we don’t know about ingesting cannabis with food, whether it’s chocolate, gummies or whatever. This finding by a California lab is disturbing on two fronts; If you like edible anything, and it’s made with chocolate, you may not be able to accurately determine what dose you’re actually putting in your body. The findings are too new to determine if it’s going to be too much or too little. There are no answers yet. Read this to find out why. It’s a perfect companion to this story we just published about consistency in edibles.]
Starting this fall, it will be legal to sell cannabis edibles anywhere in Canada. Like California, and most other US states that have legalized weed-infused food items, the Canadian government is strictly regulating these products, imposing limits on total THC content and requiring mandatory testing to ensure these limits are met.
But new research conducted by a California cannabis testing lab may force health officials to take a second look at their regulations. This research, led by David Dawson of CW Analytical Laboratories, discovered that chocolate can interfere with THC potency testing. Because of this interaction, popular products like pot brownies and infused chocolate bars can fail potency tests even if they contain a legal amount of THC.
Dawson told Science Daily that his Oakland-based testing lab “noticed, kind of anecdotally, some weird potency variations depending on how we prepared chocolate samples for testing.” Dawson decided to investigate further, and found that variations in the amount of chocolate, type of chocolate, or other factors could make a THC potency test less accurate.
“When we had less cannabis-infused chocolate in the sample vial, say 1 gram, we got higher THC potencies and more precise values than when we had 2 grams of the same infused chocolate in the vial,” Dawson explained. “Simply changing how much sample is in the vial could determine whether a sample passes or fails, which could have a huge impact on the producer of the chocolate bars, as well as the customer who might be under — or overdosing because of this weird quirk.”
Dawson cited an example of California’s edibles regulations to illustrate the “high stakes” involved in cannabis potency testing. “If an edible cannabis product tests 10% below the amount on the label, California law states that is must be relabeled, with considerable time and expense,” he told Science Daily. “But it’s even worse if a product tests 10% or more above the labeled amount — then the entire batch must be destroyed.”
The researchers will present their findings at the American Chemical Society Fall 2019 National Meeting and Exposition later this week. Dawson intends to continue his research, in order to discover exactly what ingredient of chocolate may be responsible for these effects. So far, researchers suspect that the fat content of the ingredients may be interfering with THC test results, as THC is known to be fat-soluble.
If this is true, it may have implications outside of chocolate-based edibles, as any cannabis product containing some form of fat — even non-edible products like skin lotions — may be at risk of failing a THC potency test. Researchers will also look into whether potency testing for CBD or other cannabinoids can also be thrown off by chocolate or fats. This latter research may be especially useful for the Food and Drug Administration, which is actively working to develop regulations for CBD-infused food and drinks.
[Canniseur: I tried whole flower for pain relief and I can state that it works. Cannabis flower knocks out the pain out with the first toke. It was amazing. The only problem I found is that it only lasts about 1/2 hour or so and then you have to dose again. What a terrible thing to have to do. Not.]
The study, published in last month’s Complementary Therapies in Medicine journal, used data from the Releaf mobile app, which was designed to let users keep track of their symptoms before, during, and after using medical marijuana. This app, which was created by three of the study’s co-authors, collected data from 2,987 people between June 2016 and October 2018.
Researchers from the University of New Mexico used this dataset, which they refer to as “the largest database of real-time cannabis administration sessions in the US,” to view over 20,513 user-reported medical marijuana sessions.
In the app, patients are able to report the effects of individual medical marijuana products on five different pain categories: musculoskeletal, gastrointestinal, nerve, headache-related, or non-specified pain. Releaf allows users to rank the effectiveness of each product’s pain relief on a scale of one to ten. On average, users reported their initial pain levels at 5.87 out of 10. After using medical marijuana, users reported that their pain levels dropped to an average of 2.77 — a decrease of 3.1 points.
“Perhaps the most surprising result is just how widespread relief was with symptom relief reported in about 95 percent of cannabis administration sessions and across a wide variety of different types of pain,” said Xiaoxue Li, the lead author of the study, in a statement.
Broken down by type of cannabis product, researchers discovered that “consumption of whole, natural cannabis flower was associated with greater anesthetic potential than were most other types of products.”
Concentrates and topicals provided similar relief to whole flower, but edibles, pills, and tinctures ultimately showed to be less effective. Concentrates were associated with higher levels of side effects than other kinds of products, however, possibly due to the inclusion of solvents or other additives.
“Cannabis likely has numerous constituents that possess analgesic properties beyond THC, including terpenes and flavonoids, which likely act synergistically for people that use whole dried cannabis flower,” said Jacob Miguel Vigil, another of the study’s lead authors, in a statement.
The data also revealed that patients suffering from muscle, headache, or non-specified pain experienced greater relief when using high-THC products. Patients suffering from gastrointestinal pain did better with lower levels of THC. And even though the popularity of CBD-infused products has been growing like wildfire over the past few years, researchers found that this cannabinoid provided little pain relief.
“Our results confirm that cannabis use is a relatively safe and effective medication for alleviating pain, and that is the most important message to learn from our results,” Vigil concluded. “It can only benefit the public for people to be able to responsibly weigh the true risks and benefits of their pain medication choices, and when given this opportunity, I’ve seen numerous chronic pain patients substitute away from opioid use, among many other classes of medications, in favor of medical cannabis.”
This research underscores the pressing need to do away with federal prohibition laws that prevent the widespread use of this medicine.
“Even just rescheduling cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule II, i.e., classifying it with fentanyl, oxycodone, and cocaine rather than heroin and ecstasy, could dramatically improve our ability to conduct research, ” said co-author Sarah Stith in a statement. “It would require the DEA to recognize that accepted medical uses for cannabis exist, as clearly evidenced by our results and the flourishing medical cannabis programs in the majority of US states.”
[Canniseur: NIDA has always been about showing the bad side of cannabis (and other drugs). In the past, it mostly couldn’t find anything wrong with cannabis, even if that’s what the agency was tasked to do. Are they really changing their stripes? Are they really going to try to do real research? Although some of the ideas are a bit specious, it appears as though the agency might be moving in a new direction about some issues, and if they are, it’s good news indeed.]
Government cannabis research traditionally focuses on potential risks, but it’s about to start looking at the legal weed industry through a broader lens.
Last week, the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) unveiled an extensive list of cannabis-related research priorities. Traditionally, this organization has funded research aimed at uncovering risks, harms, and other negative outcomes of cannabis use, but this year, the agency has broadened its scope significantly.
“A growing number of states have loosened restrictions on cannabis, including those on sales and use, by passing medical marijuana laws or by making cannabis legal for adult recreational use, and in some cases, states have done both,” NIDA wrote, according to Marijuana Moment. The agency added that this rapid evolution of cannabis reform is “far outpacing the knowledge needed to determine and minimize the public health impacts of these changes.”
To catch up with the times, NIDA has listed 13 major research objectives that it hopes will provide a solid base of knowledge for lawmakers to draw upon when drafting new weed laws and regulations. Many of these objectives are still focused on potential risks, including the possible risks of maternal pot use on fetal development, the prevalence of traffic accidents caused by stoned drivers, and the potential outcomes of using pot along with other drugs like opioids or alcohol.
The government is also expanding its focus to investigate the medical uses of cannabis. The agency hopes to develop measurement standards for both marijuana and hemp that could help identify an effective medical dose or a level of impairment or intoxication. Researchers will also dig deep into the composition and potency of the different kinds of products currently available on the market and how they might impact physical or mental health.
NIDA also intends to study the states that have legalized medical or recreational pot, exploring how each state’s unique cannabis regulations work to minimize public health risks. The cannabis industry itself will also be a subject of research, as NIDA will attempt to determine how marketing, taxes, and prices can impact the health of cannabis users across the country. The agency also hopes to create a working roadside test that can tell if a driver is too stoned to drive safely.
While the US government is finally getting around to launching a robust study into the world of weed, the Canadian government is finding itself swamped by hundreds of applications from scientists eager to study cannabis. Health Canada, the government agency that has been tasked with approving applications for cannabis research, has so far been struggling to approve them in a timely fashion.
“Everybody is growing, consuming, and buying it, but the labs are still: ‘How do we get these projects going?’” said Jonathan Page, chief science officer for Aurora Cannabis, to Science. “The [licensing] system is swamped, and research is not exactly, I think, a priority.”
Health Canada has recently appointed 140 employees to handle the 251 cannabis research applications it has received since late July. The agency is finally making headway with these applications, approving 45 of them over the last month, and expects the weekly number of approved applications to grow in the immediate future.
“I feel for Health Canada,” said Michael Dixon of the University of Guelph to Science. “They have been handed an almost impossible chore.”