The Weight of Thought

A United Nations-based drug agency urged the United States government on Tuesday to challenge the legalization of marijuana for recreational use in Colorado and Washington, saying the state laws violate international drug treaties.

The International Narcotics Control Board made its appeal in an annual drug report. It called on Washington, D.C., to act to “ensure full compliance with the international drug control treaties on its entire territory.”

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said last week that he was in the last stages of reviewing the Colorado and Washington state laws. Holder said he was examining policy options and international implications of the issue. Marijuana is illegal under federal law.

Mounting evidence shows ‘cannabinoids’ in marijuana slow cancer growth, inhibit formation of new blood cells that feed a tumor, and help manage pain, fatigue, nausea, and other side effects.

Cristina Sanchez, a young biologist at Complutense University in Madrid, was studying cell metabolism when she noticed something peculiar. She had been screening brain cancer cells because they grow faster than normal cell lines and thus are useful for research purposes. But the cancer cells died each time they were exposed to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the principal psychoactive ingredient of marijuana.

Instead of gaining insight into how cells function, Sanchez had stumbled upon the anti-cancer properties of THC. In 1998, she reported in a European biochemistry journal that THC “induces apoptosis [cell death] in C6 glioma cells,” an aggressive form of brain cancer. 

Subsequent peer-reviewed studies in several countries would show that THC and other marijuana-derived compounds, known as “cannabinoids,” are effective not only for cancer-symptom management (nausea, pain, loss of appetite, fatigue), they also confer a direct antitumoral effect

A team of Spanish scientists led by Manuel Guzman conducted the first clinical trial assessing the antitumoral action of THC on human beings. Guzman administered pure THC via a catheter into the tumors of nine hospitalized patients with glioblastoma, who had failed to respond to standard brain-cancer therapies. The results were published in 2006 in the British Journal of Pharmacology: THC treatment was associated with significantly reduced tumor cell proliferation in every test subject.

Bipolar patients with a history of cannabis use demonstrate superior neurocogitive performance compared to patients with no history of use, according to clinical data published online in the journal Psychiatry Research.

Investigators at The Zucker Hillside Hospital in Long Island, NY, along with researchers at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City compared the performance of 50 bipolar subjects with a history of cannabis use versus 150 bipolar patients with no history of use on a battery of standardized cognitive measures. Patient groups did not differ regarding age, racial background, or highest education level achieved. Bipolar patients with a history of cannabis use had similar age at onset as did patients who did not consume cannabis.

Researchers found that subjects with a history of cannabis use exhibited better neurocognitive performance than that of non-users, but they did not differ significantly on estimates of premorbid IQ.

Authors reported, “Results from our analysis suggest that subjects with bipolar disorder and history of (cannabis use) demonstrate significantly better neurocognitive performance, particularly on measures of attention, processing speed, and working memory. These findings are consistent with a previous study that demonstrated that bipolar subjects with history of cannabis use had superior verbal fluency performance as compared to bipolar patients without a history of cannabis use. Similar results have also been found in schizophrenia in several studies.”

They concluded, “These data could be interpreted to suggest that cannabis use may have a beneficial effect on cognitive functioning in patients with severe psychiatric disorders. However, it is also possible that these findings may be due to the requirement for a certain level of cognitive function and related social skills in the acquisition of illicit drugs.”

Until recently, most scientists believed that neurons were the all-important brain cells controlling mental functions and that the surrounding glial cells were little more than neuron supporters and “glue.” Now research published in March in Cell reveals that astrocytes, a type of glia, have a principal role in working memory. And the scientists made the discovery by getting mice stoned.

Marijuana impairs working memory—the short-term memory we use to hold on to and process thoughts. Think of the classic stoner who, midsentence, forgets the point he was making. Although such stupor might give recreational users the giggles, people using the drug for medical reasons might prefer to maintain their cognitive capacity.

Rebecca Brown says she tried every prescription drug she could find to control the frequent seizures her son suffered because of a severe form of epilepsy.

When nothing worked consistently, and the drugs and special diet caused kidney stones and pancreas problems as side effects, the Oakland County woman turned to medical marijuana.

Now, Cooper Brown, 14, is one of 44 Michigan residents younger than 18 with a medical marijuana card. His mom says his seizures have dropped off dramatically since he started using it early this year.

But the treatment is controversial. Marijuana — medical or otherwise — is illegal at the federal level and some doctors say it shouldn’t be used by adults, let alone children. A lack of clinical studies means there is uncertainty about its effects on developing brains and nervous systems.

Activists with the Occupy Wall Street movement are claiming that police in Minneapolis gave them illegal drugs and other items for participating in a study on impairment.

In a 35-minute documentary produced by Twin Cities Indimedia, Rogue Media, Communities United Against Police Brutality and Occupy Minneapolis, multiple activists describe being offered illicit drugs.

The report alleges that police gave out drugs, cigarettes and fast food as part of the Minnesota State Patrol’s Drug Recognition Evaluator program, which trains officers in detecting drug impairment. Police reportedly picked up suspects near Peavey Plaza and drove them to a facility in Richfield where they were tested.

US Isolated at Summit of Americas

Alex Main: From Cuba to the war on drugs, only Canada supports US policy

On today’s episode of NORML SHOW LIVE we spoke live with Richard Lee, founder of Oaksterdam University.  Click this link to hear the interview.

Richard told me he’s doing as well as can be expected when federal agents violate your home and business.  He tells us the nature of the federal warrants that were served Monday in early morning raids.

Richard was “treated well” by the authorities – “they didn’t even break anything,” he told us – and he was not arrested, though that possibility still exists.