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All Smoke Is Not Created Equal

All Smoke Is Not Created Equal
by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director
January 7, 2016

Long-term exposure to tobacco smoke is demonstrably harmful to health. According to the United States Center for Disease Control, tobacco smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, and chronic exposure to tobacco smoke is linked to increased incidences of cancer as well as vascular disease. Inhaling tobacco smoke is also associated with a variety of adverse pulmonary effects, such as COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).

Does smoking cannabis pose similar dangers to lung health? According to a number of recent scientific findings, marijuana smoke and tobacco smoke vary considerably in their health effects. So then why are lawmakers in various states, such a Minnesota and New York, imposing new restrictions explicitly prohibiting the inhalation of herbal preparations of cannabis?

Marijuana Smoke vs. Tobacco Smoke
Writing in the Harm Reduction Journal in 2005, noted cannabis researcher Robert Melamede explained that although tobacco smoke and marijuana smoke have some similar chemical properties, the two substances possess different pharmacological activities and are not equally carcinogenic. Specifically, he affirmed that marijuana smoke contains multiple cannabinoids – many of which possess anti-cancer activity – and therefore likely exerts “a protective effect against pro-carcinogens that require activation.” Melamede concluded, “Components of cannabis smoke minimize some carcinogenic pathways whereas tobacco smoke enhances some.”

Marijuana Smoke and Cancer
Consequently, studies have so far failed to identify an association between cannabis smoke exposure and elevated risks of smoking-related cancers, such as cancers of the lung and neck. In fact, the largest case-controlled study ever to investigate the respiratory effects of marijuana smoking reported that cannabis use was not associated with lung-related cancers, even among subjects who reported smoking more than 22,000 joints over their lifetime. Summarizing the study’s findings in The Washington Post, pulmonologist Dr. Donald Tashkin, Professor Emeritus at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, concluded: “We hypothesized that there would be a positive association between marijuana use and lung cancer, and that the association would be more positive with heavier use. What we found instead was no association at all, and even a suggestion of some protective effect.”

A meta-analysis of additional case-control studies, published in the International Journal of Cancer in 2014, similarly reported, “Results from our pooled analyses provide little evidence for an increased risk of lung cancer among habitual or long-term cannabis smokers,” while a 2009 Brown University study determined that those who had a history of marijuana smoking possessed a significantly decreased risk of head and neck cancers as compared to those subjects who did not.

Marijuana Smoke and Pulmonary Function
According to a 2015 study conducted at Emory University in Atlanta, the inhalation of cannabis smoke, even over extended periods of time, is not associated with detrimental effects on pulmonary function, such as forced expiratory volume (FEV1) and forced vital capacity (FCV). Assessing marijuana smoke exposure and lung health in a large representative sample of U.S. adults, age 18 to 59, they maintained, “The pattern of marijuana’s effects seems to be distinctly different when compared to that of tobacco use.” Subjects had inhaled the equivalent of one marijuana cigarette per day for 20 years, yet did not experience FEV1 decline or deleterious change in spirometric values of small airways disease.

Marijuana Smoke and COPD
While tobacco smoking is recognized as a major risk factor for the development of COPD – a chronic inflammation of the airways that may ultimately result in premature death – marijuana smoke exposure (absent concurrent tobacco smoke exposure) appears to present little COPD risk. In 2013, McGill University professor and physician Mark Ware wrote in the journal Annals of the American Thoracic Society: “Cannabis smoking does not seem to increase risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or airway cancers… Efforts to develop cleaner cannabinoid delivery systems can and should continue, but at least for now, (those) who smoke small amounts of cannabis for medical or recreational purposes can breathe a little bit easier.”

Mitigating Marijuana Smoke Exposure
The use of a water-pipe filtration system primarily cools cannabis smoke, which may reduce throat irritation and cough. However, this technology is not particularly efficient at eliminating the potentially toxic byproducts of combustion or other potential lung irritants.

By contrast, vaporization heats herbal cannabis to a point where cannabinoid vapors form, but below the point of combustion – thereby reducing the intake of combustive smoke or other pollutants, such as carbon monoxide and tar. Observational studies show that vaporization allows consumers to experience the rapid onset of effect while avoiding many of the associated respiratory hazards associated with smoking – such as coughing, wheezing, or chronic bronchitis. Clinical trials also report that vaporization results in the delivery of higher plasma concentrations of THC (and likely other cannabinoids) compared to smoked cannabis. As a result, the authors affiliated with the University of California Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research and elsewhere now acknowledge that vaporizers provide a “safe and effective” way to for consumers to inhale herbal cannabis.

The Bottom Line
Based on this scientific record, it makes little sense for lawmakers to impose legislative bans on herbal cannabis products, such as those that presently exist for patients in Minnesota and New York and which are now being proposed in several other states (e.g., Georgia and Pennsylvania). Oral cannabis preparations, such as capsules and edibles, possess delayed onset compared to inhaled herbal cannabis, making these options less suitable for patients desiring rapid symptomatic relief. Further, oral administration of cannabis-infused products is associated with significantly greater bioavailability than is inhalation – resulting in more pronounced variation in drug effect from dose to dose (even in cases where the dose is standardized). These restrictions unnecessarily limit patients’ choices and deny them the ability to obtain rapid relief from whole-plant cannabis in a manner that has long proven to be relatively safe and effective.

Proposed Legislation Could Federally Legalize Cannabis

Proposed Legislation Could Federally Legalize Cannabis
Joseph Lemiuex
23 February, 2015

On Friday, two congressmen have put forth bills that would ultimately end the federal prohibition of cannabis.

Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) introduced the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act. This act would remove marijuana scheduling from the Controlled Substances Act, and put marijuana under the control of the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives). This move would regulate cannabis no different than alcohol on the federal level.

The Marijuana Tax Revenue Act introduced by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) would set up a federal excise tax for regulated marijuana.

The bills would not force any state government to legalize marijuana, but it would set a framework for states that are interested. This framework, if passed, would expedite states legalization if they choose to legalize. Cannabis has been making its mark upon the American people, and many are now in support of legalization.

So far, the U.S. has 4 states that out right legalized marijuana, 23 states have legalized marijuana for medicinal use, and 11 others have legalized marijuana in a restricted shape or form for medical use.

“While President Obama and the Justice Department have allowed the will of voters in states like Colorado and 22 other jurisdictions to move forward, small business owners, medical marijuana patients, and others who follow state laws still live with the fear that a new administration — or this one — could reverse course and turn them into criminals,” Polis said in a statement Friday. “It is time for us to replace the failed prohibition with a regulatory system that works and let states and municipalities decide for themselves if they want, or don’t want, to have legal marijuana within their borders.”

Even though many Americans and states look favorably upon cannabis, it is still a federal crime. While federal guidance has been going easy on the states that have legalized, people are still going to federal prison for marijuana related convictions. This makes you wonder, if these bills pass, what will become of the already convicted felons of marijuana possession? Will the federal government release these inmates, or continue to hold them for a crime the government now deems legal.

Blumenauer called the federal prohibition of marijuana “a failure” that has wasted tax dollars and ruined lives. He also said it’s time for the government to forge a new path ahead for the plant.

“As more states move to legalize marijuana as Oregon, Colorado, Washington and Alaska have done,” Blumenauer said, “it’s imperative the federal government become a full partner in building a workable and safe framework.”

Here are 4 ways cannabis is good for your brain — and may save your life

Here are 4 ways cannabis is good for your brain — and may save your life
Dana Larsen, AlterNet
17 February, 2015

Modern research is showing that cannabis extracts protect and benefit the human brain. Here’s four amazing ways scientists are showing that cannabis actually helps to keep your brain safe from disease, dementia and even death!

#4 – Cannabis promotes new brain cell growth
Government scare campaigns often claim that cannabis kills brain cells, but now we are learning the truth. Those discredited studies were done in the ’70s, by strapping a gas mask onto a monkey and pumping in hundreds of joints worth of smoke. The monkeys suffered from lack of oxygen, and that’s why their brain cells died.

Modern research is now proving the opposite. The active ingredients in cannabis spur the growth of new brain cells!

Back in 2005, Dr. Xia Zhang at the University of Saskatchewan showed that cannabinoids cause “neurogenesis” – which means that they help make new brain cells grow!

“Most ‘drugs of abuse’ suppress neurogenesis,” said Dr. Zhang. “Only marijuana promotes neurogenesis.”

Scientists in Brazil expanded on this research, demonstrating in 2013 that CBD, another chemical in cannabis, also causes new brain cells to sprout up. Researchers in Italy then produced the same result with CBC, another “cannabinoid” found in cannabis resin.

Now there is no doubt that cannabinoids cause new brain cells to grow in the hippocampus. This helps explain previous research showing that cannabinoids effectively treat mood disorders like depression, anxiety and stress – they are all related to a lack of adult neurogenesis.

#3 – Cannabis prevents Alzheimer’s
About 5 millions Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s. but there’s hope in sight. Modern research shows that using cannabis helps prevent the incidence of Alzheimer’s and dementia by cleaning away beta-amyloid “brain plaque.”

A 2014 study into cannabis and Alzheimer’s was lead by Dr. Chuanhai Cao, PhD, a neuroscientist at the Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute.

“THC is known to be a potent antioxidant with neuroprotective properties,” said Cao, explaining that THC “directly affects Alzheimer’s pathology by decreasing amyloid beta levels, inhibiting its aggregation, and enhancing mitochondrial function.”

This confirmed earlier studies, such as one from 2008 which found that THC “simultaneously treated both the symptoms and progression of Alzheimer’s disease.” This study concluded that, “compared to currently approved drugs prescribed for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, THC is considerably superior.”

These studies used very low levels of THC to find these results — the levels you might find in a moderate cannabis user. So where’s the headlines saying “Smoking Cannabis Prevents Alzheimer’s”?

#2 – Cannabis prevents brain damage after strokes and trauma
Several recent studies have found that cannabinoids protect the brain from permanent damage after trauma or stroke.

Studies done in 2012 and 2013 found that a low dose of THC protected mice’s brains from damage by carbon monoxide and head trauma.

Researchers found that THC “protected brain cells and preserved cognitive function over time” and suggested that it could be used preventively, for ongoing protection.

A 2014 study found that people with low amounts of THC in their system were about 80% less likely to die from serious head injuries than those without.

This last study is actually quite remarkable and should have been headline news. Researchers analyzed blood samples from hundreds of people who had suffered head injuries, and found that people with small amounts of cannabinoids in their bloodstream were 80% less likely to be killed from head trauma.

This means that in a group of occasional pot smokers and a group of abstainers who suffer similar brain injuries, the pot smokers will have only 2 deaths for every 10 suffered by the abstainers!

There are 52,000 deaths every year from traumatic head injury in America. This study showed that if every adult American had a puff of cannabis once a week, 20% of those deaths would be avoided — that’s about 41,600 lives that could be saved, every year. Why isn’t this front page news?

#1 – Cannabis extracts treat brain cancer
One exciting use of cannabinoids is in the treatment of cancer. Repeated laboratory and animal studies have shown that cannabinoids kill cancer cells and shrink tumours, while helping to protect normal cells.

Recent research includes a 2012 study showing that CBD stopped metastasis in aggressive forms of cancer, a 2013 study showing that a blend of six cannabinoids killed leukemia cell, and a 2014 study showing that THC and CBD could be combined with traditional chemotherapy to produce “dramatic reductions” in brain tumour size.

Using cannabis extracts for brain cancer is nothing new. A 1998 study found that THC “induces apoptosis [cell death] in C6 glioma cells” — an aggressive form of brain cancer. A 2009 study showed that THC acted “to kill cancer cells, while it does not affect normal cells” in the brain.

The medicinal benefits of cannabis and cannabinoids are immense, and it’s time everyone is allowed full access to this amazing healing herb.

Who knows? Maybe one day we’ll even get to use outdoor-grown hemp to produce vast quantities of pure, cheap cannabinoids for the millions of Americans who need them.

shriners

so, we went to wilsonville, yesterday, to play for a bunch of shriners. rather predictably, we ROCKED THE HOUSE, which, also rather predictably, resulted in the entire band being, essentially, offered membership in the shriners club.

from what i’ve been able to ascertain from external sources (google), it normally takes an "average" male person about four to eight months to achieve the status of "master mason", which is the requirement for joining the shriners. this is, of course, lacking the essential "recommendation" without which none of this is possible anyway, and it’s definitely a “men only” club, as, as far as i have been able to tell, there aren’t any female masons of any variety – females are not "allowed" to become masons, and have to make due with "The Order of The Eastern Star" or some such other nonsense.

among the "requirements" for becoming a mason of any variety, once we’ve done away with the gender and recommendation requirements, is that one has to believe in a "Supreme Being"…

that’s not a problem for me, but i suspect that it’s a matter which the masons might take exception, given the opportunity… or, at least, the masons with whom i am most immediately familiar, i.e. the "master masons" of the Al Kader shrine center — as an aside, i must notice the distinct similarities between "Al Kader" and "al-Qa’eda"… while they probably think that they are about as far away from the term "terrorism" as one group of people could get, my impression is, whether right or left, an extreme is still an extreme… and, in my opinion, they are, most definitely, extreme, in more than one way.

but, back to the issue at hand…

the requirement that one "believes in a "Supreme Being"" will, i’m fairly certain, begin to rub people the wrong way. i “believe” (have absolute knowlege, which i can’t “share” with anyone, even if i wanted to) in a “Supreme Being” who both exists, and doesn’t exist, at the same time; who is both personally, intimately involved in the minutest details of everyday life, and doesn’t care about you, or me, or the evil that is being done in the world, or anything else… when it can be said to exist at all.

requiring this kind of God to be capable of being labeled “male” or “female” is pointless, meaningless and a waste of time. this kind of God, can (if it can be said to exist at all) be male, female, all-sex and no-sex, all at the same time…

which raises a distinct question when the "Illustrious Chaplain" commenced yesterday evening’s celebration with a prayer to “father god”, which was echoed with vehement reverance by a lady who was standing next to me, who kept saying “praise jeezis” over and over during the prayer…

it is this kind of behaviour which makes me suspicious of the shriners, especially when they make a point of saying things like “While our backgrounds and interests may be diverse, what binds us together are shared values…” there have been too many times in my past where that kind of language meant “what binds us together are shared values, which if you don’t happen to share, in whatever detail, we are bound to make your life more miserable than it already is”…

this was driven home to me when i was thinking about postulating to the clampers, a few years ago, and discovered that, among other things, the people that i would have been forced to hang out with were the most foul-mouthed, disrespectful, low-life, ignorant rednecks i have ever had the pleasure of meeting. while the al kader shriners are definitely not the clampers, or the eagles, it appears to me as though the only significant difference is the amount of money in their checking accounts, and the fact that there are more elected civic officials in the shrine temple than there are in the clamper hall.

okay, so, ASSUMING that we can overcome that hurdle, the first degree is apprentice, which is all about moral character… and if i don’t “believe” in the same kind of “supreme being” that they do, it comes as no surprise that i don’t have the same morals they do… except that i do, for different reasons, which are going to be another big hurdle to overcome. to top it all off, there is a catechism that i am already, really NOT interested in memorising, because, if nothing else, i have limited enough brain-cells as it is, and i’m very likely going to be A LOT more interested in using them for memorising other bits of useless trivia which i’m not going to be able to use in six months. if joining their club with the cool hats means memorising anything i don’t already know, then i’m probably going to give their club with the cool hats a miss. sorry.

so, once again, ASSUMING that we can overcome those hurdles as well (the word that i was given last night is that we could “very easily become shriners”), one of the aims of the organisation is to have a group of people with whom you feel comfortable hanging out. i have that! i don’t need an artificial organisation that claims to be oriented towards the arts and sciences when i am part of an extremely natural, non-organised group of people whose entire lives are a part of the arts and sciences… and i feel comfortable hanging around with them, whereas i’m very definitely NOT comfortable hanging around with a bunch of fat, filthy rich old men, horny, sleazy young men who want to be fat, filthy rich old men when they grow up, and their “ladies”… the reason we ROCKED THE HOUSE last night was because there wasn’t another musician in the house. sure, there were people who had played musical instruments when they were in school, 40 years ago, and people who play musical instruments as a hobby, but there wasn’t a single current member of a band or soloist in the entire house, with the exception of Accidental Rhino. i really don’t want to join a club just so that i can play for their events… my impression is that i wouldn’t get paid as much or as frequently…

honestly, this club with the cool hats doesn’t really have much that attracts me — cool hats and cool jewelry are about it — so why… fucking why am i so drawn to them? 😐