Posts Tagged ptsd and medical marijuana

ACLU Endorses Colorado Initiative to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol

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On Thursday, the American Civil Liberties Union officially announced its endorsement of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol in Colorado, which is currently collecting signatures to be on the ballot in 2012.

Among the reasons cited for the endorsement are the disproportionately high arrest rates of minorities for simple possession of marijuana and the unjustifiable expense of public funds.

According to a statement from the ACLU: “The war on drugs has failed. Prohibition is not a sensible way to deal with marijuana. The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol will move us toward a more rational approach to drug laws.”

Colorado currently represents the best chance of any of the states to end marijuana prohibition by taxing and regulating this relatively safe substance. We need all the help we can get to gather the signatures necessary to get this initiative on the ballot. If you want the chance to vote on a sensible marijuana policy for Colorado please volunteer or donate here. Even if you don’t live in Colorado, please consider helping out. Once one state begins to tax and regulate marijuana, it won’t be long before others follow suit.

If you or someone you know is suffering from a medical condition and want to learn more about using marijuana as medicine, please call Dr. Roger A. Barnes at 626-344-7596 or visit www.TheCannabisDoctors.com to schedule a confidential medical marijuana evaluation in Pasadena, California.

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Reverse Engineering the Marijuana ‘Munchies': What Causes Binge Eating?

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The “munchies” may be triggered not only by marijuana hitting the brain, but also by its effects on the gut, according to new research that suggests intriguing possibilities for the development of new drugs to fight obesity.

It turns out that, biologically, the effect of marijuana on the gut mirrors that of eating fatty foods. Studying the digestive tract of rats, researchers led by Daniele Piomelli, professor of pharmacology at the University of California, Irvine, teased out why that first bite of fatty food spurs increased craving.

The taste of fatty food hitting the tongue sets off a cascade of cellular effects. Initially, it sends a message to the brain. The brain then sends a message to the gut, where intestinal receptors are stimulated to produce endocannabinoids. In turn, these chemicals affect hunger and satiety and ramp up your appetite for even more fat-laden foods. That’s why you can’t eat just one French fry.

The intestinal receptors, known as CB1 receptors, are the same type of receptors that interact in the brain with THC, the main active ingredient in cannabis. That helps explain why marijuana notoriously triggers the “munchies:” a desire to eat high-fat or sweet foods. But, until now, scientists had thought all the action was in the brain.

Piomelli’s group designed a clever experiment in rats to study where the munchies arose. The rats were given various liquid diets: a health shake, a sugar solution, a protein-heavy liquid and high-fat drink made with corn oil. The food was surgically prevented from staying in the rats’ stomachs; it was drained through a tube before it could reach the intestines. That allowed the researchers to figure out whether the signal to keep eating came from the brain based on the taste of fatty foods on the tongue, or whether the gut was somehow involved.

Since the food never reached the gut, the researchers expected to find that the signal occurred only in the brain. “We were looking everywhere and we were sure that somewhere in the brain CB1 would be activated,” says Piomelli. “Very much to our surprise, we saw nothing of the sort.”

Fortunately, after the feeding experiment, researchers had saved frozen organ tissues from the rats. By going back and examining them, they discovered that fatty food activated CB1 receptors in part of the upper intestine, the jejunum. Further investigation revealed that this occurs because tasting fat triggers the brain to want more — and this signals the gut to increase activity at CB1 receptors, making craving stronger.

The intestinal area affected was not a surprise. “The gut’s got a brain of own and that’s one of the very important regions,” says Piomelli. Indeed, the gut has more nerves than any other area of the body outside the brain (and even more of the mood-associated neurotransmitter serotonin than the brain does).

Piomelli notes that evolutionarily speaking, it would make sense for animals to gorge on as much fat as possible. You never know whether famine is around the corner. But the researchers were also surprised to find that it was only fat — not the sugar- or protein-laden liquids — that activated gut CB1 receptors. “Sugar and protein had no effect,” Piomelli says, noting that there must be other mechanisms aside from CB1 involved in the appetite pathway, because smoking marijuana can also produce sugar cravings.

The researchers found that when they blocked CB1 receptors with a drug, rats lost interest in eating additional fat (but not other types of food). If a drug could be developed to mimic that effect — to reduce the cravings spurred by having a single potato chip — it could be enormously helpful in fighting obesity and binge eating.

In fact, one such drug, rimonabant (Acomplia), which blocks CB1 receptors in both the brain and body, made it to market in Europe as an effective obesity fighter. But it was not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Ultimately, due to safety concerns over increased risk of anxiety, depression and even suicide, it was pulled in Europe.

“Rimonabant … induced bad side effects like suicidal thoughts due to its activity [in the brain],” says Jonathan Farrimond, a researcher at the University of Reading who studies cannabinoids and feeding and was not associated with the study. So to avoid side effects, a new drug would have to block gut receptors without affecting the brain.

In Piomelli’s study, the researchers used just such an experimental drug, which blocks CB1 but does not cross the blood-brain barrier. Unfortunately, this chemical has toxic metabolites that prevents it from being used in humans. Still, the research supports the idea that a safer CB1-blocking compound is possible.

“Our research suggests that one can target binge eating with a peripheral CB1 antagonist,” says Piomelli. He says people might one day avoid or reduce obesity with a “pill to take when one has the urge to splurge on high-fat foods like French fries, potato chips or ice cream.”

Since Piomelli’s research was done only on rats and looked only at short-term feeding, rather than weight gain over time, much more work is required before a new drug could be developed. The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

If you or someone you know is suffering from a medical condition and want to learn more about using marijuana as medicine, please call Dr. Roger A. Barnes at 626-344-7596 or visit www.TheCannabisDoctors.com to schedule a confidential medical marijuana evaluation.

 

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One million medical marijuana patients – NORML

marijuana CaliforniaCalifornia NORML estimates that there are now over 750,000 medical marijuana users in the state, or 2% of the population, according to the most recent data. At the high end, an estimate of over 1,125,000 patients, or 3% of the population, is consistent with the data. This represents a substantial increase fromCal NORML’s earlier estimates of 300,000 (in 2007); 150,000 (in 2005); and 75,000 (in 2004); but is in line with registration rates in other comparable states that enjoy similar wide access to medical cannabis clinics and dispensaries.

Because patients are not required to register in California, their exact number is uncertain. Under California’s medical marijuana law, Prop. 215, patients need only a physician’s recommendation to be legal. Just a tiny fraction of the state’s medical marijuana population is enlisted in the state’s voluntary ID card program, which issued just 12,659 cards in 2009-10. Therefore, California patient numbers must be estimated from other sources. Among the most salient are medical marijuana registries in Colorado and Montana, which report usage rates of 2.5% and 3.0%, respectively. Because California’s law is older and has more liberal inclusion criteria than other states, usage here is likely to be higher.

Despite this, there is no evidence that liberal access to medical marijuana has spurred overall marijuana use in California. According to U.S. SAMHSA data, the total number of users in the state, including non-medical ones, amounts to 6.7% of the population (2.5 million) within the past month, or 11.3% (4.1 million) within the past year. This places California only slightly above the national average in marijuana use ( 6.0% monthly and 10.4% yearly), and below several states with tougher marijuana laws. Use of marijuana by California school youth has declined since Prop. 215 passed, according to data from the Attorney General’s Survey of Student Drug Use in California. The increase in medical marijuana use therefore appears to reflect a tendency for existing users to “go medical,” rather than the enlistment of new users.

The total retail value of medical marijuana consumed in California can be estimated at between $1.5 and $4.5 billion per year, assuming a market of 2% to 3% of the population, average use of 0.5 to 1 gram per day, and an average cost of $320 per ounce.

norml remember prohibitionBasis for 2% – 3% Estimate
California’s patient population can be estimated from data from other medical marijuana states where patients are required to register, shown in the table below. The top two of these are Colorado and Montana, which, like California, have a well developed network of cannabis clinics and dispensaries, and which report usage rates of 2.5% and 3.0%, respectively. Other states, where medical marijuana is less developed, report lower rates of 1% and less. However, California is likely to be on the high side because it has the oldest and most liberal law in the nation. Significantly, California is the only state that permits marijuana to be used for any condition for which it provides relief – in particular, psychiatric disorders, such as PTSD, bipolar disorder, ADD, anxiety and depression, which account for some 20%-25% of the total patient population [01]. Adjusting for this, usage in California could be as much as 25% to 33% higher than in Colorado and Montana, which would put it well over 3% of the population (1,125,000).

 

State Registered Patients % Population
Colorado [1] 123,890 2.5%
Hawaii [2] 5,190 0.4%
(Hawaii – Oahu 691 0.1%)
(Hawaii – Big Island 3,160 1.7%)
Michigan [3] 63,869 0.6%
Montana [4] 29,948 3.0%
Oregon [5] 39,774 1.0%
Rhode Island [6] 3,073 0.3%

 

Sources: (1) http://www.cdphe.state.co.us/hs/medicalmarijuana/statistics.html, accessed 5/30/2011; (2) Andrew Pereira, “Number of Medical Marijuana Patients Soars,” KHON News, Nov. 13, 2009; (3) “Bringing Clarity to Michigan’s Medical Marijuana Law,” Detroit Free Press, Apr 3, 2011;
(4) http://www.dphhs.mt.gov/medicalmarijuana/mmphistoricaldata.shtml [Note: eligibility in Montana is due to be restricted under a new law passed in 2011];
(5)http://public.health.oregon.gov/DiseasesConditions/ChronicDisease/MedicalMarijuanaProgram/Pages/data.aspx;
(6) http://www.health.ri.gov/publications/programreports/MedicalMarijuana2011.pdf

A 2%+ patient population estimate is supported by data from the Oakland Patient ID Center, which has been issuing patient identification cards to its members since 1996. The OPIDC serves patients from all over the state, but especially the greater Oakland-East Bay area of Northern California, where its cards are honored by law enforcement. As of 2010, the OPIDC had issued ID’s to 19,805 members from five East Bay cities (Oakland, Berkeley, Alameda, Hayward and Richmond), amounting to 2.4% of the local population. Because the cards were issued over a period of 14 years, they include numerous patients who have lapsed, moved, or deceased. On the other hand, they do not include many other local patients who have current recommendations but never registered with the OPIDC.

Even higher numbers have been reported by the Peace In Medicine collective in Sebastopol, Sonoma County, whose members number 3.6% of local residents [02].

Caution is needed in projecting these figures statewide, since usage is subject to substantial local variations. For example, in Hawaii per capita usage is over twenty times higher on the Big Island than on the main island of Oahu. This can be explained by local differences in culture as well as access to cannabis-recommending physicians. California is a heterogeneous state, in which usage is likely to be higher in liberal coastal areas than in the more culturally conservative interior.

Nonetheless, there are sound reasons not to be surprised by medical marijuana usage rates of 2% and more. A poll by Health Canada [03] found that 4% of the population over age 15 used cannabis for medical reasons without government permission; another poll [04] by Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health found that 2% of Ontario adults used marijuana for medicine.

Marijuana’s popularity can be explained by its low toxicity, pleasant effects, and remarkably wide range of therapeutic uses, over 250 of which have been reported. By far the leading application is chronic pain, which accounts for the majority of all recommendations. Studies by California’s Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research have shown that marijuana is particularly effective for neuropathic pain, an otherwise difficult to treat condition that afflicts up to 7- 8% of the population. Patients who use marijuana for pain commonly report significant reductions in their use of other medications, in particular prescription opiates.

Article originally available at http://www.theweedblog.com/norml-estimates-one-million-medical-marijuana-patients-in-california/

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Rheumatoid Arthritis and medical marijuana – Testimony

Rheumatoid Arthritis
By Caroline Browne

I am presently almost 43 years of age. Born and continue to spend my life on the island of St. Thomas in the beautiful Virgin Islands (US). Life would not be the same without my partner of 18 years. My training is in Radio/Television Production and as a media artist, my creativity has flourished and has taken off to another level because of my interaction with this herb.

Most of my young life involved athletics of some sort because my survival depended on it. Many days my brother and I had to walk up & down a 1500 ft. mountain to get from our house to the main town area. Needless to say being fit was more than a fad but a necessity. It probably didn’t help that I had been part of the reefer madness indoctrination (which I swallowed without question) and an athlete. Using marijuana or anything else wasn’t part of my thinking. Some of my friends got high, but I never felt the need to indulge or experience what they were feeling. On top of that I was part of the Civil Air Patrol since 12 and they surely frowned on “drug use”.

In 1985, while enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard, after an extremely challenging training session, that left me incapacitated, I was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis at 19 by the Coast Guard Doctors. From Cape May, New Jersey, I was seen by the first of many Rheumatologists at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

My use of Marijuana started when I was 29 on one of my many trips to Boston while traveling with a friend. Until that point, I had not slept in 10 years because I was constantly in agony. After keeping my friend awake several nights in a row, she offered me a joint which at first I refused. Until then, I had been prescribed the synthetic form which did nothing for me so I wasn’t particularly ecstatic. My apprehension was not knowing what to expect. That was until I feel asleep and woke up several hours later less stiff and in less pain. The lone fact that I slept through the night was a miracle itself.

Over the past 20 something years, I have tried all types of pharmaceuticals, some FDA approved & many going through the trial process. Methatrxate, Prednisone, NSAIDS, Steroids, Antibiotics/IntraVenous Antibiotics, IntraVenous Prednisone, Motrin, Cytoxin, Birth Control Pills (to regulate hormones), etc. Needless to say these various medications and their harmful side effects ultimately made my disease worse as well as damaged parts of the physical & mental structure. Since my diagnosis, I have had multiple joint replacements including hips, knees, shoulders as well as multiple wrist and ankle fusions along with other surgeries. At one point my pharmaceuticals cost over $1200 a month, whereas $1200 of marijuana in the V.I. could supply my medicinal needs for a few months.

Some months after my first smoke, I reduced my use of pharmaceuticals. My Dr.s were shocked at my positive progress, but weren’t happy about my reduction of their prescriptions. Pretty shortly after that I stopped taking their medications all together. At first my interaction with marijuana was through smoking, however at times I didn’t feel like smoking so I decided to explore the options. My options open up after I got to access to home grown organic herb. As time went by I started experimenting, learning and passed on much of the knowledge & info that worked for me onto other persons with disabilities.

Currently, cannabis is part of my daily regiment. I use it as a tincture, in cigarettes, vaporize, and ingest. After brushing my teeth, I place a few droppers under my tongue and while resting, within 10 minutes I can feel the pain subsiding. A few drops are usually placed into my morning tea or coffee. I vape and usually by this time I can proceed in getting a few things done. During the day I use the tincture and a few drops of tincture in hot chocolate before I go to bed. If smoking cigarettes, (heat in toaster oven or microwave on lowest setting, before grinding). Tincture – 2 oz of ground dried bud to 8 oz. of water & 8 oz. of vegetable glycerin. Place in a sunny place for at least 2 weeks, shaking vigorously everyday until foams. Place drops of tincture under tongue a few times daily or add to un-sweetened tea, coffee, chocolate. Experiment for your dosage. Ingest – use 1 to 2 oz. of finely ground (destemmed, deseeded) per 8 oz of butter, olive oil, etc. Use double boiler and simmer butter/oil at least 45 minutes. The longer it simmers, the more potent the mixture. Do not let mixture burn. Regularly add/check water in double boiler. After cooling, strain out leaves with cheesecloth or other fine strainer. Use herb butter in place of regular butter. Toast, Rice & Beans, Brownies, etc.

No problems with authorities, only when traveling.

http://rxmarijuana.com/browne.htm

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Cannabis and Multiple Sclerosis Testimonial

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B.D.

I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1988. Prior to that, I was an active person with ballet and swimming. I now have a swimming pool, so I swim each and every day, and smoke marijuana. The government has given me the marijuana to smoke. Each month I pick up a can filled with the marijuana cigarettes rolled by the government.

At one time I weighed 85 lb. and I now weigh 105. Twenty pounds is quite a bit to put on. I could not walk. I did not have the appetite. I use a scooter now for distance. I can get around the house. I have a standard poodle who is kind of like an assistant dog. She is good at it. She helps me.

When I found out that there was a program to get marijuana from the government, I decided that was the answer. I was not a marijuana smoker before that. In fact, I used to consider the people I knew who smoked the marijuana as undesirables. Now, I myself am an undesirable.

But it works. It takes away the backache. With multiple sclerosis, you can get spasms, and your leg will just go straight out and you cannot stop that leg. You may have danced all of your life and put the leg where you wanted it to be, but the MS takes that from you. So I use the swimming pool, and that helps a lot. The kicks are much less when I have smoked a marijuana cigarette. Since 1991, I’ve smoked 10 cigarettes a day. I do not take any other drugs. Marijuana seems to have been my helper. At one time, I did not think much of the people who smoke it. But when it comes to your health, it makes a big difference.

– B.D. is one of eight patients who are legally allowed to smoke marijuana under a Compassionate IND program.

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Can a physicians assistant or chiropractor evaluate a patient for the use of medical marijuana?

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A physicians assistant can evaluate a patient consistent with the Physicians Assistants delegation of services agreement. However, ONLY A PHYSICIAN IS AUTHORIZED TO RECOMMEND MEDICAL USE OF MARIJUANA pursuant to Health and Safety code section 11362.5.

Health and Safety code section 11362.7 (a) sets forth the definition of “attending physician” for purposes of the Compassionate Use Act. It states that the attending physician shall complete a medical examination before providing a recommendation for medical marijuana (emphasis added). A physician assistant may perform an examination and give an evaluation of the patient. In addition to personally completing the medical examination, the attending physician himself or herself must record int he patient’s medical record their assessment of whether the patient has a serious medical condition and whether the medical use of marijuana is appropriate. It is the Physician Assistant Committee’s understanding that THESE RESPONSIBILITIES MUST BE PERFORMED BY THE ATTENDING PHYSICIAN AND CANNOT BE DELEGATE TO A PHYSICIAN ASSISTANT.

For additional information about Medical Marijuana Program, please visit the Department of Public Health website at http://www.cdph.ca.gov/programs/mmp/pages/medical_marijuana_program.aspx

To schedule a confidential evaluation to see if you qualify to use marijuana as medicine, please visit http://www.TheCannabisDoctors.com

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Medical marijuana dispensary selling ‘Joints for Japan’

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LAKEWOOD – A medical marijuana business is donating 100 percent of the profit from marijuana joints to earthquake and tsunami victims in Japan.

Compassionate Pain Management’s owner Shaun Gindi says he saw the devastation in Japan on the news, and floated the idea of donating some of his profits to help on Facebook.

After he got tons of positive feedback, he started brainstorming ideas for the campaign. After rejecting names like “Bake for the Quake” and “Joint Relief,” he settled for what he thought was a more appropriate name of “Joints for Japan.”

At Compassionate Pain Management’s two locations in Lakewood and Louisville, joints sell for $5 a piece for those with a medical marijuana card and prescription. Gindi has promised 100 percent of the profits from those sales for at least the next two to three weeks to go to the Red Cross for recovery efforts in Japan.

Because marijuana remains illegal in the eyes of the federal government, charitable giving is not recognized as a write-off. Gindi says his donations are completely from the heart.

“It feels great to be able to do this. It feels great to give back,” Gindi said.

Compassionate Pain Management is a licensed medical marijuana facility that pays Colorado state taxes and has 18 full-time employees.

Gindi believes more businesses in the industry should come together and donate for charitable causes, especially to let the community know that most medical marijuana facilities are in business for the right reasons.

“I think that we need to stand up and do whatever we can to get rid of the stigma that’s attached to this. I don’t think they [the people of Japan] care where help is coming from, not in the condition they are in now. Anyone that can help out should help out. It’s devastated over there,” he said.

Article originally available at http://www.9news.com/news/article/189958/180/Medical-marijuana-dispensary-selling-Joints-for-Japan

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Second person to recieve medical marijuana speaks at NORML event

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Irvin Rosenfeld isn’t your stereotypical stoner.

The 58-year-old stockbroker has smoked 10-12 cannabis sativa cigarettes every day for more than 28 years.

Rosenfeld, who was the second person to get medical marijuana ever and NORML‘s third speaker for Medical Marijuana Month, spoke to the UCF community on Feb. 16 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the Key West Ballroom.

In 1971, his first year of college, Rosenfeld was introduced to marijuana for the first time. As a young man who’d had numerous surgeries and chemical drugs to treat his rare bone disease, Rosenfeld did not understand why a healthy person would need to use illegal drugs. He admitted that he had been an advocate against it.

At that time, Rosenfeld was prescribed to take more than 30 pills a day including but not limited to morphine, Quaalude and Valium to treat his multiple congenital cartilaginous exostoses, which he’s had since he was 10 years old. His body had more than 200 tumors in it and even after his growth plates had halted, a second rare disease, pseudopseudohypoparathyroidism, developed. His doctors told him it was a death sentence.

Before using marijuana medically, his use was purely social even though he didn’t agree with it.

“It was a way of making friends, and even though I thought it was garbage, I liked being able to make friends through the use of it,” Rosenfeld said.

The tenth time he smoked was the first time he’d sat for more than 10 minutes without discomfort and medication.

“Once I discovered that cannabis was the medicine I needed, I knew I would be arrested and I would be sunk if caught with it,” Rosenfeld said. “I am not a criminal, I am a patient.”

Since age 21 Rosenfeld has not had another tumor form. His doctors were astounded and couldn’t figure out why, but Rosenfeld knew it was because of his recently discovered medication.

He decided to drop out of college after his third semester and move back to Virginia to take on the Federal government. He gained support from his family and doctor and started the persistent fight to gain access to his medicine, a battle that would last 10 years.

In 1982, Rosenfeld, who has the Federal right to smoke his cannabis sativa cigarettes wherever smoking is permitted, received his first tin canister of 320 cigarettes. The government refers to his medication as an experimental new drug that only four patients currently have access to.

When it came time for his doctor to write a report on the success of his use, Rosenfeld knew how it’d be received.

“I told him the truth,” Rosenfeld said of the conversation with his doctor. “Any positive report was going to be buried because the government has no interest in the positive aspects of cannabis.”

On the report written after that, his doctor decided to write on every page in big red letters “it’s working.”

The government said nothing.

“The truth is that the government only gave me medicinal cannabis because I backed them in a corner,” Rosenfeld said. “They have no interest in continuing this program once the patients are gone.”

As stated in his book, My Medicine, the program will terminate when the patients do. He realized four years ago that he needed to share his story; otherwise, it would die with him.

“I know I am taking a risk with the Federal government and my book, but I need to educate people,” said Rosenfeld. “The government doesn’t want to know and that’s what we are up against. I went public so I could be the face of the medical marijuana movement.”

Rosenfeld made sure to distinguish between the words ‘cannabis’ and ‘marijuana.’

“What I get every 25 days is cannabis sativa, not marijuana,” he said. “By using the word ‘marijuana’ or ‘pot’ you demonize the drug. Every time we use the word ‘pot’, we are playing into their hands.”

Rosenfeld is creating a new company, Medical Cannabis Solutions, which is going to attempt to achieve something never done before, write its own state law. As the face of the movement, Rosenfeld has credibility when speaking about the battle for his medicine and the necessity to make it available to all patients. He estimates that it will take about six months to a year to complete the project.

Music education junior Chelsey Sprouse can personally attest to the benefits of marijuana used as medicine. Sprouse, who suffers from inflammatory bowel disease, was prescribed eight pills a day by her doctor, but has opted to use marijuana instead.

“Now I get home and I take one hit of cannabis and instantly I am better,” said Sprouse. “It helps me eat. It is almost a miracle because it is something nothing else has been able to do. Cannabis is a better choice.”

Rosenfeld hopes his work will make cannabis a choice for others.

“This battle is a lot longer and harder than any of us realized, but we are a step closer than we were before.”

This article was originally available at http://www.centralfloridafuture.com/second-person-to-recieve-medical-marijuana-speaks-at-norml-event-1.2475676

If you or someone you know would like to learn more about using marijuana as medicine in Southern California, please visit http://www.thecannabisdoctors.com or call us with questions at 626-344-7596

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Marijuana cures cancer – US government has known since 1974 « Patients for Medical Cannabis

Marijuana cures cancer – US government has known since 1974 « Patients for Medical Cannabis.

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Heroin, prescription drug deaths still up

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2009, opiates, both legal and illegal, were named on the death certificates of more unintentional fatal overdose victims than they were absent from, according to data released by the state Tuesday.

Overall, non-suicide drug overdose deaths were down from 2008 to 2009, 1,473 to 1,393. Data for 2010 remains incomplete because of the lag time for toxicology testing and returns from residents who died outside of Ohio.

The Ohio Department of Health, which released the data to fulfill a public record request from CentralOhio.com, cautioned not to interpret the decrease as a break in the pattern of rising overdose deaths because the data might not be 100 percent complete for the same reasons that 2010 figures are not fit for analysis.

One trend clearly is unchallenged: The share of casualties attributed, at least in part, to heroin and other opiates continued upward.

Heroin and other opiates, a category which includes legal pain relievers such as OxyContin and Vicodin, contributed to 54.4 percent of all unintentional overdose deaths in 2009, up almost 8 percent from the year before, according to an analysis done by the health department’s Injury Prevention Program.

Data for the first decade of the century shows heroin’s ascendency closely tracks the year-over-year increases in the mentions of other opiates on the death certificates of Ohio overdose victims. This co-mingling of the two — closely related in chemistry — by users was detailed in CentralOhio.com’s 2009 series “Prescription to Addiction.”

Orman Hall, director of the Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services, said the data reinforces only the widespread belief that heroin and prescription opiate addictions are coupled.

“Nobody starts on heroin, everybody starts are prescription opiates,” said Hall, the former executive director of the Fairfield County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health board. “The big thing now is making sure everybody is connecting the dots.”

Hall, who is leading the state’s pushback against opiate addiction, said if we can limit the abuse of legal opiates, then obviously we’ll see reductions in deaths ascribed to those medications. He also thinks heroin deaths would plummet as result because fewer people will turn to that drug as a way of satisfying their opiate addiction created by misuse, or improper prescribing habits, of legal pain relievers.

The grouping other opiates is first in cause of death mentions for the second consecutive year in 2009.

Heroin was second and cocaine was third.

The 2009 figures show the continued decrease of cocaine, which was the top killer from 2002 to 2007.

Benzodiazepines, a family of depressants including brands such as Xanax or Klonopin, jumped from 154 mentions in 2008 to 212 in 2009, which was the biggest increase for any drug grouping.

Hall, who had not personally reviewed the data as of Tuesday, said he was encouraged by the apparent decrease, albeit a small step down.

“That’s certainly a sign that people are starting to pay attention,” he said. “I would have been encouraged by a smaller increase this year.”

Russ Zimmer can be reached at (740) 328-8830 or razimmer@centralohio.com.

Article from http://www.coshoctontribune.com/article/20110126/NEWS01/101260334/1014/OPINION/Heroin-prescription-drug-deaths-still-up?odyssey=nav|head

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