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Back in 2011, the state of Montana saw a pretty big backlash against medical marijuana patients, caregivers and collectives and state lawmakers approved a ban on the small commercial medical cannabis industry and limited caregivers to three patients. Thankfully those laws were blocked in favor of the medical marijuana industry on appeal, however the state Supreme Court overruled that decision and has forced the judge in the case to reexamine his ruling.

Yesterday an attorney representing patients and collectives argued that the restrictions should remain blocked and that the proposed rules would keep patients from accessing something the state has deemed legal.

Attorney Jim Goetz of Bozememan said that the legislative intent of banning retail sales of medical marijuana and limiting caregivers was to cut back on what the legislature saw was an unnecessarily large number of patients. At its peak there were 30,000 patients on the Montana medical marijuana registry. Goetz also says that after the 2011 restrictions were initially passed - and then rejected - the patient numbers dropped The rules, even when blocked, had the effect the legislature wanted, he says. In other words: the legislature scared everyone with their ban that never actually went into place, and now that the ban might actually become law this attorney is doing something about it. "We have kind of an experiment, we have actual evidence that certain features of the (law) were not necessary to accomplish its goals," Goetz argued in a Helena court on Tuesday. "The state's own witnesses have conceded that things are not only better, but much better."

Of course, the state is in opposition and thinks the caregiver limits and bans on retail sales need to move forward. State attorney Stuart Segrest says that all the state has to do is prove a "rational basis" for the bans and points out that marijuana's federally illegal status is a rational reason to ban the sales in-state. Never mind that retail cannabis sales have been permitted to some degree or another by the feds in Montana and other states for years now.

Segrest also said that the intent of the legislature may have been to reduce the medical marijuana patients below their already-low numbers. Because, you know, the state legislature knows how many people truly need medical cannabis in their state and all that.

No word on when a ruling is expected.

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Colorado and Washington state made headlines when they legalized marijuana for recreational use, but those pioneering states are unlikely to be the last battles in the pot wars. The battle for marijuana legalization is just getting started, and a number of other states are expected to follow the path set by Washington and Colorado.

While battles for both medical and recreational pot are underway in a number of states across the nation, these are the six states experts feel could be the next ones to legalize the drug during the 2014 election cycle.

#1 - Oregon
Oregon is well known for its liberal politics, so it should come as no surprise that the state would be spearheading the effort for legalized marijuana. Indeed, many political observers both inside and outside the state expect Oregon to be the next to legalize pot for recreational use.

#2 - Florida
Advocates of marijuana legalization just passed a major milestone when they gathered enough signatures to get the measure on the fall ballot. While those opposed to the legalization of marijuana are vowing to fight the legitimacy of the signatures on those petitions, experts widely expect that the measure will indeed appear when voters go to the polls in 2014.

Recent polls have shown that a majority of Floridians support the legalization of marijuana. That means there is reason to believe that the Sunshine State will indeed take this step when the 2014 election season rolls around.
  
#3 - Alaska
Many outside observers would not expect Alaska to legalize marijuana. After all, the state is known as the home of conservative darling Sarah Palin, and its preference for republican policies is well known.

Alaska may indeed be a conservative place, but it is also the home of many libertarians and free thinkers. Many of those freedom-loving individuals feel the state has no business telling them what they can and cannot enjoy in their own homes, and that has led to an effort to legalize marijuana for recreational use.

#4 - California
California already has a booming business in medical marijuana, but there is a strong movement to legalize the drug for recreational use. No fewer than four ballot measures could be on the ballot in 2014. Each one of those ballot initiatives would legalize the use of marijuana for users over 21 years of age.

The most radical of those measures would allow individuals to possess up to 12 pounds of cannabis. While that measure is not expected to pass, experts give good odds to the other ballot initiatives that would legalize the recreational use of marijuana by adults.

#5 - Arizona
Advocates of legalized marijuana in Arizona have been busy gathering signatures for a petition that would place the measure on the fall 2014 ballot. Those advocates will need to gather 300,000 valid signatures by July 3, and they appear to be making good progress.
  
If the petition drive succeeds, Arizona voters will get a chance to weigh in on the legalization of the drug. Experts are divided about its chances, but the drive for the ballot initiative is a good indication of the success of the pro-cannabis movement.

#6 - Washington, D.C.
There is a strong drive for legalization of marijuana in the nation's capital, and advocates expect to begin gathering the signatures they will need in February or March of 2014. There are still some legal hurdles to be overcome, but if those barriers are cleared the measure to decriminalize marijuana could end up on the fall ballot.

Recent polls have shown strong support for the legalization of marijuana in Washington D.C. If those polls prove correct, the capital could become the next battleground in the fight over legalized pot.

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Cannabis purity, taste and potency are all important attributes the stoner community has revealed to be crucial components of the “perfect” bud. At least that appears to be the consensus of a recent Global Drug Survey, which attempts to statistically paint a portrait of the average marijuana user’s personal pot preferences.

The study finds that marijuana is one of the most popular “drugs” in the world, directly behind barstool favorites, alcohol and tobacco. And as shocking as it may seem, the majority of people across the globe reported using more marijuana over the past year than caffeinated energy drinks.

Interestingly, marijuana users in nearly every country enjoy smoking cannabis cut with tobacco in order to lessen the leaf’s psychoactive effects…but not in the United States. No sir, there is damn good reason America is considered the stoner nation -- we like our weed strong, but as the study points out, not even a die-hard pothead enjoys being smoked catatonic and wheeled around to convenience stores like Hannibal Lector in search of late night munchies. 

Pot smokers want to use marijuana that allows them to be sociable, relaxed and enables them to still function as human beings when they are stoned, according to the survey. So it stands to reason that most marijuana consumers would prefer if weed was free of some of the less desirable side effects, like paranoia, loss of memory, racing thoughts, and the hangover feeling often referred to as “burn out.”

"There appears to be a paradox in the way people describe their perfect cannabis," according to the Global Drug Survey. "This is because most the effects of being ‘high’ are due to THC, but higher doses of this drug are associated with more negative psychological effects. So while they want a preparation with overall more pleasurable effects, they also describe wanting less of the negative effects that are also due to THC such as sedation, munchies, memory impairment, restlessness. It might well be what they are describing is a high potency THC containing preparation balanced by CBD which is missing from many current strains."

All right, so maybe the American stoner is a bit unrealistic. But who can blame us for lusting after a high-powered buzz, while at the same time wishing we could keep from constantly peeking out of the windows to see if the cops have shown up? No Colorado jury would convict us!

Mike Adams writes for stoners and smut enthusiasts in High Times, Playboy’s The Smoking Jacket and Hustler Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter @adamssoup and on Facebook/mikeadams73.

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Some individuals come equipped with a specific gene that makes them more susceptible to the effects of marijuana -- an inheritable characteristic that a new study says could provide an explanation as to why certain people are biologically programmed to be happier than others.

In the study, which was published in the latest edition of the journal, PLOS ONE, researchers explain that CB1 receptors are tightly bonded to the feeling of happiness.

Researchers say the harmonious phenomenon has the potential to occur regardless if a person uses marijuana or not. That is because the brain actually contains natural cannabinoids that can trigger the same gleeful response.

It also means that people who have an overabundance of cheerfulness naturally are likely more sensitive to weed and are destined to experience a more intense buzz than the rest of us. Lucky them.

Researchers conclude that individuals who possess this gene variation exhibit a “high sensitivity to positive emotional events,” which is more likely to produce an abundance of positive life events. In other words, there are really people out there that can simply get high on life.

For the rest of us… thank god for weed.

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Ahead of 4/20, the Global Drug Survey has taken a look at cannabis and what would define the 'perfect' strain of ganja if tokers could pick. 

They explain: "Despite high potency forms typically being rated the most potent and preferred form of cannabis across the globe, such forms were not without significant shortcomings. Memory, paranoia, impaired ability function, feeling uncomfortable when talking to others, distraction, the munchies, the urge to use more, restlessness, hangover effects, and harmful effects on the lungs were all aspects of the ‘stone’ on hydroponic / high potency preparations they users wanted less off. Users indicated they wanted more sensory perpetual enhancement, more giggling, improved taste, stronger cannabis and an overall 25% increase in pleasurable effects."

They even mapped it out by country and by side-effect:

 

Check out the highlights of their overall 2014 findings:

Read their full findings here and comment below with what you think the perfect strain of weed would be like!

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For toking tourists who subscribe to the “wake and bake” philosophy, but find themselves inconvenienced by the bureaucratic reefer restrictions of major hotel chains, there are some pot-friendly lodging options in the Mile High city.

The Adagio Bed and Breakfast, located in the Wyman Historic District, was recently purchased by The MaryJane Group, with plans to re-open the time-honored establishment as "the first all-inclusive Bud and Breakfast” for stoned vacationers on a quest for high times.

"The guest package will include unlimited food, drink and, of course, the best marijuana and edibles Colorado has to offer," according to a press release. "Guests will also have access to an on-site chef available to prepare gourmet food cooked to order. Furthermore, the Bud and Breakfast will provide unlimited luxury transportation within the Denver city limits with 24-hour security."

Joel C. Schneider, President and CEO of The MaryJane Group, says the company is using the Adagio as sort of a pilot program in the realm of the marijuana-friendly lodging industry. “If our concept is successful, we intend to expand through the leasing or acquisition of additional inns and Bed and Breakfast establishments,” he said.

In addition to the Adagio Bed and Breakfast, there have been several other weed-welcoming accommodations open their doors in the Denver area. Dale Dyke and his wife, Chastity Osbourne recently transformed their home in Bel Mar into a clothing optional Bed and Breakfast called Get High Getaways. This unique lodging option caters to the epitome of high society with a wealth of enmities, including complimentary marijuana edibles served by naked hosts. Yes, we said naked.

However, if reefer and romance is more your style, The Cliff House, which claims to be a Red Rocks favorite since 1864, offers eight historic cottages near Morrison, Colorado. “Even with the legalization of “Mary Jane” though, finding a friendly hotel environment might not be as easy as you think. It may take some time before others join in, but until then, we have no problem being the leader in this movement,” according to a statement on their website.

It is important we mention that some of Denver’s pot-friendly accommodations still do not allow indoor smoking.

Mike Adams writes for stoners and smut enthusiasts in HIGH TIMES Playboy’s The Smoking Jacket and Hustler Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter @adamssoup and on Facebook/mikeadams73.

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You really have to appreciate the bleatings of law enforcement as their cash cow of marijuana arrests slowly becomes extinct. All those statistics-padding low-level marijuana arrests, with their attendant asset forfeitures, overtime pay, and federal grants, have all but disappeared in Colorado and Washington and are turning into arrest-free fines in places like Maryland. So terrified are the police of being forced to apprehend real criminals and do real work that they sometimes can’t even keep their own scaremongering straight.

The latest example is in the Colorado Springs Gazette (motto: “The Colorado Newspaper For Real Americans Who Don’t Believe That Commie Liberal Pot-Loving Denver Post”) where an article entitled “Law enforcement from neighboring states agree, Colorado has strongest marijuana in the world” features cops from Nebraska and Oklahoma wailing about the “skunk” marijuana from the Centennial State.

“There is no place in the world where you can buy as strong marijuana legally as you can in Colorado,” said the sheriff of Scotts Bluff County, Nebraska. “It’s the most powerful stuff you can find.”

“It’s some of the most powerful marijuana we’ve ever tested,” said a spokesman for the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drug Control. “Some of the most powerful marijuana we have found on earth is coming out of California and Colorado. It’s frightening.”

Frightening? According to Genifer Murray, founder and CEO of CannLabs Inc., average marijuana potency has risen. “Since we started testing years ago, the numbers are exponentially higher. In the 1980s, it was 3 to 5 percent. Now we have seen our highest pot for THC at 29.4 percent.” Not that you couldn’t have found some, say, Mauie Wowie or Acapulco Gold testing in the high teens or even lower twenties for potency back in the day… it’s just you really had to look for it.

But is higher potency something to be frightened of? Dr. Carl Hart has for years been working with subjects smoking marijuana in a lab. He explains that the immediate effect of marijuana smoking leads users to titrate their dose -- they smoke until they feel high.  He says when he gives them a joint of low-THC marijuana, they smoke it all.  “But when you increase the THC, half the cigarette comes back,” says Dr. Hart. “They don’t smoke it all.”  However, recent research in Holland has shown that while tokers using higher potency marijuana do smoke less, they still inhale on average more total THC than tokers of low-THC joints.

Something people definitely should be frightened of is Mexican drug cartels. They will bribe, extort, torture, and murder people to bring their low-grade Mexican brickweed into the United States for sale. Without any hint of irony, the cops tell the Gazette that this powerful Colorado weed is having an economic effect on the Mexican cartels. “People don’t want the Mexican pot any more,” says the Nebraska cop. “The Colorado pot is way better.”

The Oklahoma cop agrees. He explains how the Colorado pot is more professionally wrapped in air tight, clear packaging, unlike the compressed dry bricks of weed the Mexicans produce. An ounce of Colorado pot is going for $400 in nearby states while the Mexican brick sells for $100 to $150.

Naturally, the cops don’t see squeezing out the Mexican cartels with taxpaying, law-abiding, job-creating Colorado businesses as a good thing. “Expect to see Mexicans come into the picture if they see an opportunity,” said Tom Gorman, director of Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. “It’s a great resource for them, there’s little danger involved and extortion is one of their big ways of making money.”

But how does that work? Anyone involved in Colorado’s legal marijuana industry undergoes strict background checks and residency requirement.  They can’t peddle their brickweed in a brick-and-mortar dispensary, besides the fact nobody would buy it. Do they have to kidnap some American dispensary owner’s kids and extort him to let them run his dispensary? If so, why could they not do that to any other legitimate business?

If you’re not biting on the Mexican cartel scare, perhaps you’ll bite on Big Tobacco. “It’s either going to be the cartels or it’s going to be the tobacco industry,” continued Gorman. “There’s a lot of concern about that. You don’t think some of the tobacco companies aren’t looking at this as the next tobacco industry?”

But how does that work?  Marijuana is still federally illegal and if you haven’t noticed, the government is real keen on hauling Big Tobacco into court and exacting massive settlements from them. The minute a multi-national tobacco corporation touches a Schedule I drug, there are going to be subpoenas, charges, and lawsuits to bear. The only way around that is getting into the medical research side of cannabis, and Big Pharma’s not going to let Big Tobacco in on its turf. Until federal prohibition ends, Big Tobacco’s hands are tied while Little Marijuana grows state by state. By the time the feds end prohibition, Little Marijuana has become Big Marijuana and will have most of the market cornered -- there won’t be much for Big Tobacco to horn in on.

Stop for a second and consider the counterpoint to the cops’ fears. Are they really arguing that we’d be better off with marijuana criminalized in all fifty states and cartels, criminals, and kids firmly in control of the marijuana market?

 

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We need your help with a petition requesting that President Obama issue pardons for nonviolent drug offenders currently serving federal life sentences without parole.

The petition entitled “Grant Group Clemency to Nonviolent Drug Offenders Serving Life Sentences” states that the majority of nonviolent federal lifers received harsher sentences by opting to exercise their Sixth Amendment right to a trial rather than take a plea agreement. Many were charged and prosecuted for conspiracy based on the testimony of “cooperating witnesses and informants,” and a great number of these inmates were sentenced under mandatory minimum guidelines.

The petition authors want President Obama to treat incarcerated casualties of the War on Drugs in the same manner previous presidents treated draft dodgers and desertion violators during the Vietnam War, adding that “The War on Drugs has been an equally divisive war imprisoning generations of men and women.”

“We urge the president to use the model of President Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. After President Ford pardoned Richard Nixon, he initiated a Clemency Program for those who violated the Selective Act. Ford granted 1,731 pardons to civilians, those who evaded the draft and 11,872 to military personnel, those who went AWOL. President Jimmy Carter expanded the clemency healing many wounds and bringing thousands of young men back into the fold of citizenship.”

“Systemic clemency has been used frequently throughout the history of our country. This is a Presidential tool and responsibility that is usually used to restore justice when retribution has caused a rift in the social fabric. The war on drugs is our contemporary example of this excess.”

So far, the petition has generated over 1,000 signatures, but it still needs 98,903 more to garner enough clout to get the attention of the president. To find out more about Grant Group Clemency to Nonviolent Drug Offenders Serving Life Sentences, you can find and sign their petition at Change.org: https://www.change.org/petitions/president-barack-obama-grant-group-clemency-to-nonviolent-drug-offenders-serving-life-sentences

Mike Adams writes for stoners and smut enthusiasts in HIGH TIMES, Playboy’s The Smoking Jacket and Hustler Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter @adamssoup and on Facebook/mikeadams73.

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We've heard of losing your stash in the couch, but this is ridiculous.

Last week police in Albania seized over two tons of marijuana that was stashed in sofas bound of Italy. Police found the drugs after searching a truck at the port of Durres, 20 miles west of the capital, Tirana. The Macedonian driver was arrested.

The seizure came a day after police discovered one-and-a-half tons of cannabis hidden in a forest in south-western Albania, also believed to be destined for Italy.

Albania is one of  the poorest countries in Europe, and produces large quantities of marijuana. In the key southern growing region of Lazarat alone, annual production is estimated at 900 tons, worth about $10 billion – about half the country annual income.

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Careful with any leftover weed you might have after a trip to the mile-high city! One visitor left a small amount of pot and a bubbler pipe behind when he checked out of the Hyatt Place Denver/Cherry Creek, and was billed $200 by the hotel.

"I figured I'd leave it behind on the desk in case the maid wanted it. You know, positivity," "Louis" told the Post's marijuana lifestyle site The Cannabist.

Louis called the hotel and was told he'd been charged for toking up in his room, even though Louis claims he never lit up indoors, only outside.

"They said it stunk up the room and they couldn't use it for two days," he told the Cannabist. "That's ridiculous. I didn't even smoke in the room."

Louis made a stink on Twitter and caught the attention of the hotel chain's concierge account, who eventually got in touch with the Denver hotel and persuaded them to drop the charge.

Louis said he never would have left the herb behind if he'd known it would lead to such a buzzkill.

Long story short, don't try to tip the maid in weed when in Denver, it could end up costing you more than you think.

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The legalization of medical marijuana has sparked debate across the nation for decades. Some have argued that medical marijuana's legalization will lead to higher crime rates. But according to a new study at UT Dallas, legalization of medical cannabis is not an indicator of increased crime.

It actually may be related to reductions in certain types of crime, said Dr. Robert Morris, associate professor of criminology and lead author of the study published in the journal PLOS ONE.

"We're cautious about saying, 'Medical marijuana laws definitely reduce homicide.' That's not what we're saying," Morris said. "The main finding is that we found no increase in crime rates resulting from medical marijuana legalization. In fact, we found some evidence of decreasing rates of some types of violent crime, namely homicide and assault."

The UT Dallas team began its work in summer 2012 after repeatedly hearing claims that medical marijuana legalization posed a danger to public health in terms of exposure to violent crime and property crime.

The study tracked crime rates across all 50 states between 1990 and 2006, when 11 states legalized marijuana for medical use: Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. Since the time period the study covered, 20 states and Washington, D.C., have legalized marijuana for medical use.

Using crime data from the FBI's Uniform Crime Report, the researchers studied rates for homicide, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, larceny and auto theft, teasing out an effect for the passing of medical marijuana laws.

None of the seven crime types increased with the legalization of medical marijuana.

Robbery and burglary rates were unaffected by medical marijuana legalization, according to the study. These findings run counter to the claim that marijuana dispensaries and grow houses lead to an increase in victimization because of the opportunities for crime linked to the amount of drugs and cash that are present.

Morris said the models accounted for an exhaustive list of sociodemographic and econometric variables that are well-established links to changes in crime rates, including statistics on poverty, unemployment, college education, prison inmates and even the amount of beer consumed per person per year. Data came from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Bureau of Economic Analysis and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"The results are remarkable," Morris said. "It's pretty telling. It will be interesting to see what future studies hold."

Once data are available, the researchers plan to investigate the relationship between recreational marijuana legalization and crime in Washington and Colorado, where the legalized marijuana marketplace is taking shape.

While it's too soon to say if there are definitive drawbacks to legalizing marijuana for medical purposes, Morris said, the study shows that legalization does not pose a serious crime problem, at least at the state level.

"This new information, along with continued education of the public on the realities of the negative aspects of smoking marijuana -- which there are considerable negative attributes -- will make the dialogue between those opposed and in favor of legalization on more of an even playing field," Morris said. "It takes away the subjective comments about the link between marijuana laws and crime so the dialogue can be more in tune with reality."

UT Dallas doctoral student Michael TenEyck, assistant professor Dr. J.C. Barnes and associate professor Dr. Tomislav V. Kovandzic, all from the criminology program, also contributed to the study as co-authors.

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A new guideline from the American Academy of Neurology suggests that there is little evidence that most complementary or alternative medicine therapies (CAM) treat the symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS). However, the guideline states the CAM therapies oral cannabis, or medical marijuana pills, and oral medical marijuana spray may ease patients' reported symptoms of spasticity, pain related to spasticity and frequent urination in multiple sclerosis (MS). The guideline, which is published in the March 25, 2014, print issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, states that there is not enough evidence to show whether smoking marijuana is helpful in treating MS symptoms.

The guideline looked at CAM therapies, which are nonconventional therapies used in addition to or instead of doctor-recommended therapies. Examples include oral cannabis, or medical marijuana pills and oral medical marijuana spray, ginkgo biloba, magnetic therapy, bee sting therapy, omega-3 fatty acids and reflexology.

"Using different CAM therapies is common in 33 to 80 percent of people with MS, particularly those who are female, have higher education levels and report poorer health," said guideline lead author Vijayshree Yadav, MD, MCR, with Oregon Health & Science University in Portland and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. "People with MS should let their doctors know what types of these therapies they are taking, or thinking about taking."

For most CAM therapies, safety is unknown. There is not enough information to show if CAM therapies interact with prescription MS drugs. Most CAM therapies are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Dronabinol and nabilone are synthetic forms of key ingredients in marijuana. The FDA approved both drugs as treatments for nausea and vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy that do not respond to standard treatments. Dronabinol also is approved for loss of appetite associated with weight loss in patients with AIDS.

The guideline found that certain forms of medical marijuana, in pill or oral spray form only, may help reduce patients' reported spasticity symptoms, pain due to spasticity, and frequent urination but not loss of bladder control. The therapy may not help reduce tremor. Long-term safety of medical marijuana use in pill or oral spray is not known. Most of the studies are short, lasting six to 15 weeks. Medical marijuana in pill or oral spray form may cause side effects, some of which can be serious. Examples are seizures, dizziness, thinking and memory problems as well as psychological problems such as depression. This can be a concern given that some people with MS are at an increased risk for depression or suicide. Both doctors and patients must weigh the possible side effects that medical marijuana in pill or oral spray form can cause.

Among other CAM therapies studied for MS, ginkgo biloba might possibly help reduce tiredness but not thinking and memory problems. Magnetic therapy may also help reduce tiredness but not depression.

Reflexology might possibly help ease symptoms such tingling, numbness and other unusual skin sensations. Bee sting therapy, a low-fat diet with fish oil, and a therapy called the Cari Loder regimen all do not appear to help MS symptoms such as disability, depression and tiredness. Bee stings can cause a life-threatening allergic reaction and dangerous infections.

Moderate evidence shows that omega-3 fatty acids such as fish oil likely do not reduce relapses, disability, tiredness or MRI brain scan lesions, nor do they improve quality of life in people with MS.

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The above story is based on materials provided by American Academy of Neurology (AAN). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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New research from The Netherlands shows that people who smoke high-potency cannabis end up getting higher doses of the active ingredient (THC). Although they reduce the amount they puff and inhale to compensate for the higher strength, they still take in more THC than smokers of lower potency cannabis.

For the past decade or more, the common sense idea that high strength cannabis leads to higher doses of THC and therefore poses a greater risk of unwanted effects such as dependency has been challenged and labelled the 'potent pot myth'. It has been argued that smokers of strong cannabis adjust their drug intake to compensate for the potency, usually by inhaling less smoke or rolling weaker joints. It is even argued that 'super pot' is healthier for cannabis users because they get their desired high while inhaling less lung-harming smoke.

The Dutch researchers in this study observed 98 experienced cannabis smokers as they rolled and smoked joints using their own cannabis samples, which were of varying concentrations. Those who made strong joints inhaled smaller volumes of smoke, presumably in an attempt to titrate the amount of THC taken into the body. But these titration efforts were only partially successful, compensating for roughly half of the THC strength.

So although smokers of strong cannabis alter their smoking behavior to compensate for the higher potency, they don't alter it enough. There is some truth to the 'potent pot myth'.

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The above story is based on materials provided by Wiley. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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The use of cocaine dropped sharply across the United States from 2006 to 2010, while the amount of marijuana consumed increased significantly during the same period, according to a new report.

Studying illegal drug use nationally from 2000 to 2010, researchers found the amount of marijuana consumed by Americans increased by more than 30 percent from 2006 to 2010, while cocaine consumption fell by about half. Meanwhile, heroin use was fairly stable throughout the decade.

Methamphetamine consumption dramatically increased during the first half of the decade and then declined, but researchers did not have enough information to make a credible estimate of the drug's use from 2008 to 2010.

The findings come from a report compiled for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy by researchers affiliated with the RAND Drug Policy Research Center.

"Having credible estimates of the number of heavy drug users and how much they spend is critical for evaluating policies, making decisions about treatment funding and understanding the drug revenues going to criminal organizations," said Beau Kilmer, the study's lead author and co-director of the RAND Drug Policy Research Center. "This work synthesizes information from many sources to present the best estimates to date for illicit drug consumption and spending in the United States."

Because the project only generated estimates through 2010, researchers say the report does not address the recent reported spike in heroin use or the consequences of marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington. The report also does not try to explain the causes behind changes in drug use or evaluate the effectiveness of drug control strategies.

The study, published on the website of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, provides estimates of the amount of cocaine, heroin, marijuana and methamphetamine used each year from 2000 to 2010. The study includes estimates of retail spending on illicit drugs and the number of chronic users, who account for a majority of drug consumption.

Researchers say that drug users in the United States spent on the order of $100 billion annually on cocaine, heroin, marijuana and methamphetamine throughout the decade. While the amount remained stable from 2000 to 2010, the spending shifted. While much more was spent on cocaine than on marijuana in 2000, the opposite was true by 2010.

"Our analysis shows that Americans likely spent more than one trillion dollars on cocaine, heroin, marijuana and methamphetamine between 2000 and 2010," Kilmer said.

The surge in marijuana use appears to be related to an increase in the number of people who reported using the drug on a daily or near-daily basis.

The estimates for marijuana are rooted in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, which surveys nearly 70,000 individuals each year. Estimates for cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine are largely based on information from the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Program, or ADAM. The final estimates also incorporated information from other data sources

However, since the federal government recently halted funding for ADAM, researchers say it will be considerably harder to track the abuse of cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine in the future.

"The ADAM program provided unique insights about those who abused hard drugs and how much they spent on these substances," said Jonathan Caulkins, a study co-author and the Stever Professor of Operations Research and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University. "It's a tragedy that 2013 was the last year for ADAM. It is such an important data system for understanding drug problems."

To improve future estimates, the report recommends investments in programs like ADAM that collect detailed data from heavy users. It also recommends that federal agencies revise some of the questions on existing self-report surveys.

The study, "What America's Users Spend on Illegal Drugs, 2000-2010," can be found at http://www.whitehouse.gov/ondcp. Other authors of the report are Susan Everingham, Greg Midgette, Rosalie Pacula, Rachel Burns, Bing Han and Russell Lundberg, all of RAND, and Peter Reuter of the University of Maryland.

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The above story is based on materials provided by RAND Corporation. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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An international group led by Vanderbilt University researchers has found cannabinoid receptors, through which marijuana exerts its effects, in a key emotional hub in the brain involved in regulating anxiety and the flight-or-fight response.

This is the first time cannabinoid receptors have been identified in the central nucleus of the amygdala in a mouse model, they report in the current issue of the journal Neuron.

The discovery may help explain why marijuana users say they take the drug mainly to reduce anxiety, said Sachin Patel, M.D., Ph.D., the paper's senior author and professor of Psychiatry and of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics.

Led by first author Teniel Ramikie, a graduate student in Patel's lab, the researchers also showed for the first time how nerve cells in this part of the brain make and release their own natural "endocannabinoids."

The study "could be highly important for understanding how cannabis exerts its behavioral effects," Patel said. As the legalization of marijuana spreads across the country, more people -- and especially young people whose brains are still developing -- are being exposed to the drug.

Previous studies at Vanderbilt and elsewhere, Patel said, have suggested the following:

The natural endocannabinoid system regulates anxiety and the response to stress by dampening excitatory signals that involve the neurotransmitter glutamate. Chronic stress or acute, severe emotional trauma can cause a reduction in both the production of endocannabinoids and the responsiveness of the receptors. Without their "buffering" effect, anxiety goes up. While marijuana's "exogenous" cannabinoids also can reduce anxiety, chronic use of the drug down-regulates the receptors, paradoxically increasing anxiety. This can trigger "a vicious cycle" of increasing marijuana use that in some cases leads to addiction.

In the current study, the researchers used high-affinity antibodies to "label" the cannabinoid receptors so they could be seen using various microscopy techniques, including electron microscopy, which allowed very detailed visualization at individual synapses, or gaps between nerve cells.

"We know where the receptors are, we know their function, we know how these neurons make their own cannabinoids," Patel said. "Now can we see how that system is affected by … stress and chronic (marijuana) use? It might fundamentally change our understanding of cellular communication in the amygdala."

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The above story is based on materials provided by Vanderbilt University Medical Center. The original article was written by Bill Snyder. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Since 1990, the street price of illegal drugs has fallen in real terms while the purity/potency of what's on offer has generally increased, both of which are indicators of availability.

The United Nations recently estimated that the illicit drug trade is worth at least US $350 billion every year. And needle sharing is one of the key drivers of blood borne infections, including HIV. The drug trade is also linked to high rates of violence.

Over the past several decades most national drug control strategies have focused on law enforcement to curb supply, despite calls to explore approaches, such as decriminalization and strict legal regulation.

The researchers analysed data from seven international government-funded drug surveillance systems, which had at least 10 years of information on the price and purity of cannabis, cocaine and opiates, including heroin.

They also reviewed the number of seizures of illegal drugs in drug production regions and rates of consumption in markets where demand for illegal drugs is high.

Three of the seven surveillance systems reported on international data; three reported on US data; and one reported on data from Australia. In some cases the data went back as far as 1975, with the most recent data going back to 2001.

Three major trends emerged from the data analysis: the purity/potency of illegal drugs either generally remained stable or increased between 1990 and 2010; with few exceptions, the street price generally fell; and seizures of drugs increased in both the countries of major supply and demand.

In the US, after adjusting for inflation and purity, the average street price of heroin, cocaine and cannabis fell by 81%, 80%, and 86%, respectively, whereas the purity and/or potency of these drugs increased by 60%, 11%, and 161%, respectively.

Similar trends were observed in Europe where, during the same period, the average price of opiates and cocaine, adjusted for inflation and purity, decreased by 74% and 51%, respectively, and in Australia, where the price of cocaine fell by 14% and the price of heroin and cannabis dropped by 49%.

In the US seizures of cocaine roughly halved between 1990 and 2010, but those of cannabis and heroin rose by 465% and 29%, respectively; in Europe seizures of cocaine and cannabis fluctuated, but seizures of heroin had risen 380% by 2009.

On the basis of the data, the authors conclude, as previous studies have, "that the global supply of illicit drugs has likely not been reduced in the previous two decades."

They add: "In particular, the data presented in this study suggest that the supply of opiates and cannabis have increased, given the increasing potency and decreasing prices of these illegal commodities."

And they conclude: "These findings suggest that expanding efforts at controlling the global illegal drug market through law enforcement are failing."

"It is hoped that this study highlights the need to re-examine the effectiveness of national and international drug strategies that place a disproportionate emphasis on supply reduction at the expense of evidence based prevention and treatment of problematic illegal drug use," they add.

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The above story is based on materials provided by BMJ-British Medical Journal. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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hough marijuana is a well-known recreational drug, extensive scientific research has been conducted on the therapeutic properties of marijuana in the last decade. Medical cannabis is often used by sufferers of chronic ailments, including cancer and post-traumatic stress disorder, to combat pain, insomnia, lack of appetite, and other symptoms.

Now Prof. Yosef Sarne of Tel Aviv University's Adelson Center for the Biology of Addictive Diseases at the Sackler Faculty of Medicine says that the drug has neuroprotective qualities as well. He has found that extremely low doses of THC -- the psychoactive component of marijuana -- protects the brain from long-term cognitive damage in the wake of injury from hypoxia (lack of oxygen), seizures, or toxic drugs. Brain damage can have consequences ranging from mild cognitive deficits to severe neurological damage.

Previous studies focused on injecting high doses of THC within a very short time frame -- approximately 30 minutes -- before or after injury. Prof. Sarne's current research, published in the journals Behavioural Brain Research and Experimental Brain Research, demonstrates that even extremely low doses of THC -- around 1,000 to 10,000 times less than that in a conventional marijuana cigarette -- administered over a wide window of 1 to 7 days before or 1 to 3 days after injury can jumpstart biochemical processes which protect brain cells and preserve cognitive function over time.

This treatment, especially in light of the long time frame for administration and the low dosage, could be applicable to many cases of brain injury and be safer over time, Prof. Sarne says.

Conditioning the brain

While performing experiments on the biology of cannabis, Prof. Sarne and his fellow researchers discovered that low doses of the drug had a big impact on cell signalling, preventing cell death and promoting growth factors. This finding led to a series of experiments designed to test the neuroprotective ability of THC in response to various brain injuries.

In the lab, the researchers injected mice with a single low dose of THC either before or after exposing them to brain trauma. A control group of mice sustained brain injury but did not receive the THC treatment. When the mice were examined 3 to 7 weeks after initial injury, recipients of the THC treatment performed better in behavioral tests measuring learning and memory. Additionally, biochemical studies showed heightened amounts of neuroprotective chemicals in the treatment group compared to the control group.

The use of THC can prevent long-term cognitive damage that results from brain injury, the researchers conclude. One explanation for this effect is pre- and post-conditioning, whereby the drug causes minute damage to the brain to build resistance and trigger protective measures in the face of much more severe injury, explains Prof. Sarne. The low dosage of THC is crucial to initiating this process without causing too much initial damage.

Preventative and long-term use

According to Prof. Sarne, there are several practical benefits to this treatment plan. Due to the long therapeutic time window, this treatment can be used not only to treat injury after the fact, but also to prevent injury that might occur in the future. For example, cardiopulmonary heart-lung machines used in open heart surgery carry the risk of interrupting the blood supply to the brain, and the drug can be delivered beforehand as a preventive measure. In addition, the low dosage makes it safe for regular use in patients at constant risk of brain injury, such as epileptics or people at a high risk of heart attack.

Prof. Sarne is now working in collaboration with Prof. Edith Hochhauser of the Rabin Medical Center to test the ability of low doses of THC to prevent damage to the heart. Preliminary results indicate that they will find the same protective phenomenon in relation to cardiac ischemia, in which the heart muscle receives insufficient blood flow.

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The above story is based on materials provided by American Friends of Tel Aviv University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Though controversial, medical cannabis has been gaining ground as a valid therapy, offering relief to suffers of diseases such as cancer, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, ALS and more. The substance is known to soothe severe pain, increase the appetite, and ease insomnia where other common medications fail.

In 2009, Zach Klein, a graduate of Tel Aviv University's Department of Film and Television Studies, directed the documentary Prescribed Grass. Through the process, he developed an interest in the scientific research behind medical marijuana, and now, as a specialist in policy-making surrounding medical cannabis and an MA student at TAU's Porter School of Environmental Studies, he is conducting his own research into the benefits of medical cannabis.

Using marijuana from a farm called Tikkun Olam -- a reference to the Jewish concept of healing the world -- Klein and his fellow researchers tested the impact of the treatment on 19 residents of the Hadarim nursing home in Israel. The results, Klein says, have been outstanding. Not only did participants experience dramatic physical results, including healthy weight gain and the reduction of pain and tremors, but Hadarim staff saw an immediate improvement in the participants' moods and communication skills. The use of chronic medications was also significantly reduced, he reports.

Klein's research team includes Dr. Dror Avisar of TAU's Hydrochemistry Laboratory at the Department of Geography and Human Environment; Prof. Naama Friedmann and Rakefet Keider of TAU's Jaime and Joan Constantiner School of Education; Dr. Yehuda Baruch of TAU's Sackler Faculty of Medicine and director of the Abarbanel Mental Health Center; and Dr. Moshe Geitzen and Inbal Sikorin of Hadarim.

Cutting down on chronic medications

Israel is a world leader in medical cannabis research, Klein says. The active ingredient in marijuana, THC, was first discovered there by Profs. Raphael Mechoulam and Yechiel Gaoni. Prof. Mechoulam is also credited for having defined the endocannabinoid system, which mimics the effects of cannabis and plays a role in appetite, pain sensation, mood and memory.

In the Hadarim nursing home, 19 patients between the ages of 69 and 101 were treated with medical cannabis in the form of powder, oil, vapor, or smoke three times daily over the course of a year for conditions such as pain, lack of appetite, and muscle spasms and tremors. Researchers and nursing home staff monitored participants for signs of improvement, as well as improvement in overall life quality, such as mood and ease in completing daily living activities.

During the study, 17 patients achieved a healthy weight, gaining or losing pounds as needed. Muscle spasms, stiffness, tremors and pain reduced significantly. Almost all patients reported an increase in sleeping hours and a decrease in nightmares and PTSD-related flashbacks.

There was a notable decline in the amount of prescribed medications taken by patients, such as antipsychotics, Parkinson's treatment, mood stabilizers, and pain relievers, Klein found, noting that these drugs have severe side effects. By the end of the study, 72 percent of participants were able to reduce their drug intake by an average of 1.7 medications a day.

Connecting cannabis and swallowing

This year, Klein is beginning a new study at Israel's Reuth Medical Center with Drs. Jean-Jacques Vatine and Aviah Gvion, in which he hopes to establish a connection between medical cannabis and improved swallowing. One of the biggest concerns with chronically ill patients is food intake, says Klein. Dysphagia, or difficulty in swallowing, can lead to a decline in nutrition and even death. He believes that cannabis, which has been found to stimulate regions of the brain associated with swallowing reflexes, will have a positive impact.

Overall, Klein believes that the healing powers of cannabis are close to miraculous, and has long supported an overhaul in governmental policy surrounding the drug. Since his film was released in 2009, the number of permits for medical cannabis in Israel has increased from 400 to 11,000. His research is about improving the quality of life, he concludes, especially for those who have no other hope.

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The pain relief offered by cannabis varies greatly between individuals, a brain imaging study carried out at the University of Oxford suggests.

The researchers found that an oral tablet of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, tended to make the experience of pain more bearable, rather than actually reduce the intensity of the pain.

MRI brain imaging showed reduced activity in key areas of the brain that substantiated the pain relief the study participants experienced.

'We have revealed new information about the neural basis of cannabis-induced pain relief,' says Dr Michael Lee of Oxford University's Centre for Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Brain (FMRIB).

He adds: 'Our small-scale study, in a controlled setting, involved 12 healthy men and only one of many compounds that can be derived from cannabis. That's quite different from doing a study with patients. My view is the findings are of interest scientifically but it remains to see how they impact the debate about use of cannabis-based medicines. Understanding cannabis' effects on clinical outcomes, or the quality of life of those suffering chronic pain, would need research in patients over long time periods.'

The researchers report their findings in the journal Pain. The study was funded by the UK Medical Research Council and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Oxford Biomedical Research Centre.

Long-term pain, often without clear cause, is a complex healthcare problem. Different approaches are often needed to help patient manage pain, and can include medications, physiotherapy and other forms of physical therapy, and psychological support. For a few patients, cannabis or cannabis-based medications remain effective when other drugs have failed to control pain, while others report very little effect of the drug on their pain but experience side-effects.

'We know little about cannabis and what aspects of pain it affects, or which people might see benefits over the side-effects or potential harms in the long term. We carried out this study to try and get at what is happening when someone experiences pain relief using cannabis,' says Dr Lee.

The Oxford research team carried out a series of MRI scans with each of the 12 volunteers at the FMRIB centre in Oxford.

Before a scan, participants were given either a 15mg tablet of THC or a placebo. THC, or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, is the active psychotropic compound in cannabis -- the ingredient that's responsible for the high that drives recreational use of the drug.

To induce a certain level of pain, the volunteers also had a cream rubbed into the skin of one leg. This was either a dummy cream or a cream that contained 1% capsaicin, the ingredient of chillis that causes a hot, burning and painful sensation.

Each participant had four MRI tests to cover each combination of THC or placebo, and chilli pain-inducing cream or dummy cream.

'The participants were asked to report the intensity and unpleasantness of the pain: how much it burned and how much it bothered them,' says Dr Lee. 'We found that with THC, on average people didn't report any change in the burn, but the pain bothered them less.'

While this average effect was statistically significant, there was great variability among the participants in THC's effect on the pain they experienced. Only six out of the 12 reported a clear change in how much the pain bothered them, for example.

The brain imaging results substantiate the reports of the participants. The change in unpleasantness of pain was matched with a suppression of activity in the part of the brain called the anterior mid-cingulate cortex. This structure sits in a deep part of the brain and is involved in many functions, and has previously been implicated in the emotional aspects of pain.

There were also changes in activity of the right amygdala that correlated with the lessening in the unpleasantness of the pain with THC. It is already known that the right side of the amygdala can be 'primed' by pain.

Of most interest to the researchers, however, was the strength of the connection in individuals between their right amydala and a part of the cortex called the primary sensorimotor area. The strength of this connection in individual participants correlated well with THC's different effects on the pain that that volunteer experienced.

This is suggestive that there might be a way of predicting who would see benefits from taking cannabis for pain relief.

'We may in future be able to predict who will respond to cannabis, but we would need to do studies in patients with chronic pain over longer time periods,' says Dr Lee.

He adds: 'Cannabis does not seem to act like a conventional pain medicine. Some people respond really well, others not at all, or even poorly. Brain imaging shows little reduction in the brain regions that code for the sensation of pain, which is what we tend to see with drugs like opiates. Instead cannabis appears to mainly affect the emotional reaction to pain in a highly variable way.'

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