Jessica Baron

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Researchers from Washington State University have released the first comprehensive analysis of the genetic and chemical characteristics of cannabis. The new study, led by Bernd Markus Lange, a professor at WSU’s Institute of Biological Chemistry and Director of its M.J. Murdock Metabolomics Laboratory, analyzed genetic sequences from nine commercial cannabis strains. The results are published in the latest issue of the journal Plant Physiology.

Up until now, a lack of knowledge about the plant and its various chemical components has stunted regulations and confused consumers. Most of the research that’s been done on non-medical marijuana, hemp, CBD, and THC products has been funded by the industry that produces these products, but the Washington State study was funded by private donors with no connections to the cannabis industry.

Adding to the confusion is the fact that not all cannabis plants are the same. There are three species of the cannabis plant - Cannabis Sativa, Cannabis Indica, and Cannabis Ruderalis - which have different genomes. Then there are different strains of the plants – hybrids grown to bring out specific characteristics. On top of that, the chemicals in the plants – called cannabinoids – number over 100 and include both CBD an THC, two very different compounds. Then you have cannabinoids that the plants produce naturally and those produced synthetically – an important distinction for policy and legalization.

Confused yet? It’s not surprising. The industry thrives off of scientific-sounding claims that promise to give you everything from pain relief to a good buzz and commercial claims about the differences between strains and their compounds have trumped objective analysis over the years.

With hemp legal across the country (it has no psychoactive qualities), CBD oils and gummies available freely online, and 11 states legalizing recreational cannabis (the kind with THC), the industry has exploded. And the research is finally catching up.

But one roadblock remains. The federal government has been slow to fund cannabis research despite the explosion of interest and universities are often prohibited from working with the plants. This may change as scientists continue to call for some of the tax revenue from legalization to be used to fund research. But even the WSU study had to be divided between public and private entities. Lange and his research team could not have the plant in their labs and so they had to farm out the RNA extraction to EVIO Labs, a private cannabis testing company. Then, a third party sequenced the genetic material. Lange was only allowed to work with the data set the private companies sent him.

Dr. Lange told me in an e-mail that he sees the lack of independent research on cannabis as problematic and hopes to see more studies done by entities not funded by the industry. Because the use, sale, and possession of cannabis are still illegal under federal law, it’s hard for independent researchers to find funding. And universities in states where it is legal “still cannot engage in research, unless the researcher has the appropriate federal license.”

And good policy depends on good research. Lange continued:

Currently, only THC content is regulated, but there are lots of open questions from a regulatory point of view:  what are the biological activities of the more than 90 other cannabinoids that have been identified?  Does the nature of the consumed product (smoking, vaping, edible, etc.) affect a person’s ability to operate machinery or drive a vehicle differentially?  Is the entourage effect (interaction of several cannabis components in a synergistic manner) more than folklore and are there implications?  There are also implications for managing the commercial cultivation of cannabis such as pesticide use and best practices.  We certainly need more research in that area.

When it comes to consumer consumption of cannabis, Lange hopes to see more people interested in “a scientific foundation for marketing claims,” both for recreational cannabis and CBD products.

While Lange’s research looked at the cannabinoids that influence the scent of plants, his analytical method is much more far-ranging and could help guide future research into the distinct genetic profiles of cannabis strains and help figure out which cannabinoids they produce and in what quantities. The ability to measure these compounds (in this case, cannabinoid resins and terpenes) will allow regulators and consumers to compare products using concrete genetic data.

Lange illuminated the path forward:

I would argue that a combination of genetic/genomic and chemical analyses will be the most powerful approach for differentiating strains (as we did as part of the project that was just published).  This will also be important for breeding purposes, as we are beginning to better understand how sequence variation in certain genes correlates with traits such as the chemical composition.

While the research roadblocks remain, Lange says that the latest Farm Bill will help:

When the farm bill was signed into law in December 2018, cannabis with a THC content of less than 0.3 % (commonly known as industrial hemp) has been descheduled (decriminalized at the federal level), which means that we will likely see more and more field plots for industrial hemp across the country.

This agricultural shift will make research into hemp much easier and Lange believes that it’s only a matter of time before non-hemp cannabis research will follow (since it is, after all, the same plant species). He also sees this preliminary research as a step forward in helping people understand and regulate cannabis:

I hope that our research can contribute to building the scientific foundation for policy decisions, including better strain characterization and differentiation.

All signs point to better research in the near future, including the newly announced International Phytomedicines and Medical Cannabis Institute (IPI) to be housed at Harvard Medical School in Boston in conjunction with Canada’s Atlas Biotechnologies. And it’s not the first (or the last) major university to invest in such research. UCLA’s Cannabis Research Initiative (UCLA-CRI) is also dedicated to producing scientific knowledge about “the therapeutic potential and health risks of cannabis on the body, brain, and mind.”

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jessicabaron/2019/05/29/genetic-analysis-of-cannabis-lights-the-way-for-better-policy/#301818687366

From lube to deodorant to eyebrow gel, CBD is turning up in some strange places

Merle Ginsberg

You know CBD has reached the mainstream when the doyenne of domesticity herself, Martha Stewart, jumps on the bandwagon (thanks to her pal Snoop Dogg, she’s launching a line of CBD products for pets). Even Barneys New York hopped aboard with the High End, a permanent bud bar for the sale of cannabis-related items, in its Beverly Hills store.

For anyone still unsure of what CBD is exactly: It’s an abbreviation of the compound cannabidiol—which is derived from either hemp, a cousin of the marijuana plant with very low THC (the stuff that gets you high), or the cannabis sativa plant, which contains high amounts of THC. Hemp CBD is legal everywhere in the United States and is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products made from it can be shipped anywhere in the country, but it isn’t as potent as the CBD produced from marijuana buds. Bottom line: CBD won’t get you stoned or make you paranoid. But claims of the compound’s efficacy are so vast that it boggles the sober mind. CBD is said to have antioxidant and hydrating properties, help battle inflammation and pain, treat acne and eczema, repair tissue and increase blood flow, lower stress and anxiety, improve your sex life, and treat arthritis—all without any psychoactive effect on your mind.

The CBD industrial complex shows no signs of slowing. In fact, it is expected to grow from today’s $591 million market to a $22 billion industry over the next few years, according to research firm Brightfield Group. With companies churning out goods at a fever pitch, it’s hard to keep up, so we’ve rounded up some of the latest (and most unique) CBD products on the shelves.

Sleeping Mask

Slathering Kana’s rich cream—made of hyaluronic acid, lavender oil, and hemp-derived CBD—on your face before bedtime will moisturize and brighten your skin while you sleep, or so the company claims. $55 at kanaskincare.com

Lip Gloss

Lots of moisture-rich ingredients are packed into CBD Care Garden’s coral-hued gloss, including hemp-derived CBD. But the best part might be th e built-in mirror and LED light for easy touch-ups. $47 at cbdcaregarden.com

Beard Oil

According to Pinnacle CBD, its Sex Panther beard oil smells like a “combination of wooded mountains and rainbows.” Like its Anchorman namesake, the company says the product will help you score women—“60 percent of the time, it works every time.” $30 at pinnaclehemp.com

Shave Gel

Containing 25 mg of cannabis sativa oil, El Patron’s gel preps the skin for a close shave while minimizing the potential for ingrown hairs. $20 at beautycarechoices.com

PMS Suppositories

There are loads of topical CBD-infused menstrual pain-relief creams on the market, but Foria took a different approach. These suppositories deliver 60 mg of THC and 10 mg of CBD and target inflammation closer to the source. $20 at MedMen, West Hollywood

Bath Bomb

Life Element’s effervescent balls come in three different CBD strengths—50 mg, 100 mg, or 200 mg—so you can match your soak to whatever ails you, from sore muscles to psoriasis. $14 to $20 at lifeelements.com

Lubricant

Good Clean Love’s lube is infused with food-grade carrageenan (a type of algae), which early studies indicate is an HPV inhibitor, and CBD oil, because why not? $19 at peepshowtoys.com

Vape Pen

Vape pens are everywhere, but Dosist’s Calm contains a high-CBD formula to combat anxiety and a mix of calming terpenes (oils found in certain strains of cannabinoids) to help you chill. $40 at Greenhouse Herbal Center, Hollywood

Beach Spray

Eco Natural’s texturizing salt spray is supposed to give your locks that tousled, just-back-from-the-beach look. According to the label, it includes cannabis sativa oil, Hawaiian sea salt, and “love and pride.” Awww. $12 at ecocoinc.com

Bath Soak

These bath salts contain 170 g of hemp CBD; marjoram and rosemary to increase circulation; and magnesium to help with muscle recovery. It’s scented with lavender, lemon, and sage. $29 at the High End, Barneys New York, Beverly Hills

Eye Shadow

Loose CBD-infused eye shadow by Kief Cosmetics comes in five shades and is paraben-, phthalate-, and sulfate-free. The CBD helps depuff swollen lids. $13 at kiefcosmetics.com

Pet Drops

Whether your four-legged friend is in pain or suffering from separation anxiety—or just nervous from the sound of fireworks—Green Helix’s Fur Baby XL 1,000 mg CBD tincture is said to sooth your pet’s woes. It even comes in an easy-to-use syringe. $64 at greenhelix.com

Perfume

Dusted by Victorine is said to be the first CBD-flower-infused scent, which also contains lavender, bergamot, and ylang-ylang. Using its roll-on will apparently result in an elevated mood, increased libido, and strangers sniffing you. $45 at victorinenyc.com

Deodorant

Made of vegetable powders, mineral clays, and a mix of orange and CBD oils, Sacred Biology’s CBD deodorant supposedly combats sweat and keeps you fresh as a blossom. $18 at bloomble.com

Eyebrow Gel

Milk’s tinted eye-brow gel is formulated with hemp-derived CBD oil, used as a thickening agent, so that the mixture can adhere to your brows without flaking or stiffness. $18 at milkmakeup.com

Body Wax

This bright-blue CBD cream isn’t a depilatory, as the name suggests. “Wax” refers to the consistency of the lotion (jars come in two sizes, 30 ml or 200 ml), which is high in omega-rich oil. $30 to $72 at khus-khus.com

Source:
https://www.lamag.com/article/cbd-everything/

NATHAN CRAIG

Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi during the signing ceremony of The Global Fund South Africa Grant 2019-2022 at Sefako Makgatho Presidential Guesthouse in Pretoria yesterday. Siyabulela Duda

Durban - The legalisation of medicinal cannabis has been heralded as a new-found hope and burgeoning market opportunity for South Africans.

On Thursday, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, Minister for Health, excluded preparations containing cannabidiol (CBD) from being scheduled in terms of the Medicines and Related Substances Act of 1965 for the next 12 months.

CBD is a natural chemical compound found in cannabis plants which is used for medicinal purposes and is not psychoactive.

A report of CBD by the World Health Organisation (WHO) stated it exhibited no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential.

Issues such as chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, and Alzheimer’s, depression, stress, and anxiety can be addressed and treated with CBD containing products. Its properties could lower blood pressure and act as a natural anti-inflammatory.

Roy Sukdhev, founder of the Phoenix North Coast Cancer Support Group, was hopeful for the future of cancer treatment but believed controlled measures would be required to regulate the endeavour.

“It will open doors and lessen suffering. Medication and correct treatment is vital for cancer patients, the more that is available the better it will be.

“Regulations, controlled environments and registered outlines will need to be implemented to prevent fly-by-night businesses from taking advantage of this new opportunity and doing more harm than good,” said Sukdhev.

Narend Singh, parliamentary Chief Whip of the IFP, said it was a step in the right direction but that it was not a new innovation.

Source:
https://www.iol.co.za/sunday-tribune/news/medicinal-cannabis-use-is-now-legal-24102387

It has been rumored for years that Monsanto plans to take over the cannabis industry with genetic engineering just as they’ve taken over the corn and soy industries. Although they have always denied having any intentions to do so, at this point it is unlikely that anybody really believes them. In contrast, many in the cannabis sphere are prepared to resist any kind of GMO takeover of marijuana by Monsanto or any of their cohorts.

Evidence is mounting, though, which points strongly to the notion that Monsanto does indeed plan to take control of the cannabis plant, and it doesn’t look good for medical users, or anyone planning on getting into the industry.

Former Nazi Collaborator Bayer Buys Out Monsanto for $66 Billion

You may remember hearing back in September that Bayer, the largest pharmaceutical company in the world, made a deal to buy out Monsanto for $66 billion. Although Monsanto was voted the most evil company in the world in 2013 and its reputation has continued to fall since, Bayer still went ahead with the buyout.

A merger between these two companies is unsurprising, as though they both have long histories of involvement with Nazism and chemical weapons like agent orange which have devastated Vietnam since the war. In fact, Bayer began as a break-off company of the infamous IG Farben, which produced the chemical weapons used on the Jews during the Nazi reign. After the war, Farben was forced to break up into several companies, including BASF, Hoeschst, and Bayer.

Soon after at the Nuremberg trials, 24 Farben executives were sent to prison for crimes against humanity. However, in a matter of just 7 years each of them was released and began filling high positions in each of the former Farben companies, and many of them began working for the Russian, British, and American governments through a joint intelligence venture called “Operation Paperclip”.

“IG (Interessengemeinschaft) stands for “Association of Common Interests”: The IG Farben cartel included BASF, Bayer, Hoechst, and other German chemical and pharmaceutical companies. As documents show, IG Farben was intimately involved with the human experimental atrocities committed by Mengele at Auschwitz. A German watchdog organization, the GBG Network, maintains copious documents and tracks Bayer Pharmaceutical activities.” – Alliance for Human Research Protection

After all these years, Bayer is now richer and more powerful than their predecessor company I.G. Farben ever was.

Monsanto And Miracle-Gro Have Intimate Business Ties

According to Big Buds Magazine, Monsanto and Scotts Miracle-Gro have a “deep business partnership” and plan on taking over the cannabis industry. Hawthorne, a front group for Scotts, has already purchased three of the major cannabis growing companies: General Hydroponics, Botanicare, and Gavita. Many other hydroponics companies have also reported attempted buyouts by Hawthorne.

“They want to bypass hydroponics retail stores…When we said we won’t get in bed with them they said, ‘Well, we could just buy your whole company like we did with Gavita and do whatever we want.’” – Hydroponics Lighting Representative

Jim Hagedorn, CEO of Scotts Miracle-Gro, has even said that he plans to “invest, like, half a billion in [taking over] the pot business… It is the biggest thing I’ve ever seen in lawn and garden.”

He has also invested in companies such as Leaf, which grows cannabis in an electronically regulated indoor terrarium accessible via smartphone.

Bayer and Monsanto Trade Industry Secrets On Producing GMO Marijuana

It is logical that Bayer, being the parent company, would work together with Monsanto in order to share secrets which would advance mutual business. Many people in the cannabis industry have been warning about this, including Michael Straumietis, founder and owner of Advanced Nutrients.

“Monsanto and Bayer share information about genetically modifying crops,” Straumietis notes. “Bayer partners with GW Pharmaceuticals, which grows its own proprietary marijuana genetics. It’s logical to conclude that Monsanto and Bayer want to create GMO marijuana.” – Michael Straumietis

Conclusion

It is possible that Bayer and Monsanto could create a monopoly on marijuana seeds in the same way that they have created a monopoly on corn and soy. Through immense corporate power and the enforcement of international patent law, these corporations could place themselves in a position of total control over cannabis as a medicine as well as for recreational use by using the same model as they do with the food crops they control.

But not all hope is lost. There is still a chance to fight back against the Bayer-Monsanto monopoly by boycotting genetically engineered products, Miracle-Gro and other Scotts brand products, Bayer pharmaceuticals, and companies that do business with any of these. If you buy cannabis seeds, they can be stored for years to be used at a later date or if you live in an area where it is legal, grow your own, while supporting hydroponics and nutrient companies that don’t do business with these corporate behemoths.

“Corporations and people with hundreds of billions of dollars know marijuana is a miracle plant. They want to come in and steal our plants, seeds, and industry from us, we must stop them.” – Straumietis

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Nevada continues to crush it with cannabis sales. On July 1, the state will celebrate its “cannaversary” or one year since it began selling recreational marijuana. So far, each month sales have outpaced original projections.

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According to state records, recreational sales hit $41 million in March, the highest month to date, a 16% sequential increase over February and breaking the previous record set in December of $35.8 million. Total taxable sales for medical marijuana, adult-use marijuana and other marijuana-related goods for the first ten months of the fiscal year are $433.51 million. April sales were lower than March, but strong enough to deliver all the anticipated tax revenue two months ahead of scheduled said the state.
Taxes collected in the first fiscal year-to-date (July 2017-April 2018) were $55.53 million with wholesale marijuana generating $21.47 million for that time period and retail marijuana tax generating $34.06 million. The state said that taxes collected are 110% above what was projected. Also, the launch of the adult-use industry now accounts for a bit more than 17% of the overall growth in Nevada’s taxable sales base so far this fiscal year.
“The Nevada market continues to be the bright spot in the cannabis industry,” said Chris Driessen of privately owned vape powerhouse Organa Brands. “I was most impressed with the state for adhering to the self-imposed timeline of July 1, 2017.”
Nevada Senator Tick Segerblom said, “This new industry has generated close to half a billion in sales and employed over 5,000 Nevadans. Best of all, none of the predicted adverse consequences have occurred.”
Still, Nevada’s program hasn’t been without its challenges. In the beginning, distribution issues caused businesses numerous headaches along with limited supplies. Driessen agreed saying that the biggest challenge has been the lack of raw material which as driven up production costs.
“This has been problematic for the state as Colorado, California, and Oregon all have far lower price points for similar products making Nevada less competitive,” he said. Dreissen went on to add, “The onerous packaging requirements have also been a big challenge and came as a surprise to us. While the requirements are simple enough on their own, the states arbitrary enforcement of what it deems to be “slang” or “jargon” has caused unnecessary costs and ultimately a burden on businesses due to random enforcement.”
Even with these issues, sales of almost a million dollars a day is drawing many companies to the state.
“All reports from Nevada are that the state has seen healthy sales since the start of commercial adult-use,” said Daniel Yi of California-based dispensary chain MedMen. “MedMen began operations at its Mustang cultivation and manufacturing facility in April, and we plan to have three stores in Las Vegas before year’s end. Nevada is key to MedMen’s strategy of gaining and maintaining a leadership position in all significant U.S. markets. Las Vegas also gives our brand global exposure.”
Celebrations
The state is gearing up for big celebrations like Reef Dispensary which is giving away hats, and prerolls and sponsoring a midnight firework show. In addition to the fireworks, the first 250 customers to make a purchase after 12AM on July 1st will be awarded the limited edition ‘Year 1’ hat, commemorating the first safe and successful year of recreational cannabis in Nevada.
Cannabition, the cannabis museum slated to open in August in downtown Las Vegas is celebrating with a scavenger hunt beginning at 4:20 pm on July 1. Cannabition will be the world’s only cannabis-themed experience of its kind. Opening Aug. 2 at Neonopolis in Downtown Las Vegas, Cannabition will feature elaborate cannabis-inspired installations created by leading experiential art and exhibit designers. The museum said that visitors will interact with unique monumental art pieces, including a slide that empties into a pool of handmade foam “nugs,” enormous 7-foot buds and, at 23 feet, the world’s largest water pipe affectionately known as “Bongzilla.”
Also on Sunday, July 1, The+Source will launch its new Prismatic products, made with highly-effective, flavorful and pure extract products. Using a modern CO2-based extraction process, the versatile products will retain the full spectrum of terpenes and cannabinoids without the harmful hydrocarbon solvents. The+Source is running a 10-day lineup of promotions called the Ten Days of Freedom.

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By Bara Vaida

From the WebMD Archives
Dustin Sulak, DO, is a doctor on the front lines of medical marijuana.
Sulak has recommended various forms of marijuana to his patients and has seen striking results. Patients with chronic pain needed fewer prescription pain meds. Patients with multiple sclerosis had less painful muscle spasms. Patients with severe inflammatory bowel disease began to eat again.
“These responses are the most impressive to me,” says Sulak, who practices at Maine Integrative Healthcare in Manchester. Maine is one of 20 states, along with the District of Columbia, where medical marijuana is legal. “With inflammatory bowel disease, we’ll see patients who were at death’s door turn around dramatically.”
Sulak’s experience is powerful and adds to the large body of personal stories -- dating from 5,000 years ago -- about the therapeutic value of marijuana.

But the scientific evidence behind the drug’s benefits remains elusive, even as 10 more states consider legalizing medical uses in 2014. The problem: In 1970, the federal government classified marijuana as an illegal, highly addictive drug with no medical value, making research harder to do.

A Marijuana Discovery

Here’s what is known: About 20 years ago, scientists discovered a system in the brain that responds to 60 chemicals in marijuana, also known as cannabis. It’s called the endocannabinoid system. This system plays a role in many of the body’s functions, such as in the heart, along with the digestive, endocrine, immune, nervous, and reproductive systems. The discovery sparked interest in finding specific chemicals made from marijuana that could be targeted for specific conditions.
Since that time, scientific projects around medical marijuana worldwide have sped up dramatically. Many of the studies that have been done show that chemicals in marijuana can help treat some conditions. They have helped manage pain and reduced muscle spasms in MS patients. They’ve worked as an appetite stimulant, and as an alternative drug for brain disorders such as schizophrenia and Tourette’s syndrome.
Few of these studies, though, followed a controlled clinical trial. This is considered the best type of trial because it compares a drug to another drug, or to a placebo (a "fake" treatment).
Also, most of the studies had fewer than 200 patients. So doubt continues about marijuana’s value and who it really can help, says J. Michael Bostwick, MD. He's a psychiatrist at the Mayo Clinic and author of a review of medical marijuana research.
Based on medical science, it seems possible that marijuana-based treatments could be developed for some conditions; but federal restrictions make it hard for the research to advance, Bostwick says.
That’s because scientists in the U.S. have to get approval from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the FDA to do research on medical marijuana.
A series of studies allowed by the DEA came to a conclusion similar to Bostwick's. The 13 studies were done by The Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research at the University of California in San Diego between 2000 and 2010.
The conclusion: “Cannabinoids may be useful medicine for certain indications” and deserve further research, wrote Igor Grant, professor and executive vice chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at the university. The studies also showed that inhaling marijuana through a vaporizer or a spray was a better way to deliver it than by smoking.
Among the unanswered questions about medical marijuana is the risk to users. About 10% of people who smoke marijuana become addicted. It’s not known what that means if it is being used for medical reasons, Bostwick says. He adds that some patients find the effects of marijuana “intolerable.”

Marijuana-Based Drugs

Despite the obstacles, three FDA-approved drugs are made from marijuana. They include:
Marinol and Cesamet: Both drugs are used to treat nausea and lack of appetite related to chemotherapy and in AIDS patients. They are man-made versions of THC, the primary chemical in marijuana that gives users a “high.” Both were approved in the 1980s.
Epidiolex: This drug to treat children’s epilepsy received FDA approval in 2013. Its use is highly restricted.
Another drug, Sativex, is in clinical trials in the U.S. for pain with breast cancer. It is a combination of chemicals from the marijuana herb and is sprayed into the mouth. Sativex is approved in more than 20 countries to treat muscle spasms from MS and cancer pain.

Research on Marijuana

No single organization tracks all research studies of medical marijuana and marijuana-based drugs and herbs. The following review is a summary of controlled studies since 1990. It is based on reporting; research provided by NORML, the marijuana legalization advocacy group; and data found in PubMed, the National Institutes of Health’s RePORTER, and a database maintained by the International Association for Cannabinoid Medicines, a medical marijuana research organization based in Cologne, Germany.
Alzheimer’s Disease: One 1997 trial found that synthetic THC could ease symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Patients were less agitated and ate better after treatment.
Autism : Two animal studies show that chemicals in marijuana may help symptoms of some forms of autism. A study of children with autism is underway at the University of California Irvine Medical Center.
Cancer : Several studies on animal and human cells and a small study on 9 people suggested THC and other cannabinoids (chemicals derived from cannabis) might slow the growth of brain cancer. Multiple lab studies in human cells have also shown the potential for them to slow other kinds of cancers, such as breast cancer and leukemia; no studies in people have taken place.
Chronic Pain : More than 45 studies have looked at marijuana and pain related to chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, HIV, rheumatoid arthritis, and spinal injuries. The studies have included smoked marijuana, along with herbal and man-made forms. The majority of the studies showed an improvement in pain relief in comparison to a placebo or to other traditional pain medications. About a quarter of the studies showed no improvement.
Epilepsy : Personal stories and animal studies have shown that cannabidiol, one of the chemicals in cannabis, may help seizures in children with epilepsy. New York University just announced it will do a study of children with epilepsy and marijuana.
Digestive Disorders : Personal stories and several early studies have shown that smoking marijuana can help people with digestive diseases such as colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, and Crohn’s disease. Some of the results included a reduction in bowel inflammation and reduced acid reflux. Further, some patients were able to retain more nutrients in their bodies, and the disease went into remission.
MS: More than 24 studies have looked at smoked marijuana, cannabinoids, and MS. Most reported that it helped relax patients’ rigid muscles and helped with pain. Sativex is approved to treat MS in 24 countries, but not in the U.S.
Schizophrenia: Two clinical trials showed that THC and cannabidiol could help with psychotic and other symptoms. The National Institutes of Health is funding a small clinical trial that also aims to show whether THC and cannabidiol can ease symptoms.

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TORONTO, March 9, 2018 /CNW/ – TerrAscend Corp. (CSE:TER) (“TerrAscend” or the “Company”) is pleased to announce that the Company’s wholly-owned subsidiary, Solace Health Inc. (“Solace Health”) has been granted a license by Health Canada to sell dried cannabis.

The sales license will permit the Company to launch the Solace Health Marketplace, an e-commerce platform for Canadian patients. The platform will offer multiple brands, cannabis products and strains with varying cannabinoid profiles and will be launching in the coming weeks.

Solace Health is also pleased to announce that it has secured in excess of 1,000kg of dried cannabis including 15 different genetic strains through its own cultivation and strategic industry partnerships.

This licence is an important milestone for the Company that enables us to execute our strategic objectives to deliver both pharmaceutical grade cannabis products and patient support programs” said. The granting of our sales license, together with the recent expansion of our Mississauga, Ontario facility, allows us the opportunity to provide the highest quality products, with a same day delivery option.

Dr. Michael Nashat, President and CEO of TerrAscend

“TerrAscend has made substantial progress since our strategic investment in December 2017” said Jason Wild, Chairman of TerrAscend and CIO of JW Asset Management, LLC. “I would like to thank all our employees, shareholders and strategic partners for their contribution in helping us reach this historic milestone. The opportunities in the global cannabis market are tremendous. My vision for TerrAscend is to be the worldwide leader in the legal cannabis industry.”

About TerrAscend

TerrAscend is a Canadian cannabis company dedicated to creating and delivering quality products and services that meet the evolving needs of consumers. The Company provides support to medical consumers through its wholly-owned subsidiaries, Solace Health Inc., a licenced producer of medical cannabis under the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations and Terra Health Network Inc., a clinical support program and education platform led by healthcare professionals.

 

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Aurora Cannabis Succeeds in Bid for CanniMed – Takes Up Shares

Announces Mandatory Extension of Tender Period

EDMONTON, March 9, 2018 /CNW/ – Aurora Cannabis Inc. (“Aurora”) (TSX: ACB) (OTCQB: ACBFF) (Frankfurt: 21P; WKN: A1C4WM) announced today that the Company has been successful in its offer (the “Offer”) for all the issued and outstanding common shares for CanniMed Therapeutics Inc. (“CanniMed”).

The number of CanniMed common shares (the “CanniMed Shares”) tendered as at the close of business on March 8, 2018 totals 17,847,341, representing approximately 70.66% of the total outstanding CanniMed Shares on a fully diluted basis. All of the conditions to the Offer having been met, Aurora will take up the tendered CanniMed Shares and pay for those shares as soon as possible, and in any event not later than 3 business days after the CanniMed Shares are taken up. Aurora will issue a total of approximately 50.6 million Aurora common shares and pay a total of approximately $98 million in cash for the CanniMed Shares tendered as of March 8, 2018.

Following the take up, we will immediately commence with the integration of CanniMed into the Aurora organization and start executing on realizing the strategic synergies we have identified.

Terry Booth, CEO

Combining two of the leading international cannabis brands creates a company that is exceptionally well positioned to capitalize on the tremendous opportunities in the domestic and international medical markets, as well as the Canadian adult consumer use market, once legalized. We look forward to working closely with our new colleagues to establish Aurora’s Medical Cannabis Centre of Excellence.

 

Mandatory Extension

In addition, pursuant to applicable Canadian securities laws requiring Aurora to extend its Offer, the Company has extended the period shareholders of CanniMed have to tender their shares under the Offer by 15 days to 11.59 pm (Pacific Time) March 25, 2018. Aurora has provided notice of the extension to Laurel Hill Advisory Group (the “Depositary and Information Agent”) effective March 9, 2018. There is no guarantee that Aurora will further extend the Offer after March 24, 2018, and CanniMed shareholders are encouraged to tender as soon as possible.

Full details of the extension of the period during which additional CanniMed Shares may be tendered under the Offer will be included in a notice of variation and extension (the “Notice of Variation and Extension”), which Aurora expects to file on SEDAR (under CanniMed’s profile) at www.sedar.com and mail to registered CanniMed Shareholders on or prior to March 9, 2018.

How to Tender

Aurora encourages CanniMed shareholders to read the full details of the Offer set forth in its original offer and takeover bid circular dated November 24, 2017 (as amended by its notice of change dated January 12, 2018), and its notice of variation dated February 5, 2018 and March 9, 2018, and accompanying offer documents (collectively, the “Offer Documents“), which contain detailed instructions on how CanniMed shareholders can tender their CanniMed Common Shares to the Offer. For assistance in depositing CanniMed Common Shares to the Offer, CanniMed shareholders should contact the Depository and Information Agent for the Offer, Laurel Hill Advisory Group at Phone: 1-877-452-7184 (North American Toll Free Phone) and 1-416-304-0211 (Outside North America); Facsimile: 416-646-2415; and E-mail: assistance@laurelhill.com.

About the Offer

The full details of the Offer are set out in the Offer Documents, which have been filed with the Canadian securities regulatory authorities and have been mailed to CanniMed shareholders. The Offer Documents are also available on SEDAR under CanniMed’s profile at www.sedar.com.

Materials filed with the Canadian securities regulatory authorities are available electronically without charge at www.sedar.com. Materials filed with the SEC are available electronically without charge on EDGAR accessible through the SEC’s website at www.sec.gov. Documents related to the Offer, including the Offer Documents, are also available on Aurora’s website at www.auroramj.com and shareholders are invited to visit cannimed.auroramj.com for further information.

About Aurora

Aurora’s wholly-owned subsidiary, Aurora Cannabis Enterprises Inc., is a licensed producer of medical cannabis pursuant to Health Canada’s Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (“ACMPR”). The Company operates a 55,200 square foot, state-of-the-art production facility in Mountain View County, Alberta, known as “Aurora Mountain”, and a second 40,000 square foot high-technology production facility known as “Aurora Vie” in Pointe-Claire, Quebec on Montreal’s West Island. In January 2018, Aurora’s 800,000 square foot flagship cultivation facility, Aurora Sky, located at the Edmonton International Airport, was licensed. Once at full capacity, Aurora Sky is expected to produce over 100,000 kg per annum of cannabis.  Aurora is completing a fourth facility in Lachute, Quebec utilizing its wholly owned subsidiary Aurora Larssen Projects Ltd.

Aurora also owns Berlin-based Pedanios, the leading wholesale importer, exporter, and distributor of medical cannabis in the European Union. The Company owns 51% of Aurora Nordic, which will be constructing a 1,000,000 square foot hybrid greenhouse in Odense, Denmark. The Company offers further differentiation through its acquisition of BC Northern Lights Ltd. and Urban Cultivator Inc., industry leaders, respectively, in the production and sale of proprietary systems for the safe, efficient and high-yield indoor cultivation of cannabis, and in state-of-the-art indoor gardening appliances for the cultivation of organic microgreens, vegetables and herbs in home and professional kitchens.

Aurora holds a 19.88% ownership interest in Liquor Stores N.A., who intend developing a cannabis retail network in Western Canada. In addition, the Company holds approximately 17.23% of the issued shares in leading extraction technology company Radient Technologies Inc., and has a strategic investment in Hempco Food and Fiber Inc., with options to increase ownership stake to over 50%. Aurora is also the cornerstone investor in two other licensed producers, with a 22.9% stake in Cann Group Limited, the first Australian company licensed to conduct research on and cultivate medical cannabis, and a 17.62% stake in Canadian producer The Green Organic Dutchman Ltd., with options to increase to majority ownership.

 

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Marijuana is widely touted as an effective medicine for an array of conditions. But what does the evidence actually tell us?

Scott Gavura

This year will bring a Canada Day for the history books. Only July 1, 2018, recreational marijuana (also called cannabis) will be legalized and regulated in Canada. The federal Cannabis Act creates a legal framework for producing, possessing and selling marijuana across Canada, meaning that each Canadian province will set its own rules to oversee its distribution, subject to federal government conditions. Provincial and federal governments will share in the responsibility for the oversight of this new system, and will also share in the tax revenue. Different provinces are taking different approaches, similar to how alcohol purchases vary between jurisdictions. This trend follows what we’re seeing at the state level in the United States, with different states moving to decriminalize recreational use.

Marijuana has been legal to some extent in Canada (and in many US states) for some time, in the form of “medical” marijuana. The Canadian government authorized the sale of marijuana for that purpose, while it simultaneously emphasizes that cannabis is not an approved therapeutic product. The medical market, for many, appears to simply be a means to access products for recreational, or non-medical use, and has generated wildly unsubstantiated claims about the medical merits of marijuana for conditions like autism and the treatment of cancer. Dispensaries have appeared across Canada and the US, usually with very easy referrals for prescriptions. Some dispensaries ignore any prescription requirement entirely and will sell marijuana directly to the public without any medical assessment or advice. With the introduction of government-overseen (and in some Canadian provinces, government-delivered) retail sales in Canada later this year, it’s reasonable to assume that unregulated dispensaries will eventually disappear.

With recreational sales imminent in Canada (and already here, in states like California), there are questions about the future market for “medical” marijuana. Should use for medical purposes be treated like recreational use, where consumers make their own selections, and purchases are taxed like other consumer products? Or should some forms or uses of marijuana be treated like prescription drugs, where a health professional remains involved, and products may be even be covered by insurance plans? Given the major changes we are seeing in how we can access marijuana, it’s worth summarizing the current state of evidence for marijuana when used for specific medical purposes. With marijuana becoming much more accessible, physicians, other health professionals, and their patients need high-quality information about its value for different medical conditions. David Gorski reviewed much of the evidence in a series of posts over the past three years. Now, three new documents prepared for Canadian physicians and health professionals concisely summarize the current evidence base for medical marijuana.

The pharmacy profession seemingly sees a bright future in medical marijuana, with big chains striking deals with producers and even hiring “brand managers” in anticipation of the shuttering of unregulated dispensaries and a continued demand for “medical” uses. The argument being made by the pharmacy profession seems to be that (1) marijuana is a legitimate drug for medical purposes, and should be treated as such, which includes (2) a pharmacy and pharmacist being involved in the provision. The latter we can set aside for now, and focus first on whether or not marijuana is indeed a drug that should be treated like other prescription drugs.

Before I continue, I should state my personal position on marijuana. I am fully supportive of the legalization of marijuana for recreational use and support regulation and taxation, treating it along the lines of alcohol or tobacco. I should also state that I have no “skin in the game” when it comes to marijuana in pharmacies, or medical marijuana more generally – I don’t work in retail pharmacy, and while pharmacy professional associations seem enamored with the idea of medical marijuana in pharmacies, I have no personal opinion on it, other that wanting pharmacies to be places that offer and promote science-based and medically useful products, not pseudoscience or harmful/ineffective products (see my post on the commercial and professional ethical obligations of pharmacists for more).

It’s worth mentioning as an aside that there’s a somewhat similar set of circumstances in US history, when alcohol was available only by prescription during Prohibition. This prescription (via the Smithsonian Institute) could be used by physicians to prescribe alcohol for an array of ailments:

Naturally, the prescription market for alcohol disappeared once Prohibition ended. But marijuana is not alcohol. It contains an array of potentially medically useful chemical substances, several of which have been clinically investigated for the treatment of different medical conditions.

The pharmacology of marijuana

As David Gorski has pointed out in previous posts, there are a number of biologically active chemicals in marijuana. The main psychoactive ingredients are called cannabinoids, and the primary cannabinoid produced is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC, or simply THC.). Cannabinoids are produced in the stalk, leaves, flowers, seeds and resin of marijuana plants. Marijuana can be smoked, vaporized, or eaten, among other forms of ingestion. THC is rapidly absorbed, and when inhaled, reaches the brain within minutes. (Oral absorption is lower owing to a significant reduction in available drug after passing though the liver.) These chemicals bond to cannabinoid receptors on cells throughout the body, triggering or modulating different effects. Marijuana immediately affects and impairs attention, concentration, memory, learning and motor coordination, proportional to the dose. You might wonder why our cells have receptors for THC and other cannabinoids. That’s because we (and other mammals) have an endocannabinoid system, and we naturally produce endocannabinoids. It is absolutely plausible that drugs that target endocannbinoid receptors, like THC (or derivatives), have the potential to produce beneficial medicinal effects, given the presence of receptors on nearly every organ system. With the growing understanding of the endocannabinoid system, and the identification of different types of receptors, there’s the potential for targeting specific effects on specific organs. That could mean products that produce beneficial effects and minimize any adverse effects (e.g., fewer psychoactive effects).

Cannabinoids are highly fat soluble and so are difficult for the body to eliminate – the complete elimination of a single dose may take up to one month. With repeated doses, levels can rapidly accumulate. While the liver eliminated cannabinoids, even the metabolites of THC can persist in the body, and there is little relationship between the levels of THC found in the blood and the degree of THC-induced effects. Owing to metabolism in the liver, THC has the potential to interact with other drugs. The overall impact has not been well studied. As a drug, there is lot we do not know about marijuana. However, we can be confident in observing that there is little acute toxicity of marijuana, unlike many other drugs and substances. While not addictive, there are also cases of cannabis use disorder, which while infrequent, can occur. It should be acknowledged that cannabis use disorder is a minor public health issue compared to the widespread harms and mortality caused by substances like alcohol and opioids.

The evidence check

Let’s now look at a trio of documents prepared by the Alberta College of Family Physicians. They routinely produce “Tools for Practice” which are concise, actionable answers to clinical questions. All the documents are available online, and are fully referenced, but I will summarize each document here:

Are medical cannabinoids (MC) effective for the treatment of pain?

Bottom Line: Evidence for inhaled marijuana for pain is too sparse and poor to provide good evidence-based guidance. Synthetic MC-derived products may modestly improve neuropathic pain for one in 11-14 users but perhaps not for other pain types. Additionally, longer and larger studies (better evidence) show no effect. Adverse events are plentiful.

The full document is available here.

What are the harms associated with medical cannabinoid therapy?

Bottom Line: Compared to placebo, medical cannabinoids cause multiple different adverse events in patients, from visual disturbance or hypotension (1 in 3-10) to hallucination or paranoia (1 in 20). Stopping due to adverse effects occurs in 1 in every 8-20 patients. Regardless of the type of medical cannabinoid used, adverse events are common and likely underestimated. Given the extensive harms, potential benefits must be impressive to warrant a trial of therapy.

The full document is available here.

Besides pain, are medical cannabinoids effective for other conditions?

Bottom Line: For most conditions (example anxiety), cannabinoid evidence is sparse (at best), low quality and non-convincing. Dronabinol/nabilone improve control of nausea/vomiting post chemotherapy for 1 in 3 users over placebo. Nabiximols likely improve multiple sclerosis spasticity ≥30% for ~1 in 10 users over placebo. Patients’ preference for cannabinoids exceeds cannabinoids effectiveness.

The full document is available here.

Developing an evidence base for marijuana

Studying marijuana under rigorous circumstances has been difficult until fairly recently. The plant itself isn’t patented, so even ignoring the legal access issues, there may be a lack of industry enthusiasm in conducting clinical trials. The other issue is the challenge of a proper placebo control, particularly for non-oral forms of use. Given the psychoactive effects and the widely heralded effects on conditions that can only be assessed subjectively, like nausea, fatigue or appetite, a proper placebo is essential to separate out actual from placebo effects. While some commercial products have been developed and marketed with standardized ingredients and quality control (e.g., nabilone), these products are exceptions. However, these purified and standardized products have allowed for proper placebo controls and more rigorous assessments of effectiveness. Regrettably, these products haven’t been shown to be that effective which may suggest that the perceived beneficial effects may be largely placebo effects. Hopefully, clinical trials will become more common and more marijuana-based drugs can be more rigorously evaluated.

Conclusion: Evidence is lacking

The use of psychoactive drugs like marijuana is a health issue, particularly when used for medical purposes. Regrettably, there is a lack of high-quality data that shows marijuana for most medical purposes is both safe and effective. What little evidence exists is of poor quality and may not even be representative of the purposes for which medical marijuana is sought. There are significant gaps in information necessary to treat marijuana like other forms of medicine: Dosage standardization and overall quality control may not be in place. Overall effectiveness, contraindications, drug interactions, adverse events and long-terms risks when marijuana is used as medicine are not well understood. The best evidence suggests that marijuana may be a reasonable treatment option only when safer, more effective, and better tolerated treatment options have been tried first. If marijuana is to be treated as medicine, then it needs to meet the same standards of quality, effectiveness, and safety we would expect of any other prescription drug. That standard has not yet been met.

Images from flickr users Chuck Coker and Thomas Hawk used under a CC licence.

 

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