Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The 6th National Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics



The 6th National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics, held in Rhode Island in April 2010, was sponsored by Patients Out of Time and hosted by the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition.

Researchers are looking at cannabis in minute detail, discovering the myriad properties of this complicated plant.  Presenters marveled at the incredibly low toxicity and mild side effects of cannabis.  While the amount of research into cannabis has jumped significantly, its classification as a Schedule I narcotic is stifling in-depth research in America.

 Similarly, Dr. Lyle Craker recounted how the DEA has stonewalled his request to grow research grade cannabis at the University of Massachusetts since 2001.

Raphael Mechoulam, PhD, the great-grandfather of cannabis research, began his studies in Israel in 1963 with 5 kilograms of confiscated hashish.  He discussed the bi-phasic effect of cannabinoids: higher percentages in dosages may actually decrease their beneficial effects.  For years, Dr. Mechoulam bemoaned the fact that relatively little research was done into other cannabinoids, especially cannabidiol (CBD).  It was therefore encouraging to hear of the many advances being made into CBD research.  Dr. Mechoulam's research found that some cannabinoids act as a protective mechanism against osteoporosis, stimulate the healing of fractures and reduce the debilitating effects of Parkinson's disease.

John McPartland, DO, echoed Dr. Mechoulam's findings by likening cannabinoid receptors to a single "door" through which various "keys" such as THC and CBD unlock access into different "rooms" of possible therapies.  Dr. McPartland believes that if marinol is a silver bullet, herbal cannabis is a synergistic shotgun.

 Steve DeAngelo of Harborside Health Center has been screening cannabis for mold and identifying high CBD varieties which are being offered to Harborside's clients.   Just as DeAngelo's Ecolution hemp company helped legitimize the fledgling hemp industry in the 1990's, his Harborside enterprise is again setting the standard for excellence.

 Many veterans return from war with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD). New Mexico was the first state to allow cannabis to treat this serious condition.  Michael Krawitz spoke of working with the Veteran's Administration to convince them to recognize cannabis in treating PTSD and to allow veterans to use their medicine at VA facilities.

Nurses are effecting change in several states. Mary Lynn Mathre, RN, an organizer of the event, noted that cannabis is not a gateway drug but an exit mechanism from opioids, alcohol and tobacco.  The American Cannabis Nursing Association helps nurses present a unified front against restrictions placed on therapeutic cannabis.

Despite impressive advances in research, the stigma attached to cannabis users still results in many doctors refusing to write recommendations.  Patients are justifiably afraid that they could lose their job or custody of their children if it becomes known that they use cannabis medicinally.  There are also biases at the institutional level: some hospitals will not submit their patients into state run medical marijuana programs.   These prejudices can not be properly dispelled until cannabis is removed from Schedule I, so that it can be studied to its fullest extent utilizing America's world class R&D resources.