Medical Marijuana Laws and Adolescent Marijuana Use

One of the biggest hurdles with medical cannabis legislation is convincing the public that new laws will do more good than harm. In California, the rate of adults who have used medical cannabis is reportedly one in 20, which leaves 19 in 20 uninterested (or dishonest on surveys). Assuming the proportion of adults is roughly equal in other states, this means a large majority of voters are not voting with the mindset, “this enables me to use medical cannabis,” but instead voting with the mindset, “this enables others to use medical cannabis.” While those voters may realize the societal benefits of medical cannabis (such as decriminalization and reducing healthcare costs), their primary concerns will still be, “will this negatively affect me or my loved ones?”.  At the forefront of this discussion is the impact of medical cannabis laws on the opinions of teenagers toward cannabis. As reported in a recent study by Columbia University, almost 20% of high school seniors reported they’d be more likely to use cannabis if it were legalized for medical use, with 55% of adolescents believing cannabis would be easier to acquire. As a lawmaker, this is cause for alarm. To determine the best course for society, we must weigh the advantages of medical cannabis against possible disadvantages. However, just because teens believe themselves more likely to use cannabis because of medical cannabis laws does not necessarily make that true. Thus, researchers at Columbia set out to conduct a survey to establish the rate of adolescent…

Cannabinoids in Pain Management, A Review

Pain management is one of our most revisited topics here on the Cornerstone blog. Our commitment to reporting studies related to pain management should come as no surprise to readers; pain relief accounts for a substantial portion of all medical cannabis use. Usually we update you on new findings within the field; however, today we are going to take a step back for a more general review, courtesy of Ethan Russo and Andrea Hohmann. Medicine, as Russo points out, really began with plants. Our early ancestors would have noticed the effects of consuming plants within their environments and then learned to use those effects. Though we like to think of mankind as superior creators when compared to plants, humans are comparatively inefficient at producing pharmaceuticals. Plants have the surprising ability to produce complex chemicals like THC from sun, water, and dirt, whereas we have to build labs with precision machinery, electrical power, and contamination control! As a result, the first functional medicines were not human synthesized and instead came from plants. From coca leaves to morphine, these chemicals wove themselves into the history of human civilization. However, in modern times, plant-based chemicals are not generally accepted as medicine. This isn’t necessarily due to a bias against plants, but more importantly because plant-produced compounds are naturally inconsistent. In the case of cannabis, the way the plant is grown can greatly affect the profile of chemicals produced, not to mention the potency. Different buds on the same plant might even have significantly…

The US Race to Catch Up on Cannabis Research

You may have already seen this month’s issue of Time Magazine; it features a lab rat smoking a joint. Ten years ago, if someone had told me that this would be the cover of a fairly conservative magazine aimed at middle-age readers, I would have laughed. However, the feature article is actually a very fair and unbiased look at the global state of cannabis research. This is thanks in part to Bruce Barcott, the article’s principal co-writer and author of the book, “Weed the People: The Future of Legal Marijuana in America”. As a journalist Barcott has an incredible degree of familiarity with cannabis and seems to take a mostly positive stance. The TIME article echoed this sentiment by suggesting that cannabis does indeed help, and has the potential to help many but is also not harmless and may cause serious damage if used during pregnancy or by adolescents. This is not far from Cornerstone’s stance. To be fair, lately TIME seems to be trading legitimacy for readers in the race to stay relevant against newer media. For instance, making Kanye West the cover of TIME’s “100 Most Influential People” – I’m a Yeezy fan, but if he’s really the most influential person in the world (or even top 100), then we’re all in serious trouble. However, other well-respected publications have published similar articles, such as this month’s National Geographic article, “Science Seeks to Unlock Marijuana’s Secrets”, and CNN’s 2013 Chief Medical Correspondent feature “Why I Changed My Mind on…

Can Cannabis Lower Blood Pressure?

Cannabis has historically been thought of as a relaxant and a depressant of the physical body. As a result it’s no surprise that the idea of using cannabis to help manage blood pressure has gained some traction recently. While generally confirming the idea that cannabis can lower blood pressure, recent experiments have also shown some disagreement depending on the manner in which experiments are conducted. A review from the University of Nottingham encapsulates some of the discussion around the effect of cannabinoids on blood pressure, but for readers wanting a digested answer, the clearest part of the conversation is that cannabis use almost certainly does not contribute to high blood pressure, especially when vaporized. High blood pressure or hypertension is a condition in which the force of a person’s blood against their artery walls is higher than normal and therefore likely to lead to a host of other problems. Although high blood pressure that occurs without symptoms often goes unnoticed, the body can only compensate for unhealthy blood pressure for a limited amount of time. Left uncontrolled, high blood pressure can lead to heart attack, stroke, heart failure, vision loss, and poor kidney functioning, all without much warning. The general research pipeline for investigating a new area of medicine tends to flow from test tube, to rodents, and lastly to humans. Genetically modified rodents are expensive to create and time-consuming to maintain, so preliminary assays are usually first performed on the cells in question outside normal living conditions (such as…

THCV. Forget What You’ve Heard

One of the biggest obstacles to responsible proponents of medical cannabis is the amount of misinformation we have to contend with from both sides. On one side there are  government-sponsored publications that directly misconstrue the science behind cannabis. On the other, there are well-meaning citizens of the cannabis community that get carried away. To their credit, cannabis *is* a magical Swiss Army Knife of a plant. The amount of uses for cannabis from medical to industrial is mind-boggling; humanity has always had a special relationship to the plant, which is evident in some of the oldest Chinese characters. However, in the tide of wanting to support positive change and wanting modern society to see the truth about such a useful plant, some sources are too lenient on fact checking. For instance, someone who reads a study stating cannabis components kill cancer cells in a rat tumor, concludes that smoking cannabis cures cancer, and proceeds to distribute that viewpoint throughout the community. The truth is cannabis does hold answers to new chemotherapy drugs which may be used in conjunction with other treatments, but that’s obviously not the same as saying it is a cure for cancer. Overly-hopeful supporters of cannabis need to be carful not to unintentionally harm the integrity of the movement. This “hype” effect is especially pronounced in the case of tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV). Just like the name sounds, this is a chemical cousin of THC, the principal psychoactive component of cannabis. However, there are a few key functional differences.…

Whole Plant CBD More Effective Than Pure CBD?

At Cornerstone, we talk frequently about dosing, not just because it’s important to members, but also because it’s important to us. The end goal is for every patient to experience the maximum benefit of medical cannabis. Although it seems tempting to think that more medicine always means more healing, that’s just not the reality of how cannabinoids are processed in the body. In truth the body’s response is much more complex. Exhibit A: This is a graph that illustrates anti-inflammatory properties of cannabidiol (CBD) at various doses.   You’ll notice that the shape is a bell curve, meaning that in many cases, more CBD could actually equate to less anti-inflammatory help. This is not a graph mistake; it’s a common observation of the effects of CBD. In other words, dose matters. As seen, the greatest effect of CBD will occur at the middle of the curve. Because dosage depends on body fat, tolerance, and a host of other individual factors it is very difficult to advise users on “the most effective dose” for them. Cornerstone can offer you suggestions, but ultimately, individual patients are going to have to discover what amounts and what dosing schedules work for them. What is clear to us though, is that patients may get more out of their medicines by showing restraint. All that aside, wouldn’t it be great if CBD could be given in a preparation that was not dose-dependent? Shouldn’t there be a way to beat the dose curve? This is exactly the question Israeli…

Does Long Term Cannabis Use Make You Dumb?

I vape cannabis several times a day and have no intentions of stopping anytime soon. It’s never slowed my work ethic or turned me into a zombie. Instead, I feel more creative and at peace. I don’t have any life threatening health conditions or chronic pain, and I’ve never been one to take a lot of pharmaceuticals. However, since I’m not a “hippy” by any means, I tend to have a lot of non-cannabis-using friends who occasionally ask me about my frequent cannabis use. Invariably, the question that always comes up is, “…do you think that stuff rots your brain over time? I heard it makes people dumb if they use it too much…” If you’re open about cannabis use, you’ll probably encounter this conversation at least once. Culturally, we’re used to the image of a stoner-burnout, a guy stuck in the 70’s that handles life like Jeff Bridges’ character in The Big Lebowski. We look at these people and we secretly wonder to ourselves, “did smoking cannabis all day every day make them this way? Will I be like that if I continue to use cannabis?” When we talk about the safety of cannabis, we’re really talking about quite a few things. First, there are the things that we know as facts. Fact: It’s damn near impossible to overdose on cannabis. The amount of THC that would be needed to cause an overdose is such a large quantity that the volume alone makes it difficult to do. For instance,…

Does Cannabis help Neuropsychiatric Disorders?

For most states with medical cannabis laws, patients are required to go through a screening process once a year to allow access to cannabis. On the one hand, this screening process is not designed to be severe, and realistically, few people are turned away from help with cannabis. On the other hand, this process is intended to serve as a boiler-plate to keep cannabis out of the hands of individuals for whom it might not be appropriate. Seeing that cannabis does not have harmful side-effects and is physically very safe, the real concern is whether patients who are already in an altered state of mind should be taking a psychoactive substance. Studies have linked early cannabis use to hastening the onset of serious psychiatric illnesses such as schizophrenia. This is not unique to cannabis and also true of any psychoactive substance. If someone is having a hard time navigating reality, taking a medicine or recreational drug that alters his/her mind-state even further may push him/her over the edge. Despite this well-established fact, there are also many psychiatric patients that receive relief from cannabis and tend to do worse without it. The medical field has also shown increased interest in treating psychiatric illness with cannabis. So what’s the deal? Does cannabis contribute to or relieve schizophrenia? Or is there no effect? The difficulty in answering this lies partly in the fact that schizophrenia is not well understood and could actually be multiple illnesses that have been lumped into one category due…

Do Women and Men Experience Cannabis Differently?

One of the reasons we encourage cannabis patients to experiment with various strains for their ailment is because we have seen different strains work for different people. Perhaps you have a potent strain you like to medicate with that your friend feels no effect from at all. What makes one person paranoid could relax another simply because each person has different brain chemistry and body fat distribution. Taking this further, we might ask the question: “In general, is the experience of medicating with cannabis different for men than for women?” After all, men and women have different hormone profiles and different fat distribution patterns as well, right? This is exactly the question we hope to tackle today, although we’d like to remind readers that when we say “male” and “female, we are talking about at-birth medical identification of sex as opposed to “gender”, which obviously cannot be reduced down to stereotypes. After digging through the relevant research we’ve seen a slight disagreement in animal vs. human studies. Animal studies show less of a sexual differentiation or one in which females have higher THC concentrations in the brain. Human studies mostly appear to be the opposite, with males and females exhibiting different sensitivities in various areas. A good deal of this could be social, but a large part has to do with gonadal hormones. As we discussed in the last article, estrogen is capable of regulating cannabinoid receptor density and signal transduction. How much estrogen you have in your body at…

Sex, Hormones, and Cannabinoids

When I was growing up, one of the ‘reefer madness’ propaganda claims that used to scare teens away from cannabis was that it could make male users develop extra fatty breast tissue (yes, you read that correctly: man boobs) and lose sexual interest. Over the years, I can’t say that I’ve noticed a “body-type” that belongs to cannabis users and I’ve met plenty of daily smokers with strong sexual appetites. This has gone a long way to decreasing my fears about chemically castrating myself, but I continue to wonder: what was the basis for that claim? Perhaps it was the result of a drastic oversimplification of a study that anti-cannabis activists had latched onto and distorted… if so, what was that original study? Are cannabinoids involved with sexual expression or motivation? The answer to that question appears to be yes, with several large hints given to the interaction between cannabinoids and sex hormones. First, receptors and metabolic enzymes of the endocannabinoid system are located all throughout the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis that is responsible for sexual behavior and expression. Secondly, researchers have established that changes in sex hormones can alter endocannabinoid production, which means that the relationship between cannabinoids and sex hormones is occurring in at least in one direction. Lastly, the endocannabinoid system is known to be involved in behaviors that are also regulated in part by gonadal hormones (sex organ hormones). The real question, however, is not whether effects are produced but what effects are produced. This question is not…