Here’s Why We Should Probably Say ‘Cannabis’ Instead of ‘Marijuana’

Screen Shot 2016-07-24 at 1.58.21 AM.pngby Tobias Coughlin-Bogue for The Stranger

Why do we call marijuana marijuana? Growing up, I assumed that “marijuana” was the original Latin name for the plant I discuss every week in this column. But that’s not the case.

Cannabis is its actual name. Cannabis is the genus that contains the three psychoactive plants we love so well: Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and their stubby cousin Cannabis ruderalis. However, cannabis is far more commonly referred to as marijuana. Why?

The term “marijuana” came to the United States via Mexico. How it came to Mexico is still a mystery. Scholar Alan Piper made a valiant attempt at its etymology in a 2005 issue of the academic journal Sino-Platonic Papers, but came to the conclusion that it could have come from China, or maybe Spain, or maybe it was already in North America. Continue reading

NEW STUDY: Colorado legalizing weed DID NOT hurt teenagers!

US Senate Hearing: Researching the Potential Medical Benefits and Risks of Cannabis

On July 13, 2016, the United States Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism held a hearing to review the benefits and risks of medical marijuana.

Capitol Hearings, a service of C-Span,  taped  the hearing (see below), “Researching the Potential Medical Benefits and Risks of Marijuana.” The hearing’s schedule of witnesses is as follows:

  • Panel 1 – Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Cory Booker, D-N.J.
  • Panel 2 – Dr. Susan Weiss, Ph.D., Director of the National Institute On Drug Abuse’s Division Of Extramural Research, and Dr. Douglas Throckmorton, M.D., Deputy Center Director of the Food And Drug Administration’s Regulatory Programs.
  • Panel 3 – Dr. Daniele Piomelli, Ph.D., Pharm.D., Professor Of Anatomy And Neurobiology at the UC-Irvine, Dr. Stuart Gitlow, M.D., Executive Director of American Society Of Addiction Medicine’s Annenberg Physician Training Program In Addictive Disease, and Mr. D. Linden Barber, J.D., Partner at Quarles and Brady, LLP.

According to NORML, this hearing follows the introduction of House Bill 5549, which would amend the Controlled Substances Act so qualified medical marijuana researchers could have access to marijuana, as well as the introduction of similar legislation in the Senate, Senate Bill 3077.

via MJNews and YouTube

Bernie Sanders: It’s time to end the federal ban on marijuana.

Monsanto, Bayer and the Push for Corporate Cannabis

(Photo: Adria Vidal)(Photo: Adria Vidal)

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Ellen Brown

California’s “Adult Use of Marijuana Act” (AUMA) is a voter initiative characterized as legalizing marijuana use. But critics warn that it will actually make access more difficult and expensive, squeeze home growers and small farmers out of the market, heighten criminal sanctions for violations, and open the door to patented, genetically modified (GMO) versions that must be purchased year after year.

The health benefits of cannabis are now well established. As I analyzed previously, cannabis is a cheap, natural alternative effective for a broad range of conditions, and the non-psychoactive form known as hemp has thousands of industrial uses. At one time, cannabis was one of the world’s most important crops. There have been no recorded deaths from cannabis overdose in the US, compared to about 30,000 deaths annually from alcohol abuse (not counting auto accidents), and 100,000 deaths annually from prescription drugs taken as directed. Yet cannabis remains a Schedule I controlled substance (“a deadly dangerous drug with no medical use and high potential for abuse”), illegal to be sold or grown in the US. Continue reading

After Medical Marijuana Legalized, Medicare Prescriptions Drop For Many Drugs

In states that made medical marijuana legal, prescriptions for a range of drugs covered by Medicare dropped.

from NPR

Prescription drug prices continue to climb, putting the pinch on consumers. Some older Americans appear to be seeking an alternative to mainstream medicines that has become easier to get legally in many parts of the country. Just ask Cheech and Chong.

Research published Wednesday found that states that legalized medical marijuana — which is sometimes recommended for symptoms like chronic pain, anxiety or depression — saw declines in the number of Medicare prescriptions for drugs used to treat those conditions and a dip in spending by Medicare Part D, which covers the cost on prescription medications.

Because the prescriptions for drugs like opioid painkillers and antidepressants — and associated Medicare spending on those drugs — fell in states where marijuana could feasibly be used as a replacement, the researchers said it appears likely legalization led to a drop in prescriptions. That point, they said, is strengthened because prescriptions didn’t drop for medicines such as blood-thinners, for which marijuana isn’t an alternative.

The study, which appears in Health Affairs, examined data from Medicare Part D from 2010 to 2013. It is the first study to examine whether legalization of marijuana changes doctors’ clinical practice and whether it could curb public health costs.

The findings add context to the debate as more lawmakers express interest in medical marijuana. This year, Ohio and Pennsylvania passed laws allowing the drug for therapeutic purposes, making it legal in 25 states, plus Washington, D.C. The approach could also come to a vote in Florida and Missouri this November. A federal agency is considering reclassifying medical marijuana under national drug policy to make it more readily available.

Medical marijuana saved Medicare about $165 million in 2013, the researchers concluded. They estimated that, if medical marijuana were available nationwide, Medicare Part D spending would have declined in the same year by about $470 million. That’s about half a percent of the program’s total expenditures.

That is an admittedly small proportion of the multibillion dollar program. But the figure is nothing to sneeze at, said W. David Bradford, a professor of public policy at the University of Georgia and one of the study’s authors.

“We wouldn’t say that saving money is the reason to adopt this. But it should be part of the discussion,” he added. “We think it’s pretty good indirect evidence that people are using this as medication.”

The researchers found that in states with medical marijuana laws on the books, the number of prescriptions dropped for drugs to treat anxiety, depression, nausea, pain, psychosis, seizures, sleep disorders and spasticity. Those are all conditions for which marijuana is sometimes recommended.

The study’s authors are separately investigating the effect medical marijuana could have on prescriptions covered by Medicaid, the federal-state health insurance program for low-income people. Though this research is still being finalized, they found a greater drop in prescription drug payments there, Bradford said.

If the trend bears out, it could have other public health ramifications. In states that legalized medical uses of marijuana, painkiller prescriptions dropped — on average, the study found, by about 1,800 daily doses filled each year per doctor. That tracks with other research on the subject.

Marijuana is unlike other drugs, such as opioids, in which overdoses are fatal, said Deepak D’Souza, a professor of psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine, who has researched marijuana. “That doesn’t happen with marijuana,” he added. “But there are whole other side effects and safety issues we need to be aware of.”

Study author Bradford agreed: “Just because it’s not as dangerous as some other dangerous things, it doesn’t mean you want to necessarily promote it. There’s a lot of unanswered questions.”

Because the federal government classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug, doctors can’t technically prescribe it. In states that have legalized medical marijuana, they can only write patients a note sending them to a dispensary.

Insurance plans don’t cover it, so patients using marijuana pay out of pocket. Prices vary based on location, but a patient’s recommended regimen can be as much as $400 per month. The Drug Enforcement Agency is considering changing that classification — a decision is expected sometime this summer. If the DEA made marijuana a Schedule II drug, the move would put it in the company of drugs such as morphine and oxycodone, making it easier for doctors to prescribe and more likely that insurance would cover it.

To some, the idea that medical marijuana triggers costs savings is hollow. Instead, they say it is cost shifting. “Even if Medicare may be saving money, medical marijuana doesn’t come for free,” D’Souza said. “I have some trouble with the idea that this is a source of savings.”

Still, Bradford maintains that if medical marijuana became a regular part of patient care nationally, the cost curve would bend because marijuana is cheaper than other drugs.

Lester Grinspoon, an associate professor emeritus of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, who has written two books on the subject, echoed that possibility. Unlike with many drugs, he argued, “There’s a limit to how high a price cannabis can be sold at as a medicine.” He isn’t associated with the study.

And, in the midst of the debate about its economics, medical marijuana still sometimes triggers questions within the practice of medicine.

“As physicians, we are used to prescribing a dose. We don’t have good information about what is a good dose for the treatment for, say pain,” D’Souza said. “Do you say, ‘Take two hits and call me in the morning?’ I have no idea.”

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