A bipartisan group of U.S. congressional lawmakers introduced a bill Wednesday to accelerate medical cannabis research, a step that could potentially bolster support for federal marijuana reform.

“Forty-seven states have legalized some form of cannabis, yet the federal government is still getting in the way of further progress on the potential for research,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer, an Oregon Democrat and co-sponsor of the Medical Marijuana Research Act of 2019.

Currently, the only marijuana available for legal research comes from a contract the National Institute on Drug Abuse holds with the University of Mississippi.

 

Lawmakers have urged that other researchers and universities receive federal authorization to grow research cannabis.

 

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) created an application process for growers but has dragged its heelson acting on more than two dozen applications.

The bill, according to sponsors, would:

  • Create a new, less cumbersome registration process for marijuana research, reducing approval times, costly security measures and unnecessary layers of protocol review.
  • Make it easier for approved researchers to obtain the cannabis they need for their studies by reforming production and distribution regulations.
  • Allow for the private manufacturing and distribution of cannabis solely for research purposes.

Douglas Berman, director of Ohio State University’s Drug Enforcement and Policy Center, told Marijuana Business Daily that a niche bill such as the MMJ research proposal generally has a better chance for approval than a more sweeping cannabis reform measure.

The bill already has the support of groups such as Smart Approaches for Marijuana, the Marijuana Policy Project, the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Neurology.

A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators also recently introduced a bill to bolster CBD and marijuana research. That measure has the backing of the American Medical Association.

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5 days ago

Illicit Cannabis Vape Carts Hospitalized 7 in California, Doctors Say

SAN FRANCISCO—Unregulated cannabis vaporizer cartridges tainted with a potentially deadly lung toxin have hospitalized seven people with pneumonia-like symptoms in Hanford, California, officials there reported Wednesday. The cluster of tainted vape cart poisonings caused the Kings County public health department to issue a rare warning this week urging consumers to avoid buying cannabis e-cigarettes from unlicensed sellers. Street cannabis products are not subject to the rigorous testing that licensed products undergo in California. 'If you’re going to vape THC, get it from a licensed dispensary where you know there’s a certain amount of testing required.' Dr. Milton Teske, Emergency Room Physician, Adventist Health Hanford, California “If you’re going to vape THC, get it from a licensed dispensary where you know there’s a certain amount of testing required to do. It sounds like it’s going to cost twice as much as the stuff on the street, but you don’t want to end up in with a life-threatening respiratory condition,” said Dr. Milton Teske, a health officer with the Kings County Department of Public Health. Officials haven’t yet determined the cause of the lung illness, the public health warning says, but they’ve determined that all cases so far have involved cartridges purchased from unlicensed pop-up markets. Some think the cases could be tied to similar clusters of vape-related poisonings that have recently been reported elsewhere in the country. “Anyone that vapes THC they got off the street and has shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, and trouble breathing—go to the ER and tell them you’re vaping, and have heard about this acute respiratory distress syndrome developing from that,” said Teske, who’s spent the last 35 years as an emergency room physician in the rural central California town of Hanford, where three patients remain in care at Adventist Health Hanford hospital. In the past 30 days, six people in their 20s and one 60-year-old have been hospitalized for severe acute respiratory distress syndrome (SARDS) at Hanford’s intensive care unit. Two patients had to be put on mechanical ventilation to save their lives. “If they hadn’t been intubated, they wouldn’t have made it,” Teske said. “And if it got any worse, they wouldn’t have made it.” Connecting Dots ‘Everywhere’ Teske suspects Hanford hospital pulmonologist Dr. Vishnu Bezwada identified a vape cart poisoning cluster that’s part of a rash of similar poisonings going on across the US. A Monday call with Centers for Disease Control and public health representatives from other states indicated a suspected cluster of 15 poisonings in Wisconsin, plus reports from Illinois, and Nebraska. “I think Dr. Bezwada is very astute and was the first to connect all the dots. Same with Wisconsin,” said Teske. “But there’s dots everywhere.” “I had heard about the midwest outbreak this weekend and called my relatives in Wisconsin who I know vape and told them to stay away,” said Josh Wurzer, founder of licensed California cannabis analysis lab, SC Labs. “It was only a matter of time until something like this happened with the black market vape cartridges.” ‘Something’s Going on Here’ Dr. Bezwada usually sees just one acute respiratory distress case per month in Hanford, population 56,499; and usually it’s an older person. But after diagnosing a couple young people with SARDS in June, followed by several more in July and August, he decided to call Teske. “He said, ‘Something’s going on here’,” Teske said. Bezwada had treated a series of young people with symptoms of hypoxia, a lack of oxygen in the blood, who got worse and worse. Two nearly died. All are now recovering. Teske and a Kings County public health investigator reviewed all seven case files and conducted follow-up interviews with patients in the hospital and at home. A common theme emerged—all had been using vape carts bought off the street around Kings County, in rural Central California. All reported doing it to save money. They were buying them at local, unlicensed pop-up markets, advertised by word of mouth. At these markets, vendors sell untested THC products that look similar to tested goods. The empty vape cartridges come in from China. Producers then fill the carts with raw THC oil cut with agents such as propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) oil, or more exotic chemicals. “Almost every patient had a different brand name,” said Teske. “And everyone had purchased it on the street.” Teske suspects the lung illness comes from an additive, though he’s not sure what. “Whoever is mixing it up in their garage, they’re adding other flavors, I suspect, or it’s how they’re diluting it. I suspect it’s some type of hydrocarbon.” Teske has ruled out other potential causes of SARDS, including other drugs, bacteria, or viruses. The patients were generally young—18, 22, some 27s, 34. One was 60. All had been consuming cannabis for six months or more, and some were heavy consumers who smoked every day. But long-term cannabis smoking is not associated with decreased lung function. The 60-year-old had been smoking cannabis for years, tried vape carts for the first time in her life, and developed the syndrome. Teske also thinks the poisonings are batch-specific. Some patients had been vaping THC regularly for two years before getting this bad batch. “I wouldn’t take anything from a pop-up store, or friends, or strangers off the street, because where did they get it? If it’s a good price, it’s coming from one of these questionable sources,” he said. “It’s too high a risk. Just because you got good stuff from him last week doesn’t mean this stuff is good.” ‘Just on the Edge of Surviving’ After repeatedly using a tainted cart, patients felt shortness of breath, weakness, tightness in the chest, and sometimes nausea. When symptoms got bad enough, they went to their primary care doctor or urgent care. Patients were usually misdiagnosed with pneumonia and sent home with antibiotics, but their condition worsened. Patients ended up in the ER, admitted with pneumonia, but disease workups and bacterial cultures revealed nothing. Their lungs looked terrible on MRIs—inflamed, opaque, and full of fluid, Teske said. The hypoxia got worse. Some patients needed to be strapped to a machine that forces air into their exhausted lungs. Two patients had to be intubated and mechanically ventilated. A major course of steroids stops the lung inflammation from this hypersensitivity-type reaction. Recovery generally takes one to two weeks in the hospital, at which point patients are sent home with steroids to heal further. What Could Be in Tainted Vape Carts? California leads legalization states in requiring all products sold at licensed stores to be tested for dozens of contaminants—most notably pesticides, residual solvents like hexane, and heavy metals like lead. But with untested products, said Wurzer, a wide variety of allergens, irritants, and toxins could lurk inside. After lab testing became mandatory in California in 2018, hundreds of products were flagged. To date, more than 5,169 batches have failed state lab testing for labeling or impurity standards. After inaccurate labeling, pesticides have been the biggest culprit. Lead has also popped up in cartridges. “We saw this with the heavy metal contamination issues in some vape cartridges when we switched to phase three testing,” said Wurzer. Wurzer is also seeing it in a type of popular tobacco vape pod called JUUL pods. “Again, this isn’t limited to black market THC cartridges, the e-juice nicotine vapes we’ve tested are consistently even worse for some contaminants.” The unlicensed cannabis market, which might be three times as big as California’s legal market, does not test at all. In recent years, public health officials have reported many cases of poisonings from adulterated CBD vape carts and CBD oils bought online or at truck stops. Labs have found cough syrup and dangerous synthetic cannabinoids in the unregulated mixtures. A significant portion of the country’s illicit cannabis supply chain would fail testing, but vape carts are an especially dangerous vector, Wurzer said. “Black market cannabis was a relatively safe product for so long because—outside of illegal pesticide use—it is hard or impractical to adulterate it to the point it’s going to lead to a public health issue. However with these vape cartridges, it doesn’t have to be nefarious, it can just be incompetence. You need to be very careful about the purity of the cannabinoids, terpenes, and any additives you use, but you need to monitor the quality of the materials used to manufacture the cartridges themselves.” 'You don’t want to trust your lungs with some chemicals someone mixed up in their garage!' Josh Wurzer, founder, SC Labs, California “You don’t want to trust your lungs with some chemicals someone mixed up in their garage!” Wurzer said. The Bureau of Cannabis Control is conducting a statewide public messaging campaign titled “Get #Weedwise” warning consumers of adulterants in the unregulated market. “This is the entire reason why we are running our get weed wise campaign. To educate the public about the importance of shopping from licensed retailers only. There are things out of your control when you decide to purchase cannabis from the illegal market. Your health is more important than cost,” said Alex Traverso, communications chief for the California Bureau of Cannabis Control. What’s Next? Teske obtained samples of the tainted carts from each affected patient, and the California Department of Public Health will lab test them, he said. On the national front, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is set to release a national public health bulletin to officials to be on the lookout for young, sudden acute respiratory distress syndrome (SARDS) sufferers who vape. Otherwise, these poisonings can be easy to miss. SARDS usually has a lot of other causes. “Any young person that comes in with even a mild respiratory ailment—primary care and urgent care needs to be asking about that,” said Teske. “If people look for it, they’re going to find it.”

5 days ago

Former Drug Warrior Biden Unveils Cannabis Decriminalization Plan

Democratic presidential front-runner Joe Biden tacked away from his drug warrior past with a new plan Tuesday. He wants to reduce mass incarceration in the US with a 10-page proposal including: decriminalization of cannabis, $20 billion in prevention funds for communities, efforts to reduce racial profiling by police, more job training in prisons, ending private prisons, and other proposals. “I believe my criminal justice reform package is as strong or stronger than anyone else.” Joe Biden, former vice president, Democratic presidential candidate “Today, too many people are incarcerated in the United States–and too many of them are black and brown,” Biden’s team said in a post to his campaign website on Tuesday. “To build safe and healthy communities, we need to rethink who we’re sending to jail, how we treat those in jail, and how we help them get the health care, education, jobs, and housing they need to successfully rejoin society after they serve their time.” According to FBI reports, cannabis is a key driver of mass incarceration—marijuana arrests are the number one type of drug arrest in the US, and drug arrests are the number one type of arrest police make. Former Vice President Biden’s cannabis decriminalization would come with automatic expungements of past marijuana records, support for federal medical legalization, and a downgrade of cannabis to Schedule II, “so researchers can study its positive and negative impacts.” As for adult-use federal legalization, Biden echoed President Trump’s position in recent years, stating he would, “leave decisions regarding legalization for recreational use up to the states.” Critics Pounce on Biden’s Past Votes Facing another debate with Sen. Kamala Harris next week, Biden’s “Plan for Strengthening America’s Commitment to Justice” proposals move the vice president away from his historically tough-on-crime policies, for which he is being attacked from both the right and the left. Biden joined with many Democrats, Republicans, and minority leaders in the ’80s and ’90s to enact harsh mandatory minimum sentences for drug use, three-strikes laws with life sentences, civil asset forfeiture, and the death penalty for drug-related murders. GOP critics note Biden once claimed George H.W. Bush’s war on drugs was “not tough enough, bold enough, or imaginative enough.” While former President Bill Clinton has apologized for crime policies that “made the problem worse,” Biden responded by saying the 1994 crime bill he led was “another part of my long record that is being grossly misrepresented.” He made no apologies for past votes Tuesday. “I believe my criminal justice reform package is as strong or stronger than anyone else,” Biden said in a video. Sen. Cory Booker reacted to Biden’s Tuesday proposal with a tweet: “It’s not enough to tell us what you’re going to do for our communities, show us what you’ve done for the last 40 years. You created this system. We’ll dismantle it.” An Important Evolution Nonetheless Biden’s proposals amplify the reach of once-radical ideas into mainstream political thought, though. The laundry list of ideas includes ending cash bail, a proposal California enacted in 2018 but put on hold pending a 2020 referendum sponsored by the bail industry. Biden’s campaign notes the cash bail system is “the modern day debtors’ prison. The cash bail system incarcerates people who are presumed innocent. And, it disproportionately harms low income individuals.” Biden’s plan also would create universal pre-kindergarten for three- and four-year-olds, because “focusing on addressing [mass incarceration’s] underlying factors is not just the right thing to do, it is also good for our communities and our economy.” Biden would also work to reduce the jailing of children through grants for diversion programs. San Francisco intends to close its juvenile hall by the end of 2021, citing high costs, low use, and incarceration’s irreparable harm to youth. The former vice president faces off against Harris and other Democratic primary contenders in a televised debate in Detroit Wed., July 31.    

5 days ago

Poll Finds 63% of Americans Support Cannabis Legalization

Yet another national poll shows that a strong majority of Americans support the federal legalization of cannabis. According to a poll from Investor’s Business Daily and TIPP, 63 percent of Americans support cannabis legalization, including 75 percent of Democrats, 66 percent of independents, and 46 percent of Republicans. The survey found that nearly one-fifth of investor households consumed cannabis in the past six months. Support for legalization was highest in the West at 72 percent, and lowest in the Northeast, at 55 percent. The poll found that 23 percent of those surveyed indicated that someone in their home had used medical or adult-use cannabis in the last six months – 35 percent of those were among people 25-44 years old. In all, 27 percent of independents said they had used cannabis over the last six months, along with 25 percent of Democrats, and 15 percent of Republicans. The IBD/TIPP poll is consistent with a 2018 Gallup poll which found 66 percent of Americans supported broad cannabis legalization; although, that poll found 53 percent support by Republicans, and 71 percent support among independents. Both polls found three of four Democrats support the reforms. A Fox News poll, conducted by both Democratic and Republican polling firms last February, found 59 percent support for legalization. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll from the prior month had similar results showing 60 percent support. A 2017 poll conducted by Survey USA for Marijuana Majority found stronger support – 76 percent – for allowing states to enact their own medical cannabis regimes without federal interference while just 12 percent said the feds should arrest and prosecute people using cannabis, even if legally allowed by the state in which they reside.

5 days ago

Impression Healthcare Advances Trial Testing CBD Treatment for Gum Disease

Medical cannabis company Impression Healthcare Limited has been approved for a Phase 2a Clinical Trial in Australia investigating the effectiveness of CBD-infused mouthwash and toothpaste products in the fight against gum disease. Specifically, the trial will investigate the products’ safety and effectiveness against Gingivitis and Periodontitis, which are two highly prevalent problems around the world whose treatment have so far been dominated by major pharmaceutical companies. The trial is the result of concerted efforts by Impression and AXIM Biotechnologies Inc., a U.S.-based manufacturer of pharmaceutical-grade medical cannabis products. AXIM, a US-based innovator in cannabinoid medicines, will supply the unique mouthwash and toothpaste products for the trial and has agreed to provide commercially available products if the trial proves successful. Impression, which is listed on the Australian Stock Exchange (ticker code ‘IHL’) with a market capitalization of about $20 million, has first right of refusal over all current and future such products by AXIM until June 2022. “Formal registration of the gingivitis and periodontitis trial represents significant progress in IHL’s medicinal cannabis activities and is the culmination of many months of work by our team and research partners,” said Joel Latham, Impression’s CEO, in a statement. “We are excited to have assembled highly qualified researchers for a world first trial for the use of CBD in treatment of Gingivitis and Gum Disease, which are major problems representing a major market.” Recent research from Impression’s Australian peer Botanix Pharmaceuticals indicates that CBD could have potent antibiotic properties. Lab tests from that study showed the cannabinoid was killing bacteria, including bacteria highly resistant to existing antibiotics. Impression believes that, should the anti-inflammatory and antibiotic nature of CBD prove helpful in halting the progress of gum disease, the products will have a strong case for meeting the criteria of Category B under Australia’s Special Access Scheme, administered by the federal Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). This means that patients — with the approval of their doctor or dentist — would then be able to access the CBD-infused mouthwash and toothpaste products. “We are confident that the quality of the trial will supply the requisite peer-reviewed data for unique product sales under the SAS and will further develop commercialisation opportunities for our products in this field,” said Mr. Latham. Impression’s gum disease trial is the first of four separate clinical trials investigating unique cannabinoid products. The other three trials will cover concussion remediation, Sleep Apnea, and TMJ disorders. Impression’s concussion trial aims to investigate neurological damage after traumatic brain injury as a result of playing Australian-centric sports; namely, the AFL (Australian Rules Football) and the NRL (National Rugby League). Similar product lines are being developed by Canadian companies Aurora Cannabis and Canopy Growth for the UFC and NHL Alumni Association, respectively.  About Impression Healthcare Limited Impression healthcare Ltd (ASX:IHL) has a rapidly expanding medicinal cannabis business with four unique clinical trials driven by the medical community for globally significant markets. The Company has its license to import, export and distribute cannabis products, and sales channels already in place with Australia’s largest distributor of cannabis medicines. IHL also has strong revenue growth from existing products; including, sports mouthguards for teeth protection and to reduce concussion risk, and sophisticated devices made to combat sleep apnoea, snoring and bruxism. Under this business, Impression offers best-in-class oral devices that are sold direct to the consumer and via our growing B2B Preferred Practitioner Network of Dentists.