By Paul Armentano
February 6, 2013, 1:54 p.m.

Former head of the Drug Enforcement Administration Robert Bonner wrote in his Feb. 1 Blowback article, "There is still no such scientific study establishing that marijuana is effective as a medicine."

Nonsense. Over the last several years, the state of California, via the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research, has conducted several placebo-controlled, FDA-approved clinical trials affirming the safety and therapeutic efficacy of cannabis. Other institutions have as well. (Click here for an overview of more than 200 such trials.)

Summarizing the findings of many of these trials, Dr. Igor Grant of UC San Diego declared last year in the Open Neurology Journal: "The classification of marijuana as a Schedule I drug as well as the continuing controversy as to whether or not cannabis is of medical value are obstacles to medical progress in this area. Based on evidence currently available the Schedule I classification is not tenable; it is not accurate that cannabis has no medical value, or that information on safety is lacking."

Bonner's second claim, that "not a single scientifically valid study by a qualified researcher has ever been denied by the DEA or, for that matter, by the National Institute of Drug Abuse," is equally specious. In fact, in recent months the NIDA has stonewalled an FDA-approved clinical protocol by researchers at the University of Arizona College of Medicine to assess the treatment of cannabis in subjects with post-traumatic stress disorder. Dr. Sue Sisley, who sought to conduct the study, told Wired.com: "At this point, I can't help but think they [the federal government] simply don't want to move forward. Maybe they figure if they stall long enough, we'll give up and go away."

Finally, Bonner's suggestion that advocates would be better served targeting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is a red herring. The FDA exists to determine whether patented products from private companies can be brought to market. Because the present law forbids any legal private manufacturers to exist, there remains no entity available to fund the sort of large-scale clinical research and development necessary to trigger an FDA review. 

This is not to imply that cannabis could not meet the FDA's objective standards for safety and efficacy. According to a keyword search on PubMed, the U.S. government repository for peer-reviewed scientific research, there are more than 22,000 published studies or reviews in the scientific literature pertaining to marijuana and its biologically active components, making cannabis one of the most studied therapeutic agents on Earth. Further, the plant has been used as medicine for millenniums and is incapable of causing lethal overdose in humans. By objective standards, cannabis is arguably safer than most conventional therapeutics it could potentially replace. 

The federal government’s insistence that cannabis remain classified in the same schedule as heroinand in a more prohibitive schedule than cocaine is not based on either science or reason. As opined in a 1997 New England Journal of Medicine article, it is time for federal authorities to "rescind their prohibition of the medical use of marijuana for seriously ill patients and allow physicians to decide which patients to treat."

Paul Armentano is deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Lawsand coauthor of the book "Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?"

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I recently reread the AMA's 2009 report and I think it's important for all medical marijuana activists to stay fresh with this information. Here are some of the highlighted selections that I found interesting. The whole report is very informative, so I encourage you to read the whole thing. I've added the highlighted document at the end of this blog entry.

*Results of short term controlled trials indicate that smoked cannabis reduces neuropathic pain, improves appetite and caloric intake especially in patients with reduced muscle mass, and may relieve spasticity and pain in patients with multiple sclerosis. However, the patchwork of state-based systems that have been established for “medical marijuana” is woefully inadequate in establishing even rudimentary safeguards that normally would be applied to the appropriate clinical use of psychoactive substances. The future of cannabinoid-based medicine lies in the rapidly evolving field of botanical drug substance development, as well as the design of molecules that target various aspects of the endocannabinoid system. To the extent that rescheduling marijuana out of Schedule I will benefit this effort, such a move can be supported.

* Several research/treatment studies were conducted by state departments of health during the late 1970s and early to mid-1980s under protocols approved by the FDA. These open label studies involved patients who had responded inadequately to other antiemetics. In such patients, smoked cannabis was reported to be comparable to or more effective than oral THC, and considerably more effective than prochlorperazine or other previous antiemetics in reducing nausea and emesis. 

*In patients with HIV-associated neuropathic pain, cannabis cigarettes of varying concentration and number consumed over a 5-day period significantly reduced pain intensity. Approximately half of patients experienced more than a 30% reduction, which is a standard benchmark for efficacy. 

*One independent health assessment of four of the remaining seven patients obtaining cannabis cigarettes through the federal government’s Compassionate Use Treatment IND (see Council report from 1997),1 showed no demonstrable adverse outcomes related to their chronic medicinal cannabis use. Some of cannabis’ adverse effects differ in experienced versus inexperienced users, and it is not clear to what extent the adverse effects reported in recreational users are applicable to those who use cannabis for the self-management of disease or symptoms. Most data on adverse effects has come from observational population-based cohort studies of recreational cannabis users, an unknown portion of whom may be using the substance for medicinal purposes. Adverse reactions observed in short-term randomized, placebo- controlled trials of smoked cannabis to date are mostly mild without substantial impairment. A systematic review of the safety studies on medical cannabinoids published over the last 40 years (not including studies on smoked cannabis) found that short term use was associated with a number of adverse events, but less than 4% were considered serious.

*Although some cannabis users develop dependence, they are considerably less likely to do so than users of alcohol and nicotine, and withdrawal symptoms are less severe.4,79,80 Like other drugs, dependence is more likely to occur in individuals with co-morbid psychiatric conditions. Whether or not cannabis is a “gateway” drug to other substance misuse is controversial and whether the medical availability of cannabis would increase drug abuse is not known. Analysis of trends in emergency room visits for marijuana do not support the view that state authorization for medical cannabis use leads to increased signals of substance misuse. The IOM concluded that marijuana use is not the cause or even the most serious predictor of serious substance use disorders. 
*Like tobacco, chronic cannabis smoking is associated with markers of lung damage and increased symptoms of chronic bronchitis. However, results of a population-based case control study of cannabis smokers found no evidence of increased risk for lung cancer or other cancers affecting the oral cavity and airway. Another population-based case-control study of marijuana use and head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) concluded that moderate marijuana use is associated with reduced risk of HNSCC. Furthermore, although smoking cannabis and tobacco may synergistically increase the risk of respiratory symptoms and COPD, smoking only cannabis is not associated with an increased risk of developing COPD. 

*Results of these trials indicate smoked cannabis reduces neuropathic pain, improves appetite and caloric intake especially in patients with reduced muscle mass, and may relieve spasticity and pain in patients with multiple sclerosis.

*Marijuana is the most common illicit drug used by the nation’s youth and young adults. However, the fact that cannabis is prone to non-medical use does not obviate its potential for medical product development. Many legal pharmaceutical products that are used for pain relief, palliation, and sleep induction have more serious acute toxicities than marijuana, including death. Witness the evolving series of steps that the FDA has taken in recent months to address the inappropriate use and diversion of certain long-acting Schedule II opioid drugs. However, the patchwork of state- based systems that have been established for “medical marijuana” is woefully inadequate in establishing even rudimentary safeguards that normally would be applied to the appropriate clinical use of psychoactive substances. 

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Oakland cites surprise medical pot backerBob EgelkoUpdated 10:41 pm, Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Oakland's latest round in its campaign to save the nation's largest medical marijuana dispensary includes a statement this week from Mayor Jean Quan saying federal prosecutors should back off, and the federal government's own patent application lauding the therapeutic qualities of cannabis.

In papers filed late Tuesday with the magistrate who is considering the fate of the Harborside Health Center, lawyers for Oakland said patent and research records reveal that "the government believes in the medical efficacy of cannabis" - contrary to the Justice Department's insistence that marijuana is a dangerous drug with no legitimate use.

Cedric Chao, a lawyer for the city, cited a 2003 patent application by the U.S. government that said cannabis compounds are "useful in the treatment and prophylaxis (prevention) of a wide variety of oxidation-associated diseases," including certain types of strokes and immune-system disorders.

Chao quoted another patent application, by two government scientists in 2009, that referred to the "healing properties of Cannabis sativa," or marijuana, that have been "known throughout documented history."

"How can the government credibly deny the benefits of medical cannabis when the government itself is funding cutting-edge research proving the medical benefits of cannabis and seeking patents based on such research?" Chao wrote.

U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag filed suit in July seeking the closure of Harborside and the forfeiture of its offices at 1840 Embarcadero. She said the dispensary, which supplies marijuana to 108,000 patients, is violating federal drug laws.

On Dec. 20, U.S. Magistrate Maria Elena James is scheduled to consider a request by the building's owner, Ana Chretien, to shut down the dispensary and Oakland's request to put Chretien's motion on hold until James rules on the city's challenge to the government's suit. Oakland claims the federal statute of limitations required the government to seek forfeiture no later than 2011, five years after Harborside opened.

The city, which collects $1.4 million a year in business taxes from Harborside and other licensed dispensaries, submitted a sworn statement issued Tuesday by Quan in support of its case. She said Oakland adopted a permit system for medical marijuana suppliers after being told by federal officials that they would allow operation of facilities that complied with state and local laws.

If the federal government shuts down the dispensaries, Quan said, tens of thousands of patients "either will be forced to forgo their medicine or be forced into the back alleys and underground, illegal markets."

The city would be better off if the federal government would take the money from its fight against Harborside and use it "to instead increase our police force and assist Oakland with gun violence and investigations," the mayor said.

Bob Egelko is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: begelko@sfchronicle.com

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Oakland-cites-surprise-medical-pot-backer-4113767.php#ixzz2EwtYYYlA

One of the things I will be focused on highlighting in 2013 and 2014 will be these patents and the hipocrisy of the