August 9, 2001
Study Shows Therapeutic Benefits, No Adverse Effects in Long-Term Marijuana Users
Missoula, MT: A battery of medical tests on a cohort of chronic, legal medical marijuana smokers reveals no significant physical or cognitive impairment attributable to marijuana, according to preliminary results of a recent study. All four patients examined in the study are participants in the FDA/NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse) Compassionate Investigational New Drug (IND) program, and have been smoking government-grown pot daily for more than a decade.
"This data agrees with the results of other chronic use studies performed in the 1970s in Jamaica, Costa Rica and Greece that found no significant attributable health problems in cannabis smokers. However, this study is the first of its kind to examine chronic cannabis usage in medical patients using a consistent source of medicine of known potency," said Dr. Ethan Russo, who headed the study.
Russo did observe "mild changes in pulmonary function" in three of the four patients, but noted these changes weren't significant nor was there any evidence of malignancy. He speculated that the changes could be at least partially due to the weak potency of government-grown marijuana and its large content of fibrous material.
No other tests, including MRI brain scans, chest X-rays, neuropsychological tests, immunological assays, and EEGs showed any significant adverse side-effects attributable to marijuana.
In addition, the study affirmed pot's therapeutic value for a variety of symptoms. The results demonstrate clinical effectiveness in these patients in treating glaucoma, chronic musculoskeletal pain, spasm and nausea, and spasticity of multiple sclerosis, the study's authors wrote. They maintain that all four patients are stable with respect to their chronic conditions, and are taking many fewer standard pharmaceuticals than before they began using medical cannabis.
This study is believed to be the first to examine the overall health status of medical marijuana patients in the IND program. That program began distributing medical pot to patients in 1976, but was closed to new applicants in 1992. Seven surviving patients remain in the program, though their health status is monitored by their individual physicians. Neither the FDA nor NIDA has previously published any follow-up studies on this group of patients.
The study was funded in part by grants from MAPS (The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies), philanthropists John Gilmore and Preston Parish, and the Zimmer Family Foundation.
For more information, please contact either Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of The NORML Foundation at (202) 483-8751. Dr. Ethan Russo may be contacted at (406) 327-3372. A full report of the study will appear in the January 2002 issue of The Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics, published by Haworth Press.
Illinois Hemp Study Nixed by Governor
Springfield, IL: Governor George Ryan (R) vetoed legislation Friday that would have allowed the University of Illinois to grow non-psychoactive hemp for research purposes. It was the second time this year Ryan has rejected legislation to study the economic feasibility of hemp cultivation.
"Ryan's recalcitrance on this issue shows he is playing politics at the expense of Illinois farmers and deliberately misrepresenting the facts regarding hemp's economic viability as an agricultural crop," NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup said.
Ryan said he vetoed the measure, which would have allowed privately funded research into the cultivation of hemp "varieties with a zero level of THC," because other studies had convinced him that it's not a financially lucrative crop. In fact, several state-sponsored hemp studies have drawn just the opposite conclusion.
A 1998 study performed by The North Dakota Institute for Natural Resources and Economic Development found that hemp could yield profits as high as $141 per acre. A University of Kentucky study released that same year projected even higher returns. It concluded that hemp farming could yield a profit of approximately $320 per acre for fiber production and $600 per acre for raising certified seed.
State Sen. Evelyn Bowles (D-Edwardsville), who sponsored the hemp-research bill, hopes to override Gov. Ryan's veto.
For more information, please contact either Keith Stroup or Paul Armentano of NORML at (202) 483-8751.
Health Canada to Fund Clinical Trial on Smoked Cannabis and Pain
Ottawa, Ontario: Health Canada has agreed to fund one of the first ever peer-reviewed clinical trials on the effectiveness of smoked marijuana at treating symptoms of neuropathic pain (pain from nerve damage). The study will examine the therapeutic effects of marijuana on 32 patients who are unresponsive to standard treatment methods over a four-week period in an outpatient setting.
The McGill Pain Centre in Montreal will oversee the research.
According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), cannabinoids hold great potential in the treatment of neuropathic pain. "Neuropathic pain represents a treatment problem for which currently available analgesics are, at best, marginally effective," a 1997 NIH report found. "Since [cannabinoids are] not acting by the same mechanism as either opioids or NSAIDS [non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs], they may be useful in this inadequately treated type of pain."
For more information, please contact either Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of The NORML Foundation at (202) 483-8751.
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