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February 28, 2002

Study Shows Pot's Therapeutic Benefits, Few Adverse Effects in Long-Term, Daily Marijuana Smokers

Results Support Expanding Feds' Medical Pot Program

Missoula, MT: Long-term use of standardized doses of cannabis demonstrated clinical effectiveness in a cohort of legal medical marijuana patients and failed to produce significant physical or cognitive impairment, according to results of a study published in the current issue of The Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics. The study is the first to examine the effects of marijuana on patients who have used a standardized, quality-controlled supply of marijuana for more than ten years.

"This study's findings add to the substantial body of evidence that medicinal cannabis is both safe and effective, even when consumed regularly to treat chronic illnesses," said Allen St. Pierre, Executive Director of the NORML Foundation. "The results also serve to further undercut the government's allegation that marijuana is a highly dangerous drug without any scientifically demonstrated medical value."

All four patients examined in the study are participants in the FDA/NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse) Compassionate Investigational Drug (IND) Program, and have been smoking government-grown pot for 11 to 27 years.

Results demonstrated marijuana's clinical effectiveness in these patients in treating glaucoma, chronic musculoskeletal pain, spasms and nausea, and spasticity induced by multiple sclerosis. "All four patients are stable with respect to their chronic conditions, and are taking many fewer standard pharmaceuticals" than they were before they began using medical marijuana, the study's authors wrote.

In addition to monitoring marijuana's medical efficacy, researchers also subjected volunteers to a battery of physical and cognitive tests, including MRI brain scans, pulmonary function tests, chest X-rays, neuropsychological tests, hormone and immunological assays, EEGs and neurological clinical examinations. Authors observed "mild changes in pulmonary function" in two of the four patients, but found no other significant health disorders attributable to cannabis.

"These results would support the provision of clinical cannabis to a greater number of patients in need," authors concluded. "It is [our] opinion that the Compassionate IND program should be reopened and extended to other patients in need of clinical cannabis. Failing that, local, state and federal laws might be amended to provide regulated and monitored clinical cannabis to suitable candidates."

The study is the first to examine the overall health status of legal medical marijuana patients enrolled in the federal government's IND program. That program began distributing medical pot to patients and a number of state therapeutic research programs in 1976, but was closed to new applicants in 1992. Seven surviving patients remain in the program - four of whom participated in the recent study - but their health status is monitored by their individual physicians, not federal officials. Neither the FDA, nor NIDA or any other branches of the National Institutes of Health has previously published an analysis of information from this cohort.

For more information, please contact either Paul Armentano or Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation at (202) 483-8751. Online copies of the study are available from Dr. Ethan Russo, lead author of the Missoula Chronic Clinical Use Study and editor of The Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics.

U.S. Drug Company to Develop Inhaler for Legal Medi-Pot Pill

San Carlos, CA: The makers of the synthetic THC capsule Marinol - the only legal cannabinoid drug available in the United States - are developing a metered dose inhaler so that patients may consume the drug in ways other than oral administration, according to a Business Wire report released this week. Many doctors and patients criticize the effectiveness of Marinol because the drug doesn't take effect until two to four hours after administration. Patients also complain that they have difficulty self-regulating Marinol and that the drug's psychoactivity is enhanced when it is swallowed.

"This decision is an acknowledgement from the scientific and pharmaceutical community that inhalation is a preferred and effective route of administration for marijuana cannabinoids," said Paul Armentano, Director of Publications and Research for The NORML Foundation and author of the white paper: "The Need for Medical Marijuana Despite the Availability of Synthetic THC." "Patients routinely say that they prefer marijuana inhalation over oral administration because whole-smoked marijuana is faster acting, less upsetting to their stomachs, easier to self-regulate and less psychoactive."

Because oral THC must first pass through the human liver, where a significant portion of the drug is biotransformed into other, more potent chemicals, it takes effect far more slowly than inhaled marijuana and is often more psychoactive.

GW Pharmaceuticals, a London based company developing non-synthetic medicinal marijuana extracts, has already developed technology that allows patients to administer cannabinoids in a sublingual (under-the-tongue) spray as an alternative to smoking or swallowing.

For more information, please contact either Paul Armentano or Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation at (202) 483-8751.

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