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2-16-2016
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We hear a lot about how cannabis has helped people suffering from a wide variety of physical ailments, from cancer to glaucoma to AIDS. Stories about using cannabis to treat psychological disorders such as depression, however, are less common. Fortunately, as cannabis sheds the stigma that has long been associated with its use, more people are speaking out about how cannabis has helped them deal with mental illness. Doctors and researchers are also beginning to come out in favor of cannabis and its potential to treat psychological disorders.

Cannabis has been used to treat depression throughout history. In 1621, English clergyman Robert Burton recommended its use in his book The Anatomy of Melancholy, while doctors in India during the same period were actively using it to treat their patients’ depression.

Cannabis is a faster-working alternative to antidepressants that stimulates the endocannabinoid system and speeds up the growth and development of nervous tissue with little to no troublesome side effects. This natural remedy offers patients peace of mind and battles stress by enhancing mood, providing energy and focus, relieving anxiety, inducing hunger, and combating insomnia.

Occasional or daily cannabis consumers have lower levels of depressive symptoms than non-users, a 2006 study found. Researchers at McGill University, in Montreal, discovered that THC in low doses can serve as an antidepressant and produces serotonin — but they also found that high doses of THC can worsen depression symptoms. The cannabinoids THC and CBD are known to exert sedative, antidepressant, and antipsychotic effects on consumers.

The University Medical Center Utrecht, in the Netherlands, touted marijuana as a cure for depression and other mental illnesses after conducting a study that found THC can alter the response to negative images or emotions by activating the endocannabinoid system in the brain.Another study linked cannabis use to improved cognitive function in people suffering from bipolar disorder.

Further research needs to be done, but as long as the federal government continues to classify cannabis as a Schedule I drug, research will continue to be limited. Moreover, depression is not a qualifying condition in most states to obtain a cannabis recommendation. Nonetheless, we do know stress is one of the leading causes of depression, and moderate use of cannabis appears to alleviate stress and stabilize moods.

Samir Haj-Dahmane, a senior research scientist at the University at Buffalo’s Research Institute on Addictions who studies chronic stress and depression, concurs: “Chronic stress is one of the major causes of depression,” Haj-Dahmane says. “Using compounds derived from cannabis — marijuana — to restore normal endocannabinoid function could potentially help stabilize moods and ease depression.”

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The founding fathers and cannabis: A President's Day special report

 - E.G. Brosious

It’s safe to say most of America’s political leaders today do not embrace cannabis as an everyday crop. But back in the day, cannabis was all over the place.

The United States’ founding fathers had a very different relationship to cannabis than lawmakers and leaders do today.

That’s because cannabis (or hemp, as it was known) used to be one of this country’s biggest cash crops.

Hemp dates back to the early English days in Colonial America. It was a common crop used to make cloth for fabrics, rope and canvas products for ships and pulp for paper, according to the National Constitution Center.

Hemp was so important in early America that in the 1600s and 1700s, farmers were even required by law to grow hemp in Virginia and other colonies.

George Washington wrote extensively about growing hemp in his diaries, and some report that Ben Franklin used hemp in his paper mills. Even the Declaration of Independence itself wasdrafted on hemp paper.

There is some disagreement over whether or not the founding fathers actually used cannabis to get high.

The National Constitution Center doubts the founding fathers actually smoked cannabis for its psychoactive or medicinal effects, since the hemp they were growing contained very little THC – the psychoactive component in marijuana.

Still, some of Washington’s “meticulous diaries” indicate he may have used cannabis for recreational and medicinal purposes, as Russ Belville reports forHigh Times.

Deadline Funnel Looms for New Iowa Cannabis Oil Bill

 - F. Saunders

A bill legalizing the making and selling of cannabis oil in Iowa faces the deadline funnel, this week.

TheHouse Commerce Subcommittee will review H.S.B. 607, Tuesday at 8:00 a.m.

Thanks to legislation, passed in 2014, cannabis oil is technically legal to use in Iowa for help with chronic epilepsy. But, lawmakers neglected to go further.

It’s illegal to sell cannabis oil in the state or bring it in from other states.

“You can't do anything," said Iowa House Rep. Bobby Kaufmann (R-Wilton). "Really, the bill we passed a couple years ago isn't being effective."

Kaufmann worked with House Commerce Committee Chair Peter Cownie to create H.S.B. 607, which Cownie announced last week.

The legislation would expand the current law, allowing for creation, distribution and sale of cannabis oil to help with, not only epilepsy, but also some cancer treatment conditions, incurable pain, M.S. and others.

Patients would need to apply for a registration card in order to use the substance.

“Those that need help," said Kaufmann, "under this bill, will finally get it."H.S.B. 607 would direct Public Health to issue four manufacturing licenses by the first of December, 2016. Those manufactures could grow marijuana in Iowa, but would be required to cultivate the plant and create cannabis oil in a locked facility, 1,000 feet away from existing schools.

“I think it's historic that, for the first time in Iowa, we've had a Republican introduce a bill on medical cannabis," said Iowa Sen. Joe Bolkcom (D-Iowa City) "That's a big deal in and of itself."

Bolkcom sponsored a similar bill in 2015. It got through the Iowa Senate, which Democrats narrowly control, but died after reaching the firmly Republican Iowa House.

This time around, House Speaker Linda Upmeyer (R-Clear Lake) has been critical of the bill. She's said Iowa doctors worry they’ll lose their license writing prescriptions for cannabis oil seeing as the FDA hasn’t approved marijuana for medical use.

“I still really believe that the FDA is the arbiter of what is a medication," Upmeyer told Iowa Radio. "And making sure that the safety, the quality — all those things is the same for any medication.”

The bill faces the February 19th deadline funnel, which means it needs to reach approval in a House committee to stay alive.

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Hospital makes history: Cannabis oil helps baby’s seizures

 - M. Stein

Two-month-old Amylea Nunez made history at a Colorado hospital last week when she became the first patient there to receive cannabis oil as part of her treatment.

(Yes, cannabis — as in marijuana, pot or hemp.)

You see, little Amylea has spent the majority of her life inside a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU.) This is because of seizures that began a day after she was brought home from her December delivery in New Mexico. While doctors at Children’s Hospital in Aurora have been attempting to treat her rare form of epilepsy, the medications are causing damage to her liver.

Amylea’s mother, Nicole, researched alternative treatments and found Charlotte’s Web — a [CBD derived] cannabis oil known to treat epilepsy in toddlers and children. Although the THC level is under 1 percent (so kids don’t get high,) the move is definitely controversial.

“I sat for a good three weeks fighting with the doctors and trying to talk them into giving me the OK,” Nicole told KRQE News 13. “I’ve been working with the case study team and the neurology team here at Children’s and I’m hopeful this will work.”

On Friday, the hospital finally gave the green light for the family (but not hospital personnel) to administer the oil.  Nurses have noted a difference in Amylea’s level of alertness after the first two doses, and she is now part of a case study that includes using the cannabis oil.

I can’t imagine what it must be like to watch your child have multiple seizures on a daily basis and to be powerless to stop them. Cannabis oil might not be most parents’ first treatment option, but what happens when other medications are failing? It’s an impossible situation to be in.

When I hear about epileptic children whose lives are drastically improved by cannabis — like Charlotte Figi, whom “Charlotte’s Web” was named after — it makes me wonder how many parents wouldn’t try it as a last resort. At the same time, I understand when medical professionals are against cannabis oil because the scientific evidence of its benefits is still lacking.

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