Tag: Health

How Cannabis Can Combat the Opioid Epidemic: An Interview With Philippe Lucas

Philippe Lucas has deep roots in Canada’s cannabis culture. After co-founding the Vancouver Island Compassion Society medical dispensary in 1999, Lucas applied himself to cannabis science, working as a graduate researcher with the Center for Addictions Research of British Columbia and serving as founding board member of both the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies Canada and the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition. In 2013, he received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for his research on medical cannabis.

Philippe Lucas

(Full disclosure/fun fact: He’s also Vice President of Patient Advocacy at Tilray, the cannabis production company owned by Privateer Holdings, which also owns Leafly.)

Most recently, Lucas is the author of a new study: “Rationale for cannabis-based interventions in the opioid overdose crisis,” published last month in the Harm Reduction Journal. In the study, Lucas lays out a variety of roles that cannabis might play in combatting the opioid epidemic, which currently kills 38,000 people in the U.S. and Canada each year and ranks as the leading cause of death among Americans under 50.

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His study added an important perspective to the growing body of evidence supporting the notion of cannabis as healing tool in the opioid crisis. That idea is quickly moving into mainstream thought, as we’ve seen recently with the public pronouncements of Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch and, just this week, Dr. Oz.

Over the phone from his office in Nanaimo, Lucas let me interrogate him about specifics of the study.

Dave Schmader: What inspired you to undertake this study?

Philippe Lucas: Whether it’s medical use or recreational use, cannabis appears to be having an impact on the rates of opioid abuse. This study is a summation of the evidence, and I’ve taken that summation to suggest three opportunities for cannabis to intervene in the opioid crisis.

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And those are…?

First is introduction—if physicians start recommending the use of medical cannabis prior to introducing patients to opioids, those patients that find cannabis to be a successful treatment for their chronic pain might never have to walk down the very tricky path of opioid use that all too often leads to abuse or overuse or overdose.

“Patients that find cannabis to be a successful treatment for their chronic pain might never have to walk down the very tricky path of opioid use.”

The second opportunity is reduction, for those patients who are successfully using opioids in the treatment of their chronic pain or other conditions but are worried about increasing their use of opioids over time. The evidence suggests you can introduce cannabis as an adjunct treatment and reduce the cravings for opioids, therefore potentially steering people away and reducing the risk of opioid overdose and opioid dependence.

The third part is cessation. Once individuals have become dependent on opioids and they recognize that dependence and are seeking treatment for it through opioid replacement therapy like methadone and suboxone, you can potentially introduce cannabis as an adjunct treatment to increase the success rate of the methadone or suboxone treatment. The reason this point is so important is that when people with an opioid dependence fail out of treatment, that’s the period where they become the most vulnerable to potential overdose. Replacement therapy has failed, they’re at their most vulnerable, and they go back to the illicit drug market, potentially risking overdose.

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A key concept in the study is the “substitution effect.”

Yes. The substitution effect is an economic concept that suggests that the use of one substance never stands alone. In fact, the use of one substance can affect the use of another. When it comes to psychoactive substances, the use of a substance can be affected by changes in price, changes in legality or regulatory access, or changes in the product itself in terms of potency. And that can really affect the use of another drug.

“In medical cannabis states, there was a 25 percent reduction in opioid overdose deaths.”

A 2014 study showed that in medical cannabis states, there was a 25 percent reduction in opioid overdose deaths compared to neighboring states that didn’t have medical cannabis programs. There’s a growing body of research showing that simply making medical cannabis available in a number of US states and in Canada has reduced rates of not just opioid use, but also the use of alcohol, tobacco, and illicit substances,

often leading to total abstinence of those substances. So we’re looking at cannabis as a potential therapeutic agent, but also as a harm reduction agent when it comes to problematic substance use. This evidence suggests cannabis could be an exit drug to problematic substance use and addiction.

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In the study you write, “Cannabis augments the pain-relieving potential of opioids and can re-potentiate their effects.” Tell me about re-potentiation.

Research suggests that when you use cannabis alongside opioids in the treatment of chronic pain, you seem to get a synergistic effect—a greater effect than you might have if each was taken individually. People who have been using opioids for some time sometimes have to increase their dose, and cannabis presents another option for physicians, so instead of increasing the dose of opioids they can instead prescribe medical cannabis as an adjunct treatment in order to keep the patient at a lower dose of opioids, thereby reducing the risk of overdose.

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Another study quote: “[I]t would seem logical to seek to develop policies and associated education strategies to increase physician support for cannabis for therapeutic purposes in the treatment of chronic pain.” This does seem logical. What are the chances of it happening?

Right now we’re facing this tremendous public-health threat around the opioid overdose crisis. Opioid overdose is the most common cause of accidental death in Canada and the US right now. The over-prescription of opioids seems to be leading the way, in that four out of five people currently injecting opioids say that they started by using prescription opioids. There’s an oversaturation of the market and an over-availability on the black market.

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I think that if we can shift prescription patterns by physicians—so that instead of first prescribing opioids and then, if those opioids fail, moving on to medical cannabis—we can modernize those policies and instead focus on introducing medical cannabis first. That’s based on all the available evidence, which indicates that it’s far less harmful than prescription opioids in terms of dependence and risk of overdose.

Right now in Canada and in US states with medical marijuana, physicians are encouraged to prescribe opioids first and if those don’t work, cannabis is considered as a third- or fourth-line treatment option. We need to flip that around and make cannabis the second-line treatment option and move opioids to third or fourth options if indeed cannabinoids are not successful.


Thanks you for visiting FLMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Florida. Currently, there is a Medical Marijuana Initiative on the November 2016 Ballot to legalize High-THC Medical Marijuana in the State of Florida. The FLMMCC Florida State Licensed Doctors are ready to review your medical records for a “FREE Pre-Qualification”. This will be the first step in becoming a legal Florida Medical Marijuana patient when the law passes.

Sign Me Up: ASU to Pay Cannabis Patients to Try Various Strains

Are you a medical marijuana patient near Tempe, AZ? If so, Arizona State University has an opportunity for you.

In a study being overseen by professor Dr. Madeline Meier, a world-renowned substance use and behavior specialist, researchers are seeking to determine the immediate effects of different types of cannabis.

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Meier, head of ASU’s Substance Use, Health and Behavior Lab, has undertaken several major cannabis studies in the past. Just last year, the lab’s research found that, over the long term, the worst health problems for adult cannabis consumers tend to be less-healthy teeth and gums. The research found no evidence that cannabis contributed to lung dysfunction or heart problems and even suggested that cannabis consumers were better than average in terms of body-mass index.

Her 2012 study, conducted when she was a postdoctoral researcher at Duke University, found that long-term cannabis consumption begun during childhood was associated with an eight-point decline in adult IQ. The conclusions drawn from that study became the point of a years-long debate among many in the field.

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For the new study, Meier’s team is seeking medical marijuana patients aged 18 to 30 to compare the immediate effects of at-home consumption of various types of cannabis.

From the project website:

The Substance Use, Health, and Behavior Lab is recruiting participants who are Arizona medical marijuana card holders between the ages of 18 to 30 interested in participating in a study that compares the immediate effects of your at-home use of different types of cannabis. This study will take approximately 10 hours over the course of 1 week.

During this week, participants will be asked to come to the lab for a two hour visit and then receive several text messages per day asking to complete a short survey related to their cannabis use and effects. Participants will be compensated $95 for their voluntary involvement.

To find out more about this study and to determine your eligibility, call the Substance Use, Health, and Behavior Lab at (480) 727 – 5799 or email THCResearch50@gmail.com.


Thanks you for visiting FLMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Florida. Currently, there is a Medical Marijuana Initiative on the November 2016 Ballot to legalize High-THC Medical Marijuana in the State of Florida. The FLMMCC Florida State Licensed Doctors are ready to review your medical records for a “FREE Pre-Qualification”. This will be the first step in becoming a legal Florida Medical Marijuana patient when the law passes.

Cannabis Consumption Has Increased, but Not Because of Legalization

Adult cannabis consumption in the United States has been increasing since 2005, but a new study says that increased use does not appear to be due to the legalization of cannabis.

According to the report, published by William Kerr and the Public Health Institute, cannabis consumption among American men has increased by 14.7% since the turn of the millennium. Going back a little further and looking at the years from 1984 to 2015, Kerr found that cannabis consumption among women doubled from 5.5% to 10.6%.

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Since 2015, 12.9% of all adults report that they regularly consume marijuana. That’s up from 6.7% ten years earlier.

Since 2012, nine states have legalized recreational cannabis. Nationwide, 30 states have legalized medical marijuana. According to the new study, the ability to purchase cannabis legally in some states is not the reason for the increase among adults.

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“Results …did not show significant increases in use related to medicinal marijuana legislation,” Kerr said in a statement. “It appears that the passage of these policies reflects changing attitudes toward marijuana use, rather than the other way around.”

The study also found that people aged 50-59 have been consuming a whole lot more cannabis. Since 2005, men in that age group have seen a 2,220% increase in consumption, from .5% to 11.6%, while women have seen a 7,200% increase, from 0.1% to 7.3%.

The increase of cannabis consumption by people aged 50-59 shouldn’t be a total surprise, as the bulk of the Baby Boom generation–who are far more experienced and comfortable with cannabis than their elders–moved into that age cohort during the years studied.

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Thanks you for visiting FLMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Florida. Currently, there is a Medical Marijuana Initiative on the November 2016 Ballot to legalize High-THC Medical Marijuana in the State of Florida. The FLMMCC Florida State Licensed Doctors are ready to review your medical records for a “FREE Pre-Qualification”. This will be the first step in becoming a legal Florida Medical Marijuana patient when the law passes.

How Are Canadian Patients Using Medical Cannabis?

This article is sponsored by Tilray, one of the largest and most sophisticated producers of medical cannabis in the world. Tilray is dedicated to providing safe, consistent, and reliable products to patients and furthering clinical and observational research examining the therapeutic potential of cannabis.


It seems like every day brings a new study about the ways medical cannabis can be used in healthcare. But how are patients already accessing medical cannabis, and in what form? And more importantly, how is it impacting their quality of life? A new study led by Philippe Lucas, Vice-President of Patient Research & Access for Tilray, and Leafly’s own Nick Jikomes, PhD, provides some of the first answers to these questions.

Tilray’s Philippe Lucas presents data from the company’s latest patient research. (Courtesy of Tilray)

The Tilray Patient Survey 2017 saw the company partner with academics and researchers from the Cleveland Clinic, McMaster University, the University of British Columbia, and the University of Victoria on the largest survey of Canadian medical cannabis patients ever conducted, tracking the responses of 2,032 patients across Canada.

Patient Preferences

Medical marijuana patients who responded to the survey were a median of 40 years old, and men outnumbered women almost two to one. About one in five respondents (22%) had private insurance, but just 3% got financial assistance to help defray the cost of their medical cannabis prescription.

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Respondents were more or less evenly split between their preferences for indica (25%), sativa (22%), and hybrid strains (21%)—just ahead of users who had no preference at 17.5%. High-CBD strains were favored by just 14.5% of respondents, but CBD-heavy varieties made a strong showing among respondents who used extracts and concentrates—50% looked for a high-CBD strain in those products.

Medical Cannabis Instead Of…

Nearly 70% of users reported that they substituted medical cannabis for a previously prescribed medication. The leading substance that medical cannabis replaced? Opioids (36%), with antidepressants (21%) and other pain medications following close behind.

“In 610 mentions of opioid medication, 59% of patients stopped using these painkillers completely, and another 18% cut their consumption to a quarter or less,” said Lucas, the lead author on the study. “This suggests that cannabis may already be playing a harm-reduction role in the current opioid crisis.”

Tilray cannabis oil capsules. (Courtesy of Tilray)

These findings are consistent with US-based research by Bachhuber et al. (2014) showing a nearly 25% reduction in opioid overdose deaths in medical cannabis states compared to neighboring states that did not allow the medical use of cannabis.

It wasn’t just prescription drugs that cannabis helped patients phase out, though. Nearly a third of participants (31%) reported that using medical cannabis had helped them cut their tobacco use, and half of those respondents had quit using tobacco altogether. In addition, 44% of those surveyed reported that medical cannabis helped them consume less alcohol, and 26% said that cannabis products served as a substitute for illicit drugs.

The study also found that the two main conditions that drive patients to seek medical cannabis were chronic pain (38%) and mental health issues (40%), including anxiety and insomnia.

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Although cannabis use for medical purposes is gaining acceptance as patients choose it for a variety of health challenges, it doesn’t fit the traditional “take two and call me in the morning” format of other prescriptions. With so many ways to work medical cannabis into a healthcare plan, researchers asked participants how they prefer to get their daily dose.

Flower Power

Despite the variety of delivery methods now available for medical cannabis, respondents tended to stick with a classic: flower was far and away the most popular choice for patients. Most patients (74%) used cannabis on a daily basis, and average consumption was about a gram and a half every day, translating to just over 19 ounces a year. A lot of that was consumed as joints, the most popular method of smoking medical cannabis. 

A package of medicinal flower. (Courtesy of Tilray)

But while traditional flower was the most popular form of cannabis among Canadian patients, new ways of ingesting it are growing in popularity. Almost half (47%) of participants reported that their main cannabis delivery method was non-smoking. Vaporizers, including gear like e-nails and vape pens, were the favored method for 31% of respondents.

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Bringing up the rear, juicing was the least popular method of consuming cannabis, with just 0.2% of survey takers calling it their primary method of use. Topicals like oils and salves just edged it out as the most popular forms of cannabis consumption among 0.3% of patients.

Cannabis may already be playing a harm-reduction role in the current opioid crisis.

Philippe Lucas, Vice-President of Patient Research & Access, Tilray

Takeaways

The data patients shared with researchers demonstrates that the long-held promise medical cannabis holds for treating a broad array of conditions is starting to be realized. In particular, the initial findings of this study highlight the potential of medical cannabis to help address North America’s opioid crisis by providing a safer substitute in the treatment of chronic pain. Now, authors of the study are drafting the data into a number of academic publications that will help to better understand and contextualize the results.

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“I’ve had the privilege of working with medical cannabis patients for over 20 years, and it’s an honor to be able to share their experiences through studies like the Tilray Patient Survey 2017,” Lucas said.

Disclaimer: Tilray and Leafly are both subsidiaries of Privateer Holdings, Inc.


Thanks you for visiting FLMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Florida. Currently, there is a Medical Marijuana Initiative on the November 2016 Ballot to legalize High-THC Medical Marijuana in the State of Florida. The FLMMCC Florida State Licensed Doctors are ready to review your medical records for a “FREE Pre-Qualification”. This will be the first step in becoming a legal Florida Medical Marijuana patient when the law passes.

Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana Takes Aim at Quebec

Medical cannabis advocates are gearing up for the Quebec government’s public consultations on legal marijuana. Last weekend in Montreal, Daphnée Elisma, Québec representative of Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana and pictured below, led a discussion group for medical-cannabis patients of Montreal’s Santé Cannabis clinic. Her goal was to help them prepare, formulate, and articulate their comments during the government’s consultation process (which runs in different cities until mid-September), whether they plan to attend in person, or whether they will write letters if they are to unwell to be there physically.

Photo credit: Sasha Brunelle

“I explained to them how to present themselves on the different issues in the rights of patients who are using cannabis for medical purposes,” she told Leafly, noting that principal among her concerns are issues relating to distribution and taxation. “We’ve been asking the government to think about patients when they plan the legislation, and to have a different tax system than the recreational market for the medical users. Right now we’re being taxed, and it’s unfair for users to have to pay taxes on cannabis for medical purposes. When you go to the pharmacy and buy something prescribed by a doctor, you don’t pay taxes on that. Patients who use cannabis for medical purposes still have to pay that tax, and it’s a barrier to access. We have people on welfare using medical cannabis, and they have to choose either to eat or to buy their medicine. We’d like the government to fix that issue.”

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During the session, she noted, one of the issues that patients raised several times was the need for improved research into medical cannabis.

“Patients with chronic conditions face unfair barriers when it comes to making informed decisions on the uses of cannabis for medical purposes due to the lack of clinical medical research,” Elisma said. “We need more funding to support the onerous licensing requirements that researchers are facing at the moment. By taxing the recreational market, the Quebec government would be able to use the tax revenue from cannabis as a source of funding for education and research.”

Quebec has one of the highest barriers to medical cannabis in Canada.

She also called on the government to pour funds into cannabis education—both for medical school students, and for the public, stressing the need to lessen stigma against medical cannabis users.

At the moment, Quebec has one of the highest barriers to medical cannabis in Canada. The guidelines for prescribing cannabis from the Collège des médecins du Québec (Quebec College of Physicians) note that “[t]he use of cannabis for medical purposes is not a recognized treatment” and “an unrecognized treatment can only be used within a research framework.” Before a physician can prescribe medical cannabis, they must first prescribe other forms of cannabinoids—which some find harsh and disorienting. If the patient wishes to receive medical cannabis after that, they must also receive a “complete medical assessment.” Few of these obstacles exist for patients being prescribed opioid painkillers.

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“There is not enough scientific evidence to demonstrate the effectiveness of cannabis dried for medical purposes,” the Collège des médecins du Québec’s Press Relation Leslie Labranche told Leafly. “The current state of knowledge as well as the rare studies and evidence on the subject leave physicians perplexed. That’s why physicians in Québec may prescribe cannabis within [the] cannabis framework.”

In January, the Montreal Gazette reported that some of the city’s clinics were turning to doctors located outside of Quebec, for whom the process of prescribing cannabis is significantly less onerous. According to the Collège des médecins du Québec, it is against the law for a doctor outside of Quebec to prescribe cannabis to a patient in Quebec.

“We have issues with the Collège des médecins,” said Elisma. “They don’t consider cannabis an approved drug, and they’ve been saying for years that cannabis is not backed by any research. That’s not true. We know there’s a lot of research that’s been done in the past, so we’re asking the government to do more research in order to get a more correct picture of the medical value of cannabis. We’ve seen research showing improvement for children with epilepsy treated with CBD. The population needs to know this—how things like CBD affect the body.”

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Labranche reported that the Collège des médecins du Québec is partially supporting the project “The Quebec Cannabis Register: A Research Database on the Use of Dried Cannabis for Medical Purpose,” led by Dr. Mark A. Ware, McGill University Health Centre and the Canadian Consortium for the Investigation of Cannabinoids.

While the Collège des médecins remains conservative in its approaches, Elisma is optimistic about the provincial consultations. In June, she joined doctors, researchers, scientists, and government functionaries in the two-day Forum of Experts on Regulation of Cannabis in Québec. Both an advocate and a patient, Elisma relies on three grams of vaporized cannabis per day to help her cope with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, which she developed following having a cancerous tumour removed from her breast. As such, she grounds her activism in personal experience.

“The fact that they’re having public consultations, this to me is a good sign,” she said. “It shows the government wants to start a conversation between experts and patients. This is why an organization like Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana is working so hard to move this discussion forward. This happens slowly, but I have a feeling we’re going to get somewhere. People are ready to express their feelings about the value of cannabis for medicinal purposes, and the obstacles they’ve faced over the years to accessing it.”


Thanks you for visiting FLMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Florida. Currently, there is a Medical Marijuana Initiative on the November 2016 Ballot to legalize High-THC Medical Marijuana in the State of Florida. The FLMMCC Florida State Licensed Doctors are ready to review your medical records for a “FREE Pre-Qualification”. This will be the first step in becoming a legal Florida Medical Marijuana patient when the law passes.

Federal Gov’t: Teen Cannabis Use Rate Drops to 20-Year Low

Cannabis consumption by US teenagers fell in 2016, according to a new report by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Alcohol use rates among teens, however, have risen—leaving some to wonder if minors may be substituting booze for alcohol.

Past-month youth cannabis-use rates among minors aged 12 to 17 have gently but steadily decreased since 2002. The rate in 2016—6.5%, down half a percentage point from a year earlier—is now the lowest in more than 20 years, according to SAMHSA data released this month.

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The report also found that teen cannabis consumption has fallen every year since 2014, when Colorado and Washington first legalized adult-use cannabis. Past month alcohol use, however, has been on the rise since 2014.

The data released from SAMHSA are the latest evidence that legalizing cannabis for both medical and adult use does not increase teen consumption rates, contrary to fears raised by leading legalization critics.

Morgan Fox, a Marijuana Policy Project spokesperson, said in a statement that even among advocates of cannabis legalization, proposed policy reforms have been focused on responsible use by adults.

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“Critics of legalization worry about the message being sent to youth by marijuana policy reform efforts, but the real message is that marijuana should only be used by responsible adults, and it seems to be sinking in,” he said. “Regulating marijuana for adults reinforces that message and creates effective mechanisms for making it more difficult for teens to obtain marijuana.”

One of the age groups that saw the biggest drop in alcohol consumption was individuals aged 18-25. Since 2014, past-month alcohol consumption among that group has dropped from 59.6% to 57.1%. The age group also consumes the most cannabis.

“Marijuana is objectively less harmful than alcohol,” Fox said, “and regulation gives adults the legal option to choose the safer substance.”

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The SAMHSA survey is just the latest report to show cannabis consumption falling  among teens since states began implementing adult-use cannabis laws. In February, data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reported that the rate of cannabis consumption among adolescents “has not changed since legalization either in terms of the number of people using or the frequency of use among users.”

And in Washington state, a study released last week by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy, a government think tank, found that teen cannabis consumption has decreased or remained steady in the state since legalization.

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Thanks you for visiting FLMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Florida. Currently, there is a Medical Marijuana Initiative on the November 2016 Ballot to legalize High-THC Medical Marijuana in the State of Florida. The FLMMCC Florida State Licensed Doctors are ready to review your medical records for a “FREE Pre-Qualification”. This will be the first step in becoming a legal Florida Medical Marijuana patient when the law passes.

Fentanyl-Laced Cannabis? Toronto’s Unfounded Fears Underscore the Need for Regulation

As summer enters its final few weeks, the number of fentanyl overdoses in Toronto continue to climb. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid painkiller that can be 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. Abused recreationally on its own, fentanyl is also added to other hard drugs (mostly heroin and cocaine) to increase their effects.

However, even a small dose of fentanyl can be lethal. Over three days in late July, Toronto reported 20 suspected fentanyl overdoses and four deaths. The numbers continue to increase in the greater Toronto area and across North America. (A recent New York Times story noted the staggering 540% increase in U.S. fentanyl deaths over the past three years.)

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All of the above explains why concern spiked after an August safety alert from London, ON suggested that fentanyl could be found in cannabis. Jointly issued by the Middlesex-London Health Unit, the Canadian Mental Health Association, Addiction Services of Thames Valley, and the London Police Service, the safety alert came with a special warning from Dr. Christopher Mackie, Middlesex-London’s medical officer of health, who recommended that all cannabis users carry naloxone kits to prevent accidental fentanyl overdoses.

Almost immediately, cannabis advocates began questioning the alert. One area of contention: the sole impetus for the warning came from patients at a treatment center for opiate addiction “who…reported only smoking marijuana,” and were found to have traces of fentanyl in their urine.

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Eric Shepperd, a London cannabis activist, raised flags about the nature of such self-reported claims, noting that patients could be lying about their drug usage out of fear of repercussions. But the operators of the treatment center stand by their procedures.

There have been no reported cases of fentanyl being found in cannabis.

“We use a best-practice standard called ‘motivational interviewing,’ which promotes a transparent relationship between practitioner and client and does not perpetuate the myth that clients lie for no reason,” explains Linda Sibley, executive director of Addiction Services of Thames Valley to Leafly. “There is no expectation of abstinence and no costs to answering honestly about other drug use….There is little reason to doubt the client’s self-report.” Sibley stated that the results from the screenings could just be an anomaly. “We were very surprised as well and are not suggesting that it is in marijuana regularly but there was a positive test in this clinic,” she said. “We live in a complicated world so I believe it is prudent to warn in case.”

The key takeaway of Toronto’s would-be public-health scare, confirmed by Toronto Public Health spokesperson Susan Shepherd: There have been no reported cases of fentanyl being found in cannabis.

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Despite this fact, some fear the publicity brought by such a public-health scare could influence or erode support for legalization. Activists like Eric Shepperd worry this type of fear tactic can lead to greater restrictions. “Unfortunately, scares like these will nonetheless muddy the water, possibly leading to over-legislation,” said Shepperd.

Others see something of a silver lining in Toronto’s dubious safety alert. “I think quality control issues—including the use of banned pesticides and presence of mold in unregulated black-market cannabis—provide more support for the emergence of a legal recreational market in Canada,” said the University of Toronto’s Akwasi Owusu-Bempah to Leafly.

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Owusu-Bempah’s optimistic reading echoes a previous statement made by Toronto Public Health’s Susan Shepherd: “One of the key benefits of cannabis being legalized and regulated in Canada is to ensure we have a quality controlled product that doesn’t contain any toxic contaminants/adulterants or unwanted drugs.”

With legalization on the horizon, now’s a good time to reflect on the baseless fears that led to the criminalization of cannabis in the first place. May Toronto’s imaginary public-health scare remind us that regulation and production standards are a better guarantee for public safety than fear and hearsay.


Thanks you for visiting FLMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Florida. Currently, there is a Medical Marijuana Initiative on the November 2016 Ballot to legalize High-THC Medical Marijuana in the State of Florida. The FLMMCC Florida State Licensed Doctors are ready to review your medical records for a “FREE Pre-Qualification”. This will be the first step in becoming a legal Florida Medical Marijuana patient when the law passes.

American Veterinarian Group Gets Behind Cannabis Rescheduling

A leading veterinary organization is joining the fight to reschedule cannabis in an effort to speed research into the plant’s effects on our furry friends.

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The American Veterinary Medical Association (AMVA) approved a resolution at its conference last month to begin exploring how to advocate that cannabis be rescheduled federally, moving it from Schedule I to Schedule II. The move would increase opportunities to research cannabis for therapeutic use among both animals and humans.

“The House APPROVED recommending that the AVMA Board of Directors investigate working with other research organizations and medical stakeholders to reclassify cannabis from Schedule 1 to Schedule 2 to facilitate research opportunities for veterinary and human medical uses,” the organization said in a resolution posted on its website.

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Founded in 1863, the nonprofit AVMA boasts more than 89,000 members. As noted by reporter Tom Angell, who spotted the news this week, the organization “is being encouraged by its members to develop and distribute literature on marijuana’s legal status, research on its medical uses and ‘the signs, symptoms, and treatment of cannabis toxicosis in animals.’”

In a release posted on the organization’s website, Dr. Michael Ames, an Arizona veterinarian, pointed out that even though cannabis is legal for medical use among humans in 29 states, it’s still illegal at the federal level, which means vets aren’t legally able to prescribe medical marijuana to animals.

Currently, the Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Science is conducting two clinical trials examining the effects of cannabis in dogs. One study is exploring CBD’s effects on canine epilepsy, while the other is looking at CBD as a possible osteoarthritis treatment.

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CSU is still recruiting animals for the study.

Other vets are calling for more research in order to better understand possible health risks to animals, which can be affected by cannabis more severely than humans. Dr. Dick Sullivan of California said at the Veterinary Information Forum on July 20. “We are definitely seeing an increase in toxicity cases. For that reason alone, we need research and our national association to write a letter or petition the FDA to allow us to do research and get good information to our clients because they are asking us, and our obligation, morally and ethically, is to address these cases.”


Thanks you for visiting FLMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Florida. Currently, there is a Medical Marijuana Initiative on the November 2016 Ballot to legalize High-THC Medical Marijuana in the State of Florida. The FLMMCC Florida State Licensed Doctors are ready to review your medical records for a “FREE Pre-Qualification”. This will be the first step in becoming a legal Florida Medical Marijuana patient when the law passes.

Cannabis as an Opioid Exit: 5 Real Life Stories

Editor’s Note: A few years ago the notion that cannabis could be an exit drug—a tool to help people overcome opioid addiction—was considered fairly radical. Now it’s becoming more widely accepted, thanks to more research and to the stories of experience shared by those doing the daily work of recovery. Photojournalist Charles Mostoller set out to document the stories of those who are using cannabis to leave opioids and point their lives in a positive direction. Their experiences are recounted below. 

Britt Carpenter, 49.

Philadelphia, PA. Runs a dog-care company. After going cold-turkey, he started an Instagram community page called Philly Unknown. Carpenter does outreach with homeless people and heroin addicts.

Britt Carpenter, 49, Philadelphia, PA. (Charles Mostoller for Leafly)

“I was in a car accident about 15 years ago. I broke my shoulder in five places and I ended up not getting surgery but a lot of therapy. I was in a lot of pain and a friend’s girlfriend who had a ACL surgery gave my this bag of pills. It was like a PEZ dispenser threw up in a bag. With that and whatever I could get my hands on from a doctor, it became like a smorgasbord.

Eventually I got away from them. But then about four years ago I met the wrong person, who introduced me to heroin. I started using heavy. It was almost four years of using daily.

It was four years of hell. Four years of some of the most dark times that I’ve ever experienced. Lying to everybody. Losing friends. Losing jobs. Friends telling my parents about me.

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The last OD I had, where they brought me back with Narcan the cop looked at me and said “You’re lucky we aren’t busy tonight or you wouldn’t be here’. And I thought ‘wow, you need to change, to do something.’ The next day I stopped using. But I didn’t put myself into detox or rehab. I threw myself into photography. I always loved photography. I had done work with the homeless and always worked for the underdog so I told myself if I go 30 days straight for the first time in four years that I would start a community page on Instagram and pay it forward to the community. And after 30 days I did start it. And you know I just hit 19 months clean off heroin, alcohol, everything except for pot.

I went cold turkey just using cannabis at the time. It helped with the shakes and with the paranoia. It helped with the sweats, helped my appetite. I gained like 40 pounds.

The funny thing is that I don’t even want to smoke pot, but it it helps me. I don’t sleep a lot at night, I wake up, I’ll close my eyes and I see things I don’t want to see. I think about the things that I’ve done and it gets to me, it affects me. So I just use marijuana medicinally to stay on an even keel and to function and have no social anxiety. To be able to get out there and do the things I want to do.

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So I started the Instagram page and it’s going strong, and I’ve developed a non-profit out of it. The community has rallied to it and we have over 7000 organic followers. We do outreach in Kensington, and already I’ve saved three people with Nalaxone. We have people doing trainings next week. So I’m sort of harvesting all the negative I had for years and I’m putting it towards a positive. Paying it forward.

Laura Sharer, 35.

Wilmington, DE. Mother of two, medical marijuana patient suffering from Gastroparesis and Fibromyalgia. After giving up opiates she became an activist and co-founded the Delaware Cannabis Advocacy Network.

Laura Sharer, 35, Wilmington, DE. (Charles Mostoller for Leafly)

“I am a patient suffering from Gastroparesis, Fibromyalgia, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Previously I was on pharmaceuticals, some of them for decades, for lingering stomach issues. Some for only a few years–Dilaudid (hydromorphone), Tramadol, Percocet (oxycodone)–in addition to dozens of antiemetics (anti-nausea), migraine medicine, seizure medicine, and was completely ‘failure to thrive’. I was basically wasting away with malnutrition, not able to keep solid food down, constant nausea and vomiting. As a last ditch effort I got turned on to the idea that Delaware has this medical cannabis program so I tried to get my cannabis card and see if I could get clean and pure access to cannabis and if that would be different for me. Previously I was a recreational smoker but I never thought of it as medicine until I had exposure through the program.

In February of 2016 my card was approved. At that point, I weighed 96 pounds. I was was only able to tolerate liquids.

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Things got better. The doctor saw that it was an improvement and decided to start trying to wean me off of some of the medications. The Percocet went first, and then I tried to stop the Dilaudid and that’s when I realized that I was clinically addicted. Luckily at that point I had my cannabis card and jumped head over heels, full-throttle, into every kind of consumption method I could think of. Topicals on my skin to alleviate the pain, right where it hurt, was very effective for me. Then tinctures or edibles at bedtime to get me through the night sweats and night tremors.

Instead of medicating myself to sleep with Valium I was medicating myself to sleep with cannabis. And what I was waking up with was an appetite, not a migraine.

Withdrawal is withdrawal. I don’t care what you have to get through it, it’s horrible, just horrible. The night sweats and body pain and twitching. So I’m grateful that I found this option. Now, we’re 18 months into cannabis. It took me six months to wean off the 10 daily medications I was taking, and so about a year now completely free. 550 days today free of opiates, which is really, really cool.

Bernadette Scarduzio, 38.

Drexel Hill, PA. After giving up pain medicines and discovering cannabis, she started physical therapy and is now sponsored by an indoor therapy pool company.

Bernadette Scarduzio, 38, Drexel Hill, PA. (Charles Mostoller for Leafly)

“I have Charcot Marie Tooth Disorder which is a rare neurological nerve and muscle deterioration disorder that affects the peripheral neuropathy–which controls your hands and your feet, so how do you move your body? There’s all different types of CMT. I have CMT type one, which is the most common. It’s hereditary and my father had it.

Unfortunately I had it the worst of anybody in my family. I went into the chair about nine years ago, just three months after my father had passed. I had stopped doing things because everything was so hard. I wouldn’t go out to the bar with my friends, anywhere shopping, it was just too much for me. It was too painful.

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I’ve had 28 operations. My first surgery was when I was 13 years old. The doctors would usually prescribe Percocet. But then as an adult I realized I could go to any doctor I want, I didn’t have to take the medicines and didn’t have to follow all this stuff I was brainwashed to think. In my early 20‘s between the anxiety and the pain I just didn’t feel right. And I remember my friend one day was like “Bern, you should try marijuana”. I’d tried it, of course, but just a few times in high school and it was very rare. But she was like, seriously, there’s all different types, just smoke some with me. So I said all right. And instantly, it was like I was different. I felt better, I didn’t feel sick. And I actually felt hungry which usually after taking medicine I couldn’t eat.

I never saw pot as medicine. I was always told that pot is bad, it’s illegal. It was not allowed in my house, my dad would’ve killed me. It was looked at as an illegal drug that’s bad for you. But as an adult I learned my dad was wrong. He was actually supportive of it once I told him how it helped me.

I started to learn about it and that you don’t just have to smoke it and that you can eat it, and I was like, wow, it helps me sleep, it helps me eat, it helps me be more creative. It helps me be more like me.

Michael Whiter, 41.

Philadelphia, PA. Former Marine, diagnosed with PTSD after leaving the military. After discovering cannabis and giving up pain meds he became a local cannabis activist and budding photojournalist.

Michael Whiter, 41, Philadelphia, PA. (Charles Mostoller for Leafly)

After 11 years in the Marines, I started having some emotional problems. I was depressed, I was having anxiety, I was skipping work, which in the Marines you just can’t do. So I went to see a psychiatrist, and the second that happened it was like I wasn’t a Marine anymore. I was ostracized from my unit, put on a bunch of pills—while I was still in the Marine Corps. Shortly after that I was put out on medical board. I got out, went to the V.A. (Veteran’s Administration) and they just started piling me up with medications. For pain they had me on methadone, but I didn’t like it so they put me on extended-release morphine. They would send this stuff to my house. I could have just taken a whole bottle of morphine and ended it all, but, you know… Anyway, they had me on all that crap and then they had me on Klonopin on top of that.

I was watching the National Geographic channel one day and I saw a show about cannabis and veterans, and I decided I was going to stop using all these medicines and start using cannabis and see what happens. And here I am.

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It wasn’t easy. I stayed very high the first two or three weeks. I had to keep taking one of my antidepressants in smaller doses because I was having withdrawal symptoms from it. It was worse than the opiates. But I stayed pretty sick. I locked myself in my house until I got over it.

While cannabis does help you relieve some pain, it also helps you feel, emotionally, again. When you’re on those painkillers you don’t feel anything. It gets rid of the pain, but you are also drooling on yourself. And you’re pretty apathetic about everything that’s going on around you.

Cannabis is not going to dull the pain as much as the opiates are, but it’s also not going to dull your mind. If you get off that stuff you’re going to get sick as hell but weed will help you through the sickness and it also helps with the pain, with your mood. It will help with everything that’s going on. Because pain comes with depression, and anxiety. If you’re in pain long enough it messes with your mind. And cannabis helps with that.

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When I was on all those pills, I just sat in a chair and I drooled on myself. The shades would be drawn all the time. I never went outside, I had my groceries delivered to me.

Now I leave the house, I have friends that I care about, that care about me. I’ve got a pretty decent life that I live now, and I’m happy. I care about what kind of life I want to live, and I think I’m doing a pretty good job of living it now.

I’ll never say that cannabis cured me of anything. Because I did the work to help myself. But cannabis really helped me engage with therapy. It helped with self-reflection, to get to know myself better. Cannabis gives me perspective on things. When I was using opiates and the other medications the only perspective I had was what I was seeing on TV. It’s a totally different medicine. Cannabis helps people and the other stuff is killing them.

Deb Guy, 41.

Lancaster, PA. Founded Lancaster chapter of NORML. After giving up pain meds and discovering cannabis, she took up singing and playing guitar.

Deb Guy, 41, Lancaster, PA. (Charles Mostoller for Leafly)

“I’ve used cannabis off and on since I was a teenager, as kids do, but when I was 28 I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and degenerative joint disorder.

I have early onset osteoarthritis, my grandparents on both sides and my mother all had rheumatoid arthritis, and my doctors are trying to prevent me from getting that. But in the meantime they started prescribing opiates on top of all the other medications I was on. It started with Vicodin, but soon I realized you have to increase the dose because you get used to it so I started to take anywhere from three to six pills a day. And that use kind of grew until the Vicodin wasn’t helping anymore and I knew that my grandmother and my mother all had oxycodone or morphine and I started to palm them.

So I would get up in the morning and I would take two or three Vicodin, and then later in the afternoon I might take two or three more or I would take an Oxy, or I’d take two Oxy, and then a few hours later if that wasn’t doing anything I’d pop one of the small milligrams of morphine and it was just a constant cycle. I was not healthy at all. I couldn’t get out of the bed in the morning without massive muscle cramping and spasms.

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I got married and immediately got pregnant. My doctors were like, ‘You’re fine on the medications you’re on, just reduce what you are taking, but you can still take the Vicodin, the ADHD medicine’. And I thought, ‘Okay, I’m going to listen to my doctors’. And then four months later I had a miscarriage.

It was kind of a blessing in disguise. It made me realize that I didn’t want to have children and that I was ok with it. It also helped me realize that I wanted to get healthy. I threw the pills away and went cold turkey. And it was the worst three weeks of my life.

I went through terrible withdrawal but I smoked cannabis as often as I could, almost immediately. And it helped tremendously. I got through that first three weeks of sickness and massive withdrawal. I started to smoke cannabis in the morning like it was my coffee cup and then take a walk. I started to do that and every day I would walk a little further and within a year I had dropped 60 pounds. My body didn’t hurt nearly as bad. The degeneration had slowed down a little.

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My doctor was kind of shocked and asked me what I had changed. At the time I didn’t tell him. I just said I was being holistic and healthful and eating correctly and exercising and it seems to be reducing. When I went back six months later I finally decided to tell him because at that point I had decided to become and activist and start a chapter NORML here in Lancaster.

This idea that cannabis makes you stupid or slow or lazy is just ridiculous because when I was on the opiates I didn’t want to sit up, I didn’t want to stand up, I didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning. With cannabis, I love to just toke, and run. I love to get outside, it got me out of the house. It got me standing up.


Thanks you for visiting FLMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Florida. Currently, there is a Medical Marijuana Initiative on the November 2016 Ballot to legalize High-THC Medical Marijuana in the State of Florida. The FLMMCC Florida State Licensed Doctors are ready to review your medical records for a “FREE Pre-Qualification”. This will be the first step in becoming a legal Florida Medical Marijuana patient when the law passes.

Government Will Provide Patients With CBD Products for Treatment in Mexico

This article is sponsored by CMW Media, the premier public and media relations agency proudly serving the cannabis industry worldwide.  


Medical Marijuana, Inc., the first publicly traded cannabis company in the United States, will provide the government of the State of Mexico with medical-grade CBD hemp oil products from its subsidiary HempMeds Mexico®, which will be used in the treatment of patients suffering from a variety of conditions including refractory epilepsy and Lennox Gastaut-Syndrome.

The deal marks the first time a government in Mexico has purchased CBD products for its citizens, and follows a series of steps in Mexico’s courts and legislature that have made CBD products more accessible to patients. These include the approval of CBD products from HempMeds Mexico by the Mexican health ministry COFEPRIS.

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Mexico is just the latest nation in Latin America to make it easier for patients to integrate CBD products into their healthcare regimens. Since 2015, similar steps have been taken by the governments of Brazil and Paraguay. 

The State of Mexico’s Governor Eruviel Avila Villegas distributed HempMeds Mexico’s flagship product Real Scientific Hemp Oil-X™ (RSHO-X™), a CBD hemp oil containing zero THC, to patients during the opening of a new clinic in the Mexico City suburb of Ecatepec. Avila was joined at the event by Mexican cannabis activist Raul Elizalde and César Nomar Gómez Monge, Health Minister of the State of Mexico.

The State of Mexico’s Health Minister, César Nomar Gómez Monge, speaks on the potential treatment value of CBD for epilepsy patients. (Moises Ramirez)

“We want to congratulate the State of Mexico’s government for this historic purchase of our CBD products to help relieve the suffering of its citizens,” said Medical Marijuana, Inc. president and CEO Dr. Stuart Titus.  

“We are a company of firsts, and this is another first. We are excited to achieve the historic milestone of having the Mexican government purchase our CBD products to benefit its citizens. The plethora of benefits of medical cannabis in treating several types of indications is undeniable, and we are encouraged to see not only healthcare professionals, [but] now also governments, become increasingly interested in how CBD hemp oil can help heal.”

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Epilepsy is among the many indications that can benefit from medical marijuana products. A new study led by Dr. Saul Garza Morales, a pediatric researcher and neurologist in Mexico, helps expand on that body of work.

Recently, Dr. Garza Morales shared the positive results of a recent study he conducted on the effects of Medical Marijuana, Inc.’s RSHO-X™ product in treating children with severe epilepsy. Dr. Garza and his collaborators found that 86% of the 38 patients included in the study saw the frequency of their motor seizures cut in half. Five subjects were even totally seizure-free for four full months, a result that is usually only achieved following major surgeries.

“With the advent of RSHO-X therapy, doctors have a new approach—using natural CBD in its natural, botanical form,” said Dr. Garza. “This has shown to control seizure episodes in epilepsy children to a significant degree, meaning invasive surgeries are now a resort of last measure.” 


Thanks you for visiting FLMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Florida. Currently, there is a Medical Marijuana Initiative on the November 2016 Ballot to legalize High-THC Medical Marijuana in the State of Florida. The FLMMCC Florida State Licensed Doctors are ready to review your medical records for a “FREE Pre-Qualification”. This will be the first step in becoming a legal Florida Medical Marijuana patient when the law passes.