Oncologists Should Recommend Cannabis-Based Medicine for Palliative Care
Earlier this June, a review was published that encourages oncologists to recommend cannabis products to their patients as a safe and effective method of palliative care. The opinion piece highlights how cannabis is a useful treatment for a variety of illnesses (nausea, vomiting, sleep, mood, anxiety), and encourages practitioners to prescribe cannabis for their patients so that they can appreciate the safety and effectiveness of the product.
Regulators and mechanisms of anoikis in triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC)- a review
Researchers are always exploring new methods to treat highly aggressive forms of breast cancer. As the scientific culture opens up to cannabis as a natural pharmaceutical factory, eyes have been drawn to the individual chemical components born inside cannabis, namely cannabinoids, terpenoids, and flavonoid compounds. Recently, a group stumbled upon a promising synthetic flavonoid derivative. This derivative, named GL-V9, has been found to have an inhibitory effect on the growth of triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) tumors and has shown other anti-metastatic properties. The growth-stopping and anti-spreading effects would address two of the central aspects of TNBC that have thus far made it difficult to treat. The growing understanding of flavonoids and their potential therapeutic benefits seem all but sure to enshrine its place among future research regarding cancer treatments.
Dr. Caplan and the #MDTake:
In scientific and medical circles, it’s not uncommon to hear the phrase, “everything causes cancer.” It’s often repeated contemptuously, a tongue-in-cheek expression that calls attention to unknowns associated with the spawning and growth of cancers but also bends to the hurricane force of nature’s impact on living organisms. As living biology, cancers are born and thrive while provided sustenance by particular inputs and supports. Because of this fact, there are also innumerable opportunities to stifle or prevent the birth of tumors and many avenues to interrupt its growth or end the life of cancer cells.
The human cultural history has taught all cultures that sleep, exercise, fruits, vegetables, fiber, and water are all required ingredients for sustained, healthy growth. What is it about fruits and veggies that is healthy? They have fiber that is healthy for the human digestive tract, but they also have natural components, terpenes and flavonoids, which support wellness, healing, and the normal cycling (features of both living and dying) of our cells. Cancer represents the inappropriate over-replication of cells. In a sense, the body’s natural ability to end the cells which are not responding to normal signals is lost. If we know that the cannabis factory happens to produce many of the same compounds that are found elsewhere in vegetation and fruits, is it so surprising that we would see cancer-fighting effects?
Plant-derived coumarins shape the composition of an Arabidopsis synthetic root microbiome
While investigating plant molecules that inhibit parasitic growth, researchers have uncovered a new method for improving crop growth and overall yield. Small molecules, such as flavonoids and coumarins, improve the microbiome of plant roots in order to help them grow and maintain their health. While investigating how the absence of coumarins and flavonoids affect the growth of a common weed the authors stumbled upon a molecular mechanism that will facilitate efforts to grow crops in iron-deficient soils.
Dr. Caplan and the #MDTake:
The natural machinery of Cannabis supports the production of tremendous numbers of flavonoids, coumarins, and microbiome-supporting compounds. Over millennia, cannabis has evolved fastidious attention to detail, and an integral role in the animal ecosystem. Although this natural role has historically been disagreeable to many oppressive movements (religious and cultural), it is nonetheless, self-evident as modern society returns to embrace the science of cannabis. The scientific, medical, textile, farming, nutrition, recreational, and materials construction industries are all wishing only that they had come back to cannabis sooner.
Here’s an argument for the need for accountability in #cannabisindustry. What is sold ought to be closer to what is advertised. Is government regulation the solution? 3rd party transparency? Individual accountability? Court of public opinion?
Restored Self: A Phenomenological Study of Pain Relief by Cannabis
In an Israeli qualitative study investigating the impact of cannabis use on chronic pain patients, all but one of the nineteen study participants experienced pain relief after cannabis use. Participants explained how cannabis allowed them to not just discontinue medications treating their pain, but also medications treating secondary outcomes of their pain, such as poor sleep and anxiety. Patients described feeling “a sigh of relief,” being “reborn” or being saved by cannabis use after years of debilitating pain and medication side effects.
Dr. Caplan and the #MDTake:
The pathway through which cannabis works to combat pain is different from the usual pathways doctors have used for the last 90 years. Prior to the 1930s, cannabis was used routinely, just about everywhere, but political and social agendas kidnapped the medicine and hid it away from most of the mainstream and from routine medical education.
Patients often describe typical pain relievers as adjusting the impact of the pain. Reducing or quieting the pain, softening discomfort, allowing the sufferer to perform previously typical tasks without debilitation or dysfunction. Cannabis, on the other hand, is sometimes described as “taking the sufferer away from the pain,” rather than the other way around. The effects that cannabis can have on the reduction of inflammation, attention, memory, and relaxation, provide a new type of opportunity for relief.
Still, other patients describe the effects of cannabis through a lens of mental focus. Whereas in daily use we typically open a standard set of drawers, some have said, the use of cannabis allows the consumer to open up a different set of draws, and through this adjusted lens, to see discomfort from a different perspective.
For those suffering with chronic pain, years upon years of discomfort, suffering that, when paired with modern medicines, has only met frustration and further discomfort, cannabis is frequently seen as a welcome “sigh of relief.”
Starting with the 2014 Farm Bill, and continuing with the 2018 Farm Bill, we have seen a dramatic shift in the landscape governing hemp. Prior to 5 years ago, hemp production was entirely illegal, as the Federal government handled industrial hemp the same as it handled high-THC marijuana. It was an established Schedule 1 controlled substance, entirely illegal to grow, harvest, or possess.
As awareness has grown, and the true benefits of the hemp plant have become more widely understood, the federal government has passed legislation to decriminalize hemp. However, although it is no longer considered a controlled substance, the questions about the process and regulatory requirements abound. This is because all plants grown in the United States are highly regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture, or the USDA, which has a complex framework of licensing, reporting, and general requirements for every specific product grown in the country.
Last week, the USDA published the draft of its regulations
for the hemp industry. Since the 2018 farm bill, we have been living in the
“wild west” for hemp. As promised, the USDA released its rules in time for
farmers to get legal and licensed for the 2020 season. However, this
long-awaited release has been met with mixed results.
Many lawmakers and industry leaders are happy that the
federal government has finally put out regulations for hemp. First, they see
this as a dramatic shift from the era of prohibition, alone a cause for
celebration. Others see the certainty that we are going to have regulations put in place means that the industry will start to
grow and develop at a much faster pace. It is certainly true that the future is extremely
bright for hemp. But other farmers and individuals have expressed concerns with
some of the regulation’s details.
The “0.3% THC” limit, which delineates the difference
between legal “hemp” and illegal “marijuana”, may be too stringent for some
growers. They report that a mature hemp plant will have a THC content that will
vary from day to day, including some spikes over the 0.3% limit. The new
regulations require strict testing to be done prior to harvest, and if the
resulting THC content is too high, the entire crop must be destroyed. This may
cause farmers to harvest before true maturity, leading to a decrease in the
potency or effectiveness of the CBD derived from such a harvest.
The regulations also allow the states to develop their own plans
and submit them for approval. Some are concerned that some states may try to
infringe on the interstate commerce occurring there, which could cause all
kinds of problems and complications for the industry. Still others are worried that
the method for disposing of “hot crops” requires just a little too much DEA
involvement, which could also cause disruption or have a chilling effect on
It is clear that these regulations are a good step in the right direction. It’s also clear that this is just the beginning, and there is still plenty of room for improvement. The USDA announced a 60-day window for submitting public comments, and then they will consider any suggestions, and then publish a final rule in the future. I encourage you to read the regulations or a summary of them. I encourage you to think about how you would be affected by these rules, and what suggestions you may have. Speak to an expert about how you can do your part to improve the landscape of the industry for the future.
Regulation of noradrenergic and serotonergic systems by cannabinoids: relevance to cannabinoid-induced effects
Among many system-wide interactive effects, the noradrenergic and serotonergic hormone/signaling systems are responsible for pain, mood, arousal, wakefulness, learning, anxiety, and feelings of reward. A recent review dives deeper into the interactions between cannabinoids and these two systems: cannabinoids play roles in exciting, inhibiting, and regulating the nerve activity and feedback of both the noradrenergic and serotonergic systems. This data further underscores the therapeutic potential of cannabis for conditions such as depression, chronic pain, and insomnia, all of which are mediated, at least in part, by these systems. Further research may uncover more specific therapies targeted toward the noradrenergic and serotonergic systems and their interactions with cannabinoids.
Dr. Caplan and the #MDTake:
It would be shocking to imagine that, in addition to the usual fruits and vegetables on display at supermarkets, all of a sudden, there was a new category of healthy food. Similarly, the recognition that cannabinoids play a central role in animal physiology is embarrassingly recent. Surveying a sea of illnesses that have become increasingly common, over the last hundred years, before which cannabis was a common household product, also begs the question about a relationship between the circumstances. Might some of the common maladies of modern medicine be attributable to a cannabinoid deficiency syndrome?
Last week, the Tax Court continued the line of cases denying tax deductions under Internal Revenue Code §280E. That section says that any business which is “trafficking in controlled substances” cannot receive many of the traditional deductions that a business may take. Otherwise put, this means that a company must pay taxes on all of its incoming revenue before it subtracts most of its expenses.
This law can be a severe punishment for a cannabis company
that may be operating entirely legally under state law. Unfortunately, the
federal government still considers them to be “drug-dealers” and holds this
punitive tax measure over their heads.
The case before the tax court involved a dispensary that filed taxes and took deductions for its business expenses. The IRS sent them a bill of $1.26 million, plus another 250K in fines. The company filed suit, asking the court to declare that it did not have to pay those bills.
A divided court rejected the company’s three arguments. In addition to the majority opinion, there were two concurring opinions and two dissenting opinions. Of particular interest is the Gustafson dissent, which opens up a new avenue for declaring §280E to be a Constitutional violation. Essentially, Gustafson argues, that the 16th Amendment allows Congress to tax income. Income is defined as “gain”, or net profits, minus costs, to get those profits. So for Congress to then disallow normal business expenses, it means that they are taxing more than actual income, which violates the 16th Amendment.
This argument was only agreed to by one other Judge on the
tax court, which ultimately ruled against the dispensary. However, in the
future, as the public opinion shifts, the policies behind these prohibitive
rules may fall away, and we may not be far away from a court coming to the
opposite conclusion. Legal Cannabis companies are working tirelessly to follow
the law, and they should be rewarded for doing so. Continuing the regime of
these prohibitive financial policies constitutes a “subsidy for the black market.”
The way to solve this problem is to shift the financial incentives in favor of
operating under a legal framework, and avoiding this severe tax problem is the
best way forward.
To explore related information, click the keywords below:
Benjamin Caplan, MDUS Tax Court denies deduction request under §280E, but leaves the door open for future challenges
Pre- and postnatal tobacco and cannabis exposure and child behavior problems: Bidirectional associations, joint effects, and sex differences
Prenatal maternal cannabis and tobacco use is predictive of behavioral problems among toddlers. Resulting differences from control groups include anxiety, depression, and attention problems. Female children of mom’s consuming substances, in particular, seem to be more susceptible to problems relating to internalization, attention, and sleep. Additionally, the behavioral problems induced by prenatal cannabis and tobacco consumption often lead to further maternal substance consumption, which frequently exacerbates existing behavioral problems.