Michael B. Kelley
Kevin Loria,Business Insider
The most common reason that people seek out medical marijuana is for chronic pain.
According to a report released earlier in January by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM), that makes a lot of sense.
One of the strongest conclusions of the report, which provides basically the most comprehensive, up-to-date look at what all available research on cannabis tell us, is that there is conclusive or substantial evidence (in general, enough to make a firm conclusion) that cannabis or cannabinoids, found in the marijuana plant, can be an effective treatment for chronic pain.
This matters because it has implications for how we treat pain and how we assess the value of medical marijuana. It also helps illustrate how — despite its DEA Schedule I status that declares it has “no currently accepted medical use” — most research indicates there are indeed potentially important medical uses for cannabis.
But at the same time, doctors still want more research to help them decide when marijuana might help a patient and when something else is a better idea.
How marijuana can help
Pain itself is a weird and complex thing. It’s subjective and personal and can’t be precisely measured with a test. That’s because even when it’s pain associated with a part of your body, it’s really your brain that’s telling you to hurt. If a pinched nerve in your spine is causing your back to spasm, your brain’s way of telling you that something is wrong is to make you feel an ache that might throb constantly or make you feel an explosive jolt if you worsen the pinch with certain movements.
But all those sensations are coming from your brain, telling you to take action to deal with some part of your body. And everyone reacts to these stimuli in different ways.
That’s why there are so many different ways to treat pain. Anti-inflammatory drugs reduce inflammation by blocking the chemicals your body creates in response to an injury that cause that inflammation. Opioids bond to opioid receptors you already have in your body, which can cause feelings of euphoria and block sensations of pain. We know that acetaminophen (Tylenol) can treat some forms of pain, but we don’t know how it works or why. Even non-pharmacological treatments can stop your brain from telling you to feel hurt, with interesting research showing that meditation and virtual reality can both effectively treat pain.
According to the NASEM report, studies show that both inhaled marijuana (vaporized or smoked) and cannabinoid compounds that come from the cannabis plant (like THC, mostly responsible for the high, or cannabidiol, CBD, one of the most medically promising of the hundreds of chemical compounds found in marijuana) work for pain. This is likely largely related to natural cannabinoid receptors that we already have in our body and that doctors think play a role in pain control. But the exact mechanisms showing how marijuana relieves pain are not fully understood yet.
It’s no surprise that people seek out cannabis for chronic pain, as it’s incredibly — in some ways disturbingly — common. About 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain, about one-third of the population, and it’s difficult to treat, especially in cases where the cause is unclear. Such pain is the leading cause of long-term disability. In some cases, opioids may be the best treatment for this pain, but the rapid rise in opioid addiction over the years makes many people want to find safer solutions.
With that in mind, cannabis seems like a good option. In states that have legalized medical marijuana for pain, addiction and opioid overdose rates have dropped.
But doctors still have questions.
Why some doctors are still hesitant to suggest marijuana
“Usually when you make decisions about which drug you are going to take for pain, you make that decision based on the type of pain you have and the relative risks for side effects,” says Ryan Vandrey, an associate professor of psychiatry who researches marijuana at Johns Hopkins Medicine.
When it comes to marijuana, “millions of people are using different types of cannabis products for supposedly therapeutic purposes,” says Vandrey. That introduces a lot of uncertainty to the equation. The marijuana bought at one dispensary in California is going to be very different from an oil bought at another Colorado medical marijuana shop; both will be different from a cannabinoid drug designed to help with pain. All of these substances fall under the cannabis umbrella, but depending on their specific cannabinoid content and the means through which they are ingested, they’re going to have different effects. All those people using those products for therapeutic purposes are “lacking information about which types of products to choose, what doses to use, and how cannabis compares to other medications,” according to Vandrey.
There’s already uncertainty over whether the pain relief from marijuana is on the scale of an over-the-counter drug like ibuprofen, or, more powerful, able to relieve the same pain as an opioid. Different sorts of cannabis products might fill different roles. With all of these questions, it’s hard for doctors to know when recommending marijuana makes the most sense, even if studies indicate that it works.
More research will be needed before we have answers to those questions, and as the NASEM report, Vandrey, and other researchers Business Insider has interviewed all point out, there are obstacles that make it hard to study marijuana.
But clearly, if it’s effective — especially if it can replace more dangerous drugs like opioids — that research is important.
The clandestine celestial war between superpowers isn’t over. It’s just getting more high-tech.
BY JAMES BAMFORD
Isaiah 5:20 Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.
I truly believe the Word of God is living, staying relevant to each generation as we apply it to today. Indeed, it is sharper than any two-edged sword. So, when I come upon a verse such as Isaiah 5:20 at a certain time, it cuts through all the rhetoric, all the arguments, all the politics, all the religious talk and “Christian-ese” and gets to the heart of the issue. This is a verse for such a time as this. For months, I and millions of others have been witness to this scripture being lived out in churches and on the national stage. It does not matter whether you are a Democrat or a Republican – this comes down to basic values and crosses party and denominational lines. I have seen what is good called evil and what is evil called good.
Putting Light for Darkness and Sweet for Bitter
Speaking in anger…is not good. Hateful attitudes and lack of compassion towards a person or group because of their immigration status, color, country of origin or religion…is not good. Pride and exalting oneself above others, ego that is out of control, and lack of humility…is not good. Bragging about sexual assault, stereotyping, lying, sexism, exalting one’s wealth, bullying…is never good. None of this is good, yet we have 81 percent of white evangelicals who have supported and called out what is evil as being good. We have a situation where a large population of our nation’s churches have declared that what Jesus said was evil in his sight, is now good. They have said that what He declared as bitter is now sweet, what He preached as darkness is now light! Thus, we have a spiritual crisis in America.
This isn’t about political and differing views on policy or “how to make America great again.” I am certainly not saying that everyone who voted for Donald Trump is not a Christian. It is never OK to make that accusation, as only God knows the heart. I am talking about those religious leaders and Christians who have embraced ideology of hate and judgment and supported, even promoted, values that are completely contrary to God’s Word and called it “holy.” For months before the election and even more so after the election, I have seen Christian people telling the followers of Christian Democrats of America and me personally that they are not Christians if they vote for Democrats, but they are good Christians if they vote for someone who said you can sexually assault women without their consent. They have embraced racism, bigotry, xenophobia and sexism and called it Christian values. They need to remember what Jesus embraced: character, love, and the outcasts of society.
Just look at Jesus’ interaction with the Samaritan woman – an outcast because of her religion, her ethnic status, and because she was a woman. He not only broke the religious and society rules by speaking to her, He shocked all with His love and He touched her heart by reaching out to her. He was continuously criticized and degraded by the Pharisees and teachers of the law on who He dined with, and let’s not even start on the “riff-raff” He asked to be His disciples! And since this is Christmas, remember the complete humility of Jesus very beginnings. He was born in nothing more than a barn, and He rode into Jerusalem not on a beautiful noble steed with gold plated saddle, but a simple donkey.
So, to put this into perspective, let’s use this example: say you are a Republican Christian and you care deeply about the working poor of this country, as I, a Christian Democrat, do. We both care based on our Christian values, we just reach a different conclusion as to what will help the poor. This is not you being evil as a conservative and me being good as a liberal or vice versa – this is a difference of political views. We can and should hold mutual respect as believers on this standpoint, even as we disagree on policy and vote differently – remembering we have a mutual goal and value. However, if you belittle the poor, if you scapegoat minorities who are poor, if you insult them, if you are hardhearted and without compassion…we now stand on opposite ends of scripture and you have just embraced an ideology that calls what Jesus Christ said is evil, good.
Sometimes what is passed off as good or holy on the outside is not. Jesus made this abundantly clear in Matthew 23:5-7, “Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.” And in verse 28, “In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” Matthew 23 lays out very clearly the seriousness of this issue of hypocrisy, religious bullying and “gagging on a gnat while swallowing a camel.” Here is the best way to tell if you are dealing with a person or church that is calling good what is evil – the Pharisee will point out your sin and condemn you, Christ will point out your value and love you.
Putting Darkness for Light and Bitter for Sweet
Likewise, we have also seen good things and good works called bad. I have seen liberals mocked relentlessly for pushing an agenda of love and compassion. Efforts to help the poor are said to be giving handouts to drug addicts. A Christian President who has had no scandals while in office, no investigations for corruption, who has upheld the office with decency and a high moral grounding accused of being a Muslim terrorist and disrespected in every way. And I’ve seen a lifelong Christian woman who made her campaign slogan about love and kindness be slandered, insulted, threatened, and falsely accused of the worst things you can think of. She continually quoted the famous Methodist quote by John Wesley: “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can,” and spoke of social justice and lifting every one up – but certain Christians called this, which was good, evil.
Divorce in many conservative Christian circles is still a very dirty word, yet they embraced and excused a man with three divorces and multiple adulterous affairs, and mocked a candidate who had stood through the trial of extra-marital affairs and saved her marriage. There was a special kind of hypocritical irony to watching Christian Trump supporters completely denigrate something which has always been applauded by conservative Christians…calling saving a marriage bitter and multiple divorces and affairs, sweet. One must begin to wonder what “family values” this group of believers actually believe anymore.
You may not have agreed with Hillary Clinton’s policies. You may have disagreed with her approach to the issues – and that’s fine. But what we saw this year was not simple disagreement. The Republican convention and the Trump rallies were full of hatred – it was chanted, it was on signs, even little children held signs with curse words. They said it with bitterness, they treated her supporters with hatred. This kind of visceral attack I saw from people who claim to know Christ, towards this woman who is a fellow sister-in-Christ, can only be put best into words by Jesus Himself: “You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘Never murder. Whoever murders will answer for it in court.’ But I can guarantee that whoever is angry with another believer will answer for it in court. Whoever calls another believer an insulting name will answer for it in the highest court. Whoever calls another believer a fool will answer for it in hellfire.” (Matthew 5:21-22)
Michael Gerson, columnist for the Washington Post, said, “Evangelicals in particular should be speaking out for values, not just being on a team…it’s what they said was the most important thing and now that’s totally discredited.” What so many in the conservative Christian church-world preached for decades they called bitter this year. So how can any person take seriously a staunch message of values from the church-world anymore? Well, if any of you are searching or are unsure, let me leave you with this: Let the Bible itself be your guide, and if your preacher is calling what Jesus said was good, evil, and what Jesus said was evil, good, get away from that place as fast as you can and shake the dust off your feet! People reach out to us at Christian Democrats of America on a daily basis, with a great increase after the election, asking if we know of a church they can attend that is not preaching Right-Wing politics, focuses on love and social justice, and is friendly and open to all people. We are building a national list of “safe churches” for this very reason.
While marijuana marches forward, drug-testing policies for employers remain stuck in neutral.
As we look back at what’s transpired in 2016, it could rightly be argued that this was the most successful year ever for marijuana.
2016: Marijuana’s most successful year ever
Entering 2016, 23 states had legalized cannabis for medical use, while residents in four states — Washington, Colorado, Oregon, and Alaska — had approved the sale of recreational pot to adults ages 21 and up. Furthermore, Gallup’s 2015 marijuana poll found that 58% of Americans favored the legalization of recreational weed.
Now, less than two weeks before the end of the year, 28 states have legalized medical cannabis, two of which did so entirely through the legislative process (Ohio and Pennsylvania). The number of recreational pot states has also doubled to eight from four, with residents in California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada all approving statewide initiatives to legalize adult-use weed. Even marijuana’s public approval has increased, with the 2016 Gallup poll finding that 60% of Americans want to see pot legal across the U.S. — a new all-time high. For added context, just 25% of Americans wanted to see marijuana use legalized two decades ago.
The proof of marijuana’s success can be seen in its election near-sweep (sorry, Arizona), as well as in the rapidly growing legal dollar figures behind the industry. Investment firm Cowen & Co is forecasting compound annual growth for the legal pot industry of nearly 24% through 2026, while ArcView is calling for 30% annualized legal sales growth through the end of the decade.
Marijuana’s expansion could very well lead to an employment boom within the industry, with some pundits calling for a 100% to 200% increase in pot jobs available in the near future. CNBC is estimating that the cannabis industry already employs about 150,000 people, so we could be talking about another 150,000 to 300,000 jobs being created solely because of marijuana’s state-level expansion.
However, outside the marijuana industry, it could be another story.
A nightmare for employers is brewing
While marijuana’s expansion is setting up bountiful opportunities within the pot industry, it could be narrowing employment opportunities elsewhere.
Even though more than half of all U.S. states have legalized medical cannabis, and more than a fifth of the U.S. population will soon have access to legal recreational cannabis following the November elections, the federal government still holds marijuana to be a schedule 1 substance. Schedule 1 drugs are deemed to have no medical benefits and are thus illegal. Employers are within their right to follow federal law during the hiring and/or employment process and administer drug tests that screen for marijuana, even if the state a worker resides in has legalized medical and/or recreational pot. Given that marijuana can stay in a person’s system for a considerable amount of time, this could prove a problem for infrequent users in legal states, and especially for medical marijuana patients who need the drug to treat a specific ailment.
As reported by the Los Angeles Times, companies in certain safety-sensitive industries, as well as those that operate directly with the federal government, are unlikely to relax their drug-testing qualifications for initial or continued employment. Industries such as trucking and construction, which require the user to operate heavy machinery, are almost assuredly not going to budge on their marijuana-testing standards, especially with the full effects of marijuana on drivers still not fully known.
Likewise, federal contractor Boeing (NYSE:BA), which employs nearly 162,000 — many of whom are in Washington and California — has firmly stated that it has no intention of changing its drug-testing policy regardless of what laws individual states pass. According to the company, “As a federal contractor, The Boeing Company’s Drug Free Workplace policy is based on federal standards which define marijuana as an illegal drug. Therefore the use of marijuana by Boeing employees is prohibited.” For what it’s worth, Boeing hasn’t experienced major shifts in hiring despite the passage of recreational marijuana laws in Washington state, but that isn’t the case with other industries where it has been difficult to find workers to hire who can pass (and continue to pass) a drug test.
Barry Sample, the aptly named Director of Sciences and Technology for Quest Diagnostics, the company that handles most drug testing for employers, told the Los Angeles Times that most California employers don’t plan to change their policies on marijuana, and many of those in Washington and Colorado that had suggested they would alter their drug-testing policies have not followed through.
A reminder of marijuana’s many challenges
If there’s a lesson to be learned behind the growing clash over legal state-level marijuana use and employers that ardently oppose their employees’ use of pot, it’s that marijuana’s path to success is probably more challenging than most people realize.
Until marijuana is rescheduled by the federal government, many employers that are currently testing for it (along with other illegal substances) are probably going to continue to do so. But that’s the problem — the federal government isn’t liable to alter its stance on cannabis anytime soon. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency had its opportunity to reschedule pot this summer but declined. The DEA cited a lack of safety and medical evidence, as well as a lack of knowledge surrounding the chemical makeup of marijuana, as reasons for declining to reschedule pot. Petitions that call for the DEA to reschedule or de-schedule marijuana can take years to review.
Also, even though President-elect Donald Trump has demonstrated support for medical marijuana, it doesn’t mean that Republican leaders in Congress will agree. Of the states that have not legalized medical marijuana, many are led by Republican legislators.
These employment challenges compound a number of existing challenges that actual marijuana businesses are also facing, which stem from the federal government’s stance on marijuana. As long as cannabis stays as a schedule 1 substance, access to basic banking services (i.e., checking accounts and lines of credit) will remain constrained, and pot industry businesses probably won’t be able to take normal business deductions come tax time.
Though marijuana’s expansion could continue in 2017 and beyond, it’s expected to be filled with some sizable hiccups and speed bumps.
The $199 kit gets a little help from jellyfish genes
A former NASA biologist just launched a kit to help everyday home brewers step up their beer game by making beverages that glow, because who needs those regular amber hues anymore?
Josiah Zayner left his job in synthetic biology to start his own company, The Odin, which has a goal of increasing the accessibility of science and technology research, as Gizmodo reports. Zayner and The Odin produce kits for interested parties to conduct their own experiments, of sorts, and this bioluminescent beer kit is no different.
The fluorescent yeast kit uses a gene from a jellyfish and retails for $199. It requires about 10 hours of work over the span of two days before a user can get down to brewing.
“There is no impact on the flavor of the beer with the GFP engineering kit,” Zayner tells Eater. “You can literally add the engineered yeast to honey and water (or mash or wort) and the yeast will ferment and fluoresce.”
“This kit demonstrates the power and simplicity of genetic engineering by adding plasmid DNA to the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae so that it turns a fluorescent green color,” the kit’s guide reads. When used in a batch of home brew, the fluorescent yeast will produce a beer that glows under a blacklight, much as tonic water does, albeit for different reasons (tonic water contains quinine, which produces a similar glow as engineered yeast).
The kit has come under some scrutiny from the FDA, but Zayner says The Odin is not trying to sell food-grade materials, and has done research to demonstrate that the kits are not toxic or allergenic. “Honestly, when I started working on this stuff I was just trying to create something cool and push genetic design into the mainstream consumer market,” he says. “We are trying to sell a kit that allows people to create a new type of yeast that they can then possibly use to ferment with. We are trying to create a whole new industry, a whole new way of life where people can use genetic design freely in their homes.”
Zayner’s kit puts beer in a category of other weird glowing foods, including some Floam-colored udon noodles made by a Japanese food scientist and glow-in-the-dark ice cream made at a pop-up ice cream shop in Australia using UV-reactive liquid coloring.
Washington (AFP) – A “strong signal” detected by a radio telescope in Russia that is scanning the heavens for signs of extraterrestrial life has stirred interest among the scientific community.
“No one is claiming that this is the work of an extraterrestrial civilization, but it is certainly worth further study,” said Paul Gilster, author of the Centauri Dreams website which covers peer-reviewed research on deep space exploration.
The signal is from the direction of a HD164595, a star about 95 light-years from Earth.
The star is known to have at least one planet, and may have more.
The observation is being made public now, but was actually detected last year by the RATAN-600 radio telescope in Zelenchukskaya, Russia, he said.
Experts say it is far too early to know what the signal means or where, precisely,it came from.
“But the signal is provocative enough that the RATAN-600 researchers are calling for permanent monitoring of this target,” wrote Gilster.
The discovery is expected to feature in discussions at the 67th International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico, on September 27.
“Working out the strength of the signal, the researchers say that if it came from an isotropic beacon, it would be of a power possible only for a Kardashev Type II civilization,” Gilster wrote, referring to a scale-system that indicates a civilization far more advanced than our own.
“If it were a narrow beam signal focused on our Solar System, it would be of a power available to a Kardashev Type I civilization,” indicating one closer to Earth’s capabilities.
Gilster, who broke the story on August 27, said he had seen a presentation on the matter from Italian astronomer Claudio Maccone.
“Permanent monitoring of this target is needed,” said the presentation.
Nick Suntzeff, a Texas A&M University astronomer told the online magazine Ars Technica that the 11 gigahertz signal was observed in part of the radio spectrum used by the military.
“If this were a real astronomical source, it would be rather strange,” Suntzeff was quoted as saying.
“God knows who or what broadcasts at 11Ghz, and it would not be out of the question that some sort of bursting communication is done between ground stations and satellites,” Suntzeff said.
“I would follow it if I were the astronomers, but I would also not hype the fact that it may be at SETI signal given the significant chance it could be something military.”
“God knows who or what broadcasts at 11Ghz.