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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Inhaled Cannabis Reduces Central And Peripheral Neuropathic Pain, Study Says

May 8, 2008 - Davis, CA, USA

Davis, CA: Cannabis significantly reduces neuropathic pain compared to placebo and is well tolerated by patients with chronic pain conditions, according to clinical trial data to be published in The Journal of Pain.

Investigators at the University of California at Davis, in conjunction with the University of California Center for Medical Cannabis Research (CMCR), assessed the efficacy of inhaled cannabis on pain intensity among 38 patients with central and/or peripheral neuropathic pain in a randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover trial.

Researchers reported that smoking low-grade (3.5 percent THC) and mid-grade (7 percent THC) equally reduced patients’ perception of spontaneous pain.

“[A] significant … reduction in [a 100-point visual analog scale of] pain intensity per minute was noted from both 3.5 percent and 7 percent cannabis compared to placebo,” authors wrote. “Separate appraisals using the patient global score and multidimensional [eleven-point neuropathic pain scale also] revealed that both active agents alleviated pain compared with placebo.”

Investigators added: “[N]o participant withdrew because of tolerability issues. Subjects receiving active agent endorsed a ‘good drug effect’ more than a ‘bad drug effect.’”

They concluded: “In the present experiment, cannabis reduced pain intensity and unpleasantness equally. Thus, as with opioids, cannabis does not rely on a relaxing or tranquilizing effect, but rather reduces both the core component of nociception (nerve pain) and the emotional aspect of the pain experience to an equal degree.”

The study is the second clinical trial conducted by CMCR investigators to conclude that inhaled cannabis significantly reduces chronic neuropathy, a condition that is typically unresponsive to both opioids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen.

Commenting on the study’s the findings, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “With the results of each published study it becomes increasingly apparent why the US government has tried consistently to stonewall clinical research on the therapeutic effects of inhaled cannabis. Each new trial the Feds approve provides additional evidence undermining the government’s ‘flat Earth’ position that cannabis is without medical value.”

For more information, please contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at:

Full text of the study, “A randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover trial of cannabis cigarettes in neuropathic pain,” will appear in the Journal of Pain.

What Would Happen If Pot Were Legal for Adults?


What would happen if marijuana were legal? In the LA Times today, "This Bud's For You."

I always wondered what would happen if marijuana were legalized for anyone over 18. It seems it already has been, and nothing happened.

Except, people still get busted and go to jail.

Which reminds me, NORML founder Keith Stroup's trial for smoking a joint at a press conference in Boston begins Monday. Keith and his codefendant, High Times associate publisher Rick Cusick are challenging the constitutionality of the law criminalizing adult pot possession and use. They also requested a jury nullification instruction. [More...]

The defense will also file a separate motion requesting a special jury instruction to the effect that a juror has the legal right to refuse to convict an individual, even if he or she admits to the elements of a crime, if the juror believes the application of the law to that particular defendant would create an injustice.

If you're in Boston, head on over and show your support for Keith and Rick on Monday. Here's how to recognize them:

I hope they let Keith out in time for the NORML Aspen Legal Seminar June 6 and 7. It wouldn't be the same without him. We'll be spending one afternoon at Hunter Thompson's Owl Farm in Woody Creek again. If you're a criminal defense lawyer or if you're a medical pot user and want to hang with sympaticos, you're welcome to attend. Here's my video from our 2006 Owl Farm party and me interviewing Tommy Chong at Owl Farm in 2007. My topic this year: Crackadoodledoo! A New Dawn in Crack Cocaine Sentencing. Here's the full schedule.

Not in Boston? How about Minnesota? They're trying to get a compassionate law passed there and are running into trouble with false ads. The e-mail I received says:

We have a bill in the legislature that's already passed the full Senate and is pending a vote in the House any day now. Although it has had Republican support in the legislature form the start, Minnesota's Gov. Pawlenty has stated that he "stands with law enforcement" on the issue – meaning, presumably, in opposition to it and inclined to veto on the basis of a small but vocal group of prosecutors and law enforcement officials who have repeatedly testified against it through the committee process.

There's only one problem: these opponents – who so adamantly defend their right to arrest and jail the sick and dying for using marijuana with their doctor's recommendation – have made false claim after false claim, some of which have been outright lies.

They are looking for media attention -- the local press is ignoring it:

It's staggering that elected officials like County Attorneys and law enforcement officers are permitted to just lie about legislation and, when they're called on it, the media seems uninterested, no matter how well it's documented. I suppose this is in the interest of "balance" – and also why independent media and blogs like yours are so crucial.

Brad Pitt as Thor, Bruce Willis as Hannible in A-Team - YEP!

Date: May 10, 2008

The A-Team dies hard, while Marvel wants Achilles to become the Prince of Asgard!

El Mayimbe here with a quick and cool Friday night update.

A lot of bees buzzing in Hollywood so check it...

...from what I'm hearing, for John Singleton's upcoming remake of THE A-TEAM, they're looking at Bruce Willis for the role of Col. John "Hannibal" Smith, the leader of the A-TEAM. I love it when a plan comes together!

Meanwhile, over at Marvel, the name they are tossing around to pick up Thor's mighty hammer is Brad Pitt! A solid choice.


Mark Petrosevich wrote one hell of a draft which they are in the process of trimming down for budgetary reasons. Not for nothing, with the acting chops that Downey Jr brought over to Iron Man, it's understandable why Marvel wants to go after a reputable name like Pitt - they're gonna need someone who can act. I personally loved Pitt's bad ass characterization of Achilles in Troy, so I think Pitt could pull off Thor. Marvel is not going to be typical and go after the John Cenas, Chris Jerichos and Tyler Manes of the world. That would be corny.

Could Brad Pitt, like Johnny Depp and Robert Downey Jr before him, be feeling the mid life urge to act in a movie for his children to enjoy now that he is a dotting dad? Only time will tell, but first I think Marvel needs to lock down a director.

Stay tuned as more develops!

[PICS] 40 High-Res Photos from "The Dark Knight"

AKA "40 more reasons to get psyched about this movie."

read more | digg story

Narco subs pose new challenge for US coast guards

A narcotics smuggler is perched atop a mini-submarine carrying cocaine during an interception by US authorities in 2007

MIAMI (AFP) — The first time they found one, authorities dubbed it "Big Foot." They had heard rumors that such things existed, but nobody had actually seen one.

It was late 2006, and Big Foot was not lurking in a forest, but at sea, 90 miles (145 kilometers) southwest of Costa Rica. And it was not an ape-like creature, but a hulking, blue vessel resembling a submarine and carrying several tons of cocaine.

Nor was it a solitary beast.

Authorities say they are detecting more and more seacraft like Big Foot -- known as self-propelled semi-submersibles -- carrying larger and larger loads of drugs.

Chugging around the southern curve of Central America and up towards the United States, they have formed a kind of illicit fleet and become a major drug trafficking tool.

"It's significant. We believe they can carry upwards of eight or 10 tons of cocaine," said Rear Admiral Joseph Nimmich, director of the Joint Interagency Task Force South in Key West, Florida, where military and government agencies track drug shipments.

"It's in fact a logical progression," he added. "As we get better at interdiction, they move to try to counteract our success."

Experts estimate 25 to 40 semi-subs left South America last year laden with cocaine, and they expect that figure to double in 2008.

Nimmich said cartels started looking for alternative ways to transport their cargo several years ago, when drug enforcement officials cracked down on trafficking by fishing vessels.

One answer was the "go fast," a souped-up speed boat that blasts across the water so fast that authorities have to use helicopters to give chase. Another was the semi-sub.

US Coast Guard boats along with a US Customs and Border Protection helicopter during a drill off the coast of Florida

Unlike speedboats though, semi-subs have a low profile. They travel just beneath the ocean's surface, making them difficult to find on radar screens. Big Foot also had lead shielding to minimize its "heat signature" and throw off infrared sensors.

More recently, traffickers have started outfitting semi-subs with a scuttle valve so crews can quickly sink the vessels if authorities get close enough to board and collect evidence.

Zachary Mann, a spokesman for US Customs and Border Protection, said finding semi-subs involves a "layered" approach of high-tech monitoring and "good ole' fashion police investigative work."

In some cases, this means visually spotting them from the air, although they are painted blue and produce a wisp of a wake. Even here, the traffickers alter their methods, travelling more slowly during the day so their wake is smaller.

Hoping for a new weapon in their arsenal, the US Coast Guard is working with Congress to make it illegal even to be aboard an unflagged semi-sub in international waters, whether or not authorities find cocaine at the scene as evidence of wrongdoing. The crime would carry a 20-year prison term.

"This vessel has no purpose other than illicit trafficking," Nimmich said.

In the meantime, semi-subs have grown bigger, sturdier and faster. Some can cover up to 2,500 miles (4,000 kilometers) during a non-stop two-week voyage. They have crews of three or four men who share a tiny cylindrical capsule just four-feet high.

"This is another example of just how nimble drug traffickers are, mainly because of the profits that are available," said Adam Isacson, an expert on Colombia at the Center for International Policy in Washington.

The value of cocaine spikes once it arrives in the United States, he said, where 2007 figures put the price of a gram at 118 dollars.

US Customs and Border Protection officers searching a shipping container at the Port of Miami

Motivated by huge profit margins, drug traffickers have maintained a steady supply of cocaine to US consumers despite billions of dollars in US anti-narcotics aid to Colombia, where almost all cocaine is produced.

Other smuggling techniques involve stashing drugs in containers, or paying human "mules" to ingest them before travelling. Agents have found cocaine dissolved in diesel fuel, stashed inside fake plantains, stuffed inside lollipops, and even hidden in breast implants.

Despite difficulties interdicting semi-subs, the US Coast Guard seized a record 355,000 pounds (160,000 kilos) of cocaine in 2007, up two percent from the previous year.

The figure was boosted by the agency's largest cocaine bust ever -- a 42,845-pound (19,280-kilo) cargo -- stacked on the deck of a freighter.

A Tiny Fish Cleans the Pools of Foreclosed Homes

May 9, 2008; Page A1

ANTIOCH, Calif. -- While lawmakers in Washington struggle to solve the nation's foreclosure crisis, officials here are using a small fish to clean up some of the mess.

The Gambusia affinis is commonly known as the "mosquito fish" because of its healthy appetite for the larvae of the irritating and disease-spreading insects. Lately, the fish is being pressed into service in California, Arizona, Florida and other areas struggling with a soaring number of foreclosures.

[Mosquito Fish]

The problem: swimming pools of abandoned homes have turned into mosquito breeding grounds.

"They are real heroes," says Josefa Cabada, a technician at the Contra Costa Mosquito & Vector Control District, a government agency. "I've never seen a mosquito in a pool with mosquito fish."

The mosquito fish is well suited for a prolonged housing slump. Hardy creatures with big appetites, they can survive in oxygen-depleted swimming pools for many months, eating up to 500 larvae a day and giving birth to 60 fry a month. That can save environmental crews from having to repeatedly spray pesticides in the pools while the houses grind through the foreclosure process.

Some local agencies, increasingly worried about mosquito-borne diseases like the West Nile Virus, are taking to the air to find problem swimming pools. The Turlock Abatement District, near Modesto, Calif., last month hired a plane to fly over 55 square miles, snapping pictures of pools from about 5,000 feet. On the ground, mosquito-control crews cross-referenced properties that had greenish-brown pools with a street map and a database of local foreclosed homes.

A significant threat to public health can be resolved through the use of a biological intervention. Learn more about the fish that eats mosquito larvae to reduce the threat of the west nile virus. WSJ's Michael Corkery reports. (May 8)

In the Turlock district alone, about 475 stagnant pools were identified on the flyover. Many of those will be filled with mosquito fish.

To deploy the fish, communities are turning to workers like Ms. Cabada, a former Navy sailor. She has raised pet fish since she was a girl and keeps a 55-gallon aquarium at home along with her five love birds, two dogs, two pet pigeons and a rooster. Many mornings, she collects hundreds of fish, housed in massive bubbling tanks at mosquito-control headquarters, and transports them to pools and other water sources in a cooler in the back of her pickup truck. In the sweltering heat, the fish ride up front.

"They're my buddies for the day,'' Ms. Cabada says.

After Hurricane Katrina

The fish have been used to keep mosquito populations down for many decades by farmers and environmental crews who stock them in cattle ponds, irrigation ditches and decorative ponds. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, mosquito fish were stocked in the thousands of swimming pools abandoned around New Orleans in the storm.

[Josefa Cabada]

Native to the Gulf Coast states, the mosquito fish have mouths shaped to slurp larvae off the water's surface like noodles. The females can grow up to 3 inches long, and reproduce quickly. Technicians in Contra Costa typically release about 150 fish into each pool. Within weeks, the pools teem with a thousand of the scaly, gray predators.

When Ms. Cabada released fish into a pool behind a vacant home one recent day, they darted and dove through the water, which was the color of herbal tea. "It comforts you just to see them swimming around," she says.

Located along the delta where the Sacramento River meets the salt waters of the San Francisco Bay area, Contra Costa County's warm climate makes for prime mosquito country. The area is also struggling with foreclosures. Default notices more than doubled to 4,718 in the first quarter from the previous year, according to the research firm, DataQuick Information Systems.

Turlock Mosquito Abatement District

But like everything else about the housing crisis, the fish aren't a perfect fix. They baffle some bankers and agents hired by lenders to look after the vacant homes, says Carlos Sanabria, the Contra Costa mosquito control district's operations manager. "People think some trout-size thing is going to be swimming around in there clogging up the vents," he says. "I explain it's not something you are going to have for dinner."

Not everybody likes turning swimming pools into giant aquariums. "First you have fish, then you have birds that eat them" and then bird droppings, says Arnie Shal, a retired accountant, who lives next to several foreclosed houses with pools in Clearwater, Fla. "It's not really a healthy situation."

Mr. Shal, 71 years old, recently protested the use of mosquito fish in his posh development to the neighborhood association. He fears the fish will die in the Florida heat and allow mosquitoes to breed out of control. "This is trying to fix a serious health issue on the cheap," he says, "Everyone is under budgetary pressure, I understand. But they are going to leave us bug infested."

There are other concerns. A 1999 study showed that when biologists introduced mosquito fish to a pond containing tadpoles of the California red-legged frog, which is a threatened species, the fish harassed the tadpoles and harmed their growth. The frogs that emerged from the pond were 30% smaller than frogs raised in a pond without mosquito fish.

Stubby Tadpoles

"The Gambusia just keep taking bites out of the tadpoles, and the tadpoles end up kind of stubby," says the study's author, Sharon Lawler, a professor of entomology at University of California at Davis. She says well-intentioned buyers of foreclosed houses should be cautioned not to transfer the Gambusia from a pool into a pond containing the fragile tadpoles.

In addition to raising fish, Contra Costa scientists keep an indoor colony of mosquitoes for research. It falls to the district's entomologist, Steve Schutz, to provide the insects with their regular "blood meal," which he says the females need in order to reproduce. Every week or so, he sticks his arm into a screened cage containing more than a hundred mosquitoes in a hot and humid room called the "insectary."

He usually reads a book or works on a puzzle while the mosquitoes bite him for about 20 minutes. "I have been doing it so long that it doesn't even itch that much,'' he says. The district used to use a bobwhite quail for the blood meal, but Mr. Schutz says it's less hassle to offer up his arm.

'It's Organic'

It can take months after a defaulted homeowner leaves a house before the banks start caring for the property, Mr. Sanabria says. During that time, the fish can contain the mosquito problem, while a bank hires a caretaker to drain the pool or restart the filtration system. The fish are more environmentally friendly than constant spraying with pesticides. One problem with putting a cover on the pool is that the cover's exterior can collect water and breed mosquitoes, if left unchecked.

"This is how we are supposed to take care of things,'' says Robert Kloepping, who lives next to a vacant home with a pool containing mosquito fish in Antioch, Calif. "I think it's cool, man. It's organic."

The fish face a bleak future once they've done their job. Some begin eating each other after they run out of mosquito larvae. When the houses are sold, new owners can collect the fish and return them to the mosquito-control agency. In some cases, the environmental services department in Maricopa County, Arizona offers to come back and round up the fish it dumped in pools. But most fish will probably die as home owners drain the pools or begin treating them so they can swim in them.

"That's part of the program,'' says Chris Miller, a biologist at the Contra Costa mosquito and vector control district. "They are sacrificial."

Write to Michael Corkery at