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Yes, We CAN-NABIS!

Cannabis plant extracts can effectively fight drug-resistant bacteria.

By NORA SCHULTZ

Substances harvested from cannabis plants could soon outshine conventional antibiotics in the escalating battle against drug-resistant bacteria. The compounds, called cannabinoids, appear to be unaffected by the mechanism that superbugs like MRSA use to evade existing antibiotics. Scientists from Italy and the United Kingdom, who published their research in the Journal of Natural Products last month, say that cannabis-based creams could also be developed to treat persistent skin infections.

Cannabis has long been known to have antibacterial properties and was studied in the 1950s as a treatment for tuberculosis and other diseases. But research into using cannabis as an antibiotic has been limited by poor knowledge of the plant’s active ingredients and by the controversy surrounding its use as a recreational drug.

Now Giovanni Appendino of the Piemonte Orientale University, in Italy, and Simon Gibbons of the School of Pharmacy at the University of London, U.K., have revisited the antibiotic power of marijuana by systematically testing different cannabinoids’ ability to kill MRSA.

MRSA, short for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, is a bacterium that can cause difficult-to-treat infections since it does not respond to many antibiotics. Many healthy people carry S. aureus on their skin, but problems arise when multi-drug-resistant strains infect people with weak immune systems through an open wound. In the worst cases, the bug spreads throughout the body, causing a life-threatening infection.

To make matters worse, resistance to antibiotics is rapidly increasing, and some strains are now even immune to vancomycin, a powerful antibiotic that is normally used only as a last resort when other drugs fail.

But when Appendino, Gibbons, and their colleagues applied extracts from five major cannabinoids to bacterial cultures of six strains of MRSA, they discovered that the cannabinoids were as effective at killing the bugs as vancomycin and other antibiotics.

The cannabinoids even showed exceptional activity against the MRSA strain that makes extra amounts of the proteins that give the bugs resistance against many antibiotics,” says Gibbons. These proteins, he explains, allow the bacteria to “hoover up unwanted things from inside the cell and spit them out again.”

Conveniently, of the five cannabinoids tested by the researchers, the two most effective ones also happen to be nonpsychoactive, meaning that they cannot cause a high. “What this means is, we could use fiber hemp plants that have no use as recreational drugs to cheaply and easily produce potent antibiotics,” says Appendino.

This isn’t the first time Marijuana has been shown to have medical benefits. Recently, the father of a 2 year old boy allegedly healed his son of brain cancer by feeding him medical marijuana.

In an attempt to discover how the cannabinoids kill MRSA, the team manipulated several chemical groups within the compounds. Most of the changes did not affect the antibiotic activity at all, and those that did seemed to influence only how well the cannabinoid is taken up by the bacterial cells.

“Everything points towards these compounds having been evolved by the plants as antimicrobial defenses that specifically target bacterial cells,
” says Gibbons. “But the actual mechanism by which they kill the bugs is still a mystery. We’ve tested whether the cannabinoids affect common antibiotic targets like fatty acid synthesis or the [DNA-bending enzyme] DNA gyrase, but they don’t. I really cannot hazard a guess how they do it, but their high potency as antibiotics suggests there must be a very specific mechanism.”

Appendino and Gibbons say that cannabinoids could quickly be developed as treatments for skin infections, provided the nonpsychoactive varieties are used. “The most practical application of cannabinoids would be as topical agents to treat ulcers and wounds in a hospital environment, decreasing the burden of antibiotics,” says Appendino.

Whether the cannabinoids could also be delivered in the form of an injection or in pills is less clear, the pair says, because they may be inactivated by blood serum.

Frank Bowling of the University of Manchester, who has had success treating MRSA-infected wounds with maggots, says that “any alternative treatment that removes MRSA from the wound and prevents it from spreading into the body is fantastic and preferable to using antibiotics that have strong side effects and against which resistance is already developing.” He cautions, however, that the researchers still need to show that the cannabinoids are safe to use.

This is not something that Appendino is too concerned about: “The topical use of cannabis preparations has a long tradition in European medicine, and no allergies have been reported.”

Mark Rogerson of GW Pharmaceuticals, a U.K.-based company that develops cannabinoid-based drugs to treat severe pain caused by multiple sclerosis and cancer, says that the discovery that cannabinoids kill MRSA “really underlines the potentially great diversity of medical applications that cannabis-based medicine can have. You can almost think of the cannabis plant as a mini pharma industry in its own right.” But Rogerson says that it is unlikely that existing cannabis-based medicines could be used to treat MRSA because the exact effect will depend on the correct combination and dosage of cannabinoids.

Meanwhile, Appendino and Gibbons hope that antibacterial effectiveness could also make cannabinoids suitable preservatives for cosmetics and toiletries. “The golden standards of preservatives are parabens and chlorinated phenols,” says Appendino, but these compounds do not degrade well in the environment and are strongly suspected to be hormonal modifiers. He also argues that, since all major cannabinoids are similarly effective, complete purification of a single compound isn’t necessary. So semipurified cannabinoid mixtures extracted from nonpsychoactive plants could make a cheap and easy alternative to conventional preservatives.

SOURCE

Toke of the Town

Lawmakers to introduce bill to legalize marijuana

AFPBy Luis Robayo | AFP –

A group of US representatives plan to introduce legislation that will legalize marijuana and allow states to legislate its use, pro-marijuana groups said Wednesday.

The legislation would limit the federal government’s role in marijuana enforcement to cross-border or inter-state smuggling, and allow people to legally grow, use or sell marijuana in states where it is legal.

The bill, which is expected to be introduced on Thursday by Republican Representative Ron Paul and Democratic Representative Barney Frank, would be the first ever legislation designed to end the federal ban on marijuana. Ron Paul and Barney Frank have teamed up to introduce legislation legalizing marijuana. Not decriminalizing it, but actually totally legalizing it.

It is being billed as “bipartisan legislation” but Ron Paul is the only Republican co-sponsor. According to the Marijuana Policy Project: “The legislation is the first bill ever introduced in Congress to end federal marijuana prohibition.”

On this, the 40th anniversary of the WAR ON DRUGS, basically every thinking person agrees that marijuana prohibition is an expensive failure. Will this bill even get a floor debate in the House of Representatives?

Sixteen of the 50 states as well as the District of Columbia have legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

But planting, selling or commercially distributing marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

Last year, California citizens voted not to legalize recreational marijuana use, although the debate continues in about half a dozen other states.

Three weeks ago a group of ex-presidents of Latin America as well as former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan denounced the failure of the global war on drugs and called for urgent changes, including the legalization of cannabis.

Between 1998 and 2008, worldwide consumption of opiates increased 35 percent, with cocaine use growing 27 percent and marijuana use growing 8.5 percent, according to the Global Commission on Drug Policy.

June marks the 40th anniversary of the “WAR ON DRUGS” launched by President Richard Nixon in 1970, the first major US anti-drug initiative.

SOURCE

If at first you don’t succeed……throw another billion at it.

Name one government program that for 40 years has failed to achieve any of its goals, yet receives bigger and bigger budgets every year. If you said “the War on Drugs,” you’ve been paying attention.

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The Obama Administration is unable to show that the billions of dollar spent in the WAR ON DRUGS have significantly affected the flow of illicit substances into the United States, according to two government reports and outside experts.

The reports specifically criticize the government’s growing use of U.S. contractors, which were paid more than $3 billion to train local prosecutors and police, help eradicate coca fields, and operate surveillance equipment in the battle against the expanding drug trade in Latin America over the past five years, reports Brian Bennett of the Los Angeles Times.

“We are wasting tax dollars and throwing money at a problem without even knowing what we are getting in return,” said Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), who chairs the Senate subcommittee that wrote one of the reports, which was released on Wednesday.

Professor Bruce Bagley, University of Miami: “I think we have wasted our money hugely”

?”I think we have wasted our money hugely,” said Bruce Bagley, an expert in U.S. anti-narcotics efforts. “The effort has had corrosive effects on every country it has touched,” said Bagley, who chairs international studies at the University of Miami at Coral Gables, Florida.

Predictably, Obama Administration officials deny reports that U.S. efforts have failed to reduce drug production and smuggling in Latin America.

White House officials claim the expanding U.S. anti-drug effort occupies a “growing portion” of time for President Obama’s national security team, even though it doesn’t get many Congressional hearings or headlines.

The majority of wasted American counter-narcotics dollars are awarded to five big corporations: DynCorp, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, ITT and ARINC, according to the report for the contracting oversight committee, part of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Counter-narcotics contract spending increased by 32 percent over the five-year period from $482 million in 2005 to $635 million in 2009. Falls Church, Va., based DynCorp got the biggest piece of the wasted pie, a whopping $1.1 billion.

Sen. Claire McCaskill: “We are wasting tax dollars and throwing money at a problem without even knowing what we are getting in return”

?These contractors have plenty of ways to waste your tax money. They train local police and investigators in anti-drug methods, provide logistical support to intelligence collection centers, and fly airplanes and helicopters that spray herbicides to supposedly eradicate coca crops grown to produce cocaine.

The Department of Defense has wasted $6.1 billion of tax money since 2005 to help spot planes and boats headed north to the U.S. with drug payloads, as well as on surveillance and other intelligence operations.

Some of the expenses are “difficult to characterize,” according to Senate staff members, which is government-speak for “OK, you caught us wasting money again.” The Army wasted $75,000 for paintball supplies for “training exercises” in 2007, for example, and $5,000 for what the military listed as “rubber ducks.

The “ducks” are rubber replicas of M-16 rifles that are used in training exercises, a Pentagon spokesman claimed.

Even the Defense Department described its own system for tracking these contracts as “error prone,” according to the Senate report, which also says the department doesn’t have reliable data about “how successful” its efforts have been. Go figure.

In a separate report last month by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, there is the conclusion that the State Department “does not have a centralized inventory of counter-narcotics contracts” and said the department does not evaluate the overall success of its counter-narcotics program.

“It’s become increasingly clear that our efforts to rein in the narcotics trade in Latin America, especially as it relates to the government’s use of contractors, have largely failed,” Sen. McCaskill said.

The latest criticism of the United States’ War On Drugs comes just a week after a high-profile group of world leaders called the global Drug War a costly failure.

The group, which included former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan and past presidents of Mexico, Brazil and Colombia, recommended that regional governments try legalizing and regulating drugs to help stop the flood of cash going to drug cartels and other organized crime groups.

US protects the Drug Trade

James Gregory, a Pentagon spokesman, demonstrated his willingness to lie his ass off by claiming the Defense Department’s efforts against drugs “have been among the most successful and cost-effective programs” in decades.

“By any reasonable assessment, the U.S. has received ample strategic national security benefits in return for its investments in this area,
” said Gregory, who seems to inhabit a particularly improbable alternate reality.

Back in the real world, the only effects most objective observers can see run along these lines: Backed by the United States, Mexico’s stepped-up Drug War has had the unintended effect of pushing drug cartels deeper into Central America, causing violence to soar in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

Another effect has been the vast expansion of Orwellain surveillance technology, supposedly to combat drugs, but ever-so-useful to the authoritarian regimes in Central America (and in the United States) in suppressing dissent.

The U.S. is currently focusing on improving its efforts to intercept cellphone and Internet traffic (of “drug cartels,” yeah right) in the region, according to U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.

During a visit to El Salvador in February, William Brownfield, the head of the State Department’s anti-drug programs, opened a wiretapping center in San Salvador, as well as an office to share fingerprints and other data with U.S. law enforcement.

SOURCE