July was yet another month during which cannabis-related news was dominated by the ever-growing medical cannabis debate. While Australian state Governments have continued to take positive steps towards trials of the drug, it is interesting to note that last month s trend of questioning the level of evidence supporting medical cannabis has continued into July.
Medical cannabis update
Medical cannabis trials
It would be remiss of us not to start with the news that sent the papers into a frenzy at the end of July NSW Premier Mike Baird announced the first concrete information related to upcoming and highly publicised state-based medicinal cannabis trials. And while we did receive a lot of correspondence from members of the public who read the articles and assumed the trials are imminent, the Premier did confirm the trials will in fact begin in 2016.
According to reports, 30 terminally ill patients of Newcastle s Calvary Mater Hospital will be involved in a trial of vaporised cannabis leaves, which will be followed by a trial of a pharmaceutical cannabis product with more than 250 participants. The study will be led by researchers from our very own Faculty of Medicine at the University of NSW.
Details about previously announced trials for children with severe, drug-resistant epilepsy and adults suffering nausea from chemotherapy are yet to come. Queensland trials will not commence until 2016, but the state department is currently collecting existing studies for review.
Senators to support medical cannabis bill
On a Federal front, the Sydney Morning Herald reported a committee made of Coalition, Labor and cross-bench senators will endorse a bill to legalise medical marijuana and establish a federal regulator in lieu of the TGA.
The Federal Department of Health has highlighted concerns about a potential clash between the proposed regulator and the TGA, and some of Australia s international obligations.
From broken bones to pain and seizures: Is medical marijuana really effective?
Finally, two articles in the New York Times and Public Radio International asked the question, How medical is marijuana? . The articles point out the influence media has had on the public s opinion of the drug s capacity for safe and effective treatment, and highlight the lack of evidence supporting cannabis availability for treatment of some illnesses. In quite balanced articles, the authors have continued the trend from last month, really questioning what we believe and what evidence supports those beliefs.
More older people using cannabis
During July, Flinders University s National Centre for Education and Training and Addiction launched a new webpage which breaks down important figures relating to cannabis use in Australia. Of most note, in media coverage, were figures that highlighted the growth in numbers of cannabis users aged in their 50s and 60s, and the fact teenagers are delaying their first use of the drug to a slightly older average age than three years ago.
Marijuana heals broken bones
Media reported in July that a Tel Aviv University study concluded cannabidiol (CBD) may result in more rapid healing and strengthening of broken bones. The scientists believe there is a connection between the stimulation of bone growth and cannabinoid receptors in the body.
While many media outlets did focus on the interesting and seemingly positive results, it is worthy of note, as reported on MedPage that the study was very small, was only conducted on rats and employed an unusual method of analysis. The Tel Aviv University researchers say results are preliminary, and the effects of CBD aren t yet clear even for rats, so are not indicative for humans.
Cannabis and psychosis
A University of New York study has revealed men are more likely to suffer from cannabis psychosis than women. The study included data collected over 11 years, with research suggesting the ratio of men to women suffering from cannabis psychosis is close to 4:1. As yet, researchers aren t sure why this trend is occurring and hope to continue this important research.