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Research & Development Addiction, Adverse effects, Cancer, Medical research, Legislation & policy

Top Cannabis Science Headlines: July Roundup

Every week, we carefully curate the top stories from across the fields of medical research, testing, processing, and plant science. We also bring you the latest in the world of cannabis business and legislation. Want it all in your inbox? Sign up here.

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CBD for neuroinflammation

Researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine, St Louis, US, have explored the effects of chronic CBD administration in a mouse model of CLN1 disease – which exhibits neuroinflammation, neurodegeneration, and spontaneous seizures. Affected mice were administered CBD for six months and observed for any changes in pathological markers of disease and number of seizures. Results showed that CBD exerts positive effects on the neuroimmune response in the mouse model of CLN1 disease. However, the amount of CBD administered – 100 mg/kg – was not sufficient to prevent seizures and did not increase neuron survival. The authors emphasized that a higher dose may achieve positive anti-seizure effects and anti-neurodegeneration effects – but further investigations are sorely needed.

Nabiximols – safe but not particularly effective?

Nabiximols is currently approved to treat spasticity in multiple sclerosis patients. In a recent study, researchers examined the safety and efficacy of nabiximols in post-stroke patients with spasticity. The authors focused particularly on cardiovascular safety given that cannabinoids may slightly increase the risk of cardiovascular events. Overall, despite minor side-effects like dizziness and confusion, nabiximols was well tolerated and deemed safe for post-stroke patients. Safety: pass. Unfortunately, the results also showed that spasticity did not improve with treatment. Efficacy: fail. That said, the authors highlighted the small sample size of only 34 patients and short treatment time of one month as major limitations (presumably to both findings).

Marijuana misinformation

Could online information be misleading patients and cannabis users? According to a recent study: probably. A group of researchers from the Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil, analyzed 176 websites after Googling the term “medical cannabis.” Fifty two percent were news websites with pain, multiple sclerosis, and epilepsy being the most frequently mentioned therapeutic areas. Information was often incomplete – only 22 percent of the webpages reported potential side-effects. Overall, results demonstrated that online information is not always aligned with science-based evidence and could raise unrealistic expectations, potentially leading to patients self-medicating using cannabis-based products. 

Cannabinoids for Alzheimer’s?

The prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) – and the limited treatment options – inspired a team of researchers to examine the potential beneficial effects of cannabinoid microdoses to improve memory and brain functions of a patient with mild AD (main symptoms of memory deficit, spatial and temporal disorientation, and limited daily activity). Specifically, the patient was given microdoses of cannabis extract over a period of 22 months, and then assessed with the Mini-Mental State Examination and Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scale-Cognitive Subscale. The outcome? Apparently, both the patient and caregiver reported an improved quality of life, with reduced mood swings and improved memory and cognition. Good news, but the authors (unsurprisingly) stressed that placebo-controlled clinical trials are needed to confirm the findings.

A risky game

Concerns over cannabis use in adolescence have been raised repeatedly and, although there is extensive research examining the effects of cannabis use on adolescents, there are few studies comparing the impact of cannabis use in adults versus in adolescents. As such, a group of UK-based researchers set out to examine the differences – specifically exploring cannabis use disorder (CUD), depression, anxiety, and psychotic-like symptoms in adolescent and adult cannabis users and age-matched controls. 

Adjusting for covariates, results demonstrated that adolescent users were more likely to have severe CUD than adult users. Cannabis users also reported greater psychotic-like symptoms than controls and, generally, adolescents reported greater psychotic-like symptoms than adults. Finally, although cannabis use was not directly linked with depression or anxiety, further analysis suggested that users with severe CUD had higher depression and anxiety levels than cannabis users without severe CUD. Similarly, a separate Finnish study found that early-onset cannabis use is linked to an increased risk of adverse mental health effects for adolescents with psychotic-like experiences (PLE). The authors of both studies suggested that more research is needed to examine the relationship between psychotic-like symptoms and cannabis use in adolescents, as well as the risk of CUD in adolescent users.

Cannabis curbs complications 

According to a recent study, cannabis may reduce complications of thoracolumbar spinal fusion (TLF) surgery in patients with adult spinal deformity (ASD). Analyzing data from over 700 patients, the researchers compared 90-day complication, 90-day readmission, as well as two-year revision rates between baseline cannabis users and non-users. “Compared to patients with ASD who underwent TLF without baseline cannabis use, patients with isolated baseline cannabis use were found to have no increase in odds of incurring 90-day surgical complications or readmissions or revisions two years postoperatively, though reduced odds of experiencing 90-day medical complications were observed,” the authors concluded. However, they highlighted the need for further randomized-controlled studies to confirm the results.

What else is going on?

Research + Medicine

CBD-enriched cannabis may be safe and effective treatment for children with drug-resistant epilepsy – but authors cite tolerance as major issue to be addressed. Link

Cannabis smoke condensate results in human gingival epithelial cell damage, potentially leading to gingivitis and periodontitis – authors suggested oral health professionals should consider this during clinical care of cannabis users. Link 

Greater financial strain is associated with increased cannabis use in African American/Black adults. Link

Cannabis extracts do not mitigate effects of high fat diets in mouse model of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and obesity – however it does show positive effects on gut microbiota. Link

Self-reported anger traits shown to be associated with heavy and chronic cannabis use in young people; authors call for treatment programs to target both cannabis use and anger management. Link

Synthetic cannabinoid JWH-018 may have therapeutic effect on pathogenesis of leukemia, particularly on leukemic stem cells and hematopoietic stem cells – but more research is needed. Link

Review finds higher potency cannabis to be associated with increased risk of psychosis and cannabis use disorder. Link

Standardized extracts of inflorescences (SCE-II) and leaves (SCE-I) show potential as α-glucosidase inhibitors for type 2 diabetes patients. Link

Cannabis flavonoid cannflavin A can be cytotoxic to human bladder transitional carcinoma cells. Link 

Plant Science + Genetics 

Study explores cannabinoid biosynthesis versus upregulation of biosynthetic genes; CBGA biosynthesis is rate-limiting step in pathway. Link

Study demonstrates two independent approaches to measure male fitness in cannabis plants. Link

Testing + Processing 

In US drug-testing, Δ9-THC-COOH serves as most consistent confirmatory analyte under current guidelines – but 11-OH-Δ9-THC may be used to distinguish between licit and illicit cannabis products. Link 

Standardized method for cannabis medicinal oil on the horizon – but more research for methodological validation will be needed. Link 

SERS chip-based analysis method demonstrates fast and reliable sensing of trace THC and CBN. Link

Business + Regulation 

Germany set to legalize cannabis within the next two years with other European countries watching closely – and potentially following suit. Link

US Army considers using hemp to make sniper uniforms. Link 

US House committee votes to prevent federal interference in state cannabis programs. Link 

US Democratic senators pressure Biden to decriminalize cannabis. Link

Russia calls out US hypocrisy as WNBA athlete Brittney Griner pleads guilty to cannabis charges. Link

Thailand sees boom in cannabis products since its removal from the banned narcotics list. Link 

US House of Representatives approves amendments to defense bill to protect banks working with cannabis businesses and allowing doctors to issue medical cannabis recommendations for veterans. Link

UK Home Office proposes harsher penalties for recreational users of cannabis with “three strike” deterrent system. Link 

US federal government handbook gets new section on cannabis potency, measurement, and labeling. Link

US Senate bill filed to federally legalize cannabis and promote social equity. Link

US federal bill allows cannabis advertising on television and radio. Link

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About the Author
Margot Lespade

Margot Lespade, Associate Editor, The Cannabis Scientist

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