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  • May 8 2012

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    Sativex (pharmaceutical marijuana) approved in ten more European countries

    What medical marijuana of the future looks like

    You want medical marijuana?  Big Pharma is more than willing to sell it to you

    International expansion of UK firm GW Pharma’s cannabis-based spray Sativex is well underway after a further 10 European countries recommended approval of the drug for multiple sclerosis patients.

    Health Authorities in Belgium, Finland, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal and Slovakia have now given the go-ahead for Sativex (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol), completing its Mutual Recognition Procedure in Europe.

    This means that Sativex can be marketed in these countries as an add-on therapy for the treatment of moderate to severe spasticity due to MS in patients who have not responded adequately to other medication, and launches are expected from the end of this year onwards.

    Sativex has already been approved in the UK, Spain, and Germany and other European countries:

    GW says marketing partner Almirall expects to introduce the drug in the German market in July and before the end of 2011 in Denmark and Sweden. Sativex is scheduled to be launched in Italy, Czech Republic and Austria in 2012.

    In case you don’t know, Sativex is a whole-plant extract of cannabis.  So it’s not like Marinol, the synthetic THC-only pill that many cancer and MS patients dislike because of extreme psychoactivity and difficulty in dosing (it’s hard to swallow a pill when you’re wretching from chemo and it takes 45 minutes of digestion before you know if you took the right amount.)

    Nope, this is the real thing, the whole plant, with all the THC, CBD, terpenoids, flavinoids, reduced to an spray.  It goes under the tongue, where your mucous membranes absorb the cannabis medicine quickly, almost like smoking or vaporizing plant cannabis, so there are no issues with swallowing difficulty or delayed effect like Marinol.  It comes in guaranteed dosage, potency, and purity.  It may be more expensive than growing pot, but insurance companies will likely cover the cost of the drug for cancer and MS patients.

    And it’s coming to a medical marijuana state near you:

    (CBS/AP) A marijuana-based mouth spray may get FDA approval as soon as 2013 – at least that’s what British manufactuer GW Pharma hopes. The company is in advanced clinical trials on the world’s first pharmaceutical developed from raw marijuana plants.

    Other marijuana-based drugs currently on the market use synthetic equivalents of pot, but this stuff’s made from the real deal. Its makers want to market the drug in the U.S. as a treatment for cancer pain.

    The spray, called Sativex, contains marijuana’s two best known components – delta 9-THC and cannabidiol. The medication has already been approved in Canada, New Zealand and eight European countries for relieving muscle spasms associated with multiple sclerosis.

    This is nothing new.  A decade ago, US firms were investigating an inhaler delivery device to combat the swallowing/delayed-effect issue with Marinol:

    The makers of the synthetic THC capsule Marinol – the only legal cannabinoid drug available in the United States – are developing a metered dose inhaler so that patients may consume the drug in ways other than oral administration, according to a Business Wire report released this week. Many doctors and patients criticize the effectiveness of Marinol because the drug doesn’t take effect until two to four hours after administration. Patients also complain that they have difficulty self-regulating Marinol and that the drug’s psychoactivity is enhanced when it is swallowed.

    Now I have nothing against Sativex or other cannabinoid pharmaceuticals.  For the truly sick and disabled, any advance that makes the medicine more reliable, easier to use, and more effective gets a thumbs up from me.

    But if your strategy to legalize the use of plant cannabis by all people for any reason is to preach “All use is medical/wellness”, cannabinoid pharmaceuticals is where you’ll end up.  There exists a paradigm for the medical / wellness use of substances, and it lies in the realm of doctors and pharmacists and prescriptions and manufactured drugs.  However, there also exists a paradigm for the recreational use of substances, and it lies in the realm of taverns and bartenders and DUI laws and ID checks and home brewing.

    In which paradigm do you think marijuana fits better?

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  • May 8 2012

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    Will Obama’s medical marijuana crackdown lose him swing state electoral votes?

    Colorado's 9 electoral votes are very much in play for 2012 (source:

    Huffington Post analyzes the 2012 electoral vote race between President Obama and presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney:

    The push against the Colorado businesses and the patients they serve is just the latest in the Obama administration’s bizarre action against a plant that was at one point a cultural flash point, but which now religious leader Pat Robertson says should be legal.

    The timing is also curious given the upcoming November election. Colorado’s nine electoral college votes are up for grabs, and Obama’s path to reelection gets very steep without the state in his corner. The legalization amendment on the ballot in November could drive otherwise complacent voters to the polls, but they may not end up backing Obama. Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson is not ashamed to tout his support of pot legalization, threatening to syphon protest votes that otherwise would have gone to Obama.

    Looking at that map, I can only imagine that President Obama’s campaign strategists are happy that medical marijuana states California, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, New Mexico, Michigan, Maine, Vermont, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and Delaware are solidly in his camp.  However, I’m guessing that Democratic strategists for the other races on the ballot aren’t happy that Obama’s anti-medical marijuana stance may depress voter turnout among some disillusioned Dems (who are likely disillusioned over more than just medical pot).  Gary Johnson and Jim Gray are probably happy that Dems in those states can lodge a protest vote for the anti-drug-war Libertarian ticket, knowing that vote won’t cost Obama their states.

    But I wonder how the Obama strategists feel about medical marijuana states Arizona and Montana?  Any chance Obama might have at swinging Arizona seemed remote with the immigration debate that tears apart that state; now add to that a nascent medical marijuana movement that sees Justice Department threats all over their state that have stymied the voter approved dispensaries.  And Montana, one of the few too-close-to-call states, is likely to swing back hard to the GOP by at least the 20,000 votes of sick people who used to be legit medical marijuana patients, forced out of the program by the draconian SB 423, a medical marijuana repeal that could have been written by Obama’s DoJ.

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