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Joshua Lee is a news and science reporter. He has been one of the leading cannabis reporters in New Mexico for the last five years, and his work has appeared in Weekly Alibi, Right Where You Are Sitting Now and the Disinformation Company.

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For decades marijuana proponents have claimed that the drug can be used to fight cancer. While there was some anecdotal evidence that it could help treat symptoms associated with cancer and chemotherapy, it’s only been in the last decade that scientists have found evidence that THC could actually reduce tumor growth and potentially even induce the death of cancer cells. Now the federal government plans to hold a conference to discuss cannabis as a therapeutic cancer treatment.

The National Cancer Institute will be hosting the three-day virtual gathering next week. A number of researchers from different universities along with agents of the National Institutes on Health and the Food and Drug Administration are slated to attend the event. Some of the scheduled keynote speeches are meant to cover topics like the difficulty faced by researchers attempting to study cannabis in the age of prohibition, correlations between cannabis and tobacco use, the potential harms of inhaling smoke or vapor, risks and benefits of cannabis use for cancer patients and potential clinical applications of marijuana.

“This workshop,” wrote event organizers, “will highlight the state of the science in cannabis, its chemical constituents (e.g., cannabinoids) and cancer research, including cancer epidemiology, use in cancer patients, cancer biology and prevention, pre-clinical and clinical cancer symptom and treatment side-effect management, as well as the use of cannabis and cannabinoids as cancer therapeutics. The workshop will also address current barriers to research and strategies to navigate these hurdles to ensure feasibility of rigorous studies designed to address gaps in knowledge as well as potential research opportunities in the area of cannabis cancer-related research.”

There has been some research into the idea that cannabis can have a direct effect on cancer. A study published by Spanish scientists in 2009 in the Journal of Clinical Investigation found that THC could induce macroautophagy—a process that leads to cell death—in cancer cells. In 2014 scientists at the University of East Anglia in Norfolk in the United Kingdom found that THC could make cancerous tumors shrink in mice. In 2016 a study published in the journal Current Oncology reviewed evidence that cannabinoids are able to modulate key cell signaling pathways that control cancer growth, spread and survival.

These studies are incredibly encouraging, but there is still a distinct need for more examination. If THC can actually shrink or even kill cancer cells, then it could save the lives of millions of sick Americans.

Santa Fe Proposes Paraphernalia Law Change

The city of Santa Fe is attempting to pass an amendment that could decriminalize drug paraphernalia.

According to the Santa Fe Reporter, it is currently a misdemeanor to possess drug paraphernalia like pipes, bongs and syringes under Santa Fe city code—even though it’s been decriminalized at the state level. If a person is caught with paraphernalia in Santa Fe, they are subject to fines and jail time. In comparison, New Mexico state law has made possession of paraphernalia a civil violation that only carries the threat of a fine; it’s no longer a criminal offense.

The proposed amendment would reclassify the possession, delivery or manufacture of drug paraphernalia from a petty misdemeanor to a penalty assessment. This would align city laws with the state and would remove the threat of jail time for offenders. It would also keep the incident off of offenders’ criminal records.

Critics have voiced opposition to paraphernalia criminalization as the definition is broad and can be used to unfairly target and stigmatize drug users.

The city’s Quality of Life Committee approved the measure last week. It is now scheduled for a public hearing before the City Council on Jan. 13.

NM Safe Backs Legalization

A coalition to reform criminal justice spoke to New Mexico lawmakers last week and demanded that recreational cannabis be legalized.

New Mexico Safe is a group of advocates looking to “refocus our state’s correctional efforts on cost-effective, evidence-based alternatives to incarceration that rehabilitate offenders, keep families intact and make our communities safer.”

According to KOB, Emily Kaltenbach, senior director for Drug Policy Alliance (a member of the coalition), told reporters that legalizing, regulating and taxing recreational cannabis would allow authorities to combat drug abuse through rehabilitation instead of criminalization.

The group spoke to legislators last week and argued that recreational cannabis should be legalized during the upcoming legislative session.

UN Reschedules Cannabis

A United Nations panel voted to approve one of a number of suggestions made by the World Health Organization regarding international cannabis laws.

Last year WHO recommended the removal of marijuana from Schedule IV of the 1961 Single Convention. That recommendation was accepted by a U.N. panel last week. In a statement the U.S. delegation said it voted in favor of the change.

“The vote of the United States to remove cannabis and cannabis resin from Schedule IV of the Single Convention while retaining them in Schedule I is consistent with the science demonstrating that while a safe and effective cannabis-
derived therapeutic has been developed, cannabis itself continues to pose significant risks to public health and should continue to be controlled under the international drug control conventions,” the statement said.

WHO recommendations to add THC and synthetic THC to Schedule I of the 1961 Convention and delete them from Schedule II of the 1971 Convention, remove THC from Schedule I of the 1971 Convention, remove “extracts and tinctures of cannabis” from Schedule I of the 1961 Convention and allow CBD products with less than 0.2 percent THC to be exempt form international control were all rejected by the U.N. panel. [ ]

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