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The science is alarmingly inconclusive, but the punishment for mothers is severe.
November 23, 2012 |
Employees at US hospitals are testing more and more newborns for cannabis exposure. And, with alarming frequency, they are getting the wrong results. So say a pair of recent studies documenting the unreliability of infant drug testing.
In the most recent trial, published in the September edition of the Journal of Clinical Chemistry , investigators at the University of Utah School of Medicine evaluated the rate of unconfirmed “positive” immunoassay test results in infant and non-infant urine samples over a 52-week period. Shockingly, authors found that positive tests for carboxy THC, a byproduct of THC screened for in immunoassay urine tests, were 59 times less likely to be confirmed in infant urine specimens as compared to non-infant urine samples. Overall, 47 percent of the infant positive immunoassay urine samples evaluated did not test for the presence of carboxy THC when confirmatory assay measures were later performed.
Immunoassay testing – the standard technology used in workplace drug testing – relies on the use of antibodies (proteins that will react to a particular substance or a group of very similar substances) to document whether a specific reaction occurs. Therefore, a positive result on an immunoassay test presumes that a certain quantity of a particular substance may be present in the sample, but it does not actually identify the presence of the substance itself. A more specific chemical test, known as chromatography, must be performed in order to confirm any preliminary analytical test results. Samples that test positive on the presumptive immunoassay test, but then later test negative on the confirmatory test are known as false positives.
False positive test results for cannabis’ carboxy THC metabolite are relatively uncommon in adult specimens. Among newborns’ specimens, however, false positive results for alleged cannabis exposure are disturbingly prevalent.
In April, researchers at the University of North Carolina reported in the journal Clinical Biochemistry that various chemicals present in various baby wash products, such as Johnson’s Head-to-Toe Baby Wash and CVS Baby Wash, frequently cross-react with the immunoassay test to cause false positive results for carboxy THC.
“[The] addition of Head-to-Toe Baby Wash to drug-free urine produced a dose dependent measureable response in the THC immunoassay,” the investigators concluded . “Addition of other commercially available baby soaps gave similar results, and subsequent testing identified specific chemical surfactants that reacted with the THC immunoassay. … Given these consequences, it is important for laboratories and providers to be aware of this potential source for false positive screening results and to consider confirmation before initiating interventions.”
Following the publication of the UNC study, researchers at the University of Utah screened for the presence of baby soap contaminants in infant urine. Surprisingly, they didn’t find any . Rather, they concluded that the disproportionately high rate of false positive test results discovered among their samples were the result of a cross-reaction with some other yet-to-be determined constituent. They cautioned: “Until the compounds contributing to positive urine screen results in infants are identified, we encourage the use of alternative specimens for the detection and investigation of neonatal exposure to cannabinoids. Screen-positive cannabinoid results from infant samples should not be reported without confirmation or appropriate consultation, because they cannot currently be interpreted.”
Yet despite these warnings, in many instances, hospitals fail to confirm the results of presumptive drug tests prior to reporting them to state authorities. (Because confirmatory testing is more expensive the immunoassay testing, many hospitals neglect to send such presumptive positive urine samples to outside labs for follow-up analysis.) Ironically, such confirmatory tests are required for all hospital employees who test positive for illicit substances. But presently, no such guidelines stipulate that similar precautions be taken for newborns or pregnant mothers. Explains Lynn Paltrow, executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women : “NAPW has had calls from numerous parents who were subjected to intrusive, threatening, and counterproductive child welfare interventions based on false or innocent positive test results for marijuana. We have learned that pregnant patients receive fewer guarantees of accuracy than do job applicants at that same hospital.”
Regardless of whether or not the drug screen results are confirmed, the sanctions for those subjects who test positive are often swift and severe. Typically, any report of alleged infant exposure to cannabis will trigger a host of serious consequences ranging from the involvement of social services to accusations of child endangerment or neglect. In some instances, mothers whose infants test positive for carboxy THC will lose temporary child custody rights and be mandated to attend a drug treatment program. In other instances they may be civilly prosecuted. At least 18 states address the issue of pregnant women’s drug use in their civil child neglect laws; in 12 states prenatal exposure to any illegal drug is defined by statute as civil child abuse. (One state, South Carolina, authorizes the criminal prosecution of mothers who are alleged to have consumed cannabis, or any other illicit substance, during pregnancy and carry their baby to term.)
Of further concern is the reality that the hospital staff’s decision to drug test infants or pregnant mothers appears to be largely a subjective one. There are no national standards delineating specific criteria for the drug testing of pregnant women, new mothers, or their infants. In fact, the only federal government panel ever convened to advise on the practice urged against its adoption. As a result, race and class largely influence who is tested and who isn’t. A study published in the Journal of Women’s Health reported that “black women and their newborns were 1.5 times more likely to be tested for illicit drugs as non-black women,” after controlling for obstetrical conditions and socio-demographic factors, such as single marital status or a lack of health insurance. A separate study published in the New England Journal of Medicine reported similar rates of illicit drug consumption during pregnancy among both black and white women, but found that “black women were reported [to health authorities] at approximately 10 times the rate for white women.”
How many mothers have been accused of child neglect or abuse because of false positive drug test results? Nobody knows for sure. But no doubt some mothers have been penalized solely as a result of the test’s inherent fallibility – and many more are likely to face similar sanctions in the future. That’s because the practice of drug testing infants for cannabis exposure remains a relatively popular even though there exists limited, if any, evidence to justify it.
“No child-health expert would characterize recreational drug use during pregnancy as a good idea,” writes Time.com columnist Maia Szalavitz. “But it’s not at all clear that the benefits, if any, of newborn marijuana screening – particularly given how selectively the tests are administered – justify the potential harm it can cause to families.”
Richard Wexler, executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform agrees, telling Time.com that the emotional damage caused by removing an infant child from their mothers, as well as the risk of abuse inherent to foster care, far outweigh any risks to the child that may be caused by maternal marijuana use during pregnancy.
In fact, the potential health effects of maternal marijuana use on infant birth weight and early development have been subject to scientific scrutiny for several decades. One of the earliest and most often cited studies on the topic comes from Dr. Melanie Dreher and colleagues, who assessed neonatal outcomes in Jamaica, where it is customary for many women to ingest cannabis, often in tea, during pregnancy to combat symptoms of morning sickness. Writing in the journal Pediatrics in 1994, Dreher and colleagues reported no significant physical or psychological differences in newborns of heavy marijuana-using mothers at three days old, and found that exposed children performed better on a variety of physiological and autonomic tests than non-exposed children at 30 days. (This latter trend was suggested to have been a result of the socio-economic status of the mothers rather than a result of pre-natal pot exposure.)
Separate population studies have reported similar results. A 2002 survey of 12,060 British women reported, “[C]annabis use during pregnancy was unrelated to risk of perinatal death or need for special care.” Researchers added that “frequent or regular use” of cannabis throughout pregnancy may be associated with “small but statistically detectable decrements in birthweight.” However, the association between cannabis use and birthweight failed to be statistically significant after investigators adjusted for confounding factors such as the mothers’ age, pre-pregnancy weight, and the self-reported use of tobacco, alcohol, caffeine, and other illicit drugs.”
DAVENPORT – On Sept. 5, 2002, the country was debating whether to invade Iraq to rid the country of weapons of mass destruction, just as it was bracing for the first anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. Stocks were still down, but the Oakland A’s had just notched their record 20th straight win.
Early that morning, 30 federal Drug Enforcement Agency-led law enforcement officers stormed the Wo/Men’s Medical Marijuana Alliance, a high-profile collective with a small pot farm outside Davenport, chopping down plants and setting off a furor with lasting impacts on the statewide medical marijuana debate that endures today.
“I just remember waking up at 6:45 a.m., because I heard vehicles in the driveway of the house I was in,” recalled WAMM’s Mike Corral recently, who looked out to see agents carrying a battering ram. “We always knew that there was this possibility of the feds doing something. [But] at the time, we were the darlings of the medical marijuana movement.”
Founders Mike and Valerie Corral were never charged, but the raid spurred a lengthy court case, contributed to local suspicions of federal law enforcement and beatified the Corrals as the spiritual center of the medical marijuana movement. Last week marked the 10th anniversary of the raid, and several key figures reflected on their roles.
“I think that event was one of the most important developments in the growth of understanding about medical marijuana in the country,” said local attorney Ben Rice, part of an all-star legal team that leaped to the Corrals’ defense.
But for a long time, prison was a real possibility. For Valerie Corral, the saga began when she heard boots crossing her porch. She knew who it was before she saw them, but said she was inoculated by calm.
GUN TO HER HEAD
“Something happened when they pushed me to the ground and put a gun to my head,” Corral recalled. “It’s hard to say exactly what it was. I wouldn’t say I felt safe with a gun to my head – I’m not trying to make light or change the image – but there was something that came together and strengthened inside of me.”
For the next several hours, Corral says she bent the ears of federal agents about the miracles of medical marijuana. The Corrals were taken to a holding facility in San Jose, while patients, some of whom needed help walking, gravitated toward the Corrals’ property and barricaded the police in.
Back in San Jose, agents asked the Corrals to help disperse the crowd, which they did.
“I didn’t want the energy to shift away,” Valerie Corral said. “I didn’t want it to become a screaming match.”
“I made this comment to an agent and said, ‘What do we have here, a hostage exchange situation?,’” Mike Corral said. “And he actually laughed a little bit.”
It turned out to be a wise move. Sympathetic to broad swaths of the community, the Corrals were embraced, with a medical marijuana giveaway even organized on the steps of Santa Cruz City Hall.
“I always said it was like representing Mother Teresa,” said Santa Clara University Law School professor Gerald Uelmen, of Valerie. “She is the most compassionate person I think I’ve ever encountered.”
By this point, the story of the raid had gone national. Many states were following in California’s Proposition 215′s footsteps, and the Bush Administration seemed to be drawing a line in the dirt. Hundreds of reporters were on hand for the pot giveaway and CNN carried the story live.
“Virtually every mayor in, at that time, the last 20 years was there,” Rice said.
Valerie Corral said she and Mike, now separated, spent the night in a hotel to avoid the risk of being taken back into custody before the big day.
MEMBERS CARRY ON
WAMM members kept the collective going by scrounging together marijuana and distributing it, and the DEA appeared unaware the Corrals had recently secured an industrial office on Santa Cruz’ Westside, which is still in use. But members said marijuana was in short supply, and that the raid contributed to the deaths of many.
“Sure, they were going to die anyway. It’s just that they died faster than they should have. And in pain that they shouldn’t have had, because they took the medicine away,” said longtime WAMM member Leona Powell, while rolling joints recently at WAMM’s Westside office.
The raid seemed divisive, not just among local police – who had long known the Corrals – but perhaps even among federal law enforcement.
Santa Cruz deputies did not participate, and then-San Jose Police Chief William Lansdowne later yanked his officers off a joint DEA marijuana task force that executed the raid.
Many WAMM members also believe the raid order came from Washington and surprised the local U.S. attorney’s office. Deborah SilverKnight, a patient then and now, said she even got a call from then-Sheriff Mark Tracy telling her what had happened. Rice was alerted by the county’s top jailer.
“It was very tragic. Surreal,” SilverKnight said.
The Corrals moved to suppress evidence from the raid before it even went to a grand jury, and it was clear fairly early that they wouldn’t be charged. (Within months, federal drug prosecutors would turn their attention to another co-op – a storefront called the Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative, or BALCO, signaling the federal effort to root illegal steroids from pro sports.)
VICTORY IN COURT
Nevertheless, WAMM members went on the offensive, suing the Justice Department. U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel eventually ordered that their farm be left alone, and the case stands as the only clear win for the medical marijuana movement in federal court.
WAMM struggles forward today. The collective was organized along Marxist principles – from each according to their abilities, to each according to their need – and has never been a cash register for its owners.
“We’re connected to the people that we serve, and each of us serves one another,” Corral said.
For all the well-placed criticism of the state’s medical marijuana industry, WAMM’s patients have always tended to be truly and severely ill. But it also acknowledges market realities, recently diversifying its product range and now offering cannabidiol-rich pot.
Richard Johnson, who has HIV, said many at WAMM mix marijuana with more traditional medicines. To control an illness, he added, one must be able to control their medicine.
“The beauty about this group is we have the support of people with very different illnesses coming here,” Johnson said. “We share information about what helps you heal, both mentally and physically.”
The collective has had thousands of members over the years, and 361 have died. WAMM is collecting pictures of the deceased, assembling them into a mural in their Almar Street office. Valerie Corral seems to hold each one especially close, having visited many deathbeds.
“You think you know something,” she said, “until you sit so close to something that you cannot imagine.”
Most see the raid as backfiring on the federal government. WAMM was a public relations nightmare, and partly because of that, arguably a bigger legal problem for the feds than the Corrals. Mike Corral believes a prosecution might have toppled federal drug laws.
Ten years later, the state is in the midst of another searching debate about medical marijuana and how much autonomy California should have regulating it, with many accusing President Obama’s administration of backtracking on a hands-off pledge.
Several dispensaries have been targeted for raids, with federal prosecutors saying they are targeting marijuana profiteers – something Corral (who believes the pharmaceutical industry is preparing to enter the business) has criticized. And in an uncertain legal environment, many have shut their doors.
“I think it really taught the feds a lesson that they took to heart,” said Uelmen, who brings his drug abuse law seminar students to WAMM. “I think it’s still being taken to heart. The fact that all these other dispensaries are being raided but WAMM is openly operating reflects that we taught the feds to make some distinctions that there are legitimate patients out there whose health depends on marijuana.”
‘WE WON THE WAR’
And when asked about the legacy of the raid, Mike Corral is clear: it led to the expansion of dispensaries throughout the state and the country.
“Medical marijuana is a done deal, in the United States and worldwide,” Corral said. “We won the war; it’s just ‘What are the terms of surrender going to be?’”
Valerie Corral said the raid also contributed to a personal evolution.
“It’s interesting how it moved us toward becoming the people that we really wanted to be,” she said. “To help us model ourselves after the many activists, civil rights activists that had gone before us and taught us, and taught the world to awaken. To recognize that we’re walking among need, and great suffering. To become what we wanted to be as human beings. To offer something that’s bigger than ourselves to other people.”
Follow Sentinel reporter Jason Hoppin on Twitter: @scnewsdude
Cannabis Science Makes Medical Moves at The 7th Patients Out of Time medical cannabis conference in Tucson at the Loews Ventana Canyon Resort
press release April 30, 2012, 8:44 a.m. EDT
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., Apr 30, 2012 (BUSINESS WIRE) — Cannabis Science, Inc. a pioneering U.S. biotech company developing pharmaceutical cannabis (marijuana) products, was honored to be the Sponsor and an Exhibitor at the 7th national Patients Out of Time, medical cannabis conference in Tucson, Arizona. The conference was attended by patients, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, professors, supporters, and entrepreneurs of the medical cannabis industry. Our own Dr. Melamede presented patient’s results that we have documented at http://www.cannabisscience.com .
The University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine (UCSF) is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians. Patients Out of Time is the only accredited CME program to educate medical professionals about cannabis as a medicine. There were over 25 world-renowned doctors and scientists sharing and presenting the latest research advances as the complexity of the endo-cannabinoid system continues to unfold. Please see the previous news release from April 17, 2012 at http://finance.yahoo.com/news/dr-robert-melamede-scheduled-speak-182800051.html
Speakers at the conference focused on the science and medicine of cannabinoids. Cannabis Science was overwhelmed, with great feedback by various representatives in the medical community. Prominent speakers included Dr. Robert Melamede, CEO and president of Cannabis Science; Dr. William Courtney of Cannabis Science’s scientific advisory board, and Dr. Andrew Weil, best selling author, speaker, and Integrative Medicine thought-leader. Talks covered specific ailments such as PTSD, cancer, and even drug addiction; research on cannabinoid science and medical applications, and law. Dr. Robert Melamede shared pictures show on our website. Cannabis Science helps cancer patients make informed choices regarding treatments. He also spoke as to the holistic nature by which the endocannabinoid system regulated homeostasis in all vertebrates from conception till death and therefore, why cannabis-based medicines are different from all others in their ability to help with so many illnesses.
Cannabis Science demonstrated a pre-release our multi-tiered, digital educational platform to be announced in more detail later this week. Our novel platform will help to meet the ever-expanding interest in cannabis that is coming from the medical communities as the almost miraculous medical benefits of cannabis emerge from the states that support medical marijuana. Our new educational platform (see below) will bring in revenues as we fill the emerging educational need of the medical community. Realistic cannabis education programs are not currently available in the professional schools that need them to end the disconnect between medical cannabis patients an their physicians.
At the conference the Cannabis Science booth collected data from attendees interested in Cannabis Science Stock and there was a lot of interest in our new branding platform.. Attendees were given PR Packets with CBIS information on cancer, Alzheimer’s, PTSD, aging, and heart disease. CBIS had attendees fill out a questionnaire to enter into a drawing for an iPad 3, a symbolic prize since Cannabis Science will launce our new digital education platform for Physicians, on the Apple iPad platform. Our congratulations to our conference iPad winner.
Andrew Pitsicalis, the Branding and Licensing Director for Cannabis Science, revealed the new digital platform and demonstrated the technology at the CBIS booth. Pitsicalis coordinated many interviews with Cannabis Planet TV, Arizona Clinics TV, The Phoenix Arizona Times, and local news and media. As a result, we had the honor to meet with a brain cancer survivor of an extremely dangerous surgery. In December of last year, he had a second operation to try to reduce the large mass in his brain. With stage 4 cancer, he came to Cannabis Science to help us create awareness for other cancer patients worldwide so that they too might understand there is hope with cannabis. The patient had not been a previous cannabis user, and was amazed at the impact the plant had on him. In fact, it prevented him from taking his own life, when he was no longer able to cope with having multiple grand mal seizures daily. The patients close friend begged him to smoke cannabis. When he did, he stopped having seizures. He told us he drove 7 hours to meet Dr. Robert Melamede because he was watching his videos our website and YouTube and found hope. The patient wanted to go to the conference to meet him and other doctors and scientists attending the conference.
The Patients Out of Time charity benefit dinner included entertainment by Greta Gaines from her upcoming album “Grassy Girl;” a live and silent auction, and a guest appearance by Gigi Ganjay. Greta’s information may be found at http://www.gretagaines.com , http://www.cannibuzz.com , and her reel at http://www.conlincasting.net/Gretareel/Greta_Gaines/Reel.html Greta Gaines is a client of Kaneabis (a Cannabis Science company).
If you would like to view information that Cannabis Science provided to the attendees of the conference, please visit our website.
Dr. Robert Melamede stated, “Things have never been better for Cannabis Science and this was confirmed at the conference this past weekend. Not only were we part of an historic event with Patients Out of Time, the amount of consciousness and knowledge gained by everyone attending will shape the medicinal science of the industry going forward. Furthermore, our network of professionals increased substantially as we continue to grow the Cannabis Science business model. Most importantly, this conference was a success because it was about the patients, and we heard dramatic testimonials from them, It was all about doing the right things, with the right people, for the right reasons.”
About Cannabis Science, Inc.
Cannabis Science, Inc. is at the forefront of pharmaceutical grade medical marijuana research and development. The second formulations will address the needs of patients choosing to use concentrated cannabis extracts to treat their ailments. Eventually, all Americans will have access to a safe and effective FDA approved medicine regardless of which state they live in. To maintain that marijuana is a dangerous, addictive drug with no medical value is scientifically absurd. Cannabis medicines, with no effective lethal dose, are far safer than aspirin, acetaminophen, and most other OTC drugs that kill thousands of Americans every year.
The Company works with world authorities on phytocannabinoid science targeting critical illnesses, and adheres to scientific methodologies to develop, produce and commercialize phytocannabinoid-based pharmaceutical products. In sum, we are dedicated to the creation of cannabis-based medicines, both with and without psychoactive properties, to treat disease and the symptoms of disease, as well as for general health maintenance.
Forward Looking Statements
This Press Release includes forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 21E of the Securities Act of 1934. A statement containing works such as “anticipate,” “seek,” intend,” “believe,” “plan,” “estimate,” “expect,” “project,” “plan,” or similar phrases may be deemed “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Some or all of the events or results anticipated by these forward-looking statements may not occur. Factors that could cause or contribute to such differences include the future U.S. and global economies, the impact of competition, and the Company’s reliance on existing regulations regarding the use and development of cannabis-based drugs. Cannabis Science, Inc. does not undertake any duty nor does it intend to update the results of these forward-looking statements.
SOURCE: Cannabis Science, Inc.
Cannabis Science Inc. Dr. Robert J. Melamede President & CEO 888-889-0888 firstname.lastname@example.org www.cannabisscience.com or Robert Kane Vice President of Investor Relations 561-234-6929 email@example.com www.cannabisscience.com CONTINUE READING...