Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Medical Use of Cannabis

I wrote this article just over a year ago but I could not find a paying home for it, so here it is. 

Up until the twentieth century, cannabis was frequently used in western medicine. But more effective painkillers such as those containing opiates were developed. And then concerns about recreational abuse of cannabis lead to its use being prohibited. Despite it being illegal, research continues into the medical uses of cannabis, and people continue to use it as a medicine.

Recent research at Tel Aviv University in Israel studied the effects of cannabis on Crohns Disease. Eleven of the study’s participants smoked cannabis twice daily, while ten others smoked a placebo where the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) had been removed from the cannabis. The Crohns disease of five of the eleven who smoked the unaltered cannabis went into full remission. But so did the Crohns Disease of one of those in the placebo group. The researchers say more research needs to be done.

Research is also under way into the effect of cannabis on medical conditions such as ulcerative colitis, multiple sclerosis, diabetes and arthritis. Cancer cells have been killed by cannabis in experiments. Cannabis use has decreased nausea and increased appetites in people undergoing chemotherapy and who are HIV positive. Cannabis is used by many people battling chronic pain. Cannabis is also reported to help in the treatment of hepatitis C, skin cancer, migraines, morning sickness, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. 

Possession of cannabis is illegal 

Anyone tempted to conduct their own personal research into the effect of cannabis on their medical condition should be aware they are committing a crime. In Victoria anyone caught with less than 50 grams of cannabis risks being fined $700 for possession. They can be fined a further $700 if they are caught using it. The Victorian Legal Aid website says first offenders will usually get a caution, rather than be charged and fined. People caught with more than 50 grams risk being charged with trafficking drugs and sentenced to jail. 

Harmful effects of cannabis 

According to the Victorian Health Department’s Better Health website, short term use of cannabis can cause:

·         impaired coordination

·         drowsiness

·         confusion

·         vomiting

·         hallucinations

·         detachment from reality

·         anxiety

·         and paranoia.

Long term use of cannabis can cause:

·         poor concentration

·         memory loss

·         an inability to learn new tasks

·         increased risk of infections

·         asthma

·         throat, mouth and lung cancers

·         and serious mental illness such as schizophrenia.

Many health professionals are very much against cannabis being smoked, but are more receptive to its medical use if it is taken in other ways. Cannabis can be smoked, eaten, diluted into a tincture, inhaled as a vapour, drunk as a tea or absorbed into the skin as a cream or from a nicotine type patch.

An oral spray

In November 2012 the oral spray Sativex was included on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods. The spray contains extracts from cannabis leaf and its flower. A change to the Standard for the Uniform Scheduling of Medicines and Poisons still needs to be approved before Sativex can be marketed in Australia. A final decision about that change is due on the 27th of June.

Research has shown that Sativex is effective in the treatment of symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis. If approved, Sativex will only be prescribed to people with MS by authorised medical practitioners.

Sativex has equal parts THC, the psychoactive part of cannabis, and cannabidiol (CBD), which typically lowers the anxiety and psychotic symptoms of cannabis. So according to its manufacturer, GW Pharmaceuticals, Sativex does not produce a “high” in its users.

Trials of Sativex on pain in cancer patients are currently being conducted by Dr Brian Le, a palliative care specialist at Royal Melbourne Hospital. 

Unfortunately, Sativex could cost up to $500 a month because it will not be under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. 

NSW Government enquiry into medical cannabis 

In May this year (2013) a NSW Government committee released a report on “The Use of Cannabis for Medical Purposes.” Many of the submissions to that report suggested that cannabis should only be used when other legal drugs have not been effective for a patient.

The committee heard from many people who illegally use cannabis to self-medicate. They were told of a national survey where 18 per cent of Australians with HIV said they used cannabis as a complementary medicine. A person with Degenerative Disc Disease told the committee how she managed to get her pain under control by eating cannabis butter and cookies. She no longer had to take a long list of pain killers that left her wanting to spend all day in bed.

The report recommended the legalisation of the medical use of cannabis for people with a terminal illness and AIDS. They also recommended that the NSW Minster for Health write to the Commonwealth Minister for Health and Ageing expressing support for the evidence based approval of cannabis for other patient groups,  including those suffering chronic pain for whom existing pain management was not effective. 

Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation


Alex Wodak is the Emeritus consultant at St Vincent’s Hospital in Darlinghurst and president of the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation.  He wrote on The Conversation website that the legalisation of cannabis for people with terminal conditions was a good start. He said this should be a national approach. He also said cannabis would be cheaper than many currently available medicines. 

Victorian Government 

A senior media advisor at the Victorian Department of Health, said: "Currently there are no plans in Victoria for an inquiry into the medicinal uses of cannabis.” He went on to say “The Victorian Government will monitor closely any plans to implement the recommendations of the recent NSW inquiry into the medicinal use of cannabis among a very specific group of patients.” 



Sativex was approved but because it was not placed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme the manufacturer decided not to make it available in Australia.

Lucy Haslam has a petition on change.org to get medical cannabis decriminalised so her terminally ill son can use it. She recently got the NSW Premier Mike Baird onboard (picture). 




NSW Government inquiry: http://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/prod/parlment/committee.nsf/0/7641E8D87AC53FB3CA257ABF00134E57

Alex Wodak – President Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation, article written for the website The Conversation:

Victorian Legal Aid, drug possession in Victoria:


Sativex trials in Victoria:

Better Health Channel, harmful health effects of cannabis:

Crohns cannabis study

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Time to Boycott Australian Goods and Services?

I am a bit meh about the government scrapping the carbon tax. The fact that it seemed inevitable has negated much of my potential anger. If anything, I just feel vindicated. It is what I expected would happen from about 2011, when I realised the Labor government had no hope of winning the next election. 

I also expected the majority of Australians to be in favour of getting rid of the carbon tax. They claim to want the government to do something about climate change, but not if it costs them. Australians as a whole are becoming more selfish and ignorant. Just look at our attitudes towards refugees and the pathetic employment rate for people with disabilities in this country compared to the rest of the developed world. It’s all me, me, me in Australia, and it is getting worse. 

Selfish and Ignorant Murdoch.

Our rising selfishness and ignorance can partly be blamed on our media, especially anything owned by Rupert Murdoch. Rupert Murdoch is one of the most selfish and ignorant media barons in history. As this article in the Guardian shows, he does not understand or is deliberately lying about climate change. If his only source of information on climate change is his own media outlets, than one could understand his ignorance. But I think it is more likely that he is a supremely selfish man who couldn't care less what state the world is left in after he dies. 

Too Late to Act.

When he finally dies it might be too late to act on climate change. What Australians don’t seem to understand is if they think they can’t afford to do anything about climate change now, they are unlikely to be able to afford to do anything about climate change when it really starts to affect us as much of the budget will then be spent on fighting the effects of climate change.

I was thinking that if I lived in another country I would be very unimpressed with Australia’s decision to scrap its carbon tax and do bugger all to limit its carbon emissions. I would be especially unhappy if I lived in a country that is doing something about climate change, like England, Germany, Denmark, South Korea, New Zealand, even the US.

Dumb Aussies. 

If I lived in New Zealand I would be feeling pretty superior to those dumb selfish Aussies right now. If I was an environmentalist in England I might start boycotting all Australian products. After all, Australia is the highest per capita emitter of greenhouse gases in the world. And that does not take into account all the coal we export and all the gas we will soon be exporting. Our contribution to world global warming is only going to increase.

Boycott Aussie Aluminium.

But I have been thinking, why don’t I boycott Australian products anyway, particularly those products that use a lot of electricity in their production. I could start by boycotting any Australian products that have a lot of aluminium in them or their packaging. So no more cans of soft drink, and I could buy imported aluminium foil. Aluminium produced in Victoria using dirty brown coal electricity is probably the highest greenhouse gas producing aluminium in the world, even beating that produced in China.

Dairy farmers use a lot of electricity, so I could just buy imported Danish or German cheese and perhaps give up my occasional glass of milk. Our textile manufacturers obviously use a lot of electricity, so I could boycott any clothing, shoes, towels and sheets made in Australia. I could boycott any manufactured food product that has an imported substitute. Probably work out cheaper too. Luckily I grow a lot of my own fruit and veggies. I must start looking into solar panels too. We already have solar hot water. And I would have to buy ebooks instead of printed books from Australian authors from now on.

The one upside of scrapping the carbon tax and Australia doing bugger all about climate change is that it keeps the global warming plausible in two near future stories and a novel I have been writing. 

Bugger off Deniers

Oh, and anyone who denies that global warming is occurring and caused by humans, is either ignorant or selfish, probably both. So don’t bother commenting because your ignorant and selfish denial will be deleted. Whenever I check the so-called facts presented by deniers invariably turn out to be deceptions or just lies. Science has proven that global warming is happening, and the major factor in this warming is human made greenhouse gasses. What they have not concluded is how bad the effects of global warming will be. But with each passing year, the warnings from scientists are getting more dire.  

Monday, July 14, 2014

A review of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is set just over a decade after Rise of the Planet of the Apes. In that movie, a scientist experimented with a cure for Alzheimer’s on apes. The cure increased the intelligence of the apes. The apes eventually escaped and fled into the forests near San Francisco. The Alzheimer’s cure also caused a virus that wiped out most of humanity.

Dawn of the Planet of Apes returns to the ape’s forest refuge, where they have created their own primitive society. They are lead by Caesar, an ape raised by the scientist who created the Alzheimer’s drug. The apes haven’t seen humans for a few years and suspect that they are all be dead. But they aren’t.

A group of human survivors lives in San Francisco, and they are running out of fuel. They send a team into the forest to attempt to restart a hydro-electric generator. Their team encounters the apes, fear causes misunderstandings and violence ensues.

A committee of four writers wrote the film. They include the husband and wife team Amanda Silver and Rick Jaffa who both also wrote Rise of the Planet of the Apes. The other two writers were Mark Bomback who wrote The Wolverine and the remake of Total Recall, and Scott Z. Burns who wrote Contagion. So the writers have a decent science-fiction pedigree. Matt Reeves directed. Among other films, he also directed Cloverfield.

Andy Serkis returns in the role of the ape Caesar that he played in the Rise of the Planet of the Apes. His performance and excellent CGI create a believably proud and caring character.

Australian Jason Clarke plays Malcolm, a thinking man of action who leads the humans attempting to restart the hydro-electric generator. This appears to be Clarke’s first lead role in a movie. Previously he was the male CIA interrogator in Zero Dark Thirty. He also has appeared in a bunch of television shows including Farscape.

Gary Oldman makes an appearance as the thoughtful, but pragmatic, leader of the human survivors. 

The film looks magnificent in 2D. The apes look and sound real, especially when they talk. Their pronunciations of words are more like grunts, unlikely the English accented Roddy McDowall in the original Planet of the Apes.

The apes aren’t into democracy, Caesar leads them like the chief of a primitive tribe of humans. In fact, very little imagination is required to substitute American Indians for the apes and turn the movie into a film about colonisation. Caesar could easily have been an Indian chief raised by white settlers.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes does not have the excitement of new ideas that Rise of the Planet of the Apes had. That film was all about intelligence. It explored ideas around the battle to prevent brain diseases. And it explored what might happen if animal intelligence is increased to something like human intelligence.

Dawn of the Planet of Apes is a much simpler film about fear of the other, a theme that occurs regularly in movies. The movie’s tension, pace and action will suck most viewers into its story. It is just a pity that it did not attempt to explore a few more ideas. Still it is an exciting film to watch.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes keeps the Planet of the Apes’ mythology going. It is very easy to imagine how the apes in this movie evolve to the apes and civilisation in the original Planet of the Apes. So unless other ideas and themes emerge to explore, the franchise should be given a rest.  

In the Planet of the Apes lexicon, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes would come in third, behind the original Planet of the Apes and Rise of the Planet of the Apes. These movies are way ahead of the rest, especially the Tim Burton directed turkey.