After years of pressure from scientists, citizen groups and health advocates, the FDA has posted a statement to its website that is nothing less than a watershed event in oral hygiene history (it’s actually quite a bit more exciting than that may sound). Although the FDA has previously adamantly denied any and all scientific evidence pointing to negative health impacts from mercury fillings, the FDA has now posted the following to its website: “Dental amalgams contain mercury, which may have neurotoxic effects on the nervous systems of developing children and fetuses…Pregnant women and persons who may have a health condition that makes them more sensitive to mercury exposure, including individuals with existing high levels of mercury bioburden, should not avoid seeking dental care, but should discuss options with their health practitioner.”
The OCA alerted consumers on October 29th about a proposed rule that represents the broadest rewrite of federal organic regulations in history. OCA welcomes the new proposed rules in terms of closing loopholes relating to pasture and forage requirements that had previously allowed dairy companies like Aurora and Horizon to source their milk from giant industrial feedlots. Unfortunately, the new proposed rules also include a number of new cumbersome regulations that would cause tremendous hardship, or even put the majority of organic livestock farmers out of business. OCA also objects to the part of the proposed regulations that would allow non-organic cattle to be brought onto a certified organic dairy farm and then be considered organic. The OCA has joined together with the Cornucopia Institute and a number of the nation’s leading organic certifiers to encourage the USDA to revise its proposed rule to crack down on factory farm abuses, and uphold organic integrity, without making it impossible for existing organic farms to operate and thrive.
Reuters – Mice fed junk food for nine months showed signs of developing the abnormal brain tangles strongly associated with Alzheimer’s disease, a Swedish researcher said. The findings, which come from a series of published papers by a researcher at Sweden’s Karolinska Institutet, show how a diet rich in fat, sugar and cholesterol could increase the risk of the most common type of dementia. “On examining the brains of these mice, we found a chemical change not unlike that found in the Alzheimer brain,” Susanne Akterin, a researcher at the Karolinska Institutet’s Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, who led the study, said in a statement. “We now suspect that a high intake of fat and cholesterol in combination with genetic factors … can adversely affect several brain substances, which can be a contributory factor in the development of Alzheimer’s.
Vilksack’s nomination [for Agriculture Secretary] has now been withdrawn. Although Vilsack told the Des Moines Register he didn’t want to comment on why he had been sacked, sources at the Obama transition headquarters reported “a flood of calls and emails” from organic consumers opposing Vilsack’s nomination.
By Jennifer Viegas
Wed., Dec. 3, 2008
Stash for the afterlife: A photograph of a stash of cannabis found in the 2,700-year-old grave of a man in the Gobi Desert . Scientists are unsure if the marijuana was grown for more spiritual or medical purposes, but it’s evident that the man was buried with a lot of it.
Nearly two pounds of still-green plant material found in a 2,700-year-old grave in the Gobi Desert has just been identified as the world’s oldest marijuana stash, according to a paper in the latest issue of the Journal of Experimental Botany.
A barrage of tests proves the marijuana possessed potent psychoactive properties and casts doubt on the theory that the ancients only grew the plant for hemp in order to make clothing, rope and other objects.
They apparently were getting high too.
Lead author Ethan Russo told Discovery News that the marijuana “is quite similar” to what’s grown today.
“We know from both the chemical analysis and genetics that it could produce THC (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid synthase, the main psychoactive chemical in the plant),” he explained, adding that no one could feel its effects today, due to decomposition over the millennia.
Russo served as a visiting professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Botany while conducting the study. He and his international team analyzed the cannabis, which was excavated at the Yanghai Tombs near Turpan , China . It was found lightly pounded in a wooden bowl in a leather basket near the head of a blue-eyed Caucasian man who died when he was about 45.
“This individual was buried with an unusual number of high value, rare items,” Russo said, mentioning that the objects included a make-up bag, bridles, pots, archery equipment and a kongou harp. The researchers believe the individual was a shaman from the Gushi people, who spoke a now-extinct language called Tocharian that was similar to Celtic.
Scientists originally thought the plant material in the grave was coriander, but microscopic botanical analysis of the bowl contents, along with genetic testing, revealed that it was cannabis.
The size of seeds mixed in with the leaves, along with their color and other characteristics, indicate the marijuana came from a cultivated strain. Before the burial, someone had carefully picked out all of the male plant parts, which are less psychoactive, so Russo and his team believe there is little doubt as to why the cannabis was grown.
What is in question, however, is how the marijuana was administered, since no pipes or other objects associated with smoking were found in the grave.
“Perhaps it was ingested orally,” Russo said. “It might also have been fumigated, as the Scythian tribes to the north did subsequently.”
Although other cultures in the area used hemp to make various goods as early as 7,000 years ago, additional tomb finds indicate the Gushi fabricated their clothing from wool and made their rope out of reed fibers. The scientists are unsure if the marijuana was grown for more spiritual or medical purposes, but it’s evident that the blue-eyed man was buried with a lot of it.
“As with other grave goods, it was traditional to place items needed for the afterlife in the tomb with the departed,” Russo said.
The ancient marijuana stash is now housed at Turpan Museum in China . In the future, Russo hopes to conduct further research at the Yanghai site, which has 2,000 other tombs.
© 2008 Discovery Channel
Diane Goodman, organic food advocate, dies
by Shara Rutberg
Diane Joy Goodman, a key figure in the sustainable food movement, died of liver failure on Nov. 14. She was 61.
Goodman’s passionate advocacy helped transform the landscape of food both locally and nationally. She served as chair of the California Organic Foods Advisory Board and was a member of the National Organic Standards Board and the Organic Trade Association, where she was an active member of many committees and task forces. She helped craft and pass the national organic standards in 2000. Most recently, she worked as a consultant helping clients understand those standards, navigate the certification process and communicate organic practices.
“She lived passionately committed to her beliefs, her work, her friends and her family,” said her daughter, Allyson Jossel. “Her death leaves a huge whole in this universe, and there are no words to express how much my mother will be missed.”
“”She brought a real passion and commitment to helping convert large and small farms to organic practices,” long-time friend and colleague Katherine DiMatteo, former executive director of the OTA, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “Through her own deep engagement she became well-versed in everything organic. She brought all of that into her work and life, and the line between the two was quite blurred.”
Born in New York City, Goodman lived in San Francisco for the last 30 years, except for the time she spent in Washington working on organic standards legislation. Early in her career, she worked for the pioneering produce wholesaler Greenleaf Produce. She kept a hand in produce, literally, helping procure fresh food for her daughter and son-in-law Laurence Jossel, who own the popular Nopa restaurant in San Francisco. Goodman often attended three farmers markets each week and could be spotted climbing into the beds of farm trucks, hand-picking figs for the restaurant.
The Diane Joy Goodman Memorial Fund has been established at Bank of America. The account number is #02699-70175. A memorial party to celebrate Diane Joy Goodman’s life will be held Dec. 7, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., at Nopa.
November 24th, 2008 By: Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director
Smelly Money Leads To Major Legal Review Of California’s Medical Marijuana Distribution
In an important legal case decided today that cannabis reform advocates have been waiting on for nearly two years, the California Supreme Court ruled that criminal defendants are not entitled to a defense as Proposition 215 (Prop 215) caregivers if their primary role is only to supply marijuana to patients.
“We hold that a defendant whose care-giving consisted principally of supplying marijuana and instructing on its use, and who otherwise only sporadically took some patients to medical appointments, cannot qualify as a primary caregiver under the Act and was not entitled to an instruction on the primary caregiver affirmative defense. We further conclude that nothing in the Legislature’s subsequent 2003 Medical Marijuana Program (Health & Saf. Code, § 11362.7 et seq.) alters this conclusion or offers any additional defense on this record. ”
Prop 215 defines primary caregiver to be the “individual designated by the [patient]… who has consistently assumed responsibility for the housing, health, or safety of that person.” According to the Court, these words ” imply a caretaking relationship directed at the core survival needs of a seriously ill patient, not just one single pharmaceutical need. ”
The Court concluded, ” a defendant asserting primary caregiver status must prove at a minimum that he or she (1) consistently provided care-giving, (2) independent of any assistance in taking medical marijuana, (3) at or before the time he or she assumed responsibility for assisting with medical marijuana. ”
The Court’s ruling effectively limits the caregiver defense to relatives, personal friends and attendants, nurses, etc. In particular, it excludes its use by medical marijuana “buyers’ clubs,” retail dispensaries and delivery services.
The remaining legal defense for medical marijuana providers is to organize as patient cooperatives and collectives, which are legal under SB 420.
“The Mentch decision highlights the inadequacy of California’s current medical marijuana supply system,” California NORML coordinator Dale Gieringer told the Indy Bay News . “The law needs to allow for professional licensed growers, as with other medicinal herbs.”
Amazingly, this case found its way to California’s high court because bank tellers reported Mentch to law enforcement because his cash deposit smelled strongly like cannabis (Mentch was caught with approximately 200 cannabis plants that he believed he was lawfully tending, in compliance with Prop 215, for five medical patients who possessed a physician’s recommendation).
Full text of the People vs. Mentch is found here. Listen to NORML Legal Counsel and founder Keith Stroup on today’s AudioStash talk about the significance of the court ruling and likely implications on how patients can continue to lawfully access medical cannabis.
CNN – Nearly half the respondents in a survey of U.S. primary care physicians said that they would seriously consider getting out of the medical business within the next three years if they had an alternative. . . A U.S. shortage of 35,000 to 40,000 primary care physicians by 2025 was predicted at last week’s American Medical Association annual meeting.
Scientific Blogging – Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore have shown for the first time that the emotions aroused by joyful music have a healthy effect on blood vessel function.
Music, selected by study participants because it made them feel good and brought them a sense of joy, caused tissue in the inner lining of blood vessels to dilate (or expand) in order to increase blood flow. This healthy response matches what the same researchers found in a 2005 study of laughter. On the other hand, when study volunteers listened to music they perceived as stressful, their blood vessels narrowed, producing a potentially unhealthy response that reduces blood flow. . .
Compared to baseline, the average upper arm blood vessel diameter increased 26 percent after the joyful music phase, while listening to music that caused anxiety narrowed blood vessels by six percent. . .
During the laughter phase of the study, a 19 percent increase in dilation showed a significant trend. The relaxation phase increased dilation by 11 percent on average; a number that the investigators determined was not statistically significant.
Most of the participants in the study selected country music as their favorite to evoke joy, according to Dr. Miller, while they said “heavy metal” music made them feel anxious. “You can’t read into this too much, although you could argue that country music is light, spirited, a lot of love songs.” says Dr. Miller, who enjoys rock, classical, jazz and country music. He says he could have selected 10 other individuals and the favorite could have been a different type of music.
In 8 of the 10 initiatives, drug reform got a higher percentage than did Obama!!!
NORML – Millions of Americans cast votes Tuesday in favor of marijuana law reform, approving nine out of ten ballot measures seeking to liberalize penalties on cannabis use and possession.
In Massachusetts, 65 percent of voters approved Question 2, which replaces criminal penalties for the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana (punishable by up to six-months in jail and a $500 fine) with a civil fine of no more than $100. More than 1.9 million Massachusetts voters (and all but three cities) backed the measure – a greater total than the number of voters who endorsed President Elect Barack Obama (1.88 million). Question 2 is expected to become law within 30 days – making Massachusetts the thirteenth state to decriminalize the personal use and possession of cannabis. However, opponents of the measure – which include the state’s governor, attorney general, and all twelve state district attorneys – note that lawmakers still have the legal option to amend or repeal the new law.
In Michigan, 63 percent of voters approved Proposal 1, which legalizes the physician-supervised use and cultivation of medicinal cannabis by state-authorized patients. More than 3 million voters endorsed the measure, which received approximately 150,000 more votes in Michigan than did Obama. Proposal 1 goes into effect on December 4th, at which time nearly one-quarter of the US population will live in a state that authorizes the legal use of medical cannabis.
Thousands of voters in various municipalities also backed local ballot initiatives supportive of marijuana law reform. In Arkansas, 66 percent of Fayetteville (population: 67,000) voters approved Question 16, which directs law enforcement to make activities related to the investigation and prosecution of adults who possess up to one ounce of marijuana their lowest priority.
In Hawaii, Big Island (population: 172,000) voters approved a similar initiative, which directs law enforcement to make activities related to the investigation and arrest of adults who possess up to 24 ounces of cannabis and/or 24 plants their lowest priority. The measure, which voters backed by nearly a 3 to 2 margin, also forbids the County Council from accepting government funding to promote federal marijuana eradication efforts on the Big Island.
In Massachusetts, voters in four state House districts (encompassing 15 towns) passed nonbinding public policy questions directing each district’s state representative to vote in favor of legislation to legalize the medical use of cannabis. More than 70 percent of voters in each district backed the measures.
Finally, voters in Berkeley, California endorsed Measure JJ, which eliminates local limits on the quantity of medicinal cannabis that may be possessed by patients, and liberalizes municipal zoning guidelines for patient dispensaries.
By contrast, California voters rejected a statewide sentencing reform measure (Proposition 5), which sought expand the diversion of non-violent offenders to drug treatment and would have decreased minor marijuana penalties to a non-criminal infraction. Numerous politicians, including Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Democrat US Senator Dianne Feinstein, joined forces with law enforcement and the California Beer and Beverage Distributors to lobby against the measure, which gained just 40 percent of the vote.