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Conference Reviews


Santa Cruz Expo

        The Santa Cruz Hemp Expo held in California in March was a wonderful display of hemp products, including rugs, paper, fabrics, clothing, accessories, body care products, foods, toys, pet products and other industrial applications from over 60 vendors. Over 4,000 visitors viewed samples of wild hemp from Nebraska and a boat made of hemp. Also highlighted was the "Room Full of Hemp", demonstrating how living with hemp is a complete experience.
        The Santa Cruz Industrial Hemp Expo provides a positive basis for public support of hemp reintroduction, with an open-to-the-public, trade-show based setting that is well organized and effectively promoted. Live music, a hemp fashion show, a hemp house, hemp foods and beverages, educational and historical exhibits, workshops, videos, speakers and panel discussions were featured.
        Speakers on topics ranging from products to politics were presented and recorded on audio tapes and video footage. There was a panel entitled "A Womanís Perspective in the Hemp Business." Others touched on the Media and its perceptions and portrayals of hemp; on plant genetics and cultivation; on the making of paper and fiberboard; and on cosmetics and foods.
        The street in front of the Civic Auditorium was closed and a tent was set up for hemp beer, hemp wine and hemp food offerings. Music was interspersed throughout the event.
        Pine Ridge Reservation dignitaries led everyone in an opening prayer of peace for the hemp plant. Crucial Creations set up a hemp fiberboard coffee shop, a la Amsterdam. Coming from the farthest away was an Amsterdam company, Euro-American Marketing with Eco Himal Bunai from Kathmandu, Nepal presenting beautiful hand-knitted hemp hats and bags.
        Rousing crowds cheered for the daily hemp fashion show, and later shopped for hemp bathrobes and lollypops, among hundreds of products. The historical display was educational, and full of awe inspiring facts. The Human Rights Exhibit choked you up, if you were brave enough to read the stories that went with it. The Video Marathon was a great addition to the show and was featured on the local television station for the whole weekend. You could go to your hotel room after a day of hemp shopping and sit back and watch educational hemp TV! The following videos played in rotation throughout the weekend:

        This was a great multicultural event for hemp consciousness. Next year will be the third annual Santa Cruz Industrial Hemp Expo. It is scheduled for May 13-14, 2000. For more information, go to http://cruzexpo.com or contact Bob@cruzexpo.com

        - Susan LaPolice, Candi Penn and Annie Riecken


International Cannabinoid Research
Society Symposium

        At the 1999 International Cannabinoid Research Society Symposium held June 18-20 in Acapulco, Mexico, several potentially important advances were reported in the area of signal transduction. Alynn Howlett identified a peptide fragment on the CB1 receptor, 14 amino acids long, that appears to be its active site. Michelle Glass of the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders determined that the various agonists create different conformations of the CB1 receptor and activate different G-proteins within the cell. She found that whereas HU-210 induced a receptor shape that maximally stimulates Gi and Go proteins, WIN 55212 and anandamide only partially activate Go. "It is possible," Glass concluded, "that by understanding the abilities of the receptors to couple to different G-proteins, and the ability of different agonists to direct this coupling, ligands may be developed that enable specific signal transduction pathways to be selectively targeted."
        Diana Cichewicz and Sandra Welch of Virginia Commonwealth University described a study in which mice were given low doses of THC and morphine in combination for eight days. Analgesia was achieved without side-effects, suggesting a method to prevent morphine tolerance. The investigators called for clinical trials in which cancer patients with chronic pain are treated with a THC-morphine combination.
        Walter Fratta and co-workers at the University of Cagliari reported that mice will self-administer cannabinoid agonists (the WIN compound and CP55940) as well as opioid agonists (although they abjure pure THC). Pretreatment with SR141716A completely prevented self-administration of both agonists, suggesting that cannabinoid reinforcing effects are specifically mediated through CB1 receptors. Pretreatment with naloxone (an opioid antagonist) blocked the desire for cannabinoid drugs, and the CB1 antagonist blocked morphine self-administration. These results point to crosstalk between the endogenous cannabinoid and opioid systems.
        Raphael Mechoulam and colleagues at Hebrew University in Jerusalem reported finding high concentrations of 2-AG in mammalian milk, suggesting that cannabinoids might play a role in maternal-offspring bonding, as well as appetite stimulation.
        Vincenzo Di Marzo, who previously had found that anandamide and 2-AG inhibit breast cancer cell proliferation in vitro by acting on CB1 receptors, reported that the endocannabinoids inhibit proliferation of prostate cancer cells by the same mechanism. They also inhibit the proliferation of cancer cells induced by nerve growth factor. Di Marzo concluded, "These findings suggest that novel anti-tumor drugs may be developed from these endogenous compounds."
        A team headed by Michael Hill of the University of Manchester reported that anandamide and 2-AG in the basal ganglia may be involved in the control of movement and in the generation of Parkinson's disease symptoms.
        Lester Bornheim and Michael Reid of the University of California at San Francisco reported that pre-treatment with CBD markedly increases brain levels in mice of subsequently administered cannabinoids and other drugs, suggesting that sequenced delivery could lead to lower effective doses.
        CBD has shown potential as an anticonvulsant in animals and an antiepileptic in humans. Its antioxidant and neuroprotective properties were described at the 1998 ICRS meeting by Aidan Hampson of the National Institute of Mental Health, who determined that rats treated with CBD suffer milder damage when strokes are induced. This year Hampson examined the effect of CBD on enzymes that involved inflammation. (Inflamed nerve sheaths apparently play a role in stroke.) He found that CBD selectively inhibits some, but not all, subtypes of lipoxygenases which make inflammatory mediators called leukotrienes.
        Fay Guarraci and colleagues reported that the CB1 receptor antagonist, SR141716A, also improves retention of conditioned fear, thus giving more support to the hypothesis that blocking endogenous cannabinoids may improve memory.
        Taken together the data presented this year suggest a role for endogenous cannabinoids in memory formation, the reduction of pain, inhibition of tumor growth, and treatment of movement disorders.
        On the clinical front, Tod Mikuriya, MD, provided an overview of medical use of Cannabis in California since the passage of Proposition 215 in November, 1996. As a result of federal pressure on physicians, many have been reluctant to recommend Cannabis in the treatment of conditions other than AIDS or cancer. Mikuriya has interviewed some 1800 patients who had been self-medicating with Cannabis for 94 distinct conditions (defined by ICD number), including chronic pain and post-traumatic arthritis. "There are a lot of people out there who are suffering needlessly as a result of inadequate medication", according to Mikuriya. Usually the history involves some sort of misadventure with prescribed medication, such as GI bleeds from non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or significant incapacitation from antispasmotics and benzodiazopenes. Cannabis appears to be a unique immunomodulator analgesic that is useful in the control of autoimmune inflammatory diseases throughout the body. He also recommends it as "a gateway drug back" for alcoholics and heroin addicts.
        A report in March by the Institute of Medicine recommended development of alternative delivery systems to exploit the therapeutic potential of cannabinoid drugs without exposing patients to smoked marijuana. Wilson and colleagues reported on an aerosol system that successfully delivered cannabinoids to rats. G.W. Pharmaceuticals, the British firm that is producing Cannabis plant extracts under license from the Home Office, is developing a microchip-controlled nebulizer that will enable patients to inhale without smoking, according to director Geoffrey Guy.
        Guy was an interested auditor at the ICRS meeting. His firm has produced extracts with four different cannabinoid ratios for use in upcoming clinical trials involving patients with neurogenic pain. Guy said he would have results to report at next year's meeting in which case the cannabinoid field, having moved away from the plant itself for a decade, will return to its roots.

        Fred Gardner
        The Synapse
        University of California - San Francisco
        E-mail: fgardner@osrmail.ucsf.edu


Hemp: the Nutraceutical rich in
essential fatty acids

        Natural Products Expo West, March 13, 9:30 - 11:00 am. Sponsored by the Hemp Industries Association and the North American Industrial Hemp Council.
        Speakers: Don Wirtshafter of Ohio Hempery, Rees Moorman of Spectrum Naturals, Richard Rose of HempNut Inc., Cynthia Thielen of Hawai'i State Legislature and John Roulac of Hemptech.
        Rees discussed the role of EFAs in the body, that EFAs are the building blocks of life and critical to virtually every aspect of human metabolism. Richard spoke on types of hempseed foods available and their applications. Don was introduced by Richard Rose as one of the pioneers of hempseed oil in the US natural food market, and he discussed legislation and trends. Cynthia discussed legislation, particularly in Hawai'i. Roulac showed slides on cultivating hemp for fiber.
        Attendance was approximately 75, mostly people involved in technical applications that could use hemp, or those with a personal interest. Expo West is a well-established national natural products trade show.
        The seminar was a sponsored event coordinated by Monica Emerich of Natural Information LLC, a public relations firm.