Dr. Titus Insights: Zika, Recreational Cannabis, and U.S. Court

This Week:

  • Positive MMJ News from The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
  • A Report Surfaces This Week on the Next 14 US States to Potentially Legalize Recreational Cannabis
  • A Study Shows that Zika Virus Affects Adult Brains

Next Week:

A New Study Shows that CBD-A (aka Cannabidiolic Acid, a major cannabinoid in hemp-for-fiber-type cannabis) is an Inhibitor of MDA-MR-231 Breast Cancer Cell Migration.

Further this is another novel mechanism of action that CBD-A generates as opposed to findings by Dr. Sean McAllister of California Pacific Medical Center – where his now famous study showed CBD (in active, not acid form) to be a Novel Inhibitor of Id-1 Gene Expression in Aggressive Breast Cancer Cells.

I will describe the significance of this study for readers in next week’s column.


Positive MMJ News from The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

In a ruling handed down on August 16, 2016, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (one level below the US Supreme Court) BARRED the federal government from spending money to prosecute medical marijuana defendants who follow state laws. This opinion, a huge victory for the cannabis industry, comes less than one week after the US Drug Enforcement Administration controversial decision to “punt” and keep marijuana as a Schedule I federally controlled substance with no medicinal value. This ruling is also a victory for the 25 US states that have chosen to regulate medical marijuana in response to the demands of constituents.

The ruling hinges on the interpretation of a 2014 congressional budget rule that restricts the US Department of Justice from spending money to prevent states “from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical cannabis.”

In writing for a UNANIMOUS three-judge panel, Judge Diamuid F. O’Scannlain acknowledged that the provision from the 2014 budget rule “is not a model of clarity” – but the Ninth District Court interpreted it to mean that the DOJ cannot spend money “for the prosecution of individuals who engaged in conduct permitted by the State Medical Marijuana Laws and who fully complied with such Laws.”

Since the 2014 congressional budget rule, the DOJ has continued to pursue criminal charges and forfeiture actions against individuals operating in certain medical marijuana friendly States. The opinion of the Ninth Circuit Judges should change all that – at least in the nine States where this is now binding precedent. According to Marc Zilversmit, an attorney representing five people who operate four dispensaries in Los Angeles, California, plus nine indoor cultivation sites in Los Angeles and San Francisco: “This is the beginning of the END of FEDERAL PROSECUTIONS of state medical marijuana dispensary operators, growers and patients.”


A Report Surfaces This Week on the Next 14 US States to Potentially Legalize Recreational Cannabis

A report this week from WallSt.com mentioned the next fourteen US States to potentially legalize recreational cannabis. Noting that in 2013, only 7 percent of all Americans said they were marijuana users; three years later in 2016, a full 13% of the US population now says they smoke marijuana, according to a Gallup poll. Despite the growing acceptance of cannabis by the general population, the DEA remains unconvinced of any medical benefit, keeping cannabis in the same Schedule I category as heroin, LSD, and ecstasy.

Prohibited across the country less than 5 years ago, marijuana is now legal for recreational uses and regulated in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, and in the District of Columbia. Moreover, at least one dozen states may similarly repeal marijuana prohibition in the coming years.

In an interview with 24/7 Wall St., Megan Fox of Marijuana Policy Project (Senior Communications Manager) explained: “Traditionally voters have been way ahead of politicians when it comes to supporting marijuana policy reform.” As a result, states that allow ballot initiatives, through which statutes and constitutional amendments can be proposed by voters, are MORE LIKELY to legalize marijuana than states that do not allow these ballot initiatives.

States seen as most likely to legalize marijuana for recreational use in the foreseeable future had to have already legalized medical cannabis. The list includes:

  • Arizona where 13.5% of adults report using medical cannabis in the past year
  • California, where 14.4% of adults used medical cannabis in the past year
  • Connecticut, where 13.8% used medical cannabis
  • Delaware where 13.9% of adults used medical cannabis
  • Illinois: 12.2%
  • Maine: 19.8%
  • Maryland: 13.3%
  • Massachusetts: 17.4%
  • Michigan: 15.7%
  • Montana: 14.1%
  • Nevada: 12.9%
  • New York: 14.3%
  • Rhode Island: 19.1%
  • Vermont: 20.1%


A Study Shows that Zika Virus Affects Adult Brains

The Washington Post reported this week on a study that concluded that the Zika virus can affect adult brain cells, not just fetal cells. Brady Denis on Thursday, August 18th, wrote an article suggesting that the more that researchers learn about the Zika virus, the worse it seems.

A growing body of research, including a study by our local UCSD and Dr. Alysson Muotri has established that the Zika virus can cause severe birth defects – most notably microcephaly, a condition characterized by an abnormally small head and often impaired brain development. The virus has been linked in adults to Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare autoimmune disorder leading to paralysis and even death in advanced cases.

The animal study found that mice brain cells, critical to learning and memory – might be susceptible to the Zika virus. Published in the journal Cell Stem Cell on Thursday August 18, 2016, Joseph Gleeson, a professor at Rockefeller University and a study author mentioned: “This was kind of a surprise. We think of Zika health concerns being limited to pregnant women.”

Prior thought was that adult brain cells and neurons were resistant to Zika, which was why adults seem less at risk from the virus most devastating effects. However neural progenitor cells are also found in adults – where they replenish the brain’s neurons over a lifetime. These very pockets of stem cells (aka progenitor cells) are vital for learning and memory. Dr. Gleeson and team postulated that if Zika can affect fetal and infant progenitor cells, the virus might hold the ability to similarly infect adult neural progenitor cells – and this was precisely what they found.

Dr. Gleeson admitted that the study represents an initial step toward determining if Zika brain infection can take place in adult humans. However, if the mouse model translates to humans, damage to adult brain cells may cause long term effects of neurological damage or behavioral disorders.

To illustrate the potential dangers, researchers found that Zika infected mice had more cell death in their brains and reduced generation of new neurons, which holds key for learning and memory. According to the Washington Post article: “The possible consequences of damaged neural progenitor cells in humans would include cognitive problems and a higher likelihood for conditions such as depression and Alzheimer’s disease.”

“Zika can clearly enter the brain of adults and can wreak havoc,” Sujan Shresta, a study co-author and Professor at La Jolla Institute of Allergy and Immunology, said in a statement. “But it’s a complex disease – it’s a catastrophic for early brain development, yet the majority of adults who are infected with Zika rarely show detectable symptoms. Its effect on the adult brain may be more subtle, and now we know what to look for.”

 We have seen that CBD and not THC, is responsible for neural-regeneration, according to an early-stage animal study conducted by Dr. Susanne A. Wolf of the Max Delbruck Center for Molecular Medicine in Berlin, Germany. The study concluded that “CB1 affected the stages of adult neurogenesis that involve intermediate highly proliferative progenitor cells (stem cells) and the survival and maturation of new neurons. The pro-neurogenic effects of CBD (the stem-cell-like effects) might explain some of the positive therapeutic features of CBD-based compounds.”

I am excited that research may prove additional benefits for CBD to potentially combat this increasingly troublesome Zika virus problem now affecting US citizens in south Florida. With the CDC issuing travel warnings for pregnant women who had planned to travel to south Florida, isn’t it time to look at all means of protection – especially given some of the prior research findings for cannabinoids? CBD may hold significant answers to the health challenges facing North and South Americans.

I look forward to reporting further to readers in the near future.

To good health –



Stuart W Titus, PhD

President & CEO