Cannabinoid research is stalled by red tape  

How can you soar like a majestic eagle in azure skies if your take-off is blocked by turkeys? That is precisely the gut feeling many medical and pharmaceutical investigators have at present when they have to confront the varied bureaucratic hurdles set by a tone-deaf US administration. Believe it or not, the critical clinical research on the potential value of Cannabinoids in severe chronic illnesses like Epilepsy, Parkinson’s Disease, Post-Traumatic Stress disorder, etc., is being haunted by the sorely outdated Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, which had  banned its use and sales.

At present it is legal to prescribe—with varying limitations—marijuana and the active components for medical use in all the American states except four of them; however, it remains in the Class I of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) registrar of controlled substances, which makes it illegal to possess, cultivate, distribute it, according to the Federal statutes, Only in the handful of states that have approved its recreational use (including our state of Florida) have these rules being somewhat put in a “legal limbo” in order to allow the personal consumption of the drug.

In the February 2019 Senate hearing on the Opioid Crisis, many prestigious medical researchers decried that the fuzzy, confusing legal status of the drug has impeded the full deployment of academic resources to fully design and carry out comprehensive clinical trials for its usage. That has left many patients in dire need of relief with unanswered questions about the reliability and usefulness of many commercial preparations that might not have met stringent quality standards. Only the drug Epidiolex, a CBD derivative, was approved by the FDA in June 2018 for the treatment of Lennox-Gastaut and Drayet syndromes , two severe forms of Epilepsy affecting the very young,

Investigators emphasized the lack of a proper supply of consistent research-grade marijuana to conduct the necessary clinical trials as there is only one US facility, the University of Mississippi, approved to cultivate it; some researchers have openly criticized the quality of its samples, with several of them being contaminated by mold. According to the US Attorney’s office, twenty applications have been filled to cultivate marijuana but none of them have been approved so far. In spite of the talk pour la gallerie of politicians of all stripes in Washington, D.C. the reality sur-le-champ is that the Federal government might be effectively impeding the set-up of experimentation.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared in February 2019 that marijuana should not be considered as a controlled substance in international treaties, paving the way for governments to take a fresher look at their legislation. Sadly, the USA has a long history of ignoring the call of international organizations and stubbornly insisting on a pernicious attitude of “father knows best.” There are two countries that have approved the use of marijuana for medicinal and recreational purposes—Uruguay and Canada—and it seems that a few others will follow the lead very soon. When will our do-nothing representatives in Washington D.C. finally wake up to the need of implementing the proper clinical research trials on Cannabinoids and is derivatives for medical use ?

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Bon anniversaire Joseph Antoine Ferdinand

On October 14, 1801, Joseph Antoine Ferdinand Plateau was born in Brussels, Belgium, and he would become the mathematician and scientist that pioneered the use of fixed images to create the illusion of movement, the primitive forerunner of our cinema. The fabulous featured image of his invention in this posting has been reproduced from a Wikipedia article.

In 1829 he submitted his doctoral thesis where he discussed in a mere 27 pages the data on his experiments of the effects of color on the retina, the intersections of revolving curves, the distortion of revolving images and the reconstruction of distorted images through counter-revolving discs. On December 1832, he made a primitive stroboscopic device that gave the illusion of movement to the observing eye, which he initially named as the fantascope.  It basically consisted of two discs rotating in opposite directions; the front disc had several little windows carved out and the back disc had a series of images. Provided with the right spinning speed, an illusion of moving is recreated in our brains.

In a June 1833 article in the daily Le Figaro, his new stroboscopic device was re-named as the phénakistiscope, which is a compound derivation of the Greek Language; the word phenakisticos means “to deceive” and the word óps means “the eye” or “the face.” His critical invention is certainly to blame for the zillions of hours of enjoyable deception that Humankind has been enjoying in the glimmering light of a cinema or at home.

Coup de chapeau pour toi, génial inventeur et grand innovateur. Bon anniversaire!

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Eppur Cristoforo e arrivato

Dear readers and fellow bloggers:

Good morning. Today is a special day for all the Americans (meaning all those persons born in the American continent and not just the USA) and especially for us Italian-Americans. On October 12, 1492, Cristoforo Colombo, a Genovese navigator at the service of the Spanish Crown, landed somewhere in the Abacos Islands of the Bahamas and claimed the land. For generations we have celebrated this day in schools of Uruguay and Argentina under the guise of the mendacious “Discovery of America” or the disgusting “Day of the Race.”

Precisely in Uruguay the genocide of the indigenous population by the European settlers was systematic with the last few members of the Charrúa tribe transported to Paris in the Nineteenth Century where they were paraded in the ultimate humiliation. Uruguayans pride themselves in the moniker of “charrúa” in the football competitions of the national team, a tragi-comic endurance of the name of an extinguished community. We must pause and ponder our collective guilt in their persecution and extermination.

However, the date is still the valid reminder that some hardy Spanish sailors did arrive in these coasts and started a colonization that with its illuminated and dark aspects has marked the inhabitants of this great continent for many past, present and future years. The European conquerors, with cruelty and determination, did bring a modicum of innovation to our countries when the Industrial Revolution changed the production of marketable goods for a more massive consumption and the rising of living standards.

We salute the valiant and gallant Cristoforo Colombo for his feat of exploring the fringes of the known world at the time; moreover we applaud his decision to renounce your Royal commission when he could not impede the pillage and assassination of natives. Moreover the dark complicity of many members of the Catholic Church hierarchy and priesthood must be emphasized by all the honest active Catholics in the continent. Would the economic and sociological development of the Americas have taken a more benign course without the European invasion and sacking of its natural resources?

Eduardo Galeano wrote in Las venas abiertas de America Latina that the present day power dynamics in Latin america has been enabled by the tragic Spanish conquest. He wrote his seminal book five decades ago, when the oligarchies and military dictatorships had all the levers of power in our countries, sidelining the rest to slow death by misery. In the past few decades there has been a slow democratization and empowerment of the middle classes that has pulled millions of Americans out of ignorance and squalor. Will this democratic process continue in favor of the more deprived segments of society?

We don’t have the answer to that question as these societies are still in constant flux .

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The mystic wanderer – part I  

After re-starting countless intravenous lines that were blocked, after flushing many urinary catheters that were not working, after writing up long lines of follow-ups in charts, the barely breathing Surgical Interns wanted to hit the bed for a few paltry hours. But there was still a last task to complete before trying to catch some refreshing sleep. With a stash of blank Consent for Surgery forms and a ball-pen, we had to make the rounds of the rooms where patients scheduled for surgery in the morning were supposedly resting. Most of them were in fact waiting for us, anxiously awake, to ask a few questions about the coming procedure. We did not have much patience to oblige. Those were the wild times before the HIPAA guidelines mandated that both the patients and the professionals had to be fully awake and conscious of their decisions.

In a December dawn, a fellow intern approached me at the other end of the ward.

“There’s a woman that refused to sign,” he told me. “She wants the French version.”  –

“So what?” I shot back, barely popping my head into the awake state.

-“She knows there’s someone that speaks it…Don’t know how…She’s some kind of VIP from Haiti…Don’t want her family to file a complaint against us… Come on, man!”

With a deep sigh, I snatched the half- filled form from his hands and went to her room. My fellow intern warned me that she looked like an ugly witch with a disgusting mouth. Surprisingly I was greeted by a beautiful middle-aged lady that smiled broadly at me.

-“Come on in, dear,” she said in French. “I was expecting you.”

-“Er…do you know me?”

-“Of course, dear…I picked up your scent the moment I was admitted to this ward.”

She was a member of the Port-au-Prince elite who also dabbled in an “esoteric religion.” She used her powers in a benign way to help abused poor women from settlements ringing the capital, who sought her help in a non-profit institution that sheltered them. If there was a recalcitrant mate that did not heed persuasive ways, she tried other ones. We chatted for a few minutes in such a friendly way as we’d known each other for years.

-“You have a blessing, which is kind of a curse too,” she said.  “You’re restless, son of Samonios. Most of your colleagues here toil very hard to reach a comfortable financial position. But you will not be satisfied only by material wealth or a position of power. You are troubled by the meaning of life. You are seeking answers. You pursue the Light.”

-“Oh, dear. I’m in trouble then…No pause? Who will protect me in such a long journey?”

-“Plenty of friends. You’re a people’s person…And you have a special protective halo. But you are not meant to retire and go fishing, like the majority of physicians hope to do. You will continue to wander and search until the very end of your life, mystic wanderer.

Almost forty years after that fateful day, I am totally convinced that she was right. The very existence of this medical and literary web page is a testament to that prediction. My journey will only end when I finally face, totally naked, Saint Michael at the souls’ scale.

-“Tell me, Mario, what have you done for your fellow human beings during your life?’

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Happy birthday dear John

Dear readers and fellow bloggers:

Good morning. Today we celebrate the birthday of one of the greatest musicians of our generation, John Lennon, co-founder of the Fab Four with Paul and George (Ringo came later). He had a very trying childhood as first his sailor father abruptly disappeared one day without leaving any traces and then his troubled mother absconded too: raised by a tender aunt, he managed to become an enlightened composer and gifted guitarist.

When he was five years old, his parents decided to separate for good and put him in a terribly hurtful bind when they confronted him with a question. “I’m leaving for New Zealand,” his father said.”Who do you want stay with? Me? Or your mother?” John candidly initially chose his father but when he was about to leave their flat in dreary Manchester, he broke out in tears and raced to embrace his mother. He stayed there. Can you imagine that if it weren’t for that totally fortuitous coup de coeur, we would have been deprived of the magic music of the Fab Four, changing our adolescence forever?

How many times have we cheered, laughed and even cried with his compositions?  He is an indissoluble part of our past and heritage. While we listen again to Imagine, let us raise a glass of wine, or a stout better still, tonight in honor of his unique life and legacy. We always have the impression that he never left us that tragic day in New York City but entered into a parallel realm of inspiration for all his sensitive, peace-loving admirers.

Cheers, mate!

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Have a great Day of Atonement

Dear readers and fellow bloggers:

Today Wednesday October 9th at sundown, the faithful Jews will hear the sound of the shofar that will mark the beginning of their New Year, after 24 hours of atonement. Our Jewish cousins will rejoice with their family members in a dinner that breaks the fast. Being our closer eldest relatives, Christians must  accompany their holy celebration.

We wish all our Jewish friends and readers a fruitful Yom Kippur that will precede their inscription by God Almighty in the Book of Life for yet another year. Congratulations!

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