Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Large majority of Americans see some medical benefits in use of marijuana

A new study by the Annals of Internal Medicine shows that a large percentage of Americans have a favorable attitude to medical marijuana even though the study claims that the beliefs are not supported yet by scientific research.

Vast majority of respondents see some medical benefits for marijuana
For the study the authors surveyed about 16,000 Americans about marijuana. 81 percent of those who responded believed that marijuana had at least one medical benefit, in areas such as pain management, treating diseases, and alleviating mental health problems. Both medical and recreational marijuana is growing in popularity in the US and elsewhere.
More research needs to be done on benefits of medical marijuana
There is not high quality clinical evidence marijuana does all the things that people believe it does. Although the research is promising, it is not rock solid.
Neurologist Steven Novella notes that most published studies are poorly designed. The authors note: "As of 2013 there were fewer than 20 randomized controlled trials testing the benefits of marijuana. — the gold standard for scientific research — have tested the benefits of marijuana, according to the American Medical Association.) Some don’t necessarily show marijuana doing better than placebo, and many don’t investigate whether marijuana actually reduces symptoms or if it just makes people care less. There’s a lot we don’t know."
The reason for the dearth of research is that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) makes it extremely difficult to research marijuana. Scientists who want to study marijuana must use government samples.
Two years ago, the agency said it would provide universities with more licenses to do marijuana research but the DEA has not granted these licenses and is not accepting new ones. it would seem clear that the federal US government simply does not want to see evidence that medical marijuana is useful. This would increase pressure to legalize it at the Federal level.
The study concludes: "These are the kinds of policies that make it hard for us to see through claims flying in all directions. A few decades ago, we had Reefer Madness and propaganda about the overblown dangers of marijuana. Today, some have swung in the other direction, setting their sights on marijuana as a wonder drug with few downsides, even as rates of marijuana addiction are growing.
"The only way to have a clear-eyed view of both the benefits and harms of marijuana is by making it easier to study; by extension, that’s the only way for us to cut through the hype and make the most informed decisions."
Many US states, Canada and other countries have legalized medical marijuana
Around the globe medical marijuana and even recreational marijuana is legal. As Wikipedia notes: "Countries that have effectively legalized recreational cannabis are Canada, Spain, and Uruguay – plus the Netherlands where possession remains technically illegal but use and sale is tolerated in designated coffeeshops. In the United States, 9 states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational use of cannabis.
"Countries that have legalized the medical use of cannabis include Australia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, Peru, and Poland. Others have more restrictive laws that only allow the use of certain cannabinoid drugs, such as Sativex or Marinol. In the United States, 31 states and the District of Columbia have legalized the medical use of cannabis, but at the federal level its use remains prohibited for any purpose."
While no doubt many are hyping the use of marijuana for ailments that it is doubtful that it cures surely there are many studies even in the U.S. that show its medical benefits. Why cannot the US use foreign studies of the benefits the drug rather than require more U.S. studies?
The Harvard Health Blog has one study. The Annals of Internal Medicine Study can be found here. A lot of support for medical marijuana comes from personal experience as illustrated by the enclosed video.

Previously published in Digital Journal

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Toyota increases investment in hydrogen fuel cell vehicles

Toyota Motor Company is increasing its investment in hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (FCV). It is designing lower-cost, mass-market passenger cars and sport utility vehicles and even pushing the technology into trucks and buses to produce economies of scale.

Toyota wants to make FCV's cheaper
Yoshikazu Tanaka, chief engineer of the Mirai said in an interview with Reuters: "We’re going to shift from limited production to mass production, reduce the amount of expensive materials like platinum used in FCV components, and make the system more compact and powerful.”
Many automakers and industry experts have mostly dismissed plans to expand the production of fuel cell vehicles (FCV) as being commercially unviable but Toyota hopes to prove them wrong. Toyota is busy cranking up improvements for its Miral hydrogen fuel cell vehicle expected to be released in the early 2020s. It has been around for some time as the appended photo shows.
Toyota planning new models of FCVs
The company also plans to introduce other models including SUVs, pick-up trucks, and commercial trucks beginning around 2025, a source with knowledge of the automaker’s plans said. However Toyota would not comment on its specific plans for the future. It has already developed prototypes of small delivery vans, and also large transport trucks.
Ikuo Ota, manager of the new business planning for fuel cell projects at Toyota said: "We are going to use as many parts from existing passenger cars and other models as possible in fuel cell trucks. Otherwise, we won’t see the benefits of mass production.”
Toyota expects improved performance from their FCVs
Toyota hopes to increase the driving range of its next Mirai model to 700-750 kilometers from its present approximately 500 kilometers. By 2025 it hopes to hit 1,000 kilometers far beyond present electric vehicle ranges.
Toyota continues to believe in potential of FCVs
Toyota has a strong belief that within the next 100 years hydrogen will become a key source of clean energy. The company has been busy developing FCVs since early in the 1990's. Hydrogen is the most abundant element and it also has the advantage of storing more energy than a battery of equivalent weight.
Production of Mirai has been quite limited
Mirai was world's first production FCV launched way back in 2014. However, it costs around $60,000 prior to any government incentives. There is an acute lack of refueling infrastructure. Less than six thousand have been sold around the world.
Forecasts see sale of FCV's to make up only 0.2 percent of world passenger car sales by 2027 whereas battery EVs are expected to be 11.7 percent. However Toyota is reported to think that the demand for the vehicles will strengthen as countries strongly committed to EV's such as China warm to the advantages of the technology. The company also sees the development of FCVs as a hedge against the possible scarcity of key EV battery materials such as cobalt.
For now the Mirai is hand-built in Toyota city producing only a few models a day. However, the company expects sales to rise to about 30,000 units annually after 2020 from about 3,000 now. To lower production costs the company will need to produce other models.
The company is also reducing other costs. Eri Ichikawa a fuel cell engineer said: "We’ve been able to decrease the platinum loading by 10 percent to 20 percent and deliver the same performance."
Fuel Cell Vehicles
Wikipedia
 describes an FCV as follows: "A fuel cell vehicle (FCV) or fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) is a type of electric vehicle which uses a fuel cell, instead of a batt ery, or in combination with a battery or supercapacitor, to power its on-board electric motor. Fuel cells in vehicles generate electricity to power the motor, generally using oxygen from the air and compressed hydrogen. Most fuel cell vehicles are classified as zero-emissions vehicles that emit only water and heat. "
Fuel cells are being developed and tested in trucks, buses, boats, motorcycles and bicycles, as well as other kinds of vehicles.
As of 2017 there is only limited infrastructure support for FCVs with only 36 hydrogen fueling stations available in the US. However, more are planned particularly in California. However there are stations in Japan, Europe and elsewhere with more being planned. However, some critics question whether the technology will ever be able to compete with other zero emission technologies.


Previously published in Digital Journal

Large majority of Americans see some medical benefits in use of marijuana

A new study by the Annals of Internal Medicine shows that a large percentage of Americans have a favorable attitude to medical marijuana ev...