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The therapeutic use of cannabis (marijuana) is a hot topic in some parts of the United States. The National Institutes of Health do not recommend its use for treatment of any illness, though some physicians prescribe it for pain, glaucoma, nausea and anorexia associated with chemotherapy, and, less commonly, for epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, migraine, and asthma. Laws on medical usage vary by state, with 13 states, as of July 2009, permitting medical usage under certain conditions. The majority of Web sites on medical marijuana have a bias one way or another.

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Asthma rates have skyrocketed in recent years, with the prevalence of this chronic lung condition increasing almost 59 percent from 1982 to 1996, and increasing by another 6 percent from 2001 to 2006, according to a 2008 American Lung Association report. Scientists are still trying to understand why, with one popular theory postulating that the cause may be due to our overly clean society. The so-called hygiene hypothesis suggests that a lack of early childhood exposure to bacteria and viruses may fail to stimulate the immune system, increasing susceptibility to asthma and allergies.

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William Fenical is a professor of oceanography at UCSD's Scripps Institution of Oceanography and director of the Center for Marine Biotechnology and Biomedicine at Scripps. His research involves the isolation and identification of active chemical materials from marine plants and animals that may have potential pharmaceutical or agricultural uses. His research involves marine organic chemistry with a focus on chemical defense mechanisms in marine organisms and the chemistry of marine microorganisms.

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Dr. Richard J. Jackson is a professor and the chairman of environmental health sciences at UCLA's School of Public Health. Previously, he was an adjunct professor of environmental health services at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health. He also served as state public health officer for the California Department of Health Services. His responsibilities included direct leadership and oversight of the department's public health-related activities.

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The Relational Culture Institute (RCI), also known as Unstrung Bow Spiritual Retreat and Compassionate Mission Ministries, is dedicated to developing grassroots leaders and voluntary associations in underserved communities in the San Joaquin Valley. RCI helps these leaders and associations link with regional networks and strategic partnerships in order to increase the overall quality of life for families and neighborhoods throughout the region.

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Judith Stern, a distinguished professor of nutrition at UC Davis and a nutritionist in the agricultural experiment station, has published extensively on nutrition, the effect of exercise on appetite and metabolism, and obesity. Stern studies the effects of obesity on longevity and renal disease, dietary supplements for weight control, obesity treatment, the role of exercise and public health policy. Stern was the co-founder and vice president of the American Obesity Association, a lay advocacy group.

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Dr. John R. Balmes is a pulmonary physician, professor of medicine at University of California, San Francisco, and chief of the division of occupational and environmental medicine at San Francisco General Hospital (SFGH). His research is principally in occupational and environmental respiratory disease. Dr. Balmes studies the effects of exposures to air pollution in his human exposure laboratory at San Francisco General Hospital and the chronic effects of such exposures in epidemiological studies with collaborators at both UCSF and UC Berkeley.

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Jim Gauderman is a professor of biostatistics in the Department of Preventive Medicine at the USC Keck School of Medicine. For more than a decade, he has investigated the association between urban air pollution and children's respiratory health as principal investigator for the Children's Health Study. He also has worked to develop methods for understanding the joint association of genetic and environmental factors on the risk of human disease, including asthma and cancer. He received his a master's in science from USC in 1988 and his Ph.D. from USC in 1992.

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As the fastest growing ethnic population in the United States, Latinos have a major impact on the health care system. Nearly one in three Americans will be Latino by 2050, according to an August 2008 estimate by the U.S. Census Bureau. The Latino population is expected to nearly triple from 46.7 million in 2008 to 132.8 million in 2050. As a percentage of the overall U.S. population, Latinos will more than double from 15 to 30 percent.

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