Posts Tagged ‘weed research’
The call to legalize cannabis continues to grow louder despite all of the other problems our country is currently facing. Mainstream polls indicate almost 50 percent of Americans favor full-out legalization, and nearly 80 percent believe that marijuana should be available for medicinal purposes.
No one has ever died from simply using marijuana. In 1972, then-President Richard Nixon appointed the Shafer Commission to study the nation’s rising drug problem. It reported the following: “Neither the marihuana [sic] user nor the drug itself can be said to constitute a danger to public safety.” The commission’s findings have withstood the test of time.
The more we learn about marijuana, the more benign it becomes. Marijuana does not cause cancer. Sound scientific studies, such as those done by UCLA’s Dr. Donald Tashkin, have clearly demonstrated this. We also know that marijuana is legitimate medicine. If marijuana has no medicinal benefit, why are so many terminally ill patients turning to it to improve their quality of life? Why, after countless legislative hearings and initiatives, have 16 states and our nation’s capital legalized marijuana for medicinal use? And why does an expensive prescription drug called Marinol, which is a synthetic form of the active ingredient in marijuana, exist? Even the federal government owns a patent for the medicinal use of marijuana. (The patent number is 6630507.)
Marijuana is medicine to many people. The Drug Enforcement Administration’s own administrative law judge, Francis L. Young, held that “marijuana has been accepted as capable of relieving the distress of great numbers of very ill people, and doing so with safety under medical supervision. It would be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious for DEA to continue to stand between those sufferers and the benefits of this substance in light of the evidence in this record.” Studies done by the California Center for Medical Cannabis Research and the recent breakthroughs highlighting the antibacterial properties of cannabis extracts also clearly demonstrate marijuana’s potential as a natural and inexpensive medicine.
Unlike most medicines, it is quite safe for marijuana to be used recreationally by responsible and healthy adults. According to the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy, over 100 million Americans have tried or use marijuana. If this market were taxed and regulated, crime rates would go down and agriculturally based communities would profit. We easily forget how much disrespect for the law vanished when alcohol prohibition was repealed, or that well over 30,000 Mexican citizens have died since 2006 as a direct result of a drug war fueled in large part by demand for marijuana, or that the U.S. has spent approximately a trillion dollars and 100,000 lives on a drug war that could be reined in considerably with marijuana legalization.
Regulating marijuana would also protect our children. It is easier for kids today to get marijuana than it is for them to get alcohol or tobacco, which is a fact supported by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse. Drug dealers simply do not ask for ID. Regulation would also lessen the burden on the criminal justice system, making it easier to keep violent criminals behind bars. Washington currently has mandatory minimum sentences for marijuana possession, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports more people are being court-ordered into treatment for marijuana than ever before under threat of incarceration. This is a huge waste of resources.
The legalization movement is not about persuading people to use marijuana, but for giving the sick and responsible the liberty to consume a relatively benign product. Proposed policies within the spirit of the movement are worthy of our consideration.
* Alex Newhouse is a lawyer who lives in the Sunnyside area.
Public-health researchers say the federal government is slowing the search for cures to breast, colon, prostate and brain cancers, as well as Huntington’s disease, Alzheimer’s, and HIV, because the research involves cannabis.
That’s the takeaway from the 21st annual symposium of the International Cannabinoid Research Society, which was held earlier this month in Illinois. Researchers stacked the program with talks not only about cannabis’s palliative properties but also its curative efficacy. The event, sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, was held the same week the Drug Enforcement Administration reiterated its stance that marijuana has no accepted medical use.
“It was really interesting,” said Amanda Reiman, who holds a doctorate from the UC Berkeley School of Social Welfare and presented at the symposium. “At the same time [that] the DEA was publicly declaring that cannabis has no medical value, I was surrounded by the most brilliant minds in the world talking about nothing but the medical value of cannabinoids.”
She said the frustration “was something you could feel in the air.”
Reiman researches medical-cannabis dispensaries as community-health providers and considers the use of cannabis a substitute for alcohol and other drugs. It’s a topic of key interest to both the International Cannabinoid Research Society and the National Institute on Drug Abuse because—unlike almost every other drug—the NIDA can completely restrict researchers’ access to cannabis, citing the plant’s danger to society.
That means safe, effective treatments that stem from pot are being held up. Take the case of Sativex, the marijuana-based mouth spray made by GW Pharmaceuticals in Europe that helps patients with multiple sclerosis and is very safe. Sufferers won’t see it in the United States any time soon, because it contains cannabinoids.
According to the abstracts of the ICRS symposium, researchers have found that the molecules in pot can reverse cancer growth. “Mechanisms of the Anti-cancer Effects of Cannabidiol and Other Non-psychotropic Cannabinoids on Human Prostate Carcinoma” reads one abstract title. There are at least a seven such papers this year.
The molecule in pot called cannabidiol, or CBD, has been shown to reduce anxiety and halt the progression of HIV in monkeys, as well as treat Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, according to ICRS research. Cannabinoid researchers are investigating using pot molecules to treat head and neck squamous cell carcinomas.
But these researchers aren’t allowed to progress past animal studies and cannot get their hands on the plant, Reiman said. And it’s driving them crazy.
Since the conference was sponsored by the drug warriors at NIDA, “There was a lot of push-back from researchers in terms of restricting access to these cannabinoids, especially CBD, which is not psychoactive,” said Reiman. “There’s opportunities to cure diseases like cancer, but also neurodegenerative diseases and HIV.”
However, “A lot of NIDA’s mission is to discover the harms associated with drugs of abuse [though not alcohol] and to prevent people from using drugs and to help people who are using them to stop them.
“Nowhere in that mission is it to discover potentially therapeutic benefits for illicit drugs, and that’s why cannabis research falls into the crack,” she said.
It’s unfortunate, because pot may birth the all-star “smart drugs” of the 21st century. The molecules in marijuana stimulate a sort of intracellular Internet called the “endocannabinoid system.” Discovered in the ’90s, the endocannabinoid system runs throughout the bodies of mammals, with a large amount of receptors in the nervous system in the head and gut.
Scientists think pot molecules such as CBD can help facilitate cellular communication, assisting cells in sending signals like “Turn off the inflammation” and “My neighbor is a tumor, kill him!”
“Cannabis seeks out disregulation, like the growth of a tumor, and addresses that problem without interrupting the rest of the body,” Reiman said.
While the federal government still schedules cannabis as a Schedule I narcotic, some 1 million U.S. medical-marijuana patients have embraced the so-called vigilante medicine, as it were. And they’re not turning back, no matter what the federal government does.
“They can’t put the whole plant medical-cannabis genie back in the bottle,” Reiman said. “They just have to recognize that it’s there.”