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American Voters To Decide Marijuana Issues in November

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There is a growing national movement to rethink marijuana use. Some experts believe marijuana is a beneficial plant that might play a primary role in cancer treatment and prevention. Opponents say it is a dangerous “gateway” drug that leads to more serious narcotic use and will undermine our social fabric.

Voters in five states—Oregon, Washington, Arizona, South Dakota and California—and 21 U.S. cities across the country, will consider new ballot initiatives to decriminalize or legalize marijuana for medical and or adult recreational use in November. Since 1996, 14 states and the District of Columbia have enacted medical marijuana laws.

Until 1937, marijuana, whose botanical name is cannabis, was a widely used remedy for all sorts of ailments from nausea and anxiety to epilepsy and colicky babies. Chances are good your great grandmother used Cannabis indica for labor pains, like many generations of women before her.

Clinical trials conducted by the American Marijuana Policy Project, a marijuana advocacy group, show cannabis to be an effective treatment for cancer and AIDS patients who often suffer from clinical depression, nausea and resulting weight loss due to chemotherapy and other aggressive treatments. While doctors in states without legalized medical marijuana laws can’t prescribe its use, they can legally recommend marijuana therapy to a patient—and many do.

Is America’s opinion of cannabis changing? Consider this:

In July 2010, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced that patients treated at its hospitals and clinics can use medical marijuana in states where it is legal, a policy clarification that veterans have sought for several years.

On the website America Speaking Out, Congressional Republicans asked the public to be part of “building its new governing agenda.” Decriminalizing and or legalizing marijuana use was among the highest ranking idea submitted in the “American Values” category.

The Teamsters added 40 new members to their roll this month by organizing the nation's first unionized group of marijuana growers.

Dr. Andrew Weil, founder and director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, wrote last week in a Huffington Post column about cannabinoids' “immense therapeutic potential.”

Weil cites a number of scientific studies show that tetrahydrocannabinol or THC in cannabinoids (chemical constituents of cannabis) inhibit tumor growth in laboratory animal models. THC appears to lessen the formation of new blood vessels required for tumor growth, and in some cases, it has killed the tumor without affecting surrounding cells unlike traditional cancer treatments.

“If these findings hold true as research progresses, cannabinoids would demonstrate a huge advantage over conventional chemotherapy agents, which too often destroy normal cells as well as cancer cells,” Weil wrote.

A Canadian study, one of the first to conduct randomly controlled clinical trials, tested if smoked marijuana actually had pain relieving properties. Medical marijuana, and its active ingredient THC, is often prescribed to control chronic pain.

Dr. Mark A. Ware, a pain researcher at McGill University in Montreal and lead researcher said chronic pain suffers, including those who suffered from persistent nerve damage found mild pain relief — without getting high — by taking just a puff of marijuana three times a day. Nerve damage patients in the study who did not respond to other pain relieving remedies reported sleeping better and feeling less anxiety. The study was published in the August 2010 edition of The Canadian Medical Association Journal.

However, not everyone agrees cannabinoids should be moved back into the mainstream of therapeutic remedies. Dr. Eric Braverman, medical director of a multispecialty clinic in Manhattan told the New York Times that legalizing marijuana was "unnecessary and dangerous" since Marinol, a prescription pill form of marijuana's active ingredient THC, approved by The Food and Drug Administration in 1985, is readily available and provides the medicinal effects of the plant. ''Our society will deteriorate,'' he said.

Lynette Summerill is an award-winning writer who lives in Scottsdale, Arizona. In addition to writing about cancer-related issues, she writes a blog, Nonsmoking Nation, which follows global tobacco news and events.

Add a Comment6 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

Awesome post ,All the given information is so informative for us ,I really appreciated from your information.I will bookmark it,and sharing it with my friends.Thanks.

January 19, 2011 - 5:03am

Dear iioness111,
Perhaps this information will be useful to you. Marijuana smoke has particulate matter in it which is irritating to the lungs; never-the-less, a large, long term study conducted by NIDA (National Institute of Drug Abuse) in which they set out to prove that smoking marijuana causes cancer, showed the direct opposite. The lead researcher was Donald Tashkin, and what Tashkin said was that they were absolutely unable to demonstrate any link between smoking marijuana and the development of cancer. Furthermore, marijuana seemed to offer some protection from cancer.

Tashkin study: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,196678,00.html

This finding was born out in another survey at Brown University which demonstrated that long term, chronic smokers of marijuana have a lower rate of head, neck and throat squamous cell carcinoma than folks who never smoked anything.

Brown University study: http://cancerpreventionresearch.aacrjournals.org/content/early/2009/07/28/1940-6207.CAPR-09-0048.abstract

That said, it is possible to use a vaporizer which heats the cannabis just to point where the volatile oils (THC, CBD, etc.) are vaporized, offering the same benefits, BUT the cannabis is not burned, therefore no particulate matter is released, protecting the lungs from irritation.

Another option besides smoking, or vaporizing is eating it.

You did not say if you were in California (where I am) or another medical marijuana state, but you should also know that cannabis can be taken in tincture form, made into tea, or baked into edibles, (either by using a cannabis infused butter, or actually baking it in (e.g. pot brownies).

If your brother has trouble sleeping with the pain, taking edible cannabis before bed is good, because it lasts a long time (through the night), and, if you don't take it at too late an hour, you will wake up very refreshed (and pretty much sleep through any feeling of being "stoned.")

The emerging realm of cannabis medicine is extremely exciting, since cannabis is so very non-toxic, yet it is the plant form of the very endocannabinoids that our own bodies produce to heal ourselves.

For example, cannabis causes cancer cells to lose the ability to be "immortal", after exposure to cannabis they return to their normal programmed cell death (healthy cells are not effected). Secondly, cannabis stops tumors from developing their own blood supply. Thirdly, cannabis is lipid-based (oils) it can travel in the blood stream and kill cancer cells that are trying to migrate to other places in the body.

All these following human functions depend on the body's own natural endocannabinoids: sleeping, sex, relaxation, forgetting and digestion. When we are endocannabinoid deficient, (caused by the overwhelming stress of modern life) these crucial life functions get out of balance, and we get sick.

In the latter half of the 19th century, virtually half of all patent medicines sold in America contained cannabis, and were used for everything from migraines and labor pain, to sleeping tonic for babies, or removing corns on your feet. And it accomplished these with no toxicity. (No deaths have EVER been recorded from a cannabis overdose.)

I could go on and on, but I don't want to overwhelm you. However, here are a couple of additional links for you.

Granny Storm Crows list: (420 pages with links to all of the studies done on cannabis, categorized for easy access.)


Drug Policy Library: (a great source of historical writings and drug policy info)

Finally, I would like to say that my heart goes out to your brother. Living with constant pain is a huge challenge, and opiate solutions can be devastating. Cannabis can offer an alternative. Good luck and blessings to you both.

September 26, 2010 - 7:07pm

Lynette, this is really like a two-sided coin for me. I had relatives that smoked marijuana for recreational use during the early 60's and into the 70's. They always seemed a little goofy and had varacious appitites, but
other than that it didn't seem to affect them very much. Of course they didn't drive or operate machinery for a certain amount of time after smoking. Has there been any informaton published about whether or not the smoking aspect itself can be considered harmful to the lungs?? My brother suffers from chronic neck and back pain, and has had several surgeries. Two of his specialists advised him to smoke marijuana for the pain. I will be following this in the news magazines and TV coverage. Thank you for a very stimulating article. Sincerely, Lioness111.

September 26, 2010 - 6:19am

Thank for sharing your comment Anonymous. Your point is well taken about some patients not well tolerating Marinol.

According to a 2002 pharmacology textbook, a tiny amount of smoked or vaporized cannabis allowed for nearly instant pain management while Marinol took more than an hour to provide relief. Patients also complained about Marinol's unpleasant side effects. Patients said the prescribed dosage provided a "too-intense intoxication" (more acute psychedelic effect) than cannabis, as you stated.

To make this point, in a November 2005 Mother Jones article, Mark Kleiman, director of drug policy analysis at UCLA's School of Public Affairs said that drug policymakers had hoped that Marinol would be a godsend [because] "it wasn't any fun and made the user feel bad," so it could be approved without any fear that it would be a pill patients would "doctor-shop" to get and little chance it would penetrate the recreational market. Once approved Marinol could "then used as a club with which to beat back the advocates of whole cannabis as a medicine."

It seems prudent that the medical marijuana argument should be settled through scientific exploration rather than through myth and fantasy. If it does have benefits as proponents claim, patients should be empowered to hear all options and make informed decisions about their medical treatment.

September 25, 2010 - 9:16am
EmpowHER Guest

Thank you, Lynette, for your balanced article on a controversial subject (though not as controversial as some would have us believe). The only addition I would have made would be a reasoned response to Dr. Braverman's position regarding Marinol.

Marinol is 100% synthetic THC. Whole cannabis has hundreds of compounds in it (including cannabinoids, terpenes and flavinoids), which effectively address different symptoms and diseases. Marinol is not well tolerated by a number of patients who prefer the effects of the whole plant which also includes CBD (cannabidiol) shown to attenuate the psychotropic effects, and to reduce inflammation, among other beneficial properties.

Clearly, Braverman was given an unchallenged voice in this article. I would have liked to see some push back against this self-proclaimed (''Our society will deteriorate'') moralist.

September 24, 2010 - 1:02pm
EmpowHER Guest

Dr. Eric Braverman is a idiot.

September 21, 2010 - 12:48pm
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