The use of cannabis for recreational narcotic purposes has an ancient history in certain cultures but in the 20th century was collectively proscribed by most western governments, along with a range of other substances, resulting in the criminalisation of many otherwise unoffending citizens. Cannabis however has shown every indication of having important medicinal qualities for various (mainly neurological) conditions - multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury and many others - that have symptoms such as chronic pain, (repeat 'chronic pain'), virtually untreatable otherwise.
The debate about decriminalisation has now been overtaken by the new pharmaceutical developments, which indicate that European governments at any rate, are now depending on the outcome of current medical trials, likely to accept cannabinoid based treatments. more.
Does marijuana have healing properties?
DU pot debates spark up yesterday
Gene Davis, DDN Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
The University of Denver yesterday kicked off a series of debates on marijuana with a discussion of the potential medical benefits Ń and harms Ń of the drug.
Alice P. Mead, a spokeswoman for a British research company that develops a medical spray from marijuana, argued that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should regulate marijuana if doctors are recommending it to patients. She said the FDA process has been carefully crafted for more than 100 years, and while not foolproof, gives medical professionals the information on the purity, potency and identity of a product.
“I’m pro the proper testing and standardization of medical products before they’re widely distributed to seriously ill patients,” she said.
In yesterday’s discussion, Mead squared off against Sunil Aggarwal, a fourth-year medical student at the University of Washington. Aggarwal argued that the medical community has extensive knowledge about the 400-plus chemicals in marijuana. More than 17,500 research papers and articles on marijuana or its properties came out in 2008 alone, he said.
He added that because marijuana is federally classified as a schedule I drug Ń meaning it has a high potential for abuse and no legitimate medical use Ń it’s unlikely that the FDA would regulate the drug.
But Mead said there is a precedent for the FDA approving a formulated product derived from a scheduled I drug; Marinol, which is primarily comprised of THC and helps stimulate HIV/AIDS patients’ appetites, is a scheduled III drug even though it has the major psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
Aggarwal is convinced of the healing properties of marijuana. There is no evidence linking smoked marijuana to cancer, and a published study in peer-review literature found that cannabinoids Ń the active ingredients in marijuana Ń reduced the size of brain tumors, he said.
Mead believes there are certain non-psychoactive cannabinoids in marijuana that have healing properties, though most of them have been phased out as marijuana has become a recreational drug. Sativex, the drug her company Ń GW Pharmaceuticals Ń makes is a cannabis extract containing THC and Cannabidiol, a part of marijuana that allegedly carries medicinal benefits without the possible psychoactive properties of THC. The clinical spray is approved in Canada to treat pain and multiple sclerosis.
Because the THC content varies wildly for each marijuana plant and there are multiple ways to ingest the drug, Mead believes the cannabinoids would need to be extracted from the marijuana in order to be regulated by the FDA. But she sees tremendous potential benefits if the FDA regulated marijuana.
For one, the FDA process would garner the data necessary for marijuana products to become broadly accepted as true modern medications. Additionally, the current system in place in states like Colorado and California in which patients are ingesting non-FDA-approved marijuana is possibly leading to sick patients ingesting a high amount of undetected pesticides, fungi and bacteria. Marijuana samples taken from select California dispensaries found the drug had a level of pesticides that was 170 times higher than herbal products, she said.
Without the FDA process, untrained dispensary owners who are not required to have a background in medicine end up making a variety of claims for their products that may or may not be true, Mead said. Mead’s experiences in California have led her to believe that many of the doctors recommending medical marijuana to patients do not always have the patient’s health in mind.
But Aggarwal argued that doctors have historically recommended drugs on a see-if-it-works basis. And with many seriously ill patients reporting a positive reaction to medicinal marijuana, he sees validity in having doctors recommend the drug to patients.
Aggarwal agreed with Mead that more research is needed on marijuana, saying the last time a major scientist got access to marijuana was in the early 1940s. The resulting report from the New York Academy of Medicine contradicted claims that marijuana results in insanity, assists in criminal behavior, is physically addictive and is a “gateway drug” to harder drugs. The report was blasted and discredited by anti-marijuana lawmakers.
Mead said the DEA has become increasingly receptive towards allowing legitimate researchers to study marijuana in recent years. She added that there is research currently being done in Europe on marijuana that could prove beneficial.
“Doing evidence-based research takes time,” she said. “It is happening, it’s just that it’s not happening as quickly as we’d all like.”
The “Objective Discussion on Medical Marijuana” continues today at noon at the DU Strum College of Law. The final debate is being held tomorrow and will pit prominent medical marijuana attorney Rob Corry against Colorado Attorney General John Suthers.
If you know where to get hold of the following WHO report please let the editor know by using the mail link at the bottom of the page.
Cannabis: a health perspective and research agenda (WHO/MSA/PSA/97.4)
That still leaves the question of medicinal use in the USA. Medical practitioners there - as in many other countries - are keen to have the medicinal cannabis issue properly researched . Federal authorities however are still dragging their heels, fearing that this might be represented by a variety of powerful primitive Christian and other pressure groups, as the 'slippery slope' towards acceptance of recreational use.
The prospect opens up of American MS and other sufferers having to travel to Europe for relief from their chronic pain, rather like women from the Republic of Ireland that used to have to travel abroad to have an unwanted pregnancy terminated.
Apart from the urgent question of medicinal applications it is plain that cannabis is widely used not just in countries where this for recreational purposes is traditional and was never criminalized but just about everywhere else in the western world, now for at least two generations. The passions inflamed by this as the links on this page show, means that the issue remains a HOT TOPIC.
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