Posted by William Dolphin
When people ask why I’m certain the federal laws preventing medical use of cannabis must change, my answer is simple: cancer. Curing it is the holy grail of modern medicine, and cannabinoids hold the most promise.
The latest study showing the cancer-fighting properties of one of the constituent components of the cannabis plant is out of Italy, where University of Naples researchers demonstrated that cannabidiol, better known as CBD, helps prevent the spread of colon cancer in an animal model of the human disease. Since colon cancer affects millions of people, this is a big deal.
But it’s not big news.
Many, many other studies have demonstrated that CBD’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions, as well as its ability to inhibit the breakdown of the body’s own endocannabinoids, have a cancer-fighting effect. CBD has been shown to kill glioma cells (the most deadly form of brain cancer), reduce the growth of lung and breast cancer cells, and inhibit the spread of cancer. And that’s just CBD.
Add in THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis available by prescription in synthetic form as dronabinol or Marinol, and scientists have demonstrated that the plant holds the potential to fight or prevent cancers of the breast, prostate, skin, lung, uterus, cervix, pancreas, mouth and biliary track, as well as leukemia, neuroblastoma, thyroid epithelioma, and gastric adenocarcinoma. All by selectively targeting cancerous cells and leaving healthy cells alone.
That’s in contrast to conventional cancer treatments that largely work by creating a toxic environment in the body with the hope that it kills the cancer before it kills the patient. And as hard as chemotherapy and radiation treatments are to tolerate, cannabinoid treatments have exceptionally low impact.
Now, to be clear: we’re not talking about a patent-medicine approach that says cannabis will cure whatever ails you, and there have been no clinical studies done with cancer patients that would show us anything conclusive one way or another.
But there is a mountain of evidence that the immune-modulating function of cannabinoids has everything to do with regulating how our bodies respond to cancers of all varieties. And it’s worth noting the federal government’s own National Cancer Institute recently published a guide for physicians that noted the cancer-fighting properties of cannabinoids and stated that cannabis could be a tool for controlling the disease.
Five days of media attention later, the NCI removed that particular bit of guidance, but what we now know about the mechanisms of cannabinoids on cancers raises significant questions about when best to use cannabis therapeutics. Most wait until the disease reaches an advanced stage, and for them the role of cannabis or dronabinol is almost entirely palliative – a tool to ease the suffering and nausea. But we have compelling evidence that cannabinoids exercise a profound prophylactic effect – potentially preventing cancers from developing in the first place.
So will people with family histories of cancer or other risk factors benefit from cannabinoids? Maybe. There are population studies that suggest so, but general results cannot predict outcomes for a particular individual. In other words, consuming lots of cannabis won’t necessarily protect you. Bob Marley died of cancer, after all.
How much might help is a serious question. We know that many of the actions of cannabinoids are dose-specific, but without qualitatively different research, we can’t know how much might be optimal to achieve any particular biologic objective, even if we know categorically that cannabis is non-toxic and well-tolerated.
Will we see that research soon? Seems likely. There’s a Nobel prize in it for someone. Sure, there are political and economic barriers. But it’s a politics of fear and an economics of greed. Neither can survive with millions of lives in the balance.
Ironically, given the vast economic engine prohibition has wrought, cannabinoids are problematic for pharmaceutical company profits, since plants are not novel compounds they can patent for the purpose of extracting return on their research investment. That means real clinical research, the kind that can develop the cancer treatments current studies promise, requires massive public funding.
Devoting hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to cannabis every year may seem daunting. But we already do.
We just spend it on eradication and incarceration instead of research and development.
Research study discussed:
Aviello G, et al. Chemopreventive effect of the non-psychotropic phytocannabinoid cannabidiol on experimental colon cancer. Journal of Molecular Medicine. 2012 Jan 10.
ASA’s booklet on Cannabis and Cancer
This entry was posted on Monday, January 30th, 2012 at 9:37 pm and is filed underAmericans for Safe Access (ASA), FDA/HHS, Medical Cannabis, Rescheduling,Research. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
January 25th, 2012
Posted by Mike Liszewski
Over the years, President Obama has said some encouraging things about medical marijuana, but his policy has never matched up. To many, Obama’s 2012 State of the Union address will likely be remembered as the moment when he framed his 2012 campaign for reelection. The SOTU laid out his vision and goals on a number of issues, and while he may not have used the words “medical marijuana” during his speech, the goals and themes he called for in his second term are irreconcilable with certain actions (andinactions) taken by his administration related to safe access.
“Today, the discoveries taking place in our federally-financed labs and universities could lead to new treatments that kill cancer cells but leave healthy ones untouched.”
Here, Obama has stated a goal, having a treatment available that kills cancer cells, while not harming healthy cells. The potential for reaching this goal through medical marijuana has been known for at least several years, and even the National Institutes of Health has recognized this potential with the Physician Data Query issued by the National Cancer Institute last March. Although the government retracted certain parts of the PDQ in a politically motivated move, the post-retraction version still makes a compelling case for marijuana’s cancer-killing/healthy-cell-preserving potential by reporting that, “[c]annabinoids appear to kill tumor cells but do not affect their nontransformed counterparts and may even protect them from cell death.”
Unfortunately, the Obama administration has not only ignored pursuing medical marijuana to achieve this goal, it has done nothing to make use of its own agency’s findings. This is not only irreconcilable with the goal he laid out in the SOTU, at best it is willful ignorance on the part of the Obama administration to let patients suffer without safe access to the best cancer treatments known.
“There is no question that some regulations are outdated, unnecessary, or too costly.”
One federal regulation Obama ought to reconsider as being outdated, lacking necessity, and being too costly is 21 CFR 1308.11. This regulation is the manifestation of the Controlled Substances Act in the Federal Record. The necessity of keeping marijuana under Schedule I was only to permit the Attorney General sufficient time to gain more complete scientific information about marijuana. That was four decades and several studies ago (the government’s own PDQ refers to several dozen of these studies), so this is clearly outdated and unnecessary. In terms of costliness, the toll of human suffering of cancer patients should be enough, but the economic drain related to cancer suffering is staggering as well. The best way for Obama to revisit this regulation would be direct Attorney General Eric Holder to initiate the rescheduling process.
“Let’s never forget: Millions of Americans who work hard and play by the rules every day deserve a Government and a financial system that do the same.”
Among the millions of Americans who work hard and wish to play by the rules are the thousands of providers of medical marijuana located in states that have approved the use and distribution of this medical treatment. Perhaps more than any community, these American entrepreneurs are quite willing to pay their share of business taxesthat result from their work to provide safe access to medical marijuana patients who are unable to cultivate to their own medicine. However, in providing medical marijuana in accordance with state law to patients, dispensary operators must deal with a burden that no other legitimately run business have to face, Section 280E of the IRS Tax Code. This provision, which bars anyone from taking tax deductions for business expenses related to Schedule I and II substances, was originally intended to prevent cocaine kingpins from manipulating the tax code to launder their completely illicit profits, but instead the IRS is now manipulating the provision to attack state-approved businesses that provide safe access.
President Obama should not only order Holder to initiate the process to reschedule marijuana, he should also instruct Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to promulgate a comment in the Treasury Regulationsthat excludes medical marijuana providers operating in good faith compliance with state law. This would be particularly helpful in the event that marijuana is rescheduled into Schedule II, which would still mean safe access would be in peril related to 280E.
President Obama’s speech last night described the kind of America where safe access to medical marijuana should be readily available, but unfortunately his administration’s actions have been at odds with this goal. Rescheduling marijuana and removing unfair tax burdens on dispensary owners would go a long way in reconciling his goal of an America where patients have safe access to best the cancer treatments available.
By Raymond Cushing, AlterNet
The term medical marijuana took on dramatic new meaning in February, 2000 when researchers in Madrid announced they had destroyed incurable brain tumors in rats by injecting them with THC, the active ingredient in cannabis.
The Madrid study marks only the second time that THC has been administered to tumor-bearing animals; the first was a Virginia investigation 26 years ago. In both studies, the THC shrank or destroyed tumors in a majority of the test subjects.
Most Americans don’t know anything about the Madrid discovery. Virtually no major U.S. newspapers carried the story, which ran only once on the AP and UPI news wires, on Feb. 29, 2000.
The ominous part is that this isn’t the first time scientists have discovered that THC shrinks tumors. In 1974 researchers at the Medical College of Virginia, who had been funded by the National Institute of Health to find evidence that marijuana damages the immune system, found instead that THC slowed the growth of three kinds of cancer in mice – lung and breast cancer, and a virus-induced leukemia.
The DEA quickly shut down the Virginia study and all further cannabis/tumor research, according to Jack Herer, who reports on the events in his book, “The Emperor Wears No Clothes.” In 1976 President Gerald Ford put an end to all public cannabis research and granted exclusive research rights to major pharmaceutical companies, who set out – unsuccessfully – to develop synthetic forms of THC that would deliver all the medical benefits without the “high.”
The Madrid researchers reported in the March issue of “Nature Medicine” that they injected the brains of 45 rats with cancer cells, producing tumors whose presence they confirmed through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). On the 12th day they injected 15 of the rats with THC and 15 with Win-55,212-2 a synthetic compound similar to THC. “All the rats left untreated uniformly died 12-18 days after glioma (brain cancer) cell inoculation … Cannabinoid (THC)-treated rats survived significantly longer than control rats. THC administration was ineffective in three rats, which died by days 16-18. Nine of the THC-treated rats surpassed the time of death of untreated rats, and survived up to 19-35 days. Moreover, the tumor was completely eradicated in three of the treated rats.” The rats treated with Win-55,212-2 showed similar results.
The Spanish researchers, led by Dr. Manuel Guzman of Complutense University, also irrigated healthy rats’ brains with large doses of THC for seven days, to test for harmful biochemical or neurological effects. They found none.
“Careful MRI analysis of all those tumor-free rats showed no sign of damage related to necrosis, edema, infection or trauma … We also examined other potential side effects of cannabinoid administration. In both tumor-free and tumor-bearing rats, cannabinoid administration induced no substantial change in behavioral parameters such as motor coordination or physical activity. Food and water intake as well as body weight gain were unaffected during and after cannabinoid delivery. Likewise, the general hematological profiles of cannabinoid-treated rats were normal. Thus, neither biochemical parameters nor markers of tissue damage changed substantially during the 7-day delivery period or for at least 2 months after cannabinoid treatment ended.”
Guzman’s investigation is the only time since the 1974 Virginia study that THC has been administered to live tumor-bearing animals. (The Spanish researchers cite a 1998 study in which cannabinoids inhibited breast cancer cell proliferation, but that was a “petri dish” experiment that didn’t involve live subjects.)
In an email interview for this story, the Madrid researcher said he had heard of the Virginia study, but had never been able to locate literature on it. Hence, the Nature Medicine article characterizes the new study as the first on tumor-laden animals and doesn’t cite the 1974 Virginia investigation.
“I am aware of the existence of that research. In fact I have attempted many times to obtain the journal article on the original investigation by these people, but it has proven impossible.” Guzman said.
In 1983 the Reagan/Bush Administration tried to persuade American universities and researchers to destroy all 1966-76 cannabis research work, including compendiums in libraries, reports Jack Herer, who states, “We know that large amounts of information have since disappeared.”
Guzman provided the title of the work – “Antineoplastic activity of cannabinoids,” an article in a 1975 Journal of the National Cancer Institute – and this writer obtained a copy at the University of California medical school library in Davis and faxed it to Madrid.
The summary of the Virginia study begins, “Lewis lung adenocarcinoma growth was retarded by the oral administration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabinol (CBN)” – two types of cannabinoids, a family of active components in marijuana. “Mice treated for 20 consecutive days with THC and CBN had reduced primary tumor size.”
The 1975 journal article doesn’t mention breast cancer tumors, which featured in the only newspaper story ever to appear about the 1974 study – in the Local section of the Washington Post on August 18, 1974. Under the headline, “Cancer Curb Is Studied,” it read in part:
“The active chemical agent in marijuana curbs the growth of three kinds of cancer in mice and may also suppress the immunity reaction that causes rejection of organ transplants, a Medical College of Virginia team has discovered.” The researchers “found that THC slowed the growth of lung cancers, breast cancers and a virus-induced leukemia in laboratory mice, and prolonged their lives by as much as 36 percent.”
Guzman, writing from Madrid, was eloquent in his response after this writer faxed him the clipping from the Washington Post of a quarter century ago. In translation, he wrote:
“It is extremely interesting to me, the hope that the project seemed to awaken at that moment, and the sad evolution of events during the years following the discovery, until now we once again Îdraw back the veilâ over the anti-tumoral power of THC, twenty-five years later. Unfortunately, the world bumps along between such moments of hope and long periods of intellectual castration.”
News coverage of the Madrid discovery has been virtually nonexistent in this country. The news broke quietly on Feb. 29, 2000 with a story that ran once on the UPI wire about the Nature Medicine article. This writer stumbled on it through a link that appeared briefly on the Drudge Report web page. The New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times all ignored the story, even though its newsworthiness is indisputable: a benign substance occurring in nature destroys deadly brain tumors.
Raymond Cushing is a journalist, musician and filmmaker. This article was named by Project Censored as a “Top Censored Story of 2000.”
October 19th, 2011
Posted by mikeliszewski
The first broad marijuana policy statement by a state medical association has become a hot topic of conversation, repeatedly referring to the current federal approach as a “failed public health policy.” Indeed, the October 14, 2011 official policy statement by the California Medical Association (CMA) is gathering significant interest from medical marijuana advocates as well as the broader reform movement. While certain portions of the statement focus on full legalization, the CMA has geared its policy recommendations for those in Washington with the power to reschedule medical marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).
The prevailing theme of the CMA policy is that marijuana’s current placement under Schedule I of the CSA has directly and severely hindered researchers from fully establishing marijuana’s medical value. Specifically, the CMA states without equivocation that:
[C]annabis must be moved out of its current Schedule I status.
Notably, the CMA points out that Schedule I classification of cannabis is the principle reason the growing body of international evidence in favor of medical marijuana’s efficacy has been limited in the U.S. to approximately one dozen clinical trials. The CMA ultimately recommends that:
Rescheduling cannabis will allow for further clinical research to determine the utility and risks of cannabis.
By urging the federal government to reclassify marijuana out of Schedule I, the CMA are in effect stating that marijuana does in fact have medical value. While some may choose to play up the reference to “risks,” the CMA was confident enough in medical marijuana’s safety to have issued an August 2011 “Physician Recommendation of Medical Cannabis,” which provides guidance to doctors on how they may treat their sick and dying patients with medical marijuana. In other words, the CMA has asserted that marijuana, even in the absence of FDA approval, is safe enough for physicians to recommend to their patients.
The CMA policy recommendation to reclassify marijuana is one that ASA not only supports, but has also been actively working to implement. As part of the Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis (CRC), ASA hasappealed a July 2011 denial by the DEA of the CRC rescheduling petition. With this policy statement by the CMA, patients and advocates have gained an important champion on the critical issue of federal rescheduling of marijuana. The question now becomes, will Washington officials listen to doctors’ orders?
This entry was posted on Wednesday, October 19th, 2011
MOUNT HOLLY — Activist NJWeedman can either defend himself or have a public defender represent him, but not both, a Superior Court judge ruled Wednesday.
Judge Charles Delehey said the method by which marijuana activist Ed Forchion would like to proceed during his upcoming drug-distribution trial was too “ambivalent” and assigned Public Defender Donald Ackerman to represent him.
The trial, which was expected to begin shortly, was moved to April 2012 for medical reasons.
Forchion argued that Delehey’s ruling would not allow him to present the defense he wishes, particularly because the Office of the Public Defender will not subpoena several witnesses who he believes would help his cause, he said.
“You just eviscerated my Sixth Amendment rights,” Forchion said, referring to a provision in the U.S. Constitution that grants the right of defendants to obtain witnesses in their favor.
Forchion said he wanted to call a chemistry professor from Penn State University, his Rastafarian minister, a personal physician, and several New Jersey lawmakers who co-sponsored a bill that legalized marijuana in the state for certain medical purposes, but the Office of the Public Defender would not allow it.
Forchion had said he’d like to at least give his own opening arguments to defend himself against charges that police found a pound of marijuana in the trunk of his car in April 2010, but he left it unclear how he would proceed after that.
“The court will not engage in hybrid representation,” Delehey said Wednesday and assigned the public defender. “Frankly, the court has great concern and fear that we will be left with a mistrial. The court will not permit this to be a dry run for a second time around.”
The ruling comes months after Delehey said Forchion would be permitted to defend himself.
The activist said then that he would make a final decision on how he would proceed after the same judge ruled whether he could also challenge the state’s criminal code as being in contradiction with the new medical marijuana law.
Forchion planned to argue that New Jersey’s listing of marijuana as a Schedule I drug with no medicinal value contradicts the new law, but that was dealt a blow when Delehey rejected the notion.
“The court is satisfied that the use of marijuana is prohibited,” the judge said. “The issue in this matter is whether you possessed it. Did you possess it? Did you possess it with the intent to distribute it?”
Forchion called Delehey’s rulings a “mockery” and said he planned to appeal.
Whether his appeal will be heard by a higher court before or after the trial is unclear.
Forchion, who claims dual residency in Pemberton Township and California, has been a strong proponent for the legalization of marijuana and owns a medical dispensary in California.
He said he is an approved medical user in that state to help treat tumors on bones in his leg.
Delehey granted a request from Forchion to push the trial back six months for the tumors to be surgically removed.
If convicted of the charges, Forchion could be sentenced to up to 10 years in state prison and not be eligible for parole for three because he was convicted of a drug charge in Camden County.
Forchion had rejected a deal from the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office to plead guilty to lesser charges and be sentenced to six years with three years before parole eligibility.
Forchion is also running in November as an independent for the 8th District seat in the state Assembly.