Marijuana and Cannabis News
What happened? A new medical cannabis section was added to the official National Cancer Institute website at www.cancer.gov on March 17.
Could this new development be used as a defense in any pending medical marijuana arrest cases, or for the defense of any medical cannabis care center threatened with closure?
Patients and providers now have the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), a presidential Cabinet level department, on your side. This is an official part of the federal government which cites and stands behind 75 supporting research studies that now officially declare that cannabis is medicine.
Interesting point: Just as another department of the government may be prosecuting you for possessing this same medicine! You can't have it both ways; this may be a game changer for some. Please check with your attorney. Good luck, and spread the word!
Please visit the main site, www.cancer.gov. This is the land of hard science. The "go-to" best site in the world for up-to-date cancer research, treatment information, and options for every cancer known to medical science. Visit it before it mysteriously is removed. Funding for the HHS is possibly on the Republicans' chopping block.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which is one of 11 agencies that make up the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) headed by Kathleen Sebelius, a Cabinet-level post. The NCI was established under the National Cancer Institute Act of 1937.
It is the federal government's principal agency for cancer research and training, and is mandated and required to assess and incorporate state-of-the-art cancer treatments into clinical practice. In other words, to get new cancer drugs into the pipeline and into the hands of doctors to treat people with cancer -- which cannabis has now joined.
In the near future when cannabis is legalized, regulated and taxed in the entire United States (we would gladly pay an exorbitant tax on this legal product; in fact we demand to be taxed), we will look back at March 2011 and this website posting as the watershed moment that changed the political cannabis landscape in the U.S. forever. I cannot overstate the significance of this news.
This is the National Cancer Institute stating that cannabis is a bonafide alternative medicine for cancer prevention, and that it has direct anti-tumor effects.
I would like to thank the people behind the scenes at the National Cancer Institute who had the balls to put this together and bring us into the 21st Century.
I would love to know the details and the backstory of how this all came about. I'm sure in time we'll learn, but for now I would like to walk through the website to focus on its high points.
Cannabis and Cannabinoids: Health Professional Version
A new 10-section medical cannabis webpage was created which provides an overview (for physicians and all professional caregivers) on the use of cannabis and its components as a treatment for people with cancer-related symptoms caused by the disease itself or its treatment as an adjunct to traditional treatment or as a stand-alone treatment.
Cannabis is very complex and stands in its own category under the "complementary and alternative medicine" section, which is defined as...
"Forms of treatment that are used in addition to (complementary) or instead of (alternative) standard treatments. These practices generally are not considered standard medical approaches. Standard treatments go through a long and careful research process to prove they are safe and effective, but less is known about most types of CAM. CAM may include dietary supplements, megadose vitamins, herbal preparations, special teas, acupuncture, massage therapy, magnet therapy, spiritual healing, and meditation."
Excerpts from Sections 1-5:
1. Overview: "This information summary provides an overview of the use of cannabis and its components as a treatment for people with cancer-related symptoms caused by the disease itself or its treatment." This summary contains the following key information: "Cannabis has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years prior to its current status as an illegal subsance."
2. General information: "In the United States, it is a controlled substance and is clasified as a Schedule I agent" (a drug with increased potential for abuse and no known medical use).
My opinion: I don't see how a Schedule I classification can now stand in light of this new governmental medical seal of approval. The two are in direct conflict with each other. I believe a court challenge to existing cannabis laws now has some heavyweight support! This now needs the second barrier to fall.
|Photo: Cannabis Culture|
"As a botanical cannabis is difficult to study because of the lack of standardization of the botanical product due to the many climates and environments in which it is grown. Clinical trials conducted on medicinal cannabis are limited."
My opinion: This is not a problem; it's an advantage. This product is driven by evolution, and by adapting to different environmental niches just as humans in general do. This is a medicine in the form of a living plant! It is alive and is cultivated by humans by hand. It is different from pills and injections. Naturalistic study methodology is recommended.
The following is the blockbuster paragraph of the whole site:
"The potential effects of medicinal cannabis for people living with cancer include antiemetic effects, appetite stimulation, pain relief, and improved sleep. In the practice of integrative oncology the health care provider may recommend medicinal cannabis not only for symptom management but also for its possible direct anti-tumor effect."
3. History: "Cannabis use for medicinal purposes dates back at least 3,000 years. It was introduced into Western medicine in the 1840s by W.B. O'Shaughnessy, a surgeon who learned of its medicinal properties while working in India for the British East Indies Company. Its use was promoted for reported analgesia, sedative, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, and anticonvulsant effects."
"In 1937, the U.S. Treasury Department introduced the Marihuana Tax Act. This Act imposed a levy of one dollar an ounce for medicinal use of Cannabis and one hundred dollars an ounce for recreational use.
"Physicians in the United States were the principal opponents of the Act. The American Medical Association (AMA) opposed the Act because physicians were required to pay a special tax to prescribe Cannabis, use special order forms to procure it, and keep special records concerning its professional use."
|Graphic: Weed Smokers Guide|
In addition, "the AMA believed that objective evidence that cannabis was addictive was lacking and that passage of the Act would impede further research into its medicinal worth." In 1942, cannabis was removed from the U.S. pharmacopeia "because of persistent concerns about its potential to cause harm."
Note: Here is an admission that cannabis was made illegal not because of any rational scientific evidence, but due to bias, fear and misinformation, and more importantly, that cannabis prohibition stopped cancer medical research since 1942.
"In 2010, the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs approved marijuana use for patients in states where its medicinal use is legal." VA hospitals, you now have the green light.
Question: In states where cannabis is distributed from Department of Health offices, is the DEA going to raid official state offices?
4. Laboratory/Animal/Preclinical Studies: "These plant-derived compounds may be referred to as phytocannabinoids. Although delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the primary psychoactive ingredient, other known compounds with biologic activity are cannabinol, cannabidiol, cannabichromene, cannabigerol, tetahydrocannabivirin, and delta-8-THC. Casnnabidiol, in particular, is thought to have significant analgesic and anti-inflammatory activity without the psychoactive effect (high) of delta-9-THC."
Anti-tumor effects: "Cannabinoids may cause anti-tumor effects by various mechanisms, including induction of cell death, inhibition of cell growth, and inhibition of tumor angiogenesis (new blood vessel growth) and metastasis cannabinoids appear to kill tumor cells but do not affect their non-transformed counterparts and may even protect them from cell death." And cannabis protects nearby healthy tissue that surrounds the primary cancer site!
"These compounds have been shown to induce apoptosis (cancer cell death) in glioma cells [brain cancer, see the study at the end of this report] in culture and induce regression of glioma tumors in mice and rats. Cannabinoids protect normal glial cells of astroglial and oligodendroglial lineages from apoptosis mediated by the CB1." (Cannabis doesn't kill healthy cells in the body.)
"A hypothesis that phytocannabinoids and endocannabinoids may be useful in the prevention and treatment of colorectal cancer has been developed."
"Another study has shown delta-9-THC is a potent and selective antiviral agent against Kaposi sarcoma-associated herpes virus (KSHV), also known as human herpes virus. The researchers concluded that additional studies on cannabinoids and herpes viruses are warranted, as they may lead to the development of drugs that inhibit the reactivation of these oncogenic viruses (viruses that cause cancer)."
Appetite stimulation: "Many animal studies have previously demonstrated that delta-9-THC and other cannabinoids have a stimulatory effect on appetite and increase food intake. It is believed that the endogenous cannabinoid system may serve as as regulator of feeding behavior. The endogenous cannabinoid anandamide potently enhances appetite in mice. Moreover, CB1 receptors in the hypothalamus may be involved in the motivational or reward aspects of eating."
Analgesia (pain control): "Understanding the mechanism of cannabinoid-induced analgesia has been increased through the study of cannabinoid receptors, endocannabinoids, and synthetic agonists and antagonists. The CB1 receptor is found in both the central nervous system (CNS) and in peripheral nerve terminals. Similar to opioid receptors, increased levels of the CB1 receptor are found in sections of the brain that regulate nociceptive (pain) processing."
"Cannabinoids may also contribute to pain modulation through an anti-inflammatory mechanism; a CB2 effect with cannabinoids acting on mast cell receptors to attenuate the release of inflammatory agents, such as histamine and serotonin and on keratinocytes to enhance the release of analgesic opioids has been described."
5. Adverse effects: "Cannabinoids have a favorable drug safety profile. Unlike opioid receptors, cannabinoid receptors are not located in the brainstem areas controlling respiration; therefore, lethal overdoses due to respiratory suppression do not occur." There has never been a confirmed death due to cannabis ingestion.
"Although cannabinoids are considered by some to be addictive drugs, their addictive potential is considerably lower than that of other prescribed agents or substances of abuse."
"Withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, insomnia with sleep EEG disturbance, restlessness, hot flashes, and rarely, nausea and cramping have been observed, but these symptoms appear to be mild compared with withdrawal symptoms associated with opiates or benzodiazepines, and the symptoms usually dissipate after a few days."
|Photo: NORML Blog|
Note: Marijuana addiction doesn't exist. It is easier to stop smoking pot than to stop drinking coffee.
"In clinical trials of cannabis, euphoria is often scored as an adverse effect." WTF?! Euphoria is another name for bliss. The pleasant part is seen as dangerous. This is part of the misinformation and the old "drug hysteria" way of thinking.
"In a retrospective cohort study of 64,855 men aged 15 to 49 years, participants were divided into cohorts (groups) based on their use of tobacco and marijuana never inhaled either, inhaled only cannabis, inhaled only tobacco, and inhaled tobacco and cannabis. Among the nonsmokers, two cases of lung cancer were diagnosed during the follow-up period. Among the men who inhaled tobacco either alone or in addition to marijuana, the risk of lung cancer increased tenfold. In the follow-up of men who inhaled marijuana alone, no cases of lung cancer were documented."
"A case-controlled study of 611 lung cancer patients revealed that chronic low cannabis exposure was not associated with an increased risk of lung cancer or other upper aerodigestive cancers. A standardized questionnaire used during face-to-face interviews collected information on marijuana use expressed in joint-years, where one joint-year is the equivalent of inhaling one marijuana cigarette per day for one year. The results showed that, although using marijuana for 30 years or longer was positively associated in the crude analysis with each cancer type studied except pharyngeal cancer, no positive associations were found when adjusting for several cofounders including cigarette smoking."
"Furthermore, a systematic review assessing 19 studies that evaluated pre-malignant or malignant lung lesions in persons 18 years or older who inhaled marijuana concluded that observational studies failed to demonstrate any statistically significant associations between marijuana inhaling and lung cancer after adjusting for tobacco use."
Bottom line: There are no adverse cancer effects from smoking cannabis.
The endocannabinoid system is implicated in a variety of physiological and pathological conditions such as inflammation, immunomodulation (immune system control), analgesia (pain medicine), cancer and others.
The main active ingredient of cannabis, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), produces its effects through activation of CB1 and CB2 receptors. CB1 receptors are expressed at high levels in the central nervous system (CNS), whereas CB2 receptors are concentrated predominantly, although not exclusively, in cells of the immune system.
There is a relationship between the endocannabinoid system and anti-tumor actions in the inhibition of cell proliferation and migration, induction of apoptosis, reduction of tumor growth and of the cannabinoids in different types of cancer.
Identification of safe and effective treatments to manage and improve cancer therapy is critical to improve quality of life and reduce unnecessary suffering in cancer patients. In this regard, cannabis-like compounds offer therapeutic potential for the treatment of breast, prostate and bone cancer in patients.
Further basic research on anti-cancer properties of cannabinoids as well as clinical trials of cannabinoid therapeutic efficacy in breast, prostate and bone cancer is therefor warranted.
Another Study To Think About
Spontaneous regression of septum astocytomas (brain tumor) has been reported in a child's nervous system, with a possible role of cannabis inhalation.
Two children with septum pellucidum/forniceal pilocytic astrocytoma (PA) tumors underwent craniotomy and subtotal excision, leaving behind a small residual in each case.
If you have access to a college or medical professional website, I encourage you to view the MRI photos at the link above that show before and after tumor regression due to cannabis inhalation -- they are very dramatic.
During magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) surveillance in the first three years, one case was dormant and the other showed slight increase in size, followed by clear regression of both residual tumors over the following three-year period. Neither patient received any conventional adjuvant treatment. The tumors regressed over the same period of time that cannabis was consumed via inhalation, raising the possibility that the cannabis played a role in the tumor regression.
"CONCLUSION: We advise caution against instituting adjuvant therapy or further aggressive therapy for small residual PAs, especially in eloquent locations, even if there appears to be slight progression, since regression may occur later. Further research may be appropriate to elucidate the increasingly recognized effect of cannabis/cannabinoids on gliomas."
In other words, cut away as much of the brain tumor as possible without damaging the brain, and let medical cannabis shrink the rest of the tumor! See "Meet a toddler who's used medical marijuana to treat the side effects of a brain tumor" from CNN.
How about we all practice a little cannabis cancer prevention tonight in celebration of this great news?
The green genie is out of the bottle. I guess revolutions are happening everywhere in the world.
Editor's note: Ron Marczyk is a retired high school health education teacher who taught Wellness and Disease Prevention, Drug and Sex Ed, and AIDS education to teens aged 13-17. He also taught a high school International Baccalaureate psychology course. He taught in a New York City public school as a Drug Prevention Specialist. He is a Registered Nurse with six years of ER/Critical Care experience in NYC hospitals, earned an M.S. in cardiac rehabilitation and exercise physiology, and worked as a New York City police officer for two years. Currently he is focused on how evolutionary psychology explains human behavior.