Marijuana is a benign plant which has been part of the human pharmacology for at least 5000 years, in virtually every culture and time period, pre-dating and throughout our recorded history: In the middle east, archeologists found hashish by the side of a woman who died in childbirth long before Homer was born; from ancient times it has been medicine for the Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, Romans and East Indians; for five millennia marijuana has been used in Chinese medicine; during the 1800s, European and American medical journals published more than 100 papers on the medical uses of marijuana; in 2006, almost 1000 articles on the medical efficacy of marijuana were published in scientific journals worlwide; today it has been legalized in a dozen states, and it is being studied in some of the world's best hospitals and research institutions.
Yet, at the time of this writing, our federal government holds the position that marijuana has zero medical or scientific value and refuses to declassify it as a Schedule I substance more dangerous than addictive narcotics, cocaine, amphetamines or barbiturates, even though not a single death has ever been recorded as a result of marijuana overdose, as long as the federal government has been keeping records.
The State of California, on the other hand, holds a more enlightened view. In California, patients have a right to use medical marijuana, with their doctor's support. Moreover, the California Health and Safety Code has empowered the University of California, one of the best researech institutions in the world, to study medical marijuana. In addition, the Code spells out procedures for doctors and researchers to apply to the state for quantities of marijuana seized in drug raids for use in medical studies. The first study was done at University of California San Francisco. It is published in the journal Neurology, proving the medical efficacy of marijuana. Numerous studies have now been done that prove marijuana kills or inhibits the growth of malignant cancer cells! See Velasco, Carracedo, et. al., 2007, "Cannabinoids and Gliomas." Many more studies are currently under way.
A booklet by the NORML Foundation, "Emerging Clinical Applications for Cannabis and Cannabinoids: A Review of the Recent Scientific Literature, 2000-2006," lists articles in scientific journals that discuss the use of marijuana in treating 16 serious conditions, including gliomas, Alzheimer's, fibromyalgia, dystonia, hepatitus C, diabetes, pruritus, osteoporosis, muyltiple sclerosis, ALS, Tourette's syndrome, hypertension, sleep apnea, gastrointestinal disorders, incontinence, and rheumatoid arthritus.
In 1999, the government's own National Institute of Medicine published a report, "Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base." In part, it concluded "The accumulated data indicate a potential therapeutic value for cannabinoid drugs, particularly for symptoms such as pain relief, control of nausea and vomiting, appetite stimulation (and therefore) would be moderately well suited for chemotherapy induced nausea and vomiting, and AIDS wasting."
According to Doctor Lester Grinspoon, emeritus professor, Harvard Medical School, "Marijuana is effective at relieving nausea and vomiting, spasticity, appetite loss, certain types of pain, and other debilitating symptoms. And it is extraordinarily safe, safer than most medicines prescribed every day. If marijuana were a new discovery rather than a well known substance carrying cultural and political baggage, it would be hailed as a wonder drug."
Many leaders in science, medicine, law, government, industry and business have taken the lead and begun to give voice to the mounting body of evidence that proves marijuana is medicine:
The 124,000 member American College of Physicians, in a 13 page statement approved by the college's governing board of regents and posted on their website, calls on the federal government to drop marijuana from Schedule I, where it is presently classified as more dangerous than addicitive narcotics, cocaine, amphetamines and barbiturates. The ACP statement also calls for protection of doctors and patients from civil or criminal penalties in states that have legalized medical marijuana. In response, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy said calls for legalizing marijuana are misguided.
Jocelyn Elders, M.D., Surgeon General of the Public Health Service, 1993-94: "The evidence is overwhelming that marijuana can relieve certain types of pain, nausea, vomiting and other symptoms caused by such illnesses as multiple sclerosis, cancer and AIDS--or by the harsh drugs sometimes used to treat them. And it can do so with remarkable safety. Indeed, marijuana is less toxic than many of the drugs physicians prescribe every day."
Francis L. Young, DEA Administrative Law Judge: "The overwhelming preponderance of the evidence in this record establishes that marijuana has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States for nausea and vomiting resulting from chemotherapy treatments in some cancer patients. To conclude otherwise, on this record, would be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious."
Nancy Pelosi, Congresswoman, Speaker of the House: "Proven uses of marijuana include alleviation of some of the most debilitating symptoms of AIDS, including pain, wasting and nausea. These benefits also improve the quality of life for patients with cancer, with MS, and other severe medical conditions."
Lyn Nofziger, republican political consultant: "Marijuana clearly has medicinal value. Thousands of seriously ill Americans have been able to determine that for themselves, albeit illegally."
TIME, December 5, 2005: "Research into the analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects of cannabis continued to bolster the case for the medicinal use of marijuana, making the 'patient pot laws' that have passed in (12) states seem less like a social movement than a legitimate medical trend."
Kaiser Permanente Newsletter: "Medical guidelines regarding the prudent use of marijuana should be established. Unfortunately, clinical research on potential therapeutic uses for marijuana has been difficult to accomplish in the United States, despite reasonable evidence for the efficacy of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and marijuana as anti-emetic and anti-glaucoma agents and the suggestive evidence for their efficacy in the treatment of other medical conditions, including AIDS."
The late Doctor Tod Mikuriya, to whom this book is dedicated, was a Berkeley physician with more than half a lifetime of experience with marijuana as medicine. In his book, Marijuana Medical Handbook: A Guide to Therapeutic Use, he discusses the use of marijuana to treat a surprising range of conditions, including clinical depression. According to Doctor Mikuriya, "The power of cannabis to fight depression is perhaps its most important property. In accordance with the perverse logic of DEA bureaucrats, 'euphoria' has been listed as an adverse reaction of marijuana."
Marijuana can keep up the spirits of those struggling with chronic or terminal conditions. It has a powerful ability to help patients keep their mood elevated and to avoid the depression and negative mindset that can accompany chronic or life threatening conditions. And without a positive mindset in the patient, no doctor or therapy will be successful.
In my direct experience with marijuana, as a professional caregiver to cancer/chemo and hospice patients for more than a decade, I observe marijuana to have profound ability to mitigate the sided effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. I've also seen marijuana bring relief for a variety of serious medical conditions, including but not limited to arthritus, fibromyalgia, insomnia, anorexia, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, glaucoma, asthma and clinical depression.
It is clear that marijuana has already become a part of our modern pharmacology. But the feds are ignoring the news, declaring that the world is still flat. On April 20, 2006, the FDA released this statement: "Marijuana has high potential for abuse, has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and has a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision. A past evaluation...concluded that no sound scientific studies supported the medical use of marijuana for treatment in the United States."
At the time of this writing, the feds are still arresting and prosecuting patients, caregivers and physicians, destroying medical gardens and lives.
The stubborn head-in-the-sand attitude of the federal government is untenable and even hypocritical: while publicly denying the medical value of marijuana, the government grows and provides (inferior quality) marijuana to at least seven patients who have proven their need. Moreover, the government has permitted one pharmaceutical company to patent, manufacture and market marijuana under the name Marinol, formally recognizing its medical value. Marinol is synthetic marijuana in a sesame oil gelatin capsule.
The pharmaceutical industry presently establishes policy for the FDA. And the DEA enforces FDA policy. This means the taxpayer is footing the bill for the DEA to enforce policy that is established by and benefits the drug companies, a powerful lobby against research and legalization of medical marijuana.
Today, many oncologists routinely prescribe Marinol for their chemo patients. Marinol can be purchased at any pharmacy. Medi-Cal and Medicare and other forms of insurance will pay for Marinol. It has already become an addition to our modern pharmacopoeia.
There is clearly medical value in marijuana. It should be studied and made a useful addition to our medicine chest. What sense does it make to hide it, ignore it, be afraid of it? The wise will study, learn about and make use of it.
While the debate continues, I've been growing and providing marijuana to cancer/chemo and hospice patients and other of the sick, homeless and hopeless in our community.
The genie is out of the bottle. Patients and their loved ones, doctors and researchers, health care workers and caregivers have seen the magic. Marijuana is medicine. Indeed, it is a versatile and effective medicine, 100% harmless and non toxic. It will soon become accepted and widely used. Now that so many have seen, it will be harder for the feds to put the stopper back in the bottle. But they will keep trying. They'll keep intimidating and harming doctors, arresting patients and caregivers, destroying medical gardens and lives, until you make it clear at the voting booth that you don't want tax dollars wasted hurting doctors, patients and caregivers. The FDA and the DEA will never stop this mindless war on the sick and the medical community. Conditions will only change through legislation. You can help.
Some of the patients I serve have been arrested by CHP, local law enforcement or federal agents, for using or growing medical marijuana. Patients and caregivers feel the pressure constantly. Those who are paying attention live with fear and paranoia. Such an atmosphere is not conducive to health and healing.
Perhaps the UCSF studies, the statement by the American College of Physicians, and the reoprt by the National Institute of Medicine will give lawmakers pause and encourage them to re-think the government position on medical marijuana.
Meanwhile, you can help patients, caregivers and doctors. Vote out the prosecutors and sheriffs who are cooperating with the feds, particularly in the Sierra and central valley. Vote out the judges who sign the warrants. Support medical marijuana intiatives. Write to and support local and congressional leaders who support medical marijuana. And watch their performance. Some prosecutors, sheriffs and political leaders have solicited the medical marijuana vote only to take office and begin a ruthless campaign against the sick and suffering. Watch their perofrmance.
The aim of this book is not to enter the debate, but to inform by presenting a picture of the work of one caregiver, and by reporting the things I've witnessed and experienced during years of work with marijuana as medicine.
The book is organized as an anecdotal collection, little glimpses of my experiences with patients and some of the different kinds of people, conditions and situations I've encountered. There is wide variety in the people I've served and the health conditions they've suffered. They are from every socioeconomic group. They live everywhere, from the park to Park Place, from the city streets to City Hall. They represent every kind of cancer and other health condition there is. Their stories will tell the medical marijuana story.
Cancer comes to all. It will come to you or someone close to you. Marijuana would make a difference. Will marijuana be among your options? Will the research continue? Will your doctor be free to prescribe marijuana? Will there be a caregiver to serve you or your loved one? Will there be a dispensary or co-op to supply your meds? Will you be free to grow marijuana for yourself or your loved one?