Marijuana is now recommended to patients in 23 states and the District of Columbia, treating both the symptoms of ailments and also mediating the side effects of intense treatment procedures for certain severe illnesses, such as cancer and HIV/AIDS. CBD-only bills have been passed in another eight states.
RAMP founder Ann Lee’s own story involves her realization that marijuana, a drug she once firmly believed was dangerous and addictive, was the best and only solution for the nerve pain son Richard Lee suffered after a workplace accident put him in a wheelchair as a paraplegic.
With support from the American College of Physicians, Institute of Medicine , American Public Health Association, American Nurses Association, American Academy of HIV Medicine, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Lymphoma Foundation of America, American Medical Student Association, and the American Medical Association, there is overwhelming evidence of marijuana’s safe and effective treatment for patients who do not respond well to a bevy of prescription drugs for the following ailments:
- Cachexia (wasting syndrome)
- Chronic pain
- Chronic migraines
- Epilepsy and other disorders characterized by seizures
- HIV or AIDS
- Multiple sclerosis and other disorders characterized by muscle spasticity
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Reduction of “Tics” associated with Tourette’s syndrome
Additionally, there is interest and optimism by researchers for use of cannabis for the treatment of movement disorders, in which cannabis may stunt the disease itself. However, medical research into marijuana, and especially the potential for FDA trials, has been extremely curtailed by the illegal status of the plant.
Recall that to be classified as a Schedule I Controlled Substance, the Federal government maintains that marijuana has “no currently accepted medical use, … [and] a lack of accepted safety for the use of the drug under medical supervision” (21 U.S.C. § 812). As proponents of a less intrusive government, Republicans should take a look at the growing evidence of prescription marijuana and judge for themselves if patients gain a legitimate medical benefit. RAMP strongly believes that restricting the use of marijuana for patients suffering with serious pain, as well as cutting off the medical community from potentially life-saving research, goes against the principles of the Republican Party.
While the research community in the U.S. has been effectively cut off from a federally controlled supply of marijuana for testing, Israel is leading the world in the medical research of the plant.
The grandfather of marijuana research, Rafael Mechoulam of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, first identified THC as the chemical in marijuana responsible for its psychoactive properties in 1964. Since that time, researchers have discovered more about how cannabis, a plant used for thousands of years for its healing properties, interacts with the brain and body. In 1988, researchers at the St. Louis University School of Medicine learned that certain receptors within the brain and body—now named cannabinoid receptors after the plant— are specially attuned to react to the compounds that are found within marijuana.
Cell receptors are responsible for interpreting messages sent in the form of chemicals called neurotransmitters. The receptor can either spread the message or stop the message in its tracks. Certain diseases can be caused by too many or too few of these receptors in key areas of the body and brain. In 1992, Rafael Mechoulam, NIMH research fellow William Devane, and Dr. Lumir Hanus took the research even further by determining that certain chemicals—neurotransmitters— that naturally occur in the human body perform the same functions as chemical compounds in marijuana. They called these special neurotransmitters endocannabinoids, again after the plant cannabis, and learned that the body has a highly complex system of homeostasis that helps to regulate the body’s immune system.
Endocannabinoids are unique because they are the only neurotransmitters that perform retrograde signaling. They tell the body to reduce the immune system response. For example, when fighting an infection, your body will react with a fever to burn it off. When it is time to cool down, endocannabinoids come in to play to adjust your immune system back to its regular state.
The functions of endocannabinoids—again, the naturally occurring substances that are similar in effect to compounds in cannabis— cannot be overstated. They are necessary to not only human life, but are found in every single animal except insects.
Because every individual has different chemical balances in the brain and a different make up of receptors, some people may be lacking in their natural endocannabinoids or are going through an illness that would necessitate a boost in endocannabinoids. Scientists have made headway to show that endocannabinoids help to regulate appetite, anxiety, pain, extinction of aversive memories, and neuroprotection. Research has only begun to scratch the surface of marijuana’s potential.
Cancer patients who need to tell their brain they are hungry and not nauseous can use cannabis. Epileptic people can calm their overwhelming brain functions with cannabis. Autistic people, as well, may have overwhelming brain functions that can be regulated by cannabis. A person with multiple sclerosis can calm his intense pain with cannabis. A veteran with PTSD can decrease anxiety and be able to fall asleep at night with cannabis.
Marijuana is not scary. It is life saving. It is a plant with potential yet to be unlocked. Cutting off some of our best minds from research and our most innocent citizens from medical treatment has caused incalculable harm. Medical marijuana is not for everyone, but the decision to use this treatment should be up to the doctor and patient. For people who suffer from serious conditions and the physicians who treat them, medical marijuana is an option that should be accessible and regulated.