Pubdate: Wed, 11 Jul 2007
Source: Hartford Courant (CT)
Copyright: 2007 The Hartford Courant
Author: Paul Armentano
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)
Bookmark: (Cannabis and Driving)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)
Cited: NORML


Study: Medical Marijuana Smokes 'Legal Alternative'

When Gov. M. Jodi Rell vetoed legislation last month that would have
allowed citizens with debilitating medical conditions to use medical
cannabis under their doctor's supervision, she alleged that there was
no proof of pot's therapeutic effectiveness and that legal
alternatives are available by prescription. Now, a just-released
clinical trial by researchers at Columbia University in New York is
making the governor's statements ring hollow.

On June 21, just 24 hours after Gov. Rell's veto, the online database
for the National Library of Medicine posted an abstract from a
forthcoming study in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency
Syndromes that reports, "Smoked marijuana ... has a clear medical
benefit in HIV-positive [patients] by increasing food intake and
improving mood and objective and subjective sleep measures."

But that's not all investigators found. In a "first" for HIV/AIDS
clinical research, scientists not only compared the efficacy of
inhaled cannabis to a placebo (in this case, marijuana lacking the
compound THC), but they also tested pot against doses of the so-called
"legal marijuana pill" known as dronabinol (aka Marinol). For those
unfamiliar with dronabinol, it's a gelatin capsule containing
synthetic THC in sesame oil that was approved by the FDA in 1992
specifically to treat HIV/AIDS-related cachexia (weight and appetite

So just how did the nearly $1,000-a-month synthetic alternative
compare to the real McCoy?

According to the study, subjects experienced increased appetites after
smoking cannabis or taking Marinol. Patients also experienced
equivalent weight gains after using both drugs (a little more than 1.1
kilograms over a four-day period). Here's the kicker, though.
Investigators reported that patients needed to take "eight times" the
recommended daily dosage of Marinol to equal the same therapeutic
relief they achieved after smoking relatively low-strength (2 percent
or 3.9 percent THC) pot!

In other words, a few hits of the U.S. government's herbal "schwag"
(the use of federally grown pot is required in all FDA-approved
marijuana trials) was as efficacious as a mega-dose of Uncle Sam's
synthetic pot pill.

Clinicians further reported that smoking higher-strength marijuana -
that's the 3.9 percent pot for this study's purposes - subjectively
improved patients' sleep better than oral THC. Perhaps more important,
authors reported that HIV patients made far fewer requests for
over-the-counter medications while using cannabis. Scientists reported
that most of these requests were to treat subjects' gastrointestinal
complaints (nausea, diarrhea and upset stomach) - conditions that have
long been reported by patients to be alleviated with medical pot.

Of course, among those living with HIV/AIDS, scientific trials like
the Columbia study only reinforce what they've already known for
decades. (According to various surveys, between 25 and 37 percent of
HIV/AIDS patients in North America self-report using cannabis
medically to combat both symptoms of the disease as well as the side
effects of antiretroviral medications.) That for many with
debilitating and life-threatening diseases, pot as a medicine works.

It's just unfortunate that Gov. Rell chose to take her marching orders
from drug warriors in Washington rather than to heed the advice of
those patients and doctors who know far better.


Paul Armentano is the senior policy analyst for The National
Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and the NORML Foundation
in Washington. He grew up in Connecticut and is a 1990 graduate of
Simsbury High School.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Steve Heath