Pubdate: Fri, 13 Jul 2007
Source: AlterNet (US Web)
Copyright: 2007 Independent Media Institute
Author: Paul Armentano
Note: A previous version of this article originally appeared in The 
Hartford Courant. Paul Armentano is the senior policy analyst for the 
NORML Foundation in Washington, DC.
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal)


When Connecticut's Republican 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 a forthcoming study
from 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
primary therapeutic and psychoactive 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 loss).

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 'rescue' 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 politicians like Gov. Rell choose to take
their marching orders from drug warriors in Washington rather than to
heed the advice of those patients and doctors who know far better.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard Lake