Pubdate: Fri, 2 May 2008
Source: Nelson Daily News (CN BC)
Copyright: 2008 Nelson Daily News
Note: The newspaper does not have an active website.
Author: Sara Newham
Cited: Dr. Robert Melamede
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Canada)


Holy Smoke Trial: University Professor Brought in to Help Prove Case 
for Defense in Drug Trafficking Trial

B.C. Provincial Court heard Thursday that cannabis is safer than 
aspirin and can restore the balance in people's bodies to help fight illness.

That was the testimony of Dr. Robert Melamede, an associate professor 
at the University of Colorado, who was brought in by the defense team 
for the four men accused in the Holy Smoke Culture Shop drug 
trafficking case taking place in Nelson this week.

Melamede's testimony comes on the second day of what is supposed to 
be a week-long trial.  In a lengthy scientific explanation, the U.S. 
expert told the court that the human body produces marijuana-like 
compounds, or endocannabinoids, which act as a "lubricant" for food 
produced chemicals called "free radicals" that are very reactive and 
can cause an imbalance in the body.

"You can look at the harm caused by free radicals as biological 
friction or biological rust and the endocannabinoid system minimizes 
the impact of that and directly acts as an antioxidant as well as 
modifying the biochemistry in a way that minimizes the impacts," said 
Melamede outside court Thursday, likening endocannabinoids to humans 
like oil is to cars.  He said if you don't have lubrication in your 
car, your car breaks.  In the human body, the damage comes in the 
form of age-related diseases.

"I'm saying what science has now shown is that marijuana and 
cannabinoids are effective anti-aging agents which means that they 
are effective in minimizing the onset and the severity of age-related 
illnesses which include cognitive dysfunction things like Alzheimers, 
cardiovascular disease be it heart attacks, strokes, or clogged 
arteries," he said.

But while it does not work for every one, cannabis can also help 
those people with auto-immune diseases and cancer.

Melamede explained that you would have to take 40,000 times the 
therapeutic dose before causing harm to your body.  But the 
therapeutic index for aspirin is 15 to one.

"It's extremely safe," said Melamede of marijuana, noting the 
overdose amount would equal 40,000 joints.

"And you die happy," added Judge Don Sperry during a rare moment of 
levity in Thursday's testimony.

Melamede also provided testimony on the "reverse gateway" theory, 
disputing the notion that marijuana acts as a gateway to other drugs. 
He explained that evidence suggests some people who use cannabis have 
completely stopped using narcotics while others have reduced their 
narcotics intake while on marijuana.

He said that while marijuana has negative benefits - and should not 
be taken by those who are predisposed to schizophrenia, for example - 
it is very helpful to restore balance to those with an 
endocannabinoid deficiency.

"I think it's very bad for immature kids to use it.  Once you've 
reached a certain level of maturity it can be beneficial," he said, 
noting it can help those with multiple sclerosis, migraines and 
Crohn's Disease.  "If you look at things like Crohn's disease, the 
body is producing lots more cannabinoids in those areas [the gut] but 
they're not producing enough and yet people can consume cannabis and 
it's the best thing they have for Crohn's disease for many 
people.  Nothing works for everyone but there are many many people 
for whom cannabis is giving them their lives."

Prosecutors took about 15 minutes to cross-examine Melamede and 
pointed out that he ran for Senate and the House of Representatives 
in Vermont for the Grassroots Party.

The trial, which adjourned for two days to serve notice of a 
publication ban, will continue Friday when the defense calls local 
witnesses who are expected to give testimony about the benefits of 
marijuana in their lives. Because Sperry granted the application for 
a publication ban, the names of those local witnesses cannot be 
released to the public.

Court will also hear Friday whether or not the Crown intends to call 
their expert.  If they do not, the trial will adjourn to hear written 
arguments following the last local witness. 
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