Source: High Times Pubdate: March, 1998, No. 271 Author: Paul Armentano, NORML Director of Publications Contact: Website: http://www.hightimes.com/ Editors note: You may email the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) at Website: http://www.norml.org/ INTERNATIONAL MEDICAL SOCIETIES ENDORSE MARIJUANA INGREDIENTS Two prestigious American and British medical associations recently announced their support for legalizing the use of marijuana-derived chemicals for medical purposes. The Society for Neuroscience in Washington and the British Medical Association in London both came out late last year in support of new evidence demonstrating that cannabinoids - active chemical compounds in marijuana - provide save and effective relief for a number of serious health conditions. Combined, the two associations represent the interests of approximately 140,000 physicians and researchers worldwide. In New Orleans last October, at the 27th annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, several of the nation's top researchers in pain management announced that new studies indicate certain cannabinoids are safe and effective analgesics for patients suffering from chronic or severe pain. "Cannabinoids, at least in animal models, can reduce pain," said Dr. Ian Meng, a pharmacology expert at the University of California at San Francisco. Some cannabinoids, he noted, appeared to be as effective as opiate-based drugs like morphine. Other researchers added that the use of THC and other compounds found in marijuana, such as cannabidiol, do not appear to carry the risks associated with the use of opiates, such as addiction and tolerance. Researchers from the University of Texas reported that the localized injection of anandamides - cannabinoid-like chemicals produced in the brain - - can greatly relieve the inflammation associated with arthritis. An additional team of scientists from the University of Minnesota found that certain cannabinoids can also block the onset of an extreme sensitivity to pain called hyperalgesia, a condition often associated with nerve disease and spinal-cord injuries. "These results suggest that local administration of... cannabinoid[s] to the site of injury may be able to prevent pain from occurring and reduce pain which has already occurred without producing side effects," said Dr. Kenneth Hargreaves, a University of Texas researcher. Many of the neuroscientists attending the annual conference agreed that marijuana's apparent utility as a painkiller would broaden the drug's appeal as a medicine. NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup said that the findings directly challenge the federal government's position that marijuana has no medical value. Federal law now forbids the medical use of any cannabinoid other than THC. In England, the British Medical Association last November reported similar findings and endorsed the legalization of cannabinoids found to have medical value. Its recommendations appeared in a report published by the BMA's Board of Science and Education, entitled "The Therapeutic Uses of Cannabis." Recommendations from the BMA traditionally springboard a drug into regulatory acceptance. The 80-page review concluded that "present evidence indicates that [cannabinoids] are remarkably safe drugs, with a side effect profile superior to many [conventional] drugs." "The Government should consider changing the Misuse of Drugs Act to allow cannabinoids to be prescribed to patients with particular medical conditions whose symptoms are being inadequately controlled under present arrangements," the BMA said in a statement released Nov. 18th. The group also suggested that law enforcement use discretion when they encounter people using marijuana for medical reasons. NORML board member Dr. John Morgan, of the City University of New York Medical School, said that these latest findings and endorsements hold major implications for future medical-marijuana research. "Not only do the studies provide strong support for the use of cannabinoids - including THC - as analgesic medications, but they also demonstrate that cannabinoids are minimally subject to misuse and dependence." While neither group came out wholeheartedly in favor of legalizing smoked marijuana for medical purposes, the latest cannabinoid research makes it virtually impossible for federal officials to deny the plant's value as a medicine. "This scientific research supports thousands of years of anecdotal evidence and hundreds of 'Phase III' human studies indicating marijuana's potential as a therapeutic agent," Stroup announced. "The debate in America must now shift from discussing whether marijuana is medicine to how best to provide and administer this drug to those who may medically benefit from its use." Copyright 1998 by Trans-High Corporation. Redistributed by the Media Awareness Project, Inc. by permission of High Times and NORML.