Source: High Times 
Pubdate: March, 1998, No. 271 
Author: Paul Armentano, NORML Director of Publications 

Editors note: You may email the National Organization for the Reform of
Marijuana Laws (NORML) at  Website: 


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

Copyright 1998 by Trans-High Corporation. Redistributed by the Media
Awareness Project, Inc. by permission of High Times and NORML.