HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Cannabis For The Cure?
Pubdate: Thu, 04 Aug 2011
Source: Sacramento News & Review (CA)
Copyright: 2011 Chico Community Publishing, Inc.
Contact:  http://newsreview.com/sacto/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/540
Author: David Downs

CANNABIS FOR THE CURE?

Cannabinoid scientists say marijuana actually fights cancer--but the 
feds continue to stymie research efforts

Public-health researchers say the federal government is slowing the
search for cures to breast, colon, prostate and brain cancers, as well
as Huntington's disease, Alzheimer's, and HIV, because the research
involves cannabis.

That's the takeaway from the 21st annual symposium of the
International Cannabinoid Research Society, which was held earlier
this month in Illinois. Researchers stacked the program with talks not
only about cannabis's palliative properties but also its curative
efficacy. The event, sponsored by the National Institute on Drug
Abuse, was held the same week the Drug Enforcement Administration
reiterated its stance that marijuana has no accepted medical use.

"It was really interesting," said Amanda Reiman, who holds a doctorate
from the UC Berkeley School of Social Welfare and presented at the
symposium. "At the same time [that] the DEA was publicly declaring
that cannabis has no medical value, I was surrounded by the most
brilliant minds in the world talking about nothing but the medical
value of cannabinoids."

She said the frustration "was something you could feel in the
air."

Reiman researches medical-cannabis dispensaries as community-health
providers and considers the use of cannabis a substitute for alcohol
and other drugs. It's a topic of key interest to both the
International Cannabinoid Research Society and the National Institute
on Drug Abuse because--unlike almost every other drug--the NIDA can
completely restrict researchers' access to cannabis, citing the
plant's danger to society.

That means safe, effective treatments that stem from pot are being
held up. Take the case of Sativex, the marijuana-based mouth spray
made by GW Pharmaceuticals in Europe that helps patients with multiple
sclerosis and is very safe. Sufferers won't see it in the United
States any time soon, because it contains cannabinoids.

According to the abstracts of the ICRS symposium, researchers have
found that the molecules in pot can reverse cancer growth. "Mechanisms
of the Anti-cancer Effects of Cannabidiol and Other Non-psychotropic
Cannabinoids on Human Prostate Carcinoma" reads one abstract title.
There are at least a seven such papers this year.

The molecule in pot called cannabidiol, or CBD, has been shown to
reduce anxiety and halt the progression of HIV in monkeys, as well as
treat Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, according to ICRS
research. Cannabinoid researchers are investigating using pot
molecules to treat head and neck squamous cell carcinomas.

But these researchers aren't allowed to progress past animal studies
and cannot get their hands on the plant, Reiman said. And it's driving
them crazy.

Since the conference was sponsored by the drug warriors at NIDA,
"There was a lot of push-back from researchers in terms of restricting
access to these cannabinoids, especially CBD, which is not
psychoactive," said Reiman. "There's opportunities to cure diseases
like cancer, but also neurodegenerative diseases and HIV."

However, "A lot of NIDA's mission is to discover the harms associated
with drugs of abuse [though not alcohol] and to prevent people from
using drugs and to help people who are using them to stop them.

"Nowhere in that mission is it to discover potentially therapeutic
benefits for illicit drugs, and that's why cannabis research falls
into the crack," she said.

It's unfortunate, because pot may birth the all-star "smart drugs" of
the 21st century. The molecules in marijuana stimulate a sort of
intracellular Internet called the "endocannabinoid system." Discovered
in the '90s, the endocannabinoid system runs throughout the bodies of
mammals, with a large amount of receptors in the nervous system in the
head and gut.

Scientists think pot molecules such as CBD can help facilitate
cellular communication, assisting cells in sending signals like "Turn
off the inflammation" and "My neighbor is a tumor, kill him!"

"Cannabis seeks out disregulation, like the growth of a tumor, and
addresses that problem without interrupting the rest of the body,"
Reiman said.

While the federal government still schedules cannabis as a Schedule I
narcotic, some 1 million U.S. medical-marijuana patients have embraced
the so-called vigilante medicine, as it were. And they're not turning
back, no matter what the federal government does.

"They can't put the whole plant medical-cannabis genie back in the
bottle," Reiman said. "They just have to recognize that it's there."
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