The success story of one woman who replaced her pills with plants.
Sharmila Clee; Photograph by Ceasar Ron
After drug use caused Sharmila Clee’s parents to lose custody of her and her siblings in 1998, Clee said she was squarely against anything related to drugs or alcohol, including cannabis.
“An anti-drug and alcohol mantra became my identity for years,” she said.
Once her parents and extended biological family’s rights were terminated, Clee and her siblings were put up for adoption. She and her sister were separated from their special needs brother, who needed extended care.
“It was difficult finding a home willing to take in three children with a history of trauma,” Clee shared. “My experience started my passion to become the best social worker in the world, and help other children like us.”
Her brother was eventually returned to her biological parents; Clee started experiencing panic attacks soon after.
“I was barely managing, receiving calls in the middle of the night from my brother, with reports of our dad drunk and violent,” she recalled. “I was three hours away at college and felt powerless, but it propelled me to move forward with vengeance and purposes, after witnessing so much social injustice—in the world, then through the eyes of my brother.”
Clee learned to push down her feelings of panic and anxiety by numbing herself with a Valium habit that began in the Fall of 2001 while at graduate school. She was diagnosed with latent Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). She remembers it disrupting her studies with random visions of her turbulent childhood, yet, she says, she managed to pull A’s in all subjects.
Her goal of climbing the corporate ladder was achieved. But she found that her new bureaucratic life was not all she had hoped for. She dreaded the monotony of wearing suits, the grueling commute, and her life in a cubicle.
Associate Professor of Pharmacology and Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Southern California
Medical marijuana is legal in 33 states as of November 2018. Yet the federal government still insists marijuana has no legal use and is easy to abuse. In the meantime, medical marijuana dispensaries have an increasing array of products available for pain, anxiety, sex and more.
The glass counters and their jars of products in the dispensary resemble an 18th century pharmacy. Many strains for sale have evocative and magical names like Blue Dream, Bubba Kush and Chocolope. But what does it all mean? Are there really differences in the medical qualities of the various strains? Or, are the different strains with the fanciful names all just advertising gimmicks?
I am a professor in the University of Southern California School of Pharmacy. I have lived in California a long time and remember the Haight-Ashbury Summer of Love. While in graduate school, I worked with professor Alexander Shulgin, the father of designer drugs, who taught me the chemistry of medicinal plants. Afterwards, while a professor at USC, I learned Chumash healing from a Native American Chumash healer for 14 years from 1998 until 2012. She taught me how to make medicines from Californian plants, but not marijuana, which is not native to the U.S. Currently, I am teaching a course in medical marijuana to pharmacy students.
If there is one thing about marijuana that is certain: In small doses it can boost libido in men and women, leading to more sex. But can marijuana really be used for medical conditions?
What are cannabinoids?
New research is revealing that marijuana is more than just a source of cannabinoids, chemicals that may bind to cannabinoid receptors in our brains, which are used to get high. The most well-known is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Marijuana is a particularly rich source of medicinal compounds that we have only begun to explore. In order to harness the full potential of the compounds in this plant, society needs to overcome misconceptions about marijuana and look at what research clearly says about the medical value.
The FDA has already made some moves in this direction by approving prescription drugs that come from marijuana including dronabinol, nabilone, nabiximols and cannabidiol. Dronabinol and nabilone are cannabinoids that are used for nausea. Nabiximols – which contain THC, the compound most responsible for marijuana’s high and cannabidiol, which does not induce a high – are used to treat multiple sclerosis. Cannabidiol, or CBD, is also used to treat some types of epilepsy.
Marijuana, originally from the Altai Mountains in Central and East Asia, contains at least 85 cannabinoids and 27 terpenes, fragrant oils that are produced by many herbs and flowers that may be active, drug-like compounds. THC is the cannabinoid everyone wants in order to get high. It is produced from THC acid – which constitutes up to 25 percent of the plant’s dry weight – by smoking or baking any part of the marijuana plant.
THC mimics a naturally occurring neurotransmitter called anandamide that works as a signaling molecule in the brain. Anandamide attaches to proteins in the brain called cannabinoid receptors, which then send signals related to pleasure, memory, thinking, perception and coordination, to name a few. THC works by hijacking these natural cannabinoid receptors, triggering a profound high.
Tetrahydrocannabivarinic acid, another cannabinoid, can constitute up to 10 percent of the dry weight. It is converted to another compound that probably contributes to a high, tetrahydrocannabivarin, when smoked or ingested in baked goods. Potent varieties like Doug’s Varin and Tangie may contain even higher concentrations.
Medical properties of marijuana
But not all cannabinoids make you high. Cannabidiol, a cannabinoid similar to THC, and its acid are also present in marijuana, especially in certain varieties. But these do not cause euphoria. The cannabidiol molecule interacts with a variety of receptors – including cannabinoid and serotonin receptors and transient receptor potential cation channels (TRP) – to reduce seizures, combat anxiety and produce other effects.
Many different varieties of marijuana are on the market and are alleged to treat a range of diseases. The FDA has no oversight for these claims, since the FDA does not recognize marijuana as a legal product.
Strains of marijuana are grown that produce more THC than cannadidiol or vice versa. Other varieties have abundant monoterpenoids. How do you know that the strain you choose is legitimate with probable medical benefits? Each strain should have a certificate of analysis that shows you how much of each active compound is present in the product you buy. Many states have a bureau of cannabis control that verifies these certificates of analysis. However, many certificates of analysis do not show the monoterpenoids present in the marijuana. The analysis of monoterpenoids is difficult since they evaporate from the plant material. If you are looking for a strain high in myrcene or linalool, ask for proof.
Marijuana can improve several conditions, but it can also make others worse and can have nasty side effects.
As recreational use has become more widespread, marijuana hyperemesis syndrome is becoming more of a problem in our society. Some people vomit uncontrollably after smoking marijuana regularly. It can be treated by rubbing a cream made from capsaicin, from chili peppers, on the abdomen. Capsaicin cream is available in pharmacies.
For some of these conditions, studies show that eating or topically applying marijuana products rather than smoking is recommended.
Clearly, more research is needed from the scientific community to help guide the appropriate, safe use of marijuana. However, the FDA does not recognize the use of medical marijuana. This makes funding for research on marijuana difficult to find. Perhaps the cannabis industry should consider funding scientific research on marijuana. But conflicts of interest may become a concern as we have seen with drug company-sponsored studies.
(Natural News) Achieving another breathtaking win for the American people while fighting against a criminal, corrupt establishment, President Donald J. Trump just legalized industrial hemp nationwide by signing the new Farm Bill into law. The hemp legalization provision was spearheaded by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), further demonstrating that Republicans support hemp legalization and agricultural freedom.
After nearly 50 years of prohibition, industrial hemp will be legal to grow across America beginning January 1, 2019. It’s another huge victory that helps Make America Great Again by unleashing the power of agricultural freedom and natural health.
“This law marks the first change in the federal classification of the cannabis plant since it was initially classified as a schedule I controlled substance by Congress in 1970, and paves the way for the first federally-sanctioned commercial hemp grows since World War II,” said NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano. NORML also adds:
The hemp-specific provisions of the 2018 Act amend the federal Controlled Substances Act of 1970 so that hemp plants containing no more than 0.3 percent THC are no longer classified as a schedule I controlled substance under federal law.
“Although hemp will no longer be in the jurisdiction of the Department of Justice, prospective growers will have to submit cultivation plans to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), either through the state government or the USDA itself,” reports Marijuana Moment.
CBD and other cannabinoids are essentially “de-scheduled” from the Schedule I controlled substance list, but only if they are produced in accordance with the Farm Bill stipulations, meaning growers must comply with state and federal regulations which are so far not described anywhere. The USDA will reportedly regulate hemp production now, and states that wish to exert more restrictive state controls must coordinate their plans with the USDA. As NORML reports:
The Act (Section 297B) permits those US states that wish to possess “primary regulatory authority over the production of hemp” to submit a plan to the US Secretary of Agriculture. The agency has 60 days to approve, disapprove, or amend the plan. In instances where a state-proposed plan is not approved, “it shall be unlawful to produce hemp in that state … without a license.”
It explicitly allows the transfer of hemp-derived products across state lines for commercial or other purposes. It also puts no restrictions on the sale, transport, or possession of hemp-derived products, so long as those items are produced in a manner consistent with the law.
FDA still claims total control over CBD, but may relax its restrictions in the near future
Under the leadership of the Trump Administration, the FDA is indicating it may pursue regulatory reforms to legalize CBD in dietary supplement products nationwide. Via a December 20 announcement from the FDA:
Among other things, this new law changes certain federal authorities relating to the production and marketing of hemp… These changes include removing hemp from the Controlled Substances Act, which means that it will no longer be an illegal substance under federal law.
At first, the FDA reiterates that it maintains total control over CBD and that CBD is currently not allowed to be sold as a dietary supplement for the bizarre reason that certain companies are studying CBD for use as a possible prescription medication:
Additionally, it’s unlawful under the FD&C Act to introduce food containing added CBD or THC into interstate commerce, or to market CBD or THC products as, or in, dietary supplements, regardless of whether the substances are hemp-derived. This is because both CBD and THC are active ingredients in FDA-approved drugs and were the subject of substantial clinical investigations before they were marketed as foods or dietary supplements. Under the FD&C Act, it’s illegal to introduce drug ingredients like these into the food supply, or to market them as dietary supplements.
That said, the FDA signals its willingness to hold conversations with industry leaders with the possible outcome of issuing new regulations that would eliminate its current restrictions on the selling of CBD-based dietary supplements. “[T]he FDA has authority to issue a regulation allowing the use of a pharmaceutical ingredient in a food or dietary supplement,” says the FDA, implying that CBD is a “pharmaceutical ingredient” even when CBD has been around for millions of years, long before pharmaceutical companies even existed. “We are taking new steps to evaluate whether we should pursue such a process.”
The FDA further explains it will hold public meetings to solicit input on further regulatory changes it might pursue:
Given the substantial public interest in this topic and the clear interest of Congress in fostering the development of appropriate hemp products, we intend to hold a public meeting in the near future for stakeholders to share their experiences and challenges with these products, including information and views related to the safety of such products.
We’ll use this meeting to gather additional input relevant to the lawful pathways by which products containing cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds can be marketed, and how we can make these legal pathways more predictable and efficient.
There should be no more confusion about whether or not marijuana is effective for cancer patients. Medical marijuana is chemotherapy, natural style, for all cancer patients. The two forms of hemp oil, one with THC and CBD and the other CBD alone (which is pretty much legal everywhere) provide the body with chemo therapeutics without the danger and staggering side effects. There are many essays in this site about cancer patients using marijuana and other items from my protocol, but in this one we present a quick overview of the science that backs up the assertion that every cancer patient and every oncologist should put medical marijuana on their treatment maps.
What you will see in this essay is reference to many scientific studies that are all viewable on governmental sites. The United States government is pathetic in its dishonesty about medical marijuana both believing in it and holding patents for its medical use and claiming at the same time that it has no medical use. The federal government and still many states would rather throw innocent people in jail for using medical marijuana than be honest about how much it can help people recover from cancer and other diseases.
Below are summaries to just some of the scientific research out there that sustains the belief that medical marijuana will help people cure their cancer.
CBD and Breast Cancer
One of the most exciting areas of current research in the cannabinoid field is the study of the potential application of these compounds as antitumor drugs. CBD represents the first nontoxic exogenous agent that can significantly decrease Id-1 expression in metastatic breast cancer cells leading to the down-regulation of tumor aggressiveness., The CBD concentrations effective at inhibiting Id-1 expression correlated with those used to inhibit the proliferative and invasive phenotype of breast cancer cells. Of the five cannabinoids tested: cannabidiol, cannabigerol, cannnabichromene; cannabidiol-acid and THC-acid, it was found that cannabidiol is the most potent inhibitor of cancer cell growth. Taken together, these data might set the bases for a cannabinoid therapy for the management of breast cancer.
Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide. Researchers have observed expression of CB1 (24%) and CB2 (55%) in NSCLC patients. They have also shown that the treatment of NSCLC cell lines (A549 and SW-1573) with CB1/CB2- and CB2-specific agonists Win55,212-2 and JWH-015, respectively, significantly attenuated random as well as growth factor-directed in vitro chemotaxis and chemoinvasion in these cells.
Researchers in lung cancers also reported that they observed significant reduction in focal adhesion complex, which plays an important role in cancer migration. Medical marijuana significantly inhibited in vivo tumor growth and lung metastasis (∼50%).
CBD and Pancreatic Cancer
In research on pancreatic cancer it was found that cannabinoids lead to apoptosis of pancreatic tumor cells via a CB2 receptor and de novo synthesized ceramide-dependent up-regulation of p8 and the endoplasmic reticulum stress–related genes ATF-4 and TRB3. These findings may contribute to set the basis for a new therapeutic approach for the treatment of pancreatic cancer as reported by the National Cancer Institute.
CBD and Prostate Cancer
Prostate cancer cells possess increased expression of both cannabinoid 1 and 2 receptors, and stimulation of these results in decrease in cell viability, increased apoptosis, and decreased androgen receptor expression and prostate-specific antigen excretion.
CBD and Colorectal Carcicoma
In colorectal carcinoma cell lines, cannabidiol protected DNA from oxidative damage, increased endocannabinoid levels and reduced cell proliferation in a CB(1)-, TRPV1- and PPARγ-antagonists sensitive manner. It is concluded that cannabidiol exerts chemopreventive effect in vivo and reduces cell proliferation through multiple mechanisms.
Ovarian cancer represents one of the leading cause of cancer-related deaths for women and is the most common gynecologic malignancy. Results with medical marijuana support a new therapeutic approach for the treatment of ovarian cancer. It is also conceivable that with available cannabinoids as lead compounds, non-habit forming agents that have higher biological effects could be developed.
CBD and leukaemia and lymphoma cell
Examination of a number of human leukaemia and lymphoma cell lines demonstrate that CB2 cannabinoid receptors expressed on malignancies of the immune system may serve as potential targets for the induction of apoptosis. Also, because CB2 agonists lack psychotropic effects, they may serve as novel anticancer agents to selectively target and kill tumors of immune origin. Plant-derived cannabinoids, including Delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), induce apoptosis in leukemic cells.
Cannabinoid-treated tumors showed an increased number of apoptotic cells. This was accompanied by impairment of tumor vascularization, as determined by altered blood vessel morphology and decreased expression of proangiogenic factors (VEGF, placental growth factor, and angiopoietin. Abrogation of EGF-R function was also observed in cannabinoid-treated tumors. These results support a new therapeutic approach for the treatment of skin tumors.
CBD and Hepatocellular carcinoma
Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the third cause of cancer-related death worldwide. When these tumors are in advanced stages, few therapeutic options are available. In this study, the effects of cannabinoids–a novel family of potential anticancer agents–on the growth of HCC was investigated. It was found that Δ(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ(9)-THC, the main active component of Cannabis sativa) and JWH-015 (a cannabinoid receptor 2 (CB(2)) cannabinoid receptor-selective agonist) reduced the viability of the human HCC cell lines Cannabinoids were able to inhibit tumor growth and ascites in an orthotopic model of HCC xenograft. These findings may contribute to the design of new therapeutic strategies for the management of HCC.
Both cholangiocarcinoma cell lines and surgical specimens from cholangiocarcinoma patients expressed cannabinoid receptors. THC inhibited cell proliferation, migration and invasion, and induced cell apoptosis. THC also decreased actin polymerization and reduced tumor cell survival in anoikis assay. pMEK1/2 and pAkt demonstrated the lower extent than untreated cells. Consequently, THC is potentially used to retard cholangiocarcinoma cell growth and metastasis.
Smoking marijuana might decrease the smoker’s risk for bladder cancer, a new study shows. Retrospectively analyzing a large database of patients, researchers at Kaiser Permanente in California found that patients who reported cannabis use were 45% less likely to be diagnosed with bladder cancer than patients who did not smoke at all.
Research has also found a cannabidiol-driven impaired invasion of human cervical cancer (HeLa, C33A) and human lung cancer cells (A549) that was reversed by antagonists to both CB(1) and CB(2) receptorrs as well as to transient receptor potential vanilloid 1 (TRPV1). The decrease of invasion by cannabidiol appeared concomitantly with up regulation of tissue inhibitor of matrix metalloproteinases-1 (TIMP the findings provide a novel mechanism underlying the anti-invasive action of cannabidiol and imply its use as a therapeutic option for the treatment of highly invasive cancers.
Cannabinoids are found to exert their anti-cancer effects in a number of ways and in a variety of tissues.
Triggering cell death, through a mechanism called apoptosis
Stopping cells from dividing
Preventing new blood vessels from growing into tumours
Reducing the chances of cancer cells spreading through the body, by stopping cells from moving or invading neighbouring tissue
Speeding up the cell’s internal ‘waste disposal machine’ – a process known as autophagy – which can lead to cell death
All these effects are thought to be caused by cannabinoids locking onto the CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors. Almost daily we are seeing new or confirming evidence that Cannibinoids can be used to great benefit in cancer treatment of many types.
Cannabis, better known as marijuana, has been used for its medicinal properties for thousands of years. It’s been heralded as a “cure-all,” revered for its healing properties, particularly for pain but also as a potential anticancer treatment. Marijuana was a popular botanical medicine in the 19th and 20th centuries, common in U.S. pharmacies of the time.
It wasn’t until 1970 that the herb was declared a Schedule 1 controlled substance in the U.S., a classification reserved for drugs with “high potential for abuse” and “no accepted medical use.” Three years later the Drug Enforcement Agency was formed to enforce the newly created drug schedules, and the fight against marijuana use began. In light of its history as a global panacea for all sorts of ills, it’s classification as a controlled substance is particularly unjustified.
As noted in the documentary “Cannabis: A Lost History,” written, directed and narrated by Chris Rice, marijuana has been “an integral part of human civilization,” featuring in ancient Japanese cave paintings, as well as Chinese and Siberian burial rites dating back to 3000 B.C. Based on the evidence — especially the discovery that the human body is equipped with a cannabinoid system — it appears our relationship with cannabis goes back to the very dawn of the human species.
Historical remnants from all around the world also reveal the importance of cannabis in medicine and spirituality. For example, Taoist monks in ancient China burned cannabis as incense, and consumed it with ginseng — a combination thought to open your psychic centers, allowing you to see the future. Cannabis was also revered as sacred in Hinduism, Zoroastrianism and Buddhism.
Cannabinoids and the Cannabinoid Receptor System
The marijuana plant contains more than 60 different cannabinoids; chemical compounds the human body is uniquely equipped to respond to. The two primary ones are cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the latter of which is the psychoactive component. Cannabinoids interact with your body by way of naturally occurring cannabinoid receptors embedded in cell membranes throughout your body.
There are cannabinoid receptors in your brain, lungs, liver, kidneys, immune system and more; the therapeutic (and psychoactive) properties of marijuana occur when a cannabinoid activates a cannabinoid receptor. Your body also has naturally occurring endocannabinoids similar to THC that stimulate your cannabinoid receptors and produce a variety of important physiologic processes.
So, your body is actually hard-wired to respond to cannabinoids through this unique cannabinoid receptor system. We still don’t know exactly how far its impact on your health reaches, but to date it’s known that cannabinoid receptors play an important role in many body processes, including metabolic regulation, pain, anxiety, bone growth and immune function.1
The Earliest History of Cannabis
According to the featured video, the earliest written references to cannabis are found in the Chinese Materia Medica, said to be written by Shen Nung around 2800 B.C. The oldest known copy of this book dates back to 50 B.C. Nung is one of three “celestial emperors” revered in the Chinese culture. “Half emperor, half deity, he is said to have ruled over China long before written history,” Rice says.
Nung is credited with inventing agriculture — including the hoe, plow and irrigation — as well as acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Often depicted draped in leaves and chewing on various plants, Nung was the first pharmacologist, experimenting with and recording the health effects of plants. Nung documented around 100 different conditions that responded well to cannabis, including gout, rheumatism, malaria and absentmindedness.
Before Nung declared its medicinal attributes, the cannabis plant, called “ma” in Chinese, had been used for centuries in the production of textiles, paper, rope and pottery. Around 200 A.D., a Chinese physician named Hua Tuo performed the first surgery using an anesthetic — a formula called Ma Fei San, which translates to “cannabis boiling powder.”
For thousands of years, cannabis remained one of the 50 essential plants used in TCM. It was only removed from widespread use in recent times due to its controversial legal status. The film also reviews the history of cannabis in Indian culture. In the Vedas, the sacred text of India, cannabis (bhang) is listed as one of five sacred plants, and the Hindu god Shiva is referred to as “Lord of the bhang,” meaning the Lord of cannabis.
According to the Mahanirvana, “bhang is consumed in order to liberate oneself,” and liberation is the path to immortality. The ancient Egyptians, Persians and Greeks also used cannabis in a variety of ways, including medicinally and for spiritual upliftment. References to cannabis are even found in Islamic, Judaic and Christian texts, although an error in translation appears to have crept into the Bible along the way. The original Hebrew term “kaneh bosm,” or cannabis, is found several times in the Old Testament.
In Exodus, chapter 30, God instructs Moses on how to make a holy anointing oil: “Take for yourself choice spices: 500 shekels of pure myrrh, half as much fragrant cinnamon, 250 shekels of kaneh bosm and 500 shekels of cassia and mix these with olive oil.” In more modern Bibles, kaneh bosm has been translated as sweet calamus. The problem is this plant does not have the properties that the Bible ascribes to kaneh bosm.
According to the film, a 12th century painting found in a Sicilian basilica also “appears to show Jesus near a pot leaf.” The painting is titled “Jesus healing the blind.” Interestingly enough, “modern scientific studies have since proven that cannabis delays retinal degeneration,” Rice says.
The American History of Cannabis
In the U.S., the prohibition of marijuana began to turn in 1996 when California became the first state to legalize medical cannabis. Since then, many others have followed. In 2012, Colorado and Washington state became the first states to legalize its recreational use. Today, the majority of Americans support cannabis either as a medicine, for recreational use, or both. Surveys show at least 4 in 10 Americans have tried marijuana, while nearly 60 percent support full legalization.
A 2013 survey found a majority of physicians — 76 percent — also approve of the use of medical marijuana.2 CNN’s chief medical correspondent and neurosurgeon Sanjay Gupta also made a highly publicized reversal on his marijuana stance after the production of his two-part series “Weed,” which aired in 2014.3
The American history of cannabis goes back to our Founding Fathers, who cultivated the plant for industrial purposes. George Washington, for example, is said to have grown more than 100 hemp plants at his home in Mount Vernon, Virginia.4 Cannabis is called hemp when being used for its fibers, which are extracted from the stem and constructed into rope, clothing and paper.
Hemp plants are low in tetrahydrocannabinols (THC) levels and therefore do not get you high. During the 17th century, hemp was viewed as an important cash crop. It was used for rope by navies around the world, and as a thick durable linen ideal for clothing and packaging heavy materials. Hemp seed oil was used in soaps, paints and varnishes.
The battle that has raged over marijuana is a long and arduous one. You can read a brief history of marijuana prohibition in the Huffington Post.5 Still, movements to legalize marijuana have persisted throughout, starting as early as 1973, when Oregon became the first state to decriminalize cannabis. The most successful movement to date, and the one that produced the first legal marijuana market in decades, is the medical marijuana movement.
Medical cannabis is now legal in 30 U.S. states,6,7 the majority of which allow limited use of medical marijuana under certain medical circumstances, although some limit medical cannabis to oils or pills only. Eight states have legalized it for recreational use.
A number of municipalities have also created their own marijuana rules, either decriminalizing it, legalizing it, enacting rules that direct city law enforcement to cease arresting individuals for marijuana possession, or making cannabis offenses the lowest priority for law enforcement.
What Can Cannabis Treat?
As mentioned, your body makes its own cannabinoids, similar to those found in marijuana, but in much smaller amounts. These endocannabinoids appear to perform signaling operations similar to your body’s neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin. Cannabinoid receptors can be found on cell membranes throughout your body. In fact, scientists now believe they may represent the most widespread receptor system.8
The fact that your body is replete with cannabinoid receptors, key to so many biological functions, is why there’s such enormous medical potential for cannabis. Even though research has been limited by its classification as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, its list of medicinal benefits is still quite long. For example, cannabis has been found useful in the treatment of:9,10,11,12,13
Mental disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder, mood disorders and Tourette’s syndrome
Seizure disorders such as epilepsy
Pain (in one study,14 three puffs of marijuana a day for five days decreased chronic nerve pain)
Spasticity, dystonia and tremors
Multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune issues
Chronic fatigue syndrome
Cancer, including melanoma, leukemia and cancers of the brain, breast, prostate, lung, head and neck,15thyroid, colon and pituitary
Alzheimer’s disease (the U.S. government, through the Department of Health and Human Services, holds a patent on CBD as a neuroprotectant)
Cachexia (wasting syndrome)
Drug dependency and withdrawal
High blood pressure
Among the most exciting research is that on cancer. Not only does cannabis help with the unpleasant side effects of traditional chemotherapy (including pain, nausea and insomnia), but the cannabis itself appears to be a natural chemotherapy agent.17
Researchers have found cannabis is pro-apoptotic, meaning it triggers cellular suicide of cancer cells while leaving healthy cells untouched, and anti-angiogenic, meaning it cuts off a tumor’s blood supply. Dozens of studies point to marijuana’s effectiveness against many different types of cancer. For example, Harvard researchers found THC cuts tumor growth in lung cancer while significantly reducing its ability to spread.18
Medicinal Marijuana Can Help Stem Death Toll From Narcotic Pain Killers
Another area where cannabis offers great hope is in the treatment of pain. Overdoses from narcotic pain killers are now the leading cause of death among Americans under the age of 50, and pharmaceuticals in general have for decades been among the leading causes of death in the U.S. According to Dr. Margaret Gedde, owner and founder of Gedde Whole Health and the Clinicians’ Institute of Cannabis Medicine, research clearly confirms that cannabis is safer and less toxic than many prescription drugs.
This includes liver and kidney toxicity, gastrointestinal damage, nerve damage and death. Moreover, cannabinoids often work when pharmaceutical drugs fail, so not only is cannabis safer but it’s typically more effective. Besides treating intractable seizures, one of the strongest areas of research regarding marijuana’s health benefits is pain control.
In 2010, the Center for Medical Cannabis Research released a report19 on 14 clinical studies about the use of marijuana for pain, most of which were FDA-approved, double-blind and placebo-controlled. The report revealed that marijuana not only controls pain but in many cases, it does so better than pharmaceutical alternatives.
If you compare opioids to marijuana, marijuana is unquestionably safer. Contrary to opioids, a cannabis overdose cannot kill you because there are no cannabinoid receptors in your brain stem, the region of your brain that controls your heartbeat and respiration.
What’s more, marijuana has been shown to ease withdrawal symptoms in those trying to wean off opioids, which are extremely addictive. In states where medical marijuana is legal, overdose deaths from opioids decreased by an average of 20 percent after one year, 25 percent after two years and up to 33 percent by years five and six.
Big Pharma Takes Aim at CBD
Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the drug industry is now trying to turn CBD oil into a drug, and hence illegal for sale as a supplement.20 Showing promise for a wide range of ailments, the drug industry sees cannabis as major competition, and rightfully so. June 25, 2018, GW Pharmaceuticals became the first company to gain FDA approval for a CBD-based drug.21,22
The drug in question, Epidiolex, was approved for the treatment of intractable childhood epilepsy in children aged 2 and older. Another product called Sativex is also awaiting FDA approval. Sativex has already been approved in a number of other countries for the treatment of spasticity in multiple sclerosis patients. In a June 25 statement,23 FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb stated:
“This product approval demonstrates that advancing sound scientific research to investigate ingredients derived from marijuana can lead to important therapies … This is an important medical advance. But it’s also important to note that this is not an approval of marijuana or all of its components. This is the approval of one specific CBD medication for a specific use. And it was based on well-controlled clinical trials evaluating the use of this compound in the treatment of a specific condition.
Moreover, this is a purified form of CBD. It’s being delivered to patients in a reliable dosage form and through a reproducible route of delivery to ensure that patients derive the anticipated benefits. This is how sound medical science is advanced. So today, in addition to celebrating this scientific achievement and the medical advance that it represents … we should also reflect on the path that made this possible.
It’s a path that’s available to other product developers who want to bring forth marijuana-derived products through appropriate drug development programs. That pathway includes a robust clinical development program, along with careful review through the FDA’s drug approval process. This is the most appropriate way to bring these treatments to patients. This process also includes a review of the purity of a new drug and manufacturing controls.”
FDA Cracks Down on CBD Supplements
As expected, with its approval of the first CBD drug, the FDA has increased its scrutiny of companies making CBD extracts. In November 2017, four Colorado businesses received FDA warning letters for making “illegally unsubstantiated health claims” on their CBD products.24 In a November 1 press release, the FDA said:25
“[T]he agency today issued warning letters to four companies illegally selling products online that claim to prevent, diagnose, treat or cure cancer without evidence to support these outcomes … The deceptive marketing of unproven treatments may keep some patients from accessing appropriate, recognized therapies to treat serious and even fatal diseases.
The FDA has grown increasingly concerned at the proliferation of products claiming to treat or cure serious diseases like cancer. In this case, the illegally sold products allegedly contain cannabidiol (CBD), a component of the marijuana plant that is not FDA approved in any drug product for any indication.”
The warning letters26 also rejected claims that CBD oil can be classified as dietary supplements since Investigational New Drug (IND) applications have been submitted for the CBD-containing drugs Sativex and Epidiolex. This suggests the agency is not just aiming to clean up the cannabis industry’s propensity to make illegal claims; it also raises concerns that the legality of all CBD products is in question now that at least one CBD-containing drug has been approved.
Many CBD Products Are Mislabeled
The FDA scrutiny is not entirely unwarranted, however. A November 2017 study27 in JAMA found only 30 percent of CBD extracts sold online accurately list the amounts of cannabinoids on the label. And, while CBD is very safe, accuracy is still of utmost importance.
The FDA and DEA will also use information like this to push CBD into pharma-only territory. The JAMA study used triplicate tests to analyze the cannabinoid content of 84 CBD products purchased online, along with a 10-point method validation procedure. A 10 percent plus or minus allowable variance was used, which is consistent with herbal product labeling in general in the U.S. According to the authors:
“Observed CBD concentration ranged between 0.10 mg/mL and 655.27 mg/mL (median, 9.45 mg/mL). Median labeled concentration was 15.00 mg/mL … With respect to CBD, 42.85 percent of products were underlabeled, 26.19 percent were overlabeled, and 30.95 percent were accurately labeled.
Accuracy of labeling depended on product type, with vaporization liquid most frequently mislabeled … and oil most frequently labeled accurately … Concentration of unlabeled cannabinoids was generally low; however, THC was detected (up to 6.43 mg/mL) in 18 of the 84 samples tested … Of tested products, 26 percent contained less CBD than labeled, which could negate any potential clinical response.
The overlabeling of CBD products in this study is similar in magnitude to levels that triggered warning letters to 14 businesses in 2015-2016 from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (e.g., actual CBD content was negligible or less than 1 percent of the labeled content), suggesting that there is a continued need for federal and state regulatory agencies to take steps to ensure label accuracy of these consumer products.”
Educate Yourself on the Scientific Evidence Supporting Medical Marijuana
If you’re still on the fence when it comes to giving people the right to use medical marijuana, one of the best ways to still your fears is to look at the research, and look at what doctors are doing in clinical practice. To start, I recommend listening to my interviews with Geddeand Dr. Allan Frankel, in which they discuss many of the medical benefits of cannabis. Other helpful resources include:
The International Association for Cannabis website, which maintains a Clinical Studies and Case Report page.28
Cancer.gov,29 the U.S. government’s cancer website, contains research relating to the use of cannabis
PubMed30 is a searchable public resource containing a vast amount of medical literature, including studies involving cannabis
The Journal of Pain31 is a publication by the American Pain Society with a long list of studies on the pain-relieving effects of cannabis
National Institute on Drug Abuse32 provides information about preclinical and clinical trials underway to test marijuana and various extracts for the treatment of a number of diseases, including autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease, inflammation, pain and mental disorders
ProCon.org lists 60 peer-reviewed studies on medical marijuana and cannabis extracts published between 1990 and 2014, listed by the condition treated33
“The conclusion of the study was that the whole plant extract, which contained a large percentage of CBD but also contained traces of the other cannabinoids, proved far more effective than CBD-only solutions in alleviating inflammation and pain sensation”
Cannabidiol (CBD) has been the focus of many medical cannabis studies, and continues to prove itself as a powerful anti-inflammatory drug. What makes CBD even more desirable for some patients is that it does not cause the psychoactive effects associated with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
Cannabis Testing at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel (source)
The Hadassah Medical School at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem sought to compare the effectiveness of a completely purified CBD extract versus a full-spectrum extract of cannabis flowers containing large quantities of CBD. The conclusion of the study was that the whole plant extract, which contained a large percentage of CBD but also contained traces of the other cannabinoids, proved far more effective than CBD-only solutions in alleviating inflammation and pain sensation. The study demonstrated that a whole plant extract, containing the entire range of cannabinoids present in raw cannabis, will continue to provide relief for inflammation as the dose is increased. When supplied as an isolated cannabinoid extract, CBD on its own yielded a bell-curve of effectiveness, which is not desirable for medical treatments seeking effective relief that corresponds with the dosage.
Materials Used: Plants, Animals, and Extracts
The purified CBD was acquired from THC Pharm. GmbH (Frankfurt, Germany) to act as the pharmaceutical grade isolated extract. For the whole plant extract, flowers from the clone 202 (proprietary strain: Avidekel) were supplied by the government-approved growers Tikun Olam Company. Bred to be rich in CBD, the raw flowers of this whole plant extract were ground up and cannabinoids were extracted using the solvent ethanol. The pure CBD extract and the full-spectrum extract were formulated for both injection and oral administration. The tests were performed on ethically-approved lab mice from Hadassah Medical School. In addition to a control group, the commercial drugs aspirin and tramadol were used on separate sets of mice to further compare the effectiveness of synthetic isolations versus whole plant extracts. The study was represented by 10-12 mice per treatment group, using known laboratory methods for measuring reductions in inflammation and pain sensation (described at length in the study). The results clearly show the medical benefit of extracting all the different compounds from the entirety of the raw cannabis flower, rather than extraction of a single cannabinoid.
Cannabis Testing on Mice (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
Results Of CBD vs. Full-Spectrum on Inflammation and Pain
The data graphs below compare isolated cannabidiol (CBD) against a full-spectrum cannabis extract (from a CBD-rich strain). In all of the tests, the isolated CBD was ineffective both before and after a certain dosage, while the effectiveness of the full-spectrum solution continued to increase as higher doses were administered. The results all indicate that CBD is only effective against swelling and pain at a certain dose, and that cannabis solutions containing a full range of cannabinoids will continue to provide corresponding effects as the dosage is increased.
Injections: The isolated CBD injection was moderately effective at 5 mg/kg, but became less effective when the dose was higher. The shape of the graph resembles a bell-curve, indicating that the CBD-only formula lost effectiveness after a certain dose. The results from the cannabis flower extract showed that the synergy between the cannabinoids yielded greater relief as the dosage was increased, which is desirable in medicine.
Injections of CBD and Clone 202 (Full-Spectrum) Extract (mg/kg) (source)
In 2017, some Americans could buy legal marijuana almost as easily as they could order a pizza. Pot shops outnumber Starbucks stores in states like Colorado and Oregon, and medical marijuana delivery services drop the drug off at people’s doors in California and Massachusetts.
With marijuana now more accessible – legally – than ever, more researchers are weighing in on its health effects. But that doesn’t mean we fully understand the plant or its impacts.
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a massive report in January that gives one of the most comprehensive looks – and certainly the most up-to-date – at exactly what we know about the science of cannabis. The committee behind the report, representing top universities around the country, considered more than 10,000 studies for its analysis and drew nearly 100 conclusions. Many of those findings are summarized below.
In the short term, marijuana can make your heart race.
Within a few minutes of inhaling marijuana, your heart rate can increase by between 20 and 50 beats a minute. This can last anywhere from 20 minutes to three hours, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
The report from the National Academies found insufficient evidence to support or refute the idea that cannabis might increase the overall risk of a heart attack. The same report, however, also found some limited evidence that smoking could be a trigger for a heart attack.
Marijuana’s effects on the heart could be tied to effects on blood pressure, but the link needs more research.
Research suggests this is a poor assumption – and one that could have interfered with the study’s results. According to a recent survey, about 52% of Americans have tried cannabis at some point, yet only 14% used the drug at least once a month.
Other studies have come to the opposite conclusion. According to the Mayo Clinic, using cannabis could result in decreased – not increased – blood pressure.
So while there’s probably a link between smoking marijuana and high blood pressure, there’s not enough research yet to say that one leads to the other.
Marijuana use affects the lungs but doesn’t seem to increase the risk of lung cancer.
People who smoke marijuana regularly are more likely to experience chronic bronchitis, according to the report from the National Academies. There’s also evidence that stopping smoking relieves these symptoms.
Perhaps surprisingly, the report’s authors found moderate evidence that cannabis was not connected to an increased risk of the lung cancers or head and neck cancers associated with smoking cigarettes.
Marijuana may help relieve some types of pain.
Marijuana contains cannabidiol, or CBD, a chemical that is not responsible for getting you high but is thought to be responsible for many of marijuana’s therapeutic effects. Those benefits can include pain relief or potential treatment for certain kinds of childhood epilepsy.The report from the National Academies also found conclusive or substantial evidence – the most definitive levels – that cannabis can be an effective treatment for chronic pain, which could have to do with both CBD and THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Pain is “by far the most common” reason people request medical marijuana, according to the report.
Marijuana may not be the “gateway drug” that opponents make it out to be.
“Our citizens should know the urgent facts…but they don’t because our media serves imperial, not popular interests. They lie, deceive, connive and suppress what everyone needs to know, substituting managed news misinformation and rubbish for hard truths…”—Oliver Stone