Sunday, April 20, 2014

420 to the Blackboard: It’s Time for a Lesson on Cannabis (Medical Marijuana)

By now, most people in this country are starting to have some kind of awareness that there have been some serious misspeaks when it comes to marijuana/cannabis/hemp/weed/pot, whatever you want to call it. 

However, with the way the media coverage goes, it is not surprising that some areas are not yet aware of the misspeaks. At this point, 29 states and Washington DC have legalized the medical use of marijuana (number updated April 20, 2017). 

We are not talking about getting high. We are talking about doctor prescribed, cannabis based medications. It is typically prescribed for things like cancer, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, arthritis, gastro-intestinal disorders, movement disorders, such as Parkinson’s, also HIV/AIDS, and conditions related to aging (Americans for Safe Access, ASA) and dementia, such as Alzheimer’s. 

Cannabis is also regarded as one of the best anti-nausea treatments in the world, including the nausea from invasive medical treatments such as with cancer. In addition, for some children, suffering from some forms of childhood epilepsy, nothing else seems to work. It is also effective in end of life palliative care. That is merely a start.

So what’s the deal? As informed as I pride myself in being when it comes to the War on Drugs, I didn’t know much about medical marijuana until very recently (Garson, 2013). If people who make an effort to inform themselves on the issues are relatively uninformed on medical marijuana, it should come as no surprise that there is still a dearth of information in the general public.

This is not about getting high, this is about the fact that for thousands of years before marijuana prohibition, cannabis based medications were an important part of our pharmacopeia, as in a valued and trusted doctor prescribed medicine, and it is time to bring that doctor prescribed medical option back to our people.

Background: Marijuana Prohibition 
Marijuana prohibition was a combined political/money grubbing maneuver by Harry J. Anslinger, who made his career enforcing alcohol prohibition, and thought marijuana prohibition would be a good replacement when it ended, and William Randolph Hearst, the media/newspaper magnate, who was also openly racist and thought that it would be financially beneficial if instead of making paper out of hemp, it was made out of timber, of which he owned much land and stood to make quite a fortune. Andrew W. Mellon and the DuPonts were in on it as well. Just about anything that could be made from hemp could also be made from petroleum, and they stood to make a whole lot of money from that (and you wonder why the environmentalists keep wringing their hands, much less what our soldiers have been really dying for). 

Somewhere in the process of ensuring job security for Anslinger, coming up with a new form of prohibition, with new laws to enforce and more people to arrest (most especially Blacks and Mexicans, the KKK was lightweight in comparison to Hearst), creating a viable market for petroleum by taking hemp off the industrial map of the country, cannabis was also, pretty much coincidentally, made illegal (not much worry about those medical patients either).

The weed scam 
Hearst pulled the scam off (and continued to implement it) via a massive public relations campaign, which he was easily able to implement since he owned a large number of the major newspapers and magazines of the day. While much of the general public depended on his publications for news and information, he published a steady stream of what came to be known as reefer madness propaganda, with the sole intent of convincing the American people of the evils of marijuana and the people who used it. Never mind, that at the time, cannabis was one of the most commonly prescribed medications in the country (the fact that they were in the same family of plants and would also be made illegal under the new prohibition was somehow swept under the media rug along with the use of different words at different times and in different contexts).

Anyway, cannabis medications were very affordable, very effective at treating a number of ailments, and had fewer side effects than just about any other medication ever in the pharmacopeia of the world. Its use was so common at the time, chances are good that if you had ever been to the doctor and brought home a prescription, you very likely had at least one bottle of cannabis-based medication in your medicine cabinet. In addition to its other uses, it was a common prescription level painkiller, and in comparison to most of today’s counterparts, it was safe, effective, non-addictive, and had very few side effects.

So what happened? 
When they passed the new prohibition laws, marijuana, hemp, and cannabis were all made illegal at the same time. Whereas they are all in the same plant family, and the words are frequently used interchangeably, different strains are used for different purposes. Until the law was already passed, most people did not have a clue that it was also going to affect the availability of certain prescription medications on which they relied. The doctors of the day were in for a big surprise as well.

Bad news for the medical community 
The American Medical Association had a conniption fit. Even though it was already a well-known, proven, and beneficial medication, many in the medical community felt that with additional research, they would learn that cannabis had even more uses and more benefits than was then known. For thousands of years, cannabis had been just about as close as it comes to being considered a miracle drug, and the consensus of the medical community was that the future would prove it even more beneficial than was already known. There is no doubt, its use was well regarded and well respected.

In response to the change in the laws, “In 1937, the U.S. passed the first federal law against cannabis, despite the objections of the American Medical Association (AMA). Dr. William C. Woodward, testifying on behalf of the AMA, told Congress that, "The American Medical Association knows of no evidence that marijuana is a dangerous drug" and warned that a prohibition "loses sight of the fact that future investigation may show that there are substantial medical uses for Cannabis." (Americans for Safe Access, ASA)

The damage done 
Needless to say, from the prospective of medical care, this change in the law was a big problem for a lot of people, and it continues to be a problem to this day. In the meantime, in the ignominious tradition of the Hearst legacy, we have been inundated with generations of blatantly false and misleading media spin to convince us that what was once considered the miracle drug of the ages was actually an evil weed. In the process, seriously ill individuals have been denied access to doctor prescribed medications, and others, who were just as seriously ill, have been imprisoned because they dared to reach for the cure.

These laws have done major damage to communities, families, and individuals across this country. There has been so much needless suffering. Countless numbers have lost their lives because effective treatments were deemed illegal, and not made available to them.

As active and involved I have been in so many issues, for so many years, until very recently, I flat didn’t know what was going on when it came to medical marijuana (Garson, 2013).

I too thought these medical marijuana folks were a bunch of stoners looking to have a legal high, and if they couldn’t get it any other way, they were going to go the medical route. Anybody who knows me is aware I am on the liberal side of things, as in who cares anyway, but on this one, my liberal attitude really got in the way of me seeing the truth when it comes to the medical use of marijuana.

Whether we are liberal with good intentions or conservative with good intentions, both sides of the aisle have been fed some serious misinformation when it comes to marijuana, most especially when it comes to its medical applications. On a certain level, that can be life or death serious.
Nonetheless, when it comes to marijuana and the news, we have had such a constant, one-sided story, for so long, a whole lot of people don’t know up from down on this one. 

We get a constant stream of arrest numbers, and reefer madness hype, and little mention of how many lives these laws are destroying, or how many of these media portrayed criminals are either seriously ill patients or have seriously ill family members who seriously need a cannabis based medicine.

A while back in Georgia, a seriously ill man was convicted for growing his own cannabis, the catch was, although he had been prescribed Marinol, which is a cannabis derivative, he could not afford it, and so he was growing his own, natural form, which is marijuana. He got probation instead of jail time, which would seem like a good thing, except he is not going to get by with growing it now, and in this case, I am not sure it is a blessing at all.

Why is this even such an issue? Why is it illegal? Why do we bother to call this country free? This seriously ill man was convicted of growing a plant that was bringing him some level of relief. He can’t afford the medicine either. So where does that leave him? Define torture. He would have been better off and suffered less if they had sentenced him to waterboarding every day, because then he would have at least been able to keep his food down. Exactly what is cruel and unusual punishment? How the fuck can this country continue to get by with doing this to good people. Denying a sick person the medication that would bring them relief is about as heinous a crime as I can imagine. But they are torturing sick people, and doing it in the name of the law. Call it what is it.

Marijuana prohibition laws have destroyed more lives than marijuana ever will. Despite the damage of marijuana prohibition, in the course of human history, marijuana itself has saved many more lives than these very recent laws have destroyed. So what is going on here? Where is up and where is down?

Why don’t we hear more about this? Things are changing, but things like that guy that was just convicted, he was past the point of too sick to make a lot of noise. And we seldom hear their story. 

We are starting to hear more though, and even Alabama recently passed Carly’s Law, but there is so little coverage of the medical uses of marijuana, people don’t even know it is there. And that law has the supposition that the only ones suffering who would benefit from the cannabis-based medications are children with epilepsy, and that is nowhere near the truth. Progress is progress though.
Mostly if we hear about it at all, it is likely a joke some stoner is making because they really would rather be getting high. Although that was a big so what to me, it really was part of my own problem in not understating the bigger picture on this one.

Things sure look different when the truth starts coming out.
Dr. Sanja Gupta made some major news and then he made it again when he came out with a very public proclamation that he had got it wrong when it came to marijuana. He issued a very public apology because, in his writing, media work, and medical reporting, as have so many others before him, he had played into the same media cog that Hearst started and that he too had helped to spread the mis-information. He is a surgeon among surgeons, one of the most respected medical professionals in this country, and he too had been mis-lead when it comes to cannabis and its medical applications. The point is not to blame people, but to educate them. It takes some doing to get to the truth. When Dr. Gupta realized that he too had been duped, and he too had believed the lies, he had a few things to say about it. He also set out to set the record straight (Garson, 2013).

Dr. Gupta did a documentary in an attempt to start correcting some of that mis-information that we have all been fed for so long. Then he made another one. Since then, there have been hearings on state’s rights when it comes to medical marijuana laws; there have also been other hearings on the sentencing and what these laws have done to our people (Garson, 2013).  

Changes are most definitely being made (Garson, 2013). Despite the fact, it is still illegal at the federal level; state after state has been reaffirming their state’s rights and passing legislation to make these medicines available to their citizens once more. When I say once more, I do mean once more. Records vary somewhat, but some say that marijuana/cannabis based medications have been in use for as long as 12,000 years. It is one of the 50 fundamental healing herbs in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

There is no doubt that Big Pharma stepped in to fill that gap. As much as we all like to yell about them, on some things, they have truly done a good job. Many medical and pharmaceutical advances have been made in the last decades. However, on other things, medical science has reached a dead end. You can’t throw away thousands of years of best medical practices and make up for it in a day, or even a few generations. Marijuana/cannabis was one of the earliest cultivated herbs on the planet. For almost that many years, it was among the most frequently utilized medical herbs on the planet.

New studies, old ways 
New studies and transcriptions of the Old Testament books have led etymologists to believe that “kaneh-bosm” was accidently translated to “calamus,” when it should have been “cannabis” (Bennett, 1996). That is still being debated. Others question whether it was used in some of the healing oils that Jesus used in his ministry. Not to take a thing away from his miracles, but he was undeniably a physician, a healer, and at times, he sent his apostles out with oils and preparations to heal as well. Because of its wide range of uses in healing, the time-frame, and some of the things it was used for, questions are now being asked as to whether what we now know as cannabis was perhaps in some of those anointing oil preparations as well (Chris Bennett cited in BBC,2003). If so, that would surely put a different spin on a whole lot of things.
With the perpetual lies we have been fed about marijuana in the last generations, it is very easy to dismiss that notion. However, for the thousands of years before marijuana prohibition made it illegal, marijuana/cannabis was one of the most effective and widely used medicines on the planet.

The War on Drugs is not just about the right to get high, or that we have the biggest prison population in the world, it is also about the fact that these laws have seriously influenced what is available by prescription in this country. It was not an accident or a fluke of nature that this so-called evil weed has for most of recorded history, been one of the most widely prescribed medications in the world. Many times over, marijuana/cannabis has been shown to have been one of the most all around beneficial, for more medical purposes, with less side effects than any other medication known to humankind.

Changes are being made 
People are catching on to the truth. That is why, in state after state, the citizens are changing their laws. They have had enough. They are tired of watching their loved loves suffer while the cure is deemed illegal and just out of reach. Others watch helplessly as their loved ones die shackled to a prison bed for daring to have reached for the cure. Or, like Peter McWilliams, they die soon after being refused the medication that could have saved their life.

When we throw away the wisdom of the ages, we all lose. It has been a long time since the US had the best medical system in the world, and doing things like arbitrarily (it was all about the money) making one of the most all around beneficial medicines in the history of the world illegal to our people is just one of the things that is wrong.

People are working hard for change. But most people don’t honestly know the difference until a person in their own family has a health problem for which there seems no answer, and then, doctor after doctor, pill after pill, and the same story of hopelessness, nothing working, then they too hear a whisper, maybe cannabis will work. And sometimes it does. It’s not a guaranteed miracle. Like the base of so many other medications, it is simply an herb of the field, but it is also a serious and proven medicine, and sometimes it really does work.

All these things take on a completely different light when you realize there is a possible cure for you or your loved one, but the cure is illegal. What do you do when you realize that the real reason certain treatments and even cures are not available is not that we don’t have the medical know how? It is not even because of a lack of availability or difficult manufacturing processes. It is for no other reason than the greed of certain individuals that cannabis based medications were ever made illegal to our people. Too many people have already suffered and died to feed that greed. This is not something that good people in a good country will put up with for long. There is a growing number of people working for and demanding change on that one.

There have also been major migrations of families into areas where medical marijuana is legal, for children suffering from epilepsy, others with cancer, and other diseases. Clearly, more studies are needed, but there is also no doubt that there are already way too many cases of healing for it to be coincidental.

This march to legalize medical marijuana in the states is not a march of the stoners. People are fighting for their lives and the lives of those they love. 

Many look at the weed as evil, as if it were all a joke, as if it is evil to even suggest there might be a cure in the green leaf. It is not about the high, or maybe it is. But more than that, it is about healing, about ensuring that the people we love and the doctors who care for them have the option of a cannabis-based medication, if it is deemed, by their doctor, to be needed—on a prescription basis.

The things we don’t know about these laws have in some ways hurt us all. Until the need arises, or it somehow affects us or one of our loved ones personally, most of us don’t have a clue as to the truth. Medical marijuana is not about the high. It’s about the cure. Ending the war on drugs is about the most basic of our rights, it is about freedom; life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Copyright 2014 Regina Garson

Updated April 20, 2017

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  1. Most excellent Helpfull Educational and Enlightening.

  2. It goes back further... (into the 1850's(1600's if you want a positive England had 100 acres from each state grown in cannabis)with cannabis being associated with opiates)every word is documented truth.... big business... insurance companies(28 day window they don't have to pay on Workmens compensation), timber interests(hemp outproduces and a quicker regrow rate) and big pharma(no explanation needed) DO NOT want marijuana legalized. Excellent article.

  3. Thank you all for the kind words.