You want medical marijuana? Big Pharma is more than willing to sell it to you…
International expansion of UK firm GW Pharma’s cannabis-based spray Sativex is well underway after a further 10 European countries recommended approval of the drug for multiple sclerosis patients.
Health Authorities in Belgium, Finland, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal and Slovakia have now given the go-ahead for Sativex (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol), completing its Mutual Recognition Procedure in Europe.
This means that Sativex can be marketed in these countries as an add-on therapy for the treatment of moderate to severe spasticity due to MS in patients who have not responded adequately to other medication, and launches are expected from the end of this year onwards.
Sativex has already been approved in the UK, Spain, and Germany and other European countries:
GW says marketing partner Almirall expects to introduce the drug in the German market in July and before the end of 2011 in Denmark and Sweden. Sativex is scheduled to be launched in Italy, Czech Republic and Austria in 2012.
In case you don’t know, Sativex is a whole-plant extract of cannabis. So it’s not like Marinol, the synthetic THC-only pill that many cancer and MS patients dislike because of extreme psychoactivity and difficulty in dosing (it’s hard to swallow a pill when you’re wretching from chemo and it takes 45 minutes of digestion before you know if you took the right amount.)
Nope, this is the real thing, the whole plant, with all the THC, CBD, terpenoids, flavinoids, reduced to an spray. It goes under the tongue, where your mucous membranes absorb the cannabis medicine quickly, almost like smoking or vaporizing plant cannabis, so there are no issues with swallowing difficulty or delayed effect like Marinol. It comes in guaranteed dosage, potency, and purity. It may be more expensive than growing pot, but insurance companies will likely cover the cost of the drug for cancer and MS patients.
And it’s coming to a medical marijuana state near you:
(CBS/AP) A marijuana-based mouth spray may get FDA approval as soon as 2013 – at least that’s what British manufactuer GW Pharma hopes. The company is in advanced clinical trials on the world’s first pharmaceutical developed from raw marijuana plants.
Other marijuana-based drugs currently on the market use synthetic equivalents of pot, but this stuff’s made from the real deal. Its makers want to market the drug in the U.S. as a treatment for cancer pain.
The spray, called Sativex, contains marijuana’s two best known components – delta 9-THC and cannabidiol. The medication has already been approved in Canada, New Zealand and eight European countries for relieving muscle spasms associated with multiple sclerosis.
This is nothing new. A decade ago, US firms were investigating an inhaler delivery device to combat the swallowing/delayed-effect issue with Marinol:
The makers of the synthetic THC capsule Marinol – the only legal cannabinoid drug available in the United States – are developing a metered dose inhaler so that patients may consume the drug in ways other than oral administration, according to a Business Wire report released this week. Many doctors and patients criticize the effectiveness of Marinol because the drug doesn’t take effect until two to four hours after administration. Patients also complain that they have difficulty self-regulating Marinol and that the drug’s psychoactivity is enhanced when it is swallowed.
Now I have nothing against Sativex or other cannabinoid pharmaceuticals. For the truly sick and disabled, any advance that makes the medicine more reliable, easier to use, and more effective gets a thumbs up from me.
But if your strategy to legalize the use of plant cannabis by all people for any reason is to preach “All use is medical/wellness”, cannabinoid pharmaceuticals is where you’ll end up. There exists a paradigm for the medical / wellness use of substances, and it lies in the realm of doctors and pharmacists and prescriptions and manufactured drugs. However, there also exists a paradigm for the recreational use of substances, and it lies in the realm of taverns and bartenders and DUI laws and ID checks and home brewing.
In which paradigm do you think marijuana fits better?
UPDATE: Paul Armentano confirms that the author of the quoted East Bay Express piece has jumped the gun with this pronouncement. There may be 55 companies that want to produce the generic Marinol using naturally-extracted THC, but that would still have to come from Dr. El Sohly’s farm at U. Miss. See the comments section for more explanation. I apologize for the mis-hype.
Remember the saying, “It’s not paranoia if they’re really out to get you?” Well, is a conspiracy theory about Big Pharma takeover of medical marijuana still a conspiracy when you have evidence?
(East Bay Express) The Drug Enforcement Administration told Legalization Nation in an e-mail last week that 55 unnamed companies now hold licenses to grow cannabis in the United States, a fact that contradicts the widespread belief that there is only one legal pot farm in America, operated under the DEA for research purposes. It appears as if the upswing in federally approved pot farming is about feeding the need of pharmaceutical companies who want to produce a generic version of THC pill Marinol and at least one other cannabis-based pill for a wide variety of new uses.
In other words, if big corporations grow dope with the government and put it in a pill, it’s medicine. But if you grow it at home or at a city-permitted pot farm and then put it in a vaporizer, it’s a felony.
It’s a weird piece of news that comes at a strange and contradictory time for the drug war. As US attorneys send threatening letters to states and cities, including Oakland, warning them against “commercial cultivation” of marijuana, the DEA is quietly handing out licenses for commercial cultivation.
NORML’s Paul Armentano has informed us about the end of the patent on Marinol and how these drug companies want to create similar pills with THC extracted from natural sources rather than synthetic ones, which are more expensive. ”Natural sources” are raw cannabis plants, of course. Silly Stoners Against Legalization, it was never Big Tobacco you had to worry about from legalization of pot, it was Big Pharma you had to worry about from medicalization of pot.
Left there hanging on the vine, though, are the other nine “facts” the DEA are presenting, a la David Letterman (but not as funny), in something we’re calling the…
“These here, Paul, from our own government, from somewhere deep in Dick Cheney’s secret bunker, the Top Ten Facts About Legalization from the DEA…”
Fact 1: We have made significant progress in fighting drug use and drug trafficking in America. Now is not the time to abandon our efforts.
The Legalization Lobby claims that the fight against drugs cannot be won. However, overall drug use is down by more than a third in the last twenty years, while cocaine use has dropped by an astounding 70 percent. Ninety-five percent of Americans do not use drugs. This is success by any standards.
Actually, two out of three Americans use drugs if you include alcohol and one out of ten Americans use cannabis (National Survey on Drug Use & Health 2008) every year, so I’m not sure how you can say 95% of Americans do not use drugs. If we were to include prescription and over-the-counter drug use, I’m sure something close to 95% of Americans actually use drugs.
But we weren’t talking about “legalizing drugs”, we’re talking about regulation of cannabis. Whether cocaine or other drug use has risen or fallen is beside the point. Fierce marijuana criminalization laws haven’t stopped the United States from leading the world in lifetime marijuana use and open tolerance of cannabis coffeehouses in The Netherlands haven’t moved the Dutch from having half the lifetime use rates and one-third the young teen (<=15) use rates of cannabis as Americans. Portugal has decriminalized drugs to a large extent and the international community calls it “a resounding success”. Singapore and Indonesia have some of the harshest anti-cannabis laws in the world, and yet they still have to keep executing the smugglers who won’t stop bringing it in to the country. We can’t even keep drugs out of our SuperMax federal prisons; what makes the DEA think it can succeed in keeping drugs out of free adult hands?
Drug use rates have very little to do with drug laws. And even the DEA’s claim that drug use is down a third in twenty years is suspect. If we define “drug use” as the lifetime rates that have been tracked by the National Surveys on Drug Use and Health over the past twenty years (1988-2008), then cannabis use has risen dramatically in the past twenty years, from 31% to 41% of the population aged 12 and older who have tried cannabis.
In fact, when you take a look at the lifetime use of illegal drugs (cocaine, crack, meth, heroin, hallucinogens, and inhalants), you find that all those figures have risen over the past twenty years, too.
The most interesting figures appear when you look at lifetime, annual, and monthly use of the legal drugs, alcohol and cigarettes. Alcohol use has remained steady but declining, while cigarette use has plummeted.
What this all tells us is:
Fact 2: A balanced approach of prevention, enforcement, and treatment is the key in the fight against drugs.
A successful drug policy must apply a balanced approach of prevention, enforcement and treatment. All three aspects are crucial. For those who end up hooked on drugs, there are innovative programs, like Drug Treatment Courts, that offer non-violent users the option of seeking treatment. Drug Treatment Courts provide court supervision, unlike voluntary treatment centers.
That’s a nice sentiment, but it is not how the government actually prosecutes the War on (Certain American Citizens Using Non-Pharmaceutical, Non-Alcoholic, Tobacco-Free) Drugs. 49.8% of all drug arrests are for marijuana violations, with 89% of those marijuana arrests made for possession alone. The “balanced approach” in President Obama’s FY 2011 Budget makes the DEA the fat kid on the see-saw, with $9.9 billion appropriated for law enforcement and interdiction vs. $5.6 billion appropriated for treatment and prevention.
Fact 3: Illegal drugs are illegal because they are harmful.
There is a growing misconception that some illegal drugs can be taken safely. For example, savvy drug dealers have learned how to market drugs like Ecstasy to youth. Some in the Legalization Lobby even claim such drugs have medical value, despite the lack of conclusive scientific evidence.
Once again, I haven’t seen any movement on the West Coast to put legalization of MDMA on the ballot; we’re talking about regulating marijuana.
However there is a way of measuring how safe a particular substance is to ingest; it’s called a “therapeutic index“. It’s the ratio of “ED-50″, that is, a minimum dose that will have the desired effect in 50% of test subjects, to the “LD-50″, which is the size of a lethal dose that will kill 50% of test subjects. For example, half the people who cop a buzz on a “dose” of alcohol – whatever amount that is – will die if they drink ten times that amount. That’s a “therapeutic index” of 1:10.
When measured by therapeutic index, most “illegal” drugs are technically safer than alcohol and cannabis is the safest of all with a therapeutic index that’s practically immeasurable. Cannabis is so non-toxic that it’s ratio is estimated to be 1:20,000 to 1:40,000. The DEA’s Administrative Law Judge Francis L. Young concluded it would take a man smoking 1,500 lbs. of cannabis in 15 minutes to die of an overdose.
Fact 4: Smoked marijuana is not scientifically approved medicine. Marinol, the legal version of medical marijuana, is approved by science.
According to the Institute of Medicine, there is no future in smoked marijuana as medicine. However, the prescription drug Marinol—a legal and safe version of medical marijuana which isolates the active ingredient of THC—has been studied and approved by the Food & Drug Administration as safe medicine. The difference is that you have to get a prescription for Marinol from a licensed physician. You can’t buy it on a street corner, and you don’t smoke it.
Nice of the DEA to reference the 1999 Institute of Medicine report. That was the report that concluded, as every report on the subject has, that marijuana use “does not appear to be a gateway drug to the extent that it is the cause or even that it is the most significant predictor of serious drug abuse.”
That report also noted that only 9% of marijuana users develop “dependence”, compared to 15% for alcohol, 17% for cocaine, 23% for heroin, and 32% for tobacco.
It also noted that “A distinctive marijuana and THC withdrawal syndrome has been identified, but it is mild and subtle compared with the profound physical syndrome of alcohol or heroin withdrawal,” which can cause seizures, hallucinations, and severe cravings. According to the report, “the symptoms of marijuana withdrawal include restlessness, irritability, mild agitation, insomnia, sleep EEG disturbance, nausea, and cramping.”
So if sometime later in the Top Ten list the DEA wants you to believe that legalization of marijuana will lead to increased addiction, remember that they were the ones using this report to argue against the medical efficacy of smoked marijuana.
However, it is interesting that the DEA makes no mention of the 2009 statement by the American Medical Association which concluded “Results of short term controlled trials indicate that smoked cannabis reduces neuropathic pain, improves appetite and caloric intake especially in patients with reduced muscle mass, and may relieve spasticity and pain in patients with multiple sclerosis…. To the extent that rescheduling marijuana out of Schedule I will benefit this effort [to develop cannabinoid medicines], such a move can be supported.
It’s also interesting how the DEA never mentions vaporization, tinctures, and edibles, which have been proven to eliminate the major harm of cannabis use – smoking.
And I never tire of the DEA that warns us about the super-potent Schedule I “Pot 2.0: Not Your Father’s Woodstock Weed” that approaches average THC potencies of 10% with maximums in the 30% range, then turns around and tells us how Schedule III 100% potent Marinol is so safe and effective.
Fact 5: Drug control spending is a minor portion of the U.S. budget. Compared to the social costs of drug abuse and addiction, government spending on drug control is minimal.
The Legalization Lobby claims that the United States has wasted billions of dollars in its anti-drug efforts. But for those kids saved from drug addiction, this is hardly wasted dollars. Moreover, our fight against drug abuse and addiction is an ongoing struggle that should be treated like any other social problem. Would we give up on education or poverty simply because we haven’t eliminated all problems? Compared to the social costs of drug abuse and addiction—whether in taxpayer dollars or in pain and suffering—government spending on drug control is minimal.
Finally, something sort or true from the DEA: “Drug control spending is a minor portion of the U.S. budget.” At $15.5 billion compared to the overall fiscal year budget of $3.7 trillion, they’re right. The entire drug war budget doesn’t even equal the single “Military Construction” line ($16.9 B) in the Pentagon’s $548 billion budget.
But then they pivot that fact to the falsehood that saving money on law enforcement and making money in tax revenues by regulating marijuana markets would not match the gross expenses we’d suffer from our kids becoming slaves to drug addiction. Never mind that they just ignored the previous point from the 1999 IOM Report about the gateway theory – what they are telling you is that legal marijuana users will cost society more than it saves and earns from taxation.
To bolster this point, drug warriors like to point out that “sin” taxes on alcohol and tobacco only bring in a fraction of money compared to the measurable social costs of alcoholism and tobacco cancers. It’s another example of starting from a fact and pivoting to a falsehood. Alcohol and tobacco cost society a lot of money because (a) they’re addictive (see 1999 IOM Report above) and (b) they can kill you (see therapeutic index above). A Canadian study on the annual health costs of one tobacco, alcohol, or cannabis user were $800, $165, and $20, respectively, while the enforcement costs on tobacco, alcohol, and cannabis per user were $0, $153, and $328, respectively. In essence, Canada is spending $328 per toker to save $20 in health care costs! Those numbers must be worse in America.
But set aside the numbers for a moment and just use some common sense. If cannabis users cause such a great social harm that they are a cost burden to society, we are costing society right now. It’s not as if nobody smokes pot now and suddenly legalization on the West Coast will create a country full of 22 million pot smokers imposing a new burden on society. I’ve broken down this cost argument before, but basically whatever we cost now (some number far less than alcohol or tobacco, certainly), we’d cost less once you’ve made some tax revenue off of us. The California Board of Equalization estimates $1.4 billion in revenues from legalization, so there would have to be $1.4 billion-worth of new pot smokers recruited and old tokers puffing more for this theory to make any sense at all. If California doubled its current 2.3 million tokers after legalization, those 2.3 million new tokers would have to cost the state $608 each to eat up the tax revenues.
For comparison’s sake, according to the UC San Francisco Institute on Health and Aging, alcohol abuse costs California $17.8 billion and kills 13,000 Californians annually. The NSDUH State Reports tell us that 62.5% of Californians 18 and older use alcohol, which works out to 17.1 million drinkers. That division works out to a drinker costing California $1,041 each.
So in order to swallow this whopper, we need to believe that a legalized toker will cost California 60% as much as a legal drinker, when the studies show that in Canada a legalized toker would cost about 6% as much as a legal drinker.
Fact 6: Legalization of drugs will lead to increased use and increased levels of addiction. Legalization has been tried before, and failed miserably.
Legalization has been tried before—and failed miserably. Alaska’s experiment with Legalization in the 1970s led to the state’s teens using marijuana at more than twice the rate of other youths nationally. This led Alaska’s residents to vote to re-criminalize marijuana in 1990.
Again, see Allen St. Pierre’s deconstruction of the Alaska story, and remember that the same DEA that cited the 1999 IOM Report above that said marijuana use doesn’t lead to hard drug addiction is now telling you West Coast legalization of cannabis will lead to increased addiction.
When we look at the experience of thirteen states that have decriminalized marijuana and the fourteen states that have legalized medical use of marijuana, we find the DEA’s theory blown to bits. In fact, that same 1999 IOM Report cited by the DEA above even concluded, “In sum, there is little evidence that decriminalization of marijuana use necessarily leads to a substantial increase in marijuana use.”
Fact 7: Crime, violence, and drug use go hand-in-hand.
Crime, violence and drug use go hand in hand. Six times as many homicides are committed by people under the influence of drugs, as by those who are looking for money to buy drugs. Most drug crimes aren’t committed by people trying to pay for drugs; they’re committed by people on drugs.
Drugs, drugs, drugs… what does this have to do with cannabis? The notion of a cannabis user deprived of weed and jonesing so bad he commits a crime to get the money for weed is ridiculous and the idea that cannabis users are driven to crime by the effects of cannabis is ludicrous. Every study (like this one) that looks at violence and marijuana finds that cannabis use tends to inhibit violence by its users.
The only violence commonly attributed to marijuana is directly caused by its prohibition. Mexican drug syndicates are not murdering 18,000 people over a three year span to protect their breweries, vineyards, beer and wine trucks, and hops and tobacco crops. The only crime commonly attributed to marijuana use is the plundering of munchies from the fridge.
Fact 8: Alcohol has caused significant health, social, and crime problems in this country, and legalized drugs would only make the situation worse.
The Legalization Lobby claims drugs are no more dangerous than alcohol. But drunk driving is one of the primary killers of Americans. Do we want our bus drivers, nurses, and airline pilots to be able to take drugs one evening, and operate freely at work the next day? Do we want to add to the destruction by making drugged driving another primary killer?
No, I actually claim that cannabis is far safer than alcohol, see the therapeutic index data above. This is another talking point that pivots from a fact (drunk driving is a serious problem) to a falsehood (the implied threat that legalization of cannabis would lead to more highway fatalities).
First of all, the US Dept. of Transportation fact sheet on cannabis states, “Effects from smoking cannabis products are felt within minutes and reach their peak in 10-30 minutes. Typical marijuana smokers experience a high that lasts approximately 2 hours.” So if the bus driver, nurse, and airline pilot want to smoke a joint before bed and drive, nurse, or fly me the next day, I’m not at all worried; no more so than if they decide to have a glass of wine the night before work.
Then we have to remember that if cannabis smokers are driving, they are driving now. If pot smoking were such a threat on our roadways we’d have seen the bodies pile up by now. Numerous studies have confirmed what we all know:
In other words, even the highest cannabis-using driver is less dangerous than an alcohol-buzzed driver who is still below the per se impairment limits (0.08%) for alcohol.
Fact 9: Europe’s more liberal drug policies are not the right model for America.
The Legalization Lobby claims that the “European Model” of the drug problem is successful. However, since legalization of marijuana in Holland, heroin addiction levels have tripled. And Needle Park seems like a poor model for America.
The Dutch began their policy of cannabis tolerance in 1976. According to the 2008 EMCDDA National Report for The Netherlands, lifetime prevalence of heroin use was 0.3% in 1997 and 0.2% in 2001. I looked all over the DEA’s website and press releases for 2001 looking for them to claim that Dutch cannabis tolerance has led to a one-third decrease in heroin use, but I never found it. Prevalence of heroin use in 2005 was reported to be 0.6%, which would be triple the 2001 figure, but only double the 1997 figure.
But once again, the DEA cited the 1999 IOM Report above that tells us smoking pot doesn’t lead to heroin addiction, so I’m not sure what the DEA’s point is. It also doesn’t help their case that their heroin use rates are less than half of American heroin use rates (1.52% lifetime prevalence).
Fact 10: Most non-violent drug users get treatment, not jail time.
The Legalization Lobby claims that America’s prisons are filling up with users. Truth is, only about 5 percent of inmates in federal prison are there because of simple possession. Most drug criminals are in jail—even on possession charges—because they have plea-bargained down from major trafficking offences or more violent drug crimes.
Oh, only 1 out of 20 of the 2.3 million people we imprison are there for simple possession? My math tells me that’s 115,000 Americans in a cage for their personal use of drugs. The Sentencing Project determined that 11,200 of those Americans are in a cage for simple marijuana possession alone. Of course, this is just federal prison we’re talking about, when most marijuana users are processed through city and county jails and housed in state prisons.
Another bit of falsehood pivoted to from these imprisonment facts is that pronouncement that most “drug criminals” are plea-bargaining down from more serious charges. Often those are “intent to distribute” charges filed when a cannabis user makes the mistake of keeping separate strains in separate bags (multiple bags in the eyes of the law means you must be selling), “conspiracy” charges filed against cannabis users who “go in” with other cannabis users to split the cost of expensive cannabis, and “manufacture” charges filed when a cannabis user grows his own instead of participating in the black market.
But whether people are serving a day, 29 years, or 93 years for marijuana charges is irrelevant; it is the the arrest for marijuana possession itself that causes the harms to the user irrespective of any stay in a jail cell:
The DEA is terrified because there is a legitimate shot for the voters to legalize marijuana use, manufacture, and sales in one, possibly two, and maybe even three West Coast states this year. If this bit of reefer madness is the best counter they have to offer, I really like our chances!
BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (WZZM) – Now that medical marijuana is legal in Michigan, can an employer fire a worker who tests positive for the drug?
WalMart says it can, so it did. “I was terminated because I failed a drug screening,” says former WalMart employee Joseph Casias.
In 2008, Casias was the Associate Of The Year at the WalMart store in Battle Creek, despite suffering from sinus cancer and an inoperable brain tumor.
At his doctor’s recommendation, Casias says he legally uses medical marijuana to ease his pain.
“It helps tremendously,” he says. “I only use it to stop the pain. To make me feel more comfortable and active as a person.”
During his five years at WalMart, Casias says he went to work every day, determined to be the best.
“I gave them everything,” he says. “110 percent every day. Anything they asked me to do I did. More than they asked me to do. 12 to 14 hours a day.”
But last November, Casias sprained his knee at work. Marijuana was detected in his system during the routine drug screening that follows all workplace injuries. Casias showed WalMart managers his state medical marijuana card, but he was fired anyway.
“I was told they do not accept or honor my medical marijuana card,” says Casias.
In an e-mail from headquarters, WalMart spokesman Greg Rossiter explained the company policy. It states: “In states, such as Michigan, where prescriptions for marijuana can be obtained, an employer can still enforce a policy that requires termination of employment following a positive drug screen. We believe our policy complies with the law and we support decisions based on the policy.”
Casias says he never used marijuana before work.
“No, I never came to work under the influence, never,” he says. “I don’t think it’s fair. Because I have a medical condition I can’t work and provide for my family?”
Casias has been collecting unemployment compensation since he was fired in November but this week he says he was notified WalMart is challenging his eligibility for benefits.
“It’s not fair,” he says.
Sorry to have to defend Wal-Mart, but they are no different in this regard than hundreds or even thousands of employers in the fourteen medical marijuana states. Your recommendation for medical marijuana is just words – it’s not a prescription – so you aren’t protected by the Americans With Disabilities Act for your medical marijuana use. You are not protected against discrimination for your medical marijuana use. An employer may refuse to hire you and an employer may terminate you if you fail a workplace urine screening for marijuana metabolites.
So choose – your job or your health?
Many patients in medical marijuana states ask their doctor for a prescription for Marinol, the legal Schedule III 100%-potent THC pill, in order to have a defense for turning up positive for THC metabolites. Since that is a prescription drug, it is covered in many cases by insurance and provides a legal “out” for companies with drug testing policies.
However, while the most commonly-used marijuana screening techniques cannot distinguish the THC metabolite from whole plant cannabis use and Marinol use, there are now new screening techniques than can distinguish other metabolites from plant cannabis that would not be present in Marinol-only use. It costs a whole lot more money, but if employers are determined to ensure you’re not using actual plant marijuana, they can figure that out.
What makes this even more infuriating is that nearly every state makes exceptions for prescription drugs in the workplace, even ones that can cause severe impairment. The federal laws on commercial driver’s licenses, for example, state the following:
(b) (12)(i) Does not use a controlled substance identified in 21 CFR 1308.11 Schedule I, an amphetamine, a narcotic, or any other habit-forming drug.
(b)(12)(ii) Exception. A driver may use such a substance or drug, if the substance or drug is prescribed by a licensed medical practitioner who:
(b)(12)(ii)(A) Is familiar with the driver’s medical history and assigned duties; and
(b)(12)(ii)(B) Has advised the driver that the prescribed substance or drug will not adversely affect the driver’s ability to safely operate a commercial motor vehicle; and
(b) (13) Has no current clinical diagnosis of alcoholism.
So long as your doctor knows you’re a trucker and doesn’t think you’re a drunk, you can use your Schedule II doctor-prescribed Cocaine, Dexedrine (speed), Dilaudid, Demerol, Desoxyn (meth), Oxycodone, Ritalin, and Seconal. You can drive an eighteen-wheeler on our roads using your Schedule III doctor-prescribed Codeine, Ketamine (Special K), Secobarbital, Anabolic Steroids, and, ironically, the synthetic THC in Marinol. So long as your doctor doesn’t think it will affect your duties, you’re free to use your Schedule IV Xanax, Klonopin, Valium, Ativan, and Ambien, because all of these drugs have medical uses and are safe to use under a doctor’s recommendation.
But not medical cannabis. It’s Schedule I. No medical value (no matter what the AMA says). High potential for abuse (worse than cocaine, meth, and oxycontin). No safe use under a doctor’s supervision (no matter what fourteen states say).
Feel free to contact Wal-Mart if you’d like to express your opinion:
- Michael T. Duke – President & Chief Executive Officer
- Thomas M. Schoewe, MBA – Chief Financial Officer & Executive Vice President
- Rollin L. Ford – Chief Information Officer & EVP
- Thomas A. Mars – Chief Administrative Officer & EVP-US
- Eduardo Castro-Wright – Vice Chairman-US Wal Mart Stores
702 Southwest 8th Street
Bentonville, Arkansas 72716
Telephone: +1 479 273-4000
Fax: +1 479 273-1917
Of course it should come as no surprise that ingesting marijuana makes people feel good. The real question is whether it safely and effectively mitigates the course or symptoms of any medical condition.
There is no doubt about the “safely” part; cannabis is remarkably non-toxic and in the words of DEA Administrative Law Judge Francis L. Young, “the safest therapeutically-active substance known to man”. It cannot cause overdose and its most common side effects are red eyes, dry mouth, and euphoria.
When I prescribe a pharmacologic intervention, I usually have some data to back up my decision. My most commonly prescribed medications, such as metformin, ACE inhibitors, beta blockers, statins, and aspirin, have clear dosing options and have clear outcome data that support their use.
Sure, there are many amazing substances out there that the government does not prohibit, allowing researchers to develop incredible medications from them. However, many of these medications have side effects far worse than red eyes and dry mouth:
Common Metformin Side Effects:
So for just one of Dr. Lipson’s magic remedies, I have a coin-flip chance of diarrhea and 1-in-4 chance of nausea. Even the seemingly benign aspirins and NSAIDs (Tylenol, etc.) that some pop like candy for every little ache and pain lead to over 16,000 deaths per year.
Marijuana is not a clearly science-based treatment. Marijuana does not come in easily measured doses, and products that do contain set amounts of cannabanoids, such as Marinol (Solvay/Abbott), are often derided by weed mavens as being “not as good as the real thing”.
Because they aren’t as good as the real thing. Inhaled cannabis vapor is superior to a Marinol pill because (a) Marinol has only THC and lacks CBD, CBG, CBN, CBL, flavinods, and terpenes and (b) inhaled vapor is felt instantaneously and therefore dosage can be titrated by the user when desired effect is reached.
You know why we have specific dosages on a bottle of aspirin? Because if you take too many of them too quickly, you will die. Swallowed pills don’t take effect until digested, usually after 45 minutes. You can’t pop an aspirin, still have a headache a minute later, pop another, still have a headache a minute later, pop another, and so forth. You have to pop an aspirin and wait 45 minutes to see if that worked, then if it didn’t, you can pop another and wait another 45 minutes.
But with cannabis, if you have a headache you can take a puff off a vapor bag and know immediately if it helped. If it didn’t, you can take another puff, and another, and another without any worry of overdose.
Now transfer the headache analogy to a cancer-ridden chemotherapy patient who’s weak and vomiting from intense nausea. Are you going to offer her a puff from a vapor bag that will ease her nausea immediately, or are you going to ask her to swallow – and keep down – a Marinol pill and wait 45 minutes to see if it works?
Whether or not cannabis is a useful drug is not a moral question. It is also not one that can be answered by individuals—science doesn’t work that way. The use of individual anecdotes can be a useful stepping stone to real science, but it can also lead to ethical disasters. The data so far on medical cannabis has been disappointing. It doesn’t seem to help with weight loss in cancer, with agitation from dementia, or with nausea and appetite loss. But cannabis is clearly an active drug and might plausibly have some medical use.
Translation: we can’t believe the hundreds of thousands of cancer patients who smoked a joint for the nausea of chemo and we can’t believe the tens of thousands of AIDS patients who smoked a joint and were finally able to have an appetite and keep their weight at healthy levels, because they didn’t take something that was a standardized dose-measured synthesized extract that fits neatly into the Western pharmaceutical concept of medicine.
All drugs have effects, both good and bad. Marijuana has many negative effects, such as addiction and withdrawal, and it is not yet clear what benefits, if any, the drug may provide. Those who advocate for its use should focus their efforts on improving the study of marijuana rather than the premature use of it as a drug.
22 million Americans will use cannabis this year, but only 3.5 million or so will use frequently (twice a week or more) and of those frequent users about 9% develop any sort of dependence on cannabis, the withdrawal from which is characterized by symptoms like irritability, sleep disturbance, and anxiety. Clearly the greatest negative effect of cannabis use is arrest and incarceration if one is caught.
Which all brings me to the question of this post: If other medications work better than marijuana, so what? Suppose medical science succeeds in creating an inhaler that delivers all the medicinal benefits of cannabis without the side effects of dry mouth, red eyes, and that pesky “high”. Suppose the inhaler is even proven to be superior to natural vaporized cannabis. So what? If my choices between two safe and effective medications are the $50 / month inhaler I get at CVS or the pot plant I grow in my closet, what justification is there for arresting me for the latter, aside from protecting the sales of the former? It would be like arresting people for planting willow trees because aspirin in pill form is superior to chewing willow bark for the acetylsalicylic acid.
Plymouth, United Kingdom–(ENEWSPF)–December 2, 2009. The administration of Sativex, an oral spray consisting of natural cannabis extracts (primarily THC and cannabidiol aka CBD), significantly reduces cancer pain compared to placebo or THC alone, according to clinical trial data published online in the Journal of Pain Management.
Authors concluded, “The results of this study show that the THC/CBD extract [Sativex] is an efficacious adjunctive treatment for cancer-related pain in patients who are not achieving an adequate analgesic response to opioids.”
They added: “[I]n this study, the THC/CBD extract showed a more promising efficacy profile than the THC extract alone. This finding is supported by evidence of additional synergy between THC and CBD. CBD may enhance the analgesic potential of THC by means of potent inverse agonism at CB2 receptors, which may produce anti-inflammatory effects, along with its ability to inhibit immune cell migration. … These results are very encouraging and merit further study.”
An estimated 25 percent to 40 percent of cancer patients experience some type of neuropathic pain for which conventionally available analgesics are not consistently effective.
Well, if the whole natural extracts of THC + CBD are superior to THC alone, what about the whole natural plant compared to the extracts? Does it seem strange to anyone else that they hate the weed so much they made a THC-only pill called Marinol, and then to improve that they make a THC+CBD spray called Sativex? And when they find the other cannabinoids have beneficial effects, will they then extract those to further improve the Sativex? It seems to me a lot of effort to try to make a perfect substitute for a plant rather than just use the plant.
I can see the benefits of standardization, of knowing the THC/CBD ratios and the dosage. I’m actually not even upset at the corporations that seek to make a profit off of these cannabis-derived drugs, more power to them. These studies help them realize the profit in cannabis and help the public realize the medical power of cannabis. That’s going to spur more research. For that to happen in the US, cannabis will have to be moved out of Schedule I. This moves us toward our goal.
However, on this path, we must always stand firm on the right of medical users to grow and use the raw plant. Denying suffering people the right to grow their own low-cost natural non-toxic pain remedy so that pharmaceutical corporations or non-profit organizations can stay in business is flat out immoral. As we move from protection for a few to relegalization for us all, the same ethics apply to the right of the cannabis consumer to grow.
Many years ago the former head of the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Alan Leshner made this statement when forced to confront the fact that tens of thousands of patients were successfully using cannabis as a medicine:“The plural of anecdote is not evidence.”
Someone ought to pass on Lesnher’s cop out to ABC News, whose recent feature, “Reefer Madness Redux: Is Pot Addictive?“, is little more than a series of anecdotes from folks claiming that it’s becoming harder and harder for some individuals to quit weed.
Yes, if 10,000 people say that using marijuana helped them medicinally, that’s just anecdotes and no basis for medicine. But if a dozen people say that they were daily tokers, it ruined their lives, and they had a hard time quitting the bong, that’s enough for the mainstream media to question “Is Pot Addictive?”. Which, by the way, is one of those sneaky ways the media tries to push a narrative by just asking the question and not declaring the fact. “Is President Obama a Kenyan-born Illegal President?” or “Has Former President Bush Returned to His Hard Drinking Ways?” would be similar examples of the technique.
It’s the old “some people say” trick where media presents an issue as if it has two sides when the facts are all on one side. “Some people say pot is addictive,” they’ll intone, and bring on three anecdotes of wasted lives, “and some people say it isn’t,” they’ll continue by presenting three doctors who tell the truth and present the evidence that it isn’t addictive in the potential-death-from-withdrawal sense. See? Three pot smokers who blame marijuana for their life’s failures vs. three well-educated doctors with studies of thousands of pot smokers whose lives turned out just fine. Fair and Balanced!
Let me pick this apart a little. In the piece, we meet “Vicky”, a 53-year-old who started smoking pot at age 13. Well, there’s a clue! We know marijuana use before age 18 can have detrimental effects and we here at NORML have been very forthright about explaining that.
Since the 1970s, when marijuana was the symbol of political protest, the risks of marijuana dependency have been clouded by the legalization debate and long-held beliefs that the illicit drug is harmless.
You’re not finding those beliefs here. I’ll be the first to tell you marijuana is not harmless. Neither is water. But it is far less harmful than other drugs we allow even our teenagers to consume, like a Starbucks Frappacino loaded with caffeine, for instance.
Today, there are no FDA-approved drugs to counteract withdrawal symptoms, although the synthetic cancer drug Marinol shows some promise.
So, the treatment for the new “Pot 2.0: Not Your Father’s Woodstock Weed™”, the deadly addictive skunkweed that can be up to (gasp!) 25% THC, is a synthetic THC pill that’s 100% THC? Sheesh, next they’ll tell us that lithium is a good treatment for marijuana “addiction”! Whoops, too late.
The reclassification of marijuana is important, according to the APA because its omission as an addictive substance then professionals might not see treatment regimens for dependence as necessary.
Ah, so the association representing psychiatrists is telling us that if we don’t classify marijuana as addictive, psychiatrists might not declare people marijuana addicts in need of expensive treatment from psychiatrists. Got it.
As the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States, marijuana produces dependence and relapse rates comparable to other drugs some researchers believe.
About 9 percent of all those who used marijuana became dependent, compared to rates of 32 percent for tobacco, 23 percent for opiates and 15 percent for alcohol, according to the 1994 National Comorbidity Survey.
In what branch of math are values 255% greater, 155% greater, and 66% greater considered “comparable”? This is like saying my one minute eight second time in a 200 meter dash is comparable to Usain Bolt’s 19.3 second world record time.
For daily smokers, that dependency rate soars to between 33 and 50 percent, say more recent studies.
And what is the dependency rate for daily tobacco smokers, 100%? Or daily beer drinkers? Doesn’t it seem a good thing to you that half to two-thirds of daily marijuana smokers can quit cold turkey without any negative withdrawal effects?
With stronger pot, emergency rooms have reported more associated accidents. Just this week, seven people were killed when the driver — drove the wrong way on a New York highway and collided head on with a pickup truck. Although the drivers family has disputed the results, toxicology tests showed high levels of alcohol and marijuana.
Yes, high levels of alcohol, as in a .19 BAC! So naturally this is the perfect example to show how stronger pot is causing accidents.
All addictive drugs have a “common signature,” according to NIDA director Nora D. Volkow. “They increase dopamine levels in the brain’s pleasure center and produce repetitive behavior. Marijuana appears do both, though at intermediate levels compared to other drugs.
Absolutely untrue, according to a new study published this June in NeuroImage, which concluded, “In the largest study of its kind so far, we have shown that recreational cannabis users do not release significant amounts of dopamine from an oral THC dose equivalent to a standard cannabis cigarette.”
Roger A. Roffman, a professor of social work at University of Washington… argues that the reform movement makes a “tragic mistake” to convince the public that marijuana is relatively harmless.
We’ve never claimed marijuana is harmless! We’ve always claimed it is less harmful than alcohol. Quit putting your words in our mouths!
“The reason the that federal government has it outlawed is because they say there’s no medicinal value in it, even though we have a quarter of the country’s population now living under medical marijuana law, the federal government says there’s no medicinal benefit, it’s the most dangerous drug in a Schedule 1 controlled substance with heroin and acid, and it’s the most addictive. All of that is bull. When anybody is going through this, I try so hard to get them to at least do their own research, because no one has ever overdosed from it. There’s almost no substance on the planet that can claim that; we had somebody die from drinking too much water in a radio contest a couple of years ago. No one has ever smoked too much pot; it simply is not toxic enough, so I think that it’s important to mention that when we’re talking about how Sonya made it through this, because she was so strong and she was able to hold on to some quality of life while she was going through this six-month sentence of getting the chemotherapy for two days at a time every two weeks.
“…The doctors as it turns out as I talk to them about this are afraid of retaliation and so they don’t want to recommend marijuana. Because I know a lot of about it, in extensive conversations where I found the doctors will recommend Marinol which is a THC pill and it’s synthetic and I had to argue with the doctor. He’s telling me it’s pure, but I know that it’s not. They take the THC which is the active ingredient in marijuana and they replicate it and they put it in a pill form. I personally have tried the pill form; it’s nothing at all like the organic plant.
He has tried Marinol, and perhaps not surprisingly, does not recommend it, at least in terms of its effectiveness.
“Nothing at all. In fact when I got it, I was afraid that somebody slipped me something else. I was tripping off of it. There are reports of patients going crazy, suicidal. It’s not a pleasant experience but the doctors do that because they can make money off of it. They cannot make money off of a plant. You cannot put a patent on a plant, so the government has no interest in legalizing it.”
When a professional wrestler exhibits better medical knowledge about marijuana than a doctor, you know the doctors have been fed a dose of reefer madness. And he’s right about the Marinol – I’ve tried it, too, and as a chronic smoker for the past nineteen years, I have never had such a bad experience with marijuana as I did with Marinol. In fact, I’ve had bad acid and mushroom trips that were less frightening than Marinol.
Cluster Attacks Responsive to Recreational Cannabis and Dronabinol
Pharmacological preparations of cannabinoid compounds have a variety of therapeutic uses in medicine, including different pain syndromes, but have not been previously reported as beneficial for cluster headache. We present a patient with cluster headache who was refractory to multiple acute and preventive medications but successfully aborted his attacks with recreational marijuana use; subsequent use of dronabinol provided equally effective pain relief.
In other words, some people can kill their severe headaches by smoking pot or taking Marinol pills.
But once you dig past the abstract and into the full text of the paper, you step through Alice’s looking glass into the world where 100% potent synthetic THC is a Schedule III prescribable drug and 5%-20% potent natural THC + other medical cannabinoids is a Schedule I illegal drug.
A 19-year-old right-handed university student presented to the Montefiore Headache Center for evaluation and management of his cluster headaches. Over the past 2 years, he had a cyclical pattern of stereotyped attacks occurring predictably every 1 to 2 months, lasting approximately 2 weeks. During these 2-week cluster periods, he experienced 1 attack every other day. Each cluster period was typically followed by a remission phase lasting 1 to 2 months. However, over the past 3 months, the frequency gradually increased to 1 to 2 attacks daily.
The majority of attacks would abruptly awaken him from sleep at 12:30 am or 4:30 am with excruciating right temporal and peri-orbital pain. Each episode lasted 3 to 4 h untreated, with the pain reaching maximal intensity within 10 min and declining within 10 min at its conclusion.
He did not drink alcohol, but noted that marijuana use at the onset of his headaches consistently brought complete relief within 5 min of inhalation for each attack.
OK, so smoking pot relieved the headaches, that should be it, right? No! The researchers take him off the marijuana and subject him to traditional (legal) treatments for chronic headaches, including prednisone, methylprednisolone acetate, bupivacaine, verapamil, lithium, sodium valproate, melatonin, topirimate, nifedipine, indomethacin, zonisamide, venlafaxine, ergotamine tartrate, clonazepam, sumatriptan tablets, zolmitriptan nasal spray, ergotamine/caffeine, oxycodone, aspirin/butalbital/caffeine, acetominophen/dichlorphenazone/isometheptene, and indomethacin are all tried, “without benefit” and with “intolerable adverse effects” (click any drug for its fun list of adverse effects, like nausea, vomiting, constipation, loss of appetite, extreme thirst, urinating more or less than usual, weakness, fever, feeling restless or confused, eye pain and vision problems, restless muscle movements in your eyes, tongue, jaw, or neck, pain, cold feeling, or discoloration in your fingers or toes, feeling light-headed, fainting, slow heart rate, hallucinations, seizure (blackout or convulsions), depressed mood, thoughts of suicide or hurting yourself, chest tightness, fast or pounding heartbeats, and the worst adverse reaction, death.)
So, as the last resort…
Given the lack of responsiveness to multiple agents, dronabinol [Marinol pill] 5 mg was substituted for marijuana for acute treatment of his cluster headaches; dronabinol consistently provided dramatic relief within 5 to 15 min of ingestion.
OK, so smoking pot or using Marinol helps and pharmaceuticals don’t. I can understand giving the guy Marinol instead of marijuana if both are equally effective, if only to keep him out of jail. What I can’t understand is this conclusion by the researchers:
It may be of future interest to ascertain if pain relief can be achieved when recreational marijuana or dronabinol are used in a cluster attack. We would not recommend routine use of recreational or pharmacological preparations of cannabis for treatment of cluster headaches because of the risk of long-term dependence and other potential adverse effects.
You were more than willing to run this guy through 21 different phamaceutical therapies, including steroids, oxycodone and lithium, and you’re worried about the dependence and adverse effects of cannabis? What kind of insanity is it where the herb that is safer and more effective than 21 dangerous ineffective drugs is rejected by doctors who as a last resort turn to the synthetic preparation of one part of the exact same herb they’re rejecting because it is too dangerous?
It is almost beyond dispute that the federal laws are unjustified by science or common sense. Under the 1970 Controlled Substances Act, cannabis is a Schedule 1 drug, meaning it has no medical use and cannot be prescribed by a physician. The many medical uses of marijuana are well documented, and it is not nearly as addictive or intoxicating as less-restricted Schedule 2 drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine. Moreover, the active ingredient in marijuana, THC, can be sold in pill form as a Schedule 3 drug. So what makes the plant so dangerous?
via Editorial: Reefer-tax madness – Los Angeles Times
It is quite refreshing to see a major media source like the LA Times bringing up one of the things that frustrates me the most about the War on US Citizens. Why is marijuana a Class 1 drug with ‘no medicinal value’ if the The United States of America, as represented by the Department of Health and Human Services holds US Patent 6630507 titled “Cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants”?
The patent claims that “Cannabinoids have been found to have antioxidant properties, unrelated to NMDA receptor antagonism. This new found property makes cannabinoids useful in the treatment and prophylaxis of wide variety of oxidation associated diseases, such as ischemic, age-related, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. The cannabinoids are found to have particular application as neuroprotectants, for example in limiting neurological damage following ischemic insults, such as stroke and trauma, or in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and HIV dementia.”
via Digital Journal US Government Holds Patent For Medical Marijuana, Shows Hypocrisy