Naturally occurring cannabinoids found in medical marijuana that interact with the immune and nervous systems have been shown to have anti-tumor properties.
Even with an abundance of supporting evidence, the US still limits research on cannabis in US labs with a heavy hand. Despite the concerted effort of a wide range of cannabis activists, the US will not reschedule marijuana to Schedule II where medicinally valuable controlled substances are grouped including cocaine, used as an anesthetic, and opioid pain killers.
Colorado will formally request that cannabis be rescheduled by January of 2012 in accordance with marijuana regulatory bill HB-1284.
In spite of this, Sativex, produced by UK Pharmaceutical giant GW Pharmaceuticals, has been approved by the FDA for clinical trials that could ultimately lead to making the drug available by prescription in the US. The spray is administered under the tongue and is produced directly from the cannabis plant, not synthesized. Sativex is widely used in the treatment regimen of cancer throughout Europe.
CBD is the component of cannabis that provides long lasting analgesic effects, as well as reducing inflammation, and suppressing the immune system which makes it valuable in the treatment of arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and cancer. Cannabinoids in cannabis interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system (literally: inner-cannabinoid) which is “involved in a variety of physiological processes including appetite, pain-sensation, mood, and memory” [wikipedia]. The CBD in cannabis helps balance these systems making it a valuable healing tool.
Opioid pain killers are often prescribed for pain management during cancer treatment despite opioids being a respiratory depressant, slowing breathing, and making it more difficult for the lungs to absorb oxygen. This side effect of opioids may have contributed to the recent death of Steve Jobs.
Though cannabis does not have such side effects, and is recognized as being effective in pain management, oncologists persist in using drugs with such risk factors under the assumption the benefit provided outweighs the risks.
Breeding has allowed growers in California to produce strains that have virtually no THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis, but are rich in cancer fighting CBD.
The one approved government source for marijuana, the University of Mississippi, is controlled by the Drug Enforcement Division (DEA) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) who often deny researchers looking to obtain cannabis samples.
Whatever your opinion is of marijuana it is imperative that US citizens become outspoken about allowing researchers to look deeper into what cannabis does when it attacks tumors and develop treatments based on that research.
We shouldn’t allow the reputation of a substance slow the progress of the search to cure cancer. October and November are breast cancer and prostate cancer awareness months respectively. Take this as an opportunity to contact your elected representatives and ask them why the government won’t allow research that could potentially cure cancer.
We owe that much to our family and friends who have been diagnosed with cancer or who passed because of it.