Cannabis: Gateway Drug or the Future of Medicine, Part 2

Last week in Part I of Cannabis: Gateway Drug or the Future of Medicine we discussed the largely untold history of Cannabis in the US and the fact that its medicinal properties have been recognized for thousands of years. But while the US government declared war on Cannabis and poured resources into other medicinal sources with easier profit potential, Israel’s Dr. Michoulam was discovering the amazing potential of Cannabis to revolutionize the future of medicine.

In the mid 90’s Dr. Michoulam discovered what is now called the endocannabinoid system in our bodies. This system, present in all humans and in many animals as well, holds the key to why Cannabis has the potential to be quite literally a miracle drug. Rick Pfrommer writes in his article, The Beginner’s Guide to the Endocannabinoid SystemThe Reason Our Bodies Easily Process Cannabis, “This system consists of a series of receptors that are configured only to accept cannabinoids, especially tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD)…Dr. Mechoulam’s world-changing research discovered two main receptors, cannabinoid 1 (CB1) and cannabinoid 2 (CB2), that are keyed to both the endocannabinoids that our body naturally produces and phytocannabinoids (plant-based) like THC and CBD.”

Put in simple terms: Our bodies respond so well to Cannabinoids because our bodies already produce them naturally. We produce these endocannabinoids in the same way our bodies produce endorphins, and our bodies are equipped with special receptors made to recognize just them.

 

 

Of course the pharmaceutical industry is hard at work to make synthetic cannabinoids so that they can profit, but these synthetic cannabinoids (so far) have not been shown to work as efficiently as the natural ones.

So let’s cut to the chase. What can Cannabis do? Well, scientists have been able to isolate more than 60 cannabinoids in the Cannabis plant (there may well be upwards of 100 by some estimations) and they all have massive potential to heal or at least relieve the symptoms of a staggering spectrum of ailments.

 

Let’s take just THC for instance- it moderates pain. However, unlike many narcotics, the receptors that it binds to are not present in the part of the brain that regulate heart rate and respiration. This means that there is no lethal dosage threshold for THC! An individual could take as much as needed to control pain. Also, Cannabis and narcotics are what is called co-agonists. This means that when they are used in combination they each magnify the effect of the other, which would allow patients to get a greater effect from a lower dose of narcotic.

THC is also a highly effective anti-nausea and vomiting compound. In 1995, Dr. Michoulam performed a clinical trial with Professor Aya Avramov ( head of the dept. of pediatric oncology in Jerusalem). He had found that Cannabis lowers the horrific side effects of anti-cancer drugs. The trial was initially meant to be a double blind trial, meaning that some of the children would receive THC oil under their tongues for nausea and vomiting and some would only receive olive oil. Avramov would not know which oil each child received. However, Avramov called off the double blind trial after a week because the results were so dramatic that she knew exactly which children were receiving the THC and which were not. They changed the trial to an open study and treated all the children with THC. The results were a complete block of nausea and vomiting with such a small dosage that no psychoactive side effects of the THC (THC is the psychoactive compound of Cannabis) occurred. The study was published, but completely ignored by the medical community. Since this trial, Cannabis has also been found to be extremely effective in relieving pain related side effects of anti-cancer treatments and could replace 5 separate medications prescribed to cancer patients that are aimed at combating the side effects of the anti-cancer treatment.

Are you diabetic or know someone that is? Dr. David Allen, a retired cardiac surgeon who is now an endocannabinoid system researcher, has some shocking research results. In his studies, he has found that if an individual uses Cannabis for 20 years or more, they reduce their risk of diabetes by a whopping 66%. Dr. Allen then puts that in perspective by noting that currently, your doctor cannot prescribe anything that will even reduce the incidence of diabetes by 2%.

This article, Can Cannabis Treat Epileptic Seizures, for Scientific American notes that new scientific research provides evidence that CBD (a non-psychoactive compound of Cannabis) could be an effective treatment for the nearly 1/3 of patients who have a treatment resistant form of epilepsy. Testimonials like the one in the video below from a woman who was on 14 different prescriptions for her epileptic seizures yet still had an average of 12 seizures a day should not be ignored. She consumes butter with marijuana in it on toast daily and is now seizure free.

Prakash Nagarkatti, professor of pathology and microbiology at the University of South Carolina, and his team made a potentially world changing discovery when they found that a cannabinoid key could seek out cancerous cells in the immune system and literally instruct them to self destruct. Could Cannabis actually be a cancer cure? Who knows, but Professor Nagarkatti’s findings are amazing. His experimental drug was able to kill almost all cancer in test tubes. When tested on mice, 25-30% of mice rejected their cancerous tumors and were completely cured. The tumors in the remaining mice were decreased significantly. Nagarkatti has already begun clinical trials in leukemia patients.

This article, 5 Ways Cannabis Could Be Helping Alzheimer’s Patients, details very encouraging studies for this heartbreaking disease. THC has been found to slow the build up of plaques more effectively than any currently approved drugs. (Amyloid plaques are a characteristic pathological marker of Alzheimer’s.) Cannabis has also been found to be a powerful anti-inflammatory which would inhibit the formation of these plaques. Not only has CBD been found to prevent cell death which could delay the neurological degeneration that occurs in Alzheimer’s sufferers, but it also promotes cell growth- indicating a possible reversal of the neurological degeneration. Cannabis could also improve the overall quality of an Alzheimer’s patient’s life by treating some of the most notorious symptoms. Cannabis can stimulate appetite, control weight, improve motor function, and reduce agitation.

Cannabis may also be revolutionary for sufferers of autoimmune diseases such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Celiac Disease, Fibromyalgia, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and Type 2 Diabetes according to this article, 5 Autoimmune Disorders That Have Met Their Match. CBD has been shown to not only support the immune system, but to enable the immune system to recognize the difference between “normal anatomy and a foreign body”. CBD is known to regulate inflammation and immune cell activity. 50% of lab mice at Hebrew University with Rheumatoid Arthritis experienced an increase in joint health in response to CBD. A Care By Design survey reported that 100% of the fibromyalgia sufferers polled had reduced pain with CBD use for 30 days. For type 2 diabetes sufferers, CBD has been shown to improve metabolism and support insulin activity.

This article, No Bones About It: How Cannabis May Combat Bone Disease, highlights some fascinating findings when it comes to the endocannabinoid system and bone health. 2015 research from Tel Aviv University and Hebrew University found that CBD helps to heal broken bones! Using the cannabinoid recepters, researchers were able to trigger bone formation as well as strengthen the bridge that connects broken bones. This led to research focusing on the effects of CBD on osteoperosis and osteoarthritis. They found that there is strong evidence to indicate the endocannabinoid system can be used to prevent age related bone disease.

I could literally go on and on and on. Medical Cannabis has promising research for the treatment of Hepatitis C, Tourette’s, Hypertention, Sleep Apnea, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Gastrointestinal Disorders, Incontinence… Honestly, the list of what it CAN’T do may be shorter. When you take into consideration the fact that the bulk of this excitingly promising research revolves around only two compounds (THC and CBD) of the Cannabis plant and there are at minimum 60 compounds total- the medicinal potential is literally mind boggling. Add to this the fact that very few researchers are actually working with Cannabis at all because of the bureaucratic red tape involved with getting access to Cannabis (and now that they own a patent- a license from the government) due to the fact that it’s still illegal in most states. If medical Cannabis were legalized, many more brilliant scientific minds would be able to study this phenomenal plant. For the millions of people who stand to benefit from Cannabis, ignoring its well evidenced potential is nothing short of criminal. When it comes to the future of Cannabis, I guess you could say: where there’s smoke there’s fire.

Sources not linked in the above article:

 

Cannabis: Gateway Drug or the Future of Medicine, Part 1

It’s a pretty polarizing topic these days. Many states are getting the opportunity to vote to legalize Cannabis or at least to allow it to be prescribed medically. The U.S. government and many in the medical field claim that it has no medical benefit that would justify its alleged potential for abuse. At the same time, stories of how people plagued with epilepsy, chronic pain, horrible nausea from cancer treatment, etc who are calling treatment with cannabis life saving are hard to ignore indeed. Cannabis researchers are announcing incredibly exciting treatment possibilities for a number of debilitating diseases. There have even been some promising trials using Cannabis to kill cancerous tumors. Amid all the clamor, well respected evangelists such as Franklin Graham have joined in on the side of the government, urging Christians to “vote against these laws that are harmful to youth, our nation, and to our future.”

But, has cannabis always had such a bad reputation, or are we just too young to remember its history? If the government truly believes that cannabis has no medical benefit, then why do they hold a patent on particular compounds included in the cannabis plant? Patent number 6,630,507. After all, the government patent states that, “…cannabinoids (some compounds in the Cannabis plant) are useful in the prevention and treatment of a wide variety of diseases including auto-immune disorders, stroke, trauma, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and HIV dementia.” The patent was awarded to the US government in 2003 based on research by the National Institute of Health.

First let’s take a look at the largely forgotten (or in the case of the younger generations- never learned) history of medical Cannabis. You may be surprised to hear that Cannabis, in fact, has a medical history that spans at least a few thousand years. To see a historical timeline of Cannabis used for medicinal purposes all over the world for at least the last few thousand years you can check out this Historical Timeline from ProCon.org. Cannabis has been utilized in the Middle East medicinally for thousands of years. It’s numerous medical uses are well documented in ancient cultures- the Arabs, Assyrians, Egyptians, Romans, Greeks, and Indians to name a few.

In the 1850’s, the medical benefits of Cannabis were widely known in the US. Doctors routinely prescribed it for neuralgia, typhus, opiate addiction, gout, convulsive disorders, among many other afflictions. Don’t you find it ironic, that historically, marijuana was used to treat opiate addiction? Fast forward to our current advanced medical age and we consider it to be a “gateway drug” while liberally prescribing synthetic opiates for pain relief.

Back in those days, there were no pharmaceutical standards to speak of when it comes to the “quality control” of medication. Doctors of ill repute (often called “snake doctors”) were known to prescribe medications that contained mostly alcohol and very little medicine. So, in 1906 Roosevelt created the FDA which required medications to be accurately labeled (yes, at one time the FDA was actually good and functioned with the benefit of the consumer in mind- I know, hard to imagine now.)

In 1913, the US government announced that it had “succeeded in growing domestic cannabis of equal quality to the Indian… “By 1918, some 60,000 pounds were being produced annually, all from pharmaceutical farms east of the Mississippi.” In the 1930’s there were actually two American pharmaceutical companies, Parke-Davis and Eli Lily, that sold marijuana extracts for use as “antispasmodics and sedatives”.

However, as this article, Medical Cannabis: The REAL reason the Government Wants to Keep it Banned for Health Impact News notes, the medications that pharmaceutical companies produce often have a “life cycle”. They produce a particular medication until the patent expires. “…then they will introduce a replacement medication, usually at a higher cost, which may or may not actually perform better than the medicine that was replaced.”

Indeed, by the mid 1930’s , almost all US states had enacted laws to regulate Cannabis and its use for medicinal purposes had declined due to the introduction of aspirin, morphine, and opium-derived drugs. In a medical hearing before Congress regarding a proposed Marijuana tax act in the late 30’s, Dr. William C. Woodward, (the legislative council for the American Medical Association) stated, “There is nothing in the medicinal use of Cannabis that has any relation to Cannabis addiction…To say, however, as has been proposed here, that the use of the drug should be prevented by a prohibitive tax, loses sight of the fact that future investigation may show that there are substantial medical uses for Cannabis.” Congress wasn’t impressed; the tax act was passed and it made possession of Cannabis criminal unless prescribed by a doctor.

So, contrary to what you may believe, medical Cannabis was legal in the US until Nixon’s war on drugs in 1970. Nixon’s IRS used the US tax code to penalize legal medical marijuana dispensaries. They were not allowed to deduct business expenses from their taxes, write off the cost of rent, payroll, or advertising, etc. The IRS effectively taxed legal dispensaries out of business. Nixon’s war on drugs focused heavily on Cannabis, associating it with recreational use and abuse only, and ignoring its long history of healing properties. When the federal drug classification system was established Cannabis was placed in schedule I, indicating that it has no medical value and is a danger to public health.

To put this in perspective, schedule II drugs are described as having high potential for abuse, yet are allowed to be prescribed medically. Examples of schedule II narcotics include hydromorphone (Dilaudid), methadone (Dolophine), meperidine (Demerol), oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet) and fentanyl (Sublimaze), morphine,opium, and codeine. You may recognize some of these if you have been prescribed pain medication following a surgical procedure or have required some type of short term pain management. You may also recognize these names from the nightly news where we are inundated with reports of prescription narcotic abuse and overdose deaths. Cannabis is listed as so much more dangerous than these drugs that its use outweighs any potential benefit. Is this true? Is Cannabis truly THAT addictive?

Not according to research or frankly according to any logical awareness of the world around you. Dr. Sanjay Gupta cites “…approximately 9% of people who use recreational cannabis will develop some level of addiction.” Alcohol has an 11% addiction rate comparatively. Cannabis has a lower rate of addiction than alcohol. Can you imagine the public outcry if the government tried to make alcohol illegal? Don’t start confusing substance abuse here, for the topic at hand. Those are two completely different animals.

Speaking of substance abuse, is Cannabis addiction as dangerous or even deadly as say, hydrocodone (which is synthetic heroine, by the way)? Think back. When is the last time you heard of someone dying from a marijuana overdose? Can’t think of any? That’s because there are literally no reported Cannabis overdose deaths. As in zero. None. Can you say the same for any of the narcotics listed as schedule II? Hardly. On the contrary, prescription narcotic abuse and overdose deaths are not A drug problem, they are THE drug problem.

So the logic the the government has going here is that Cannabis is too dangerous to be prescribed despite the mounting evidence of its amazing medicinal value- because, although it isn’t actually very addictive or particularly deadly- it leads to the abuse of other highly addictive and potential deadly drugs which incidentally are not deemed too dangerous to be prescribed. Hmmm.

What is the logic of anti- medical Cannabis Christians? Is using medical marijuana a sin? Not according to anything ever written in the Bible. Unless of course you are coming from the angle of being obedient to the laws of your government, those claiming medical Cannabis is a sin don’t have a Biblical leg to stand on. When it comes to your Christian vote not to legalize medical Cannabis on the grounds of “public safety” or “my body is a temple” or because an evangelical like Franklin Graham is anti medical Cannabis, I’m afraid the hypocrisy is too thick for me to navigate.

The same Christian who would be horrified to be prescribed Cannabis or a Cannabis derivative would demand their Percocet or Dilaudid to relieve pain after surgery. Even though, ironically, from a “body is a temple” stand point- medical Cannabis does not have anywhere near the toxicity or the harmful side effects of any legally prescribed synthetic pain killer.

The Bible cautions against excess or abuse. It does not designate specific substances as “sinful”. If you have no moral issue with taking a narcotic post surgery, you should have no moral issue with someone using Cannabis for medical purposes.

The same Christian who would condemn a medical marijuana user because of the government given stigma, will regularly engage in gluttony or survive off of a processed and fast food diet without batting an eyelash. For the record, I have a lot of respect for Franklin Graham- but he has no medical expertise that I’m aware of. Has he personally researched or discussed the benefits of medical Cannabis with anyone qualified to advise him? I’ve never seen him claim that he has. Therefore, his opinion of the medical value of Cannabis doesn’t even register on my radar. In fact, I find it to be quite a hypocritical stance since I do not find him campaigning to make highly addictive prescription narcotics illegal due to their devastating effects on our youth.

I mentioned previously that our government currently holds a patent to certain compounds of the Cannabis plant for specific medical uses. A cursory knowledge of patent law lends a transparency to the motives of our government and shockingly- it isn’t public safety. According to Douglas Sorocco, a biochemist and intellectual property lawyer in Oklahoma, “If a composition exists in nature, it is not patentable according to the Supreme Court unless it has somehow been changed or manipulated by the hand of man.” If the government can’t hold a patent- they can’t make money from it. The National Institutes of Health (a government entity), also known as NIH, then advertises patents (such as those related to cannabinoids) as available for licensing. The NIH then grants licenses to certain companies to develop these synthetic cannabinoids. Mark Rohrbaugh, special advisor for technology transfer at the NIH describes it this way, “It’s like a piece of land. You wouldn’t build a million-dollar house on a piece of land you wouldn’t have some title to.”

And- there you have it. Exactly what is going on now with respect to Cannabis research in the US. A prime example is Kannalife, who according to their website hold the “first two licenses awarded to develop and commercialize drug treatments under the US government’s only cannabinoid patent.” Check out their glowing description of their synthesized Cannabinoids to treat two neurological diseases caused by none other than damage to the liver from alcohol and prescription pill abuse.

Back to history…While the US black balled medical Cannabis in favor of more lucrative synthetic pharmaceutical options, an Israeli doctor- Dr. Raphael Michoulam- was making groundbreaking medical discoveries with it in his home country of Israel. In Part 2 of this article, we’ll talk about Dr. Michoulam’s amazing discoveries and their implications for those who suffer from conditions that our medical community can currently offer no hope.

Obamacare, RINOs, The Freedom Caucus, and Broken Promises

Well, it’s been a fun week in politics. Democrats are in a decidedly celebratory mood. Republicans, however, are all over the map. Some are furious that the Freedom Caucus stood in the way of “incremental progress”. Others (in my opinion, those of us that “get it”) are relieved that Ryan’s bill, which somehow managed to be even worse than Obamacare (quite an accomplishment) was declared DOA. Some that were happy to see the bill fail, are still trying to give Trump the benefit of the doubt when it comes to his support ( and let’s just admit it- bullying tactics) for Ryan’s boondoggle. Still others (raising my hand in this category also) aren’t cutting Trump any slack.

Here you have it- a Congressional week in pictures:

We’re going to repeal and replace Obamacare!

Ryan’s bill is offered…

Freedom Caucus Responds, Part one:

Freedom Caucus Responds, Part two:

RINO’s and Trump demand Congress back this bill or be stuck with Obamacare…

So, the Freedom Caucus Says:

But, why was the Freedom Caucus so stubborn? To understand that, you need to understand how Obamacare works.

One of the main goals of Obamacare was to ensure that individuals with pre-existing conditions would be covered by insurance. Of course, that sounds wonderful.  But immediately you are faced with the question of how to force insurance companies to agree to take on customers that they already know they are going to lose big $$$ on.

There is only one answer- you must force the insurance companies to insure these people. But this demand creates another problem. If insurance companies are forced to cover those with pre-existing conditions, they’ll just charge a bazillion dollars for the policies. So, we’d still be in the same boat. These people would have “access” to coverage, but not the financial ability to purchase it.

To fix this problem, Obamacare included what is called the community rating system. The community rating system forces insurance companies to charge everyone basically the same price for insurance (with very little leeway).

Do you see what problem this causes? If insurance companies are forced to insure everyone for roughly the same price, pre-existing conditions or not, why would anyone bother to buy insurance at all until you need to use it?

This would inevitably lead to what is called the “death spiral”. Most people don’t purchase insurance until they need to use it, so premiums have to rise to astronomical levels for insurance companies to remain solvent. Eventually, all insurance companies would fail.

Enter Obamacare’s individual mandate which levies a hefty penalty tax to people who don’t purchase insurance. The plan was to avoid the death spiral by forcing people to join the insurance pool, which would theoretically keep premium prices at an acceptable level.

The problem is- it didn’t work. Even with the government literally forcing people (to the best of their ability) into the insurance pool- they still didn’t get enough healthy people “into the pool” to pick up the financial slack. Insurance companies are failing left and right. Huge amounts of people are experiencing premium increases so large and policies that are so worthless that they can no longer afford to be insured. As Nathan Keeble puts in in his article for fee.org, “…government interventions necessitate more and more interventions to fix the problems they create.”

As you can see, just the elementary aspects of the bill we have discussed are so intertwined that if you remove one element, the whole shebang falls apart. It’s like a really complicated clock with a million gears, that has always kept horrible time (but at least you still know maybe what day it is), however when you open it to see what’s wrong, all the tiny parts explode into a useless mess. You could try to have an expert fix it. But why bother since it was crap to begin with?

So, what did Ryan put on the table to fix this debacle? Well, Ryan’s bill kept the requirements for pre-existing conditions and community ratings, but did away with the features that were necessary to fund the boondoggle in the first place- the mandate. To offset this devastating loss of funds, he inserted the 30% mandatory penalty that individuals have to pay to purchase insurance if they have previously been uninsured for a long period of time.

Obviously, if the individual mandate was insufficient to fund Obamacare in the first place, this little penalty would be like trying to put out a fire by spitting on it.

But that didn’t keep Trump and the RINO’s from claiming that this was the “first step” in a progressive repeal processs. Give me a break! The only thing this bill would have accomplished is a still failing health care system- this time with a Republican stamp on it.

The most eye roll inducing thing I’ve seen since the bill’s failure, is Trump denying his campaign promises regarding the full repeal of Obamacare:

https://www.facebook.com/NowThisPolitics/videos/1498673280164157/

I’ve seen lots of theories from conservatives regarding why Trump would push this bill ranging from “he just really needs this resolved to move on to tax reform” all the way to “he was allowing Ryan to hang himself from his own noose.” Obviously, not getting all the saved $$$ from health care reform poses a real issue for his plans for tax reform. Of course, only time will tell. But in the meantime, Trump continues to vilify himself via Twitter:

Donald J. Trump‏Verified account @realDonaldTrump

The irony is that the Freedom Caucus, which is very pro-life and against Planned Parenthood, allows P.P. to continue if they stop this plan!

  • Retweets 13,021
  • Likes 59,497
  • Mimi Hannigan Joe gervasi Susan Brittain Starlos Sharon Erwin Karim Graidi Joseph Hunt VENUGOPALAN ELAMANA Lorna Muhlbach

5:23 AM – 24 Mar 2017

Don’t get me wrong, in my opinion, Trump was the only choice in this election and I’d vote for him again under the same circumstances. With that being said, I’m not cutting him any slack either.

Trump has guts, I’ll give him that, but I don’t know if any human being has the guts or the ability to do what actually needs to be done when it comes to health care because so many people are convinced that a completely “fair” system exists if only the selfish “over privileged” Americans would just step up and fund it. Of course, they list various foreign countries as proof that it can be done. But if these same individuals would take the time to research these countries to see what they do to make universal health care possible, they would realize that these countries pay a whole heck of a lot for that health care- it just comes in other forms. If you’d like to borrow my research on Denmark to get an idea what I’m talking about, you can check out my blog post, The US Could Learn a Thing or Two From Denmark.

Sadly, as has become the norm, most of these individual’s want all the “benefits” with none of the cost. The “something for nothing” generation.