Cannabinoids: The Marijuana Miracle Medicine

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With protections for VA medical marijuana patients now secured by VHA DIRECTIVE 2010-035, some are wondering why the DEA continues to treat marijuana as a Schedule I drug.

And what — if any —  is the significance of the Directive in light of last year’s federal policy announcement ending raids on Cannabis clinics in those 14 states that allow doctors to prescribe medical marijuana?

According to Al Byrne, Chief Operating Officer of Patients Out of Time, it means that the federal consensus against medical marijuana is about to collapse.

In an interview with this reporter, Byrne said that the biological importance of endo-cannabinoids in the human body are only now becoming known. For Byrne, new research is driving the bid to reschedule Marijuana.

“There are more cannabinoid receptors in the brain and vital organs than any other receptor,” Bryne said. “The big discovery is that the human body is filled with cannabinoid receptors.”

Personal opinions about the drug war not withstanding, the human body and Cannabis are matched not just by nature, but by choice: human use and consumption of the Cannabis plant is literally pre-historic.

In his review of the History of Cannabis in the journal Chemistry & Biodiversity, Ethan B. Russo, M.D., writes that:

Cannabis sativa L. is possibly one of the oldest plants cultivated by man…. [T]his most versatile botanical has provided a mirror to medicine and has pointed the way in the last two decades toward a host of medical challenges from analgesia to weight loss through the discovery of its myriad biochemical attributes and the endocannabinoid system wherein many of its components operate.”

It is arguable that medicinal use of Cannabis was known long before the age of writing. Ancient Egyptian Papyrus artifacts document numerous Cannabis  recipes for sundry human ills, from inflammation to pain control.

Russo cites a translation of a recipe published in the Fayyum Medical Book, originally written in an Egyptian Demotic script. The document represents a Cannabis-based remedy from the 6th century BC:

To stop tumors: extract of herbs, papyrus, sap of the hur-tree, lotus leaf, cannabis, heated with sweet clover

Modern science has confirmed the folk remedies of ancient Egypt: a study is available today showing that a Cannabis extract inhibits blood vessels that feed brain tumors, thus causing the tumors to shrink.

In another study, Cannabis was found to Reduce Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Tumor Growth.

And of course a famed Harvard study released in 2007 showed that THC — the well-known psychoactive molecule produced by the cannabis plant — cuts lung cancer growth in half, and stops its spread.

The human body actually produces its own endocannabinoids for use in the regulation of various organs. For this reason alone, the medical value of Cannabis may eventually be applied to many other physical ailments.

What happens when the body cannot produce enough cannabinoids of its own?

“It’s called ‘cannabinoid deficiency’,” said Al Byrne.

Could craving for cannabinoids may be a symptom of Cannabinoid Deficiency Syndrome? Certainly patients who have a wasting disease are cannabinoid deficient — which might explain why these patients are helped by ingesting marijuana.

Byrne said the interest in Cannabis medicine among medical professionals was growing. “In 2003, the American Nurses Association passed a resolution saying that Nurses should educate themselves about the medical value of Cannabis.”

Byrne pointed out the Marinol — a synthetic form of THC — was listed under Schedule III, while Cannabis — the natural source of THC — is still listed as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act.

“How can THC have medical value as a pill, but not as a plant?” said Byrne. “And why are we taking medical advice from drug enforcement agents instead of doctors?”

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