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Medical Marijuana Continues to Gain Support

If you listen carefully and pull tight your tinfoil hat, chances are you may believe Cheech and Chong are running amuck, sprinkling weed seeds across the United States. Fact is: Marijuana is becoming a hot topic for medicinal use – not strictly for recreational purposes, as many purports.

The results of an October 2018 Pew Research Center survey showed that 62% of American surveyed said marijuana should be legalized. These findings reflect a steady increase during the past decade. (In 2000, the number was 31%.) (1)

As public support continues to grow, several states have legalized marijuana for medical or recreational purposes. During the 2018 midterm elections, Michigan became the 10th state to legalize marijuana for adults. Missouri and Utah also passed legalizing medical marijuana.

Recreational marijuana is legal in 10 states. More importantly, 33 states now have legal access to medical marijuana.

To wit, in October 2018, Canada legalized marijuana, and Mexico’s supreme court ruled marijuana prohibition was unconstitutional. It is reasonable to deduce Mexico will be looking for a seat on the bandwagon. … If you’re a cancer patient, the times they are a-changing.

Weed by any other name

There are important distinctions when discussing hemp, marijuana, and cannabis. They are not interchangeable.

Under U.S. law, cannabis is the plant. Hemp and marijuana are parts of the plant:

  • Hemp — sterilized roots, seeds, stalks, and stems of the cannabis plant.
  • Marijuana – viable flowers, leaves, and seeds of the cannabis plant.

According to CBD Web: (2)

When one refers to marijuana … they are referring to the leaves and flowering portions of the plant that contain many cannabinoids, which have both mental and physical effects on the human body when ingested. Marijuana with these effects is produced on cannabis plants with greater than 0.3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the principal psychoactive portion of the plant.

Hemp comes from cannabis plants with less than 0.3 percent THC. The cultivation of the crop for fiber can be traced back as far as 2800 BC. Hemp fiber is durable and extremely strong and viable for many uses, including artificial sponges, burlap, cable, canvas, linens and clothing, paper, rope, twine, string, and yarn.

Most cancer patients are not so much interested in THC as they are cannabidiol (CBD). Both THC and CBD are cannabinoids and derived from the cannabis plant, but they’re different in many ways.

(And yes, to the layperson it’s easy to confuse “cannabis,” “cannabinoids,” “cannabidiol,” and “tetrahydrocannabinol.”)

THC is the chemical compound responsible for the euphoric “high” most commonly associated with marijuana. However, CBD is compound proven to have significant medical benefits. (Also, CBD does not make people feel “high” and actually can counteract the psychoactivity of THC.)

In 2016, research by Sindiswa T. Lukhele and Lesetja R. Motadi from the Department of Biochemistry at North-West University (Mafikeng campus) in South Africa showed that “that cannabidiol rather than Cannabis sativa crude extracts prevent cell growth and induce cell death in cervical cancer cell lines.” (3)

The data from Lukhele and Motadi came on the heels of a 2012 study that determined, “Collectively, the non-psychoactive plant-derived cannabinoid CBD exhibits pro-apoptotic and anti-proliferative actions in different types of tumours and may also exert anti-migratory, anti-invasive, anti-metastatic and perhaps anti-angiogenic properties. On the basis of these results, the evidence is emerging to suggest that CBD is a potent inhibitor of both cancer growth and spread.” (4)

Yes, you read that correctly. The evidence shows “the non-psychoactive plant-derived cannabinoid CBD … is a potent inhibitor of both cancer growth and spread.”

Nature cannot be patented

With clear evidence that CBD is effective in combating the growth and spread of cancer, you may be asking yourself: Why isn’t it readily available? … Well, to be blunt: Pharmaceutical companies cannot patent nature.

CBD is a focus in the ongoing development of new man-made drugs. CBD has a broad spectrum of action because it acts through endocannabinoid receptors. For this reason, and its effects with other receptors, cannabidiol has value because of its neuroprotective and immunomodulatory properties. CBD therapeutic uses include as an analgesic, an anti-inflammatory, and for fighting Alzheimer’s disease.

Now, we’re not breaking out the tinfoil (yet), but you can understand where rational people may draw the conclusion that Big Pharma would instead treat cancer rather than “cure” cancer. After all, pharmaceutical companies have spent a lot of money developing cancer-related drugs.

If a natural compound (cannabidiol) from a natural plant (cannabis) can inhibit the growth and spread of cancer, the theory is that it’s best left up to the government to oversee (limit) the availability of CBD. Why? Because Big Pharma spends a lot of money lobbying to protect its drugs and their monetary prowess in the “war on cancer.”

According to spending amounts compiled by OpenSecrets.org, the pharmaceutical/health sector doled out more than $2.4 billion between 2009-18 lobbying members of Congress:

  • 2018 – $216,134,421
  • 2017 – $279,884,983
  • 2016 – $247,278,814
  • 2015 – $240,291,911
  • 2014 – $229,051,238
  • 2013 – $227,265,918
  • 2012 – $234,554,253
  • 2011 – $240,521,507
  • 2010 – $245,751,220
  • 2009 – $271,724,917

Nonetheless, research continues on the efficacy of cannabidiol in treating cancer. As data continues to accumulate, expect more states to enact laws to bring this treatment to its citizens.

 

Citations:

(1) Hannah Hartig, Abigail Geiger. About six-in-ten Americans support marijuana legalization. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/10/08/americans-support-marijuana-legalization/

(2) Hemp vs. Marijuana vs. Cannabis: What’s the difference? https://www.cbdweb.org/medical-cannabis-guide/hemp-vs-marijuana-vs-cannabis

(3) Sindiswa T. Lukhele and Lesetja R. Motadi. Cannabidiol rather than Cannabis sativa extracts inhibit cell growth and induce apoptosis in cervical cancer cells. doi: 10.1186/s12906-016-1280-0 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27586579

(4) Paola Massi, Marta Solinas, Valentina Cinquina, and Daniela Parolaro. Cannabidiol as potential anticancer drug. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2125.2012.04298.x https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3579246/