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There is a pitched battle going on between traditional pharma industry and the Arizona Medical Marijuana industry regarding the medical benefits and risks of using the plant as a medicine. The traditional pharma community sees the promise of pharmaceuticals developed from the plant, but has put forward the argument that the risks of using the whole plant outweigh the limited benefits they believe possible with a plant that has a stew of hundreds of chemicals. That their financial interests line up with this position must be a coincidence, no?
Let’s start with what makes the marijuana plant so popular and controlled at the same time: its ability to cause intoxication. These mechanisms appear to be well understood,
“ The most common MMJ receptors (places in the brain that components of marijuana adhere to) concentrate in specific brain areas that govern pleasure, movement, learning and memory, and pain, including the frontal cortex, basal ganglia, hippo-campus, and cerebellum.”
But is there any scientific basis for marijuana having any effects other than those listed above? The answer turns out to be an emphatic yes, but that promise has been overshadowed by the negative publicity and misinformation coming from the government and private opposition.
The research history of marijuana is surprisingly short. Most of the work has come in the last 20 years, “ Not until 1990 was the cannabinoid receptor with which THC interacts, CB1, cloned, and it was 1992 before (natural THC) was discovered. Since then, an additional cannabinoid receptor, CB2, has been identified, and the 2 receptors have been found to have disparate distributions and functions as a physiologic modulator not only of the central nervous system but also of the autonomic nervous system, immune system, gastrointestinal tract, reproductive system, cardiovascular system, and endocrine network.”
This, as they used to say, is a whole different animal. To translate – the human body uses natural substances similar to the chemicals in marijuana in many key body processes – and that means that marijuana has the potential to aid in illnesses in any of those human systems listed above, which is, basically, much of the human body. Marijuana may indeed turn out to be a miracle plant that becomes the key source of new medicines with few side effects developed by pharma in coming years.
UNFOUNDED ATTACKS AGAINST MEDICAL MARIJUANA:
With all of these possible areas of positive effect, you might think that the scientific community would be rallying around the use of medical marijuana as an adjunct or replacement for traditional therapy, at least until refined drugs can be developed. Especially since there is no risk of death using marijuana, compared to any other drug that at some level is poisonous, even aspirin. Wrong.
Instead, the scientific community is mostly concerning itself with possible negative effects in a small group of people – those vulnerable to mental illness.
Being trained as a statistician myself, I can assure you there are no studies that show that marijuana is harmful to mental health, no matter how many times that lie is repeated. What the studies do show is that there is a strong statistical correlation between early marijuana use and subsequent development of schizophrenia. Pharma has chosen to push the interpretation that the marijuana use caused the schizophrenia – but an equally valid explanation that fits the data is that the person is self-medicating early symptoms of the illness prior to a formal diagnosis.
The only research that has been done to answer this question looked at the whole country of Australia over a 30 year period and found absolutely no increase in schizophrenia as marijuana use skyrocketed. So pharma has a huge study showing no cause and effect, no bad results from marijuana, but have minimized this definitive study while continuing to try to prove the opposite. Mmmmm.
It is time for big pharma to let go of it’s attempt to have a strangle hold on the medical bounty locked up in the marijuana plant – both the medical marijuana and pharma industries have a part to play in turning the promise in the plant into medical solutions for patients.
To read Gerald’s other blogs on UnitedPatientsGroup.com:
The Tau of Marijuana