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NIH "research" on Medical Marijuana : objectivity or kangaroo court?

Stephan Anagnostaras stephan at ucla.edu
Mon Feb 3 04:01:08 EST 1997

In article <5d1rla$glo at clark.zippo.com>, Tommy the Terrorist
<mayday at super.zippo.com> wrote:

> In article <moo-0102971106520001 at sl16.midtown.net> Bryan Cowan,
> moo at midtown.net writes:
> >Have you noticed that all requests for research into medical marijuana,
> >even by private institutions using federal funding, are either refused or
> >not funded? And then the feds have the chutzpah to say there's *not enough
> >evidence* to support legalizing marijuana for medical use. Further proof
> >that the state is the enemy of personal freedom.
>    What I find particularly ironic - and frustrating - is that I have
> read that the whole reason for using "medical marijuana", rather than
> Marinol, is that the patients report that crude herbal marijuana *works*
> better than Marinol.  Marinol, supposedly, gets them "super high" (it is
> the most psychoactive single chemical in Cannabis, after all), but
> doesn't really solve their symptoms.
>    The significance of this, obviously, is that if those reports are
> accurate, then there must be something ELSE in marijuana that has a
> BETTER effect for appetite stimulation / nausea relief, but which is LESS
> effective as a recreational drug.  If I had to take a wild guess, I'd say
> there should be another cannabinoid receptor or isoform thereof, which is
> specific to gastrointestinal nervous tissue and/or appetite-related
> processing in the brain, but which would have somewhat different ligand
> specificity, causing it to be optimally activated by other cannabis
> alkaloids similar to but not the same as THC.

Unfortunately life is not that simple. The fact that smoked marijuana
works better than marinol (at least messes you up less) probably
has to do with the route of administration.  However, this does not mean
that marijuana is better medicine than marinol.  In fact, smoked marijuana
could NEVER be approved as a medicine by the FDA, nor for that matter
could anything else smoked in a big carbon ash like that, simply
because it contains all kinds of carcinogens. So if Bayer came out
with a natural smoked aspirin that worked better than regular
aspirin and didn't give you heartburn it wouldn't matter EITHER,
since it would never be approved.

Now, I'm not saying that cancer patients or aids pateints shouldn't
get this drug in any form they please -- well, it is common practice
to give these patients all kinds of medicines that are harmful to
them (like chemotherapy... or protease inhibitors), but marinol
or another synthetic THC could have value in pain control for all
kinds of people (like... patients with bowel disease, post-surgical
anesthesia, etc.) for which smoked marijuana has too many negative
long-term consequences.  I'm not saying that I think smoking a joint
here or there is likely to give you cancer, but a chronic pain patient
is in the situatin where they are taking the drug often every day,
in which the marijuana risk would be quite high, since it contains
more potent carcinogens than tobacco -- this is fine for someone
who is already terminally ill, but not for other pain patients.  Believe
it or not, there are lots of people in chronic pain who can benefit
from marinol but who shouldn't be smoking marijuana all day long.

Unfortunately, it's not like you couldn't develop something analogous,
like an inhaler, I guess.  Then again, there is no guarantee it would work.

By the way, I should mention that the effects of marinol are very
similar to the effects reported by people who use high-strength
microwave brownies, a strong buzzy high that goes in and out.  This makes
sense in terms of the route of administration.


>    Whoever first jumps the gun, gets the go-ahead from the authorities,
> and starts doing the research on which fractions of crude cannabis
> extract work best on live patients for nausea relief, is probably going
> to get a very lucrative patent on a drug with widespread and
> much-appreciated usefulness, even for people who don't want to be "high".
>  But the cannabis advocates who have worked so long and hard to try to
> get such experiments allowed?  I doubt they'll even get an early parole.

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