Cannabis as a Harm Reduction Substitute - by David Bearman, MD
In Santa Barbara in a November 2010 initiative neo prohibitionists tried to ban medicinal cannabis dispensaries. One of their arguments was that somehow cannabis interferes with substance abuse treatment. They argued that somehow having a dispensary near a substance abuse treatment center would adversely affect that treatment. Not only did they lose the election (Only 39% of the electorate supported their ban) but it turns out that not only does cannabis not interfere with drug abuse treatment but that for many patients it is a harm reduction substitute.
Science tells us that the medical use of cannabis did not compromise the results of patients in substance abuse treatment.
In a pilot study reported in the July 2010 Harm Reduction Journal and the Newsletter of the International Association of Cannabis Medicine, California researchers investigated the effects of the medical use of cannabis on the outcome of people participating in substance abuse treatment. Their study, demonstrates that questions about the relationship between medical marijuana use and involvement in drug treatment can be systematically evaluated.
They found that, “Cannabis use did not seem to compromise substance abuse treatment among those who used cannabis for medicinal purposes. They fared equal to or better than non-medical cannabis users in several important outcome categories, e.g., treatment completion and criminal justice involvement”.
The authors of that study concluded that their exploratory study suggests that medical use of cannabis is consistent with participation in conventional forms of drug treatment and may not adversely affect positive treatment outcomes” and that “a justification can be made for medical marijuana in addictions treatment as a harm reduction practice.”
The late Dr. Tod Mikuriya, psychiatrist, medicinal cannabis pioneer, former NIMH bureaucrat in charge of marijuana research, and scapegoat of General McCaffrey and the MBC, has long stated that cannabis was a harm reduction substance. Many of us in the field of cannabinoid medicine have found this to be true. The anecdotal evidence is clearly that many substance abusers benefit from the medicinal use of cannabis. Collectively, those of us in the field of cannabinoid medicine have many patients who no longer use alcohol, cocaine and/or heroin which they ascribe to their therapeutic use of cannabis. This study confirms our practice observations.
Scientific Studies Prove Former Drug Czar Wrong
In 1997, then Drug Czar General Barry McCaffrey ridiculed a list of medical uses by Dr. Tod Mikuriya (former NIMH staffer in charge of marijuana research). McCaffrey, not a doctor, and with no formal medical training, suggested that Mikuriya’s list was absurd. He called it Cheech & Chong medicine.
Well, don’t look now but maybe we should confer honorary MD degrees on Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong because cannabis and cannabis derived medicine, is legally used as a medicine in 15 U.S. States, Canada, Great Britain, Spain and New Zealand. Tincture of cannabis (liquid marijuana) is being distributed by Bayer in Canada and Great Britain, Amirall in Spain and by Otsuka Pharmaceuticals in New Zealand. The EU has approved Sativex for release in six more countries and Novartis pharmaceuticals has purchased the distribution rights to much of Asia. It turns out that Mikuriya was way ahead of his time.
Cannabis has Enormous Therapeutic Potential
In addition to its harm reduction capabilities, researchers have shown that cannabis is neuroprotective, an analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anti-epileptic, anti-cancer, anti-spasmatic, anti-depressant, anti-oxidant. It also contributes to retrograde inhibition. Retrograde inhibition slows the speed of neurotransmission. It no doubt contributes to cannabis anti epileptic and anti migraine effect and is likely responsible for the beneficial effects of cannabis in relieving many of the symptoms of Crohn’s disease.
Several of the Cannabinoids, including THC, CBD, THCA, and CBG have therapeutic value. In fact CBD, an anti-euphoriant, is patented by the US government. Scientists have found that many of the terpenes, the chemicals that give the plant it’s distinctive odor, act in concert with the Cannabinoids, the so-called entourage effect, to enhance cannabis’ therapeutic utility. It is well past time to stop shouting the sky is falling, for the federal government to join the modern scientific world and recognize the medical benefits of cannabis.
If and when we come to our senses and return to the situation that existed before 1942, an accepted legal status of cannabis and hemp, we will not only provide improved access to a proven medicine with relatively few side effects, but we will give our economy a real boost. Strangely, even though the economic potential for the full medicinal use of cannabis as a medicinal is enormous, its potential favorable impact on the economy pales in comparison to the tremendous economic potential of hemp. Were it not for hemp's competitiveness to the petrochemical industry, it is doubtful that Lamont DuPont would have spent so much time and effort getting the Marijuana Tax Act written, passed and signed into law.
We know from the testimony of Dr. William Woodward, chief legal counsel of the AMA, against the marijuana tax act that there was no governmental evidence that cannabis was harmful. Woodward had checked with the Children’s Bureau, the Bureau of Prisons, the Indian Bureau, the Office of Education, the Public Health Service Division of Mental Hygiene and the Division of Pharmacy. He not only noted that they had no data to support the outrageous allegations of the first head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, Harry Anslinger, but he questioned the knowledge and accuracy of several who spoke in support of the bill.
Lastly Dr. Woodward accused the government of spending two years secretly preparing the legislation. Not once did they ask for AMA input or even bring the bill to the attention of the AMA. This was even though, according to his testimony, Dr. Woodward had been at the BNDD more than ten times in that two year period. It is clear even to the casual reader of history that the Marijuana Tax Act had nothing to do with marijuana and health and everything to do with hemp and commerce.
Who's Who in Medical Cannabis - Dr. Mollie Fry and Dale Schafer - by c.a. riley
Nearly 10 years ago, on a bright September morning in 2001, Dr Marion “Mollie” Fry was on her way to her medical office in Cool, California when she was suddenly pulled over and arrested by El Dorado County Sheriff's deputies.
Meanwhile, back at the home Dr Fry shares with her husband, attorney Dale Schafer and their children, more deputies arrived and took Schafer into custody as he was wantonly preparing breakfast for the kids.
After putting these dangerous and unpredictable felons into handcuffs, the deputies delivered them to federal agents who gave them a free ride to the Federal Courthouse up in Sacramento. Here, both faced charges of cultivating and dispensing medical marijuana—which was perfectly legal under the laws of the state of California, but, inexplicably, illegal under federal law.
Thus, Fry and Schafer made history by being among the very first medical cannabis providers raided by the most recent—and hopefully, last—Bush Administration. (It’s a good thing this happened because federal agents apparently had run out of things to do since the massive terroristic attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon two weeks earlier.)
Our heroes were not (successfully) indicted until nearly five years later, in June, 2005, following the Supreme Court’s reversal of the Raich decision (Raich v. Gonzales)*. Upon hearing the verdict Schafer prudently stopped growing and providing cannabis to patients.
From their arrest in September, 2001 until the Raich decision in June, 2005, the couple continued working with patients: Dr Fry conducted medical cannabis consultations while Schafer grew and processed a modest amount of cannabis for the patients. During this time, Fry and, especially, Schafer worked closely with local officials to maintain compliance with all applicable laws.
In addition to providing medical cannabis consultations and recommendations, both Fry and Schafer are patients themselves: Dr. Fry is a breast cancer survivor and Schafer struggles with hemophilia and failed back syndrome. Both have found cannabis therapy to provide dependable relief.
In August, 2007 the couple was tried on federal charges in a three-week jury trial which ended with their convictions. Infuriatingly, after their years of close cooperation with authorities at state and local levels this couple, like Ed Rosenthal in 2003, was not allowed to present a medical defense.
In March, 2008, under the mandatory minimums law, Fry and Schafer were each sentenced to serve 60 months (5 years) in federal prison, but were allowed to remain free on bond pending appeal.
Last November, the federal government filed a motion to revoke the couple’s bond and they were ordered to surrender to federal authorities at 2pm, May 2 to begin serving their sentences.
“The Fry-Schafer case is a perfect exhibit in the argument for legalizing marijuana. With the challenges facing the nation today, it is absurd that the federal government is spending its time and our dollars raiding, arresting and prosecuting individuals for activities deemed legal under state law. Do they not have better things to do? Prohibition is creating victims needlessly, and not protecting anyone from anything.” ~Gary Johnson, 2012 Presidential Candidate
“The Court said that federal law enforcement officials can prosecute medical marijuana patients, even if they grew their own medicine and even if they reside in a state where medical marijuana use is protected under state law. The Court indicated that Congress and the Food and Drug Administration should work to resolve this issue.
The decision does not say that the laws of California (or any other medical marijuana state) are unconstitutional; it does not invalidate them in any way. Also, it does not say that federal officials must prosecute patients. . . . Decisions about prosecution are still left to the discretion of the federal government.”
Featured Recipe - Cajun Chaos by Jay R. Cavanaugh, Ph.D.
in the Series of:
Your author had the
pleasure of living upside the River in New Orleans while working on
his doctorate in biochemistry. By the way, biochemistry is just like
cooking only with lots of math.
My years in
New Orleans (NAwlins) impressed upon me the wonders of cooking
with a kick. As always with Cajun recipes, lots of substitutions are
possible. Cajuns cook whatever is fresh and find really creative ways
to use leftovers. They are creative and frugal.
Notes on Cajun
Rice - A staple of Louisiana cooking. The State is
second only to California in rice production. I prefer the short grain
fluffy white rice, lightly steamed. In future recipes Ill share
the secrets of dirty rice.
Most of us
in the South had Teflon coated rice cookers, which make perfect rice
all of the time. Rice blends with many Cajun and Creole ingredients
better than other starches such as potatoes.
Andouille - (An-doo-ee)- This smoked ham sausage from
Louisiana is wonderfully spiced and leaner than typical pork sausage.
It is firm and wont fall apart. A little goes a long way. Get
the best you can find, its worth it. Andouille can be a main spice
in many dishes from red beans (gads they are good) to Cajun Chaos.
Heat - The pepper compliment to Cajun food. Traditionally,
cayenne pepper is used but modern Louisiana cooking employs many other
peppers for both heat and flavor ranging from cracked black pepper to
fresh and dried chili from a variety of sources. For lazy Cajun cooks
like myself we just make up an essence (yes, Emerils
is good but later Ill show you how to make your own and save $$$).
Or use a jug of Crystal hot sauce (some prefer the
aged Tabasco sauce from the beautiful McHinnery factory in the bayou).
I love to use fresh vine ripened red Serrano peppers or dry flaked New
Trio - Chopped bell pepper, onions, and garlic. Oh
buddy. Go fresh, it makes a difference. I love Maui onions (which are
actually Texas yellows) and/or fresh shallots, red bell pepper (yellow
are even better), and loads of garlic. When the holy trio is married
to chili pepper the union is guaranteed to light up all of your taste
buds. Oh quit worrying about your breath. With all of the cannabis and
wine in this recipe everyone at the table will be far too baked to notice.
OK, here we go.
Rice - One cup
to two and one half cups of water- Steam till tender. Note: do not overcook
or allow to dry out. Just cook and set aside warm.
½ to 1 pound
Two large shallots -
of garlic - minced
One bunch of
spring onions (green onions) - chopped
3 medium zucchinis -
1 bell pepper -
½ cup red wine
(good Port if you have it)
1 large can
of crushed tomatoes or 4 large tomatoes finely chopped
New Mexico dried chili or two diced Serrano peppers
of you utterly out of your minds you may add 2 drops of Daves
Insanity sauce-from Habeneros)
Juice of one
1 bay leaf
(dont forget to fish it out at the end!)
cracked black pepper
4 tablespooons bud butter 1-tablespoon
Brown the Andouille
in a hot skillet with a minimum of olive oil-set aside on a paper towel
to cool and drain
skillet with the port wine, bring to heat and sauté the shallots and
and bring back to heat. Add spices and lemon juice. Cut the Andouille
into chunks, add and simmer covered for ten minutes. Add the zucchini,
green onions, and bell pepper and simmer covered for another 10-15 minutes
or until the zucchini is tender. Add (finish) the sauce by adding the
bud butter during the last five minutes
Garnish with a pinch of Romano cheese and powdered bud. Serve steaming over rice
Recommended wine: Any big red wine (I prefer Kendall-Jackson Cabernet)