Over the course of the past couple of years I have been approached to give my official opinion on the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Somehow the conversation always turns to legalizing it altogether.
I have remained reliably quiet on the subject because I feel I have an obligation as a lung cancer survivor and founder of the GFLCCO to approach the matter cautiously and therefore I avoid the matter publicly as much as possible. But the question keeps surfacing and I thought it time to take a serious look at the subject.
My hesitation to give an opinion fell upon my lack of knowledge as to the health effects in relation to the lungs and respiratory system of the average marijuana smoker.
So I called upon the people who know these things and asked for research material and data so that I could educate myself with the actual health concerns.
What I am prepared to present to you is a brief history of marijuana, the legal issues, the health impact, the financial ramifications, social impact and where the true opposition can be found. Keep in mind that I write based on facts from scientific research but also marinated overnight in my opinions and maybe some hazy memories from days gone by.
So, plug in your lava lights, fluff up your beanbag chair and prepare the munchies and if you can not read with an open mind, I suggest maybe you wait for the movie. Let's take a little walk on the wild side shall we?
First a quick definition of what we are talking about. The plant that produces marijuana, as is well known, is the hemp plant, cannabis sativa. The pharmacologically active ingredient in marijuana is tetra-hydro-cannabin. (THC). THC is what provides the euphoric effects which include a heightened perception as well as mood altering and relaxation qualities that makes marijuana the worlds choice of recreational drug and the second most broadly smoked substance worldwide with an estimated 166 million users. The number one smoked substance of course being tobacco.
It is estimated that about 30% of adults in the US use marijuana.
Now let me give you the Readers digest history lesson of Marijuana.
Marijuana has been used by people from around the world for thousands of years. From 7000 to 8000 BC, fabric and rope were woven from hemp.
China notes usage of hemp for food as early as 6000 BC and began growing the plant on a large scale for food, fabric and to treat a wide variety of health issues as early at 2750 BC.
Scythian tribes were using hemp for clothing, and medicine as well as leaving it as offers in Royal tombs around 1500 BC.
In 1200 BC cannabis became known as one of the five sacred plants of India.
900 BC it's found in the Middle East, In 500 BC it's found through Europe.
I do not have exact dates on when marijuana use became part of rituals in the Native American, Mayan or Incan cultures, but I would imagine it falls somewhere on our brief timeline.
I can tell you that in 1492 a blurry-eyed Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue. Looking for the New World and a box of Twinkies and bringing cannabis to the East coast of North America.
In 1619 a law was passed in Jamestown, Virginia requiring farmers to grow hemp.
George Washington grew hemp as his primary crop at Mount Vernon in 1797 and Thomas Jefferson grown it as a secondary crop at Monticello.
By the late 1800, Turkish smoking parlors were all over the Eastern United States.
In 1908 Henry Ford produced the first model T fueled by … yep you guessed it, hemp ethanol.
In 1906 the Pure foods and drugs act was put into place to regulate drugs by the government.
By 1913 States began to adopt marijuana laws beginning with (Sit down for this it's going to make your head spin) California, quickly followed by other states.
It was in 1930 with bales of marijuana arriving in the US that the government named prohibitionist Harry J. Anslinger as the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics.
Over the next thirty four years this man was instrumental in forming not only our country's but the worlds opinion of marijuana use and it's negative effects on society. The result, many of the laws in effect today accompanied by a brilliantly manipulated public view of a plant that otherwise would have been growing in public parks.
So marijuana moved quickly from no regulation and world wide acceptance to not only an illegal status but one backed by so much negative publicity and propaganda that for a time much of the public thought you could actually go insane from smoking it. Ansilinger's scared straight approach on controlling marijuana was, once again, nothing short of brilliant.
Looking at the legal issues of marijuana, you'll find some interesting things. In the 1950s, part of the anti drug propaganda of the day was to link marijuana to the growing heroin problem listing it as a gateway drug and allowing for much harsher penalies then in the past.
On and on it goes with stiffer penalies including life sentences for second offenders of marijuana position in certain states. We could go step by step, inch by inch, through this time line but I think you get the point.
So lets jump to the sixties where generations were colliding and a growing marijuana culture bumped heads with a fierce anti drug, law and order, President. Interesting that the same people who were clamoring for stiffer penalies began to lighten their steps when it became more and more evident that the majority of people being charged with marijuana related crimes at the time were their own children. With this new revelation came the Controlled Substance Act of 1969 which eliminated mandatory jail time and reduced penalties for possession.
In 1972 The National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse released a report stating that marijuana should be available for private use in the home and that the herb should be decriminalized. It's reported that President Nixon promptly discarded the report without reading it. His response, the forming of the DEA also in 1972.
Each President since then has taken the popular public stance and each state since then has continued to bounce between state and federal laws so to talk about the legal ramifications any further would just be redundant. But before we put that thought to bed, please take a second and do a little math in your head, and give me a rough dollar amount on the cost to arrest, take to trial, and incarcerate every nickel and dime marijuana case since 1930.
So let's get into the heart of the matter for me, the health effects as related to the respiratory system.
We'll take a minute and discus not only the medical marijuana issue, but the research provided to me regarding lung cancer and respiratory effects.
I received a copy of an editorial and back round research written by DP Tashkin which appears in volume 35 of the European Respiratory Journal entitled, "Does cannabis use predispose to chronic airflow obstruction?" It is from this source that I base my thoughts on the medical ramifications of legalizing marijuana. Let me assure you that I am strongly trying to resist the urge to type something to the effect of "You would have to be stoned to understand all the variances of clinical research findings." Bad joke but I could not let it go.
There seems to be plenty of research out there based off case studies with focus on the effects of smoking marijuana in regards to airflow obstruction of both large and small airways as well as studies regarding lung cancer.
Rather then present each individual study to you which is not the point of this article, I'll offer my conclusion of what I have learned.
After the smoke has cleared, (how could anyone resist that one?) It seems that the findings, although sometimes hazy, (these are the jokes, folks.) Points to marijuana smoking causing a mild, but significant narrowing of larger airways but no demonstrable abnormality involving smaller airways. Studies show that marijuana smokers show a higher prevalence of symptoms of chronic bronchitis than non smokers. Overall the weight of evidence does not seem to indicate an adverse effect of marijuana smoking on airway dynamics nor did I see anything that led me to believe that smoking marijuana in itself would lead to an increased risk of COPD.
Unfortunately, the two case studies provided concern cannabis smoking in relation to lung cancer were inconclusive which to me, leaving this question unanswered is the equivalent of jumping out of the plane and then looking to see if you remembered your parachute.
Medicinal marijuana has been found to have positive effects with cancer patients as far as helping to control nausea and increasing appetite with no noticeable long term effects. It is for this reason that I am interested in this subject. Although I do not think that chronic writers cramp necessarily merit a prescription for marijuana, the use of marijuana to offer relief to the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation as well as helping to alleviate some stress for a cancer patient is a priceless commodity.
Now that we have the history and the health effects, lets look at the effects of legalizing marijuana.
We would all be quite naïve not to realize that there would be both positives and negatives if decriminalization took place.
I believe if managed correctly, it would not take long for the government to figure out how to tax, license and regulate the new industry to the hilt. This would of course bring some well needed relief to individual state budgets as well as a Federal boost.
Main street USA would see a properly needed boom as new store fronts and marijuana related businesses begin to take root and grow. (Sorry) Additional jobs created by farming and transportation marijuana to market .. Law enforcement duties replaced by regulatory offices responsible for maintaining integrity in a once taboo now acceptable industry.
For every yin there is a yang and someone is going to lose out in legalization.
The obvious would be anyone who makes a living illegally producing and selling marijuana and anyone who currently produces medicinal marijuana.
The next and perhaps largest loser could have the combination of pharmaceutical manufacturing and medical insurance providers. It is no secret that marijuana has the capacity to effectively eliminate a large portion of questionable prescribed drugs and replace them with the same results and better side effects at a fraction of the cost. Also eliminating the need for a portion of office visits which would instead be replaced by a trip to your backyard garden or flower box. One could assume that the alcohol related industries might see a decline.
So here are my thoughts.
Shortly after I finished my treatments for lung cancer, it dawned on me that I had developed a problem with prescribed pain killers. I stopped taking them immediately and I must tell you it was tough not only on me but my family who had to end my wrath as the narcotics and I parted company.
I often wonder how many people end up "hooked" to a prescribed addiction?
Thirty percent of the adults in the United States admitted to currently using marijuana so I would think you could add another fifteen percent for people who would never admit it. If that many people are going to use it why not legalize and regulate it to ensure that what is out there is safe?
The US government currently holds a patent for synthetic marijuana development, obviously the medicinal values are undeniable, the troubling point is that it's natural there is no reason to make it synthetically unless you wanted to force people to buy pills instead of plant a garden.
How much blood has been filled over a plant? How many lives could be spared if it were legal?
Keeping in mind that I have not used marijuana for over a quarter of a century (ouch). So I am not an expert I will leave you with my final thoughts.
The selling point for me is that there is no overwhelming evidence that would tell you that the consequences for marijuana use would outweigh the benefit either medicinally or as a recreational drug. I think that substituting cannabis for vicodin would be a huge step in the right direction.
As a current lung cancer survivor, I have to recommend a good brownie mix if it was to become legal since anytime you place a chemical into your airways you are taking a risk.
Perhaps in the end we are becoming a culture that is tiered of being governed by fear as in this case and would like to make these decisions on our own.
Look for Uncle Tim's fine brownie and cookie mixes coming to a grocer near you.
Source by Tim Giardina