High Times for Medical Marijuana

by Staff, Utne Reader
September-October 2010
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Even the most gung-ho medical marijuana advocates have to wince when they see a marijuana dispensary ad with a tie-dye background or hear about doctors writing pot prescriptions for a sore toe based a two-minute consultation. Such scenarios fuel the perception that medical marijuana research must simply be a front group for stoners. But the levelheaded folks at Science News (June 19, 2010) remind us why lots of smart people in lab coats are advocating the use of medicinal marijuana. 


The article “Not Just a High” by Nathan Seppa explores “the long march to credibility for cannabis research,” which, he soberly explains, “has been built on molecular biology.” Seppa details how THC mimics the effects of compounds in our bodies, and how both versions—cannabinoids from the plant and endocannabinoids from our bodies—bind to receptor proteins dubbed CB1 and CB2. And that’s where the magic begins. 


“When a person consumes cannabis, a flood of THC molecules bind to thousands of CB1 and CB2 receptors,” writes Seppa. “The binding triggers so many internal changes that, decades after the receptors’ discovery, scientists are still sorting out the effects. From a biological standpoint, smoking pot to get high is like starting up a semitruck just to listen to the radio. There’s a lot more going on.” 


The article covers several promising new avenues of pot study, including treatment for multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, and other inflammatory conditions. Fresh research even suggests, counterintuitively, that THC may fight cancer by igniting “programmed suicide” in some cancer cells.  


Put that in your pipe and smoke it. 


Image by Neeta Lind, licensed under Creative Commons. 

Post a comment below.


10/19/2010 2:25:07 PM
I don't need 'smart people in lab coats' to tell me that marijuana is not harmful. 'Smart people in lab coats' have helped to make a dying planet Everyone has a vested interest in their jobs and income and 'smart people in lab coats' or 'scientists' as they are also known as, are no different. Marijuana is not harmful unless it is laced with PCP or other modern chemicals used for mind-altering purposes. With regard to lung cancer, I would imagine pot is no more dangerous than cigarette smoking. What marijuana does do, and I know from personal experience in the 60's and 70's, is make you more mellow, sometimes paranoic, but basically puts you in a place where your senses are heightened but your motivation may be lessened. Of course, as any substance, if mixed with other drugs, it may have harmful effects. But governments resist: Imagine a population of potheads, not fighting their wars and slaving to pay their taxes. Not as if the whole population would instantly become potheads. But government has a vested interest in keeping pot illegal. Besides what I previously mentioned, it fills the prison industrial complex with bodies; keeps DEA agents employed; and provides Mexican and South American drug lords with a lucrative income. We would be better off legalizing marijuana nationally for many reasons: taxes; reduce jail population; unprofitable for drug lords. And reduce stress in people who get stress-related illnesses. Sounds simple to me.

10/19/2010 11:24:09 AM
...if the statement..."is true"... Oops.

10/19/2010 11:12:13 AM
What is interesting is that the governments of many states are willing to let cancer patients use Marinol, marijuana's synthetic Franken-daughter which has been approved by the A.M.A., and not allowed the use of it's natural parent. Mostly, Marinol is prescribed to stimulate a patient's appetite while they're undergoing chemotherapy. If the statement about THC's ability to "fool" cancer cells into "committing suicide", then: Why isn't that avenue of research being pursued with every last dollar we can throw at it? I don't have a comment or position about the validity of "people in white coats."

10/19/2010 9:59:10 AM
Actually, "ad hominem" would apply to attacking someone, not using an expert as an authority. It is true that not all "smart people" are authorities on everything -- you'd likely not ask your OB-GYN to treat a neurological condition -- but you are justified in using an expert to back up an argument when the expert is an expert in the field which is being discussed. So, don't say "My smart doctor in his lab coat said you shouldn't use that chemical on your weeds" but you can certainly argue that your smart doctor in a lab coat who dedicates his life to studying the effects of the use of marijuana can justify your argument to support more research into the use of marijuana.

10/19/2010 9:07:30 AM
i can't remember the term to describe it but i think that your inference that readers might be inclined to accept the argument that "medical marijuana" is credible ("lots of smart people in lab coats are advocating the use of medicinal marijuana."), is related to the "ad hominem"...i think it's a fallacy of logic to refer to "the expert" simply as a justification for accepting an argument. I mean, who am I, a mere "lay-reader" to doubt or question the work and advocacy of "smart people in lab coats"? Similarly, people argue for the existence of god with poorly formulated arguments (for example, my catholic school religion teacher once argued that "proof of the existence of god" was to be found in the fact that the complexity of a tree is beyond the capacity of human beings (to create)...so when some smark aleck like me says "that's not a good argument to prove god exists", invariably I would then be corned as a "disbeliever"...nay, I say, what I want is a sound argument. So, while medical marijuana may well be something we should "adopt" as another substance in our legal pharmacopia, please, use an argument to convince me without implying that "smart people in lab coats" ought to be my reason for being convinced.

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