Marijuana has had a lot of bad press over the last 80 years. One of its effects is to heighten the users awareness of bullshit, so it’s little wonder that the people trying to oppress it, are so frequently the very same people who are trying to manipulate, exploit, and poison people. But the oppression of Marijuana and Hemp, like most corruption, is just about money.
Fortunately the hemp industry is now slowly making headway against the collective interests of multi-nationals, and conservative, ignorant morons. And the truth about Marijuana is slowly emerging, despite the best efforts of some of the world’s most corrupt and powerful business interests. The internet is one of the most powerful tools in exposing the truth about Marijuana and Hemp, so the growth of the internet over the past 10 years has helped truth to fight back against this commercial oppression, as it has in many other areas.
The three issues discussed here, Industrial Hemp, Medical Marijuana use, and Recreational Marijuana use, although separate issues, are all linked by the same pattern of disinformation, corruption and oppression.
For anyone wanting to find out more about the hypocrisy and the real motives behind Marijuana Prohibition, and the so called “War on Drugs”, I highly recommend the book “Reefer Madness” by Eric Schlosser (2003)
The History behind Marijuana and Hemp oppression
The main factors behind the US Marijuana Prohibition: Extensive research has been conducted to determine the factors that brought to the prohibition of marijuana. These are the main reasons that initially motivated marijuana laws:
Mexican soldiers who fought America during the war with Spain smoked marijuana. After the war had ended and Mexicans had begun to immigrate into the South Eastern United States, there were relatively few race problems. There were plenty of jobs in agriculture and industry and Mexicans were willing to work cheaply. Once the depression hit and jobs became scarce Mexicans suddenly became a public nuisance. It was said by politicians (who were trying to please the White working class) that Mexicans were responsible for a violent crime wave. Police statistics showed nothing of the sort — in fact Mexicans were involved in less crime than Whites. Marijuana, of course, got the blame for this outbreak of crime and health problems, and so many of these states made laws against using cannabis. (In the Northern states, marijuana was also associated with Black jazz musicians.)
At the beginning of the Great Depression, the Prohibition made alcohol illegal. This was motivated mainly by a Puritan religious ethic left over from the first European settlers. Since it is perhaps the world’s most popular drug, alcohol prohibition spawned a huge “black market” where illegal alcohol was smuggled and traded at extremely high prices. Crime got out-of-hand as criminals fought with each other over who could sell alcohol where. Organized crime became an American institution, and hard liquor, which was easy to smuggle, took the place of beer and wine. In order to combat the crime wave, a large police force was formed. The number of police grew rapidly until the end of Prohibition when the government decided that the best way to deal with the situation was to just give up and allow people to use alcohol legally. After Prohibition the United States was left with nothing to show but a decade of political turmoil – and a lot of unemployed police officers. During Prohibition, being a police officer was a very nice thing — you got a relatively decent salary, respect, partial immunity to the law, and the opportunity to take bribes. Many of these officers were not about to let this life-style slip away. Incidentally, it was about this time when the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs was reformed, and a man named Harry J. Anslinger was appointed as its head.
Today paper is made by a process called `chemical pulping’. Before this, trees were processed by ‘mechanical pulping’ instead, which was much more expensive. At about the same time as machines to brake hemp appeared, the idea of using hemp hurds for making paper and plastic was proposed. Hemp hurds were normally considered to be a worthless waste product that was thrown away after it was stripped of fiber. New research showed that these hurds could be used instead of wood in mechanical pulping, and that this would drastically reduce the cost of making paper. Popular Mechanics Magazine predicted that hemp would rise to become the number one crop in America. In fact, the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act was so unexpected that Popular Mechanics had already gone to press with a cover story about hemp, published in 1938 just two months after the Tax Act took effect. Chemical pulping paper was invented at about this time by Du Pont Chemicals, as part of a multi-million dollar deal with a timber holding company and newspaper chain owned by William Randolph Hearst. This deal would provide the Hearst with a source of very cheap paper, and he would go on to be known as the tycoon of `yellow journalism’ (so named because the new paper would turn yellow very quickly as it got older.) Hearst knew that he could drive other papers out of competition with this new advantage. Hemp paper threatened to ruin this whole plan. It had to be stopped, and the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 was a good way of doing it!
Business interests took advantage of the political climate of racism and anti-drug rhetoric to close the free market to hemp products, and so protect their profitable chemical based products.
Hemp is good for making literally thousands of valuable commercial products, and that is every bit as threatening to powerful petrochemical/synthetics multinationals such as Du Pont, as Marijuana is to the “legal” drug industry. It’s no surprise that the US government and Du Pont spring up as major players in the whole marijuana prohibition. The tragedy is that so few people are aware of the way American interests have managed to enforce global industrial Hemp prohibition, and the enormous cost to the planet that this has had.
Hemp is the most clear cut issue – there is no reasonable argument against it, nothing that needs to be defended – all the arguments of oppression used against it are unsubstantiated, moronic bullshit – end of story. The only reason New Zealand doesn’t have a thriving Hemp industry is that many of the clowns who pretend to run our country are in fact sucking American dick.
Industrial Hemp is a potentially planet saving crop, with a multitude of valuable uses. Getting wasted is not one of them. That’s why we should stick with high quality Marijuana plants for that, and grow masses of Industrial Hemp for all of the following reasons:
The Uses Of Industrial Hemp
Hemp has been grown for at least 12,000 years for fiber (textiles and paper) and seed (food and fuel). It has been effectively prohibited in the United States since the 1950s.
George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both grew hemp. Ben Franklin owned a mill that made hemp paper. Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence on hemp paper.
Because of its importance for sails (the word “canvass” is rooted in “cannabis”) and rope for ships, hemp was a required crop in the American colonies.
Hemp was grown commercially (with increasing government interference) in the United States until the 1950s. It was doomed by the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, which placed an extremely high tax and made it effectively impossible to grow industrial hemp. While congress expressly expected the continued production of industrial hemp, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics lumped industrial hemp with marijuana, as its successor the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), does to this day.
Industrial hemp and marijuana are both classified by taxonomists as Cannabis sativa L., a species with hundreds of varieties. Cannabis sativa L. is a member of the mulberry family. Industrial hemp varieties are bred to maximize fiber, and/or seed, while marijuana varieties seek to maximize THC (delta 9 tetrahydrocannabinol, the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana) through several budding sites for its flowers and leaves.
While industrial hemp and marijuana may look somewhat alike to the untrained eye, an easily trained eye can easily distinguish the difference.
No one would want to smoke industrial hemp. Industrial hemp has a THC content of between 0.05 and 1%. Marijuana has a THC content of 3% to 20%. To receive a standard psychoactive dose would require a person to “power-smoke” 10-12 hemp cigarettes over a very short period of time. The large volume, high temperature of vapor, gas and smoke would be difficult for a person to withstand, much less enjoy.
If one tried to ingest enough industrial hemp to get a buzz, it would be the equivalent of taking 2-3 doses of a high-fiber laxative.
No marijuana grower would hide marijuana plants in a hemp field. Marijuana is grown widely spaced to maximize flowers and leaves; hemp is grown tightly-spaced to maximize stalk and is usually harvested before it goes to seed. It is also the first place where law enforcement officials would look.
If hemp does pollinate any nearby marijuana, genetically, the results will always be lower-THC marijuana and will contain unwanted seeds. When hemp is grown, nearby marijuana growers will be upset due to the pollination by hemp fields; thus causing marijuana growers to flee the area or grow indoors under lab-like conditions (to keep pollen outside).
When U.S. sources of “Manila hemp” (not true hemp; rather sisal and jute) was cut off by the Japanese in World War II, the U.S. Army and U.S. Department of Agriculture promoted the “Hemp for Victory” campaign to grow hemp in the U.S.
While the original “gruel” was made of hemp seed meal, hemp oil and seed can be made into tasty and nutritional products.
At a volume level of 81%, hemp oil is the richest known source of polyunsaturated essential fatty acids (the “good” fats). It is quite high in some essential amino acids, including gamma linoleic acid (GLA), a very rare nutrient also found in mother’s milk.
Hemp can be made into quality papers. The long fibers in hemp allow such paper to be recycled several more times than wood-based papers.
Because of its low lignin content, hemp can be pulped using less energy and chemicals than wood requires, resulting in less pollution and energy consumption. Its natural whiteness can obviate the need to use chlorine bleach, which means no extremely toxic dioxin being dumped into streams. Rather, when required, hemp can be whitened with hydrogen peroxide. Therefore, hemp paper is acid-free, which can last 1,500 years. Wood-based papers have a shelf life of 25-100 years.
Kimberly-Clark (a Fortune 500 company) has a mill in France which produces hemp paper preferred for bibles and cigarette paper because it lasts a long time and doesn’t yellow.
Construction products such as medium density fiberboard (MDF), oriented strand board, and even beams, studs and posts can be made out of hemp. Because of hemp’s long fibers (bundles of 7 feet long can be common), the products will be stronger and/or lighter than those made from wood (a Douglas fir tree’s fiber is at best 3/4 inch long).
Hemp can yield 3-8 dry tons of fiber per acre. This is four times what an average forest can yield.
The products that can be made from hemp number over 25,000.
Hemp grows well in a variety of climates and soil types. It is naturally resistant to most pests, precluding the need for pesticides. It grows tightly spaced, out-competing any weeds, so herbicides are not necessary. It also leaves a weed-free field for the following crop.
Hemp can be made into variety of fabrics, including linen quality.
Hemp can displace cotton which is grown with massive amounts of chemicals harmful to people and the environment. fifty percent of the world’s pesticides are sprayed on cotton. “
Cotton, the natural fiber;” think again. Hemp fibers are longer, stronger, more absorbent, and more mildew-resistant than cotton. The original Levi Strauss jeans made for the Sierra gold miners were made of hemp sailcloth.
Fabrics made of at least fifty percent hemp block the sun’s harmful UV rays more effectively than other fabrics.
Hemp can displace wood fiber and save forests for watershed, wildlife habitat, recreation and oxygen production, carbon sequestration (reduces global warming), and other values.
Many of the varieties of hemp that were grown in North America have been lost. Seed banks were not maintained. New genetic breeding will be necessary using both foreign and “ditch weed,” strains of hemp that went feral after cultivation ended. Various state national guard units often spend their weekends trying to eradicate this hemp, in the mistaken belief they are helping stop drug use.
Henry Ford experimented with hemp to build car bodies and interiors. He wanted to both build and fuel cars from farm products.
BMW is experimenting with hemp materials in automobiles as part of an effort to make cars more recyclable.
Seeking to put more environment-friendly materials in its cars, Daimler-Benz may replace fiberglass matte with industrial hemp.
Rudolph Diesel designed his namesake engine to run on vegetable oils, including hempseed oil.
Hempseed oil once greased machines. Most paint, resins, shellacs, and varnishes used to be made out of linseed (from flax) and hempseed oils.
Much of the bird seed sold in the United States has hempseed (it’s sterilized before importation), the hulls of which contain about 25% protein of which is more easily digestible than soybean protein.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) classifies all Cannabis sativa L. varieties as “marijuana.” While it is theoretically possible to get permission from the government to grow hemp, DEA would require that the field to be secured by fence, razor, wire, dogs, guards, and lights, making it cost-prohibitive.
The U.S. State Department must certify each year that a foreign nation is cooperating in the war on drugs. The European Union subsidizes its farmers to grow industrial hemp. Those nations are not on this list, because the U.S. State Department distinguishes the difference between hemp and marijuana.
- Over 30 industrialized democracies do distinguish hemp from marijuana. International treaties regarding marijuana make an exception for hemp, and trade alliances such as NAFTA allow for the importation of hemp.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA USE
Marijuana has been proven in extensive testing to be a valuable therapeutic drug, for the treatment of a wide range of conditions. But it remains illegal because the “medical” industry views it as a major threat to its vastly profitable commercial monopoly.
Given the lengths the “medical” industry have gone to oppress apricot kernels, it’s almost hard to imagine how far they would go to stop people using Marijuana. Pretty much whatever it takes… unless of course they could patent it and put it a pill, and sell it for shit loads themselves. And that’s exactly what Bayer are working on right now. As soon as a powerful multinational has it in pills, things will probably change very rapidly. Because lets face it, the Pharmaceutical Industry are nothing less than the world’s No#1 drug dealers.
If you are using Marijuana for therapeutic reasons (or if you just dig smoking the shit but care about your health), keep in mind:
The best way to inhale it is to use a vaporiser. This cuts out most of the harmful oxidising effects of smoking. An effective vapouriser is easily obtained, and they are not that expensive. The BC Vaporizer for example is a good product, and is readily available in New Zealand online and in shops for around NZ$140. (search on Trade Me under vaporizer or vapourizer or vapouriser) Some vapourisers are very expensive – NZ$500 – $1000, and yes they are pretty good, but there are also a lot of equipment snobs online who lash the cheaper units, for looking homemade, looking like bongs, not having digital temperature controls etc. Yeah whatever!
A distant second choice is a bong, pipe, or spotting off knives. DO NOT smoke “joints” – if your pot is so weak that you need more than a couple of tokes, get hold of some decent shit and stop smoking lawn clippings. There is nothing therapeutic about inhaling lungfulls of burning paper and cabbage smoke. I know some people like inhaling smoke, but I am not coming from that angle, that’s for sure…
Obtain quality weed – the more THC, the less other crap you have to inhale. Outdoor grown (natural sunlight is therapeutic for people and plants), or high quality indoor, organic (pesticides are very, very unhealthy), primo sticky buds are best.
If you are holding a stash of lawn clippings, try cooking with it.
If it tastes odd, smells or looks dodgy, makes you cough, or leaves a bad taste in your mouth – don’t smoke it, it may have some toxic shit in it.
Buy quality weed from a reputable source, and a little goes a long way.
The Safest Substance
In 1988 the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) administrative Law Judge, Francis Young concluded:
“Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known….[T]he provisions of the [Controlled Substances] Act permit and require the transfer of marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II. It would be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious for the DEA to continue to stand between those sufferers and the benefits of this substance. In strict medical terms marijuana is far safer than many foods we commonly consume. For example, eating 10 raw potatoes can result in a toxic response. By comparison, it is physically impossible to eat enough marijuana to induce death. Marijuana in its natural form is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man. By any measure of rational analysis marijuana can be safely used within the supervised routine of medical care.”
“Not a single death has ever been credibly attributed directly to smoking or consuming marijuana in the 5000 years of the plant’s recorded use. Marijuana is one of the few therapeutically active substances for which there is no well defined fatal dose. It has been estimated that a person would have to smoke 100lbs of marijuana a minute, for 15 minutes, in order to induce a lethal response” from “Reefer Madness” by Eric Schlosser (2003)
GW Pharmaceuticals is a £32 million company that grows thousands of marijuana plants in a secret British location, and gives it to volunteers suffering from a variety of ailments. Reputable scientists measure the effects and the collected results are checked by the British Government.
Most people involved in the marijuana debate in New Zealand seem unaware how far these trials have progressed, in fact, GW will have its first product, an under-tongue marijuana spray to alleviate the symptoms of multiple sclerosis, legally on sale in Europe before the end of this year. It will probably be the first of many.
On May 22, GW announced a partnership with pharmaceutical giant Bayer AG to market the product throughout Europe and then the world. Another marijuana product aimed at alleviating cancer pain will be on the way shortly. GW’s share price has risen 50 percent since the beginning of March. And an expat New Zealander, Dr David Hadom, is a consultant to the company.
He is a Kiwi by choice. After working for 12 years as a doctor in ER rooms around California, he spent time at the Rand Institute, working in research design, health economics and statistical analysis.
In New Zealand he became the manager of special projects for the National Health Committee, spearheading an initiative to change the way elective surgical services were managed. He became a New Zealand citizen, and is currently back practising in California. He was GW’s medical director for North America, but stepped down when he felt too confined in what he could say and do in terms of marijuana generally. He says that using marijuana to treat MS was really just going after the low-lying fruit.
“It has been known for years that cannabis has unique and remarkable powers in that particular setting. It is not even approached by other agents. That was one that was good to start with, because you knew it was going to work and be dramatic and also because there is a whole population out there suffering for want of this medication. Pain, spasticity, bladder spasms, sleep, all are much improved in statistically significant ways based on randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies.”
The GW spray will be a “whole cannabis product” not an isolated part of the drug. And yes, it will be possible to get high using it “THC is the psychoactive agent and it is present because it has therapeutic value,” says Hadom. “It is considered to be the active ingredient in cannabis when it comes to pain, nausea, promoting appetite and anti-spasticity. But what has been shown in the trials in a large part with middle-aged or older women – the typical MS sufferers – who have never really smoked and wouldn’t smoke, is that they need such a small amount to relieve their symptoms that they don’t need to continue on taking more. So what GW is saying is that, for most people, it is not necessary to get high.”
MARIJUANA – A Medicinal Marvel
Cannabis, or marijuana, has proven medical benefits and few, if any, toxic side-effects. Why, then, has it been a prohibited medicine for over fifty years?
Dr Lester Grinspoon interviewed by Jana Ray
Medicinal cannabis, also known as medical marijuana, is beginning to receive attention worldwide. Unfortunately, scare tactics and misinformation surrounding the international ‘war on drugs’ continue to dominate in the political and medical arenas, leaving many unwilling or unable to think for themselves. Despite this, more people are discovering the ability of marijuana, or cannabis, to relieve symptoms surrounding many medical conditions.
One of the pioneers of medicinal cannabis research is Dr Lester Grinspoon, a professor at Harvard Medical School. In the last 30 years Dr Grinspoon has researched and written many articles along with two books on the cannabis controversy. Marihuana Reconsideredand Marihuana, The Forbidden Medicine introduced many to the positive uses and benefits of one of the oldest cultivated plants in the world.
In this interview with Dr Grinspoon, many topics are discussed concerning the role of medicinal cannabis use in today’s society.
J. Ray: What got you interested in marijuana/cannabis?
Dr Grinspoon: In 1967, I had some unexpected time so I thought I would look into marijuana to see what all the fuss was about. I was convinced at the time that marijuana was a terribly dangerous drug. I didn’t understand why young people were ignoring the government’s warnings about its danger in using it. So, I spent the next three years doing research and looking into it. I learned I had been brainwashed just like so many other citizens in the United States.
While marijuana is not harmless, it is so much less harmful than alcohol or tobacco that the only sensible way to deal with it is to make it legally available in a controlled system. We can see this with alcohol which is legally available to people over the age of 21 in the United States. I put all this together in a book called Marihuana Reconsidered. It was published in 1971 by Harvard University Press and was quite controversial at the time. It has just been republished as a classic with a new introduction, 25 years later.
JR: In your research you found marijuana/cannabis to be less harmful than tobacco or alcohol?
Dr G: I think cannabis is not harmless. There is no such thing as a harmless drug. Cannabis is, by any criterion, less harmful than either alcohol or tobacco. For example, tobacco costs the US about 425,000 lives every year; alcohol, perhaps 100,000 to 150,000 lives, not to speak of all the other problems caused by alcohol use. With cannabis there has not been a single case of a documented death due to its use. Now, of course, death is not the only toxicity. It is the most profound one and certainly a permanent one. If you look at it from the point of view of other toxicities, again it comes out much better than either alcohol or tobacco. In fact, the subject of our latest book, Marihuana, The Forbidden Medicine, looks at cannabis from the point of view of a medicine. When cannabis regains the place it once had in the US Pharmacopoeia it will be among the least toxic substances in that whole compendium.
JR: It was in the US Pharmacopoeia in the early 1900s?
Dr G: That is correct. Cannabis was a very much used drug up until 1941 when it was dropped from the US Pharmacopoeia. This was after the passage of the first of the draconian US anti-marijuana laws in 1937, the Marihuana Tax Act. This Act made it so difficult for physicians to prescribe cannabis that they just stopped using it.
JR: Cannabinoid receptors were recently discovered in the human brain. Are these cannabinoid receptors related to cannabis and its medical uses?
Dr G: Very definitely. Some years ago it was discovered by Dr Solomon Snyder that there are endogenous opioids; that is to say, substances like opium that we produce in our bodies. It followed from that, that there would be opioid receptors in our brains. It wasn’t long afterwards that a woman named Candace Pert discovered this. In other words, if you consider a receptor as a kind of keyhole and the ligand or the neurotransmitter as the key that opens it, the key has to fit into that receptor to open it.
With cannabis it came about the other way: the receptor sites for cannabis were discovered first. I believe this was in 1990. From this it was implied that there had to be an endogenous cannabinoid, a ligand that would turn this receptor site on. Indeed, a couple of years later, a man named W. A. Devane and his group discovered this ligand and they gave it the name “anandamide”, after the Sanskrit word ananda, which means “bliss”. Now there are many studies of these receptors and anandamide. It is clear that these receptors are not just located in the brain but in various other organs in the body as well.
I think we are going to see in the future that these receptors play a very important part in the medicinal utility of cannabis. Right now the clinical evidence is empirical and anecdotal but, in my view, powerful enough to be translated into a policy which would allow people to use cannabis legally for medicinal purposes.
JR: Do these recent discoveries contradict past research that warned of brain damage from cannabis use?
Dr G: In my view, that kind of thing is in the realm of myth and misinformation about cannabis. Think about it for a minute. If the brain produces its own cannabinoid-like substances, it doesn’t make much sense that it would produce a substance which is going to damage the brain. Indeed, long before it was discovered that there are endogenous cannabinoids, the empirical evidence did not demonstrate that cannabis damaged the brain.
There are a few studies which were methodically unsound that the US Government and, specifically, NIDA, the National Institute of Drug Abuse, and the DEA, the Drug Enforcement Administration, focus on.
JR: Can you tell me something about the US Drug Enforcement Administration, the DEA?
Dr G: The predecessor agency of the DEA, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, was organised in 1930 by a man named Anslinger. Anslinger undertook what he called a “great educational campaign”, which actually turned out to be a great disinformational campaign. This is symbolised by one of the flagships of that campaign: the movie, Reefer Madness. If you see the movie Reefer Madness today, even a person who is not very sophisticated about marijuana will laugh at the grossness of the exaggerations dramatised in that movie.
JR: Do you think pharmaceutical drug companies have anything to do with the government’s prohibitive stand against medicinal cannabis use?
Dr G: Absolutely. The Partnership for a Drug Free America has a budget of about a million dollars a day. A lot of that money comes from drug companies and distilleries. You see, these companies and distilleries have something to lose- the distilleries for obvious reasons. The drug companies are not interested in marijuana as a medicine because the plant cannot be patented. If you can’t patent it, you can’t make money on it. Their only interest is a negative one. It will eventually displace some of their pharmaceutical products.
Imagine a patient who requires cancer chemotherapy. Now he can take the best of the anti-nausea drugs, which would be ondansetron. He would pay about US$35 or $40 per 8-milligram pill and would then take three or four of them for a treatment. Normally, he would take it orally, but people with that kind of nausea often can’t, so he would take it intravenously. The cost of one treatment for that begins at US$600 because he will need a hospital bed, etc. Or he can smoke perhaps half of a marijuana cigarette and receive relief from the nausea.
Currently, marijuana on the streets is very expensive. One can pay from US$200 to $600 an ounce. This is what I call the prohibition tariff. When marijuana is available as a medicine, the cost would be significantly less than other medications; it would cost about US$20 to $30 an ounce. You can’t tax it in the US because it is a medicine. So that would translate out to maybe about 30 cents for a marijuana cigarette.
So our chemotherapy patient could get, many people believe, better relief from the marijuana cigarette for 30 cents. This, in comparison to the ondansetron which would cost at the very least US$160 a day and, if he had to take it intravenously, more than US$600 per treatment.
Well, if you multiply that by all of the symptoms and syndromes we discuss in the book, Marihuana, The Forbidden Medicine, then you can see that the drug companies will have something to lose here.
JR: Do you see this as a big obstacle in changing drug policy here in North America?
Dr G: Well, it is certainly playing a part. It is indirectly playing a part in the Partnership for a Drug Free America ads. To say they are inaccurate is an understatement.
JR: Are we also talking about DARE, the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program we see in many schools at this time?
Dr G: Oh yes, that is a terrible program. Again, it is miseducating children about drugs. It has now been established in a major study that it doesn’t do a bit of good. We’re all worried about youngsters doing drugs, but now DARE has been demonstrated not to do any good.
JR: In your book, Marihuana, The Forbidden Medicine, there are many references to the medicinal uses of cannabis. What are some of the medical problems you have seen medicinal cannabis help?
Dr G: The most common cancer treatment in the last couple of decades is with the cancer chemotherapeutic substances. A big problem with some of these is the severe nausea and vomiting. It is the kind of nausea that anybody who has not experienced it can only imagine. It is very important that this nausea be defeated so patients can be reasonably comfortable with this treatment. As I have mentioned, there are conventional drugs available; it is just that cannabis is often the best.
Then there is glaucoma which is a disorder of increased intraocular pressure in the eyes. If that pressure is not brought down, glaucoma can eventually lead to blindness. There are conventional medicines that work pretty well; but, for some people, cannabis works better and with fewer side-effects.
Epilepsy is a disorder which has been treated by cannabis for centuries. About 25 per cent of people in the US who have various forms of epilepsy don’t get good relief from the conventional medicines. Many of them do get relief from one of the oldest anti-epileptic medicines, cannabis.
Multiple sclerosis affects more than two million people in the US, and one of its distressing symptoms is muscle spasm. It is very painful. Anybody who has had a cramp while swimming will know what muscle spasm pain is all about. Cannabis is very effective for the muscle spasms of not only multiple sclerosis but also of paraplegia and quadriplegia.
Furthermore, cannabis helps people with MS who may have trouble controlling their bladders. Cannabis is very helpful in reducing this kind of loss of control. Not long ago I was in London doing a TV debate on the topic of medicinal cannabis use. There was a woman in the audience who said she had come down from Leeds, two-and-a-half hours on the train, to be in the television audience. She has MS. The part that was so distressing for her was the social embarrassment of losing control over her bladder. Well, she said cannabis has restored her bladder control and she could now make the two-and-a-half-hour trip from Leeds with no trouble.
Cannabis has been used for centuries in the treatment of various kinds of chronic pain. It was used on the battlefields of the Civil War as an analgesic medicine until morphine displaced it. Morphine was much quicker for the pain and a much more powerful pain-reliever than cannabis. Cannabis cannot defeat very powerful pain. The price of using morphine was that many people suffered from what was then called “soldier’s disease”, which was addiction to morphine.
Cannabis is very useful in the treatment of migraine headaches. Sir William Osler, in his last textbook on medicine, describes cannabis as the best single medicine for the treatment of the pain of migraine.
The list is longer than that but I don’t think you want me to go on and on about this. One of the amazing things about cannabis is its versatility. It has many uses. It is also remarkably non-toxic and it will be quite inexpensive when it is not a prohibited substance. In my opinion, cannabis will be seen as a wonder drug of the 1990s, much as penicillin was in the 1940s.
JR: In your first book on cannabis, Marihuana Reconsidered, you mentioned that the international drug-control treaties, specifically the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, were not a serious obstacle to the legalisation of cannabis. Do you still go along with this?
Dr G: There is no question about it. There is no serious obstacle. Treaties can be changed and I think the push to do that will come from Europe. The interest in this is growing much more rapidly in Europe than in the US. In fact, there is so much new information regarding medicinal cannabis use that Yale University Press has asked us for a second edition of Marihuana, The Forbidden Medicine. This book has been translated into 10 languages, including Japanese.
Late in 1995 we received a letter from our German publisher congratulating us on our seventh printing. They said our book has begun a “robust debate on the medicinal use of marijuana in Germany”. So, the Europeans are way ahead of us, and I think the pressure will probably come from them to make the necessary legal changes so cannabis can be used as a medicine without interference. The present situation is just awful. These poor people who use it as a medicine already have some degree of anxiety regarding their disease. Another layer of anxiety is imposed on them by their government; namely, they might get arrested or have their homes confiscated because they use cannabis as a medicine.
JR: Do you think these international treaties are what keep the ‘war on drugs’ alive?
Dr G: I think the Single Convention is not a big obstacle, frankly. I think lots of people use that as an excuse, that we can’t do anything because of the Single Convention. I’m not an expert on it, but the international lawyers I’ve talked to say this is not the problem. I think the war on drugs is a much bigger thing than our discussion of medicinal cannabis use. The ‘war on drugs’ is a much more complicated problem. If we stick to the narrow agenda of medicinal cannabis use, I think putting pressure on our government representatives and other people in powerful positions is the way.
People are learning about cannabis as a medicine. Anybody who knows a person with AIDS who is dealing with the wasting syndrome probably knows someone who has discovered that cannabis not only retards his weight-loss but maybe helps him to regain weight. People who know patients with multiple sclerosis, migraine, glaucoma who are using cannabis, begin to see that it is a very useful medicine and they begin to wonder what all the fuss is about. So I think people are getting educated.
The other thing that is happening that I think is very hopeful is that doctors are getting educated. You see, doctors usually get their drug education from drug companies or from pharmaceutical company sales people who go around to doctors’ offices, as well as from journal articles, advertisements and promotional campaigns from these drug companies. There are no drug companies interested in cannabis, so doctors don’t learn much about it. In my view, doctors have not only been miseducated like so many other people, but they have also been agents of that miseducation. What is happening now is doctors are learning from patients. This is a new way for doctors to learn about a new medicine. They learn lots of things from their patients, but generally not about new medicines.
An example of this would be an AIDS patient who started using cannabis for his wasting syndrome. Imagine him going into his doctor’s office and getting on the scales. The doctor knows he’s been losing weight all along and nothing that the doctor has given him has helped. Suddenly, the doctor sees his patient has gained weight since the last visit and he asks, “What’s going on?” The patient says, “It is the cannabis I’ve been smoking: it has helped me put on some weight.” This makes a powerful impression on a doctor who has been struggling to help his patient gain weight. Once this happens to a doctor, his attitude begins to change.
JR: How can the average person work for changes in the drug laws?
Dr G: Well, right now in the US, Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts has introduced a bill to do just this; to make it possible for people to use cannabis as a medicine. He needs co-sponsorship and support for this bill. People who are interested in this can contact Barney Frank or even their own representatives and ask them to support HR 2618, the Bill for medical cannabis use for those in medical need.
JR: Is this a similar bill to what Newt Gingrich and others had introduced into Congress in the early 1980s?
Dr G: It’s the same bill. It is the McKinney bill. I had suggested to Congressman Frank to expand the number of symptoms and syndromes for which cannabis can be used. We know more about it than we did in 1982, but it is the same bill. Gingrich supported it then, but not now.
JR: In February 1994 you and James Bakalar wrote, “The War on Drugs: A Peace Proposal”, published in The New England Journal of Medicine. In it you talk about harm-reduction strategies in the Netherlands and other countries. What do you think is holding back these governments in North America from making the changes necessary for a truce in the drug war, specifically in regards to medicinal cannabis use?
Dr G: Unfortunately, it is attitudes and fears that are unwarranted. Take one harm-reduction approach; namely, clean needles. Now, we’ve been saying for years that clean needles will reduce the spread of AIDS among drug users. The IV drug users are the group spreading it the most. There are people who are afraid of needle-exchange programs because they think it will cause an increase in the use of intravenous drugs. I would say this has been going on now for four or five years. Now the data is overwhelming. It clearly demonstrates that exchanging needles does cut down the spread of AIDS and it does not cause an increase in the use of these drugs. It is so convincing that some local municipalities have gone ahead with needle exchanges, but the Federal government and President Clinton are all dead set against it. We could have saved a lot of people from AIDS by instituting this policy of clean needles early on. Even now we are dragging our feet because of this misapprehension about giving needles out. Ignorance and fear are not always corrected by data. The data on needle exchange is compelling whether it’s from Australia, New Haven or wherever. There is no question. You would think when you have this kind of data it would be translated into social policy, considering the cost of AIDS in human suffering. But we’re having an awful tough time persuading the authorities that we should go full steam ahead with needle exchange.
There is an attitude here in the US that the only way to treat anyone using a drug not approved of is to treat them as a criminal. Many of these people even go to jail. The costs of criminalising these people have been extreme. Since I started my work on marijuana in 1967, more than 10 million Americans have been arrested on marijuana charges in the US. In 1994, the year for which we have the latest FBI data on this, 483,000 Americans were arrested on marijuana charges. That is just extraordinary when you consider that cannabis imposes less harm on the individual and on society than either alcohol or tobacco.
JR: What kind of feedback did you receive from your June 1995 article, “Marihuana as Medicine”, in JAMA?
Dr G: Well, that article caused a lot of fuss. It was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). This organisation has been steadfast in its opposition to marijuana for 50 years-since an editorial published in 1945. Although the AMA doesn’t say so officially, I think publishing our article signals a growing change in physicians’ attitudes towards medicinal cannabis. There were physicians who wrote me nasty letters. More impressive were the many physicians who shared their stories about how they learned about cannabis from seeing how it helped a particular patient. Several of them said we ought to have an organisation, a physicians’ organisation, for the medical use of marijuana. The article created a stir not just in this country. I think JAMA is published in 33 languages. It was no small wonder that there was a lot of mail from other parts of the world as well.
JR: Was the feedback mostly positive?
Dr G: Absolutely. By far, most of it was positive. There were some nasty letters, but I have received those from the time I first published Marihuana Reconsidered. The first letter I received was a very nasty letter. As the years go on, though, the mail gets much more positive.
JR: What do you see for the future of medicinal cannabis use?
Dr G: It strikes me that there are a lot of parallels with the discovery of penicillin. Penicillin was discovered by a man named Alexander Fleming in 1928. He had gone off for summer vacation and left a Petri dish out in his laboratory. When he came back, the Petri dish was just covered with Staphylococcus, except for an area surrounding what looked like a little island of mould. He looked into it and found that the mould was giving off a substance which he called “penicillin”. It was killing the Staphylococcus. Yet his discovery was ignored until 1941. For over a decade his publication was ignored, until the pressure of World War II highlighted the need for antibacterial substances other than sulphonamides. Then a couple of investigators did a study with just six patients and demonstrated it was a good antibiotic.
Penicillin became very inexpensive to produce. It was clear that penicillin was not toxic and it was very versatile as a drug. It was used in the treatment of many different kinds of infectious diseases. It became the wonder drug of the 1940s.
When cannabis can be produced as a medicine it will be very inexpensive. I have already listed some of the reasons why it can be said to be versatile, and, the government position notwithstanding, it is remarkably non-toxic. It has exactly the same three characteristics that made penicillin a wonder drug. These are some of the reasons I believe that, in the late 1990s, cannabis is going to be recognised as a wonder drug.
Grinspoon, Lester, M.D., Marihuana Reconsidered, Quick American Archives (a division of Quick Trading Company, PO Box 429477, San Francisco, CA 94142, USA), 1994 (ISBN 0-932551-13-0), first published by Harvard University Press, 1971.
Grinspoon, Lester, M.D. and James B. Bakalar, Marihuana, The Forbidden Medicine, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 1993 (ISBN 0-300-05435-1 [cloth], ISBN 0-300-05994-9 [paperback].
Grinspoon, Lester, M.D. and James B. Bakalar, “The War On Drugs: A Peace Proposal”, New England Journal of Medicine, vol. 330, no. 5, 3 February 1994.
Grinspoon, Lester, M.D. and James B. Bakalar, “Marihuana as Medicine: A Plea for Reconsideration”, Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), vol. 273, no. 23.
For more information on the DARE school programs, here is a list of articles and world wide web addresses:
Harmon, Michele Alicia, “Reducing the Risk of Drug Involvement Among Early Adolescents: An Evaluation of Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE)”, Institute of Criminal Justice and Criminology, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742, USA, April 1993.
Web address: http://turnpike.net/~jnr/dareeval.htm
“Studies Find Drug Program Not Effective”, USA Today, 11 October 1993. See web site: http://turnpike.net/~jnr/dareart.htm.
“A Different Look at DARE”, Drug Reform Coordination Network Topics, in-depth series. Web site address: http://drcnet.org/DARE.
About the Interviewee:
Dr Lester Grinspoon is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School. He has published over 140 papers and 12 books. His major area of interest has been ‘illicit’ drugs. His first book, Marihuana Reconsidered, was published in 1971 by Harvard University Press and republished in 1994 as a classic. He has written books on amphetamines, cocaine and psychedelic drugs. In 1990 he won the Alfred R. Lindesmith Award of the Drug Policy Foundation for “Achievement in the field of drug scholarship”. Marihuana, The Forbidden Medicine, Dr Grinspoon’s latest book, written with James Bakalar, has been translated into 10 languages. A second edition is now in press. [Copies of Marihuana, The Forbidden Medicine, can be ordered from the Publicity Department, Yale University Press, New Haven, Connecticut, USA, phone +1 (203) 432 0971.]
About the Interviewer:
Jana Ray is a freelance writer and community radio personality who works to educate the public about humane alternatives to the global war on drugs. Harm-reduction strategies, legal medicinal cannabis use, drug law reform and the preservation of everyone’s human rights are fundamental principles guiding her work. Since 1992, Jana has been an active member of the British Columbia Anti-Prohibition League which represents various west Canadian groups. BCAPL advocates public/government recognition of the individual’s natural, human and legal right to determine personally his/her own religion, lifestyle and consumption.
RECREATIONAL MARIJUANA USE
With the issues of Industrial Hemp and Medical Marijuana there is really no controversy, only a proliferation of profound ignorance and dishonesty. But Recreational Marijuana use does have two sides to its story. Marijuana is a drug, and like any drug it can lead to addiction, dependence, and negative side effects. But I would say the issue that’s often missed here is the difference between use and abuse.
With any drug, if you are using it every day, you are probably abusing it. This goes for coffee, alcohol, aspirin, Prozac, and pot too. If you use it when you want to, are happy without it, like the effect you get from using it, and are able to regulate your intake to provide the effect you desire, then you are probably doing OK. But to be honest here, I know a lot of recreational users, and the majority smoke every day if they are holding, and their lives are without doubt mildly compromised by their habit. In other words it’s a lot like watching TV. If you are watching more than, say, ten hours of TV a week, clearly you are not going to performing at your best, and so too if you spend more than five hours a week baked to the gills.
In terms of the danger to health it poses, it’s on a similar level to coffee, and far less harmful than most “legal” prescription drugs. And that’s probably being hard on the Marijuana, as coffee is more addictive and has a range of negative health effects most coffee drinkers wouldn’t even begin to acknowledge. Coffee can be a very effective performance drug with few serious side effects if it is used less than once a week. But more frequent use will lead to habituation, and then the side effects gradually start to kick in.
What’s really under threat here in NZ is the profits of the legal recreational drug dealers, the tobacco and alcohol industries – and the power of these groups to control government policy should not be underestimated. And on a wider scale Marijuana use is a threat to American interests, especially those benefiting from the “war on drugs” scam, and, with good reason, NZ is scared shitless of offending the great American Empire.
Personally, I believe that both Marijuana and tobacco should be subject to the same laws:
Legal for people over 20 to possess, and to smoke in private or smoke-licensed premises (but not general purpose bars or restaurants due to passive smoking), and not in public places. (Enforced by small instant fines – all those ferrety little office workers lurking in door ways would love this one!)
Legal to cultivate and sell commercially, but not to be advertised, or to be sold to anyone under 20.
Sold only in licensed specialty smoke shops (not with food).
Commercially sold product should be taxed heavily to offset the heath costs.
Tested for purity – no added chemicals allowed (this would effectively outlaw cigarettes as tobacco companies add huge quantities of addictive carcinogenic chemicals to cigarettes).
Only wholly New Zealand owned companies allowed to cultivate or sell tobacco or Marijuana in NZ.
Programmes of truthful and unbiased education to promote healthy lifestyle choices.
Although I’m loath to lump Marijuana in with what I consider the sad and disgusting habit of tobacco use, at least this would mean the tobacco sold here would be cleaner, the dope would be legal and it would be a blow to hypocrisy.
Marijuana can be a very stimulating drug, enhancing the appreciation of art and music, helpful in gaining new insights, providing total relaxation, and the buzz when it kicks in is great. But it’s a fine line between winning and losing….
Toke with care and be the master of your habits, or they may turn round and bite you in the arse….
Drugs and law report
Police Foundation of the United Kingdom
“Our conclusion is that the present law on cannabis produces more harm than it prevents. It is very expensive of the time and resources of the criminal justice system and especially of the police. It inevitably bears more heavily on young people in the streets of inner cities, who are also more likely to be from minority ethnic communities, and as such is inimical to police-community relations. It criminalizes large numbers of otherwise law-abiding, mainly young, people to the detriment of their futures. It has become a proxy for the control of public order; and it inhibits accurate education about the relative risks of different drugs including the risks of cannabis itself.”
I longed to smoke cannabis at Parliament
Cannabis-smoking former youth affairs minister Deborah Morris says she longed to light up at Parliament during her three years in politics.
“If I had been able to use cannabis openly and with the regularity that people drink alcohol around this place, then I would have,” she said yesterday.
Ms Morris, a co-founding member of the Coalition for Cannabis Law Reform, was back at Parliament to give evidence to a select committee inquiry into reducing cannabis harm.
“We know of many people who have chosen not to declare their hand publicly, for fear of the social and legal consequences,” she told the inquiry. She did not tell the committee of her own cannabis use.
Speaking after the hearing, she said she resented that it was acceptable around Parliament to drink excessively, but not to smoke cannabis.
“I felt that I wasn’t able to talk about a significant part of my life. I worked with people who were talking all the time about their drinking exploits – bragging, and saying they couldn’t wait for a G and T,” she said.
“People who smoke cannabis live with the fear of social and legal consequences for their actions every day.”
Ms Morris, 30, said she considered herself a “role model in moderate, responsible use of cannabis”.
She smoked pot “recreationally” at weekends or for celebrations.
“It energises me, I become inspired, I become really talkative, I get good at gardening and want to exercise a lot … it enhances my life,” Ms Morris said.
At yesterday’s inquiry she called for regulation to replace criminalisation of cannabis and, in the meantime, a moratorium on cannabis arrests.
“Like it or not, New Zealand must learn to live with cannabis use,” she said.
Cannabis user Ben Knight, co-founder of the coalition, told the inquiry of the trauma of being arrested for cannabis possession.
“I would describe it as being like post-traumatic stress disorder,” he said.
He felt resentful toward police and authority, and dissociated from non-smoking members of his family, friends and society.
The Drug Foundation called for diversion and education programmes, instead of conviction, for people caught with cannabis.
People with a history of offending, often for non-drug-related crimes, were denied diversion for cannabis possession and use, the foundation said. In 1999, about 12,000 people in NZ were apprehended for cannabis possession and use, with about half receiving informal warnings.
COOKING WITH MARIJUANA
HOW TO MAKE COCO-GREEN
The first step in cooking cannabis-laced foods is extracting the cannabinoids from the plant matter, usually in a coconut oil or butter solution, since the cannabinoids do not readily dissolve in water. In his book “The Art and Science of Cooking with Cannabis”(1974), Adam Gottlieb uses butter and calls the product of this extraction ‘cannabutter’.
Take a large saucepan and fill it with water (preferably clean mineral water). Bring it to the boil, then add a 500g of quality virgin coconut oil, and allow it to dissolve (Coconut oil works much better than butter)
Take 1-2 oz of dry marijuana leaf, remove any seeds or stalks, and grind to powder in a coffee grinder or similar. Add this powder to the boiling butter/water and leave it boiling for 1- 1 1/2 hours. The cannabinoids dissolve into the oil, while any bad flavours or crud dissolve into the water. Stir the mixture regularly. The smell from this is very mild compared to other methods of cooking.
After cooking, strain the mixture and put the liquid in the fridge. When it cools the coco-green will have solidified on the surface. It looks like green coconut oil. Take it off the top and throw away the green water underneath. It can be warmed again to melting point and poured into a jar for storage.
Coco-green can be used straight away, or frozen and used later.
It can be eaten from a spoon, spread onto toast, or used for anything that butter or coconut oil could be used for, including muffin and cake recipes.
You can replace the butter in a recipe with coco-green, or mix it with standard butter. Depending on the potency of your marijuana, coco-green can turn out quite grunty, so calculate the dose per serving to achieve the desired results. (This usually requires preliminary testing by the cook!)
This method of extraction is better than sauteing the marijuana in butter as some people do, as firstly this way, the crud is separated and removed from the good stuff, and secondly you can make stronger oil than by sauteing, because you can cook more weed in the same amount of oil, due to the extra volume of the water. Also there is no danger of overheating and burning your stash, and there is very little smell to freak out the neighbours.
Note that it can take up to three hours for the effects to fully kick in, so don’t munch down your whole tray of muffins in 30 mins if they don’t seem to be working, or you will be baked into oblivion later, and it can become a drag if you find yourself getting up the next day still baked….. And those unused to the joys of eating their stash should be aware that’s it’s a different kind of buzz – a longer lasting more physical “body stone”, great for chilling out, but not so great for going out!
There are many interesting links about Marijuana and Hemp available on the web.
A good place to start is the links page on www.norml.org.nz
A new discussion board dedicated to growing marijuana: www.rollitup.org
Help save the planet with Hemp. And don’t Fear the Reefer. Free the Marijuana!