Medical Marijuana Activist and Cancer Patient Angel Raich Thrown Out of Hospital for Vaporizing Marijuana
Well, it doesn’t get much more despicable than this. Yesterday, a registered medical marijuana patient with terminal cancer was forced to leave UCSF Medical Center in San Francisco because she was using a vaporizer to ingest her medicine.
A spokesperson for the hospital claimed that use of the vaporizer violated their non-smoking policy. First of all, vaporizing is NOT smoking!
Then, the hospital claimed that even marijuana in vapor form can damage the lungs of other patients. I challenge the hospital to deliver evidence of this, especially considering that a recent study shows marijuana, even smoked marijuana, has little effect on long-term pulmonary function. To the best of my knowledge, there is no data showing any second-hand effects from vaporized marijuana.
This patient happened to be none other than Angel Raich, a long-time medical marijuana activist who battled the federal government in the U.S. Supreme Court for the right to use marijuana to treat the symptoms of her incurable brain tumor.
Marijuana is an accepted medicine in the state of California. For a state university hospital to threaten a terminally ill patient with arrest and federal prosecution, instead of making accommodations so that the patient could use her medicine, is inexcusable.
Just to give you another example of people being denied treatment simply because they use marijuana to treat their conditions, here is a video from our friends at Reason about a man who was taken off a kidney transplant list because he used a legal medicine that his doctor recommended.
What happened to the Hippocratic Oath?
One of the most oft-discussed benefits of marijuana is its use in the treatment of cancer and cancer symptoms or side effects. While most of the reports are anecdotal, more and more research is coming out showing that Cannabis sativa may be the most exciting compound in cancer medicine today. Certainly more study is needed, but the results so far are very promising.
This week, for example, NORML’s Paul Armentano wrote about a study that will be released shortly that showed marijuana inhalation could play a role in tumor regression in brain cancer patients. Armentano writes:
Investigators at the British Columbia Children’s Hospital in Vancouver documented the mitigation of residual tumors in two adolescent subjects who regularly inhaled cannabis. Authors determined that both subjects experienced a “clear regression” of their residual brain tumors over a three-year-period.
“Neither patient received any conventional adjuvant treatment” during this time period, investigators wrote. “The tumors regressed over the same period of time that cannabis was consumed via inhalation, raising the possibility that cannabis played a role in tumor regression.”
Researchers concluded, “Further research may be appropriate to elucidate the increasingly recognized effect of cannabis/cannabinoids on gliomas (brain cancers).”
Further research is indeed necessary if we want to find the true medical potential of this plant. Unfortunately, such study is highly discouraged by government organizations, unless the focus of that study is on the potential harms of marijuana. The scientific community, however, is very eager to explore the possibilities of cannabinoid medicine.
Interestingly, the National Cancer Institute recently added a section to their website called “Cannabis and Cannabinoids” to provide patients and researchers with information on marijuana and cancer treatment options. I’ll take that as a good sign.
(Special thanks to Paul Armentano and Sanho Tree)
A study just published online by the journal Neurotoxicology and Teratology suggests that marijuana may protect the brain from some of the damage caused by binge drinking.
The study, by researchers at the University of California San Diego, used a type of high-tech scan called diffusion tensor imaging to compare microscopic changes in brain white matter. The subjects were students aged 16-to-19, divided into three groups: binge drinkers (defined as having five or more drinks at one sitting for boys or four or more for girls), binge drinkers who also smoked marijuana, and a control group who had very little or no experience with either alcohol or drugs.
As expected, the binge-drinking-only group showed evidence of white matter damage in eight regions examined, as demonstrated by lower fractional anisotropy (FA) scores. But in a finding the researchers described as “unexpected,” the binge-drinking/marijuana group had lower FA scores than the controls in only three of the eight regions, and in seven regions the binge-drinking/marijuana group had higher scores – indicating less damage – than the binge drinkers who didn’t use marijuana (unfortunately, not all of these stats are in the summary linked above; access to the full article requires payment).
Brain white matter tracts were “more coherent in adolescents who binge drink and use marijuana than in adolescents who report only binge drinking,” the researchers wrote. “It is possible that marijuana may have some neuroprotective properties in mitigating alcohol-related oxidative stress or excitotoxic cell death.” The scientists noted that such protection has already been shown in lab and animal studies.
Indeed, the U.S. government has a patent on cannabinoids as neuroprotectants. Yes, the same government that wants you to believe that marijuana will rot your brain knows that its active components protect brain and nerve cells from many kinds of damage.
In a statement issued by MPP today, director of state campaigns Steve Fox said, “This study suggests that not only is marijuana safer than alcohol, it may actually protect against some of the damage that booze causes. It’s far better for teens not to drink or smoke marijuana, but our nation's leaders send a dangerous message by defending laws that encourage the use of alcohol over marijuana.”
Fox is co-author of the new book, “Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?” The book is getting lots of favorable press coverage, and recently hit number 14 on the Amazon.com bestseller list.