Thousands of medical marijuana patients in the United States rely on the drug to alleviate a multitude of symptoms from cachexia to nerve pain; nevertheless, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) still considers it a Schedule I controlled substance that has no accepted medical use.
Despite this law-enforcement-agency-approved “analysis,” doctors are conducting their own research. In Israel, the Meir Medical Center is recruiting Crohn's Disease sufferers for a study on the ability of marijuana to treat the inflammatory bowel disease, which affects 400,000-600,000 North Americans.
In San Francisco, for more than five years, doctors at California Pacific Medical Center have been studying the effects of the marijuana compound cannabidiol (CBD) on metastatic cancer cells (i.e., very aggressive tumor cells). In their recently published large-scale animal trial, brain scans revealed the disruption of tumor cells after CBD was used to switch off a specific gene regulator.
These promising results left researchers optimistic and they believe that the findings warrant human trials. They will work to secure funding in the upcoming months for two trial groups, one for brain cancer and the other for breast cancer.
Will these and other studies finally convince our government that science, not myth, should dictate how we approach marijuana?
On Tuesday, in pharmacies across the Czech Republic, medical marijuana was made available to patients suffering from cancer, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, or psoriasis. Marijuana is available by prescription only, and must be imported from the Netherlands or Israel since a cultivation program is not yet included in the law.
The Czech Senate overwhelmingly voted in favor of a medical marijuana bill earlier this year, and President Vaclav Klaus signed the bill into law on February 15.
The law does not mandate that medical marijuana be covered by health insurance nor does it allow for home cultivation by patients. Regardless, the country has some of the most lenient marijuana laws in Europe. Possession of five or less plants is merely a misdemeanor, and fines for possession of 15 grams or less are on par with parking citations.
Yesterday, Israel’s Ministry of Health was ordered to finalize within four months a detailed bill that would regulate the production and marketing of medical marijuana in that country.
Additional measures recommended by a government health committee included making sure that medical marijuana remains affordable for patients and implementing safeguards to prevent the drug from reaching illegal users and merchants.
Once again, Israel’s government has shown a desire to promote the wellbeing of patients who can benefit from medical marijuana—something our federal government continues to avoid.
While many American authorities continue to drag their feet on medical marijuana issues, one of our closest overseas allies is taking another step to help patients for whom marijuana is a safe and reliable treatment.
Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer recently became the first hospital in Israel to administer medical marijuana to qualified patients. After a successful pilot program, the new hospital policy allows medical marijuana patients to use their medication either in smoking rooms or in private rooms with an open window. To further accommodate these patients’ needs, the Israeli Association for the Advancement of Medical Cannabis is now raising money to purchase vaporizers—five of which are already in use at the hospital.
Here in the U.S., medical marijuana is still routinely branded as some sort of sinister "drug legalizer" conspiracy. In Israel, according to a fascinating article in the newspaper Haaretz, the leading conspirator appears to be the Ministry of Health.
Officials have authorized over 700 patients to use marijuana for medical purposes, and expect the number to rise to 1,200 within three months. Authorities are in the process of authorizing five or six producers to handle the needs of this growing patient population. Dr. Yehuda Baruch, who oversees the program, says the average prescription is for 100 grams -- a little over three ounces -- per month. So much for the claims of U.S. prohibitionists that allowing patients even an ounce or two would flood their communities with marijuana.
And doctors are finding marijuana amazingly useful. Haaretz reports:
When Cannabis was approved for medicinal purposes in 1999, it was originally intended for terminal cancer and AIDS patients. Today it is being used in earlier stages of illness and for a wider array of diseases, including Parkinson's, Tourette Syndrome, Multiple Sclerosis, chronic pain and shell shock. The medical establishment is also increasingly recognizing Cannabis' effectiveness in treating illness.
At the Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital's Bone Marrow Transplantation department, patients including children and babies are treated using drops of oil derived from Cannabis. "It has no side effects and is largely effective in treating patients," said department chief, Professor Reuven Or. "I would say it is effective in 80 percent of patients, which is a lot."
Professor Or continued, "It stimulates the appetite and minimizes nausea and vomiting, which is of great importance in Oncology. It also has anti-inflammatory properties, which helps in cases of infection or inflammation caused by radiation. Along with this, Cannabis eases the coping process for patients - it improves their morale and lowers depression, and these are important parameters for patients battling disease."