Today's drug war has prevented useful research into the therapeutic use of cannabis and sacred hallucinogens that have been used since the beginning of recorded human history.
The National Cancer Institute provides evidence that cannabis has pain relief properties in humans and pre-clinical studies show anti-cancer properties in animal and mice.
Tennessee State Representative Jeremy Faison represents District 11 in Northeast Tennessee, an area that has been devastated by opioid overprescribing combined with lack of mental health and substance abuse treatment options.
In 1937, the U.S. Treasury began taxing Cannabis under the Marijuana Tax Act at one dollar per ounce for medicinal use and one hundred dollars per ounce for recreational use. The American Medical Association (AMA) opposed this regulation of Cannabis and did not want studies of its potential medicinal benefits to be limited. In 1942, Cannabis was removed from the U.S. Pharmacopoeia because of continuing concerns about its safety. In 1951, Congress passed the Boggs Act, which included Cannabis with narcotic drugs for the first time.
Under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, marijuana was classified as a Schedule I drug.
"Reluctant politicians, corrupt systems, and a public whose support is tepid at best, but a deep, callous and unapologetic indifference to the lives of people who use drugs. The media, the political field, and the criminal justice system are clogged with depictions that reinforce the view of people who use drugs as dispensable, unwanted, mistrusted and feared."
decriminalization of marijuana in small amounts, saying,
The criminal law is too harsh a tool to apply to personal possession even in the effort to discourage use. It implies an overwhelming indictment of the behavior which we believe is not appropriate. The actual and potential harm of use of the drug is not great enough to justify intrusion by the criminal law into private behavior, a step which our society takes only with the greatest reluctance.
Cannabis has been DEA Schedule I since the 1970 Controlled Substances Act was passed. Schedule I substances are drugs determined to have abuse potential with no medicinal value. The law states:
- The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse.
- The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.
- There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.
Long before Nixon's Controlled Substances Act, Congress passed the was the White-Slave Traffic Act (Mann Act) of 1910 and the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act of 1914.
Excerpts from Shadow and Substance: Women and Addiction in the United States, by neonatologist and pediatrician Stephen Kandall, M.D.
Harrison Act and Its Repercussions
"By the beginning of the 20th century, the Nation had come to view drug addiction as against its best interests. As the stereotypical picture of the addict changed from the sympathetically viewed, white, genteel Southern woman, who had been iatrogenically addicted, to that of an urban, poor, minority male, it became easier for society to view addicts as unproductive, escapist, and self-centered.
NEJM book review of Shadow and Substance (1997)
The mythology of perceived threats to women posed by drug-using African-Americans and Asians—violence, seduction, rape, enslavement—that was promulgated by the Government, overstated by the press, and glamorized by the movies, served the national antidrug agenda well. As the country moved toward a policy of restriction and repression of drugs, it used both the “women in danger” scare and the reality of thousands of addicted women, not as an issue to generate sympathetic treatment, but rather one by which antidrug legislation could be passed.
History.com: The most famous prosecutions under the law were those of Charlie Chaplin in 1944 and Chuck Berry in 1959 and 1961, who took unmarried women across state lines for “immoral purposes.”
In spite of earlier failures at passing national antidrug legislation, Wright convinced New York Democratic Representative Francis Burton Harrison to sponsor a new bill. This bill, which became effective in March 1915, was primarily a tax act, calling for the elimination of nonmedicinal narcotics and the use of revenue stamps and recordkeeping to monitor drug flow through medical channels. The Harrison Act initially generated considerable confusion. Some saw the Act as an information-gathering mechanism, whereas hard-liners believed it empowered Federal police to regulate the selling of narcotics within the States. During this period, male and female addicts found themselves in a world of shrinking drug supplies and skyrocketing prices. It was not until March 1919, when the Supreme Court ruled in Doremus that the Harrison Act was constitutional and in Webb that physicians could not prescribe narcotics solely for maintenance, that it became clear that the Nation was prepared to fight the drug war with strong, repressive methods.
During these years the number of female addicts declined because of changes in prescribing practices by physicians and pharmacists, regulatory measures such as the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, and legislative pressures creating a male-dominated drug underworld that many women were reluctant to enter. Some Southern drug registries, such as those in Jacksonville, FL, and Tennessee, continued to find that women formed the majority of narcotic addicts.
When Meth Was an Antidepressant
Women addicts were increasingly socially stigmatized and faced either the difficult task of maintaining their habit or the even more daunting task of ridding themselves of addiction. Some women continued their drug use through purchasing patent medicines. Despite passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act, from 1902 to 1912 the production of patent medicines increased by 60 percent and profits in the industry rose from $100 million to $160 million (Young 1961, p. 248; Young 1967, p. 57). Other women of economic means, or those who could be maintained on small doses of drugs, continued to receive drugs from private physicians. Still other women resorted to subterfuge. New York narcotics official Sara Graham-Mulhall told of a young woman who arrived in the city and was treated for a supposedly painful condition by “no fewer than four physicians, no one of whom knew of the others prescribing.”
Together with efforts to educate physicians and much less successful attempts to treat opiate addiction and overuse of other drugs, a Federal legislative agenda to control drug use was developing. Much of this antidrug agenda was based on the desire to counter the social and economic threats posed by minorities, such as Asian immigrants and African-Americans. To further this legislative initiative, women began to be portrayed as targets of drug-crazed, sexually predatory minority men. The sensationalistic Hearst-dominated lay press ran frequent stories of women lured into Chinese opium dens or the white slave trade.
San Francisco authorities feared that “many women and young girls . . .were being induced to visit the dens, where they were being ruined morally and otherwise” (Kane 1882, p. 1). Hamilton Wright, one of the architects of American drug policy in the early 1900s, claimed that “one of the most unfortunate phases of the habit of smoking opium in this country [was] the large number of women who have become involved and were living as common-law wives or cohabitating with Chinese in the Chinatowns of our various cities” (Wright 1910, p. 44). In response to the increasing use of cocaine by African-Americans, testimony was offered in 1910 before the U.S. House of Representatives that African-Americans “would just as leave rape a woman as anything else and a great many of the southern rape cases have been traced to cocaine” (cited in Morgan 1981, p. 93).
In 1911 Wright stated that cocaine “is used by those concerned in the white slave traffic to corrupt young girls, and when the habit of using the drug has been established, it is but a short time before such girls fall to the ranks of prostitution” (New York Times, March 12, 1911). These concerns linking women, sex, and drugs eventually resulted in passage of the White Slave Traffic Act (Mann Act), which regulated “interstate and foreign commerce by prohibiting the transportation therein for immoral purposes of women and girls” (U.S. Senate 1910, pp. 61-63).
In addition to a press more concerned with sensationalism than accuracy, a young Hollywood, creating silent picture fans by the millions, had adopted opium and cocaine use as popular themes (Starks 1982; Brownlow 1990).
Beginning in 1894 with a 30-second kinetograph titled “Chinese Opium Den,” which was made for Thomas Edison, Hollywood produced more than 200 known films dealing with the drug theme. The theme of women as vulnerable targets of drugs was used in many films, such as “Morphia—the Death Drug” (1914), “The Secret Sin” (1915), “The Rise of Susan” (1916), “The Devil’s Needle” (1916),“The Girl Who Didn’t Care” (1916), and “The Devil’s Assistant” (1917). Even after passage of the Mann Act, films such as “Traffic in Souls” (1913), “White Slave Traffic” (1913), and “The White Slave” (1913) suggested the extent to which the film industry clung to a sensationalized and lurid treatment of the enslavement of women through drugs.
Drawing a connection among women, sexuality, and drugs thus became an important way to generate public revulsion of drug use by a population of users that was becoming increasingly minority, poor, and urban. This dramatic transformation of U.S. drug users fueled a crescendoing effort to pass antidrug legislation, an effort that had begun with an antiopium municipal ordinance in San Francisco in 1875.
Although many State antidrug laws were passed during the next 40 years, local laws were generally unsuccessful in curtailing drug use. National legislation to control opium smoking had been introduced in 1880 and 1884, and although both bills died in committee, committee members realized that tax mechanisms could be used to control the flow of drugs, a strategy that would bear fruit with the 1914 passage of the Harrison Act.
Time: Here’s What Science Says About Medical Marijuana
History.com: 10 Things You Should Know About Prohibition
Marijuana addiction is uncommon and not very severe. Nobody overdoses on cannabis.
Researcher Sue Sisley, M.D., details her study using cannabis to treat PTSD
What is the evidence from human studies? (Cancer.gov)
Have any clinical trials (research studies with people) of Cannabis or cannabinoid use by cancer patients been conducted?
No clinical trials of Cannabis as a treatment for cancer in humans have been found in the CAM on PubMed database maintained by the National Institutes of Health.
Cannabis and cannabinoids have been studied in clinical trials for ways to manage side effects of cancer and cancer therapies, including the following:
Nausea and vomiting (See Cancer.gov website)
Stimulating appetite (See Cancer.gov website)
- Combining cannabinoids with opioids: In a small study of 21 patients with chronic pain, combining vaporized Cannabis with morphine relieved pain better than morphine alone, while combining vaporized Cannabis with oxycodone did not produce significantly greater pain relief. These findings should be tested in further studies.
- Delta-9-THC taken by mouth: Two small clinical trials of oral delta-9-THC showed that it relieved cancer pain. In the first study, patients had good pain relief as well as relief of nausea and vomiting and better appetite. A second study showed that delta-9-THC could be given in doses that gave pain relief comparable to codeine. An observational of nabilone also showed that it relieved cancer pain along with nausea, anxiety, and distress when compared with no treatment. Neither dronabinol nor nabilone is approved by the FDA for pain management.
- Whole Cannabis plant extract medicine: A study of a whole-plant extract of Cannabis that contained specific amounts of cannabinoids, which was sprayed under the tongue, found it was effective in patients with advanced cancer whose pain was not relieved by strong opioids alone. Patients who received the lower doses of cannabinoid spray showed markedly better pain control and less sleep loss compared with patients who received a placebo. Results showed that, for some patients, control of their cancer-related pain continued without needing higher doses of spray or higher doses of their other pain medicines.
Anxiety and sleep
- Inhaled Cannabis: A small case series found that patients who inhaled marijuana had improved mood, improved sense of well-being, and less anxiety.
- Whole Cannabis plant extract spray: A trial of a whole-plant extract of Cannabisthat contained specific amounts of cannabinoids, which was sprayed under the tongue, found that patients had improved sleep quality.
Have any side effects or risks been reported from Cannabis and cannabinoids?
- Because Cannabis smoke contains many of the same substances as tobacco smoke, there are concerns about how inhaled cannabis affects the lungs. A study of over 5,000 men and women without cancer over a period of 20 years found that smoking tobacco was linked with some loss of lung function but that occasional and low use of cannabis was not linked with loss of lung function.
- Because use of Cannabis over a long time may have harmful effects on the endocrine and reproductive systems, rates of testicular germ cell tumors (TGCTs) in Cannabisusers have been studied. Larger studies that follow patients over time and laboratory studies of cannabinoid receptors in TGCTs are needed to find if there is a link betweenCannabis use and a higher risk of TGCTs.
- A review of bladder cancer rates in Cannabis users and non-users was done in over 84,000 men who took part in the California Men's Health Study. Over 16 years of follow-up and adjusting for age, race/ethnic group and body mass index (BMI), rates of bladder cancer were found to be 45% lower in Cannabis users than in men who did not report Cannabis use.
- Symptoms of withdrawal after long-term cannabis use are mild compared to withdrawal from opiates and usually lessen after a few days.
More information about opiates: Lack of Mental Health & Substance Abuse Treatment Options, Local Politics Feed Stigma, Make Northeast TN a Difficult Place to Recover from Substance Use Disorder and Mental Illness, Increases Transmission of Hepatitis C
- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved Cannabis or cannabinoids for use as a cancer treatment.
Are Cannabis or cannabinoids approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use as a treatment for cancer-related symptoms or side effects of cancer therapy?
- Cannabis is not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of any cancer-related symptom or side effect of cancer therapy.
(i.e. Buy the expensive medications below)
- Two cannabinoids (dronabinol and nabilone) are approved by the FDA for the treatment of chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting in patients who have not responded to standard therapy.
Should marijuana be rescheduled, decriminalized or both? Let us know in the comments.
The Veterans Affairs Healthcare System is arguably the best we have in the United States, yet even it cannot provide adequate mental health care to patients. We must do better in the United States and it must start with large-scale, culturally competent, government-sponsored research of classic hallucinogens and mindfulness. Both are archaic means of resilience that will not bankrupt the nation.