International MPN News, Science & Opinion

The Marijuana Papers

The Marijuana Papers

By David Ensee

As I ponder back on my experience with the “evil weed” (aka – marijuana) it takes me back to my high school days or should I say daze? I partook quite regularly as a young lad and can honestly say upon reflection it may not have been the best thing for a developing mind.

The Author on an Underwater Trip

A car full of buddies cruising down the road in my massive blue Buick Electra 225, passing a joint, and jamming to some Doobie Brothers sure does bring back memories.

Fast forward 25+ years later, mostly abstinent from smoking pot and I was diagnosed with PV (2009). Many of my symptoms are treated by a doctor who freely writes prescriptions for anxiety, sleep issues, depression, gout, itching and occasionally pain.

Pass the joint
I was prompted to consider partaking again after an old high school buddy called “to see if I was still alive” after the passing of two middle age friends. Ironically, this was just a few months after I was diagnosed. I informed him of my new condition, “a rare blood cancer” for the sake of simplicity and invited him to visit; he came by and offered to smoke a joint. At first I declined, mainly because I was in the early stages of a job hunt, but then I thought what the hell, why not? Much to my delight, we reminisced, got real silly, and found ourselves laughing about such trivial matters as the autumn leaves gently falling from the trees in the back yard. It was a pleasant “mental vacation” from the ever present thoughts of living with PV.

Ever since that day, I decided an occasional smoke was a welcome relief when I had aches and pain or felt overwhelmed by my condition (think four phlebotomies in a week or the initial fear of starting a chemo drug). While exercise is actually my first line of defense for all of the above, some days I don’t have the energy to even begin. A couple of puffs leads to almost immediate relaxation, lowers the perception of body aches, and allows the mind to freely float away from congested thoughts about living with a chronic disease.

When prescriptions don’t work
While medical professionals continue to debate the value of treating various ailments with marijuana, perhaps it is an option to consider should “prescribed” medications not meet your needs. I think this is a topic that warrants further discussion.

Since one of a doctor’s duties is to treat a patient’s symptoms, why should he not have the choice of prescribing medical marijuana? Fortunately that choice does exist in 16 states and the District of Columbia and is up for decision in eight other states. While the science is often obscured by opinion, it seems morally wrong to not help someone when relief from anxiety and pain is available.

What is Marijuana?
Cannabis, also known as marijuana refers to any number of preparations of the Cannabis plant intended for use as a psychoactive drug or for medicinal purposes. \According to the United Nations, cannabis “is the most widely used illicit substance in the world.” The major psychoactive chemical compound in cannabis is Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (commonly abbreviated as THC). Cannabis contains more than 400 different chemical compounds, which can result in different effects from those of THC alone.

Obstacles to medical research
Only a battery of clinical studies, conducted according to stringent scientific procedures to prove marijuana’s medicinal benefits, can persuade lawmakers, much of the medical establishment and government agencies that it belongs in the same toolkit as pharmaceuticals approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The problem is, studies are expensive, funding for marijuana studies is scarce and there are obstacles that make it difficult for researchers to get their hands on the federal stash of marijuana specifically grown for research.

Nobody wants to do studies with marijuana because it’s a thankless job,” says Dr. Donald Abrams, chief of oncology at San Francisco General Hospital who conducted several studies through the cannabis research center. “People say it’s ‘Cheech and Chong’ medicine, and no drug companies are supporting it because it’s not patentable, so what’s the point?”

Many studies, many questions
This doesn’t mean marijuana and its active ingredients haven’t been studied. The International Association for Cannabinoid Medicines’ database has compiled more than 300 studies going back to 1970. Some have attempted to calculate which methods of delivery — smoking vs. vaporization, for example — are safer and more effective. Some have looked into the negative side effects of medical marijuana use. But the bulk have been designed to determine whether the drug or synthetic versions can treat any variety of ailments, from incessant hiccups to cancer.

Many of the studies have found promising results in the use of marijuana for a handful of medical conditions, but the conclusions haven’t been unanimous. The website ProCon.org, run by a nonprofit that attempts to provide unbiased educational resources on a variety of issues, tracked down 73 peer-reviewed studies conducted between 2000 and 2011. Of those, 45.2 percent concluded that marijuana has potential medical benefits; 31.51 percent were not clearly pro or con; and 23.29 percent found no benefits and/or detrimental effects, such as cognitive impairment.

Marijuana lumped in with the harder stuff
Even if funding were available, research into marijuana’s therapeutic value is hampered by its status as a Schedule I drug — those considered to have no proven medicinal benefit and a high potential for abuse. Also on the list: heroin, LSD and Quaaludes.

Because marijuana is a Schedule I drug, researchers have to jump through a lot of governmental hoops to get their hands on the only legal cannabis available for scientific study. The American Medical Association and many researchers, believe marijuana should at least be considered for Schedule II status, with the likes of cocaine, Oxycodone and morphine, to loosen the reins on its availability for research.

Cannabis studies from the US government’s National Cancer Institute website: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/cam/cannabis/healthprofessional/page5

Physicians’ View on Medical Marijuana http://medicalmarijuana.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=001529

State Laws
The following 16 states (and D.C.) have enacted laws to legalize medical marijuana:
Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, D.C., Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, Rhode Island, Washington.

10 States with pending legislation to legalize Medical Marijuana include:
Alabama, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York,Ohio, Pennsylvania.

Medical marijuana is rapidly gaining statewide acceptance while becoming a blockbuster drug with annual sales near $2 billion. Extensive research for this article yielded no direct evidence regarding possible benefits for MPN patients. It is the writer’s opinion that short term positive effects outweigh the negative regarding lack of “clinical” evidence.

© David Ensee and MPNforum.com, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Ensee and MPNforum.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Comments on: "The Marijuana Papers" (7)

  1. Giovanni Ferdinando said:

    I’m a 1949 model like Dave above. Thirty years ago I broke my foot off. Yep…I had a
    run in with a misbehaving ladder and after hitting the ground on my back I looked down along my throbbing leg at the sole of my shoe squarely facing my gaze. Two surgeries and 4 Doctors later I was still in almost constant pain.

    So thirty years hence arthritis has made a home in my ankle, both knees and several other joints from the abuse that a carpenter endures pursuing his craft.

    Long story short…..marijuana does the trick for me. My doctors have given me all the other pain killers which have either made me into a pain free zombie, do nothing at all or make me bleed for no reason. The neurologist who I am seeing to keep tabs on another accidental injury to my neck causing a stenosis of a cervical vertebrae, is amazed that I refuse the oxycodone he offers. I tell him about how marijuana works for me….smoked or injested……and he gives me a look of disbelief.

    I grow my own……having to keep under the radar. The only side effect seems to be the paranoia of being busted for my 5 plants a year that keep me sane and painless while performing my job as a theatrical designer and University art professor.

    I don’t use it at work…..nor do I drive under the influence. I come home from work and sometimes have to drag myself into my house. But after just three tokes of “Thelma and Louise” (the names of my last two plants of the 2013 crop) I feel like the guy kicking up his heels after just one sip of snake oil! I can actually walk painlessly and without the chronic limp I have with an ankle that is as stiff as a nine iron.

    The effect is short term…..an hour or so….but enough to settle the stress of dealing with the pain and to relax those tensions that simply add to the pain. With everyday use my total consumption is about one 1″ round bud per week…a bit more if I am at home longer. Maybe one day someone will invent a time release version.

  2. […] I wrote this article originally as a contribution to the MPNforum in 2011 and now feel it is time to come forward and stake claim, as this is still a very timely […]

  3. I believe this plant is a gift from God.

  4. I was a “stoner as we called it in the ’60s. There was a well researched book called “The Marijuana Papers” then. I read it. Very informative. Went back to early use in China and the Middle East. It was well researched. It opened up many to various “spiritual” experiences, not all good. The idols of demons decorating temples in ancient China were based on “visions” the emperors had while stoned on pot. As a Christian in recovery I work w/many who use pot often and they are often out of it. We all make our choices.

  5. Arnie McConnell said:

    Hey. I’m feeling like an early Christian as I write this, so don’t throw me to the lions. Try to empathize– for the exercise.

    Somewhere around the time I was diagnosed with PV, I also had a big run-in with my left inner ear.

    I remember working with a gas-powered trimmer (hesitate to use “weed whacker” at this point) when, very suddenly, everything went wobbly. I staggered, mindlessly holding the infernal thing, a hundred feet or more to my car and was never more grateful to take a seat. Shall spare you the details of the copious vomiting that ensued.

    Trying initially to avoid telling my wife that something had gone radically wrong with me, I soon gave up and called out. A trip to the emergency room followed shortly thereafter.

    Memory fades after three or more years, but one of the more prominent features of this attack was that it interfered with the coordination of my eyes. Thus, while one focused nicely upon whatever it was gazing at, the other pulsed spasmodically from side to side.
    Needless to say, my 1949 hard-drive was soon exhausted and overwhelmed.

    It took days for that pulsing to stop, by which time I was depending upon the use of a cane.

    The amount of energy required to walk around was way too great. I soon sought the services of a otolaryngologist (??) aka, a balance doctor, to help me acclimate myself to my new status. Very early on, he told me that, while a good portion of my balance would return, part of it had, metaphorically speaking, left the building.

    Jumping back to the emergency room part of the story, I should mention that the absolute root cause of the problem was never found, though the concept of stroke was eliminated–for that round.

    PV, maybe? Might as well blame that situation in a pinch, ’cause I still don’t know what that mess is, either.

    Months went by as my balance slowly returned, with a couple of rightward exceptions. And, by then, I was taking Pegasys, which induces its own form of wooziness.

    Fascinated by the comparison and contrasts of dizzy and woozy, I returned to my balance guy for what I’d hoped would be a lively discussion. And, even by this relatively early point, the fellow was just not that interested, basically telling me that inner ear dizzy, such as it was by then, was here to stay and that Pegasys woozy was a phenomenon about which he knew little.

    But, I could have all of the prescription valium that I would need to control my psyche while I dealt with it.

    Turns out that I have no earthly use for valium, which tends to make me feel drugged on top of tired and dizzy/woozy and useless to myself.

    My call, right?

    Also, as fate would have it, I found out that marijuana works nicely. Do I really have to say “when used judiciously”? I drink white wine very occasionally, too, and, thus far, have avoided the need for an adult diaper.

    Not everyone can handle the side effects of Pegasys, I’m told. From the beginning, that has not been the case with me. But I have felt a little bit manically wonderful at some points. Sorry, puritans.

    Turns out that weed harmonizes nicely with me and with the aforementioned feelings. Might make you jump off a ledge. Don’t know.

    I don’t manage policy. I live my life.

    May I suggest Dave Brubeck’s wonderful Love Songs album?

    Select “What Is This Thing Called Love?” right off the bat.

    Within that limited context, you can’t go wrong.

    Be Well,

    Arnie McConnell
    Seekonk, MA (USA)

  6. A very informative article, thanks. I somehow missed it (not sure which month it was posted), it so glad Zhen mentioned it on the forum. 25 years for you- 45 for me! I have been thinking that an occasional “toke” would ease chronic pain as I do not do well on pain meds. I could probably even qualify for our (Canada) medical marijuana program but do not want the hassle and stigma. The problem is, that as an “oldie” how do you acquire safe and “mild” smoke? To say nothing of the potential legal problems. Also, I believe there is still concern about short term memory loss? A couple other folk on the list have noted that the drug has been very helpful.

    • Canada is about to go big time with medical use. As of April there will no longer be one grower per two users, it will be done by big business. I am sure that with the new system in place you will be able to safely obtain a strain that works for you. If you are concerned about short term memory loss then don’t use cannabis when that will be an issue. At home on the couch should work fine.

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