Cannabis Rx: Cutting Through the Misinformation

under the influenceAndrew Weil, MD gives a nice plug for the classic disinformation anthology Under The Influence: The Disinformation Guide to Drugs in this post about the medical benefits of marijuana for the Huffington Post:

If an American doctor of the late 19th century stepped into a time warp and emerged in 2010, he would be shocked by the multitude of pharmaceuticals that today’s physicians use. But as he pondered this array (and wondered, as I do, whether most are really necessary), he would soon notice an equally surprising omission, and exclaim, “Where’s my Cannabis indica?”

No wonder — the poor fellow would feel nearly helpless without it. In his day, labor pains, asthma, nervous disorders and even colicky babies were treated with a fluid extract of Cannabis indica, also known as “Indian hemp.” (Cannabis is generally seen as having three species — sativa, indica and ruderalis — but crossbreeding is common, especially between sativa and indica.) At least 100 scientific papers published in the 19th century backed up such uses.

Then the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 made possession or transfer of Cannabis illegal in the U.S. except for certain medical and industrial uses, which were heavily taxed. The legislation began a long process of making Cannabis use illegal altogether. Many historians have examined this sorry chapter in American legislative history, and the dubious evidence for Cannabis addiction and violent behavior used to secure the bill’s passage. Under The Influence: The Disinformation Guide to Drugs by Preston Peet makes a persuasive case that the Act’s real purpose was to quash the hemp industry, making synthetic fibers more valuable for industrialists who owned the patents.

Meanwhile, as a medical doctor and botanist, my aim has always been to filter out the cultural noise surrounding the genus Cannabis and see it dispassionately: as a plant with bioactivity in human beings that may have therapeutic value. From this perspective, what can it offer us?

As it turns out, a great deal…

[continues in the Huffington Post]

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  • Rufus

    As always Vox Penis is there pee in everyones cereal.

  • Rufus

    Sorry, “to pee” in everyone’s cereal.

  • gemmarama

    dude, you need to smoke a joint.

  • Mother Mary

    Vox, you are making some pretty bold claims under the banner of ‘scientific evidence’ without providing said evidence. Personal experience has taught me that pure gold does indeed get rid of eye sties; a poultice of sugar and soap does indeed work better and faster than any pharmaceutical product, and a half a teaspoon of sugar will stop a child’s bleeding mouth and tears. And a medicated cold will take 7 days to recover from, whereas an untreated cold will take a whole week.
    Modern medicine is actually reverting to more ‘basic’ forms of treatment, like the use of leaches and maggots to try to combat super-bugs (because antibiotics no longer work – evidence that pharmaceuticals also have a detrimental effect on man’s health).
    A complete trust in pharmaceutical products simply profits drug companies and makes people forget how to look after themselves. In fact, the complete idiocy of your statement makes me think of that movie ‘Thank You For Smoking’ – perhaps you are a spin doctor for a pharmaceutical company?
    Somewhat similar to how packaged food has made us forget how to fully utilise herbs and spices.
    Nutritionists (and pathologists) will tell you that variety of foods and their trace elements are invaluable to good health.
    The evidence is staring you in the face. If pharmaceuticals were the answer to all of man’s woes, why have we produced a generation who are unlikely to outlive their parents?
    p.s. And fyi – when I smoke God’s herbal gift, it is definitely NOT a placebo effect. ;)
    Peace.

  • Haystack

    As much as I hate to say it, I agree with the troll on this one. *g*

    “Vox, you are making some pretty bold claims under the banner of ‘scientific evidence’ without providing said evidence. Personal experience has taught me that pure gold does indeed get rid of eye sties; a poultice of sugar and soap does indeed work better and faster than any pharmaceutical product, and a half a teaspoon of sugar will stop a child’s bleeding mouth and tears. And a medicated cold will take 7 days to recover from, whereas an untreated cold will take a whole week.”

    The burden if proof is with those who are making medical claims for their products. Most of what falls under “alt med” has failed to show positive results despite countless studies and hundreds of millions of dollars of US taxpayer funding through the NCCAM.

    You may accuse me of being a spin doctor for big pharma, but there is lot of money being made by practitioners of alt med, too. Is it really hard to believe that a company would sell a useless cure to the public by spinning themselves as populist underdogs whose message is being suppressed by evil corporations?

  • Haystack

    “If an American doctor of the late 19th century stepped into a time warp and emerged in 2010, he would be shocked by the multitude of pharmaceuticals that today’s physicians use. But as he pondered this array (and wondered, as I do, whether most are really necessary), he would soon notice an equally surprising omission, and exclaim, “Where’s my Cannabis indica?””

    A late 19th century doctor would be shocked that modern medicine actually *works*. Granted, I’m all in favor of medical marijuana, but to make a case for that we don’t need to engage in historical revisionism. 19th century doctors were your worst nightmare; they might have prescribed you arsenic as readily as cannabis.

    • Mike-larry

      The drugs doctors prescribe now is far worse then arsenic.

      • Tuna Ghost

        That’s a bit of an exaggeration, isn’t it? To say that modern health care, in which pharmaceuticals are a huge ingredient, is worse for you today than a hundred and fifty years ago is remarkably silly. Granted medicines for mental health are in a weird area, given how little we know of how the brain’s chemistry relates to our experience of it, but bold new horizons etc.

  • Haystack

    “If an American doctor of the late 19th century stepped into a time warp and emerged in 2010, he would be shocked by the multitude of pharmaceuticals that today’s physicians use. But as he pondered this array (and wondered, as I do, whether most are really necessary), he would soon notice an equally surprising omission, and exclaim, “Where’s my Cannabis indica?””

    A late 19th century doctor would be shocked that modern medicine actually *works*. Granted, I’m all in favor of medical marijuana, but to make a case for that we don’t need to engage in historical revisionism. 19th century doctors were your worst nightmare; they might have prescribed you arsenic as readily as cannabis.

  • gemmarama

    so we’re all agreed. we can’t trust big pharmaceutical corporations and we can’t trust “natural” remedies produced by… big pharmaceutical corporations.

    haystack you are correct that the vast majority of what is marketed as “alt med” is garbage, but that does not mean there is nothing to be gained from real natural remedies. when i burn myself at work, i cut a chunk off the aloe vera plant and rub it on my skin. it never blisters and usually heals within a week. any pharmaceutical product i could put on the burn would actually make it worse rather than better (my dad was a fireman – i know). there may be no cure for the common cold, but when i feel one coming on i binge on red meat, green veg and chilli, and as a result am one of these infuriatingly healthy people who’re only ill for a coupla days. when my friend was pregnant, the ONLY thing that cured her morning sickness was ginger root (preferable to thalidomide, no?). as mary says, we have just been informed that antibiotics are going to stop working, and will probably all have to get used to the idea of bugs being used in our hospital treatment. and i don’t think you people need to be told that i too believe in the weed…

    of course when my wisdom tooth plays up i’m straight on the dihydracodeine. but there’s no point in letting your cynicism blind you to the potential of SOME natural remedies, when used appropriately.

  • Mike-larry

    The drugs doctors prescribe now is far worse then arsenic.

  • Haystack

    I can agree with you there. A lot of pharmaceuticals are just herbal remedies that have been refined and standardized. I don’t think anyone contests that aloe vera is good for burns and skin irritation. What I have a problem with are people who want to set aside all rules of evidence accept anything that markets itself as “natural,” and throw away anything offered by a drug company.

  • Tuna Ghost

    That’s a bit of an exaggeration, isn’t it? To say that modern health care, in which pharmaceuticals are a huge ingredient, is worse for you today than a hundred and fifty years ago is remarkably silly. Granted medicines for mental health are in a weird area, given how little we know of how the brain’s chemistry relates to our experience of it, but bold new horizons etc.

  • Rufus

    As always Vox Penis is there pee in everyones cereal.

  • gemmarama

    dude, you need to smoke a joint.

  • Mother Mary

    Vox, you are making some pretty bold claims under the banner of ‘scientific evidence’ without providing said evidence. Personal experience has taught me that pure gold does indeed get rid of eye sties; a poultice of sugar and soap does indeed work better and faster than any pharmaceutical product, and a half a teaspoon of sugar will stop a child’s bleeding mouth and tears. And a medicated cold will take 7 days to recover from, whereas an untreated cold will take a whole week.
    Modern medicine is actually reverting to more ‘basic’ forms of treatment, like the use of leaches and maggots to try to combat super-bugs (because antibiotics no longer work – evidence that pharmaceuticals also have a detrimental effect on man’s health).
    A complete trust in pharmaceutical products simply profits drug companies and makes people forget how to look after themselves. In fact, the complete idiocy of your statement makes me think of that movie ‘Thank You For Smoking’ – perhaps you are a spin doctor for a pharmaceutical company?
    Somewhat similar to how packaged food has made us forget how to fully utilise herbs and spices.
    Nutritionists (and pathologists) will tell you that variety of foods and their trace elements are invaluable to good health.
    The evidence is staring you in the face. If pharmaceuticals were the answer to all of man’s woes, why have we produced a generation who are unlikely to outlive their parents?
    p.s. And fyi – when I smoke God’s herbal gift, it is definitely NOT a placebo effect. ;)
    Peace.

  • Rufus

    Sorry, “to pee” in everyone’s cereal.

  • Haystack

    As much as I hate to say it, I agree with the troll on this one. *g*

    “Vox, you are making some pretty bold claims under the banner of ‘scientific evidence’ without providing said evidence. Personal experience has taught me that pure gold does indeed get rid of eye sties; a poultice of sugar and soap does indeed work better and faster than any pharmaceutical product, and a half a teaspoon of sugar will stop a child’s bleeding mouth and tears. And a medicated cold will take 7 days to recover from, whereas an untreated cold will take a whole week.”

    The burden if proof is with those who are making medical claims for their products. Most of what falls under “alt med” has failed to show positive results despite countless studies and hundreds of millions of dollars of US taxpayer funding through the NCCAM.

    You may accuse me of being a spin doctor for big pharma, but there is lot of money being made by practitioners of alt med, too. Is it really hard to believe that a company would sell a useless cure to the public by spinning themselves as populist underdogs whose message is being suppressed by evil corporations?

  • gemmarama

    so we’re all agreed. we can’t trust big pharmaceutical corporations and we can’t trust “natural” remedies produced by… big pharmaceutical corporations.

    haystack you are correct that the vast majority of what is marketed as “alt med” is garbage, but that does not mean there is nothing to be gained from real natural remedies. when i burn myself at work, i cut a chunk off the aloe vera plant and rub it on my skin. it never blisters and usually heals within a week. any pharmaceutical product i could put on the burn would actually make it worse rather than better (my dad was a fireman – i know). there may be no cure for the common cold, but when i feel one coming on i binge on red meat, green veg and chilli, and as a result am one of these infuriatingly healthy people who’re only ill for a coupla days. when my friend was pregnant, the ONLY thing that cured her morning sickness was ginger root (preferable to thalidomide, no?). as mary says, we have just been informed that antibiotics are going to stop working, and will probably all have to get used to the idea of bugs being used in our hospital treatment. and i don’t think you people need to be told that i too believe in the weed…

    of course when my wisdom tooth plays up i’m straight on the dihydracodeine. but there’s no point in letting your cynicism blind you to the potential of SOME natural remedies, when used appropriately.

  • Haystack

    I can agree with you there. A lot of pharmaceuticals are just herbal remedies that have been refined and standardized. I don’t think anyone contests that aloe vera is good for burns and skin irritation. What I have a problem with are people who want to set aside all rules of evidence accept anything that markets itself as “natural,” and throw away anything offered by a drug company.

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