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Cannabis And The United States Government

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uncle sam drug warThe United States Government Needs To Respect Science And The Will Of The People

By Daniel Bauer, Oregon State University SSDP

The United States government needs to reevaluate the place of independent science in all policy-making decisions, and current drug policies are the perfect place to start. Under the Controlled Substances Act passed by Congress in 1970, signed into law by President Richard Nixon, Cannabis is classified as a Schedule 1 drug. “Substances in this schedule have a high potential for abuse, have no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and there is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.” [1]

Cannabis shares this classification with drugs such as heroin and methamphetamine. Cocaine is even deemed less harmful, classified under Schedule II. Cannabis is classified as such despite the numerous studies that have been performed on its medicinal applications, many finding it extremely useful.

Under United States Patent: 6630507, the Department of Health and Human Services has this to say on the matter: “Cannabinoids have been found to have antioxidant properties… This new found property makes cannabinoids useful in the treatment and prophylaxis of wide variety of oxidation associated diseases, such as ischemic, age-related, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. The cannabinoids are found to have particular application as neuroprotectants, for example in limiting neurological damage following ischemic insults, such as stroke and trauma, or in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and HIV dementia.” [2] If not regulated properly, oxidative stress can induce a variety of chronic and degenerative diseases–exactly what this patent claims cannabinoids can be used as preventative care for. [3]

Another case for the medicinal values of cannabis come in the form of its incredible ability to inhibit tumor growth, migration, angiogenesis and metastasis, and even to initiate programmed cell death, or PCD, in cancer cells. [4] This is critical, as one of the ways in which a cancer cell survives in the body is by overriding the cell’s encoded checkpoints that would normally trigger PCD in the event of a cell malfunction. A study conducted by the University of Palermo in Italy on cannabinoid-associated cell death mechanisms in tumor models, came to this conclusion: “Overall, the results reported here suggest that the exploration of molecular mechanisms induced by cannabinoids in cancer cells can contribute to the development of safe and effective treatments in cancer therapy.” [4]

What’s more, a study performed by the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at Virginia Commonwealth University found that THC (?9-tetrahydrocannabinol), the main psychoactive chemical found in cannabis, induced PCD of leukemia T cells. [5]

Not only have cannabinoids been found to suppress tumor growth, but there have also been studies using them to treat patients with multiple sclerosis. The University of Aberdeen in Scotland has found there is a growing amount of evidence that cannabis is effective in suppressing symptoms of multiple sclerosis as well as spinal cord injuries. [6]

These are only recent studies, cannabis has been used as a medicine for thousands of years, and there are multitudes of medicinal applications. How the United States government can claim that cannabis has no accepted medical value is beyond comprehension. The science speaks for itself.

Our government needs to listen to the science as well as the American public on the issue. Public opinion has shifted in recent years and there have been multiple polls showing that the legalization of cannabis is now an opinion of the majority. In 2011 a Gallup poll found 50% were supportive [7], in May of this year a Rasmussen poll found it was favored by 56% [8], and earlier this month an Angus Reid Public Opinion poll found 52% supported legalization. [9]

Which part of the overwhelming science and public support, doesn’t translate into federal legislation? Seventeen states now have medical marijuana programs, with seven more states voting on the issue this November. There are also legalization measures on the ballot in Washington and Colorado this November, with Oregon poised to join them soon. The science has spoken and public opinion supports it. The federal government is behind the times, and it’s time they fall in line with the facts.

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