Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Medical Marijuana and the Memory Hole

This is going to be a hard post to write without cracking endless jokes about the effects of marijuana on one's general well-being... and memory. It's likely that a lot of the people reading this have heard anecdotal testimonials from friends who've raved about how great marijuana is for easing pain and stress of all kinds --- well, at least I have. So yesterday in a widely circulated news story it was reported that a study by ...a team of Montreal researchers has lent scientific credibility to the view that smoking marijuana can ease chronic neuropathic pain and help patients sleep better. What makes this important is that ...people suffering from neuropathic pain often turn to opioids, antidepressants and local anesthetics, but those treatments have limitations and the side effects can be punishing. Marijuana has none of those drawbacks and the stronger the better apparently, as pain intensity among patients decreased with higher-potency marijuana.

What's even more remarkable is that there was a study on marijuana (PDF) first published in February, 2000 when researchers in Madrid announced they had destroyed incurable brain tumors in rats by injecting them with THC, the active ingredient in cannabis, and that story has pretty much disappeared down the memory hole. Even during yesterday's reporting on the marijuana story, none of the news articles I accessed mentioned the Madrid study. Nor did they mention that in 1974 researchers at the Medical College of Virginia, who had been funded by the National Institute of Health to find evidence that marijuana damages the immune system, found instead that THC slowed the growth of three kinds of cancer in mice -- lung and breast cancer, and a virus-induced leukemia. You'd think this would merit some mention -- you can go read the entire backgrounder published by Alternet.

Sadly everything about marijuana has been politicized and there are lobbies working actively to prevent its legalization because it would cut into their profits. The fact that the societal costs of the drug are far less than those of alcohol seems to matter to no one. In fact here in Canada the Harper government is looking at mandatory minimums of the kind the Americans have which have succeeded only in creating an overcrowded prison system and have done nothing to stem the tide of illicit drug use.

We need common sense of the kind seen in Portugal when they decided to try something new and decriminalized the use and possession of heroin, cocaine, marijuana, LSD and other illicit street drugs. The results five years later had the number of deaths from street drug overdoses dropping from around 400 to 290 annually, the number of new HIV cases caused by using dirty needles to inject heroin, cocaine and other illegal substances dropping from 1,400 in 2000 to about 400 in 2006, according to a report released recently by the Cato Institute, a Washington, D.C, libertarian think tank.

It'd be simply amazing to see and hear something other than fear-mongering and demagoguery from the Tories when discussing important public policy on such controversial issues. We also need to know if medical marijuana is as effective as the above studies suggest. It'd be criminal not to follow up on research that suggests we could save innumerable lives by taking advantage of medical marijuana, wouldn't it?

Socialist Geese Consecrate Beckapalozza!

It must be getting a bit frightening for the immediate family of Glenn Beck. His megalomania and delusions make for an odd kind of entertainment but one wonders, how does this stuff look to people who have to live with him? Yesterday as he was mistily recounting the Saturday rally, he started to talk about some Canada geese that flew over the mall in a V shape just as Beckstock was getting under way and says it was likely a message from God. No, really!



The idiots in the MSM should be ashamed of themselves for treating this guy seriously. Maybe there is divine providence looking after him, after all John Stewart's on vacation for two weeks!

Some Environmental Blogging

Beginning with the tar-sands, a new study says that high levels of toxic pollutants in Alberta's Athabasca River system are linked to the tar-sands project. The study led by Erin Kelly and David Schindler of the University of Alberta also found that levels of the pollutants cadmium, copper, lead, mercury, nickel, silver and zinc exceeded federal and provincial guidelines for the protection of aquatic life in melted snow or water collected near or downstream from oilsands mining. Follow this link and see why it's called "dirty oil."

While using the oil from the tar-sands is controversial and the American drug-store chain Walgreens has decided to switch suppliers, they are not boycotting using oil from the tar-sands project and neither are, as had been reported in some news outlets, The Gap, Levi Strauss and Timberland.

Climate change is on everyone's mind due to the increase in extreme weather events that have occurred this year around the world and yet as recently as last week ,while visiting Canada's North, Stephen Harper was still reluctant to talk about it let alone meet the challenge head on. This while visiting a region of our country that is now embroiled in a gold rush for Arctic riches, fueled by the massive changes in the climate which have affected the polar regions more dramatically than other portions of the country. So how much sea ice is out there? What's the extent and the volume? Well, follow this link and get some solid science and answers to these questions.

Of course climate change is unpredictable and the models aren't always going to get it exactly right, which is no reason to disregard all the research that points to a rapidly changing climate with human fingerprints all over it. Most importantly the predictions for the consequences of ACC (anthropogenic climate change) and the costs of our inaction are dramatic and frightening.