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From: (Mr C L Mountford)
Newsgroups: alt.drugs
Subject: Newspaper article on Cannabis(pro!!!!)
Date: 30 Sep 1993 18:36:20 +0100
Message-ID: <28f5ek$>

Here's an article that appeared in the Guardian Newspaper on 18/9/93. It is
copied without permission. Most typos are mine.
Read and Enjoy
Please remember that this article was written in the UK all comments in() are


Since the Thirties cannabis has been taboo demonised as a stepping stone to
hard drugs. Yet for centuries it was a respected medicine. Now, people with
ailments from multiple sclerosis to glaucoma are clamouring for pot on
prescription. Could marijuana be a wonder drug for the Nineties?
ALEX KERSHAW investigates.

     "When I first took it the effects were dramatic. It was a god-send. It's
help with my spasticity, my bladder, taken away my head sweats and gives me
a much better night's sleep." A year ago, 43-year-old David McGill was
suffering chronic pain. Depressed and insomniac, he had sunk to his lowest
point since being diagnosed with multiple sclerocis in 1983. Then, last
November he heard about cannabis. He is just one of hundreds, maybe thousands,
who now use the drug regularly as a treatment for MS and all sorts of other
debilitating diseases.
     Despite widespread use for thousands of years, cannabis's secret
medical history is only now being rediscovered in this country, thanks in part
to those battling against diseases for which there is no known cure. Yet from
1842 to 1900, cannabis made up half of all the medicine sold in America.
Robert Burton the English clergyman, first recommended cannabis for depression
in the Anatomy of Melancholy, published in 1621. Queen Victoria used it to
alleviate period pains.
     A hundred odd years later, the use or supply of cannabis is, of course,
illegal. Next month, a Merseyside GP (General Practitioner) is due to appear
at Liverpool Crown Court charged under the Misuse of Drugs Act, 1971. It is
likely to be a test case about the supply of cannabis out of medical necessity.
The case is the first of its kind in this country, but there have been many
similair presented in American courts.
     Although the US Surgeon General, Jocelyn Elders, supports cannabis for
therapeutic use, the medical profession remains bitterly divided over cannabis.
Its political potency, it seems, is as intoxicating as ever. And far more is
at stake than possible legalisation. The arguments over cannabis are also
about the efficacy of modern medicine, the futility of the government's war
on drugs and even the ecology of the planet itself.
     Most evidence of cannabis's therapeutic value come from America.
Marihuana: The Forbidden Medicine, for example written by Dr Lester Grinspoon,
Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard medical school, includes moving
personal accounts of how cannabis has alleviated epilepsy, the weight loss of
Aids, the nausea of chemotherapy, menstrual pains and multiple sclerosis.
Several glaucoma sufferers have found that using cannabis had lowered the
pressure within the eye, so averting the onset of blindness. Robert Randall is
one of them. In 1975, steep street prices drove him to grow cannabis plants
in his Washington home "just eight blocks from Capitol Hill" to treat his
glaucoma. He was arrested, acquitted and then sued the American government to
obtain the first legal supply of cannabis in the United States.
     "My defence was actually derived from English common law," recalls
Randall. "Thirty five US states have allowed the medical use of marihuana. In
opinion polls, 80 per cent of Americans support marijuana on prescription."
Now president of the US alliance for Cannabis Therapeutics, Randall was told
in 1972 that his sight would last three years. Today his glaucoma is no worse.
     A handful of patients with cancer or suffering chronic pain have also
won access. In 1990, a man known as Steve L becam the first Aids patient to
obtain the drug legally, 10 days before he died. The same year, Aids patients
Kenny Jenks and his wife, Barbra, won the same right following their arrest
for possesing two cannabis plants. Ten armed narcotics officers had broken
down the door to their trailer home and held a gun to Barbra Jenks's head.
     Then, in 1991, James O Mason, head of America's Public Health Service,
suspended the programme which allowed the Jenkses and others cannabis on
compassionate grounds. Robert Randall, who recieves a tin box every month
crammed with 300 joints (!), is one of only nine people in the US permitted a
legal supply grown on the US governments's marijuana plot at the University
of Mississipi.
     "We let doctors decide every day whether we are allowed to take morphine
and all kinds of dangerous drugs," said Kenneth Jenks before he died on
July 19. "The decision to take marijuane should be between the doctor and the
     Jenks's sentiments are echoed by many in this country. Sufferers from
various ailments are turning to cannabis, often in the last resort and in
preference to legally prescribed, sometimes highly toxic, drugs. Many
suffering manic depressive order, for example, complain the lithium carbonate
robs them of their creativity and vitality to the extent that they stop
taking it despite the potentially serious consequences. Cannabis, for some,
has proved an effective substitute. And for MS sufferes, in particular, Dr
Lester Grinspoon insists, "cannabis is the drug of necessity." Desperate for
relief, many swear it helps to alleviate muscle spasms and other symptons.
"It has completely changed my life," says Elizabeth MacRory, who is 51 years
old. Diagnosed as having MS in 1986 after a car accident, MacRory was told
"go home and get used to it and don't read any books." "Sometimes I joke that
I'll be the first woman in prison in a wheelchair," she says. "Cannabis has
criminalised me but also liberated me. It has helped with muscle spasms,
allowed me to sleep properly and helped control my bladder."
     Clare Hodges , a 36-year-old mother of two, who has coped with MS for 10
years, reports similair results. She runs the British Association of Cannabis
Therapeutics from her home in Leeds. "I now wake up in the morning and my
balance is sensational. I've been prescribed alll sorts of medicines. Most of
the time I felt I was being overdrugged, but with cannabis you can really
regulate the dosage. So-called experts are always quick to point to the
side-effects. But if you read about the possible effects of aspirin, you'd
never take it again," she says, lighting a joint containing herbal tobacco.
     MacRory, Hodges, McGill and other MS sufferers, who claim considerable
benefit from cannabis, are increasingly disaffected with the charity
representing their interests, the Multiple Sclerosis Society. Hodges points
to the memorandum on cannabis use issued by the Society in which John Walford,
its general secretary, asserts that "there is no evidence that this agent has
an effect on people with MS." Walford also claimed that "long-term use may be
associated with significant, serious side effects." This contradicts
Therapeutic Claims in MS, published by the International Federation of MS
Societies, which concludes that "no significant side effects were reported in
the limited trials" and "no serious long-term effects have been proven to
result from the drug."
      When pressed, Walford concedes, "The society would welcome properly
conducted trials into any substance that is thought to be helpful, but there
are 80,000 people with MS in the UK. What you are talking about is a small
minority. There are people who will swear by all manner of things."
      "He [Walford] thinks we all just get high," counters Elizabeth MacRory
with some bitterness. "He says there are 'significant side effects associated
with long-term cannabis use' yet the Society fails to inform the membership
of the toxic effects of drugs with no proven efficacy which neurologists
continue to prescribe."
      "Cannabis is one of humanity's oldest medicines, with a remarkable
record of both safety and efficacy," insists Dr Lester Grinspoon whose
unflinching advocacy of cannabis caused a storm in America and even led to
death threats, "I'd like to see the day when full medical potential of cannabis
is recognised," he says. "Then it will be seen in the same light as other so-
called wonderdrugs: penicillin, aspirin and insulin. People will look back and
ask how people could have been so blind. There is no plant with so many
therapeutic qualities. It's one of the safest drugs known to mankind."
      Far from being a potential "wonderdrug", it has been claimed that
cannabis causes birth defects, hormonal imbalances resulting in males growing
breasts, impaired sperm and egg production as well as impotence, frigidity,
cancer and brain damage. None of these claims has yet been supported by
scientific evidence. An estimated 10,000 studies worldwide and hundreds
conducted by the US gorvernment between 1966-76 to back its policy of
prohibition, have shown that cannabis, even when smoked in huge quantities, is
relatively benign. The spaced-out pot-head, permanently brain damaged after
countless tokes on a "Camberwell carrot", is a figment of what Grinspoon calls
"Psycopharmacological McCarthyism".
      As all regular users know - and the Home Office estimated that there
were 1.5 million in the UK in 1991, and new figures to be published later this
month are likely to put the total higher - cannabis does have well-known side-
effects: attention and short-term memory, tracking and co-ordination can be
impaired. But not permanently.
      The only well-confirmed negative effect of marijuana, according to
Grinspoon, is caused by the smoke, which contains three times more tars and
five times more carbon monoxide than tobacco. But even the heaviest marijuana
smokers rarely use as much as an average tobacco smoker. And, of course, many
prefer to eat it.
      "Cannabis does have therapeutic properties," admits Dr Heather Ashton,
Professor of Clinical Psychopharmacology at Newcastle University, "but at the
cost, in my view, of unacceptable side-effects. I'm not convinced that it
can be any more therapeutic than other drugs which don't have the risks or
that the advantages of cannabis outweigh its disadvantages compared to other
      Also a leading expert on cannabis, Professor Ashton points to the
"marked increase in heart rate" caused by marijuana, which, she insists, "can
precipitate heart attacks in people with cardiac diseases." She stresses that
marijuana does cause "amotivational syndrome" when consumed - "it take away
the desire to do anything because you feel good." It has, in some rare cases,
also triggered psychotic episodes.
      Dr Roger Pertwee, Secretary of the International Cannabis Research
Society and the UK's pre-eminent cannabis expert, sees himself as occupying
the middle ground on the cannabis debate. "Cannabis does seem to be as
effective, if not better, than existing drugs in dealing with spasticity and
bladder problems of multiple sclerosis. The side-effects seem to be more
tolerable for some patients," he says. "Clinical trials have all backed
cannabis in being able to, not cure, but suppress some of the symptons.
Migraine could well be another case."
      As a recreational drug, alongside nicotine, alcohol and even caffeine,
Dr Pertwee concedes that cannabis compares favourably. No human fatalities have
as yet been recorded as a result of marijuana. Withdrawal symptons have been
reported in long-term chronic users in Jamaica and Costa Rica, but they do not
appear to be dependent in the damaging sense that others are to, say, alcohol
and tranquillisers.
      Much effort has also been devoted to proving the "stepping-stone
hypothesis" that marijuana smoking leads to the use of dangerous drugs. In
Holland, laws passed in 1976 established a division between hard and soft
drugs, effectively decriminalising, with strict conditions, the possesion and
supply of cannabis. The Lancet report in 1989: "The Dutch have shown that
there is nothing inevitable about the drugs ladder in which soft drugs lead
to hard drugs. The ladder does not exist in Holland because the dealers have
been separated."
      The most exhaustive recent investigation into cannabis occured in America
between 1986 and 1988, when the Drug Enforcement Administration heard
evidence from doctors, patients and studied thousands of pages of
documentation. The conclusion reached by the DEA's administrative judge,
Francis J Young, makes startling reading: "Nearly all medicines have toxic,
potentially lethal effects," declared Young, "But marijuana is not such a
substance . . . Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest active
substances know to man. By any measure of rational analysis marijuana can be
safely used within a supervised routine of medical care."
      Given cannabis's medical potential, why was it criminalised at all?
Jack Here, author of The Emperor Wears No Clothes, has constructed a powerful
thesis to explain cannabis's fall from favour earlier this century,
culminating in the 1937 Marijuana Tax in America. Cannabis, also known as hemp
, is a prolificm fast-growing crop, useful for a wide range of industrial
purposes, and an economical source of fuel: it threatened to bankrupt the
paper industry, destroy an emerging synthetic fibre industry and even 
challenge the dominance of oil companies.
      In Harry Anslinger, head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, imperilled
interests in America found a messianic ally, "If the hideous monster
Frankenstein came face to face with the monster marijuana he would drop dead
of fright," railed Anslinger. Through a rash of B movies such as Reefer
Madness, Anslinger managed to convince the American public that cannabis
caused violent crimes and accelerated Uncle Sam's moral decline. Cannabis 
still unnerves a powerful axis of interests. Many of the 4,000-odd "Families
Against Marijuana"-style organisations in the US are funded by the tobacco,
pharmaceutical and alcohol lobbies. Cannabis revisionists now view the
Marijuana Tax as an ecologocial crime. "We want the establishment to
acknowledge that the reasons cannabis became illegal in the first place was
because of the threat posed by it's commercial applications. not its use as a
drug," says Andy Waller of the UK-based House of Hemp, set up this year to
promote cannabis's commercial use. Until the late 19th century, says Waller,
cannabis was one of the world's main agricultural crops.
      Today, it has an estimated 50,000 non-smoking commercial uses. According
to the US Department of Agriculture research, hemp has four times as much
cellulose fibre suitable for making paper as wood pulp. The original Levi's
jeans were, in fact, 100 per cent hemp/ others claim that cultivating
marijuana in the Third World would save the rainforest purify the atmosphere
and provide autonomy to Third World economies crippled by debt.
      In tacit recognition of marijhuana's (sic(sp?)) profit potential, in
February, the Home Offive granted commercial licences to permit the
cultivation of 1,505 acres of cannabis in the UK. It is, however, unsmokeable,
containing none of the psychoactive ingredient THC. The first crop is now
being harvested.
      In the Seventies, Dr Raphael Mechoulam, who first isolated THC at the
University of Tel Aviv in 1964, predicted that marijuana would become a major
medicine by the mid-Eighties, replacing 10 to 20 per cent of all prescription
medicines. Dr Grinspoon argues that, since cannabis is inexpensive, it could
significantly reduce health service's enormous drugs bills.
      Used to combat stress, the world's number one killer, cannabis could 
also curtail or replace hugely-profitable drugs such as Valium, Librium and,
indeed, alcohol, Grinspoon believes. "I'm convinced," he says, " that
cannibidiol (one of 60 therapeutic compounds isolated in cannabis) will be the
best sleeping medicine and one of the best anti-anxiety drugs with the least
toxic side-effects."
      Cannabidiol, which does not produce a high, could also possibly alleviate
Britains's most serious drug problem: tranquiliser abuse, which is already
responsible for more emergency hospital admissions than all illegal drugs
combined. "Cannabidiol could do all these things," concurs Professor Ashton.
"But not at any less cost than other drugs, in my opinion."
      At grass-roots level, cannabis's rehabilitation also reflects a growing
disaffection with orthodox medicine, borne out by the Nineties' boom in
alternative medicine. A common complaint, aired by MS sufferers in particular,
is that cannibidiol research has been woefully neglected. However, despite
decades of marginalisation, there have been spectacular breakthroughs. Pertwee
points to the recent discovery of anandamide (reported in a recent New 
Scientist), a substance produced by the brain that behaves like marijuana.
"Anandamide's discovery promises to open a door to how the brain works. There
may be possibilities of working on a memory drug and the treatment of 
Alzheimer's disease."
      The exploitation of cannabis's medical benefits has always been limited
because of it's psychoactive properties. The holy grail of cannabinoid
therapeutics has, therefore, been to eliminate cannabis's high. Drug companies
have spent years trying, without success. But now, the discovery in Cambridge
(discussed in this month's Nature) by Dr Sean Munro of a receptor for THC, not
in the brain, but in peripheral tissues, promise to solve this problem.
Pharmaceutical companies have already expressed an interest in Munro's 
findings, particularly as related to glaucoma. Yet it is the receptors in the
brain, points out Munro, "that are responsible for many of cannabis's
potential therapeutic effects." And it is precisely the euphoria induced by
marijuana which makes it such an attractive drug for those with terminal
      According to Andy Waller, marijuana should "theoretically" cost less per
acre than wheat to grow. Yet Nabilone, the only synthetic cannabinoid legally
prescribed in the UK, costs the NHS [National Health Service] 39.70 [pounds
about 60-70 dollars?] for twenty capsules. "The pharmaceutical industry and
regulatory system are addicted to the cult of synthesis," complains Robert
Randall. "It's as if every drug has to come out of a factory. God forbid that
it might be natural. There's an attitude that man can make a better Garden Of
Eden scientifically."
      In fact, Dr Grinspoon doubts whether synthetic compounds would be as 
effective as the natural substance. "It's the synergy of so many cannabinoids
in natural marijuana which may be the secret to it's wide-ranging properties,"
says Grinspoon. However, he doubts whether straightforward cannabis will become
a prescription drug. As a plant, cannabis cannot be patented and is therefore
an uncommercial proposition for the drug companies. Legalised prescription
would also need to cope with the problems of standardisation and leakage on to
the market. "There would be queues outside every GP's office," jokes Mike
Goodman of Release, the national drugs and legal advice service.
      "If you can get marijuana for $10 an ounce from your doctor rather than
$600 on the street," says Grinspoon, "it's obvious why prescription won't
work. Cannabis must be given the same status as alcohol - legal, with 
appropriate limitations, for use by adults for any purpose."
      Robert Randall echoes others in vehemently disagreeing with Grinspoon's
call for general legalisation. "The idea that sick people are the key to
decriminalisation is to hold the welfare of the ill hostage to reformist
fantasies. We want it on prescription, like morphine, to help people. Not so
that a hippie can have a good time in the afternoon." [selfish tosser]
      Once deemed the weed that propgated flowerpower, the subversive dropout's
favoured intoxicant, marijuana has since moved mainstream. It is no longer the
narcotic of youthful rebellion for baby-boomers of non-inhaler Bill Clinton's
generation. Mike Goodman insists more people now roll joints and eat hash
brownies than attend football [soccer] matches, art galleries or church. A
survey to be published by two Manchester criminologists next month suggests
that close to 50 per cent of teenagers aged 14-16 in urban areas use illicit
drugs regularly [does this include alcohol underage?], most commonly cannabis.
According to Peter McDermott, editor of the International Journal On Drug
Policy: "Cannabis can no longer be regarded as deviant activity. It's part of
our national social life."
      In a recent survey at a leading teaching hospital, the results of which
one source admits to being asked to suppress, "over 60 per cent of medical
students were found to be marijuana users." In the same survey, only 30 per
cent admitted to smoking cigarettes.
      Even senior police officers, such as Commander John Grieve of the 
Metropolitan Police, have proposed licensing a network of drug suppliers and
dealers. Brian Hilliard, editor of Police Review, has called for the 
legalisation of cannabis for several years. "Legalising cannabis wouldn't do
any harm to anybody," he says "We should be concentrating on the serious
business of heroin and amphetamines."
      The conviction of 42,209 people in 1991 on marijuana charges contributes
to the clogging of the courts and the overcrowding of prisons. Almost 90 per
cent of drug offences involve cannabis. Yet the British government spends
500 million pounds [750,000,000 dollars approx?] a year on "overall responses
to drugs (international and national)" and receives no tax revenue from the
UK's estimated 1.8 billion pound [2.7 billion dollars?] illicit drugs market.
      Increasingly, those pressing for marijuana's legalisation mirror
Grinspoon's belief that, "since scientific scepticism of marijuana has all but
collapsed", the chief opposition to cannabis rests on a moral and political,
not toxicological, foundation.
      The real damage that cannabis causes, the argument goes, is to the body
politic. In his recent book, Food of the Gods, Terence McKenna neatly
encapsulates dope's lasting social potentcy: "It (cannabis) dimishes the power
of ego, has a mitigating effect on competition. causes one to question 
authority, and reinforces the notion of merely relative importance of social
      "It's clear that the government's war on drugs takes precedence over
medical rationality," says Nick Partridge of the Terrence Higgins Trust [A 
national UK charity dealing with AIDS (I think)]. "At present we're 
criminalising many people in massive pain at the end of their lives. Yet I
don't expect the medical arguments to break through the political dogma
surrounding marijuana and that is deeply regrettable."
      "Marijuana has empowered many sick people for the first time," says
Robert Randall. "For many, it is the only drug that works. The real problem
with marijuana is perhaps it threatens to put people in charge of their own
medical lives. The question is: who is going to control individual's biology
- large corporations, doctors and governments, or people themselves?"

My heartfelt thanks go out to ALEX KERSHAW who wrote this interesting and
revealing article for the Guardian Newspaper
Questions, Comments and mail would be much appreciated.
BTW it took me fucking ages to type this in.
"Shall we take a trip down memory lane,
 Head in the clouds into the acid rain,
 Time means nothing I can smell the trees,
 Tastin' the rainbows and the summer breeze."    Northside