*The following is an opinion column by R Muse*
Despite the myriad advances of medical science over the past two centuries, human beings still fall victim to a wide variety of diseases, sickness, and epidemics; even in a technologically-advance nation like America. Of course all diseases, conditions and infirmities are brutal, but one that is extraordinarily so is Alzheimer’s; that deadly chronic neurodegenerative disease that slowly, but fundamentally, shuts down the brain and eventually the life of its victim.
There is so little known about Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) that researchers have spent decades seeking not only the cause, but a medical prophylactic against the deterioration of neurons in the brain. Now, in a breathtaking announcement from the Jonas Salk Institute published in the journal Aging and Mechanisms of Disease, scientists have discovered a compound present in marijuana that triggers the removal of beta-amyloid protein from nerve cells, or neurons. The Salk Institute summarized the study writing;
“Scientists have found preliminary evidence that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and other compounds found in marijuana can promote the cellular removal of amyloid beta, a toxic protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease.”
Now, this is important because beta-amyloid is “considered a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.” Beta-amyloid clumps together in the brain of people with the condition “forming plaques that disrupt crucial communication between neurons in the brain” which eventually leads to all of the symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s, such as but not confined to impaired memory. Obviously, the goal of Alzheimer’s research is to prevent beta-amyloid accumulation in the brain, but until very recently researchers were unclear about the exact role the protein plays in the development and process of the disease. Researchers know now that higher beta-amyloid levels are the trigger for inflammation that results in nerve cell (neuron) death. Too many neurons in the brain die and much more than memory loss results; the entire body eventually shuts down.
The senior author of the research, Professor David Schubert of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, CA, and colleagues found that increased beta-amyloid production led to increased expression of pro-inflammatory proteins in nerve cells, causing inflammation and nerve cell death. According to the Salk Institutes ‘first author’ of the study, Antonio Currais:
“Inflammation within the brain is a major component of the damage associated with Alzheimer’s disease, but it has always been assumed that this response was coming from immune-like cells in the brain, not the nerve cells themselves.”
Professor Schubert noted that the Salk Institute is not the first research team to attempt to find a link between the chemicals in marijuana and Alzheimer’s. He said,
“Although other studies have offered evidence that cannabinoids might be neuroprotective against the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, our study is the first to demonstrate that cannabinoids affect both inflammation and amyloid beta accumulation in nerve cells.”
Of course, there is much more research to be done, but at least researchers in America are finally making inroads into the medicinal value of marijuana and that is down to President Barack Obama’s leadership. There was hardly any reporting last year that President Obama eased restrictions on further and more comprehensive cannabis research by eliminating a ridiculous roadblock that prevented any substantial research on the weed’s medical value. The idea that weed has no medicinal value is the only barrier to relaxing the ridiculously stupid criminalization of an important, inexpensive, and easily-accessed remedy for all manner of infirmities, afflictions and life-threatening diseases. In fact, it is long past due for the DEA to remove marijuana from the controlled substances list; or at least get it off the Schedule 1 designation. Even cocaine and alcohol do not warrant schedule 1 designation despite overwhelming evidence they are incredibly more dangerous, highly addictive, and deadlier than marijuana that has never claimed a life.
Besides helping to keep the prison population exploding and creating jobs and revenue for law enforcement and prison guard unions, the primary reason marijuana is on the list of controlled substances at the highest level is because in 1970 marijuana was deemed to “have no medical use.” Seriously, just the absurdity factor of that statement is nearly as stunning as it is blatantly mendacious.
For one thing, the medical, or ‘medicinal’ for pendants, use and benefits of cannabis have been well documented and well-studied for over forty years in the modern era; but only in Europe. For dog’s sake, recent archeological findings revealed that cannabis was in use for its medicinal properties “between 11,500 to 10,200 years ago towards the end of the last Ice Age, in two separate regions: Asia and Europe.”
Even the United States government is aware that cannabis has medicinal value, none the least as a cure and treatment for many forms of cancer. Last year the government finally admitted that the chemicals in cannabis attack, retard and kill cancer cells. Along with that stunning admission, the government duly devoted part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) website (Cancer.gov) to publish the well-documented truth about marijuana’s effectiveness at combatting cancer. It was nothing short of an astonishing reversal of five decades of fear-mongering and propaganda portraying the common weed as dangerous and more importantly that it had no medicinal value whatsoever.
Obviously NIH designating cannabis as having medical value was a blow to the greedy pharmaceutical industry, the prison system, and law enforcement agencies at the local, state, and federal level. This latest revelation and findings that a common weed anyone can grow may well be a curative for Alzheimer’s Disease is not going to sit well with the pharmaceutical and hospital industry because they make a fortune off of people suffering the debilitating and deadly effects of Alzheimer’s; not to mention the devastation of family members having to witness a loved one’s mind, body, and soul deteriorate right before their eyes.
It is long past time for the DEA to remove cannabis from the controlled substance list, at least as a schedule 1 substance. President Obama has slowly, and quietly, made the preparatory moves for the DEA to act and there are rumors and murmurings that a noteworthy announcement is in the very near future. As always, this article is not an endorsement for all Americans to toke and joke; reefer is not for everyone as a recreational substance. However, there is no doubt it can be a medicine for a world of infirmities and diseases that do affect everyone.
For the past forty years marijuana’s medicinal value has been indisputable according to peer-reviewed research in other countries because they are not beholden to law enforcement funding demands and the pharmaceutical industry’s profits. For any government to restrict marijuana’s ‘medicinal’ use for any reason is beyond cruel and barbaric; it is by any sane person’s measure inhumane and criminal.
It’s time for America to do the right thing and unleash America’s scientists and researchers to do what they do best; spend whatever time and resources it takes to exploit the weed’s many medical benefits to save lives. If some people happen to relax, smile a bit more, and abandon the hate and vitriol infecting this nation, it is one drug side effect that very few people would find dangerous; unless they are conservatives and Donald Trump’s hateful base.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.