Posts Tagged ‘cannabis’
Everyone in Israel is talking about cannabis: who smoked and who did not, how many leftist MKs admit to smoking as opposed to how many rightist MKs. When I expressed my opinion on this issue over a year ago, I had no idea that I had climbed atop such a potent barrel of social dynamite.
Today, it is clear to me that the medical marijuana issue touches upon layers far deeper than the prohibition or permission to use this amazing plant. (Some identify cannabis as the Biblical k’nei bosem – perfume reed – that was used in the anointment oil [see Exodus 30:23] as well as in the incense in the Holy Temple.)
This Sunday, my legislative proposal on medical marijuana will be brought to a vote in the Ministerial Legislative Committee. The proposal says that when a doctor gives a patient a prescription for a certain dose of cannabis, the patient will immediately receive a license from the state to use the prescribed amount.
This seems like a pretty straightforward proposal. But the Health Ministry opposes it. “Cannabis is not a medicine,” the ministry explains. “First we must study all the medical research on the issue from the entire world, understand what exactly it helps and what it harms. To do otherwise would be irresponsible.”
That is the crime of the cannabis plant. It doesn’t come in a capsule with a metallic wrapping and a medical insert. Cannabis is not a drug; it is a simple plant. Sometimes it grows one way, sometimes another. We did not produce it and so we have no control over it. The patent belongs exclusively to the Creator of the World.
People of faith have no problem with this. They have a natural modesty, an understanding that not everything is in our hands and if we see that it helps and the patient wants it, and if the side effects are far fewer than with conventional drugs, then what is the problem?
But prevailing wisdom dictates otherwise. Until we do not understand it completely – and control it completely – we will not allow it. And if in the meantime there is a lot of pressure, and the ill are crying out and the headlines are uncomplimentary, we will create a bottomless bureaucratic procedure to stop those who need cannabis. The patient’s doctor will not decide, but rather a doctor who never saw and does not know the patient will make the decision. In other words, a clerk hiding somewhere in the long halls of bureaucracy.
I once went into an old synagogue, a remnant of the socialist Mapai Party days, to recite the afternoon prayers. On a dusty, wooden shelf I found an old, yellowing prayer book. I opened it. On the inside cover, the Jewish Agency stamp could be plainly seen: “The Department for the Provision of Religious Needs,” it said. “After all,” went the socialist reasoning, “Religion is the opiate of the masses. If there is no choice and the people demand it, we will provide it on our own conditions. The main thing is that we retain control. We will even supply something as unquantifiable as faith.”
Estimates put the number of marijuana users in Israel at somewhere between half a million to one million. It is no coincidence that more and more MKs now understand that an admission of cannabis smoking will help them politically. Clearly, a citizen who has to smoke his cannabis in hiding, living in fear of the knock at the door, can be easily controlled. If the government allows the ill to easily access cannabis, the next step will be legalization. Why would a government that strives for control go along with this new law?
We haven’t even yet mentioned the drug industry, the second largest in the world (after the arms industry). The drug industry’s basic interest is to eliminate the competing substance that cannot even be patented. This is in addition to the financial and systemic pressures applied by various organizations, some of them dubious, on the Health Ministry to nix cannabis.
Initially, Health Minister Yael German explained to me that her hands are tied and the law must be changed. Now, when my new law has gone through all the necessary stages and most of the ministers support it, the health minister is working hard to prevent them from passing it.
The flip side of the liberty coin is responsibility. The basic interest of any state and its apparatus is to control all the spheres of responsibility for our daily lives: the state owns the land, and the state is responsible for our children’s education, welfare, health, and the like. If we don’t use complicated policies to prevent the use of medical marijuana, the state reasons, we will lose control and the entire country will go to pot.
Some detractors also feared the light rail in Jerusalem. “How can we let a train drive down a busy pedestrian mall without having people getting killed all the time?” they asked. It turns out that when responsibility is restored to the citizen, he knows how to take care of himself just fine.
The debate is not about cannabis. Cannabis is just the tip of the iceberg. The debate is about liberty.
Extremely low doses of marijuana’s psychoactive component can protect the brain before and after injury, according to Tel Aviv University Prof. Yosef Sarne.
Medical cannabis is often used by sufferers of chronic ailments, including cancer and post-traumatic stress disorder, to combat pain, insomnia, lack of appetite, and other symptoms but has not been identified as being able to prevent damage to the body.
Prof. Sarne of the Adelson Center for the Biology of Addictive Diseases says that the drug has neuroprotective qualities and that extremely low doses of THC – the psychoactive component of marijuana – protects the brain from long-term cognitive damage in the wake of injury from lack of oxygen, seizures, or toxic drugs. Brain damage can have consequences ranging from mild cognitive deficits to severe neurological damage.
Previous studies focused on injecting high doses of THC within a very short time frame of approximately 30 minutes before or after injury. Prof. Sarne’s current research, published in the journals Behavioural Brain Research and Experimental Brain Research, demonstrates that even extremely low doses of THC around 1,000 to 10,000 times less than that in a conventional marijuana cigarette and administered over a wide window of up to seven days before or one to three days after injury can jumpstart biochemical processes which protect brain cells and preserve cognitive function over time.
This treatment, especially in light of the long time frame for administration and the low dosage, could be applicable to many cases of brain injury and be safer over time, Prof. Sarne says.
In the lab, the researchers injected mice with a single low dose of THC either before or after exposing them to brain trauma. A control group of mice sustained brain injury but did not receive the THC treatment. When the mice were examined three to seven weeks after initial injury, recipients of the THC treatment performed better in behavioral tests measuring learning and memory. Additionally, biochemical studies showed heightened amounts of neuroprotective chemicals in the treatment group compared to the control group.
The use of THC can prevent long-term cognitive damage that results from brain injury, the researchers conclude. One explanation for this effect is pre- and post-conditioning, whereby the drug causes minute damage to the brain to build resistance and trigger protective measures in the face of much more severe injury, explains Prof. Sarne. The low dosage of THC is crucial to initiating this process without causing too much initial damage.
According to Prof. Sarne, there are several practical benefits to this treatment plan.
Due to the long therapeutic time window, this treatment can be used not only to treat injury after the fact, but also to prevent injury that might occur in the future.
For example, cardiopulmonary heart-lung machines used in open heart surgery carry the risk of interrupting the blood supply to the brain, and the drug can be delivered beforehand as a preventive measure. In addition, the low dosage makes it safe for regular use in patients at constant risk of brain injury, such as epileptics or people at a high risk of heart attack.
Prof. Sarne is now working in collaboration with Prof. Edith Hochhauser of the Rabin Medical Center to test the ability of low doses of THC to prevent damage to the heart.
Preliminary results indicate that they will find the same protective phenomenon in relation to cardiac ischemia, in which the heart muscle receives insufficient blood flow.