Your lungs on cannabis. Major study in JAMA finds no damage!

A major new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association JAMA finds no reduction of lung function in cannabis smokers. The research followed a huge sample (5000) over 20 years, including data on consumption of marijuana and tobacco cigarettes. Cigarette smokers were found to lose lung function over the two decades. Smokers of marijuana lost no lung function; intriguingly, they had slightly greater lung capacity than subjects who smoked nothing! This effect was attributed to the smoking technique of the cannabis users.

This research is in line with other findings on the relative innocuous (even healthful!) effects of marijuana smoke. Dr. Donald Taskin of UCLA is one of the planet’s most respected researchers on the effects of marijuana smoking on the lungs. After decades of studying possible cancer causing effects on the lungs, Dr. Tashkin published his results in 2005. Surprisingly, he found no increase cancer risk, even in heavy, long term marijuana smokers.  His data even indicated a protective effect of THC against cancer.

The article reports that Tashkin’s “own study of heavy, habitual marijuana smokers — people who smoked the equivalent of a joint a day for 50 years —  found no harmful effect on lung function.” Still, Dr. Tashkin cautions,  “The smoke in marijuana contains thousands of ingredients, many of which are toxic and noxious and have the potential, at least, to cause airway injury,” Tashkin says. “In an ideal world, it would be preferable to take it in another form.”

The inhalation of any smoke, from Marlboro cigarettes to the fumes of wood stove, is less healthy than breathing fresh air. Although cannabis smoke may be safe from raising cancer risks and not reducing lung function, using a vaporizer may still be a safer alternative. Virtually nothing is burned in releasing medical cannabinoids from cannabis by vaporization.

Say it ain’t so, Sanjay. Next Surgeon General down on medical cannabis.

Yet another heart breaker for drug policy reform and medical cannabis in the form of Obama’s Surgeon General. CNN reports Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s medical coorespondent has been asked by Barack Obama to be the new Surgeon General.

In many ways, Dr. Gupta is an excellent choice. Brilliant, telegenic, a neurosurgeon, huge recognition and an excellent communicator. Yet more important, and still rare for most physicians, Sanjay Gupta focuses on preventive health care, especially on health-enhancing or damaging behaviors. Morbidity and mortality in the USA are much more functions of our everyday behaviors than they are functions of the entire medical care system. How healthy you look and feel, how vital you really are depends chiefly on your daily habits of exercise, nutrition and other health related behaviors. Gupta realizes this, as evidence by his CNN series on obesity, exercise and other key health topics.

Fixing the American health care system, especially as it totters from the oncoming onslaught of Type II diabetics, will require a totally new health care vision, one based on prevention, exercise and self-care. The entire system would be revolutionized by each American walking 10,000 steps a day, a figure that appears to be a requirement for good body composition, healthy blood sugar levels, and basic vitality.  Dr. Sanjay Gupta just might be a Surgeon General who could help this come to pass. Maybe he could even help Barack quit smoking cigarettes, another of his passionate causes, and killer of 440,000 Americans each year.

This makes all the more disappointing the possible Surgeon General’s ignorant take on medical cannabis. He spelled out his unfortunate philosophy in TIME Magazine, on January 8, 2009. His article, Why I Would Vote No On Pot, discussed then up-coming medical cannabis initiatives in Colorado and Nevada (both passed).  Paradoxically, Sanjay starts out by stating recent ways cannabis has been found to be good for your, even asserting, “THC, the chemical in marijuana responsible for the high, can help slow the progress of Alzheimer’s disease. (In fact, it seems to block the formation of disease-causing plaques better than several mainstream drugs).”

Yet somehow, in spite of being a neurosurgeon touting the effectiveness of this plant substance as a neuron and brain protector, he doubles back advises readers in Colorado and Nevada to vote no, to vote away their medical choice on this issue. He talks quite a bit about the smoke as hazard, an issue of ever-decreasing importance in the age of the vaporizer. His urging of the no vote is also a vote FOR continued damage to the American citizenry by enforcement of cruel, useless laws. See Austin, Texas Attorney Jamie Spencer, who commented on his blog in 2006 at the release of the  of Gupta TIME article. Spencer notes, “Voting “No on Pot”, as Dr. Gupta calls it, means more tax dollars spent incarcerating casual marijuana users. That’s it, end of story. Neither initiative will force Dr. Gupta or anyone else to use marijuana.”

In the last 20 years, the discovery of the endocannabinoid receptor system and molecules produced in our bodies to activate these receptors represents a major step forward in our understanding of the human body and its working. Health care in the 21st Century will be revolutionized by these findings and the potential they portend for medical cannabis. Americans deserve a Surgeon General who understands and will help end the goverment’s war against a plant used as medication for millenia and against those Americans who find it of medical benefit. In the article Gupta whines talking points from US government agencies. One statistic he ignores, annual US deaths from cannabis = zero.

Dr. Gupta, after your TIME article, Coloradans and Nevadan disagreed and went ahead and voted for freedom of choice of medical cannabis as they have in nearly every state when given the opportunity. As Surgeon General, please do not scheme to take that choice away from them, and those in a dozen of other states who have voted to assert this basic personal medical freedom.

Obama, Cigarettes and Cannabis

President-Elect Barack Obama has promised not to smoke cigarettes in the White House. Does not smoking in the house mean smoking in the entryways of the White House? Out in the Rose Garden?

Cigarettes are not just the most lethal drug confronting America, they are also the most addictive. The power of cigarette’s grip on human behavior its remarkably demonstrated by our next president. Barack Obama is literally the alpha male of human competence and self control. Master campaigner, victorious debater, now triumphantly poised to assume the most important job on the planet!

Yet still, of all people, the President-elect is not able to summon the will to not smoke tobacco cigarettes. As much as he would like to quit, as much as Michelle and the girls want him to quit, he will presumably duck out of the White House, furtively avoiding his family and to the chagrin of his Secret Service detail, light up a cigarette. Statistically, the smoke will cost him 11 1/2 minutes of his life, and each pack of 20 cigarettes will cost him 3 1/2 hours from his life.

Like most people who become addicted to cigarettes, Obama began as a teenager. Recent evidence shows that just a few cigarettes smoked by an adolescent can set up a lifelong addiction. Tobacco cigarettes were not the only drug smoked (and inhaled), “That was the point” by young Barack Obama:

  • One drug, cannabis with cannabinoids, he used and inhaled. Later, Obama stopped using cannabis when he chose to do so.
  • The other drug, tobacco cigarettes with nicotine, he also used and inhaled. Later, Obama could not totally stop using when he chose to do so.

Receptor discrimination?

When the young Obama smoked a tobacco cigarette, the main drug he inhaled was nicotine. Nicotine activates trans membrane receptors in cells, specifically the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (AChR ). In less 10 seconds after taking a puff of tobacco smoke, nicotine molecules crossed his blood-brain barrier and fit like tiny keys into a locks normally activated by the neurotransmitter, acetylcholine. Nictoine causes the receptors to activate, change shape and initiate a chemical cascade. Young Barack would have felt modest elevation of energy and mood from AChR receptor activation.

When the young Obama smoked a cannabis “joint,” the main drug he inhaled was THC, short for Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol. THC activates trans membrane receptors in cells, specifically the cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2. In less than 10 seconds after taking a puff of cannabis smoke, THC molecules crossed his blood-brain barrier and fit like tiny keys into a locks normally activated by the neurotransmitter, anandamide. THC causes the CB1 (and CB2) receptors to activate, change shape and initiate a chemical cascade. Young Barack would have felt mild euphoria from CB1 receptor activation.

Nicotine is a powerful insecticide. THC is a powerful neuroprotective antioxidant, anti inflammatory and analgesic. Tobacco smoking is highly carcinogenic. No smoke inhalation is a good thing (nor is it necessary with the advent of vaporizers, but cannabis smoking is apparently not carcinogenic. Indeed, THC exhibits several capabilities for preventing, even shrinking tumors.

Tobacco use kills over 1,200 Americans each day. Cannabis use kills 0 Americans each day.

Legal Sanctions

The contrast in legal sanctions for young Barack’s smoking activities are the most startling. If Barack had been caught underage with cigarettes, the punishment, if any, would have been minor. Certainly nothing that would jeopardize his career and future presidential run.

Had Barack been caught and arrested for possesstion of cannabis, though, his future would have immediately dimmed. If given a felony conviction and jailed, as would be possible because of cannabis’  misguided, draconian Schedule 1 listing, Barack would likely now be unemployed. Luckily, because Barack avoided arrest, the “justice” system missed its opportunity to crush the life and career of our next president.

Tragically, Obama’s choice for Attorney General, Eric Holder, holds neocon, authoritarian views on exactly this issue. When part of the Clinton Administration, serving as US Attorney for Washington D.C., he pushed for mandatory jail time for young people caught with cannabis in that city.

Hopefully, as Barack Obama puffs on his occasional cigarette outside the White House, he will think of the vast 2,000,000+ prisoner gulag stretched out across America before him. Far too many of these prisoners languish in jail because they were snared by the dishonest, cruel and self-serving laws against a plant. More Americans are arrested for cannabis possession than all violent crimes combined.

As you take your smoke, please think, Mr. President, of all these American lives being crushed and crippled by such torments as mandatory minimums.  Eric Holder gleefully fed young cannabis prisoners to this incarceration industry and as AG may force many more American lives and families down into the grinder.  All for contact with a substance with true medical value, as opposed to the tobacco cigarettes from which Mr. President, huddled outside the White House, draws another nicotine puff.