Is Senator Kennedy A Victim Of Pot Prohibition?

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director May 20, 2008

    Forgive me if the headline above sounds slightly exploitive. My intention is not to piggyback on a personal tragedy, but I did want to get your attention.

    In the fourteen years I’ve worked in marijuana law reform, few events have struck me as so needlessly tragic as the federal government’s consistent and deliberate stifling of medical cannabis research. Nowhere is the Feds’ refusal to allow this science more overt and inhumane than as it pertains to the investigation of cannabinoids as anti-cancer agents, particularly in the treatment of gliomas.

    As noted in today’s wire stories regarding Senator Edward Kennedy’s diagnosis, glioma is an aggressive form of cancer that affects an estimated 10,000 Americans annually. Standard treatments for the cancer include radiation and chemotherapy, though neither procedure has proven particularly effective — with the disease killing approximately half its victims within one year and all within three years.

    But what if there was an alternative treatment for gliomas that could selectively target the cancer while leaving healthy cells in tact? And what if federal bureaucrats were aware of this treatment, but deliberately withheld this information from the public?

    Sadly, the above questions are not hypothetical. As I originally wrote in 2004 essay for Alternet.org, entitled “Pot Shows Promise as a Cancer Cure

    In fact, the first experiment documenting pot’s anti-tumor effects took place in 1974 at the Medical College of Virginia at the behest of the U.S. government. The results of that study, reported in an Aug. 18, 1974, Washington Post newspaper feature, were that marijuana’s psychoactive component, THC, “slowed the growth of lung cancers, breast cancers and a virus-induced leukemia in laboratory mice, and prolonged their lives by as much as 36 percent.”

    Despite these favorable preliminary findings, U.S. government officials banished the study, and refused to fund any follow-up research until conducting a similar – though secret – clinical trial in the mid-1990s. That study, conducted by the U.S. National Toxicology Program to the tune of $2 million concluded that mice and rats administered high doses of THC over long periods had greater protection against malignant tumors than untreated controls.

    However, rather than publicize their findings, government researchers shelved the results, which only became public after a draft copy of its findings were leaked in 1997 to a medical journal which in turn forwarded the story to the national media.

    In the years since the completion of the National Toxicology trial, the U.S. government has yet to fund a single additional study examining the drug’s potential anti-cancer properties. Is this a case of federal bureaucrats putting politics over the health and safety of patients? You be the judge.

    Fortunately, in the past ten years scientists overseas have generously picked up where U.S. researchers so abruptly left off, reporting that cannabinoids can halt the spread of numerous cancer cells — including prostate cancer, breast cancer, lung cancer, pancreatic cancer, and in one human clinical trial, brain cancer.

    Writing earlier this year in the journal Expert Review of Neurotherapeutics, Italian researchers reiterated, “[C]annabinoids have displayed a great potency in reducing glioma tumor growth either in vitro or in animal experimental models. … [They] appear to be selective antitumoral agents as they kill glioma cells without affecting the viability of nontransformed counterparts.” Not one mainstream media outlet reported their findings. Perhaps now they’ll pay better attention.

    What possible advancements in the treatment of cancer may have been achieved over the past 34 years had US government officials chosen to advance — rather than suppress — clinical research into the anti-cancer effects of cannabis? It’s a shame we have to speculate; it’s even more tragic that the families of Senator Kennedy and thousands of others must suffer while we do.

    16 responses to “Is Senator Kennedy A Victim Of Pot Prohibition?”

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    2. Zionlion says:

      I realized this today after reading the report on where the cancerous brain tumor is in Kennedy’s Brain. The left parietal lobe if damaged can result in difficulty with words, math and eye coordination. Which are the functions mostly affected by a marijuana high. Senator Ted Kennedy would be a prime candidate for the use of medicinal marijuana.

    3. fllibertarian says:

      I have been trying to post the same info everywhere. Lets use this for the good of cannabis.

    4. Mike says:

      Lead-ins like this is the reason our side is never taken seriously. You do not need to grab our attention (any loyal reader of NORML, that is) but anyone who takes notice of such a headline who is only an passive observer of this site could, rightfully so, dismiss NORML as an exploitive fringe group who does not deserve to be engaged in any constructive matter.

      We need to be more responsible if we are to garner more legitimacy.

    5. Justin says:

      One day this will all be over and hopefully these legislators will lead themselves over the cliffs of retirement and anonymity like the bureaucratic lemmings they are.

    6. Concerned Citizen says:

      Someone high up in NORML should talk to Ted Kennedy and tell him all this. I think it should give him a little motivation to get a MM bill passed in congress considering his life might very well depend on it. It’s almost like the government wants it’s citizens to either pay the pharmaceutical companies money or die. We need a third option Medical Marijuana! And all the research that would help people like Ted Kennedy to be allowed. How about a green ribbon so we can support the cause for medical Marijuana? Too much thinking must go to sleep now

    7. Michele Ruggiero says:

      Why doesent he just get high?
      Doesn’t he want to live?

    8. J Velasco says:

      My Father had a brain tumor while my mother passed away from breast cancer. My fathers father died of testicular cancer. I smoke marijuana everyday and just hope I don’t get stricken with this horrible disease.
      Last time I got arrested for pot possession (about 1/2 pound) I endured a putid city jail in Texas that was worse than anything I have seen in Mexico. My minor son was handcuffed and arrested.(later realeased) Pot was not in view. Yet cops sent Child services and with cops outside my house insisted on drug testing me, my 16 year old son and my wife. Only I smoke pot in this family I’m safe to say. Still my rights and that of my families were raped. Thanks Drug Warriors!!!

    9. forgive says:

      […] tragedy, but I did want to get your attention. Cannabinoids have displayed a great potency in reduchttp://blog.norml.org/2008/05/20/is-senator-kennedy-a-victim-of-pot-prohibition/Forgive-ForgetForgiving is allowing another person to be human for faults, mistakes, or misdeeds. […]

    10. Dr. Smith says:

      Hi. I’m a doctor, and probably your taking all this out of context. For the record I love weed, but is sad you use a serious illnes like Sen. Kennedys and exploit it for this cause. To put things back in context, is too late for Sen. Kennedy to use med. cannabis to cure his cancer. Brain cancer and all cancers are classified in stages, and when the doctor detects it, almost all the time it is in an advance stage. So probably the only way Sen. Kennedy could prevent it, is if he smokes weed before the cancer get big enough to present symptons and be clinical detectable. Now is too late, although he can use med. cannabis to alleviate symptoms of chemio and radioterapy.