Last Wednesday on our NORML Stash blog we pointed out this incredible paragraph on the website of the National Cancer Institute at cancer.gov on their general information page about medical cannabis. The website had been updated on March 17 with a remarkably honest appraisal of the antitumoral effects of cannabinoids:
The potential benefits of medicinal Cannabis for people living with cancer include antiemetic effects, appetite stimulation, pain relief, and improved sleep. In the practice of integrative oncology, the health care provider may recommend medicinal Cannabis not only for symptom management but also for its possible direct antitumor effect.
This addition to a website run by the National Institute of Health was a stunning admission from a federal government that has steadfastly maintained that cannabis is a Schedule I. drug with no accepted medical use in the United States. Never mind that:
- 15 U.S. states and Washington D.C. have accepted medical use of marijuana;
- four U.S. citizens continue to receive federal medical marijuana grown on a U.S. government farm and distributed by a federal program;
- the DEA has suggested that natural plant-derived THC be redefined as medical so long as a pharmaceutical company is selling it and not a gardener;
- and the federal government has registered patent #6630507 on cannabinoids as a neuroprotectant.
It's not as if the antitumoral properties of cannabinoids are anecdotal reports from cannabis acolytes. In 1975, the Journal of the National Cancer Institute published a study called "Antineoplastic activity of cannabinoids" which noted (emphasis mine):
Animals treated for 10 consecutive days with delta9-THC, beginning the day after tumor implantation, demonstrated a dose-dependent action of retarded tumor growth.
My colleague, Paul Armentano, has compiled 39 footnotes worth of citations on the research on cancer and cannabinoids. One of the leading researchers, Dr. Manuel Guzman from Complutense University in Madrid, concluded (emphasis mine):
The fair safety profile of THC, together with its possible anti-proliferative action on tumor cells reported here and in other studies, may set the basis for future trials aimed at evaluating the potential antitumoral activity of cannabinoids.
NORML and other cannabis blogs soon began pointing out this sea change in federal rhetoric about medical marijuana and the cognitive dissonance we feel when cancer.gov tells us marijuana is medical and dea.gov tells us it is not.
Apparently the National Cancer Institute got a talking to from someone, because now that page has been scrubbed of any reference to the direct antitumoral effects of cannabis:
The potential benefits of medicinal Cannabis for people living with cancer include antiemetic effects, appetite stimulation, pain relief, and improved sleep. Though no relevant surveys of practice patterns exist, it appears that physicians caring for cancer patients who prescribe medicinal Cannabis predominantly do so for symptom management.
The Obama Administration on March 9, 2009, issued a " Memorandum For The Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies; Subject: Scientific Integrity" which sought to reinforce Obama's commitment to see science, not politics, set policy in Washington, after years of criticism of his predecessor's preference for the reverse.
In part, the memo read (emphasis mine):
Science and the scientific process must inform and guide decisions of my Administration on a wide range of issues, including improvement of public health, protection of the environment, increased efficiency in the use of energy and other resources, mitigation of the threat of climate change, and protection of national security.
The public must be able to trust the science and scientific process informing public policy decisions. Political officials should not suppress or alter scientific or technological findings and conclusions.
Mr. Obama, the science is in on cannabis' potential anti-cancer properties and for once, the National Cancer Institute was using it to inform public policy. It is a shame and a disgrace to find your administration using the same tactics as your predecessor to whitewash politically-uncomfortable science.