Understanding Medical Cannabis – 1.Aging & Cannabis 2. A Lawsuit to Deschedule Cannabis 3. South Africa – Legal Cannabis for Personal Use

1. Cannabis cheri: Aging and Cannabis As a Disease Preventative – An RN’s Perspective

 by Lanny Swerdlow, RN, LNC

The endocannabinoid system regulates almost every biological process in our bodies and has evolved to not only restore our body’s homeostatic balance when it is ravaged by disease, but to prevent the development of diseased states in the first place.

Dr. Robert Melamede in his ground breaking paper, “Harm Reduction-the Cannabis Paradox,” proposed that “the homeostatic action of cannabinoids on so many physiological structures and processes is the basis for the hypothesis that the endocannabinoid system is nothing less than a naturally evolved harm reduction system.”

By keeping our bodies in balance and preventing imbalances, the cannabinoids in cannabis working with our endocannabinoid system can prevent the development of debilitating ailments, especially those that are age-related.

This is significant as countries that provide Western medicine to their citizens find that the cause of death has transitioned from being pathogen-induced, i.e. infections, to age-related, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s. Cannabis is unique in its ability to prevent these and other age-related diseases.

Cannabis and Cancer Prevention

A paper published by Dr. Donald Tashkin on cannabis use and the development of lung cancer did not find any connection between the development of lung cancer and cannabis use. The research actually documented that individuals who smoke marijuana had a lower incidence of lung cancer than people who did not smoke anything at all.

In the August 2009 issue of Cancer Prevention Research, medical researchers reported that “10 to 20 years of marijuana use was associated with a significantly reduced risk of head and neck squamous cell cancer.” Head and Neck Squamous Cell Cancer (HNSCC) is associated with the use of alcohol and tobacco, but not cannabis.  The study found that for people who do use alcohol and tobacco, those who also use cannabis have a lower incidence of HNSCC then those who do not.

From these studies, it can be argued that the cannabinoids found in cannabis are such powerful anti-cancer agents that they can even reduce the formation and spread of cancers in the presence of cancer causing agents such as alcohol and tobacco.

In a PDQ information summary for health care professionals entitled “Cannabis and Cannabinoids” and published by the National Cancer Institute in a 2011 lead researcher Donald Abrams, MD, to write, “the health care provider may recommend medicinal cannabis not only for symptom management but also for its possible direct antitumor effect.”

As the largest neurotransmission system in our bodies, cannabinoids are intrinsically involved in the function and health of our nervous system. Their unusual property of retrograde transmission, whereby cannabinoid neurotransmitters diffuse backwards across the neural cleft, act as a feedback mechanism to prevent excessive nerve cell activity thereby preventing cell death.

Cannabis as Anti-Inflammatory and Neuro Protectant

Cannabis as a Disease Preventative

The anti-inflammatory properties of cannabinoids along with their control of fundamental neurological activity can aid in the regeneration of damages to the nervous system caused by strokes or injuries.

Another major way that cannabis can act as a preventative is its unique ability to counteract stress. Stress, a major component of modern-day urban life, can lead to all kinds of debilitating ailments from heart attacks and strokes caused by arterial plaque build-up to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other mental ailments caused by overbearing environmental triggers.

Cannabinoids control the extinction of painful memories and as such cannabis use may help people to either forget these painful memories or help provide perspective so as to reduce the stress these memories cause.

Perhaps the most important attribute of cannabis as a preventative is its ability in a non-coercive way to prevent people from drinking alcohol as it is the only effective substitute for this debilitating and intoxicating recreational beverage.

Cannabis for Better Health

Whether it is brain, heart or overall health of the body, the need for supplemental cannabinoids provided by the ingestion of cannabis is critical for maintaining health and vigor. Health care professionals should be counseling their patients to obtain additional cannabinoids through the ingestion of cannabis in the same way that they encourage the ingestion of supplemental nutrients like omega-3s, iron and vitamin D.

Lanny Swerdlow, RN, LNCAuthor Lanny Swerdlow, RN, LNC

Lanny Swerdlow, RN, LNC is host of the Internet radio show Marijuana Compassion & Common Sense and founder of the Marijuana Anti Prohibition Project and the Brownie Mary Democratic Club. Contact him at lanny@marijuananews.org.


2. Crowd Justice: A lawsuit to de-schedule Cannabis
by Lauren Rudick

We are a midtown Manhattan law firm comprised of 6 lawyers, each a fierce advocate for the legalization of cannabis, among other counter-cultural causes.  Many of our clients are investors and startups in the burgeoning cannabis industry. As discussed below, the lawsuit referenced above is brought on behalf of two sick children, two military veterans, a former NFL player and a non-profit organization, and is intended to benefit tens of millions of people throughout the United States and the world.

The expenses associated with this case are mainly legal fees, expert fees, and filing costs.  We are suing Attorney General Jeffrey Sessions, the U.S. Department of Justice, Charles (“Chuck”) Rosenberg, the United States Drug Enforcement Agency, and the United States of America, regarding decades of failed drug policy.  We are challenging the wrongful classification of Cannabis as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act. This will require extensive medical analysis, review of decades of social policy and lawmaking, the depositions of multiple governing officials, and submission of affidavits by expert witnesses.  We will show that the mis-classification of cannabis as a Schedule I drug is rooted in bigotry and efforts to suppress political opposition to the Vietnam War, as opposed to the government’s false claims about the supposed “danger” of cannabis.  This is the largest federal lawsuit ever regarding federal cannabis policy.  

If we prevail, cannabis would be de-scheduled.  This would have impacts all over the world, to the benefit of tens of millions of people.  

The lawsuit is brought on behalf of a handful of very special individuals.  Two of the plaintiffs, Alexis Bortell and Jagger Cotte, are young children who need legal access to cannabis as life-saving medication.  Another plaintiff, Jose Belen, is a retired United States combat veteran who suffers with PTSD and is an advocate for treating PTSD with cannabis as a means to minimize, if not eliminate, the “22-a-day” statistic regarding veteran suicide.  Another plaintiff, Marvin Washington, is a retired NFL player and Superbowl champion — an African American — who seeks to provide a pathway for minorities to obtain much-needed startup capital for cannabis businesses, through federal minority assistance programs, that would be available to them only if cannabis were to be legalized.  Notably, less than 3% of cannabis businesses in the U.S. are owned by people of color.  Also significant is that Washington seeks to reform drug policy as it pertains to NFL players — he would like to open a plant-touching business that will mitigate, if not eliminate, opioid addiction and CTE among football players.  Another plaintiff, the non-profit organization Cannabis Cultural Association, was founded for the purpose of fostering and encouraging inclusion and empowerment of people of color in the cannabis space.  Some of its members have been arrested, convicted, and/or incarcerated for non-violent drug crimes under laws that disproportionately, and unconstitutionally, are enforced against people of color.  More than 70% of cannabis arrests are of people of color, even though use of cannabis across races is generally equivalent.  We are confident that the Court will declare that the CSA, as it pertains to cannabis, is so irrational that it is unconstitutional to enforce it.  

We have already devoted hundreds of hours of legal time into preparing a lengthy federal Complaint and working with our plaintiffs.   This case exposes governmental hypocrisies and pretexts for discrimination — it will not be taken lightly.  We expect that the government will seek to dismiss the case at the very beginning.  There will be a hard-fought, drawn-out battle to first obtain our “day in court,” which will be rife with extensive motion practice and the preparation of legal briefs.  Nonetheless, our strategy is to proceed as expeditiously as possible, to obtain a judgment within 18 months.

When we survive the federal government’s efforts to dismiss our case, we will proceed with “discovery,” where we will have the opportunity to inspect all of the governments documents and information relating to the mis-classification of cannabis as a Schedule I drug.  We will also have to respond to discovery demands interposed by the government.  There will likely be extensive motion practice regarding the scope of these demands, as the classification at issue occurred in the 1970s, and the Complaint refers to nearly 10,000 years of documented safe use of cannabis.  

During this discovery period, we will proceed to the depositions of all parties.  Among other things, we will have the opportunity to ask Jeff Sessions, who famously and falsely stated that “good people do not smoke marijuana,” whether he deems the Country’s forefathers, many of whom used and farmed hemp, to be “good people.”  We will also need to steadily defend our plaintiffs, who will be questioned by the government with respect to their use of cannabis and place in the cannabis industry.

Should the government persist in its untenable position throughout the lengthy discovery process, we will proceed to trial.  Putting the federal government on trial for its disgraceful and inhumane cannabis policy is the right thing to do, and will vastly improve the lives of our clients and tens of millions of people like them.

3. BTL: Cannabis Was Just Legalised in South Africa For Personal Use

The Western Cape High Court has just ruled that Cannabis prohibition in South Africa is “unconstitutional”, and that adults have the right to use, grow or possess cannabis in the privacy of their homes. This was today’s verdict of the Jeremy Acton, leader of The Dagga Party, and Ras Gareth Prince’s multiple year long constitutional court case.

All three judges of the Cape Town High Court unanimously declared the laws regarding Cannabis to be unconstitutional and ruled that the South African government had 24 months to amend these laws in favour of legalisation. The court ordered that all cultivation, possession and personal use on private property be immediately permitted. You can read the full 66 page ruling here.

This is a huge victory for the South African cannabis culture, and hopefully paves the way for an almost certain victory in the Dagga Couple’s case later this year.

Can I still get arrested for weed in South Africa?

Yes, you probably can. The judges decided that the right to personally use, grow or possess dagga in the privacy of one’s home can be used as a “defence to a charge”. You can’t be charged without being arrested.

Jenny Evans from News24 states that: “The order does not specify whether the defence must be presented in court, or at the point of arrest, saying only “a charge”.

What this means is that ultimately you won’t go to jail for growing at home for personal use, if you can prove it. Whether or not police will focus on other crimes remains to be seen. What is clear is that the ruling is not a free for all, but a great step towards some form of legalisation.

The details of a legal distribution and retail framework were not ruled on in this judgement. This essentially means that while personal use and growing is now legally permitted, the selling of cannabis products is not and thus the current laws regarding cannabis fall somewhere between decriminalisation and legalisation.

It’s still unclear what will happen with citizens who were previously arrested on cannabis related charges.

The state still might try to appeal this ruling.

The next step is that parliament needs to within the next 2 years formulate detailed rules and policies to formally deal with a legal cannabis market.

Here is part of parliaments official response:

Parliament is in the process of obtaining the judgment to study exactly what it says.
If the two laws mentioned have been found to be unconstitutional, then the Constitutional Court would have to confirm the judgment before Parliament can act. The state could also appeal the judgment.

Once the constitutional court confirms the judgement, parliament has a few options they could do to ammend the law:

– Dealing with the defects in terms of the Medical Innovation Bill, currently before Parliament
– Parliament introducing a new bill
– The Executive introducing a new bill

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