Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Ancient Medicine: this debate is getting old

There is something to be said for medicines that have been used for thousands of years and survive the test of time. Although cannabis is not a widely-accepted treatment in the United States today by law, it has become synonymous in some senses with herbal folk medicines to supplement other health practices. This article from The Star via The Canadian Press sheds new light on this ancient medicine.

While research in the US is still severely restricted due to unsympathetic policies and aggressive DEA agendas, a new study by American neurologist Dr. Ethan B. Russo as published in the Journal of Experimental Botany was inspired by a discovery of a 2,700 year old tomb in China. The tomb of this 45-year-old shaman contained not only the usual gifts for use in the afterlife, such as a bow and arrow, a harp instrument, and a wooden bowl, but also the oldest ever discovered stash of marijuana was gifted in the holy man's tomb.

The finding indicates “that cannabis has been used by man for a variety of purposes for thousands of years.” Marijuana was likely being administered to tribe members by the shamans themselves, says Russo. This finding is not such a big surprise to many of us, including Dr. Russo, a full-time consultant with GW Pharmaceuticals, the producers of a cannabis-based medicine called Sativex, which is approved in Canada for multiple sclerosis and cancer-related pain.

What has changed over three thousand years? Not much, except for more damaging policies made by governments despite medical professionals and scientists speaking out for the research. According to the International Herald Tribune, the United Kingdom's House of Lords recently moved to toughen laws on marijuana by reclassifying the substance as more dangerous, and raising jail sentences from 2 to 5 years.

Even when we look back in time, governments seem to be simply going backward in their policies toward cannabis, not forward.

Watchfully yours,
Bethany Moore and the whole campaign team


Michael Tew said...

A law which does not have the support of the people cannot be enforced. The British government’s reversal on marijuana use, rescheduling cannabis as class A with crack-cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine, is a farce. One wonders if blind stupidity is a requirement for ministers dealing with drug policy.

In recent days, the Swiss voters decided to leave marijuana policy the way it is (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/01/world/europe/01swiss.html?_r=2). Very lax enforcement of arcane laws being preferable to actually sorting out the tricky problem of a legal supply. The Dutch mayors (http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23591401-details/Cannabis+grown+by+the+state/article.do), and the Canadian provincial governments seem to be taking the lead on this issue – in both places legal commercial cannabis cultivation is close to realization (http://www.medicalmarihuana.ca/monopoly.html).

Successful ballot initiatives in Michigan, Massachusetts and Hawaii indicate that the trend is actually towards liberalization at the moment, especially in the USA. The US Supreme court decision yesterday, essentially deciding for the pre-eminence of state law over federal marijuana legislation (http://www.safeaccessnow.org/article.php?id=5614), was a great step forward.

Last night’s National Geographic television offering “Marijuana Nation” (http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/series/explorer/3821/Photos#tab-Photos/0) was actually overwhelming positive, as any rational examination of the merits of marijuana decriminalization must always be.

Let us be encouraged by the preponderance of good news. It is easy to underestimate the power of the weed. Half a decade of vicious suppression has engendered mostly resistance. We will win in the end, because we are winning now. Cannabis criminalization is probably the most widely ignored law in the world.

Damo said...


Thank you so much for this enlightening and encouraging comment!

Just one brief note, we have been living with "vicious suppression" for over half a CENTURY, not half a decade. Honest mistake. ;)

Regardless, I love your sentiment at the end: