The Marijuana Cancer Cure Cult
By Bruce Mirken, AlterNet – Tuesday, January 26 2010
In his 1971 State of the Union speech, President Richard Nixon declared war on cancer, prompting passage of the National Cancer Act, aimed at making the “conquest of cancer a national crusade.” Just four years later, scientists from the National Cancer Institute published a study demonstrating that a group of compounds taken from a common, widely cultivated plant shrank lung tumors that had been implanted in mice, extending their survival.
In a world that made sense, this plant and the anticancer drugs it produced would have been rushed into further testing, and we’d have known in a few years whether they had potential as treatments for human cancers. Instead, research proceeded at a glacial pace, with almost no further progress till the 1990s. Since then, vast quantities of lab and animal data have confirmed those early findings, but studies of these plant compounds in actual human beings with cancer remain nearly nonexistent.
What got in the way was Nixon’s other war, the “war on drugs.” The plant in question was cannabis sativa — marijuana — public enemy number one in that other war, and discovering that marijuana had beneficial properties was the last thing the U.S. government wanted to do.
Dr. Manuel Guzman of Complutense University in Madrid, lead author of the only human study yet published of a cannabinoid as cancer treatment, puts it slightly more diplomatically. The lack of immediate followup to those early reports “remains a mystery to me,” he says. Guzman cites a number of obstacles to human trials, including the fact that cannabinoids are “still seen by many doctors and regulatory agencies as drugs of abuse,” as well as “lots of paperwork” and a lack of commercial interest in natural compounds that can’t be patented.
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