But Remember: Marijuana Is Not Medicine

Drug Enforcement Administration special agents

Source: REASON Magazine
 | May 25, 2011

The East Bay Express reports that the Drug Enforcement Administration has licensed 55 companies to grow cannabis for use in producing generic versions of the THC capsule Marinol, whose patent protection recently expired, or pharmaceutical products containing cannabidiol, another marijuana component that shows medical promise. Yes, this is the same DEA that raids medical marijuana dispensaries and refuses to allow an independent source of marijuana for research to compete with the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Although many patients prefer marijuana for various reasons (including easier administration, faster onset, better dose control, and less disturbing psychoactive effects), the existence of Marinol, originally approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1985 as a treatment for the nausea and vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy, has always belied drug warriors’ claims that cannabis has no therapeutic value. But if the DEA is prepared to allow production of marijuana-derived THC as well as the synthetic form, and if the FDA ultimately allows the cannabis extract Sativex to be marketed in the U.S., the distinction between government-approved medicine and government-condemned contraband will become even thinner.

In 2008 I noted that the U.S. government holds a patent for the medical use of cannabinoids.

Are drug companies making a marijuana super pill?

A bud of super silver haze.

Image via Wikipedia

Reprinted with permission from the author. Source: Current

My name is Michael Dancheck; I am a 40 year old Network Engineer that has been recently disabled due to severe nerve pain caused from overuse of my right arm. I also happen to fall into the 1% – 4% of people that experience serious side effects from all of the medications that can help alleviate my pain. I found that on occasion marijuana would help with several of my symptoms and didn’t understand why it didn’t work all of the time. I immersed myself in the subject and began extensive research. I was intrigued by all the information I found and taught myself how to cultivate legally under Colorado law. I want the public to understand all I have learned about marijuana and my thoughts of why the FDA really wants to keep this plant illegal.

What does not make sense to me is that the marijuana plant is deemed as having NO medicinal value by the FDA. Through my research, I found each strain has a different chemical composition which is why we experience different effects with each one. Marijuana is mostly comprised of THC, Cannabinoids, and Flavonoids. THC helps to relieve pain and has psychoactive properties. Cannabinoids have different effects for each type ranging from: pain relief, nausea relief, anxiety relief. One type, CBN, shrinks and kills tumors. Flavonoids are proven to protect against heart disease.

Currently, the drug companies are producing Marinol which is 100% THC. Why does the FDA allow them to make this drug if the plant has no medicinal value? Now, they are trying to synthetically make each type of identified cannabinoid. Their plan is to make several types of pills. Each of which will contain different levels and combinations of THC and Cannabinoids so they can target specific ailments/diseases with each pill.

This brings us to the question which should be presented to the FDA. Why are the drug companies permitted to make Marinol if marijuana is classified as having no medicinal value? Since these drugs are mimicking every element of the marijuana plant why is this plant still illegal? Although you can not patent a plant, you can however patent a process or chemical. As long as this plant remains illegal the drug companies stand to make billions if they can perfect these pills. America deserves to know who’s being paid off

Please consider my story.

Mike Dancheck

Does the Pot Pill Work? A Look at Marinol

  • The FDA has written documentation that patients can overdose on Marinol and .. it can be lethal – 4 deaths are directly attributed to Marinol to date, whereas Marijuana in its natural form has never killed anyone. See the middle of the page here
  • For a brilliant rant on Marinol go here
  • NORML has a great post on the subject here
  • For more on Marinol from a Harvard doctor’s point of view, see  “Puffing is the best medicine



The Government Says a Pill Called Marinol Offers the Same Benefits as Medical Marijuana. Is it True?  (Source)

“Medical marijuana,” the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says, “already exists.”

They don’t just mean in California. A pill known as Marinol has been legal and approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use with a prescription anywhere in America since 1985.

It’s active ingredient? Dronabinol, better known as THC, the primary psychoactive element of the cannabis plant.

“Marinol provides standardized THC concentrations, does not contain the other 400 uncharacterized substances found in smoked marijuana, such as carcinogens or fungal spores, and is not associated with the quick high of smoked marijuana,” said Neil Hirsch, a spokesman for Marinol manufacturer Solvay Pharmaceuticals.

But Marinol is not the same thing as traditional, smokable marijuana. It is a less complex substance lacking both some of the good components found in traditional marijuana (such as cannabidiol, which has been found to have anti-seizure effects) and the bad or not-yet-fully-understood components (among them potential carcinogens) that can also come with the drug.

Ken Trainer, a 60-year-old Massachusetts resident who has battled Multiple Sclerosis for 25 years, said he has long been smoking marijuana to deal with the regular tremors he gets in his arms and legs.

“If I smoke a joint, the tremors go away most times before the joint is gone,” he said. “It makes my life a little easier.” Marinol, by contrast, “didn’t really do much of anything for me,” he said.

56-year-old Des Moines resident Jeff Elton, who was diagnosed with gastroparesis six years ago, had a similar experience when he was prescribed Marinol to deal with his chronic nausea and vomiting.

“I felt no relief, I didn’t feel ill, I felt nothing,” he said. “It might as well be M&M’s.”

Elton said he switched to marijuana, which he smokes through a vaporizer – a device that heats the active ingredients into a vapor instead of burning them. He said it allows him to keep down his food and regain some of the weight he lost while on Marinol.

“[One] problem with Marinol is that it’s orally administered,” Dr. Mitch Earleywine, an associate professor of Clinical Psychology at the State University of New York at Albany, said in an email. “Therefore, it takes longer to work than cannabis inhaled from a vaporizer. (Usually 90 minutes at best rather than 15 seconds – a meaningful amount of time to the nauseated.)”

“It’s harder to control dosage, too, so folks end up discombobulated or without symptom relief,” he added. “In addition, folks who are vomiting can’t hold down the pills.” Earleywine also said that a dose Marinol costs three to five times as much as a comparable dose of medical marijuana.

Defenders note that Marinol is not meant to be a cure-all: It has been approved specifically for treating nausea and vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy and for treating anorexia associated with weight loss in patients with AIDS.

“When the whole push for the smoked product came along, it was often for those two indications,” said Dr. Herbert Kleber, a professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University and the former deputy drug czar under President George H.W. Bush. “And in general, I’ve not seen any need for the smoked form of marijuana for those two indications. Marinol had already been shown to be quite effective for those two things.”

“Are there actions in the whole plant that you don’t get from just the Marinol? I would be surprised if there wasn’t,” he continued. “The problem is that most of the data about the potential medical actions of the smoked form are anecdotal.”


Research into the effects of medical marijuana is ongoing: The University of California, San Diego, for example, boasts a Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research engaged in “focused controlled clinical trials on the efficacy of cannabis in patients diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, cancer, seizures or muscle spasms associated with a chronic debilitating condition, or any other serious condition providing sufficient theoretical justification.” (The director of the UCSD program, Dr. Igor Grant, was out of the country and could not be reached for this story.)

The Los Angeles Times, which offers a nice overview of the current research, writes that “a growing body of research supports [medical marijuana’s] medical usage, but some of it is cautionary.” Marijuana has been found to be effective in counteracting severe pain, nausea and loss of appetite, though questions remain about the drawbacks, among them possible respiratory damage and increased cancer risk.  [Editor’s Note: Why is this concern still brought up, when the top cancer-cannabis researcher has found that smoking cannabis absolutely does not cause cancer?]

The calculus, then, isn’t quite as simple as the Drug Enforcement Administration suggests: Marinol and medical marijuana may share an active ingredient, but they offer somewhat different benefits and different drawbacks. Proponents of medicinal marijuana say it’s disingenuous to hold up Marinol as a direct alternative to the more traditional form of the plant.

“I just don’t understand how they won’t let me smoke a joint, but they’re more than happy to write me out prescriptions for anything that I want,” Trainer said.