Pages tagged "Cancer"


California patients and dispensaries are affected by inappropriate Proposition 65 complaints

CA logoCalifornia's Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act (Proposition 65) requires that the state maintain a list of substances  known to cause cancer or birth defects.  The Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) added cannabis smoke to that list in 2009. ASA holds that the inclusion of cannabis smoke is inappropriate and should be reevaluated.

Businesses in California are required to post warning signs if a customer might be exposed to a substance on the Proposition 65 list. This requirement is intended to protect consumers from being exposed to a harmful substance without their knowledge. Unfortunately, lawyers sometimes use Proposition 65 indiscriminately to demand big settlements from businesses.

Hundreds of medical cannabis dispensaries have been targeted by a handful of attorneys seeking large settlements under Proposition 65. These complaints and lawsuits do nothing to protect legal patients who rely on dispensaries for safe access to their medicine. However, these unreasonable financial demands can drive up costs for patients or even force dispensaries to close. 

ASA is talking with lawyers, policy makers, and other experts about the process for having cannabis smoke removed from the Proposition 65 list and about how to protect medical cannabis businesses and organizations targeted by inappropriate complaints and lawsuits.

Your membership helps support efforts like these. Be sure to keep an eye on the ASA email announcement list for news about Proposition 65 and more. 

Medical cannabis businesses and organizations should contact an experienced attorney if they receive a notice alleging a violation of Proposition 65 or want to evaluate their compliance. 

You can contact ASA at info@safeaccessnow.org or (202) 857-4272.


Reason TV on Cedars-Sinai denying liver transplant to medical marijuana patient Norman Smith

The fight to get a liver transplant for Norman Smith took another big step today with a Reason TV expose, "Transplant Denied," featuring Smith and Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the group that’s throwing its weight behind the struggling medical marijuana patient. Smith, 63, was diagnosed with liver cancer in 2009 and was put on a transplant waiting list at the world-renowned Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. However a year ago, after becoming eligible for a transplant, Smith was removed from the list for testing positive for medical marijuana use. It didn’t seem to matter that Smith’s oncologist at Cedars was the physician who had recommended its use. This moving piece by Reason TV accurately conveys the life of a man hanging in the balance between policies based on moral judgment and the therapeutic benefits of medical marijuana. At his wit’s end, Smith tells Reason TV:
It’s only my life that I'm fighting for. What do I have to hide? I have nothing to hide.
Smith called his chances a “long shot,” but still wanted to “effect a change:”
It’s probably too late for me, but I hope it makes it easier for the next guy.
Unfortunately, there are plenty of other medical marijuana patients in California and other states who are suffering the same fate as Smith. With the authority for such decisions left to Cedars and transplant centers like it, the push for policy change must be directed locally. As such, ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford sent a letter to Cedars, urging it to immediately re-list Smith and change it policy with regard to medical marijuana. So far, Cedars has refused to budge. Stay tuned here at Voices from the Frontlines for next steps in the transplant case of Norman Smith and the outdated policies of Cedars-Sinai. In the meantime, view this additional video footage of Smith and his plight.

A cancer cure in waiting

When people ask why I’m certain the federal laws preventing medical use of cannabis must change, my answer is simple: cancer. Curing it is the holy grail of modern medicine, and cannabinoids hold the most promise.

The latest study showing the cancer-fighting properties of one of the constituent components of the cannabis plant is out of Italy, where University of Naples researchers demonstrated that cannabidiol, better known as CBD, helps prevent the spread of colon cancer in an animal model of the human disease. Since colon cancer affects millions of people, this is a big deal.

But it’s not big news.



Many, many other studies have demonstrated that CBD’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions, as well as its ability to inhibit the breakdown of the body’s own endocannabinoids, have a cancer-fighting effect. CBD has been shown to kill glioma cells (the most deadly form of brain cancer), reduce the growth of lung and breast cancer cells, and inhibit the spread of cancer. And that’s just CBD.

Add in THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis available by prescription in synthetic form as dronabinol or Marinol, and scientists have demonstrated that the plant holds the potential to fight or prevent cancers of the breast, prostate, skin, lung, uterus, cervix, pancreas, mouth and biliary track, as well as leukemia, neuroblastoma, thyroid epithelioma, and gastric adenocarcinoma. All by selectively targeting cancerous cells and leaving healthy cells alone.

That’s in contrast to conventional cancer treatments that largely work by creating a toxic environment in the body with the hope that it kills the cancer before it kills the patient. And as hard as chemotherapy and radiation treatments are to tolerate, cannabinoid treatments have exceptionally low impact.

Now, to be clear: we’re not talking about a patent-medicine approach that says cannabis will cure whatever ails you, and there have been no clinical studies done with cancer patients that would show us anything conclusive one way or another.

But there is a mountain of evidence that the immune-modulating function of cannabinoids has everything to do with regulating how our bodies respond to cancers of all varieties. And it’s worth noting the federal government’s own National Cancer Institute recently published a guide for physicians that noted the cancer-fighting properties of cannabinoids and stated that cannabis could be a tool for controlling the disease.

Five days of media attention later, the NCI removed that particular bit of guidance, but what we now know about the mechanisms of cannabinoids on cancers raises significant questions about when best to use cannabis therapeutics. Most wait until the disease reaches an advanced stage, and for them the role of cannabis or dronabinol is almost entirely palliative – a tool to ease the suffering and nausea. But we have compelling evidence that cannabinoids exercise a profound prophylactic effect – potentially preventing cancers from developing in the first place.

So will people with family histories of cancer or other risk factors benefit from cannabinoids? Maybe. There are population studies that suggest so, but general results cannot predict outcomes for a particular individual. In other words, consuming lots of cannabis won’t necessarily protect you. Bob Marley died of cancer, after all.

How much might help is a serious question. We know that many of the actions of cannabinoids are dose-specific, but without qualitatively different research, we can’t know how much might be optimal to achieve any particular biologic objective, even if we know categorically that cannabis is non-toxic and well-tolerated.

Will we see that research soon? Seems likely. There’s a Nobel prize in it for someone. Sure, there are political and economic barriers. But it’s a politics of fear and an economics of greed. Neither can survive with millions of lives in the balance.

Ironically, given the vast economic engine prohibition has wrought, cannabinoids are problematic for pharmaceutical company profits, since plants are not novel compounds they can patent for the purpose of extracting return on their research investment. That means real clinical research, the kind that can develop the cancer treatments current studies promise, requires massive public funding.

Devoting hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to cannabis every year may seem daunting. But we already do.

We just spend it on eradication and incarceration instead of research and development.

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Research study discussed:
Aviello G, et al. Chemopreventive effect of the non-psychotropic phytocannabinoid cannabidiol on experimental colon cancer. Journal of Molecular Medicine. 2012 Jan 10.

ASA’s booklet on Cannabis and Cancer

President Obama Makes Case Against His Own Medical Marijuana Policy During SOTU Address

Over the years, President Obama has said some encouraging things about medical marijuana, but his policy has never matched up. To many, Obama’s 2012 State of the Union address will likely be remembered as the moment when he framed his 2012 campaign for reelection. The SOTU laid out his vision and goals on a number of issues, and while he may not have used the words “medical marijuana” during his speech, the goals and themes he called for in his second term are irreconcilable with certain actions (and inactions) taken by his administration related to safe access.

 “Today, the discoveries taking place in our federally-financed labs and universities could lead to new treatments that kill cancer cells but leave healthy ones untouched.”


Here, Obama has stated a goal, having a treatment available that kills cancer cells, while not harming healthy cells. The potential for reaching this goal through medical marijuana has been known for at least several years, and even the National Institutes of Health has recognized this potential with the Physician Data Query issued by the National Cancer Institute last March. Although the government retracted certain parts of the PDQ in a politically motivated move, the post-retraction version still makes a compelling case for marijuana’s cancer-killing/healthy-cell-preserving potential by reporting that, “[c]annabinoids appear to kill tumor cells but do not affect their nontransformed counterparts and may even protect them from cell death.”

Unfortunately, the Obama administration has not only ignored pursuing medical marijuana to achieve this goal, it has done nothing to make use of its own agency’s findings. This is not only irreconcilable with the goal he laid out in the SOTU, at best it is willful ignorance on the part of the Obama administration to let patients suffer without safe access to the best cancer treatments known.

 “There is no question that some regulations are outdated, unnecessary, or too costly.”


One federal regulation Obama ought to reconsider as being outdated, lacking necessity, and being too costly is 21 CFR 1308.11. This regulation is the manifestation of the Controlled Substances Act in the Federal Record. The necessity of keeping marijuana under Schedule I was only to permit the Attorney General sufficient time to gain more complete scientific information about marijuana. That was four decades and several studies ago (the government’s own PDQ refers to several dozen of these studies), so this is clearly outdated and unnecessary. In terms of costliness, the toll of human suffering of cancer patients should be enough, but the economic drain related to cancer suffering is staggering as well.  The best way for Obama to revisit this regulation would be direct Attorney General Eric Holder to initiate the rescheduling process.

“Let's never forget: Millions of Americans who work hard and play by the rules every day deserve a Government and a financial system that do the same.”


Among the millions of Americans who work hard and wish to play by the rules are the thousands of providers of medical marijuana located in states that have approved the use and distribution of this medical treatment. Perhaps more than any community, these American entrepreneurs are quite willing to pay their share of business taxes that result from their work to provide safe access to medical marijuana patients who are unable to cultivate to their own medicine. However, in providing medical marijuana in accordance with state law to patients, dispensary operators must deal with a burden that no other legitimately run business have to face, Section 280E of the IRS Tax Code. This provision, which bars anyone from taking tax deductions for business expenses related to Schedule I and II substances, was originally intended to prevent cocaine kingpins from manipulating the tax code to launder their completely illicit profits, but instead the IRS is now manipulating the provision to attack state-approved businesses that provide safe access.

President Obama should not only order Holder to initiate the process to reschedule marijuana, he should also instruct Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to promulgate a comment in the Treasury Regulations that excludes medical marijuana providers operating in good faith compliance with state law. This would be particularly helpful in the event that marijuana is rescheduled into Schedule II, which would still mean safe access would be in peril related to 280E.

President Obama’s speech last night described the kind of America where safe access to medical marijuana should be readily available, but unfortunately his administration’s actions have been at odds with this goal. Rescheduling marijuana and removing unfair tax burdens on dispensary owners would go a long way in reconciling his goal of an America where patients have safe access to best the cancer treatments available.