July 19, 2009
Marijuana Is Real Medicine
Love Thy Neighbor: The Immorality of Marijuana Prohibition
Dying to Get High: Marijuana as Medicine is an important and accessible book — not heavy on academic jargon, but rather lively and engaging, like a true detective novel — with a broad appeal to those interested in the medical potential of cannabis, an end to the drug war and grass roots activism. I asked the co-authors, Wendy Chapkis and Richard Webb, how working on the book changed them.
WENDY CHAPKIS: “I certainly was one of those people who thought that ‘medical marijuana’ was probably mostly a way for Americans to get around ridiculously punitive drug laws. It seemed like a reasonable strategy to me. But the very first time I walked into a WAMM [WoMen’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana] membership meeting, looked around the room and saw people who were ghostly white and frail, people in wheelchairs, people huddled in small groups talking about a WAMM member who needed round the clock care, I realized that medical marijuana was no ‘ruse.’ These were very ill people. And, as I started doing interviews, the stories of the medicinal properties of pot blew me away.
“I wasn’t the only one surprised to discover that marijuana did in fact have therapeutic effects. Many patients were equally astonished. Like me, they had been recreational users who appreciated the pleasurable effects of marijuana and were suspicious of the claim that the herb was medicine. Then they started chemotherapy, for example, found themselves fighting off non-stop nausea, took a hit and the nausea disappeared. Or they had intolerable nerve pain from multiple sclerosis, AIDS or post-polio syndrome, used some cannabis tincture and the pain quieted down. It was funny how surprised we all were that it really worked.
“I think this shows how effective drug-war propaganda really is. Even (or maybe especially) people who are very familiar with marijuana are prepared to believe that it doesn’t really work as a medicine. Of course, since the discovery of the cannabinoid receptor system in the body (and the production of endogenous cannabinoids), scientists haven’t been at all surprised at the medical properties of the plant — which I guess helps explain why the feds have been so reluctant to allow any scientific research.
“In any case, this research really transformed my understanding of the effects of cannabis — including enriching my understanding of the therapeutic effects of the so-called ‘high.’ The chapter on the high is one of my favorites because I think even the medical marijuana movement tends to downplay the psychoactive properties of the drug. They talk a lot about relief of ocular pressure, anti-nausea properties and the effect of cannabis on AIDS-wasting and relief of neuropathic pain, but there is very little discussion of the ways in which the psychoactive effects contribute to a sense of wellness for those who are seriously ill. And that is no small thing.”
RICHARD WEBB: “Working with the WAMM has, indeed, been a transformative experience. I have learned a great deal, and formed some of the most cherished and important relationships of my lifetime, but perhaps the most profound change for me has been the development of a new awareness of the importance of compassion and forgiveness. Two events epitomize the many experiences that led to this change.
“The Gay Pride festival in San Francisco has been one of WAMM’s most successful annual fundraising events. One year, I was working T-shirt sales, and when I turned my back for a moment, someone in the crowd stole a pile of shirts. Angry at the perpetrators and embarrassed about my carelessness, I told Valerie Corral, WAMM’s executive director, about it, and all she said was, ‘Well, let’s hope they get a good price for them, because they must need the money very badly.” Val’s forgiveness was like an epiphany, a moment I will never forget. It was as if a lifetime of blame and resentment had been lifted from my heart, and I became suddenly aware of the deep suffering that drives some people to behave badly.
“When I began my research on WAMM, one of the first people I got close to was an HIV patient named John Taylor. As a result of his illness, John was desperately poor and physically debilitated, but he retained a sense of humor and joie de vivre that made him a pleasure to be around. We eventually became best friends, and when at last John’s struggle against the disease became futile, I turned my living room into a hospice facility and, with the assistance of many WAMM members — most of whom were trying to manage their own devastating ailments — I was able to provide John with a safe and comfortable place to live out his final ten weeks.
“These experiences, and many others of a similar nature, have almost completely altered my view of the world, my sense of who I am, and my beliefs about what is most important in life.”
Meanwhile, Barack Obama promises he would curb federal enforcement on state medical marijuana suppliers. John McCain has actually ridiculed patients who pleaded for more compassionate policies.
July 19, 2009
- 24 May 2003 by Owen Flanagan
- Magazine issue 2396
MEMBERS of my tribe – we call ourselves philosophical naturalists – treat all talk of souls and spirits as metaphorical. We think of the seat of the soul as the brain, in concert with the rest of the nervous system. The Dalai Lama speaks of a “luminous consciousness” that transcends death and which he thinks might not have brain correlates, but we believe even this must be realised neurally.
So an interesting question for neuroscientists is how do the brains of Buddhist practitioners – or indeed any other wise, happy and virtuous people – light up? How are the qualities of happiness, serenity and loving kindness that arise from the Buddhist practice of mindful meditation reflected in the brain? How does that subjective experience manifest itself?
Neuroscience is beginning to provide answers. Using scanning techniques such as PET and functional MRI, we can study the brain in action. We now …
July 19, 2009
Major sectors of Christianity and Islam have made it clear that they’re not going to be best friends with science anytime soon. But at least one of the major religions is extending an olive branch. New Scientist reports that:
More than 30 Tibetan monks, plus a handful of nuns, will be collaborating with a team from San Francisco’s Exploratorium (”the museum of art, science and human perception”) to build exotic machines to create patterns from sunlight using cardboard, dowels, reflective sheets of mylar and electronic components.
If all goes to plan, the monks will return to their monasteries and start spreading the joys of scientific exploration among other followers of their religion.
The project is the latest reflection of the monks’ spiritual leader’s fascination with science. In the Dalai Lama’s 2005 book The Universe in a Single Atom, the Nobel peace laureate argued that science and spiritual inquiry have much to learn from one other.
According to an Exploratorium press release, the Dalai Lama has been exploring how cosmology, neuroscience, and other fields interrelate with Buddhism since childhood (His Holiness does tend to be precocious). Now he’s setting his monks on an “ambitious” mission to “share not only in the traditions of Buddhism, but…also in Western scientific inquiry and evidence on the physical plane” with a goal of “shap[ing] these already highly educated monks into science leaders.”
Now if we could just get the Pope to follow suit…
July 18, 2009
I was told on Friday at work to expect to go on straight commission within a week or so. That has prompted me to examine what I really want to do from here on out and this blog represents something I have been thinking about for quite a while. To me the perfect high is a life changing experience that is extrodinary and wonderful. Once you have experienced it you now have a road map back to the most fundamental place where peace is the reigning quality. How one gets there depends on each person. Knowing you can get there is important. Most of us search most of our lives in the wrong places. This blog is to examine and inform people of the sure fire ways to get to this perfect high.