“Marijuana: The Forbidden Medicine” by Lester Grinspoon and James Bakalar, (1993), (sixth in a series on the most important books about cannabis). By Chuck Ream
The great doctor Lester Grinspoon; associate professor of Psychiatry at Harvard University (retired) has done more than any other physician to publicize the value of medical marijuana.
The agony of his young son taught Dr. Grinspoon about cannabis.
“Danny was first given the diagnosis of acute lymphatic Leukemia in July 1967; he was ten years old”. Side effects from the chemotherapy that Dr. Grinspoon’s son received were uncontrollable. “He would start to vomit shortly after treatment and continue retching for up to eight hours. He vomited in the car as we drove home, and on arriving he had to lie in bed with his head over a bucket on the floor. Still I was shocked when Betsy (his wife) suggested that we find cannabis for Danny.” “I dismissed the idea.”
Betsy, however, immediately found cannabis for her child and gave it to him before his next treatment. Grinspoon says “I shall never forget my surprise”. Before and after chemo Danny was relaxed and comfortable. “Finally they let me in on the secret”. Mrs. Grinspoon had asked a high school student to get pot for Danny, and it arrived within minutes.
Dr. Grinspoon saw the astounding change. “My surprise gave way to relief as I saw how comfortable Danny was…we were all delighted when no nausea or vomiting followed. On the way home he asked if he could stop for a submarine sandwich…”
Danny died, but cannabis let him be “much more comfortable during the remaining year of his life”.
“Marijuana. The Forbidden Medicine” shows that cannabis was a basic part of every major system of medicine since ancient China and India. Cannabis was re-introduced into western medicine by Dr. W. B. O’Shaughnessy “a young professor at the Medical College of Calcutta who had observed its use in India”. It effectively treated pain, epilepsy, rabies, tetanus, “rheumatism”, and was “an anticonvulsive remedy of the greatest value”. England’s Queen Victoria, certainly no hippie, used cannabis tincture regularly.
Grinspoon shows how neither science nor reason has ever been allowed to have the slightest influence on medical marijuana policy. In the thirties the American Medical Association was never consulted and then accused of “trying to throw obstacles in the way of something the federal government is trying to do” when its representative spoke the truth. In the eighties the DEA totally ignored its own administrative judge when he ruled, following lengthy hearings, that “Marijuana… is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man”.
Powerful evidence is presented on the benefit of cannabis treatment for cancer chemotherapy, glaucoma, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, paraplegia and quadriplegia, AIDS, chronic pain, migraines, skin diseases, menstrual cramps, labor pain, depression and other mood disorders, insomnia, antimicrobial and anti tumor effects, and more. The safety of cannabis should make it a first option for treatment, rather than a last resort.
This book tells the amazing and nearly unknown story of what happened in Michigan in 1979.
Mae Nutt, now deceased, is the “godmother” of Michigan Medical Marijuana. Her son Keith developed testicular cancer at age 22. After two surgeries, Keith was given a chemotherapy drug that made him “vomit violently for eight to ten hours, and afterward be so profoundly nauseated that he could not bear to look at or smell food”. Mae Nutt read about medical marijuana, then called her state representative and was referred to activist Roger Winthrop…(hey, that’s r.d.). She got the medicine.
“The next day we took the marijuana to Keith in the hospital”, said Mae. “After he smoked it the vomiting abruptly stopped. The sudden change was amazing to see.” His nausea also ended; he felt hungry and gained weight. He joined the family for dinner rather than lying in his room “like a wounded animal”. He was able to testify before the Senate Judiciary committee about a medical marijuana law that was in the Michigan legislature, and enjoyed teaching others about the medicine.
Testimony was also given by a Grand Rapids Christian Reformed pastor, Reverend Negen. He described the agony of his daughter’s chemotherapy, and how he had to send his sons out onto the street to find the only thing that helped her.
“On October 10, 1979 the Michigan House voted 100 to 0 in favor” of making medical marijuana available (the Senate vote was 33 to 1). (35 states passed medical marijuana during this period – the feds squashed all attempts to implement these laws).
Now that 63% of Michigan voters support medical marijuana we expect that our legislature will get back on board, and quickly pass H.B. 4271 - the Medical Marijuana Provisioning Centers Act. Michigan patients need safe access to cannabis based medications.