CONTROVERSY OR not, local scientists, Dr. Henry Lowe and Professor Errol Morrison note in their book the History of the use of Marijuana that ganja is liberally used by the folk in soups, cakes and cookies. The leaves are brewed and the tea taken as tonic or crushed and applied as an ointment to cure various conditions. In common folk preparations, the green leaves or buds are soaked in white rum (sometimes tempered with fruit juice) and used for the relief of stomach ache, toothache and symptoms of asthma.
Clinical evidence supporting ganja’s effectiveness in treating symptoms, such as pain, nausea, vomiting and appetite loss has been compiled by the United States Institute of Medicine/National Academy of Sciences (1999), which also notes that ganja’s primary active ingredient, THC (or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinoids), has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under the name dronabinol and marketed as Marinol.
The evidence, however, did not hold up in cases of experimentally-induced acute pain, which the IOM attributes to limitations in the design of those studies. They recommend further research to determine the “magnitude of the effect in different clinical conditions” and whether the effect is sustained.
Some side effects of ganja were noted here for further study such as sedation, anxiolysis (antianxiety effects), appetite stimulation, and antinausea and antispasticity.
Most Jamaicans would already be aware that two highly-acclaimed local scientists, Drs. Manley West and Albert Lockhart, have already isolated ganja’s therapeutic compound and have developed two drugs, canasol and cantimol, that effectively treat glaucoma.
Cantimol is a combination of canasol, an alpha agonist and timolol maleate, a beta blocker.
West and Lockhart have stated in previous interviews that their local clinical studies on the glaucoma treatments are not recognised by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The drugs would not, therefore be available to the American market unless expensive studies are replicated there. West and Lockhart have also developed other drugs from ganja, such as asmasol to treat asthma attacks and canavert for motion sickness.
NAUSEA AND VOMITING
The IOM stated that “it is possible that the harmful effects of smoking marijuana for a limited period of time might be outweighed by the antiemetic benefits of marijuana, at least for patients for whom standard antiemetic therapy is ineffective and who suffer from debilitating emesis. Such patients should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis and treated under close medical supervision.”
A rapid-onset (that is, acting within minutes) delivery system should be developed and tested in such patients”. The IOM warns against smoking ganja, especially long-term smoking, “particularly for patients with chronic illnesses” but stated that in terminal patients the benefits might outweigh the harm.
BRAIN AND SPINAL CORD PROBLEMS
On the topic of movement disorders IOM believes that ganja may provide some symptomatic relief in some of these disorders for example in parkinsonism and tics but the evidence was largely anecdotal and lacking in well-controlled clinical studies.