[Media Awareness Project]

US CA: Health Advantages Of Marijuana Touted

Newshawk: MAPTALK, The Media Awareness Project, Inc. Source: Press Democrat (Petaluma, California) Author: Janet Holman Parmer, Correspondent Pubdate: 26 Nov 1997 Page: 3 Photo: Caption: Chris Conrad is the author of "Hemp for Health." Contact: Email: pdletters@aol.com Fax: 523-8073 Website: http://www.pressdemo.com/


Author Promotes Alternative

For maladies such as migraine headaches, arthritis and anorexia, marijuana can at times be more useful than narcotics in bringing relief, accord to Chris Conrad, author of a new book entitled "Hemp for Health."

Prescription drugs such as Demerol and Valium are legal, but the side effects can be more debilitating than those from smoking or ingesting marijuana, Conrad said. He maintains the federal government is suppressing results of medical research on the salutary effects of cannabis sativa.

Studies released last month, however, showed that the active ingredient in marijuana relieves several types of pain, without the risk of addiction.

"Cannabinoids, at least In animal models, can reduce pain," said University of California, San Francisco pharmacology expert Ian Meng, who is studying the painkilling properties of several synthetic cannabinoids.

Conrad visited Copperfield’s Books in Petaluma recently to talk about the historical references to hemp and Its derivatives being smoked, ingested or applied to the skin for health reasons.

Conrad, dressed in clothing and shoes made from hemp fibers, describes himself as a "cannabis expert." His two-page resume lists his research, writing, testimony before congressional committees, and organizations he has founded or Involved himself with that pro mote hemp or hemp-related businesses. He has taught classes on safely using medical marijuana and been a panelist in drug policy workshops.

Conrad said he was motivated to write "Hemp for Health" after his father, Robert, died in 1994 from cancer. He told the audience that when his dad became ill and self-diagnosed himself with cancer, his family discounted the gravity of his sickness because he tended to be a hypochondriac He was later diagnosed with the disease, and became a patient in a Veterans Administration hospital. Like many cancer patients undergoing treatment, he suffered from insomnia, irritability, lack of appetite and an upset stomach.

In bedside conversations with his son, Robert Conrad expressed an interest in trying cannabis to relieve his discomfort, but didn't want to ask his doctor about it, fearing the repercussions for him and his physician. His daughter worked at the same hospital, and he worried that she could lose her job if he tried marijuana.

"He didn’t believe it was worth taking the chance. He decided not to try it and died," Chris Conrad said. "He wanted to try it but feared that if he were the guinea pig, he could lose his benefits, be thrown In jail or his doctor could jeopardize his career. He died in pain instead. But even though he couldn't take the chance, he hoped I would take his story as a wedge to change lives."

"Hemp for Health," published earlier this year by Healing Arts Press, covers the nutritional and ecological uses of the cannabis plant. But Conrad focused last week on therapeutic uses of cannabis worldwide, and how it ended up becoming a drug banned by the United States in 1937.

Conrad contends it was a grave error—and a medical disservice —to ban cannabis, thereby depriving people of relief from symptoms caused by digestive, immunological, dermatological, and neurological problems. There are 60 different components reaped from the hemp plant that have been formulated into healing products such as topical ointments, antibiotic extracts, tinctures and even suppositories, he said.

"Should it now be a medicine for the sick and dying only, when throughout history it was used for common illness?" Conrad asked.

He maintains the government sanctioned studies that found positive effects of marijuana have been kept secret from the public.

"I wouldn't count on the government changing the laws unless people understand the importance and efficacy of medical marijuana," he said. "By calling it a new drug, they overlooked history, so all the old studies don't apply."

For thousands of years in Africa, hemp has been used to treat beriberi and malaria, to alleviate cramps and to reduce the pain of childbirth. In some cultures, its derivatives have been used to treat mucous infections, bring down high fevers, and relieve eczema.

"Children were born from mothers smoking cannabis for thousands of years. It was used in Israel and Germany. It was a normal part of the birthing process," he said.

In Europe, cannabis was used for psychological and medical applications in the 19th century and "even Queen Victoria’s personal physician prescribed it for her," Conrad said

He talked about the nutritive value of hemp and how its seeds and oil are a natural food source, providing protein and essential fatty acids Hemp seed was once boiled and ground and eaten as gruel, Conrad said. Five thousand years ago in China, hemp was considered one of the five essential plants in the diet.

Conrad, a political activist, served as the statewide community action coordinator for the petition drive that proposed the California Medical Marijuana Initiative, known as Proposition 215. The initiative, which became law after 56 percent of the voters approved the measure last year, allows people suffering from serious illnesses, such as AIDS or cancer, to get a doctor's recommendation for marijuana.

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