Cannabis sativa. Türkçe adıyla Hint keneviri. Etken maddesi ise Tetrahidrokannabinol. Liflerinin çuval, halat, çanta ve ağ yapımı gibi işlerde kullanıldığı ilkokul bilgilerimizdendir. Dişi Hint kenevirinden ise esrar elde ediliyor. Atlantik’in karşı kıyısında Marihuana olarak biliniyor. Keyif veren, insanı günlük sorunlarından kurtaran etkisiyle özellikle gelişmiş ülke toplumlarının başının derdi olan uyuşturucu bağımlılığının önde gelen öznesi.
ABD’nin, kendi toplumunu bu dertten korumak adına özellikle arka bahçesi Latin Amerika’da sayısız eyleme giriştiğini işitmişizdir. ABD’de Colorado ve Washington eyaletlerinde geçtiğimiz günlerde gerçekleştirilen bir halkoylaması sonucunda kişisel gereksinim düzeyinde Marihuana bulundurulması ve taşınması suç olmaktan çıkartılmış. Avrupa’da, Hollanda ve Portekiz’in de benzer bir tutum içinde olduğunu biliyoruz.
Yasaklamacılığı sınırları dışına taşırmış ABD’nin kendi sınırları içinde bu gibi bir uygulamaya gitmiş olması çelişkili bir yaklaşım gibi görünmektedir.
Bu serbestleştirme yaklaşımının gerekçeleri de akla yakın ve mantıklı. Öncelikle bu konuya ilişkin statükonun iflas ettiğini öne sürenler olduğunun altı çizilmeli. Yasaklama politikasının tüketimi azaltmadığı da bir başka önemli gerçek. Serbestleştirmenin çetelerin önünü kesmede, uyuşturucu edinimi sürecindeki suç olgularını azaltmada etkili olacağı varsayımını destekleyenler hiç de az değil.
New Scientist dergisinin 17 Kasım sayısında konuyla ilgili olarak rastladığım bu konuyla ilgili bir yazı “Şimdi anlaşıldı Vehbi’nin kerrakesi!” dedirtecek türdendi.
Araştırmalar sonucunda esrardaki temel maddelerden olan Kannabidiol’un kanser hücrelerini yok etmede, Dravet Sendromu olarak da bilinen çocukluk çağı epilepsisini tedavide ve ağrı kesmede umutlandırıcı sonuçlar verebileceği anlaşılmış.
Hatta, bazı araştırmacılar Cannabis sativa’nın tıpta çeşitli alanlarda kullanımı açısından hazineye eşdeğer bir madde olduğunu bile öne sürmekteler.
Colorado ve Washington’daki “Kannabis dostluğu”nun bu tartışmalı bitkinin tıbbi potansiyelinin açığa çıkartılması bakımından bir ilk adım olduğunu düşünmeden edebilir misiniz?
Hele hele kimi bilimciler bu durumu “Canlı laboratuvar açılıyor!” diye nitelendirirken…
Colorado ve Washington’daki “Kannabis Dostluğu”nun, “Big Pharma” dostluğuna giden yolun ilk adımı olup olmayacağını zaman gösterecek.
Ceyhun BALCI, 23.11.2012
Experimenting with drugs in the US
THE war on drugs is far from over, but we may be seeing the beginning of the end – at least for cannabis. On 6 November, two US states voted to legalise the drug, putting it on a similar footing to alcohol and tobacco (see “Cannabis legalisation launches living laboratory“). Colorado and Washington thus became the first states anywhere in the world to legalise an illegal psychoactive substance since war was formally declared in 1971.
One of the reasons legalisation passed was the failure of the status quo. If the main aim of drug policy is to reduce consumption, prohibition has not worked. It has arguably been counterproductive, putting a lucrative trade into the hands of violent gangs, saddling millions of people with criminal records, expending vast amounts of money and distracting attention from harm reduction. This has been obvious for years, but the taboos surrounding prohibition have remained largely unbroken.
Until now. Colorado and Washington have jumped first, but similar moves are afoot elsewhere, especially in Latin America.
What happens next will exert a huge influence over international drug policy. If legalisation does what its supporters say it will – reduce consumption and policing costs while raising revenues – the prohibitionist position will be further weakened.
But it could go the other way. Prohibitionists expect marijuana use to rise, and they may be proved right. Legal drugs are consumed at vastly higher rates than illegal ones, and where marijuana possession is decriminalised – meaning the police turn a blind eye – use tends to rise.
But there is also evidence in the other direction. When Portugal decriminalised possession of all drugs in 2001, there were dire warnings of an epidemic of use. Those fears proved groundless.
The bottom line is that we don’t yet know what legalising marijuana will achieve. Supporters of a more rational, evidence-based drug policy (including this publication) have long seen legalisation as one possible alternative to prohibition. The bold experiment being undertaken by the people of Colorado and Washington will soon tell us whether we are right.
New Scientist 17 November, 2012
Cannabis legalisation launches living laboratory
The new laws in Colorado and Washington should provide a testing ground for health effects and for how people behave when drug laws are relaxed
Editorial: “Experimenting with drugs in the US”
TWO states in the US are now more cannabis-friendly than many parts of Europe. Thanks to ballot initiatives passed by Colorado and Washington last week, people there now have legal access to as much recreational marijuana as they can grow, sell or smoke.
This is still illegal under US federal law, but if the states are left alone, the legalisation could launch a living experiment into how people behave when drug laws are relaxed, and into the public-health implications and the effect on the drug cartels.
“The Feds now have to decide whether to make that experiment impossible,” says Mark Kleiman, a professor of public policy at the University of California, Los Angeles.
The Obama administration has yet to give its response to the votes, but a statement from the US Drug Enforcement Agency, which treats marijuana as an illegal drug, said: “The department’s enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act remains unchanged.”
Robert Mikos of Vanderbilt Law School in Nashville, Tennessee, says that federal agencies have the authority to arrest anyone possessing marijuana, but they cannot stop the states from passing the laws, or make the states enforce federal law.
Still, the federal government could make life very difficult for the new industry, Mikos says, by seizing growers’ assets or prohibiting banks from opening accounts for people committing federal crimes. But even if the US government does crack down, Mikos says, it is not going to make much of a difference. “It will put a dent in the industry, but it will also affect the shape of it.” Small businesses will learn how to fly under the radar, he says, and state regulators will have to craft their new laws around federal law.
The biggest impact of full legalisation might be to permit research into cannabis that is currently impossible. No country has ever completely legalised marijuana. Portugal has decriminalised it and other drugs, but not legalised them. And in the Netherlands, where pot can be readily obtained in “coffee shops”, possession of small amounts of cannabis is decriminalised, and producing and selling the drug remains illegal. To understand the effect of cannabis on health, researchers need to measure individuals’ exposures to the drug over time and relate that to their health problems, says Matthew Hickman of the University of Bristol, UK. Doing such long-term studies in large groups of people is very difficult when use is illegal. “We can’t even get good self-reported use levels,” he says.
Even in the Netherlands, properly documented large-scale health studies have not been done because it is hard to convince people to reveal the kind of information needed. Under full legalisation, this should be possible. “It will be a natural experiment”, both into the impact of the policy on drug use and of drug use on users, says Christer Hyggen of Norwegian Social Research in Oslo.
Legalisation should also give researchers insight into how cannabis affects psychological problems, including settling the debate on whether it causes psychosis. Another big question is its impact on alcohol and tobacco use. People who use marijuana are more likely to drink alcohol than non-users, but researchers are not sure whether the two forms of intoxication reinforce one another or substitute for one another. If it is the latter, then legalising marijuana might be the best thing a state can do: alcohol generates a lot more social harm, says Jonathan Caulkins of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
David Nutt of Imperial College London, former head of the UK government’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, points out that “alcohol-related traffic deaths in Colorado fell 14 per cent after they legalised medical marijuana”.
That is one of the few effects of medical marijuana that has been measured. Cannabis for medicinal use is legal in 18 US states, and the legal dispensaries have data on its effects – but no one is using the data. “People at the National Institutes of Health would like to assess the therapeutic benefits, but under US law they aren’t allowed to,” says Nutt. Research by the US National Institute on Drug Abuse, says a spokesperson, only “focuses on the negative aspects of drugs”.
The legal limbo between federal and state governments won’t be sustainable for much longer, many people feel. “Obama’s got a tough decision on his hands,” says Caulkins. Several medical dispensaries in California that allegedly sold to anyone were shut down earlier this year, but “for every one they close down, another pops up”, says Mikos.
Obama also faces international pressure to make a decision. Mexico’s incoming president, Enrique Peña Nieto, has said his top priority is to decrease drug violence rather than to clamp down on drugs. If people in the US start buying American-grown marijuana, it could deal a significant blow to Mexico’s violent drug cartels. Research from the RAND Drug Policy Research Center in Santa Monica, California, estimates that marijuana trafficking accounts for about 20 per cent of the cartels’ income: about $6 billion to $8 billion. Another study published in October by the Mexican Institute for Competitiveness estimated that legalisation in Washington alone would subtract $1.4 billion from the cartels’ profits, but it is unclear whether this would reduce the violence. In response to the states’ laws, Luis Videgaray Caso, head of Peña Nieto’s transition team, said he was not sure whether Mexico could continue to enforce marijuana laws in the current confusing legal state.
“This is a watershed moment,” says Caulkins. “If this goes well over the next few years, the weight of public opinion could change quickly.” Mikos agrees, and says that if those states generate a lot of money from tax revenues, their neighbours may adopt similar measures. If so, “these laws could fundamentally change America’s relationship with marijuana”.
A pharmaceutical treasure trove
The legalisation of cannabis in the US states of Washington and Colorado might improve our patchy understanding of the health effects of cannabis, but what about lab experiments on the drug itself?
We already know that a compound called cannabidiol (CBD) shows particular promise. It seems to kill cancer cells (Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, doi.org/bwm7k8), and is being tested inpreclinical trials for a childhood epilepsy disorder known as Dravet syndrome.
Marijuana can also contain varying amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the mood-altering ingredient, and more than 100 other cannabinoids. Many of these have not yet been tested for their pharmacological effects. “It’s a treasure trove,” says Jon Page of the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Canada, who was part of a team that published a draft genome sequence of Cannabis sativa last year (Genome Biology, doi.org/cc8xts). Further research, both on cannabinoid pharmacology and on the genomics of cannabis, “could help unlock the medical potential of this controversial plant”, he says.
What’s more, anecdotal evidence from the medical marijuana industry suggests that plants with different amounts of these components are useful for different conditions. High levels of THC are good for relieving pain, for instance. Research on cannabis with different ratios of these chemicals could put this on a stronger scientific footing, says Page.
It might be possible to study cannabinoids, for instance, to learn how they exert their effects, he says, but getting funding to show the medical benefit of the different types in people is likely to be very difficult, wherever you are based. “The controlled-substances laws make it difficult to get approval to work on the plant,” Page says.Sara Reardon
New Scientist, 17 November, 2012