folder Filed in Health, Policy
Sensible Federal Cannabis Health Policy
Peter Cervieri

Over the course of the next few election cycles, there will be a wave of individuals running for office at the local, state and national level who espouse sensible cannabis policy as a part of their respective campaign platforms. Despite Jeff Sessions intentions, a glacier of public opinion, and the policies that eventually represent the will of the public, is moving slowly and steadily in one direction.

This is one story of one candidate running for Congress in 2018.

Cancer biologist Michael Masterman-Smith, PhD, studies cancer stem cells. From 2001 to 20011, his team at UCLA conducted a 10 year research project to understand cancer stem cells and test over 30,000 compounds from various pharmaceutical compound libraries they had access to. The goal was to determine whether any compounds showed promise to kill the cancer stem cells. 11 compounds showed promise. Of those 11, 4 were cannabinoid receptor agonists (i.e. the active ingredients in cannabis).

A cannabinoid agonist binds to a cell receptor and causes it to initiate a signaling cascade that modulates various physiological processes and protects neurons against toxic insults. A cannabinoid antagonist binds to a cell receptor and prevents it from signaling.

Cancer stem cells, like some other cells in the body, have CB1 and CB2 receptors. The cancer cells seem to think that they need cannabinoid receptors for survival and growth. However, once the cannabinoids pass into the cellular structure, they overwhelm the cell with Ceramide, a waxy lipid molecule, which proves toxic to the cancer cell and kills it.

However, there was a problem with the synthetic cannabinoids his team had available to them during their research project. Synthetic cannabinoids prove effective in killing cancer stem cells, but they have a toxic side effect in the human body. Michael wanted to research plant-based cannabinoids as an alternative that would have all the cancer cell killing upside of synthetic cannabinoids, but without the toxic side effects.

Unfortunately, due to current federal cannabis policy, it is extremely difficult for scientists researching various medical conditions – from cancer, to pain management, to neurological disorders, among others – to access plant-based cannabinoids as a possible treatment to introduce to the market, with the goal of improving health outcomes for patients and reducing overall health care costs.

Researchers in other countries, such as Spain, Israel, England and elsewhere, do not face such constraints and are about 10 years ahead of the US in the research and cannabinoid drug discovery process. These drugs will be patented, brought through clinical trials and introduced to the global health care market as alternatives to existing drugs to treat cancer, epilepsy, alzheimer’s, pain, anxiety, sleeping disorders, and many other conditions.

Michael is currently researching plant-based cannabinoids and hopes to move botanical cannabinoids through the FDA approval process for conditions such as cancer.

Michael was inspired to run for Congress in California’s 25th district, in part, to help shape sensible U.S. cannabis health policy and overall health policy at the federal level. Congress, while represented by plenty of politicians with legal and business backgrounds, is not well represented by the medical and scientific community. Our overall health policy is being determined by people who do not have medical or scientific backgrounds or who have ties to lobbying groups with vested interests.

You can learn more about Michael Masterman-Smith and his congressional campaign for the 25th district of California here.