By Duncan Mlanjira
Commercial planting and possession of cannabis (Indian hemp) is illegal in most parts of the world but there are some schools of thought in Malawi who contemplate on legalizing the growing of the hemp for industrial use.
New reports coming from the US have emerged that numerous scientists believe cannabis to be a successful cancer cure and a a number of states including the District of Columbia have passed laws to legalize medical marijuana.
By federal law, possessing cannabis is illegal in the United States unless it is used in approved research settings but scientists have discovered that cannabis contains cannabinoids, also called phytocannabinoids, which cause drug-like effects in the body, including the central nervous system and the immune system.
On its website, the National Cancer Institute, which is part of the US Department of Health, says the main psychoactive cannabinoid in cannabis is delta-9-THC, while another active cannabinoid, cannabidiol (CBD), might alleviate pain and lower inflammation without causing the high of delta-9-THC.
The website also adds that no ongoing studies of cannabis as a treatment for cancer in people have been found in the CAM on PubMed database maintained by the National Institutes of Health. Yet, small studies have been done, but their results have not been reported or suggest a need for larger studies.
“Cannabis and cannabinoids have been studied as ways to manage side effects of cancer and cancer therapies, including pain, nausea, appetite loss, as well as pain, and anxiety.”
The National Cancer Institute suggests that laboratory and animal studies have shown that cannabinoids may be able to kill cancer cells while protecting normal cells.
“They may inhibit tumor growth by causing cell death, inhibiting cell growth, and blocking the development of blood vessels needed by tumors to grow.
“Yet, researchers added that at the time, there is a lack of evidence that recommends patients to inhale or ingest cannabis as a treatment for cancer-related symptoms or side effects of cancer therapy.
“Cannabis has been commonly used by patients diseased with some type of cancer as a way to alleviate pain in numerous US states where it is legal for medicinal application.
“However, The Cancer Research Charity cautiously explains that there isn’t enough reliable evidence to prove that cannabinoids, whether natural or synthetic, can effectively treat cancer in patients, although research is ongoing around the world.
“Therefore, even though cannabis and its derivatives may help to alleviate disease and therapy-related symptoms, there is still no clinical evidence of its anti-cancer efficacy.
“Medical marijuana can help with certain conditions, and research is ongoing into what kind of positive effects it can have on various diseases, including cancer.
“It has been recognized as one way of dealing with nausea caused by chemotherapy.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is also moving ahead with its long-delayed expansion of its research program on the illegal hemp.
A report by Reuters News Agency last month said this could be a sign that the President Donald Trump administration’s hostility to the drug may be waning as a growing number of states have legalized its use.
The report says the DEA shall roll out new guidelines that would allow more growers to produce marijuana for scientific and medical research.
In Malawi, a Parliamentary legislator once courted controversy when he suggested in the august House if the government could consider legalising the growing of marijuana to benefit from its export revenue to countries interested to use it for industrial use.
But his suggestion was met with resistance and derision from fellow Parliamentarians and the public at large as he was misunderstood until in recent years when the call to legalize it resurfaced on a different level through interested investors.
While the recent calls have also lost steam, the news that the U.S. is contemplating on expanding the delayed research might inspire the country to legislate the growing of the hemp, that is carried out illegally in most parts of the Central Region.
According to the Reuters report, quoting the DEA’s regulatory filing, the plans from the US could eventually lead to “safe and effective drug products that may be approved for marketing by the Food and Drug Administration.”
The DEA also said producers of hemp, an industrial form of marijuana that has little psychoactive effect, will not have to get a permit from the agency.
The announcement comes more than three years after the DEA first said in August 2016 that it would expand the number of licensed growers.
The reports says only one producer at the University of Mississippi is currently licensed to produce marijuana but researchers complain that the monopoly has limited the types of cannabis available for study, restricting their ability to learn about the more than 100 chemical compounds in the drug.
“The DEA has yet to take action on the 33 applications it has received since then, as the Trump administration has threatened a crackdown on a drug that is now legal for recreational or medical use in 33 states and the District of Columbia,” the report says.
However, marijuana remains illegal under US federal law, creating legal uncertainty and freezing many businesses out of the banking system.
“The then-U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions told federal prosecutors in January 2018 that they could go after marijuana users and producers in states that had legalized the drug, reversing the hands-off position taken by the Obama administration,” continues the report.
“The threat of prosecution has not slowed action at the state level, as eight states have approved marijuana for medical or recreational use since then.
“The legal market is expected to reach $12.4 billion in the United States this year and nearly double in size by 2025, according to New Frontier Data.
“The DEA says 542 people are now registered to conduct research on the drug, up 40 percent from January 2017, and the production quota has more than doubled over that period.
“A wider variety of growers will give those researchers more opportunity, “ says the report, quoting DEA acting administrator Uttam Dhillon.