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Letter From The Editor

Baby boomers once loved marijuana — now it may save their life.

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Like most baby boomers, I have some experience with marijuana. I was exposed to it in college in the 1970s and inhaled frequently for a number of years. I did not consider it harmful, but I stopped smoking it regularly because it made me feel inarticulate and dopey. I wanted to be a writer, and what I wrote while on pot was mostly self-referential gibberish and poetry that was meaningless to other people. Then when my children came along, I decided it was not a good idea to be getting high with babies entrusted to my care.

That said, I think pot should be legalized, particularly medical marijuana. It would help stop the illegal pot trade, with its gangs and narco-violence. It could be taxed and become a major revenue stream for the state. It's certainly less addictive and destructive than alcohol. Several other states have figured this out, and I think — like casino gambling — the financial benefits of legalizing marijuana will sooner or later overcome its lingering stigma as a "dangerous" drug.

And more evidence is emerging that marijuana has enormous potential as a cancer-fighting agent. A Daily Beast article this week pulled together much of the research involving pot and cancer. Peer-reviewed studies in several countries show that THC and other marijuana-derived compounds, known as "cannabinoids," are effective not only for cancer-symptom management (nausea, pain, loss of appetite, fatigue), they also confer a direct anti-tumoral effect.

Medical studies at numerous universities have demonstrated THC's ability to destroy brain cancer, breast cancer, and lung cancer cells. And unlike chemotherapy, the cannabinoids have no destructive side effects.

From the Beast article: Dr. Sean McAllister, a scientist at the Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, has been studying cannabinoid compounds for 10 years in a quest to develop new therapeutic interventions for various cancers.

"Cannabidiol offers hope of a non-toxic therapy that could treat aggressive forms of cancer without any of the painful side effects of chemotherapy," McAllister said.

How ironic would it be if the party drug most baby boomers used while young and carefree turned out to be the medicine that helped them fight the plague of cancer in their declining years?

What a long, strange trip, indeed.

Bruce VanWyngarden
brucev@memphisflyer.com

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