Health News Digest

Cannabis or hemp

June 18, 2018

Making A Decision, Or Not, On Health-Related Issues

By Michael D. Shaw

We look at two contemporary issues, and compare how they are progressing through officialdom.


A couple of years ago, we covered some of the hysteria involving the Cannabis plant. Two subspecies exist:

  • Cannabis sativa L. ssp. indica (Lam.) E. Small & Cronquist
  • Cannabis sativa L. ssp. sativa

As it happens, indica is more suited to marijuana cultivation and sativa to industrial hemp production. Notably, sativais easier to grow than indica. Hemp fiber is used in the manufacturing of canvas, boat sails, clothes, paper, ship rigs, twine, and fish nets—to name only a few. Hemp seeds have a number of health benefits. Hemp oil also has certain health benefits, including being an excellent source of both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the proper ratio; improving skin conditions; and lowering cholesterol.

The psychotropic properties of Cannabis are due to the chemical delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), present only in very small amounts in sativa. Yet, cultivation of both Cannabis subspecies is currently illegal in the US, per the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Oddly, it is legal to import Hemp products into the US.

Hemp production is a big deal—and there used to be much produced here—with China, Chile, and the European Union being the biggest players right now. Canada is also a growing presence. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could produce hemp in the US?

Glad you asked. On June 13th, the 2018 Farm Bill—with a provision to legalize hemp production—passed through the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, & Forestry. Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) commented: “I think it’s time we took this step. I think everybody has now figured it out that this is not the other plant.”

Committee member Ron Wyden (D-OR) said, “Hemp growers in places like Canada and China must just be laughing all the way to the bank. They’re cashing in, while our farmers have their hands tied by the current hemp restrictions. Our bipartisan legislation will help farmers unlock the full economic potential of industrial hemp, spurring economic growth and creating good-paying red, white, and blue jobs in rural communities across the country.”

With any luck, this absurd policy on hemp will finally be overturned, after 48 years.

Physician-Assisted Suicide (PAS)

No doubt, there are some who see this as a part of total healthcare. Others are rightly disturbed by the notion that a healer can also moonlight as a killer. In March 2015, the Heritage Foundation issued an excellent report entitled “Four Problems with Physician-Assisted Suicide.” Here are some key points:

1.     PAS endangers the weak and marginalized. Experience in European countries indicates that supposed safeguards are often ignored.

2.     PAS threatens to fundamentally distort the doctor–patient relationship, and could provide perverse incentives to third-party payers.

3.     There are means for physicians to allow a natural dignified death, if that is what the patient desires, by withholding treatment and reducing pain.

So, where do you think the American Medical Association stands on this issue? At the moment, their official position is summarized as “Permitting physicians to engage in assisted suicide would ultimately cause more harm than good.” One paragraph within the policy says that “Physician-assisted suicide is fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer, would be difficult or impossible to control, and would pose serious societal risks.”

However, as was reported by the Catholic Medical Association, on June 11th, the AMA House of Delegates voted 56% in favor of rejecting the recommendation of its own Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs report that opposition to PAS continue. For now, the AMA says that they are going to study the Council’s recommendation for another year.

“For more than two decades the nation’s most prominent and largest association of physicians vocally opposed physician-assisted suicide,” said CMA President Peter T. Morrow, MD. “Monday’s AMA’s House of Delegates vote refusing their council’s recommendation to continue opposing physician-assisted suicide is hugely disappointing and frankly disturbing.”

I would agree. Let’s see what happens in a year.