B.C. Provincial Court heard Thursday that cannabis is safer than aspirin and can restore the balance in people’s bodies to help fight illness.
That was the testimony of Dr. Robert Melamede, an associate professor at the University of Colorado, who was brought in by the defense team for the four men accused in the Holy Smoke Culture Shop drug trafficking case taking place in Nelson this week.
Melamede’s testimony comes on the second day of what is supposed to be a week-long trial. In a lengthy scientific explanation, the U.S. expert told the court that the human body produces marijuana-like compounds, or endocannabinoids, which act as a “lubricant” for food produced chemicals called “free radicals” that are very reactive and can cause an imbalance in the body.
“You can look at the harm caused by free radicals as biological friction or biological rust and the endocannabinoid system minimizes the impact of that and directly acts as an antioxidant as well as modifying the biochemistry in a way that minimizes the impacts,” said Melamede outside court Thursday, likening endocannabinoids to humans like oil is to cars. He said if you don’t have lubrication in your car, your car breaks. In the human body, the damage comes in the form of age-related diseases.
“I’m saying what science has now shown is that marijuana and cannabinoids are effective anti-aging agents which means that they are effective in minimizing the onset and the severity of age-related illnesses which include cognitive dysfunction things like Alzheimers, cardiovascular disease be it heart attacks, strokes, or clogged arteries,” he said.
But while it does not work for every one, cannabis can also help those people with auto-immune diseases and cancer.
Melamede explained that you would have to take 40,000 times the therapeutic dose before causing harm to your body. But the therapeutic index for aspirin is 15 to one.
“It’s extremely safe,” said Melamede of marijuana, noting the overdose amount would equal 40,000 joints.
“And you die happy,” added Judge Don Sperry during a rare moment of levity in Thursday’s testimony.
Melamede also provided testimony on the “reverse gateway” theory, disputing the notion that marijuana acts as a gateway to other drugs. He explained that evidence suggests some people who use cannabis have completely stopped using narcotics while others have reduced their narcotics intake while on marijuana.
He said that while marijuana has negative benefits – and should not be taken by those who are predisposed to schizophrenia, for example – it is very helpful to restore balance to those with an endocannabinoid deficiency.
“I think it’s very bad for immature kids to use it. Once you’ve reached a certain level of maturity it can be beneficial,” he said, noting it can help those with multiple sclerosis, migraines and Crohn’s Disease. “If you look at things like Crohn’s disease, the body is producing lots more cannabinoids in those areas [the gut] but they’re not producing enough and yet people can consume cannabis and it’s the best thing they have for Crohn’s disease for many people. Nothing works for everyone but there are many many people for whom cannabis is giving them their lives.”
Prosecutors took about 15 minutes to cross-examine Melamede and pointed out that he ran for Senate and the House of Representatives in Vermont for the Grassroots Party.
The trial, which adjourned for two days to serve notice of a publication ban, will continue Friday when the defense calls local witnesses who are expected to give testimony about the benefits of marijuana in their lives. Because Sperry granted the application for a publication ban, the names of those local witnesses cannot be released to the public.
Court will also hear Friday whether or not the Crown intends to call their expert. If they do not, the trial will adjourn to hear written arguments following the last local witness.