In Praise of Doctor Grinspoon
With any luck, marijuana will soon be legal and millions of patients will no longer be persecuted for seeking herbal remedies. It’s been a monumental struggle conducted through numerous generations but when the great warriors who made a difference are finally counted, Dr. Lester Grinspoon will remain in a category all his own.
I first met Lester on the set of the Ron Reagan Jr. show in Los Angeles. Lester immediately reminded me of my dad. Not just because of a certain facial resemblance, but also because Lester was a professor at Harvard and my dad was a biochemist there in the 1950s, although he and my mom hated the politics at that university. To get an idea of how vicious Harvard can be, Lester was denied full professorship his entire life despite having a powerful impact on the history of medicine on many levels.
At this point, cancer touches everyone, but none like Lester, who lost an 11-year-old son to that most dreaded disease. It was during this process Lester discovered the medicinal effects of marijuana. He published the first honest look at the subject and at that moment every door of possible advancement inside Harvard closed forever. Lester could have just kept his mouth shut, like so many others within the system, but Lester’s integrity is too great. And that is why Lester is the soul and conscience of the medical marijuana community, and I couldn’t imagine a more appropriate person for that job.
A few years ago, I wrote the first major magazine article on Rick Simpson. Before I published the article, I sent a copy to Lester to review. I did this knowing Lester had his own battle with cancer and I was also encouraging him to start eating massive amounts of oil. Lester was alarmed by my article, however, as he felt it conveyed an unbalanced portrayal of the science involved. Everything was anecdotal and zero evidence had been produced by anyone. His rebuttal to my article was posted on the High Times website and some people thought I was upset. On the contrary, I was happy to have some perspective from a qualified source of information. The mission became clear: find some real evidence regarding cannabis and cancer.
The first person I contacted was Valerie Corral at WAMM in Santa Cruz. At this point, Val had not even heard about cannabis oil treatment and it took years for her to marshal some evidence. During this time, only a few fully documented success stories emerged, including biochemist Dennis Hill, 4-year-old Cash Hyde, and Michelle Aldrich, who’d received oil from Valerie. I was overjoyed when Michelle came forward and had a brief facebook exchange in which I said I was looking forward to Lester’s mea culpa. (When Lester first contacted me, he’d said if any real evidence emerged of cannabis curing someone’s cancer, he’d write the first paper on the subject. He brought up the words mea culpa. They aren’t really part of my vocabulary.) So when I said I was looking forward to Lester’s “mea culpa” I did not mean to suggest Lester needed to write anything or, worse, was withholding information. I was only expressing my hope that the curative effects of cannabis oil will some day be documented and more widely known among the general population. But every time we seem on the verge of taking that step forward, we slip another step back. For example, Lester was in the process of writing up Dennis Hill’s success story when it was discovered Dennis had a major setback. We also lost young Cash Hyde.
People ask me all the time, what should I do? Who do I believe? If you have cancer, my advice is to move to Colorado or Washington (or at least get some oil from those locations). But I also strongly urge you to see an oncologist and pursue all avenues of defense. The oil, meanwhile, will do no harm and will certainly make you feel better. The anti-tumor effects of cannabis are well documented, but shrinking tumors and curing cancer are world’s apart. When Lester writes a paper about cannabis curing cancer, you can believe we’ve crossed the Rubicon. But only Lester can be the judge of when that should happen, if ever. In the meantime, I’d appreciate the activists on all sides of this issue to avoid further baiting me or Lester, a person I would never disrespect or dishonor.
In closing here’s a clip from our first encounter: