January 29, 2019

Bernard Jocuns

LAPEER, Mich. – Attitudes about marijuana are changing quickly and noticeably. In both conservative and liberal states and communities alike, marijuana has become more widely accepted for its medicinal properties, as well as its commodification for increased tax benefits. These changes are reflected in recent legislation that has legalized marijuana in many areas and decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana in others. However, it’s CBD – short for Cannabidiol – that is the true standout of the past several years.
According to the National Cancer Institute, the cannabis plant produces a resin that contains compounds known as “cannabinoids,” which are active chemicals that, when ingested, affect various parts of the human body, including the central nervous system and the immune system. One active cannabinoid is cannabidiol, or CBD, which the NCI notes may relieve pain and inflammation without making users feel the “high” that other cannabinoids produce.
CBD has spiked in popularity over the last couple of years, with people claiming it holds a host of health benefits – from soothing arthritis to helping relieve symptoms of cerebral palsy. The non-intoxicating marijuana extract is being credited with helping treat a host of medical problems – everything from epileptic seizures to anxiety to inflammation to sleeplessness. Extracted from the flowers and buds of marijuana or hemp plants, CBD does not produce intoxication; marijuana’s “high” is caused by the chemical tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
“It’s a positive that CBD is now available to more people legally,” said Lapeer-based attorney and marijuana activist Bernard Jocuns. “It has innumerable positive uses without the psychotropic effects of marijuana. However, results and product may vary depending on origin. This is a smart step to make this important product available to more people, including those that may never have known of its existence.”
Shifting attitudes about marijuana may be attributed to various factors, including medical research. Though research studying the effects of marijuana on recovering cancer patients is ongoing, cancer patients and their families may be curious about the potential for cannabis to assist in their recoveries. CBD is available in a range of different forms, from oil to water, and is believed by users to aid a range of health conditions. Since its emergence, one of its most popular uses has been to treat different forms of cancer.
The NCI notes that research has shown that cannabinoids may be able to do more than relieve cancer patients’ pain and inflammation. While additional research is necessary, the NCI says cannabinoids may be able to block cell growth. The NCI points to studies in mice and rats that have shown that cannabinoids may inhibit tumor growth by causing cell death, blocking cell growth and blocking the development of blood vessels that tumors need to grow. Cancer is marked by the uncontrolled division of abnormal cells, so the potential for cannabinoids to block that growth is a significant benefit. In addition, the NCI cites laboratory and animal studies that have shown that cannabinoids may be able to kill cancer cells while protecting normal cells.
Studies have shown that cannabinoids may have an effect on various types of cancer, including breast cancer and liver cancer. The NCI notes that a laboratory study of delta-9-THC, the main active cannabinoid in marijuana, in liver cancer cells indicated that the cannabinoid damaged or killed the cancer cells. Another laboratory study of CBD in estrogen receptor positive and estrogen receptor negative breast cancer cells showed that CBD caused cancer cell death while having little effect on normal breast cells.
CBD has been touted for a wide variety of other health issues, but some of the strongest scientific evidence is for its efficacy in treating some of the cruelest childhood epilepsy syndromes, such as Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS), which typically don’t respond to antiseizure medications. In numerous studies, CBD was able to reduce the number of seizures, and in some cases, it was able to stop them altogether. Videos of the effects of CBD on these children and their seizures are readily available on the Internet for viewing, and are quite striking. Recently the FDA approved the first ever cannabis-derived medicine for these conditions, Epidiolex, which contains CBD.
CBD is also commonly used to address anxiety, and for patients who suffer through the misery of insomnia, studies suggest that CBD may help with both falling asleep and staying asleep.
“I have heard many positive stories and testimonials about CBD and its effectiveness in users over the past 10 years about the marvels of CBD and its many benefits,” said Jocuns.
Along with these noted benefits, CBD may offer an option for treating different types of chronic pain. A study from the European Journal of Pain showed, using an animal model, CBD applied on the skin could help lower pain and inflammation due to arthritis. Another study demonstrated the mechanism by which CBD inhibits inflammatory and neuropathic pain, two of the most difficult types of chronic pain to treat. More study in humans is needed in this area to substantiate the claims of CBD proponents about pain control.
Reported side effects vary according to patients and users, but seem to be very mild if noted at all. Some of the few reported side effects of CBD have included nausea, fatigue and irritability. CBD can increase the level in your blood of the blood thinner coumadin, and it can raise levels of certain other medications in your blood by the exact same mechanism that grapefruit juice does.
A significant safety concern with CBD is that it is primarily marketed and sold as a supplement, not a medication. Currently, the FDA does not regulate the safety and purity of dietary supplements. So you cannot know for sure that the product you buy has active ingredients at the dose listed on the label. In addition, the product may contain other (unknown) elements. We also don’t know the most effective therapeutic dose of CBD for any particular medical condition. Though still unregulated, CBD is still in its infancy and future studies are sure to reveal more about the compound.
At this time, there does seem to be a growing body of basic pharmacologic data suggesting there is likely a role for CBD, especially in the treatment of refractory epilepsy, cancer, anxiety and insomnia. However, given the lack of well-controlled trials, we must pursue further clinical research wholeheartedly.
Clearly, in many communities, this is an emotionally and politically charged issue. However, if this were any other uninvestigated pharmaceutical compound, would people feel as compelled to rail against it before valid evidence was available? Or does it have a reputation based on the plant from which it is derived?

Bernard Jocuns, a criminal defense lawyer, was born in Pittsburgh and spent his formative years in Central Pennsylvania. Upon graduating high school, Jocuns entered the United States Army, and later worked in the entertainment industry for a number of record labels, as well as managing musicians. Jocuns later decided that his true passion was to be an activist and trial attorney. After becoming a member of the State Bar of Michigan in 2003, Jocuns eventually started his own practice in 2006 and permanently moved to Lapeer in 2009.