by The People’s Minister of Information JR
Paul Armentano is one of the many interesting professors at Oaksterdam University who is on the front lines of the re-legalization and de-criminalization of marijuana movement in the United States. He is a scientist and has been for about two decades an activist with the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, so he is definitely not new to this.
M.O.I. JR: Can you tell us how long you have been involved in studying horticulture and what spurred that interest?
Paul Armentano: I have long believed that it is an inappropriate exercise of government power to allow lawmakers to arbitrarily decide that it is legally acceptable to ingest certain substances in private, but not others – particularly one that is objectively safer than alcohol and possesses well acknowledged therapeutic efficacy. I’ve been involved professionally in the efforts to relegalize cannabis for nearly 20 years, primarily as the deputy director for NORML – the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, where I have worked for the better part of the past 16 years, and also as a member of the Oaksterdam faculty.
M.O.I. JR: When did you get involved with Oaksterdam? Why?
Paul Armentano: I became involved in Oaksterdam as an instructor and as a faculty member about five years ago. To effectively change cannabis policy, we need to change the culture – through better education, better communication and better outreach – and Oaksterdam effectively facilitates this process.
M.O.I. JR: What courses do you teach? How have your students responded thus far?
Paul Armentano: I present a 90-minute power-point lecture on the efficacy and relative safety of cannabinoids as therapeutics. The peer-reviewed science is clear that cannabis offers therapeutic efficacy for a variety of indications and that it is objectively safer than many of the conventional pharmaceutical options that it could readily replace.
Moreover, in some cases, the science further indicates that in addition to simply addressing symptoms of disease, cannabinoids also likely halt the progress or course of various diseases – meaning that this plant arguably possesses both palliative and curative properties.
If you are interested in furthering your education on cannabis and the surrounding industries, check out Oaksterdam University, where classes start on Aug. 28.
M.O.I. JR: Why do you support legalizing and/or de-criminalizing cannabis?
Paul Armentano: The ongoing enforcement of cannabis prohibition financially burdens taxpayers, encroaches upon civil liberties, engenders disrespect for the law, impedes legitimate scientific research into the plant’s medicinal properties, and disproportionately impacts communities of color, particularly Black and Hispanic communities. Further, history has shown that it fails to meet its intended goals of limiting access and dissuading consumption, especially among adolescents.
A pragmatic regulatory framework that allows for legal, limited, licensed commercial production and retail sale of cannabis to adults but restricts use among young people best addresses these unintended consequences and, likewise, best reduces the risks associated with the substance’s use or abuse.
M.O.I. JR: How does cannabis affect the body and emotions of cannabis users?
Paul Armentano: Cannabis’ specific physiological, therapeutic and mood-altering effects are dependent on the specific cannabinoids contained in the plant and their interaction on various receptors throughout the bodies of living organisms. Cannabinoids are incapable of causing lethal overdose and are largely considered to be nontoxic to adult, healthy cells and organs – providing these agents with a unique safety profile relative to other recreational substances or therapeutics.
M.O.I. JR: Can cannabis be a medicine?
Paul Armentano: Cannabis has been used therapeutically for thousands of years and continues to be used for similar purposes today.
M.O.I. JR: Can you be specific about some diseases that cannabis can be a remedy for?
Paul Armentano: There are many. For instance, cannabis can provide symptomatic relief as an anti-emetic in patients suffering from nausea, as a pain reliever in subjects with neuropathy, as an anti-spasticity agent in patients with multiple sclerosis and other movement disorders, and as an anti-inflammatory agent in patients with Crohn’s.
There is also emerging evidence that cannabinoids may halt the progression of various diseases, such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis and possibly even cancer.
Cannabis has been used therapeutically for thousands of years and continues to be used for similar purposes today.
M.O.I. JR: What are some basic scientific facts that people should know about cannabis?
Paul Armentano: Cannabis is not a harmless substance. But this acknowledgement does not validate the substance’s continued criminalization. Just the opposite is true.
There are numerous adverse health consequences associated with alcohol, tobacco and prescription pharmaceuticals – all of which are far more dangerous and costlier to society than cannabis – and it’s precisely because of these consequences that these products are legally regulated and their use is restricted to particular consumers and specific settings. This same principle ought to apply to the adult use of cannabis.
M.O.I. JR: How do people stay in touch with you?
Paul Armentano: Via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. They can also check out my periodic writings on the NORML blog at http://www.norml.org. I’d also encourage people to check out my book, “Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?” (2009, Chelsea Green), which was recently revised and updated for 2013.
The People’s Minister of Information JR is associate editor of the Bay View, author of “Block Reportin’” and filmmaker of “Operation Small Axe” and “Block Reportin’ 101,” available, along with many more interviews, atwww.blockreportradio.com. He also hosts two weekly shows on KPFA 94.1 FM and kpfa.org: The Morning Mix every Wednesday, 8-9 a.m., and The Block Report every other Friday night-Saturday morning, midnight-2 a.m. He can be reached at email@example.com.