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Marijuana: Gateway To Health?

Bay Area journalist and cannabis activist Clint Werner has found self-publishing success with a medical marijuana research reference book.

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San Francisco journalist, activist, macrobiotic chef, and dachshund enthusiast Clint Werner has something the medical-marijuana movement desperately needs more of: endnotes. Werner's 2011, self-published reference title, Marijuana Gateway To Health, lists 221 endnotes, including medical studies "Marijuana Stops Growth of Lung Tumors in Mice" and "Marijuana's Active Ingredient Shown to Inhibit Primary Marker of Alzheimer's Disease."

Werner combined those medical studies with an up-close history of the medical-marijuana movement, and parlayed them into a bestseller that hit number two on Amazon's Alternative Medicine bestsellers list and number 241 on the online giant's overall list.

In just over a year, the 52-year-old, self-professed "slacker house-husband" has become a busy self-made publisher/author. Werner also is preparing an updated second edition for February 2013, and will appear on October 13 in Oakland as part of a Legalization Nation-produced book panel, along with authors Doug Fine (Too High to Fail), Martin Lee (Smoke Signals), and Paul Armentano (Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?). We caught up with Werner recently, and here are some excerpts from our Q&A.

LN: These studies paint a rosy picture of pot as medicine, but where are the double-blind, human trials on smoked cannabis?

CW: You cannot do research in the US with marijuana that is designed to show benefit. It has to show harm. NIDA [National Institute on Drug Abuse] is the gatekeeper for all controlled-substance research in terms of getting approval, funding, and material. ... Congressional mandate prohibits NIDA from funding research that would show benefit. ... This is evil. ... These cannabinoids mimic the compounds we make in our bodies that prevent disease, interrupt disease processes, and trigger repair mechanisms.

LN: What are the top three most explosive studies in your book?

CW: The neurogenesis one: "Cannabinoids promote embryonic and adult hippocampus neurogenesis and produce anxiolitic and anti-depressant-like effects," endnote 49, chapter four, from the Journal of Clinical Investigation, November 2005. The Scripps Research Institute press release from 2006 about "marijuana's active ingredient shown to inhibit the primary molecule for Alzheimer's Disease." The other has to be [Donald] Tashkin's epidemiological study of lung cancer. Not only [did he] find out it doesn't cause lung cancer, it actually has a protective effect — that is profound. ... I often say, "If they had only found that smoking marijuana didn't hurt us, that would've been enough, but to find out it reduces our chances of developing lung cancer is mind-boggling."

LN: What's your take on this New Zealand study that found a handful of Kiwis who smoked pot every day for decades since their teens lost eight IQ points?

CW: I do have a chapter in my book, "Who Should Not Use Marijuana." The developing adolescent brain is different than the adult brain. There are a lot of changes. There could be some alteration from chronic cannabis use in teens as opposed to adults.

[However,] teen binge drinkers suffer significant brain damage. If they are smoking marijuana, marijuana partially shields them from the severity of the brain damage alcohol causes.

LN: The new one this week is how pot causes testicular cancer.

CW: Just looking at the data, if the subjects stopped using cannabis, that was the group that was at risk. It's really a small group and I am very suspicious. I think it's probably slanted research. ... I'm doubtful, because you don't see it causing lung cancer where the primary exposure is. I think it's bogus. ... Cannabinoids have powerful anti-tumor activity.

LN: Mainstream publishers asked you to tone down the title of your book, and you eventually self-published it on Dachstar Press. How'd that unfold?

CW: Yes, it's calculated. I sat for hours doing bong hits trying to come up with a "got you," provocative, put-the-shiv-in-the-man-and-twist-it title. ... Because that's the reality: Everything they've been asserting about harm and degradation and misery is a lie.

LN: Has speaking engagements at the Commonwealth Club (rebroadcast on C-SPAN), as well as appearances on AM radio, driven sales?

CW: I had to invest a lot of money, and my publicist is not cheap but worth every penny. I made my investment back with the next payment from Amazon, and I have no idea what's going to happen when I get payments for August and September. I think I'm just going to plow it into more promotion. The material rewards are nice, but the main things is to change minds and keep people out of prison and make these remedies available for everyone.

LN: Do you ever get in trouble with [partner and UCSF cancer researcher] Dr. [Donald] Abrams for being so strident? He's got to worry about getting government funding.

CW: Not so much. ... Back in the mid Nineties when Donald wanted to give up on getting NIDA approval for marijuana research, I told him, "Every time you're denied it establishes a record of how irrational they are." ... [Dr. Abrams was featured in a Los Angeles Times article just days before the 1996 election.] ... I think that really helped get Prop 215 passed. ... He got a call from Rodney Dangerfield thanking him for his work the day it was published, saying, "This is important. I got to tell ya, I've been using it for years." And his wife is IN the background saying, "Tell him how it helps with your depression."

I thought: "My life has gone surreal." 

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