Michigan: Medical Marijuana as a Treatment for Cancer

September 30th, 2011 – FERNDALE — When his cancer came back for a fifth time, Michael McShane was desperate for treatment outside of traditional medicine.

The last time squamous cell carcinoma left lumpy tumors around his mouth, doctors cut it away and reconstructed his bottom lip by turning out a portion of its inner layer.

“You can only do most facial tricks once,” McShane, 51, said. “I needed another option.”

As a qualifying medical marijuana patient, he tried “Simpson oil” derived from cannabis plants by a Canadian named Rick Simpson. McShane bought some from an Oak Park dispensary that has since closed and puts a few drops every day on his face. Over the course of about 10 weeks, the tumors faded and then seemed to disappear.

His dermatologist, Ali Moiin, M.D., has said McShane isn’t cured but his cancer cells have decreased by about 60 percent.

“You still have some residual ones, but the size has definitely decreased,” Dr. Moiin told a WWJ reporter in late August, adding he thinks the results merit further scientific study.

Moiin didn’t return phone calls for an interview for this story. He isn’t the doctor who signed the physician certification form for McShane, who has another qualifying medical problem.

In all, since the Michigan Medical Marijuana Program started in April 2009, 2,215 of the state’s licensed physicians have certified that a patient suffers from one of the debilitating conditions identified in the act, and that the patient may find therapeutic and palliative relief from the medical use of marijuana. A total of 105,458 patient registry cards have been issued in that time period.

An estimated 55 doctors signed 70 percent of the certification forms, according to one review; most of the others aren’t talking about it publicly.

“I imagine it is a fairly sensitive issue because it is politically charged,” said Colin Ford, director of state and federal government relations for the Michigan State Medical Society.

Physicians are cautious because patient privacy is important, he said.

A forbidden cure?

Privacy isn’t as important to McShane as sharing what he considers his latest triumph over cancer without surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, reconstructive surgery and their side effects.

“The marijuana oil replaced all that and reduced the cancer to almost nothing,” he said. “My forehead and mouth were in bad shape in the spring. All of a sudden one morning it was there — a callous-like growth the size of a half dollar on my forehead. Skin cancer is my regular nemesis.”

McShane is one of a growing number of people extolling the healing properties of Simpson oil for everything from cancer, AIDS, Crohn’s disease, osteoporosis, arthritis, and diabetes to psoriasis, hemorrhoids and warts. They call it a “forbidden cure,” saying the oil that can be used topically or ingested isn’t given enough credit because it would cut into medical and pharmaceutical profits.

“I’ve struggled with cancer for over 20 years and probably have spent over $1 million on conventional treatment,” McShane said, adding he was insured until his payments increased to $1,400 a month.

“I can’t believe what just wiping Simpson oil on my skin did for me. I spent a couple hundred dollars versus $100,000.”

Qualifying conditions

McShane is one of 3,119 patients certified in the state through Aug. 31 for using medical marijuana to treat cancer and its side effects.

“Severe and chronic pain is the most common box checked as a medical condition,” said Celeste Clarkson, manager of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Program, which is administered through the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.

The number of medical marijuana patients certified by doctors for severe and chronic pain totaled 99,304 through the end of August, when the latest figures were tallied.

The second most common box checked is muscle spasms for 31,779 registered patients, followed by severe nausea for 13,617 patients and then cancer for 3,119 patients.

In all, the state act defines 14 chronic or debilitating diseases, medical conditions, and side effects from treatments that qualify, including glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Chrohn’s disease, agitation of Alzheimer’s disease, nail patella, Cachexia or wasting syndrome, and seizures.

The MMP has 21,000 applications are pending. The staff was increased from three at the onset to 25 employees. They have 15 days to approve or deny an application and then five calendar days to issue the medical marijuana card. It is taking months for patients to get their cards.

“We’re inundated,” Clarkson said. “The volume of applications is constant. We average 400-600 a day. We’ve received as many as just shy of 2,000 in one day. That was in March. Right now we’re issuing registration cards for new applications received in May.”

‘Now this is a mom’

Christiana Offerman, 36, of Sterling Heights is certified to use medical marijuana for severe and chronic pain. Fifteen years ago she was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a disorder that causes widespread muscle and bone pain, fatigue and sleep and mood problems.

Offerman had been taking prescriptions of Vicodin as needed for pain, almost the highest dosage allowed of Neurontin for burning and stabbing pain, muscle relaxers, sleeping pills, and Ativan for the anxiety and depression caused by the stress of living with a painful incurable disorder.

The side effects of painkillers and muscle relaxers made it tough for the working mom to meet the needs of her two teenage children and respite care clients.

“I was lethargic and in bed, unable to respond,” Offerman said. “I was unbalanced, uncoordinated and very groggy. I wasn’t part of my kids’ lives.”

After she became a registered medical marijuana patient in late 2009, Offerman said she started using topical cannabis oil for nerve pains in her arm and burning pains in her back. She also smokes marijuana for “all-over body relief.” She said she has stopped taking five prescriptions, including Vicodin, Neurontin, Ativan and sleeping pills.

“It was relieving, liberating,” Offerman said. “I make dinner at dinner time. I go to school conferences, football games and dances. I’ve gotten to know my kids better. They are so happy. Now this is a mom.”

Changing attitudes

Offerman started outing herself as a medical marijuana patient in spring 2010 to educate the public.

“At first I didn’t tell people because I was ashamed,” she said. “My son is in marching band. I work for a health agency. There was a stigma, but contrary to popular opinions, we’re not all tie-dyed hippies who want to get high all day. We’re doctors, lawyers, moms and dads.”

Offerman said when people find out she uses medical marijuana they are curious and ask a lot of questions. Her employer has no problem with it.

“In their eyes, it’s not a drug; it’s a medical option,” she said. “As long as I have a card on file, it’s good with them. I have told my primary care physician, too. She couldn’t sign my paper work because she’s affiliated with a medical group, but she knows what prescription drugs I don’t need anymore and that I don’t get my blood drawn every six months anymore.”

Offerman and McShane said they are trying to change attitudes about medical marijuana one person at a time.

“I want to make it socially acceptable, something that warrants respect,” McShane said. “It’s here for a reason. God made it and we can turn it into something absolutely beautiful.”

Now that the dispensary where he got Simpson oil has closed, McShane is learning how to make it himself. He said he is a “conservative” caregiver for himself and four patients, keeping three plants in various growth stages so he can harvest some marijuana every couple weeks.

A caregiver can grow up to 12 plants for a qualifying patient and can assist up to five patients.

“I play by the rules,” McShane said. “I’m not cheating the electrical guy or anyone. I’m the caregiver model and I’m curing cancer on the side.” Source.

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