Those of us who are fortunate enough to live a long life (I’ll be 80 this year) probably fear Alzheimer’s Disease more than almost anything else, and the last 10 years of Ronald Reagan’s life demonstrate why.

He was 94 when he finally died in 2004, of Alzheimer’s, 10 years after he was diagnosed. His long life meant that he suffered longer from the worst of Alzheimer’s than most people. His family also had to endure seeing his decline over a period of years. The Reagans could afford to hire nurses and others to spare the family the onerous burden that exhausts most families – physically, emotionally and financially – but that did not lessen their heartbreak.

The fact that the Reagan Administration was responsible for so much of the suppression of medical cannabis, the one thing that could have lessened their suffering, is irony worthy of a Greek tragedy. Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign may or may not have reduced “drug use” among children, but it certainly stopped medical research on cannabis.

She said, “If you can save just one child, it’s worth it.” Perhaps, but how many people died because of it?

And today there are over 5 million Americans over 65 with Alzheimer’s. Tragically, absurdly, more than 15 years later, there seems to have been very little progress in treating even the symptoms of the disease.

However, there is a lot of data that is being ignored by the scientific community’s unscientific refusal to observe the results of medical cannabis by members of compassion societies in the U.S. and Canada, as well as people enrolled in various state medical marijuana programs.

Four years before Reagan’s death, the Oregon Health Division on June 14, 2000, added agitation of Alzheimer’s Disease to the list of conditions qualifying medical cannabis under the state’s medical marijuana law.

However, real world results were first reported in 1890! One hundred years before Reagan left the White House.

In “Marihuana, The Forbidden Medicine,” Dr. Lester Grinspoon cited a Lancet article by Dr J. Russell Reynolds in which Reynolds said that “a moderate dose of Indian hemp – viz., one quarter to one third of a grain of extract given at bedtime” was very effective in treating “senile insomnia.” Of course, “Indian Hemp” is what we call “marijuana.”

So what is the Alzheimer’s Association’s position on research on marijuana or Indian Hemp?

The Alzheimer’s Association’s website says, “No known way to stop, slow, or prevent this disease.”

One might think that under these sad circumstances the Alzheimer’s Association would be open to trying something radical, like trying a plant that doesn’t cause brain damage. Even with medical research saying that “exposure to a compound present in marijuana can improve memory in Alzheimer’s disease and even reduce some of its symptoms.”

But here is all they have to say:

Cannabis: Helpful or Harmful?

Cannabis (marijuana) has a long, illicit history in America. Many states began placing restrictions on the drug in the early 1900s, and in 1970, the drug became illegal nationwide.

But the story is evolving. Although cannabis remains illegal on the federal level, medical cannabis is now legal in 33 states and the District of Columbia, and the recreational use of cannabis is permissible in 11 states and our nation’s capital. Fifteen other states have decriminalized the drug, which means possession of small amounts no longer carries jail time.

The availability of cannabis and cannabis-derived products — in natural and synthetic forms, such as oils, lotions, beverages, food and even dog treats — has sparked a lucrative industry, with some companies asserting dubious claims about their health benefits.

More research needed (emphasis added)

“From a medical perspective, we still don’t understand the benefits and risks of taking cannabis-derived products. If you make the choice to take one, your physician should be involved to assess any potential side effects or interactions with other medications,” Edelmayer says.

“Lots of hype, little evidence.”

“Until research is done to evaluate the benefit or harm in people living with dementia,” Edelmayer says, “we need to be cautious.”

Of course, we need “more research,” But please notice that there is no mention of the fact that NIDA, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, blocks the research that the Alzheimer’s Association says it wants.

From Wikipedia: “As a Schedule I drug in the U.S., clinical research on cannabis must be approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and a license (also referred to as a “registration”) must be obtained from the Drug Enforcement Administration specific to conducting research on Schedule I drugs. The petition to the FDA is submitted in the form of an Investigational New Drug application, which the FDA has 30 days to respond to. DEA research registrations are issued for Schedule I and Schedule II–V drugs, with the Schedule I registration mandating stricter compliance requirements such as the manner in which substances are stored and secured. The DEA licensing process can take over a year to complete.

The website has a blurb without a working link that does report that Alzheimer’s was added to Minnesota’s medical marijuana list. Here is the AP story. does report that Nabilone, a synthetic analog of THC, has significantly reduced “agitation” in patients, but notice the emphasis on the fact that “Nabilone is NOT marijuana.”

So are we back to Nancy Reagan and “Just Say No”?

My colleague, Dr. Melamede believes that cannabis can significantly improve brain function in Alzheimer’s patients, but my point here is much simpler: that the scientific community, not just the Alzheimer’s Association, have utterly failed both the patients and basic scientific principles because of marijuana prohibition.

In fact, marijuana prohibition is built upon a series of scientific absurdities that violate basic scientific principles, starting with the drug scheduling system that puts marijuana in the same Schedule 1 category with heroin, but has meth in Schedule 2, because marijuana supposedly has no medical value.

Schedule 1: Marijuana, heroin, LSD, ecstasy and magic mushrooms.

Schedule 2: Cocaine, meth, oxycodone, Adderall, Ritalin and Vicodin.

Schedule 3: Tylenol with codeine, ketamine, anabolic steroids and testosterone.

Schedule 4: Xanax, Soma, Darvocet, Valium and Ambien.

In fact, until less than two years ago, CBD was listed as a Schedule 1 drug. See DEA moves some CBD medicines off Schedule 1.

Aspirin, which kills thousands of people every year, is not on the schedules at all, but is classified as GRAS, “Generally Regarded As Safe”! How can anyone who claims to be concerned about “science” or anyone who claims to be concerned about patients not rage against these deadly lies, and still expect to be taken seriously.

Consequently, we must liberate not only the sick and dying but also science itself from this deadly ideology. End Marijuana Prohibition Now!

Richard Cowan is a former NORML National Director and founder of

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