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Weed Could Block H.I.V.’s Spread. No, Seriously

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weed and HIVOn a warm summer day in Chicago at the International Cannabinoid Research Conference, hundreds of marijuana researchers were giggling.

It wasn’t the groundbreaking research they’d just heard—proving the ability of THC, one of the active ingredients in marijuana, to stave off HIV (or RIV in monkeys)—that did it. Nor was it the author of the study, Dr. Patricia E. Morina, who had them laughing. It was the rogue researcher daring enough to taint the victory with a harsh dose of reality: “What’s next, testing this on humans?”

As the laughter subsided and the gravity of Dr. Molina’s results sank in, reality did too. THC is one of 500 active ingredients in marijuana. And marijuana, despite many studies proving its medical value, is sill classified by the government as a Schedule I Substance.

In the face of mounting evidence that it is beneficial in treating diseases ranging from Alzheimer’s and Multiple Sclerosis, it remains a controlled substance. The joke wasn’t funny so much as painfully true: proving that an illegal drug can stop a deadly disease in humans—without testing it on them—is impossible.

This bleak truth renders Dr. Molina’s discovery—at this point—futile. She’s found a key to a door that hasn’t been built.

When the journal Aids Research and Human Retroviruses published Dr. Molina’s story this week—more than three years after the study was completed—it was followed by a small amount of buzz. But it was largely overlooked by the mainstream media—perhaps because THC is already well known for treating HIV’s “wasting” symptoms, like nausea and loss of appetite.

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