By Kate Ayers
Research conducted by Kim Janda and her team at the Scripps Research Institute has shown that the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) found in marijuana can prevent the inflammation and cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer’s disease. But don’t expect Grandpa to light up that doobie just yet."It’s difficult to get patients to request a prescription for medicinal marijuana from their physicians," said Valerie Corral, director and co-founder of the Santa Cruz Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM).Though she does not know of any Alzheimer’s patients using marijuana within her organization, Corral expects the number to increase substantially over the next 10 years. Corral credits the low number of Alzheimer’s patients currently using marijuana for treatment to generational differences regarding attitudes toward the drug.However, President Bush strongly opposes marijuana legalization, and because only 10 states currently allow the use of medicinal marijuana, the drug is not widely prescribed.Dr. Victor Henderson, a physician at Stanford Medical School, said that he does not prescribe marijuana to Alzheimer’s patients."It’s a very difficult thing to undertake considering state laws and the federal government," Henderson said of loosening laws on marijuana use for medical purposes. "And there is very little evidence that medicinal marijuana would work for Alzheimer’s patients-the research that has been done was with animals, so we have no idea what the side effects in humans would be like. I just don’t think it’s ready for clinical recommendation."Eric Molyneux, manager of Greenway Compassionate Relief, Inc., a popular medicinal marijuana dispensary in downtown Santa Cruz, is shocked that the drug remains so stigmatized in medical circles."I just don’t understand how doctors can believe that chemicals and drugs are better choices than marijuana, which is something natural that comes from the earth," Molyneux saidLayla, a marijuana prescription holder in her mid-30s who asked to remain anonymous, is an ardent supporter of marijuana use."I am able to keep food down and skip the nausea," Layla said, although she admits she would never tell her parents she smokes marijuana. Layla uses the drug to treat her post-traumatic stress disorder and happens to be Greenway’s very first customer. A long-time resident of Santa Cruz, Layla can often be seen hanging out downtown wearing her "420 24/7" t-shirt. Through exhalations of thick marijuana smoke, Layla told City on a Hill Press, "I think it should be every adult’s individual choice to smoke weed."WAMM’s Corral agrees."There is absolutely nothing in marijuana that can harm you, so why not try it?" Corral’s sentiments line up with the 72 percent of those polled by Medicinal Marijuana ProCon.org, who voted in favor of the use of medicinal marijuana. While many within the clinical world see marijuana as a potentially beneficial treatment option, social attitudes about the drug and its side effects make it unlikely that medicinal marijuana use will be totally accepted any time soon.