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Can Cannabis Treat Lou Gehrig's Disease?

It's one of the most iconic and touching moments in the history of North American sports - the day in 1939 when New York Yankees great Lou Gehrig spoke to a sold-out Yankee Stadium crowd about his ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) diagnosis. "For the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got," said Gehrig. "Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth."

As part of a summer series, The New York Times is revisiting the lives of people it has profiled through its obituaries. Gehrig died 75 years ago on June 2nd, and ALS became known for decades as Lou Gehrig's disease.

In the last 15 years or so, there has been preliminary research and a lot of anecdotal evidence that marijuana has some value as a treatment for the symptoms of ALS, "a rapidly progressive, invariably fatal neurological disease that attacks the nerve cells (neurons) responsible for controlling voluntary muscles (muscle actions we are able to control, such as those in the arms, legs, and face)," according to National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

A study published in 2004 by the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco illustrated the potential of marijuana-like treatments for those with the fatal brain disorder ALS..

"Our research indicates that select marijuana compounds, including THC, significantly slow the disease process and extend the life of mice with ALS," says study author Mary Abood, PhD.

Abood's research team had also done earlier work that showed THC also can alleviate some ALS symptoms, like muscle spasms, in patients.

Though there is no cure for ALS, there are many examples of people living longer, more manageable lives with the disease, some with the help of cannabis. In an article published last June, Leafly cites many examples, including the story of Cathy Jordan, who was diagnosed with ALS in 1986 and given five years to live. On a beach in Bradenton, Cathy smoked a joint and she felt her disease stop.

"I don't know how to describe it," said Jordan in a 2014 article on the Let Florida Decide website. "It was like a low hum all over my body; I smoked the cannabis, I got hungry, I felt good. The hum just stopped."

Gehrig himself lived for less than two years after he gave his famous address in 1939. But he spoke eloquently of a life well-lived and appreciated. You can watch clips of the speech below:

h/t Leafly.

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