Leave it Seth Rogen to crack a few pot jokes while he testified at the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services hearing about Alzheimer's on Wednesday.
"I don't know if you know who I am at all," Rogen began with a statement directed at subcommittee chair Tom Harkin. "You told me you never saw Knocked Up, chairman, so it's a little insulting but…"
To which the Democratic Senator from Iowa replied. "I want the record to note, I will wager this is the first time in any Congressional hearing in history that the words knocked up have ever been heard."
"Oy, you're not going like the rest of this then," Rogen continued, prompting laughs from the crowd. "First, I should answer the question I'm sure any of are asking: Yes, I'm aware this has nothing to do with the legalization of marijuana. In fact, if you can believe it, this concerns something that I find even more important."
Rogen and his wife Lauren Miller have taken a special interest in Alzheimer's since her mother suffers from the disease, which afflicts more than five million Americans and is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S.
When Rogen was dating Miller eight years ago, her mother already was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's. She was just 55. Five years later she had full-blown Alzheimer's.
"We tried to actually do something to change the situation," Rogen explained. "We started Hilarity for Charity, a fund as part of the Alzheimer's Association, to raise money to help families struggling with Alzheimer's and support cutting-edge research. That's right, the situation is so dire that it caused me - a lazy, self-involved, generally self-medicated man-child - to start an entire charity organization… I came here today for a few reasons: one, I'm a huge House of Cards fan (laughs). Two, is to say, people need more help… I can't begin to imagine how people with more limited incomes are dealing with this… Deaths from Alzheimer's have increased almost 70% in the last 15 years. Over five million Americans have Alzheimer's. At this rate, in 35 years, as many as 16 million will have the disease… I dream of a day when my charity is not necessary and I can go back to being the lazy, self-involved man-child I was meant to be."
After the hearing, Rogen tweeted: "Not sure why only two senators were at the hearing. Very symbolic of how the Government views Alzheimer's. Seems to be a low priority… All those empty seats are senators who are not prioritizing Alzheimer's. Unless more noise is made, it won't change."
Though it certainly was not the right time or place to promote marijuana as a cure for Alzheimer's, there is some evidence that pot can help prevent the brain from deteriorating. The key is to stop inflammation, which cannabis does.
"It has properties that can slow the onset," says Gary Wenk, a professor of neuroscience, immunology and medical genetics at Ohio State. "I think all we can say safely so far is using low doses of marijuana for prolonged periods of time at some point in your life, possibly when you’re middle-aged to late middle-aged, is probably going to slow the onset or development of dementia, to the point where you’ll most likely die of old age before you get Alzheimer’s."
The next Hilarity for Charity event is on Apr. 8 at the Jane Hotel in New York, Tickets go on sale Mar. 11.