Medical Marijuana: Ready for Prime Time, or More Studies Needed?

June 27, 2014 9:00 am

by Jon Richards · 20 comments

One of the unresolved issues from the 2014 legislative session is that of the use of marijuana or its derivatives for the treatment of diseases. Rep. Allen Peake introduced House Bill 885, which would have allowed a non-psychoactive version of cannabis to be used to treat patients with seizure disorders. The bill passed with strong support in the House, but failed to pass the Senate in the final days of the session. In April, Governor Deal announced several pilot projects designed to explore the uses of medical marijuana.

Meanwhile, a front page story in today’s New York Times questions the effectiveness of medical marijuana, and wonders whether much of the legislation passed at the state level is a response to anecdotal (and sometimes heart wrenching) stories about the drug’s ability to treat disease.

From the article:

Parents of children with intractable epilepsy have lobbied hard in several states, including New York, for inclusion in medical marijuana legislation. They want access to an oil called Charlotte’s Web that is rich in CBD, a nonpsychoactive ingredient of marijuana that they say reduces the number of seizures.

This month, Gov. Rick Scott of Florida, a conservative Republican, signed a law allowing epilepsy patients access to the oil, calling it “the best treatment available.”

Scientists have begun randomized, placebo-controlled research to determine whether CBD effectively treats severe forms of childhood epilepsy. But at the moment, high-quality research showing that marijuana is a safe or effective treatment for epilepsy does not exist, experts say.

The story notes that part of the difficulty in determining whether medical marijuana is an effective treatment for the diseases for which lawmakers have permitted its use is that it is a Schedule 1 drug. That means federal approval and many hoops to jump through in order to conduct the types of studies typically run by the medical community prior to introducing a new drug to market.

Rep. Peake reportedly became an evangelist for the passage of medical marijuana reform after visiting young epileptic patient Haleigh Cox during the opening days of this year’s legislative session. Voters in the Peach State support the use of medical marijuana. Now, Peake, along with State Senator Renee Unterman, will work in a task force along with other legislators to study the issue.

Normally, before a drug can be prescribed for treatment of a disease, it undergoes an extensive series of tests to prove its effectiveness in treating that specific disease. Yet, in the case of medical marijuana, there have only been limited studies, and as the story points out, legislators have sometimes used anecdotal evidence in writing laws permitting its use in treating certain ailments.

If we require such stringent testing and Food and Drug Administration approval before a new drug goes to market, why should medical marijuana be treated differently?

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Hardly June 27, 2014 at 10:44 am

“…non-psychoactive version of cannabis”

Can we also have a non-psychoactive version of Libertarianism? One that spices up happy hours and college campuses but doesn’t drive real economies or communities over a cliff?

FranInAtlanta June 27, 2014 at 10:56 am

It is hard to sift through all of the propaganda with respect to marijuana – from both the pros and antis. I have seen, up close, lives screwed up with heavy use and well-lived and productive lives from those with recreational use.
My understanding is that, until the early 1940s, it was regularly prescribed for peripheral neuropathy and that it was at least as effective and maybe safer than what is prescribed now.
Also, it is my understanding that, until sometime in the 1970s, a pill form was prescribed for those in chemotherapy.
I would like to see more research on exactly what if anything will cause permanent damage and I would like to see more research with respect to what is positive and negative and less noise.

xdog June 27, 2014 at 11:42 am

“regularly prescribed for peripheral neuropathy”

I didn’t know that. I don’t think I could handle seeing my mother stoned. Just the idea is disturbing.

xdog June 27, 2014 at 11:41 am

“why should medical marijuana be treated differently?”

Short answer, it shouldn’t. Nail down the protocol first. I know this is a gut-wrenching issue for folks with seizure-stricken kids but I don’t know what else to tell them.

Jon Lester June 27, 2014 at 12:02 pm

Supposedly the FDA will soon consider removing marijuana from Schedule I, where it never has belonged. Once that’s done, this issue will be easier to sort through.

Rick Day June 27, 2014 at 8:04 pm

Allow me to explain.

Normally, before a drug can be prescribed for treatment of a disease, it undergoes an extensive series of tests to prove its effectiveness in treating that specific disease. Yet, in the case of medical marijuana, there have only been limited studies, and as the story points out, legislators have sometimes used anecdotal evidence in writing laws permitting its use in treating certain ailments.

The reason why there are so few US based studies (funded by the government and private centers) is because the DEA strictly controls access to all cannabis used for research (Grown at the University of Mississippi). The studies currently funded by NIDA, by mission statement, is opposed to any research proving the efficacy or long term harm of smoked or consumed cannabis). As the head of NIDA recently said to a Congressional hearing last week, “We are not the best source for such studies.” You can figure out on your own if the DEA has a bias on policy change.

This is what is called ‘narco-science’. Questionable, small sampled studies get well funded if and only if they look for harms (basically they have found no solid concrete verifiable evidence, just some ‘may, might, could’ weasel words.

Big Pharma is zero vested interest in efficacy funding something that is not a man made chemical compound. There is no profit in a plant that grows across the globe.

If you believe in the God, then look at it this way: God don’t make no junk. And our lock-em-up approach is sinful and contrary to the teachings of Christ.

Is cannabis medicine? Is it a drug? No, it is a natural growing flowering woody plant, with many interesting properties. It is just politicized as one.

Medical cannabis is indeed a part of the accepted process of helping those who fear the plant, are influenced by the scare tactics of vested interest, come to understand that dealing with this issue is better served by anyone other than the Justice System. Based on their track record, they have failed by all measure. To continue to enable this failure is, in fact, creating a greater drug problem than the drug itself. Skip the medical and tax, just make it as regulated as a commercial tomato and let’s just move on to real problems like child sex traders, meth importers, and white collar criminals.

But I’ll take the Colorado Model as a compromise. For now.

So skip the science; most of it is moot. Look to your heart as to how we should approach our intertwining existence. We gotten this far with the plant, it is not going to do anything but get people to slow down their busy lives (loss of productivity?? call the cops!!) and actually think about what is going on within The System™

I remain available to any legislator or aide to provide them honest and factual data on this plant, to assist your education. Charlie and Mike know how to get ahold of me.

Let’s do the right thing and get this right. For those of you with the experience yourself, you damn well better step up here and make things right.

Harry June 28, 2014 at 4:08 am

So you volunteer to be Exhibit A of the benefits of pot smoking?

WeymanCWannamakerJr June 28, 2014 at 6:58 am

So you volunteer to be Exhibit A on the benefits of Fascism?

Harry June 28, 2014 at 4:15 pm

You must have me confused with someone else. I don’t like funny uniforms.

greencracker June 28, 2014 at 7:22 am

FWIW, the UK has studied & approved some MMJ compounds. I think they’re all by GW Pharma, the company that’s starting clinical trials here.

So, it’s not like MMJ has never been studied anywhere.

Seems like the FDA could just take the UK’s word for it, no?

The Last Democrat in Georgia June 29, 2014 at 11:45 pm

No more studies needed, just legalize it (for both medical and recreational use) and stop feeding the greedy monster that is the prison industrial complex.

John Konop June 30, 2014 at 7:18 am
Three Jack June 30, 2014 at 1:16 pm

Agreed! Tea Party could regain some credibility if they would get behind decriminalization and justice reform that would grant early release to non-violent pot possession offenders.

John Konop June 30, 2014 at 2:05 pm

Good point Bart…Not only early release but eliminate their record so they can get a good job….Less welfare, better for the economy, less prison cost……I guess this makes to much sense…..

The Last Democrat in Georgia June 30, 2014 at 2:14 pm

+1…Excellent idea.

Three Jack June 30, 2014 at 2:37 pm

“Less welfare, better for the economy, less prison cost” well put John and exactly what the Tea Party was formed to accomplish.

Incidentally Darius Foster who is star of the campaign ad featured in another PP thread has prison reform as one of his 3 top priorities. Read his explanation here – http://www.dariusfoster.com/issues.html

The Last Democrat in Georgia June 30, 2014 at 3:05 pm

Good link….It’s way past time that we ended the “War on Pot Smokers”.

John Konop June 30, 2014 at 5:10 pm

Thanks I will send him money…

Mensa Dropout July 1, 2014 at 7:55 am

Once more and for the record:
We are hooping our kids up on level three methamphetamine drugs because they “just can’t sit still” at school (we’ll get into the issue of recess going by the way of the dinosaur later), but we won’t allow our children with a seizure disorder to take some cannabis to slow or stop those disorders?
This is an absolute no brainer. Get those children and those people who have terminal illness some relief to their disorders or their pain.

Mensa Dropout July 1, 2014 at 7:57 am

I, too, might be writing Mr. Foster a check. Loved his ad, by the way.