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?