Marijuana and Medicine

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Kenneth Stroup, founder of NORML

Marijuana Policy Strategy

"We [NORML*] are trying to get marijuana reclassified medically. If we do that (we'll do it in at least 20 states this year for chemotherapy patients) [we] will be using the issue as a red herring to give marijuana a good name. That's our way of getting to them . . ."1

SMOKED MARIJUANA IS NOT MEDICINE

“Marijuana may have medical components, but no medicine is smoked."2 Similar to the way opium is used medicinally (through medicines like Morphine), non-smoked marijuana may also be found to have medicinal properties. But smoked marijuana has never passed the scientific tests necessary to label it as a medicine. There are certain drugs already approved in the US (e.g. Marinol) and abroad (e.g. Sativex) that contain medicinal ingredients found in marijuana, however.

AFTER SEVERAL RECENT SCIENTIFIC REVIEWS, IT HAS BEEN DETERMINED THAT MARIJUANA SHOULD REMAIN IN SCHEDULE I DRUG OF THE U.S. CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES ACT:

Schedule I drugs are:

  • Considered the most dangerous due to their high potential for abuse and potentially severe psychological and/or physical dependence.
  • Defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical value.
  • Have a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision.3

DOES MARIJUANA HAVE COMPONENTS THAT CAN BE USED AS MEDICINE?

Yes, the marijuana plant contains several chemicals that may prove useful for treating a range of illnesses or symptoms; however research is ongoing regarding how these components can be used as medicine. Whole marijuana contains hundreds of chemicals, some clearly harmful to health. Other specific chemicals derived from marijuana could have possible medical uses.

Two main cannabinoids: THC and cannabidiol (CBD) are found in varying amounts in the marijuana plant. THC is a psychoactive cannabinoid (makes one high) that stimulates appetite and reduces nausea and may also decrease pain, inflammation, and spasticity. CBD is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that may also be useful in reducing pain and inflammation, controlling epileptic seizures, and possibly even treating psychosis and addictions. This area needs more research.4

MARIJUANA-BASED MEDICINES

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, scientific study of the active chemicals in marijuana, called “cannabinoids,” has led to the development of two FDA-approved medications already, and is leading to the development of new pharmaceuticals that harness the therapeutic benefits of cannabinoids while minimizing or eliminating the harmful side effects (including the “high”) produced by eating foods containing marijuana or smoking marijuana leaves.5

  • Dronabinol (Marinol®) contains synthetic THC and is used to treat nausea caused by chemotherapy and wasting disease (extreme weight loss) caused by AIDS.
  • Nabilone (Cesamet®) contains a synthetic cannabinoid similar to THC and is used for the same purposes.
  • Sativex®, an oromuscosal spray for treatment of spasticity due to multiple sclerosis, contains equal parts THC and CBD. Sativex® is now in Phase III clinical trials in the U.S. to establish its effectiveness and safety in treating cancer pain. A CBD-based drug called Epidiolex® has recently been created to treat certain forms of childhood epilepsy but has not yet undergone clinical trials to establish its effectiveness and safety (necessary to obtain FDA approval).6

WHAT GEORGIANS SHOULD KNOW:

  1. Smoked marijuana has never been considered medicine by any scientific body.
  2. Marijuana use has increased significantly since certain states began permitting the dispensing of medical marijuana, and research has shown that states with medical stores called “dispensaries” are associated with increases in use.7
  3. Like opium, marijuana may contain medical components. More research is needed.

ARTICLES

Marijuana In The News

Is Marijuana Medicine?, December 2014

Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse

Link: http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/marijuana-medicine

Marijuana In The News

American Society of Addiction Medicine Position Paper on Medical Marijuana

Source: Karen P. Tandy, Drug Enforcement Agency

Link: http://www.asam.org/docs/publicy-policy-statements/1role_of_phys_in_med_mj_9-10.pdf?sfvrsn=0

Marijuana In The News

Adverse Health Effects of Marijuana Use

Source: New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Nora Volkow

Link: http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMra1402309

Marijuana In The News

The Myth of Medical Marijuana

Source: Scholastic

Link: http://headsup.scholastic.com/students/the-myth-of-medical-marijuana

Marijuana In The News

NIDA's Director Tells Us What We Know—and Need to Know—About Marijuana

Source: National Geographic

Link: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/03/140304-marijuana-legalized-medical-marijuana-thc-francis-collins-nora-volkow--science/

IN THE NEWS

Marijuana In The News

GW Pharmaceuticals Announces Positive Phase 3 Pivotal Study Results for Epidiolex

SOURCE: Epilepsy Foundation

Link: http://www.epilepsy.com/article/2016/3/gw-pharmaceuticals-announces-positive-results-phase-3-cannabidiol-trial

Marijuana In The News

University of Alabama at Birmingham presents first results of CBD oil studies at neurology meeting

SOURCE: University of Alabama at Birmingham Innovation & Development News

Link: http://www.uab.edu/news/innovation/item/7060-uab-presents-first-results-of-cbd-oil-studies-at-neurology-meeting

Marijuana In The News

New York State Reaches Deal On Medical Marijuana, But There's A Huge Catch

SOURCE: Huffington Post

Link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/19/new-york-medical-marijuan_n_5512942.html

MEDIA

How Medicine Is Made And Approved

How Medicine Is Made and Approved

More Than Half Of New Illicit Drug Users Begin With Marijuana

More than half of new illicit drug users begin with marijuana

After Alcohol, Marijuana Has The Highest Rate
Of Dependence Or Abuse Among All Drugs

After alcohol, marijuana has the highest rate of dependence or abuse among all drugs

Drug Use Is Highest Among
People In Their Late Teens And Twenties

Drug use is highest among people in their late teens and twenties

VIDEO

Marijuana: Addiction, Mental Health, Policy

Will legalization lead to more teens smoking pot?

SOURCES

1 Quote from Kenneth Stroup, founder of NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) from an interview with him which appeared in the Emory Wheel student newspaper on Feb. 6, 1979 (pp. 18-19). Georgia passed its first marijuana law in 1980.

2 American Academy of Pain Medicine, American Osteopathic Academy of Addiction Medicine The Role of the Physician in "Medical" Marijuana. Accessed Jan 2015 at http://www.asam.org/docs/publicy-policy-statements/1role_of_phys_in_med_mj_9-10.pdf?sfvrsn=0

3 United States Drug Enforcement Administration, Drug Info-Drug Scheduling. http://www.dea.gov/druginfo/ds.shtml

4 American Academy of Pain Medicine, American Osteopathic Academy of Addiction Medicine The Role of the Physician in "Medical" Marijuana. Accessed Jan 2015 at http://www.asam.org/docs/publicy-policy-statements/1role_of_phys_in_med_mj_9-10.pdf?sfvrsn=0

5 National Institute on Drug Abuse, Is Marijuana Medicine, Revised December 2014. http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/marijuana-medicine

6 American Academy of Pain Medicine, American Osteopathic Academy of Addiction Medicine The Role of the Physician in "Medical" Marijuana. Accessed Jan 2015 at http://www.asam.org/docs/publicy-policy-statements/1role_of_phys_in_med_mj_9-10.pdf?sfvrsn=0

7 Pacula, Rosalie L., David Powell, Paul Heaton, and Eric L. Sevigny. (2014). Assessing the Effects of Medical Marijuana Laws on Marijuana Use: The Devil is in the Details. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. DOI: 10.1002/pam.218047

Did You Know...

Smoked marijuana has never passed the scientific tests necessary to label it as a medicine. There are certain drugs already approved in the US (e.g. Marinol) and abroad (e.g. Sativex) that contain medicinal ingredients found in marijuana.

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