This past election day, Measure T, the ill-conceived ban on medicinal cannabis dispensaries, was soundly defeated, garnering only 39 percent of the vote. The good people of Santa Barbara have spoken that we should not deny access to an affective analgesic, muscle relaxant, anti-emetic, antioxidant, anti-cancer drug: cannabis. So now is a good time for some more education to address concerns of that worried 39 percent.
It turns out that not only does cannabis not interfere with drug-abuse treatment but that for many patients it is a harm-reducing substitute.
Science tells us that the medical use of cannabis did not compromise the results of patients in substance abuse treatment: In a pilot study reported in the July 2010 Harm Reduction Journal and the Newsletter of the International Association of Cannabis Medicine, California researchers investigated the effects of the medical use of cannabis on the outcome of people participating in substance abuse treatment. Their study demonstrates that questions about the relationship between medical marijuana use and involvement in drug treatment can be systematically evaluated.
They found that, “Cannabis use did not seem to compromise substance abuse treatment among those who used cannabis for medicinal purposes. They fared equal to or better than non-medical cannabis users in several important outcome categories, e.g., treatment completion and criminal justice involvement.”
Harm Reduction: The authors of that study concluded that their exploratory study suggests “medical use of cannabis is consistent with participation in conventional forms of drug treatment and may not adversely affect positive treatment outcomes” and that “a justification can be made for medical marijuana in addictions treatment as a harm reduction practice.”
The late Dr. Tod Mikuriya, psychiatrist, medicinal cannabis pioneer, former National Institute of Mental Health bureaucrat in charge of marijuana research, and scapegoat of General McCaffrey and the Medical Board of California, has long stated that cannabis was a harm reduction substance. Many of us in the field of cannabinoid medicine have found this to be true. The anecdotal evidence is clearly that many substance abusers benefit from the medicinal use of cannabis. Collectively, those of us in the field of cannabinoid medicine have many patients who no longer use alcohol, cocaine, and/or heroin, which they ascribe to their therapeutic use of cannabis. This study confirms our practice observations.
Scientific Studies Prove Former Drug Czar Wrong: In 1997 then Drug Czar General Barry McCaffrey ridiculed a list of medicinal conditions compiled by Dr. Tod Mikuriya (former NIMH staffer in charge of marijuana research) for which cannabis was useful in treating symptoms. McCaffrey, not a doctor, and with no formal medical training, suggested that Mikuriya’s list was absurd. He called it Cheech & Chong medicine.
Well, don’t look now but maybe we should confer honorary MD degrees on Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong because cannabis, and cannabis derivatives, are legally used as medicine in 15 U.S. states, Canada, Great Britain, Spain, and New Zealand. Tincture of cannabis (liquid marijuana) is being distributed by Bayer in Canada and Great Britain, Amirall in Spain, and by Otsuka Pharmaceuticals in New Zealand. It turns out that Mikuriya was way ahead of his time.
Cannabis has Enormous Therapeutic Potential: In addition to its harm reduction capabilities, researchers have shown that cannabis is neuroprotective, an analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anti-epileptic, anti-cancer, anti-spasmodic, and anti-depressant, and contributes to retrograde inhibition. It is well past time to stop shouting that the sky is falling—for the federal government to join the modern scientific world and recognize the medical benefits of cannabis.
We should come to our senses and return to the situation that existed before 1942, to an accepted legal status for cannabis and hemp. If and when we do it will give our economy a real boost.