The American College of Physicians (ACP) has issued an endorsement for marijuana use for medicinal purposes for certain conditions, and for further research into its potential for other medical ailments. The endorsement, which comes in the form of a 13 page statement documenting the history of medicinal marijuana use, the current understanding of it, and the obstacles being faced in developing the subject further.
Two of the most widely accepted and studied uses for medicinal marijuana are for cancer patients experiencing nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy, and for AIDS patients suffering from extreme weight loss. It is believed by the ACP that medicinal marijuana use may extend to many other conditions as well, but for various reasons the research is not there to conclusively support the position.
“Pre-clinical, clinical, and anecdotal reports suggest numerous potential medical uses for marijuana” (in addition to “HIV wasting and chemotherapy-induced nausea”). The ACP statement stresses the need for further research, but acknowledges some major obstacles to overcome: “Additional research is needed to clarify marijuana’s therapeutic properties and determine standard and optimal doses and routes of delivery. Unfortunately, research expansion has been hindered by a complicated federal approval process, limited availability of research-grade marijuana, and the debate over legalization.”
According to ACP, there are numerous conditions that potentially could have use for medicinal marijuana:
1. In Glaucoma, high intraocular pressure (IOP) can potentially be reduced by cannabinoids.
2. Appetite stimulation (for both AIDS patients and other conditions that result in hunger loss), is another potentially strong use for medicinal marijuana.
3. Certain neurological and movement disorders also could potentially benefit from marijuana use: “Anecdotal, survey, and clinical trial data suggest that smoked marijuana and oral THC provide relief of spasticity, pain, and tremor in some patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), spinal cord injuries, or other trauma.”
4. Marijuana is also believed to be very useful as an analgesic (pain reliever), and could be used by chronic pain patients to give them better quality of life.
The statement goes on to outline five primary positions of the ACP for medicinal marijuana research and use:
1. Support for “rigorous” funding for further research for the therapeutic uses of medicinal marijuana.
2. “ACP encourages the use of nonsmoked forms of THC that have proven therapeutic value.”
3. “ACP supports the current process for obtaining federal research-grade cannabis”
4. ACP believes the legals status of marijuana as a “schedule 1 controlled substance” should be reevaluated.
5. “ACP strongly supports exemption from federal criminal prosecution; civil liability; or professional sanctioning, such as loss of licensure or credentialing, for physicians who prescribe or dispense medical marijuana in accordance with state law. Similarly, ACP strongly urges protection from criminal or civil penalties for patients who use medical marijuana as permitted under state laws.”
These five positions make for a guideline for a more advanced and regulated system for medical marijuana use. Next, ACP documents the history of medicinal marijuana use and research, and its subsequent regulation, which has lead to the current state of the subject.
“Marijuana has been smoked for its medicinal properties for centuries. It was in the U.S. Pharmacopoeia until 1942 when it was removed because federal legislation made the drug illegal,” says statement author Dr. Tia Taylor. In 1970, marijuana was legally categorized as a schedule 1 drug, and deemed to have “no medicinal value and high potential for abuse.”
A 1997 government supported investigation into medicinal marijuana “concluded that scientific developments indicate marijuana and its cannabinoids have therapeutic properties that could potentially treat many illnesses and conditions.” Following this study, the subject gained a lot of momentum, with significant amounts of supporting evidence pouring in from other medical marijuana studies.
The statement acknowledges the well documented adverse effects of marijuana use, and does not support recreational or chronic use of the drug. “The chronic effects of smoked marijuana are of much greater concern, as its gas and tar phases contain many of the same compounds as tobacco smoke. Chronic use of smoked marijuana is associated with increased risk of cancer, lung damage, bacterial pneumonia, and poor pregnancy outcomes.”
While medicinal marijuana use may not prove to be beneficial to as many conditions as many anticipate, it’s classification as a schedule 1 drug with no medicinal use seems clearly incorrect. The now public stance of ACP should lead to further interest and research into the subject, and hopefully a better understanding and more appropriate regulations for medicinal marijuana use. “The science on medical marijuana should not be obscured or hindered by the debate surrounding the legalization of marijuana for general use” says ACP.
Source: Defeat Diabetes Foundation: Taylor, Tia. “Supporting Research into the Therapeutic Role of Marijuana: A Position Paper of the American College of Physicians.” February 2008.