New Rochelle Focus 18 February 2013
Smoked marijuana is not; its isolated components and extracts can be. Modern science has synthesized the marijuana plant’s primary psychoactive ingredient – THC – into a pill form. This pill, dronabinol (or Marinol®, its trade name) is sometimes prescribed for nausea and appetite stimulation. Another drug, Cesamet, mimics chemical structures as that naturally occur in the plant.
But when most people think of medical marijuana these days, they don’t think of a pill with an isolated component of marijuana, but rather the smoked, vaporized or edible version of the whole marijuana plant. Rather than isolate active ingredients in the plant – as we do with the opium plant when we create morphine, for example – many legalization proponents advocate vehemently for smoked marijuana to be used as a medicine. But the science on smoking any drug is clear: smoking — especially highly-potent whole marijuana — is not a proper delivery method, nor do other delivery methods ensure a reliable dose. And while parts of the marijuana plant have medical value, the Institute of Medicine said in its landmark 1999 report: “Scientific data indicate the potential therapeutic value of cannabinoid drugs … smoked marijuana, however, is a crude THC delivery system that also delivers harmful substances … and should not be generally recommended…”
It is not so unimaginable to think about other marijuana-based medications that might come to market very soon. Sativex ®, an oral mouth spray developed from a blend of two marijuana extracts (one strain is high in THC and the other in CBD, which counteracts THC’s psychoactive effect), has already been approved in 10 countries and is in late stages of approval in the U.S. It is clear to anyone following this story that it is possible to develop marijuana-based medications in accordance with modern scientific standards, and many more such legitimate medications are just around the corner.
Recently, the federal government has expanded its enforcement actions against commercialized “medical marijuana” operations. They have closed dispensaries in states, such as California (including the “Harvard” of medical-marijuana learning, the now-defunct “Oaksterdam University”), Colorado and Oregon.
The Medical Community is Staunchly Against Smoked Marijuana as Medicine – And Rightly So
Marijuana itself is not an approved medicine under the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) scientific review process. Yet 16 states and the District of Columbia have permitted marijuana to be sold as “medicine” for various conditions. Although, some of the individual, orally-administered components of the cannabis plant (Marinol and Cesamet are two such drugs available today) have medical value, smoking marijuana is an inefficient and harmful method for delivering the constituent elements that have, or may have, medicinal value. The FDA process for approving medicine remains the only scientific and legally recognized procedure for bringing safe and effective medications to the American public. To date, the FDA has not found smoked marijuana to be either safe or effective medicine for any condition.