Pubdate: Fri, 28 Feb 2014
Source: Orlando Sentinel (FL)
Copyright: 2014 Orlando Sentinel
Note: Rarely prints out-of-state LTEs.
Author: Kevin A. Sabet
Note: Guest columnist Kevin A. Sabet, director of the Drug Policy 
Institute at the University of Florida, College of Medicine, Division 
of Addiction Medicine, is author of "Reefer Sanity: Seven Great Myths 
About Marijuana."


The current ballot initiative in Florida will result in 'pot mills,' 
not unlike the devastating 'pill mills' that have made our state infamous.

If trial lawyers and out-of-state billionaires have their way, 
Florida will join states like California and Colorado by creating a 
massive industry selling things like marijuana cookies, lollipops and 
candies - all in the name of "medicine." In those states, the average 
"medical" marijuana user is a 30-something white male with a history 
of drug abuse, and no history of HIV, cancer, multiple sclerosis, or 
any of the conditions touted by advocates in campaign mode.

Asking the question "Is marijuana medicine?" is similar to asking, 
"Is opium medicine?" The answer is that it can be, but not in its raw 
or smoked form.

One thing is for sure: The medical marijuana initiative put on the 
ballot with big bucks - and without support from groups like the 
Florida Medical Association - is the wrong way to go if we care about 
harnessing the real medical potential of marijuana for the truly seriously ill.

Rather than extract ingredients in the marijuana plant - like we do 
with the opium plant when we create morphine, for example - 
proponents of the Florida initiative advocate vehemently for smoking 
marijuana. But the science on smoking any drug is clear: It is 
dangerous. And while parts of the marijuana plant have medical value, 
the Institute of Medicine said in its landmark 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..."

But that does not mean we shouldn't be compassionate. We must 
continue to work on bringing promising medications to market, like 
naboximols, 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), which is on the brink 
of U.S. approval. 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.

However, the current ballot initiative in Florida will result in "pot 
mills," not unlike the devastating "pill mills" that have made our 
state infamous. Under the proposed law, anyone could get marijuana 
for virtually any reason. It is then no wonder that no major medical 
association has come out in favor of smoked marijuana for widespread 
medical use.

We don't have to guess as to what will happen to our state if this 
initiative passes. Research has shown that marijuana use, especially 
among youth, will likely go up. Accidental ingestion among kids will 
send them to the ER (as is happening in Colorado now). And because 
marijuana intoxication doubles the risk of a car crash, public safety 
will be compromised.

That doesn't mean we should be happy with doing nothing. There are 
current medications based on marijuana available to legitimate 
patients. In fact, Marinol, a pill comprised of marijuana's active 
ingredient THC, is available from pharmacies today. And the Food and 
Drug Administration recently began an experimental research program 
to make medications based on marijuana's other ingredients available 
for patients with very serious conditions, such as intractable 
epilepsy. We should applaud and expand these efforts.

Indeed, medical marijuana should really only be about bringing relief 
to the sick and dying, and it should be done in a responsible manner 
that formulates the active components of the drug in a nonsmoked form 
that delivers a defined dose. That is not what Floridians are being 
sold with this initiative. And that is why we should say no to the 
trial lawyers and yes to science. We can do better.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom