Pubdate: Wed, 27 May 2015
Source: Metro Times (Detroit, MI)
Column: Higher Ground
Copyright: 2015 C.E.G.W./Times-Shamrock
Author: Larry Gabriel


Those who say that medical marijuana is a steppingstone to 
recreational marijuana are correct - although generally for the wrong 
reasons. However, in the rush to recreational here in Michigan and 
elsewhere, it would be a huge mistake to discount medical use and the 
needs of patients.

People outside of the marijuana movement tend to see the 
pro-marijuana crowd as a bunch of stoners wanting to get high - even 
the medical users. There are some people who are using medical 
marijuana with a wink and a nod as cover to get high. But I've also 
talked to numerous folks who would either be dead or have a 
significantly lower quality of life without it. People tell me they 
are successfully treating cancer and managing the symptoms of 
epilepsy with marijuana extracts. Others are using it to control pain 
and to kick addictions to painkillers that no longer work for them. 
People with multiple sclerosis and diabetes are finding that it 
enhances their quality of life.

Many of these folks have been using marijuana medications they make 
themselves or get it from friends who might not be the most adept 
when it comes to cooking up a batch of medicine. There are huge 
variances in the way people are putting stuff together. To a certain 
extent, that's OK because different people have different needs and 
tolerances, but the guidance of rigorous science would be helpful - 
except rigorous science is mostly blocked by federal government 
policy. So if you want to be mad at somebody because they're cooking 
up a batch of something in the basement, maybe you should be mad at 
the government about that. If above-ground medical labs were working 
on this, most folks wouldn't be trying to figure it out for themselves.

Medical marijuana is a steppingstone to recreational marijuana 
because it belies most of the anti-marijuana propaganda that has been 
official policy for decades. Once marijuana comes out of the shadows, 
people figure out that it's not as bad as they've been told. From 
there the prospect of recreational use is not so intimidating.

Marijuana has led to the discovery of the human endocannabinoid 
system and its receptors throughout our bodies. They work to maintain 
a stable internal environment - for instance the life and death cycle 
of cells. Our bodies make cannabinoids naturally - they're in breast milk.

It's the cannabinoids that make marijuana medical, and there are 
dozens of them in the plant. Scientists and a lot of other people are 
slowly finding that many of them have an effect on health and have 
nothing to do with getting high. One of the most popular at the 
moment is cannabidiol, or CBD.

There's been a rush to the CBD-only uses of marijuana among those 
unfamiliar with it because, unlike THC, CBD doesn't get you high. But 
I've talked to plenty of people who say their CBD is more effective 
with a dash of THC in it. And there's an emerging sense in research 
that CBD, THC, and other cannabinoid compounds in cannabis work 
together in an entourage effect that works better than any of them alone.

GW Pharmaceuticals, the British pharmaceutical company, is working 
from that premise. The company first produced Marinol, a synthetic 
THC that was prescribed to cancer patients to control nausea. Many 
patients reported that real marijuana worked better than Marinol. GW 
has since come out with Sativex, made from actual marijuana, which 
reportedly works much better than Marinol.

Sativex is used in many parts of the world, but not in the United 
States because it's actually made from marijuana - making it illegal. 
The less effective and synthetic Marinol is used in the United States 
because it's not made from the dreaded marijuana plant.

The concern here is that as marijuana is more generally accepted as 
an intoxicant (but much healthier than alcohol and tobacco), the 
needs of patients will get lost. Corporate interest in marijuana is 
about maximizing profits, and the biggest market is for recreational 
marijuana, not refining a medical product for some esoteric ailment 
that a small percent of the population suffers from.

Others have the attitude that legal recreational marijuana can also 
be used medically, which is partially true. However, when it comes to 
the concentrates, infusions, tinctures, oils, salves, and more that 
are being used for medication, there need to be standards for how 
much is in there so patients know what they're taking. And there 
needs to be discovery about just how effective they are.

Marijuana cancer treatments are notoriously subject to the variances 
in quality of marijuana. Patients need such large amounts to create 
the oils they use, it's hard to get a steady supply of the exact same 
stuff. When the marijuana you get changes, then the amount of what 
you take changes, but it's a trial-and-error process. That's 
especially concerning with people who make small batches. It would be 
nice to go out and get five pounds of the stuff to make your oil, but 
that's an expensive and legal-line-crossing proposition. Saying that 
the medical-marijuana world needs more development is an 
understatement. Not to mention the part where doctors learn about the 
stuff and start prescribing the stuff.

Polls say that most Americans expect there to be legal recreational 
marijuana in the near future. That's fine. Just don't leave the 
patients behind. It was the discovery that so many people who are 
suffering can be helped by marijuana that opened the door for more 
widespread use.

And that's worth remembering.
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