Pubdate: Fri, 26 Jan 2018
Source: Sacramento Bee (CA)
Copyright: 2018 The Sacramento Bee
Author: Brad Branan


During his 25 years of researching cannabis, Dr. Daniele Piomelli has
received hundreds of emails from people desperately wanting to know
whether the plant can help them with medical problems. He recalls the
one he received from the father of a girl with autism who was
desperate for help.

"Ninety-nine percent of the time, I have to say, 'We just don't know,'
" said Piomelli, a professor at the University of California, Irvine.
"It's heartbreaking."

While Piomelli and other marijuana researchers acknowledge a shortage
of research on the benefits and risks of the drug, they also said they
feel the need to spread what is known about cannabis as California and
seven other states move forward with legalized, recreational weed for
adults. Piomelli was one of several public health experts who spoke
Thursday during a legislative briefing at the state Capitol on the
health effects of cannabis.

The briefing comes as the state Legislature recently returned to the
Capitol and California started retail sales of marijuana on Jan. 1.
Lawmakers are likely to consider a range of legislation aimed at
addressing the perceived risks and benefits of marijuana.

Piomelli was in a good position to give an overview of what is known,
as he sat on a committee of the National Academies of Sciences,
Engineering, and Medicine that recently examined the topic. The
organization, which "provides nonpartisan, objective guidance for
decision makers," called the June 2017 report "one of the most
comprehensive studies of recent research on health effects of
recreational and therapeutic use of cannabis and cannabis-derived products."

One of the key findings of the National Academies report was that
"conclusive or substantial evidence" exists showing that cannabis is
effective for treating chronic pain, Piomelli said. Another one:
Marijuana helps treat nausea and vomiting.

California and other states also have sanctioned the use of cannabis
for treatment of Alzheimer disease, Parkinson's disease and a host of
other chronic conditions. However, available evidence does not support
or deny the effectiveness of these treatments, Piomelli said.

Federally, marijuana remains listed under Schedule 1 in the Controlled
Substances Act, a category for drugs deemed to be the most harmful and
addictive and with no accepted medical use.

The National Academies report found risks associated with marijuana
use by pregnant women and youths, but added that more research is
needed in these areas, Piomelli said.

Other experts speaking at the Capitol on Thursday focused on risks to

Phillip Gardiner of the University of California, San Francisco, said
policymakers need to consider the addition of flavoring to cannabis
products, as the tobacco industry used that approach to attract young
people to smoking.

He said that's not the only quality marijuana shares with tobacco.
"Smoke is smoke, and it's not beneficial," said Gardiner, who
acknowledged that cannabis is not just consumed in joints and also is
taken through food, beverages and other means.

Lynn Silver, also of UCSF, said she is concerned about how cannabis
edibles are packaged and how they might appeal to kids. She said the
packaging often mimics well-known candy. "We need to keep marijuana
boring so it's not attracting youth," she said.
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