The 2012 state ballot approvals of marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington has been a catalyst for stirring the pot, so to speak, on a wide range of issues and nuances related to the herb — not least marijuana’s clinical use as a therapeutic agent. Medical marijuana remains a hotly-debated topic in the health sciences community, but in addition to the two states that have legalized both medical and recreational marijuana, in another 17 medical pot is legal, and the number is expected to increase to 35 or more in the near future.
Wired’s Matt Honan contends that marijuana is well on its way to general legalization, with a majority of Americans now living in states that have legalized or decriminalized cannabis in some form.
As a public health issue, there are many nuances to the use of marijuana, whether medicinally or recreationally, including its effectiveness — or not — in treating the astonishing range of disorders, including Multiple Sclerosis, for which it is claimed by advocates to be beneficial. However, scientific research, either pro or con, cannot be regarded as conclusive if for no other reason than the there is so relatively little of it for a variety of reasons, particularly bureaucratic and judicial roadblocks to legal acquisition of marijuana for research purposes, and ideological opposition of enforcement agencies and legislators — all of which inhibits approval and funding of marijuana research.
Commenting on what he now considers gratuitous legal and regulatory gatekeeping roadblocks pertaining to medical marijuana access, neurosurgeon and CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta recently issued a public apology for having come out opposing medical marijuana legalization five years ago. Dr. Gupta says he and the general public have been “terribly and systematically misled for nearly 70 years” on marijuana, that he hadn’t previously looked hard enough at the available science, and had been too blindly accepting without evidence that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency’s listing of marijuana as a schedule 1 controlled substance was based on sound scientific proof, when it turns out there is no such proof, or even any credible indication.
A report by journalist Paul Armentano originally published on AlterNet and recently re-published by Salon cited University of California at Los Angeles professor and former Washington state ”pot czar” Mark Kleiman telling Los Angeles Times columnist Patt Morrison that as a society, North Americans are largely ignorant when it comes to the subject of weed, contending that “we don’t know nearly as much about cannabis as Pillsbury knows about brownie mix.”
Armentano argues that despite the U.S. government’s nearly century-long prohibition of the plant, cannabis is nonetheless one of the most investigated therapeutically active substances in history, with over 20,000 published studies or reviews in the scientific literature referencing the cannabis plant and its cannabinoids, nearly half of which were published within the last five years according to a keyword search on PubMed Central, the US government repository for peer-reviewed scientific research. He observes that over 1,450 peer-reviewed papers were published in 2013 alone. (By contrast, a keyword search of “hydrocodone,” a commonly prescribed painkiller, yields just over 600 total references in the entire body of available scientific literature.)
However, Dr. Gupta discovered in doing research for a CNN documentary that much of the science that has been done has been grossly skewed by lopsided emphasis, with only about six percent of current U.S. marijuana studies investigating medical benefits, with the other 94 percent designed to investigate harm, thereby painting “a highly distorted picture.” The imbalance is attributable to a disproportionately anti-marijuana establishment, with any scientific study on medical marijuana needing approval by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which is strongly biased against cannabis.
The Case For Marijuana Use In MS
Meanwhile, patients with MS and other serious ailments who have anecdotally determined that marijuana is the only affordable and effective medicine for neuropathic pain are left with a limited range of legal alternatives to Cannabis, which medical marijuana advocates contend are typically dangerous, genuinely addictive, ruinously expensive, and ineffective — or all four combined. Dr. Gupta notes that while someone dies every 19 minutes in the U.S from prescription drug overdose, he could could not find a single documented case of death from marijuana overdose.
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