Marijuana Debate: Both Sides Can Point To Science

  Marijuana Debate: Both Sides Can Point To Science

Posted by CN Staff on April 21, 2008 at 05:47:26 PT
By Maura Lerner, Star Tribune 
Source: Star-Tribune 

Minnesota -- If marijuana were a new discovery, without cultural and political baggage, "it would be hailed as a wonder drug," wrote Dr. Lester Grinspoon last year. The Harvard psychiatrist has advocated for medical marijuana for decades.Yet a gap has persisted between what many believe about medical marijuana's potential and what scientists could prove. Now recent research has applied the same rigor that would be used on any new pill to testing marijuana.
The results, so far, give ammunition to both sides of a debate at the Minnesota Legislature, where a medical marijuana bill has passed the Senate and a House committee. It would make Minnesota the 13th state to allow medical uses within strict limits.Politics aside, what does science conclude at this point about medical marijuana?  No Argument  Scientists agree on one thing: the active ingredient in marijuana, THC, has some healing powers. In 1985, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the pill Marinol, a synthetic form of THC, to relieve nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy. A few years later, the pill also won FDA approval to stimulate the appetite of people wasting away from AIDS or cancer.  Pill vs. Plant  The debate, medically speaking, is about smoking a plant or swallowing a pill.Government scientists agree research shows smoking marijuana gets THC into the bloodstream faster than a pill.But the FDA argues that marijuana must go through the same hurdles as any medicine to be proven safe and effective, and that it's impossible to ensure the dose and potency of something that grows wild. The FDA has never approved any medicine to be smoked.Also, marijuana is listed as a Schedule I controlled substance, the most restricted class of drugs in federal law. It's a category reserved for drugs with a high potential for abuse, no accepted medical uses and no safety data for medical use. Promising Research   Supporters claim marijuana can help treat hundreds of conditions, from depression to malaria.But the strongest scientific evidence points to a shorter list, according to medical groups. One of the most promising areas is pain relief.In 1999, the Institute of Medicine (part of the National Academy of Sciences) conducted the most extensive review of scientific literature of marijuana and concluded that its chemical compounds "likely have a natural role in pain modulation, control of movement and memory."Until recently, "medical studies, at least meeting modern standards ... have been lacking," said Dr. Igor Grant, director of the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research at the University of California, San Diego, which has spearheaded much of the latest research. "There has been quite a lot of anecdotal evidence, uncontrolled research, that there may be benefits."To win over scientists, the research generally has to show that a drug works better than a placebo, and that neither scientists nor subjects knew who was getting the real thing.Since 2007, a handful of government-approved studies at the UCSD, have found that smoking marijuana can help relieve neuropathic (nerve) pain from injuries or diseases such as AIDS and cancer. In each case, half the volunteers were given marijuana and the other half a fake substitute. They found a measurable difference.But researchers also turned up some cautionary notes. One study, released in October, tested three different concentrations of marijuana, and found only one -- the middle dose -- provided "moderate pain relief." The lowest dose showed no effect and the highest dose actually increased pain, the study found. Another study found pain relief came with a worrisome downside: psychological impairment.Still, the growing body of research has won over some major medical groups, such as the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and the American College of Physicians, which represents 125,000 internal medicine specialists. Both support lowering legal hurdles for medical marijuana.  Mixed Results  Scientists have also tested marijuana's active ingredients on other conditions, such as glaucoma and multiple sclerosis. Results have been mixed and scientists say there's no proof that it's better than existing drugs.Studies suggest THC can reduce eye pressure associated with glaucoma, but that the effects are shortlived; and scientists worry that the side effects, especially on the heart, could pose an even greater danger to elderly patients.With multiple sclerosis, studies have found fleeting improvement in spasticity, or muscle contractions, but that THC worsened patients' balance and control. The MS Society has called for more study.  The Downside  Like many drugs, marijuana has a long list of possible side effects. Some are part of the marijuana folklore: It makes people high, slows reaction time, impairs memory, makes people sleepy. Other effects are more ominous: It can cause a drop in blood pressure, fast heart beat, heart palpitations, anxiety, apathy, dizziness and depression.Like tobacco, it contains toxic chemicals that can endanger pregnant women and cause cancer, lung damage and pneumonia.   The Future Scientists are testing vaporizers and skin patches as alternatives to smoking marijuana.Source: Minneapolis Star-Tribune (MN) Author: Maura Lerner, Star Tribune Published: April 20, 2008Copyright: 2008 Star Tribune Contact: opinion Website: Articles & Web Site:Minnesota Cares Room in Minnesota for Medical Marijuana Marijuana Merits State Support

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Comment #15 posted by FoM on April 22, 2008 at 11:44:37 PT
Very good information posted. Sometimes it seems people want to needle another person and that's what it is about.
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Comment #14 posted by Dankhank on April 22, 2008 at 11:33:16 PT
cannabis and kids ...
after birth and until age eighteen, or sixteen if in Canada, :-), I feel that ALL kids should refrain from nicotine, alcohol, caffeine, tons of SUGAR, high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, and cannabis, unless cannabis is indicated by a doctor, so as to concentrate on gaining useful life skills to support themselves and any family, and improve this country and world we live in. w000t311 asked if we agreed, guess we don't ...that's OK, lot of good info popped up on that question...thanks for asking ...
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Comment #13 posted by FoM on April 22, 2008 at 05:48:22 PT
What do you mean? I removed a double post but as far as I know he can respond if he wants to.
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Comment #12 posted by RevRayGreen on April 22, 2008 at 05:24:00 PT
Where did 
 w000t311 go ?
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Comment #11 posted by Had Enough on April 21, 2008 at 21:33:21 PT
This one goes out to ‘Hank Hill’…The memories of a man in his old ageAre the deeds of a man in his prime.You shuffle in gloom of the sickroomAnd talk to yourself as you die.
*Life is a short, warm momentAnd death is a long cold rest.You get your chance to try in the twinkling of an eye:Eighty years, with luck, or even less.
*So all aboard for the American tour,And maybe you'll make it to the top.And mind how you go, and I can tell you, 'cause I knowYou may find it hard to get off.
*You are the angel of deathAnd I am the dead man's son.And he was buried like a mole in a fox hole.And everyone is still on the run.
*And who is the master of fox hounds?And who says the hunt has begun?And who calls the tune in the courtroom?And who beats the funeral drum?
*The memories of a man in his old ageAre the deeds of a man in his prime.You shuffle in gloom in the sickroomAnd talk to yourself as you die.
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Comment #10 posted by Had Enough on April 21, 2008 at 20:23:34 PT
Thanks Storm Crow...
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Comment #9 posted by Had Enough on April 21, 2008 at 20:15:41 PT
w000t311“Anyone else with me on this one?”No –..with all due respects…Check out Storm Crows Birthday Gift…Pregnancy
Oily fish makes 'babies brainier' use among Jamaican women.'s Jamaican Pregnancy Study Relieves Morning Sickness Marijuana Exposure and Neonatal Outcomes in Jamaica Endocannabinoid-CB Receptor System #7: MARIJUANA USE DURING PREGNANCY HARMS THE FETUS exposure
Prenatal Marijuana Exposure and Neonatal Outcomes in Jamaica Endocannabinoid-CB Receptor System use among Jamaican women.'s Jamaican Pregnancy Study action of cannabinoids in vitro exposure to tobacco, alcohol, cannabis and caffeine on birth size and subsequent growth. and marijuana use on offspring growth from birth through 3 years of age. marijuana use and neonatal outcome.************Entire post found here….Click to see…
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Comment #8 posted by The GCW on April 21, 2008 at 19:53:51 PT
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Comment #7 posted by Dankhank on April 21, 2008 at 16:43:22 PT
Jamaica neonatal study
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Comment #6 posted by FoM on April 21, 2008 at 15:31:15 PT
More Info 
Cannabis Treatments in Obstetrics and GynecologyA Historic ReviewEthan Russo M.D.
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Comment #5 posted by RevRayGreen on April 21, 2008 at 14:41:26 PT
Melanie Dreher, RN, PhD, FAAN explains her study
"Pregnant women and their children were studied over ten plus years, both marijuan smokers and non smokers. One of the first scientific study of the effects of cannabis on pregnancy and the child's development. "
Marijuana Cannabis Use In Pregnancy Dr. Dreher
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Comment #4 posted by w000t311 on April 21, 2008 at 13:45:55 PT:

The, ah-hem, fetuses... 
Just a small thing Sam: pot may not harm the pregnant mother, but can probably most definitely have adverse effects on the fetus. I don't want to get into a big debate about fetal rights, but all I'm saying is if those kids are carried to term and momma's been smoking fatties the entire time, well, Hank Hill would probably be right in saying "That boy ain't right."And look, I know the whole "think of the children" thing gets old, but I believe these children in particular should be given special consideration because they are in a period of rapid development and while really I don't know what effects, if any, that marijuana has on a developing fetus, but I'm sorta leaning more in the direction of it having negative, adverse effects. I just don't think it's fair to these kids who have no choice in being conceived in the first place, let alone have to be incubated in a what can be imagined as a clambaked womb. Anyone else with me on this one?
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Comment #2 posted by dirtmover on April 21, 2008 at 08:20:08 PT

The government is still relying on the resources used by Harry Anslinger.The big lie.
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Comment #1 posted by Sam Adams on April 21, 2008 at 07:43:30 PT

I'm glad this piece is talking about "pointing" at science, maybe the writer and editor can start to actually read it.  This article is full of lies that go in the direct face of the scientific method. Cannabis is NOT like tobacco at all in terms of health effects, it does NOT cause cancer or lung damage. It does NOT endanger pregnant women like tobacco.  Cannabis does NOT contain toxic chemicals like tobacco (although they can be produced by combustion of the plant).One can never rely on trite interpretations of "science" because "science" is defined by mankind, and mankind has big flaws and weaknesses.As we've seen, anybody with $100,000 can buy a "scientist" and get whatever "science" they want.
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