Medical marijuana has come into widespread prominence over the past few years, and even formerly hardened critics are now softening their stances on what is proving to be a most controversial drug indeed. At present, twenty states and the District of Columbia have voted to allow the use marijuana for medical purposes to some degree, and many other states are considering similar action.
From cancer to AIDS, to seizures and allergies, marijuana is often promoted as a miracle cure capable of untold benefits. As promising as the idea of medical marijuana is however, one thing that advocates don’t often acknowledge is that there remains a serious dearth of sound scientific research into how the drug affects our health. This sentiment was expressed by the chief medical correspondent of CBS News Dr. Jon LaPook, and NYU Langone Medical Center’s Dr. Stephen Ross, among others.
Dr. Ross was particularly apprehensive of the lack of thorough testing and research into the supposed health benefits of marijuana, emphasizing the uncertainty of determining the concentration of certain active ingredients in the drug. Ross also brought up the possibility that some or all of the effects of marijuana may be due to the patient’s mind frame, and warned about the undocumented risks of exposure to secondhand marijuana smoke.
Dr. LaPook was equally emphatic about the need for more research into the effects of marijuana. Describing the current legal situation as “weird”, LaPook criticized the legalization of marijuana in twenty states and in Washington DC without the benefit of thorough study and research.
Dr. Ross also points out that marijuana is currently the only medicinal substance that has been legalized on the strength of a vote. Cautioning against the widespread acceptance of marijuana without the benefit of scientific study behind it, Ross expressed discontent at how marijuana was voted into legalization “just like that”.
Dr. Ross himself admits that the continuing government restriction poses significant challenges toward studying the plant and getting approval to study it for health benefits. One of the factors that have resulted in the lack of solid scientific research into marijuana’s health effects is the continuing government restriction of the substance. Despite the number of states that have legalized marijuana for medical use, the federal government continues to classify marijuana as a Schedule I narcotic, grouping it with other substances that do not have medical value and that have a high likelihood of being abused. This effectively places marijuana in the same category as “hard” drugs such as LSD, PCP, and heroin.
At present, much of the research into marijuana’s health effects revolve around the study of THC and CBD. But the fact that there are over 100 cannabinoids in marijuana–each of which has the potential to affect health–further emphasizes the need for intensive research. In order to determine whether or not marijuana can indeed provide the solution to a host to health issues–or has the potential to cause adverse effects–it will be necessary to revise government policy with regard to marijuana classification.