“Medical” Marijuana (?)

English: Marijuana plant. Español: Planta de m...

English: Marijuana plant. Español: Planta de marihuana. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Okay, so the public discussion about medical marijuana has ebbed and flowed for a very long time.  I remember conversations about it when I was in middle school, and even more when I was in high school (although, given the number of potheads in my high school, you’d think that straight legalization would’ve been their actual goal).  Anyway, we’re back in a big public discussion about it again because Dr. Sanjay Gupta published a piece calling for government to loosen the restriction on the study of marijuana for medicinal purposes.  This will be followed up by a documentary titled “WEED” airing on CNN this Sunday.

So, I thought I would look at this logically and think about our approach to medicine.

A quick bit of research turns up the fact that 25% of prescription medicines come from plants.  That’s quite a lot.  What more, a number of our narcotic-level pain-relievers come from the poppy plant, which is also used to make opium and heroine.  So, you’d think that a plant that humans have been ingesting for millennia and has known psychotropic and pain relieving properties would be a prime source for modernized medicines.

For reasons I don’t seem to fully understand we seem to have weird biases when it comes to certain plants.  Even though poppy derivatives can be turned into horrible drugs that are highly addictive (even the legal varieties) we seem to trust poppy-based medicines to do what we want with few negative consequences.  Let’s just ignore the thousands of people every year that get addicted to their prescription pain killers.  If there is another plant out there with pain-relieving properties shouldn’t we be looking for alternatives to these drugs that are costing our society millions in addiction-treatment and lost productivity.  I’m just forced to wonder if early pharmacists knew that since Opium was a more upper-class drug than they assumed it must inherently be better than marijuana for medicinal purposes (remember this is the same era of pharmacists that thought dissolving cocaine into carbonated water and then adding large qualities of flavored syrup would have nothing but positive effects on the human body–hello different drug addiction and obesity!).

So, clearly I’m in favor of marijuana research, but I am wholeheartedly opposed to these contemporary “pot-dispensaries.”  These stores are nothing more than modern equivalents of 18th & 19th century apothecaries who specialize in one drug.  If I have to get oral surgery and need to take codeine for 3-4 days, I’m not gonna go to some guy who grows poppies in his backyard and buy a tray of brownies with his homemade codeine baked into them.  I’m going to go to a pharmacist and get pills that have been quality controlled and tested.  Also, I would never take any medication in a “smoke vapor” form where I’m exposing myself to carcinogens along with my medication.  (And don’t fool yourselves about smoking pot being safer than cigarettes for lung cancer, any smoke from any plant breathed into the lungs will contain carcinogens.  That’s why are nose and bronchial tubes have filters.)  If the only way to properly introduce a medicine into the body is by vapor, there are ways to do it without including all the smoke that comes with it in a blunt.  These dispensaries are nothing more than cover for potheads in liberal states.

So yeah, let’s get some research underway.  There’s probably some good drugs to find in the cannabis plant.  But let’s be smart about it.  Until we know what these drugs do, and we can administer them properly through pill, inhalant, nasal spray, or intravenous methods, let’s not get ahead of ourselves and start letting Joe Pothead sell his homemade apothecary treatments to any schmo who can get a doctor to scribble on a piece of paper.