Coalition releases policy sheet

Published 3:31am Saturday, June 15, 2013

By SUSAN SHORT

With the increased discussion around the issue of the medical use of marijuana, the Covington County Children’s Policy Council Coalition has developed this fact sheet. The Coalition will provide further information on this topic, as requested.

Medical Research on Marijuana as a Medicine

• Several years ago the Food and Drug Administration approved a pill, Marinol, which contains a major component in marijuana, Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Two common uses of Marinol are to treat nausea in cancer chemotherapy patients and to stimulate appetite in patients with wasting due to AIDS.

• The National Eye Institute has studied the relationship between glaucoma and smoking marijuana with the following result: “None of these studies demonstrated that marijuana—or any of its components—could lower IOP (intraocular pressure) as effectively as drugs already on the market. In addition, some potentially serious side effects were noted, including an increased heart rate and a decrease in blood pressure in studies using smoked marijuana”.

• The FDA released a statement in April 2006 that due to a lack of human or animal data showing the safety of smoked marijuana and due to the availability of FDA-approved medications for many of the ailments listed as uses of smoked marijuana; they do not support the use of marijuana as a medicine4. Furthermore the National Institute on Drug Abuse stated that “little is known about the many chemicals besides THC that are in marijuana, or their possible deleterious impact on patients with medical conditions”. Marijuana is a plant which contains thousands of chemicals, many of which we know nothing about. Also, smoking anything is bad for your lungs.

Health Impacts of Smoking Marijuana

• Marijuana smoke contains 50-70 percent more carcinogenic hydrocarbons than does tobacco smoke.

• Smoking three or four marijuana cigarettes is as bad for the lungs as smoking 20 tobacco cigarettes. According to Eden Evins, associate professor of psycharity at Harvard Medical School, and the director of the Center for Addiction medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, several studies are showing that cannabis (marijuana) puts adolescents at risk for mental illness and is addictive for some that try it. Nine percent of people that use marijuana will become addicted, and the younger one is, the more likely the risk is for addiction. Marijuana use increases the risk for schizophrenia in those people that already have an underlying risk genetically. The teenage brain is developing and at a vulnerable stage, and smoking pot can potentially affect the future trajectory of a young person’s life.

Application and Outcomes in Other States

• 8 out of 10 states with the highest percentage of past month marijuana users are also states with medical marijuana programs.

• 5 out of 10 states with the highest percentage of new youth marijuana users are states with medical marijuana programs.

• In San Diego, California, a review of data from their dispensaries reveals that only 2% of medical marijuana customers have AIDS, glaucoma or cancer and 4 out of 5 of the customers are age 40 or younger.

• The State of Oregon’s medical marijuana program has 26,274 medical marijuana card holders with 88% of the card holders using marijuana as a common pain reliever and less than 4% are cancer patients.

 

Sources: Dr. Susan Weiss, N.I.D.A. (National Institute on Drug Abuse), Sue Thau, Public Policy Consultant with CADCA (Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America), and Dr. Kevin Sabet.

 

Susan Short is director of the Children’s Policy Council of Covington County.

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