The following is a guest column by Marilyn G. Belmonte of the Burlington Drug & Alcohol Task Force:
The American Medical Association (AMA) is the largest medical association in the country. Its mission is to promote medicine for the betterment of public health, and to advance the interests of physicians and their patients. The AMA released a formal position statement that more “adequate and well-controlled studies of marijuana and related cannabinoids are needed. The AMA also called for reclassification of marijuana to make it more readily available to scientists and conduct much needed research before deciding how to use marijuana for medical purposes.
The AMA goes on to say that their statement “should not be viewed as an endorsement of state-based medical cannabis programs, the legalization of marijuana, or that scientific evidence on the therapeutic use of cannabis meets the current standards for a prescription drug product”. Since smoking is unhealthy and linked to disease, the AMA recommends the “development of a smoke free delivery system for marijuana or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to reduce the health hazards associated with the combustion and inhalation of marijuana”.
Smoked marijuana has not been passed as safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA has determined that “marijuana has a high potential for abuse, has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and has a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision”.
Until research has been completed and approved by the FDA that compounds in marijuana are safe and effective for medical use, marijuana can not be considered a medicine in this country. There is no legal, scientific or medical basis for the term “medical marijuana”. Some states are filing legal suits to prevent the term from being used until the medical community authorizes it.
Legalization of marijuana for use in “medical” situations may not be necessary. Currently there are several legal, synthetic forms of THC used as prescription medicines. Pharmaceutical drugs have been developed with similar chemicals as those found in the marijuana plant. Marinol and Dronabinol contain man-made THC and are widely prescribed by doctors to relieve the nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy for cancer patients and to assist with loss of appetite with AIDS patients. Nabilone, Cesamet, Cannabinor and Dexanabinol contain a synthetic drug similar to THC for those same purposes.
Sativex is the latest prescription cannabinoid medication and the only natural THC product developed from raw marijuana. It is a mouth spray that delivers a precise dose of chemical compounds derived from natural extracts of the cannabis plant. Sativex contains two cannabinoids: THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). It has been approved for medical use in the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand and eight European countries. Sativex is in advanced clinical trials in the U.S. and may see FDA approval by the end of 2013.
It is important to note that this formula is effective at delivering the medication without the “high” of smoking marijuana. In fact, the main difference between all the above prescription drugs and marijuana is that the legal prescriptions do not include the “high”.
Stay tuned for Part 3: The FDA Standards and Marijuana Dispensaries
Marilyn Belmonte is a substance abuse prevention expert who founded Healthy Outcomes, Inc., a non-profit organization, to provide prevention services to all communities through grants and charitable donations. Marilyn is Co-Chairperson of the Drug and Alcohol Task Force in Burlington, Massachusetts. Her work has received national recognition from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for her innovative community programs in 2010 when she was awarded to the “National Service To Science Initiative”. She also received the “All Star Award” by the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA), makers of over-the-counter medications for educating parents about cough medicine abuse in 2008.