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Sunday, June 8, 2014
Experts discuss science of med. marijuana
A cannabis flower submitted for testing at PharmLab in Ocean Beach. — Charlie Neuman
With San Diego set to grant 36 new permits for medical marijuana dispensaries this year, the drug is about to become more legitimate than ever in the city.
Does that mean cannabis is good medicine?
Only solid science can prove what human ailments the green, leafy plant can truly soothe, but science has never been in the driver’s seat as far as marijuana is concerned.
Californians approved the Compassionate Use Act in 1996, giving doctors broad leeway to prescribe the drug if they determine “that a person’s health would benefit from the use of marijuana in the treatment of cancer, anorexia, AIDS, chronic pain, spasticity, glaucoma, arthritis, migraine or any other illness for which marijuana provides relief.”
While much more is known today about the medical effectiveness of the species cannabis sativa than in 1996, scientists maintain that they can’t prove efficacy for many conditions that marijuana is routinely used to treat. It’s often difficult to distinguish what’s simply promising from what has peer-reviewed scientific legitimacy, researchers said.
“There is a complexity here. There isn’t always a right answer,” said Dr. Igor Grant, director of the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research and chairman of the psychiatry department at UC San Diego.
Meanwhile, public opinion on marijuana has undergone a dramatic shift nationwide.
In 1996, a Gallup poll showed that only 25 percent of the U.S. population believed marijuana should be legalized. Last year, with Washington state and Colorado approving the drug for recreational use and 21 states allowing at least some sort of marijuana use, Gallup reported that 58 percent of Americans said yes to the following question: “Do you think the use of marijuana should be made legal, or not?”
In this environment, Dr. Robert Blake is left to apply his own philosophy and understanding to the question of who gets a prescription for medical marijuana and who doesn’t.