Cannabis (marijuana) and its compounds are real medicine. Still, as of this writing, Idaho is one of only seven states with no medicinal cannabis or CBD program. Much of the following information is from “The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NA).” The national academy has rigorous review standards that are by their nature conservative in their conclusions.
Here are some of the important research conclusions:
▪ Pain Control. Already well demonstrated, the report cited conclusive or substantial evidence for the medical use of cannabis for pain control.
▪ Multiple Sclerosis Spasticity. NA reported conclusive or substantial evidence of effectiveness.
▪ HIV-AIDS, (appetite stimulation and weight gain), Tourette Syndrome and PTSD. NA reported limited evidence for effectiveness.
▪ Nausea. There is conclusive evidence that oral cannabinoids are effective antiemetics in the treatment of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.
▪ Epilepsy. NA found a lack of evidence for effective seizure control mainly due to the relatively poor quality of the studies reviewed. However, GW Pharmaceuticals in England, in clinical trials of its investigational medicine Epidiolex® (CBD), found efficacy in treating two difficult-to-treat disorders: Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome.
▪ Parkinson’s Disease. NA found there is insufficient evidence that cannabis is effective in treatment of Parkinson’s. However, Babayeva et al in the journal Parkinson Disease found that compounds in cannabis may yet prove effective .
▪ Dementia/Alzheimer’s. NA found there is limited evidence that cannabinoids are effective treatments for improving the symptoms associated with dementia. Salk Institute scientists have found preliminary evidence that THC and other compounds found in cannabis can “promote the cellular removal of amyloid beta, a toxic protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease.” In a small observational trail in Israel, researchers found THC oil administered to Alzheimers patients correlated “with decreased levels of aggression, irritability, apathy, and delusions.”
▪ Opioid Abuse. A 2014 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that states with medical marijuana laws are associated with a significant reduction in mortality from opioid abuse. A working paper from the RAND Bing Center for Health Economics notes that “states permitting medical marijuana dispensaries experienced a 15 to 35 percent decrease in substance abuse admissions and opiate overdose deaths.” Similarly, another recent report by Castlight Health, an employee health benefits provider, found almost double the rate of opioid abuse in states that did not permit access to medical marijuana.
Nothing, including cannabis, is completely without risk. However, the safety profile of cannabis is excellent, especially compared to many offerings by the pharmaceutical industry. Interestingly, the pharmaceutical industry is the largest anti-marijuana lobby in terms of spending.
Cannabis is safe and effective and can relieve human suffering. There is no reason for Idaho not to have a medical cannabis program.
Tim Teater, of Boise, is a longtime cannabis legal reform activist.