Should Medical Marijuana Get a Free Pass?

In many states, including Georgia, medical marijuana has bypassed the rigorous Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval process via state laws permitting its usage.  A recent editorial (J Koliani-Pace, CA Siegel. Am J Gastroenterol 2016; 111: 161-62 -thx to Ben Gold for this reference) highlights the dilemma facing physicians with medical marijuana with regard to providing advice/approval for this treatment.

Key points:

  • 12% of people aged 12 years or older report using cannabis in the past year.
  • For gastrointestinal illnesses, there is scant evidence effectiveness.  There is some data indicating that it makes you feel better, but no data proving that there is objective improvement in conditions like Crohn’s disease.
  • Adverse effects require more research.  “Approximately 9% of people who experiment with marijuana will become addicted.”  Other concerns: increased car accidents, altered memory/judgment, hyperemesis syndrome, and respiratory effects.  With increasing availability and increasing THC concentrations, there have been in an increase in emergency department visits related to usage.
  • Lack of quality control: various concentrations of THC and cannabinoids, different administration routes, contaminants.

My take: At least with GI illnesses, more studies are needed to determine whether medical marijuana should be recommended.

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