Dr. Stuart Gitlow, a physician serving as president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, does not mince words: “There is no such thing at this point as medical marijuana,” he said. It’s a point he has made routinely for the past decade, as advocates for marijuana legalization have claimed the drug treats an array of serious illnesses, or the symptoms of illnesses, including cancer, depression, epilepsy, glaucoma and HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
Backing up Gitlow are the National Institute on Drug Abuse and practically every major medical association in the United States, including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the American Academy of Pediatrics, which recently reaffirmed its stance. Cannabis in its various forms is an addictive drug that is especially dangerous to the developing brain — a linchpin the country’s largest medical groups give for opposing its legalization.
NIDA details specific reasons why the cannabis plant is “an unlikely medication candidate” — whether smoked as marijuana or consumed in the form of hash oil or “wax.” The organization argues:
- The plant contains numerous chemicals with unknown health effects.
- It is too variable to be considered medicine, which requires all ingredients to be specified so the product can be reproduced consistently. In other words, there’s no way to guarantee a plant produced and processed in northern Colorado yields the same, or even similar, treatment as one produced and processed in another part of the state, much less in a different region of the country.
- It is typically consumed by smoking, further contributing to potential adverse effects.
- It has cognitive and motor-impairing effects, which may limit its utility.
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EDITORS NOTE: This op-ed column originally appeared in The Colorado Gazette.