NEW ORLEANS - As the topic of medical marijuana makes its way through the legislature, those in favor argue that studies show it treats symptoms of serious and painful illness.
But the National Institute on Drug Abuse says the evidence of its benefits is not enough to give marijuana Food and Drug Administration approval.
And now a local doctor explains why he wrote to every lawmakers to vote against it.
"There is no mistake here, this is not an effort to help sick people," said Dr. Ken Roy, of Addiction Recovery Resources in Metairie.
Psychiatrist and addiction specialist Dr. Roy says he and the Louisiana Psychiatric Medical Association are against medical marijuana.
"It concerns me because there's no such thing, " he said.
He says there's no useful research showing whole marijuana as effective for conditions it's proposed for. There is no dose, concentration, consistency, purity, or side effect warnings as is required by the FDA for safety and efficacy of all other prescriptions.
Roy says certain useful compounds like THC and cannabinol in marijuana have already been extracted, tested, and purified in four medications. Two are on the market covered by insurance, and two are about to get FDA approval.
They treat ailments from HIV wasting, chemotherapy nausea, severe childhood seizures and multiple sclerosis. He says The American Glaucoma Society does not recommend marijuana and children with severe seizures in Colorado who were switched from approved medication to marijuana by their parents, became so sick, they had to be put in comas to stop the seizures.
"This medical marijuana is an insidious foot in the door policy that basically is a lie to get legalized marijuana to be part of the conversation," said Dr. Roy.
Dr. Roy says every dollar raised by medical marijuana taxes cost nine dollars in consequences.
"My practice is to treat people with a fatal progressive illness. I see people in the obituary every day in their 20s who died from the disease that I treat. Those people that find their way to my practice and to our efforts, almost always have started with marijuana. "
The Louisiana Cannabis Association responded by saying:
Prescription drugs with marijuana chemicals are not always covered by insurance nor are they effective.
They said future technology will help to make the chemicals in the plant consistent.
And they disagreee that their push for medical marijuana is a step toward legalized pot, according to Jesse McCormick, spokesman.
McCormick also wanted to add several point, including:
- The organization's bill went through pharmacists that he says can do the work of the FDA
- The American Medical Society published a comprehensive review that said there was "high quality evidence" that marijuana improved spasticity, chronic pain and neuropathic pain
- Sativax is not available in the U.S.
- FDA products, they say, are the number one cause of injury death in the U.S.
Dr. Roy's letter to the legislature:
Re: Medical Marijuana
Make no mistake, the legislation offered this session by Senator Fred Mills, (R) New Iberia, SB271, is a "foot in the door" bill for the legalization of Marijuana and its increased availability. Legalization is far too controversial to put on the ballot, so this bill (and its predecessor last session) is presented to the legislature and to the public as a Trojan Horse. On its face the bill seems harmless, and might seem helpful. But this bill is disruptive to our application of the principles of science to the practice of medicine, false in its assumptions of the understanding of disease at the level of the state legislature and has a potential to put large quantities of highly refined, very potent marijuana into the hands of young people. As someone who treats addiction, I see huge loss of function and initiative related to the use of marijuana, and almost every person with addiction that I treat started with Marijuana.
There are already available FDA approved medications that contain molecules (chemicals) derived from the marijuana plant. Marinol® and Cesamet® are approved for nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy and Marinol® is approved for use in wasting symptoms accompanying diseases such as AIDS. Sativex® is a refined marijuana extract that is approved for use in 23 countries for the treatment of Multiple Sclerosis and is in expedited trials in the U.S. Epidiolex is a pure cannabidiol product that is currently also in expedited clinical trials for the treatment of intractable seizures in children, and is available with a compassionate use application to the FDA for such children.
However, SB271 proposes to legalize the use of marijuana and marijuana products for the treatment of "Debilitating Medical Conditions" defined in the bill as : cancer, glaucoma, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, or a chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition or its treatment that produces cachexia or wasting syndrome, seizure disorders, epilepsy, severe muscle spasms, including those characteristic of Crohn's disease or multiple sclerosis.
Really? There is not one shred of evidence that marijuana or its constituents has any effect on cancer. The American Epilepsy Society recently published a letter discussing the use of non-FDA approved cannabidiol oil in children in children with epilepsy and the letter contains the description: "… as a result of giving CBD marijuana oils to these children the epilepsy specialists in Colorado have been at the bedside of children having severe dystonic reactions and other movement disorders, developmental regression, intractable vomiting and worsening seizures that can be so severe they have to put the child into a coma to get the seizures to stop." And the American Academy of Neurology says in a position paper: "…does not advocate for the legalization of marijuana-based products for use in neurologic disorders..." which includes seizures and spastic conditions. The American Glaucoma Society does not recommend the use of marijuana products in any form for the treatment of glaucoma, marijuana does nothing to treat the symptoms of AIDS, although prescribed, available medications may be helpful in wasting. And it is nonsensical to equate the muscle spasms of Crohns’s disease and those of Multiple Sclerosis.
But, the worst of the proposed legislation is that, in the face of a budget crisis, the state will be asked to duplicate the efforts of the FDA, at the state level, to assure purity and consistency, and the clinical and scientific functions of the FDA will be defaulted to the Louisiana State Legislature. In this light, the legislature could decide that LSD is good treatment for depression and choose to legalize "Medical LSD."
In every state where "Medical Marijuana" has been legislated, the incidence of non-medical use has dramatically increased, the incidence of use in children has increased and the incidence of addiction has increased. More appropriately, the legislature could advocate for the removal of marijuana from the list of Schedule I narcotics (High potential for harm and no medical use) so that adequate and appropriate research can be done to see what conditions could benefit and where harm occurs from the use of marijuana products – in a scientific way.
A. Kenison Roy, III, MD, DLFAPA, DFASAM
Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry
Medical Director, Addiction Recovery Resources [www.arrno.com]www.arrno.com