Medical marijuana may not have nearly as many actual medical benefits as its supporters purport, at least according to a review in the newest issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. With a goal of conducting a “systematic review of the benefits and adverse events of cannabinoids,” the reviewers ran through 79 separate trials, which included nearly 6,500 people.
With a focus on particular ailments the drug is popularly believed to treat, the scientists discovered that, well, a lot of the benefits of medical pot may be mostly hype—or at least in tokers’ heads.
Cannabis did seem to offer some sign of help with were nausea and vomiting, chronic nerve pain, pain from cancer, and muscle spasms brought on by multiple sclerosis. But other ailments for which the drug is prescribed—like depression, anxiety disorder, sleep disorder, psychosis, glaucoma, and Tourette syndrome—were shown to have be very ineffective as treatment methods, evidence shows.
Study co-author Penny Whiting, a senior research fellow at the University of Bristol, cautioned that even when pot does help symptoms, the side effects may not be worth the treatment, and should be discussed on a case-by-case basis with a patient’s doctor.
In the wake of these findings, an editorial in the same Journal issue entitled “Medical Marijuana: Is the Cart Before the Horse?” by doctors Deepak Cyril D’Souza and Mohini Ranganathan questions the current push for legalization of marijuana for medical purposes. They argue still not enough is known about the drug’s efficacy and that there’s not enough federal oversight into finding out the answers.
“It is unclear why the approval process should be different from that used for other medications,” D‘Souza and Ranganathan wrote. “Since medical marijuana is not a life-saving intervention, it may be prudent to wait before widely adopting its use until high-quality evidence is available.”
In other words, D’Souza and Ranganathan’s report doesn’t come out against medical marijuana, but it implies the groundswell of enthusiasm for legalizing medical weed may have outpaced the proven scientific realities of the drug.
Both the study and the editorial did agree that further testing of the plant’s compounds should be conducted.
And the federal government concurs.
On Monday, the Obama administration removed the requirement to submit proposed marijuana studies to the U.S. Public Health Service for review, a process that could take years.
“The department expects the action announced today will help facilitate further research to advance our understanding about the health risks and any potential benefits of medications using marijuana or its components or derivatives,” a Health and Human Services spokeswoman said, according to U.S. News and World Report.
Despite the Journal’s somewhat grim tidings for medical marijuana fans, there was oddly no mention of other ongoing research projects, like those detailed in a recent National Geographic, which purport to show cannabis has promise in the treatment of both cancer and seizures.
Yet another study in the JOAMA, which is giving High Times a run for its money on the cannabis coverage this month, tested a bevy of THC-infused edibles for label accuracy. And a majority of the time, the report concludes, what it says on your magic brownie packaging is a lot different from what you’re actually getting.
Purchased from San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Seattle between August and October of last year, only 17 percent of the 75 individual items from 47 different brands tested accurately. More than half of them had “significantly less cannabinoid content” than they were supposed to, and “may not produce the desired medical benefit.”
Meaning? Sorry, Scooby, but you just bought a $20 Chips Ahoy.
A much smaller cross section of the tested edibles actually had more THC than advertised, which has its own set of concerns, primarily over-medicating. Neither California nor Washington state have set regulations governing the labeling or content of marijuana infused edibles. This year, Colorado enacted potency limits, but even they have had their issues with label honesty.
And now something that’s slightly less of a bummer.
For those who are happy to admit they want marijuana legalized not for medical use, but just so they can get high, man, take note: In just a few days, on July 1, Oregon becomes the third state to offer over-the-counter legal weed.