Cannabis legalization about compassion

The recent letter to the editor titled “Marijuana a medicine for N.Y. to avoid” contains misinformation that is necessary to correct.

Medical cannabis is a treatment option with a low risk of dependence, a low side-effect profile, and minimal detrimental health effects. The Compassionate Care Act is a highly regulated bill which will allow for use of medical cannabis for certain patients in New York state, with multiple safeguards against diversion, including mandatory procurement of patient identification cards and utilization of I-STOP.

The state Senate’s version of the CCA limits the conditions for which medical cannabis can be recommended. The term “serious condition” is not “vague,” as stated in the letter. Additionally, special circumstances for suffering patients are not “loopholes.” If we trust providers to prescribe medications like opiates – which have high abuse potential and cause thousands of deaths – we should trust them to prescribe medical cannabis responsibly (death by cannabis overdose is virtually impossible).

The letter states 2.05 percent of medical cannabis users in California have a recommendation for AIDS, glaucoma or cancer and that “an extremely high number of people were using ‘medical’ marijuana for other purposes.” This percentage does not include patients using medical cannabis for conditions such as multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, neuropathy, etc. Additionally, the California system is far less regulated than the system that will be formed in New York if the CCA is passed.

Legal medications made from synthetic, isolated THC (e.g. Marinol) are largely inadequate in comparison to the whole plant. THC in the absence of other cannabinoids can be extremely anxiety-inducing; other cannabinoids in cannabis produce many of its health benefits and effects are felt much more slowly (and dynamic dose requirements are therefore more difficult to control) than in inhaled form. Low to moderate use of cannabis in smoked form does not decrease lung function.

A recent study showed that medical cannabis legalization does not increase crime, and in some cases may decrease crime. Regulation of medical cannabis access also has the potential to decrease illicit substance use and drug trafficking.

Double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trials, observational studies, and numerous case studies have shown the medical efficacy of whole plant cannabis-based medicine (oils, extracts, smoke, vapor, etc.).

The views expressed in this letter are mine and do not necessarily represent the views of the medical school I attend or its affiliated institutions.

ARIELLE GERARD

MD candidate, Albany