Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Medical marijuana -- and what we aren't learning about it

Today’s New York Times has an editorial about the United States’ bizarre unwillingness to permit regular scientific research on medical marijuana. I’m no expert on this area of public policy, but I am getting interested in medical marijuana as a response to pain, and the Times reports that a National Academy of Sciences report from last week "found 'conclusive or substantial evidence' that marijuana or compounds in the plant can effectively treat chronic pain, nausea from chemotherapy and some symptoms of multiple sclerosis." 

So I want to second the Times’ editorial, based on what the pain management person we work with at Memorial Sloan Kettering -- a nurse practitioner -- told me yesterday. What she said is that there is no research on dosage levels for medical marijuana. But obviously different amounts of the drug will have different effects, both positive and negative. How are patients supposed to figure out the right dose? (That's assuming they can work their way through the bureaucratic obstacles state law may erect in the way of access to the drug -- in New Jersey's case, pretty substantial obstacles.) Apparently the answer is: without the aid of science. This is, to put the point gently, crazy.

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