Marijuana: What’s medicine got to do with it? It’s a question state lawmakers should be asking physicians in South Carolina. To find the answer we must look to medical science and agree that science is the foundation of modern medicine.
Science requires sufficient data and testing. These do not exist in the case of marijuana primarily because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration classifies marijuana as a “Schedule I” drug, along with cocaine, heroin, LSD and other street drugs, and that prevents widespread medical study and testing on U.S. soil.
Most of these other drugs have a high abuse potential, no medical use, and severe safety concerns. Because of this, the medical science that suggests marijuana is safe or effective for use by patients, particularly smoked marijuana, not only does not exist, it cannot.
All other substances for medical prescription undergo strict FDA-approved testing so patients and physicians can be assured of their appropriate safe use and evaluate the important associated side effects, sometimes life-threatening. No FDA approval process exists for marijuana, meaning there is no data to support the amount, duration, potency or therapeutic need for the use of marijuana.
The lack of evidence is detrimental to patient safety, because there can be no assurance of the effectiveness or appropriateness of the use of marijuana.
Marijuana is a complex plant with over 400 compounds. Science and thorough research will eventually determine which compounds have medical benefit. Indeed, the FDA has approved a synthetic marijuana derivative, cannabidiol (Epidiolex), for treating two rare but severe forms of childhood epilepsy.
Do not be confused. Epidiolex is not marijuana, but rather a derivative of marijuana that contains no tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient that causes intoxication and euphoria. The SCMA supports the use of Epidiloex under these circumstances.
It is more than reasonable to ask the FDA and other entities to explore the possible medical benefits of the components and derivatives of marijuana. But absent these scientific studies, it is inappropriate to ask physicians to make medical determinations about a substance that does not meet those criteria.
In short, marijuana is not a medicine. Any legislation to the contrary is inappropriate.
March Seabrook M.D.
S.C. Medical Association