Medical Marijuana: A Growing Acceptance

The world’s view on marijuana appears to be rapidly changing. Marijuana was thought of as solely a recreational drug only a few years ago. It was basically slid into a role as something to use only to escape the world and get high. It has been classified by the DEA as drug in Schedule 1, with no medical value. It was put into the same category as heroin and LSD. More recently, medical professionals have been starting to recognize the research on cannaboids and the beneficial compounds marijuana holds. The public perception of marijuana is starting turn in its favor.

Last week there were three main events that advanced the growing acceptance of the medicinal value of marijuana. The first was that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) came out in favor of re-classifying marijuana to a Schedule 2 drug, just like other narcotics like morphine or Percocet. This would change the federal status from being illegal on all fronts to being considered a drug, and thus legal to study and to be prescribed for certain medical conditions. Currently, with its Schedule 1 status, doing adequate medical research is extremely difficult, stifling the development of medical knowledge and its usage. Preliminary research does show medical value of various cannaboids for seizures, nausea, cancer and pain. However, which cannaboids of the about 100 known compounds work best with the least amount of risks is poorly understood. Furthermore, we do not know if it is a combination of compounds or if a specific delivery mechanism is necessary.

Medical Marijuana in Minnesota

The new US Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, M.D. has also joined the chorus. This week he indicated that he supported reclassifying marijuana to Schedule 2 drug. He also reported that cannaboids did have medical value in certain conditions. Again, the reclassification would allow widespread research and development of cannaboids for their medicinal value.

Marijuana in Minnesota

In Minnesota, medical marijuana appears to be slowly moving forward. The growers of marijuana have been selected and several locations for dispensaries have been chosen. It still will be limited in use, and it will not be available for the use in pain management, at least in the early stages. The state will investigate marijuana’s potential benefits for chronic pain suffers during the first year medicinal marijuana is available. Furthermore, several Indian tribes are considering whether they will make medical marijuana legal and available on their reservations. The rules that apply on Indian reservations will be up to the individual tribes since they act as sovereign nations with their own laws.

The value of cannaboids to treat many conditions appears to be more positive, and the research is catching up. Changes in the legal drug status hopefully will become reality soon, and the knowledge of how to use these compounds as medicine will become more solid. For now, it is still illegal to use marijuana, and most physicians, due to legal constraints and lack of definite knowledge of risks, do not actively recommend its use.

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Thomas Cohn, MD

Interventional pain doctor helping Minnesotans manage back, neck, foot, and other pain. Board-certified in physical medicine and rehabilitation with additional board-certification in pain management from the American Board of Anesthesiology (ABA), the American Board of Interventional Pain Physicians (ABIPP) and the American Board of Pain Medicine (ABPM).

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