CPA in the News: Colorado will lead research into pot’s real medical value

Medical marijuana patient Teri Robnett, right, uses a vape pen to inhale cannabinoids and manage her chronic fibromyalgia. Her husband, Greg Duran, grinds marijuana to use in a larger vaporizer for Teri, who medicates throughout the day. (Photos by Andy Cross, The Denver Post)


By Electa Draper

December 26, 2014 | The Denver Post

After Coloradans decreed in 2000 that the cannabis plant had medical value, scientific evidence has had to play catch-up with the anecdotal cases.

The list of claims of healing powers of marijuana is long, while the list of full-scale U.S. studies on medicinal benefits is short, largely because pot use is still against federal law and doesn’t get many federal research dollars.

Colorado voters approved themedical use of pot in 2000 and recreational use in 2012.

Now Colorado is leading the nation in state spending on studies of medical marijuana.

The state’s Medical Marijuana Scientific Advisory Council considered Dec. 17 how to spend $9 million set aside by the state legislature for two- to three-year studies on marijuana treatment for chronic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder, Parkinson’s disease tremors, pediatric epilepsy, inflammatory bowel disease and palliative care for pediatric brain tumors.

“You can’t ignore the anecdotal evidence. It’s compelling,” said Dr. Larry Wolk, director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “I wouldn’t want to deprive families’ hope or treatment. But medical effectiveness still needs to be verified. With these studies, we could have some answers within the next year.”

There were 116,287 people holding medical marijuana cards in Colorado at the end of September — about 3,400 more than at the end of last year before recreational pot became legal — and 816 physicians with medical pot patients. About 66 percent are male, the average age is 42 and 427 patients are under age 18.

Most patients, 93 percent, are using medical marijuana to treat severe pain. Muscle spasms are the reason given by 15 percent of card holders. Some patients have listed both as a reason.

Conditions recognized for medical cannabis use in Colorado are cachexia (or wasting syndrome), cancer, chronic pain, chronic nervous system disorders, epilepsy and other seizure disorders, glaucoma, HIV or AIDS, multiple sclerosis and other muscle spasticity disorders and nausea.

“It’s unlikely that marijuana is effective for the wide range of health problems approved under Colorado law,” said the University of Colorado’s Dr. Andrew Monte, who co-wrote a viewpoint piece on legalizing marijuana published Dec. 8 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Yet hope and desperation can be stronger than scientific evidence. Colorado has become a beacon for those seeking a marijuana cure for their illnesses and suffering.

Boulder County medical marijuana caregiver Jason Cranford said he and others are flooded with requests from around the country to treat cancer, seizure disorders and countless other conditions in children and adults.

Teri Robnett, with the Cannabis Patients Alliance, was the only non-scientist, non-medical person named to the Medical Marijuana Scientific Advisory Council.

Robnett has suffered 27 years with fibromyalgia, a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain and fatigue and sleep, memory, mood and digestive issues. In 2009 she began experimenting with cannabis.

“It completely changed my life,” Robnett said. It’s the only thing that’s alleviated her symptoms without serious side effects, she said.

She discerns a recent shift in the medical community’s attitudes toward marijuana. Scientists are less interested in questioning whether it has value as medicine, she said, and more interested in determining just how effective it is and how patients should be dosed.

Read the rest of the article at The Denver Post:

Categories: Medical & Research, Patients, Policy & Politics, Research

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