32. Marijuana

August 19, 2016

Although I would listen to anyone who thinks he or she has an argument against it, I submit that everyone knows that the whole “medical marijuana” movement is just a thinly disguised and contemptuous subterfuge to use marijuana “recreationally”, the true meaning of which is, “at will”. The news story about Canadian use in Monday’s New York Times seems to support that position.


Personally, as a physician, with only a couple of exceptions, I have always been very skeptical of claims regarding the purported superiority of the medicinal benefits of marijuana plant over pharmaceutical medications. For example, it seemed to me that it may be a better option as an anti-nauseant for people undergoing cancer chemotherapy. But not, say, for nausea in pregnancy.

While it has also seemed to me that there should be vigorous scientific research into the actual benefits and disadvantages of medical marijuana use, it is clear that the political movement advocating its use has pushed far out ahead of any research efforts.

Without going to the trouble of collecting specific examples, because I don’t think facts are the issue for those who favor marijuana use, I will merely mention that in my on-line Continuing Medical Education reviews I see about one research abstract per week describing yet another adverse brain-health effect from marijuana use. I see few if any research papers supporting its safety and efficacy.

Reported are also very close correlations between marijuana use and earlier onset of serious brain disorders, like bipolar disease and schizophrenia. But those, I think, have not been shown to be causal, though that is sometimes the implication.

We are in the presence of a massive, profit-driven “natural experiment”. In which people are volunteering their brains to test the long-term results of THC intoxication. The only thing of which I am sure is that the likeliest chance of damage is to the developing brains of teens, whose forebrains, ironically, do not yet have the capacity to foresee and judge the risks. In another example of ‘experimental’ cart before ‘brain development’ horse, of 12 to 17-year-olds who die huffing solvents, 22% are trying it for the first time.

In the Canadian story one of the profit-driven dealers was appealing a denial of his license application for a shop that was not sufficiently distant from a school. Which was itself ironic, since the proximity rule seems laughably arbitrary and inadequate. What kid can’t walk the length of a football field?