Thursday, February 25, 2010

UCSD Study: Pot Has Medical Benefits

The argument for the reform of marijuana laws gained some forward
momentum recently when a research team at University of California, San
Diego released findings stating "reasonable evidence" that
cannabis – better known as marijuana – is a promising treatment
for pain in some medical conditions.

But Dr. Igor Grant, MD, who directs the Center for Medicinal Cannabis
Research at UCSD is quick to separate the CMCR's findings from the
push to legalize pot.

"It's not my call to make," he says, "but I hope that
whatever social policy is developed will be informed by the medical
evidence, which provides some decent evidence that benefit comes from
medical marijuana."

The CMCR report represents the first significant research findings in
the U.S. on the subject in two decades. Long known as a choice of pain
relief and an appetite stimulant for HIV/AIDS patients, and for its use
in curbing nausea following chemotherapy until now there has been little
in the way of actual scientific evidence to demonstrate marijuana is any
better than any other drug currently available.

Why? For years, research has been hindered by the federal government.
The Nixon administration made marijuana a Schedule 1 controlled
substance along with heroin and PCP. Dr. Grant, executive vice-chair of
the Department of Psychiatry at the UCSD School of Medicine describes
the getting of legal marijuana for clinical study as a "cumbersome
process that involves many levels of federal government."

Illegal at the federal level, 14 states thus far have passed measures to
legalize medical marijuana, California first among them in 1996 with the
passage of SB 215. California legislature passed the Medical Marijuana
Research Act in 1999 and in 2000, the CMCR was formed to answer, once
and for all, whether marijuana has any therapeutic value.

Medical marijuana has also been at the forefront of local politics in
recent months. Following the Obama White House announcement last spring
that the feds would no longer enforce anti-marijuana laws, dispensaries
and storefronts opened in significant numbers throughout the county.
Some were legitimate distributors of medical marijuana but many were
not. Police and SWAT teams conducted raids in September of last year in
which 23 people were arrested and 14 storefronts were shut down.

By November of 2009, the San Diego City Council had created a Medical
Marijuana Task Force to help gather facts and create policy for an
ordinance to regulate storefront dispensaries.

Alex Kreit chairs the Task Force. He says the UCSD report was discussed
at the Task Force meeting February 19, and thinks it is significant but
will bear little influence on an issue that was already decided by the

"I think we see that our job is to think about how we can regulate
collectives and cooperatives in a way that is consistent with state
law," says Kreit. "I don't think we'll be looking too closely at
this report in our work."

Craig Beresch, president of the Southern California chapter of NORML, a
marijuana advocacy organization says he has had a chance to review the
CMCR report as well.

"We have a study that shows a positive result from the use of
medical marijuana," he says. "That's something that the
government is going to have to take seriously at this point."

About the author: Dave Good is a freelance writer, photojournalist, and
restless San Diegan. He writes about pop music and culture at large for
a number of publications including the San Diego Reader. His stories
have appeared in San Diego Magazine, Los Angeles Journal, Goldmine,
BluesWax, SignonSanDiego,, and more.

No comments: