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Yes, there needs to be more research, and No, there doesn't

The Los Angeles Times lauds the American Medical Association’s reversal, but fails to understand basic facts.

For all the debate over whether marijuana has medicinal value, arguments that the drug has significant palliative properties or that it has none suffer from the same flaw: There’s little scientific proof either way.

This lack of conclusive evidence isn’t accidental. In 1970, Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act, classifying marijuana — which had been illegal since 1937 — as a Schedule I drug, which meant that it had a high potential for abuse and no medicinal value. In keeping with this position, the government has allowed only the University of Mississippi to cultivate research-grade marijuana, and has so restricted access to its small supply that determining the drug’s efficacy is for all intents and purposes impossible. […]

The states that have legalized the drug’s use for medicinal purposes have done so on the basis of a small body of research and a large amount of anecdotal evidence, but more facts are needed.

Wrong.

Yes, it’s good that the AMA is encouraging more research. More research is always good. I’m in favor of more research. And yes, there has been a squelching of research because of the Schedule 1 status of marijuana. That needs to stop.

But that doesn’t mean that there is insufficient evidence to determine whether marijuana is medicine, nor that it is merely “anecdotal.”

This is because the vast majority of use of medical marijuana is for symptom relief, not for cures. Proof of symptom relief is simple.

  • You have a symptom (pain, nausea, etc).
  • You do something for the symptom
  • The symptom goes away – the something worked… or
  • The symptom doesn’t go away – the something didn’t work. Try something else.

You don’t need double blind test groups. You need one individual and his or her doctor (See the Institute of Medicine’s 1999 Report calling for N of 1 trials.) The doctor asks, “Did the pain go away after taking it?” “Yes.” “Then it worked.” Period.

It doesn’t matter if it was a placebo, a Hostess Twinkie, or prayer. If it relieves the symptoms, it works. The only issue is whether the side effects of the treatment are worse than the symptom or the side effects of other effective treatments. And we know that marijuana’s side effects are ridiculously better than just about anything else.

Now it’s an entirely different story if you’re looking for a cure. Let’s say I believe marijuana cures cancer. It’s not enough to believe it, because someone could end up taking marijuana instead of following other proven treatments that might save their life. Therefore proof (of the kind they’re always talking about) is necessary (and I hope they do the research to determine if this is true.)

There are tons of evidence to support the vast majority of medical marijuana usages to date. And there’s no reason to deny people their relief until some medically unnecessary standard is reached.

If a patient said that they didn’t want pain pills, but would rather relieve the pain through prayer, we might be skeptical, but we wouldn’t deny them the opportunity to find out. If they said that prayer would cure their cancer and they shouldn’t take any other treatments, we’d be horrified and try to convince them to take medical advice.

But we wouldn’t criminalize prayer.

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22 comments to Yes, there needs to be more research, and No, there doesn’t

  • R.O.E.

    Do we exist in hell? It seems to me that if we do something to ease symptoms that may also make you FEEL GOOD, we cant have it.

    “It makes you feel good? Oh no,no,no we cant have that here. Now we have to put you in a cage! How do you feel now?”

    Really? Are we not allowed to feel good with out waking with a massive headache?

  • Bruce

    There needs to be a civilian version of the LRAD
    Imagine the loudest F@CK YOU!!! ever heard…

  • ezrydn

    And what’s so wrong with “anecdotal evidence?” If you have 100 people who say that something they use helps them, is that to be totally disregarded because some clinician hasn’t finished his lab studies yet? Anecdotal evidence saved a lot of lives in combat. We didn’t need to hear the zing of a round passing our head to make an imperical decision.

  • Duncan

    There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence that people that consume cannabis are cheeto munching couch potatoes who aspire to become Cheech and Chong.

    There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence that cannabis has ‘ruined people’s lives’. Ask 10 people, several will verify it’s a fact, and cite ‘people they knew’ in high school or college. (Funny thing here is that I’m sure those who went to school with me are using me as that person, lol)

    There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence that cannabis leads to hardcore drug addiction.

    Now, did you really need an answer to the question, what’s wrong with anecdotal evidence?

  • claygooding

    Even though marijuana is a schedule 1 drug,it has been tested and studied probably more than any other drug already. The National Institute of Drug Abuse has run so many tests and studies on marijuana even they are embarrassed because they haven’t been able to find any dangers that justify marijuana being a schedule 1 drug.
    Since their inception,their job has been find harm in marijuana and the best they can come up with are phrases like “could be connected with” or “shows possible links with”. They still can’t find the “smoking” gun.
    And our government and all it’s bureaucratic empire’s
    that depend on marijuana remaining illegal for their rice bowl are scrambling now,trying to figure out how they are going to exist in a world where their only reason for costing us millions in tax dollars is gone.
    Another review isn’t necessary for congress to remove marijuana from schedule 1. All they have to do is drag out any review they have had since 1972 and follow the science. Hopefully they will follow the recommendations of the 1972 Schaeffer Report(spelling) and decriminalize marijuana and just leave it alone,but with all the screaming and moaning coming from the ONDCP and his band of tax dollar bandits,I doubt they will use any common sense,they have managed too avoid common sense in any decision they have made lately,and I don’t expect them to listen to any now.

  • Nick Zentor

    All depends on who is supplying the anecdote and how much actual truth there is to it. If it comes from NORML, chances are it is much closer to the truth than if it comes from the ONDCP or DEA. They have a history of spinning lies and propaganda from mere twice-removed rumors.

    I seriously hope that the conclusion of this article does not become the new favorite excuse for the feds to continue to criminalize cannabis possession for another 50 years. I don’t think I have that many years left in this pathetic excuse for a democracy.

    The way I see it is the evidence presented by the past 15 years of California should be enough to convince everyone that cannabis use has real medicinal value. Are they so blind they cannot see that?

  • divadab

    Great argument, sir! Criminalize prayer, eh? Now who would do such an evil thing? Godless communists!

    Marijuana prohibition is a Godless communist plot! Why didn’t I see this before?

  • R.O.E.

    (And our government and all it’s bureaucratic empire’s
    that depend on marijuana remaining illegal for their rice bowl are scrambling now,trying to figure out how they are going to exist in a world where their only reason for costing us millions in tax dollars is gone.)

    Clay, I dont think have any problem finding ways to take or waste our taxes. Take a look at the health care bill or the coming cap and tax bill. I’m sure they have others in the works too. Oh, prohibition maybe ending but, they are working real hard to find ways to replace the lost revenue.

    Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends [life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness] it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government…
    Thomas Jefferson (The Declaration of Independence)

    The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.
    Thomas Jefferson (1743 – 1826)

    Government big enough to supply everything you need is big enough to take everything you have … The course of history shows that as a government grows, liberty decreases.
    Thomas Jefferson (1743 – 1826)

  • this is just another great example of how they keep the merry-go-round spinning.

    medical marijuana is a red herring — and there are still far too many sea gulls in the drug law reform “movement” gulping it down.

    the csa was designed to control *medicine* — yet, the vast majority of pot smokers do not use it as a “medicine” at all. so let’s stop drinking the kool-aid on medical marijuana already!

    why should my recreational intoxicant be judged on whether or not it has medical efficacy? it shouldn’t!!!

    it’s well past time to stop being distracted by the herring brigades

  • Duncan

    Wow, in 1990 to 1993 I was very active in NORML. One day a fellow named Dennis Peron showed up trying to get NORML behind this idea which eventually became Proposition 215 in CA. I had no use for medical cannabis, and after it became apparent that NORML was going whole hog behind it I decided it wasn’t worth my while because goddammit I was a recreational user, and didn’t see how medical cannabis benefited me or my ilk.

    In 2000 one of my dearest friends was diagnosed with leukemia. It wasn’t long before I saw how heinously wrong I was in 1993. He passed away in 2002. If I59 in the District is implemented in the near future I’m going to open a dispensary and dedicate it to my friend’s memory.

    Try watching someone you love die at 49. Watch him go bald, lose weight, barf on cue, lose so much weight he makes the Auschwitz guys look well fed, get the call one Saturday morning that your friend is dead, then get back to me if you feel the same way about medical cannabis.

  • Bruce

    Hear hear Duncan
    My good Buddy Doug just lost his sweet Sandy to Leukemea,
    A once-avid mountaineer, she was the last person one would expect it to happen to. It was hard on me watching her go, cannot imagine his anguish. If I had a spliff I would light it in her honor.
    siggh a cigarette will do. For you…Sandy.

  • Bruce

    Leukemia 2. Towards the end Sandy came to me asking I I could score some weed for her. Sure no problem I said and went off on a multi town journey to try and get some…
    As one would expect not the best quality service from street level dealers and did finally find some but only after several experiences straight from the Twilight Zone.
    Lucky to survive it. The stuff needs to be legalized, and be quick about it.

  • jayrollinhippy

    There are volumes of reshearch done on the medicinal propetys of cannabis done prior to the passage of the 1936 marijuana tax stamp act. It was this very reshearch that caused the late Dr. Todd Mikiyura An advid govt prohb shill to change his mind and become one of the leading proponets in the medical marijuana movement in California. I dont know if it still exist or not but Dr. Todds web site listed over 180 conditions that could benifit from cannabis

  • R.O.E.

    Here here Duncan, I watched my father and grandmother go through the very same thing with cancer. Medical cannabis helps sick,period! No testing or studies needs. Will it kill cancer or help cure other deseases, maybe, let make it so we can test more and find out! Does cannabis kill people? NO! its safer than alcohol. We have a right to our choice of relaxtion or intocicant. ITS MY BODY!

  • @duncan

    no offense, and i hate to break it to you, but everybody dies. sorry, my friend but med pot in california has done nothing to stop a new record number of arrests for marijuana possession every year. and it still won’t help you keep your job i you get tagged via piss test.

    keep chugging the rootin’ tootin’ raspberry if it amuses you, but here we are 13 years later, and you will still lose your job if you get tagged on a piss test.

  • Duncan

    If its a choice between medical and recreational legalization I vote to forego recreational legalization as I think relieving the suffering of the sick much more important, hands down. Yes, everyone dies, but not everyone dies equally.

    I think AB390 will pass next year now that the CMA has made its proclamation, and you’ll be shocked to learn that you still likely won’t have any protection from being fired if you agree to provide your tinkle for a test and test positive. I solved that problem by refusing to work for anyone that engages in that behavior.

  • Duncan

    Oh, I’d use Quickfix 4.0 if I wanted to pass a whiz quiz, not any magic elixir scam. I have no clue what rootin’ tootin’ raspberry is but synthetic urine and substitution is the way to go if you do decide it’s ok to work for assholes.

  • just a slight back-up to brian’s comment…

    Re-legalization is not just for “recreational” users. Re-legalization offers the most protection to the most people – as in all of us.

  • skootercat

    Re-legalization makes the medical issue somewhat moot does it not?

  • DdC

    Yes, there needs to be more drug worrier lobotomy’s.
    We gotta stop hiring illiterate bureaucrats,
    Or supporting media gossip and dribble.
    More research, there hasn’t been a plant researched more,
    The past research was re-evalutaions of past research,
    including the 1999 IOM, sitting 3 admins at the HHS.
    Different results is what these insane futhermuckers mean.

    Politics of Pot

    Cannabis Shrinks Tumors: Government Knew in 74
    “The DEA quickly shut down the Virginia study and all further cannabis/tumor research, according to Jack Herer, who reports on the events in his book, The Emperor Wears No Clothes. In 1976, President Gerald Ford put an end to all public cannabis research and granted exclusive research rights to major pharmaceutical companies, who set out — unsuccessfully — to develop synthetic forms of THC that would deliver all the medical benefits without the “high.””

    Medical Marijuana Throughout History

    “”… as a multipurpose plant, ganga is used medicinally, even by non-smokers. ….

    There were no indications of organic brain damage or chromosome damage among smokers and no significant clinical psychiatric, psychological or medical) differences between smokers and controls.”

    “No impairment of physiological, sensory and perceptual performance, tests of concept formation, abstracting ability, and cognitive style, and tests of memory”

    “[Cannabis smoking] does not lead directly to mental or physical deterioration…

    Those who have consumed marijuana for a period of years showed no mental or physical deterioration which may be attributed to the drug.””
    ~ Jamaican Study 1974

    HASHISH FUDGE Soma and the Wootton Report

    “”Having reviewed all the material available to us we find ourselves in agreement with the conclusion reached by the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission appointed by the Government of India (1893-94) and the New York Mayor’s Committee (1944 – LaGuardia) that the long-term consumption of cannabis in moderate doses has no harmful effects” “the long-asserted dangers of cannabis are exaggerated and that the related law is socially damaging, if not unworkable””

    Major Studies of Drugs and Drug Policy

    LaGuardia Commission Report, 1944
    “”Cannabis smoking] does not lead directly to mental or physical deterioration… Those who have consumed marijuana for a period of years showed no mental or physical deterioration which may be attributed to the drug.””

    Indian Hemp Drugs Commission Report

    “”The commission has come to the conclusion that the moderate use of hemp drugs is practically attended by no evil results at all. … …moderate use of hemp… appears to cause no appreciable physical injury of any kind,… no injurious effects on the mind… [and] no moral injury whatever.””

  • Couple of thoughts on the nature of proof, evidence, placebo, anecdotes and the such. I’d hate if we started ignoring important scientific issues “because we just know” or got into our head that “placebo can eat my a$$”

    Anecdotes are where it all start. Hardly a a thing has been subjected to rigorous scientific scrutiny that didn’t start out as an idea sparked by “someone who saw A happening and the B followed immediately” or “this guy told me he did ibogaine and ever since he’s not been addiction to …”.

    That’s good. It’s just not proof, and it doesn’t help at this stage to just compile 100 similar anectotes, and then another 1000 and then 10.000.

    Anecdotal evidence has severe selection biases that may fool even the unreasonable skeptics among us.

    We know we tend to look for things that confirm our ideas. “LOOK, he’s a wreck and he smokes marijuana”. Just study the sordid history of homeopathy, that most inefficient “medicine” that’s been outright killed by science, yet still prevails commercially and in the minds of may practitioners because they are not aware how important it is to stay clear of our perceptual pitfalls.

    Science gets sophisticated when there is a clear selection protocol that allows us to count both the hits and misses. And the protocol should ideally try to reduce and not increase or ignore confounding variable.

    Placebo is also insidious and I’d want to pull out that factor and quantify it. One thing with placebo is its complex and border-line scary nature, yet decent scientists are quite often able to quantify it so that the pure, unadulterated drug effect only remains.

    Sure, it’s easier with stuff that’s not blatantly psykoactive. Still, there are study designs that spring to mind. Like the one comparing actual instances of vomiting in cancer patients. A baseline exists if one cares to look for (naseau) untreated individuals and those on placebo shots/pills and a variety of existing medicines designed to minimize naseau and vomiting. One might also adminstrate a “synthetic, cannabinoid with the same anti-emetic properties and the natural plant, only you don’t get high at all” – it would be lying, of course, but with enough groups getting different stuff and getting different expectations, or even double-blinding everything, would allow reseqarchers to work out these things pretty precisely.

    There needs to be some DIFFERENT research these days instead of the blatantly political crap going on where everyone has already written their conclusions before getting started.

    It’s like … we get it, inject a mouse with the THC equivalent of 7 kilos of good hashish had it been tried on a human and it might be a little bit more susceptible to herpes simplex (cold sores). Move on, please.

    I just bet the lowered bar for what passes as science in the illicit drug field has attracted some of the worst researchers to the field ever. Ricaurte anyone?

  • DdC

    Anecdotal is an overused boring buzzword. Science has concluded the results of Ganja. Anecdotal keeps it prohibited. Anecdotal is only the start of home remedies, not chemicals. Substances have known properties and they constantly react the same way under the same conditions. Tensile strength in Hemp or nausea relief from Ganja either is or it is not. Science and laymen have both proven the results of Ganja and only prohib idiots keep using buzzwords as red herrings.

    Homeopathic is the same as Pharmaceuticals in mimicking the body to do what it used to do naturally. Ganja rejuvenates the cells to their original condition or position. The only reason for Ganja prohibition is greed. Ugly mean nasty people keeping this oldest of medicines off the market shelves along with the first harvested crop, Hemp. Science has become or always was the whore of business. Bidding for their masters signing the grant checks. hats why we have no cures since Polio. Too many profits lost to the steel and leather brace companies.

    Thats why we don’t research sub atomic substances and spend huge hunks of taxes bombing the moon. Science gave us White Powders, Booze, Aspartame, Saccharin and Agent Orange. Nature gives us Ganja. In addition, using this lame buzzword and disregarding the 40 years of neocon pseudo conservative sabotage. Monopolies on buds, lies, manipulations, cover-ups and red herrings like “Anecdotal”. Political science of the prohibitionists is what is Anecdotal. Censorship doesn’t mean lack of evidence. It means evidence is not examined. Patents finding relief for thousands of years are not Anecdotal! The AMA/FDA are Fascists, corporatists working for profits on products, not science.
    Anecdotal This!

    Ganja/Hemp

    Proven : Cannabis is a safe medicine by Ian Williams Goddard
    CANNABIS DOES NOT CAUSE CANCER
    BOSTON, Jan. 30, 1997 (UPI)

    The U.S. federal government has failed to make public its own 1994 study that undercuts its position that marijuana is carcinogenic – a $2 million study by the National Toxicology Program. The program’s deputy director, John Bucher, says the study “found absolutely no evidence of cancer.” In fact, animals that received THC had fewer cancers. Bucher denies his agency had been pressured to shelve the report, saying the delay in making it public was due to a personnel shortage.
    continued…

    Is The US Playing Politics With Pot Research?
    By Paul Armentano, Special to Betterhumans, 10/6/2004

    For three decades, politicians and bureaucrats have ignored research on marijuana’s role in cancer prevention. Clinical research published recently in the journals Cancer Research and BMC Medicine touting the ability of cannabis to stave the spread of certain cancers is the latest in a three-decade long line of studies demonstrating pot’s potential as an anticancer agent. Not familiar with this research? You’re not alone. continued…

    US Government Patents Medical Pot
    July 3rd, 2008 By: Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director

    There’s a Monopoly on Marijuana Growing & Research By Dave Stancliff
    CN Source: Times-Standard August 09, 2009 USA

    I’d like you to meet Dr. Mahmoud ElSohly, the only person in the United States who can grow tons of marijuana and not worry the Feds will bust him. If your company wants to do research on marijuana, he’s the guy to see. Dr. ElSohly’s lab at the University of Mississippi has an exclusive contract with the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), which supplies the pot to approved researchers who study its ill effects.