I am often asked about the true medical value in marijuana. There are, of course, many who feel it is a curse — an entry level portal to the dark world of drug abuse. In many cases they are correct. There is plenty of data to suggest that cannabis provides a cheap and convenient (and enjoyable) apprenticeship to the use of heroine and many other substances that have a consistent if not guaranteed tendency to make unproductive citizens of good people. Not to mention that the trade in this substance has been controlled by elements who tend to kill anyone who tries to take over any good sales contracts. But the Gateway theory has some flaws, and the predictability of harder drug use by recreational marijuana users is a little more complicated. And the actual science of cannabis is very compelling when used properly…
First there is a major distinction between the 2 major substances in marijuana: THC (the hallucinogen and molecule that makes one feel that they are back at Woodstock) and CBD or cannabidiol (the fatty acid that has myriad antiinflammatory and possible antibiotic effects). The cannabidiol component, unfortunately, is treated in much the same way as THC as far as the DEA and law enforcement is concerned. This fatty acid can do amazing things for individuals with autoimmune diseases such as lupus and multiple sclerosis (whatever they are, but more about that another time), and the bench science is growing. There is even evidence in animals that low doses of cannabinoids halts the progression of coronary artery disease.
There is no hallucinogenic effect from CBD. One cannot get stoned on it. Yet it may have tremendous value across a population for many patients suffering from any number of inflammatory conditions. One or two CBD gelcaps per day might significantly reduce the dosing needs for more toxic drugs such as methotrexate, for example, in patients with rheumatoid disease. There is a robust literature validating the benefits of CBD — again which is NOT psychoactive — in the management of many inflammatory conditions from allergies to rheumatoid conditions.
So where are the major medical specialties and organizations in attempting to educate the public and advocate for the responsible use of these? No shows, all of them. In our own state, our Minnesota Medical Association is somewhere between the end of Prohibition and Smoking is Bad for You. My own theory is that powerful lobbying groups are suppressing the development of this non psychoactive component of marijuana until the profits from it can be regulated so they go “to the right people”. Luckily, anyone can now get the CBD from refined hemp oil (which is legal) that contains next to zero THC. And patients are discovering this on their own as the marketplace stays ahead of the government. It is very unlikely that most primary MDs will have anything valuable to say about this great new tool. Hopefully, they will get some education in the next few years.