Easing Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms with Medical Marijuana
Marijuana has been a popular topic in the news because of California’s Proposition 19 on the November 2nd ballot next week. It could be a first step to a national policy even though this vote is for California only.
There are currently 14 states that have legalized or decriminalized medical marijuana. California is on that list and was actually the first to approve medical marijuana in 1996. Prop 19 is applicable to marijuana in general and described as the “Control and Tax Cannibus Act.” It covers both civil and criminal penalties. I do not know any details beyond that.
California is not the only state voting to legalize pot, but it certainly has the majority of media coverage. South Dakota, Oregon, and Arizona also have propositions or measures on the November ballot.
In a June 2006 Senate vote, legalizing marijuana was barely defeated. That same month and year, the NMMS announced its first funding of a marijuana clinical trial. This trial studied the effect of pot on spasms of MSers, and found it does reduce the effect. NMMS has also committed to a trial of the effect on pain. These efforts indicate a direction toward national acceptance of marijuana as a legal substance.
There is a long-term relationship between marijuana and multiple sclerosis. Anecdotal information tells us pot may reduce the effect of spasms, pain, and tremors. There are also stories that it helps with sleeping problems, depression and improves quality of life. There have been few clinical trials.
Besides smoking medical marijuana, there have been alternative therapies recommended for MS including Marinol pills, Sativex mouth spray and a handful of other products and therapies. Marinol is legal, but apparently not effective. Sativex has been prescribed to thousands in Europe and Canada, but not the United States. Medical marijuana is decriminalized in a few countries such as Canada, Finland, Israel and The Netherlands and in some individual states in the U.S.
Let’s look at a case against pot and the validity of that case. Why is medical marijuana so controversial? There is often fear that it is addictive. The Medical Marijuana Magazine published a comparison of studies of addiction to marijuana, heroin, cocaine, alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine.
Most people compare the evils of marijuana with alcohol or nicotine, but that is not the best comparison. The severity of addiction is actually rated the same or less than that of caffeine. I wonder what the reaction would be if caffeine were suddenly prohibited.
When I had the opportunity to interview two neurologists who are active in MS research, I asked about Medical Marijuana. They both reminded me they are in urban settings, and they were both concerned about abuse.
A small study in Canada found some cognitive and emotional problems with MSers who smoked. One of the strongest arguments against pot is the fact that it is illegal. About 1% of the California prison population is for pot-related offenses. In the U.S. in 2006, 800,000 people were arrested for possession, many of them using it because of a chronic disease.
How is Proposition 19 faring in this election?
One week before the election, George Soros donated $1 million to help Proposition 19 pass. Is it too late for that donation to make a difference? At that time, polls showed most voters against it, but other polls show a close call. There are people supporting the proposition that say it will result in more jobs. At the same time, people opposing it say it will cost jobs.
California has some work to do in the event marijuana becomes legal. The way this proposition is worded, it sounds like most of the regulations would be the responsibility of local areas, but the state has areas or infrastructure not otherwise covered, such as state highways.
I find the topic of medical marijuana frustrating. People with chronic illnesses hear of possible benefits but are unable to try it out. Research is restricted and controlled. A small number of MSers embrace this alternative treatment while the U.S. Government stands firmly against it. What a shame it is to deny relief from pain to suffering citizens.
I think the best idea is for an individual to work with his or her doctor to determine the most useful treatments for health or well-being. The Libertarian viewpoint is that we each have the right to make our own decisions, even where drugs are concerned. I prefer to decide for myself. Don’t you?
Even if one takes every reefer madness allegation of the prohibitionists at face value, marijuana prohibition has done far more harm to far more people than marijuana ever could. ~ William F. Buckley, Jr.
Notes and Links:
Mandy Crest’s article on the Marijuana Controversy
Here is an article I wrote in 2008 - Marijuana and MS
Dave Boaz writes Drug Legalization and the Right to Control Your Body