Guest column: Science backs benefits of medical marijuana

By Bonni Goldstein

Florida voters will have the opportunity this fall to make the Sunshine State the 21st in the nation to allow seriously ill people to legally obtain and use medical cannabis, also commonly referred to as medical marijuana, upon their doctor’s recommendation.

As a medical physician with more than 20 years’ experience, I have witnessed firsthand the improved quality of life and relief from debilitating symptoms that cannabis-based medicines can provide to those suffering from cancer, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and many other serious illnesses. I hope compassion and science win out on Election Day.

During the past several decades, researchers have published thousands of journal studies documenting the therapeutic actions of cannabinoids, the compounds found in the cannabis plant. The medical literature clearly demonstrates these compounds have scientifically-proven benefits for people suffering with chronic pain, nausea, inflammatory conditions and numerous other illnesses that respond poorly to conventionally available treatments.

This mounting evidence is why prestigious groups such as the American College of Physicians, the American Academy of Family Physicians, American Nurses Association and others have endorsed efforts to change the law so suffering patients can have access to this medicine without having to fear arrest, prosecution and incarceration.

In my own medical practice, I have evaluated many patients who have reported excellent results with medical cannabis use. They have suffered for years with difficult illnesses like rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, disabling back pain, migraine headaches and PTSD. The majority of my patients who use medical cannabis experience better control of pain, more restful sleep, less anxiety, decreased nausea and reduced use of pills. These patients report little to no side effects. Smoking can be avoided since cannabis can be used in a vaporizer, as a tincture or edible or topically.

During the past few years, there has been much interest in cannabidiol (CBD), a previously little-known compound found in the cannabis plant. Unlike the popularly known compound THC, which is known for causing cannabis’ intoxicating effect, CBD is non-psychoactive, meaning it does not cause any “high.” It has, however, been found to have potent anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving, anti-convulsant, anti-oxidant, anti-anxiety, anti-psychotic and anti-tumor effects.

In California and Colorado, some cannabis is being grown specifically to increase the CBD levels and to decrease the THC levels. These strains are being tested and made available to patients.

CBD also is being used in certain pediatric conditions, such as difficult-to-treat epilepsy, autism and aggressive cancer. I have witnessed a number of pediatric patients improve from 30 seizures a day to almost seizure-free with the use of sublingual CBD oil, without any of the toxic side effects typical of prescribed medication.

Cannabis has a much lower risk of dependency than commonly used prescription painkillers. The World Health Organization reports, “There are no recorded cases of overdose fatalities attributed to” its use. Allowing medical cannabis to be a legitimate choice for patients will likely help to mitigate some of the prescription drug addition problems that have plagued Florida in recent years.

Fortunately, it seems a majority of Florida voters agree it is time for this sensible step. In a recent poll by Quinnipiac University, Floridians approved, by a strong margin of 82 percent to 16 percent, the concept of letting patients use cannabis if it is recommended by their doctors, with just a few small percentage points of the electorate remaining undecided.

The common-sense initiative on November’s ballot is not about the widespread debate the country is having about the legalization of cannabis; it would simply let physicians decide what’s best for their patients. Ill patients should have the ability to discuss any viable treatment option with their physicians, and cannabis should be an option.

The science is irrefutable that cannabis is a helpful medicine. Floridians should vote yes, for compassion’s sake.

http://www.floridatoday.com/article/20140302/COLUMNISTS0205/303020004/Guest-column-Science-backs-benefits-medical-marijuana

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