What is medical marijuana?

By Kenny Sui-Fung Yim

 

With Massachusetts voters’ approval of marijuana for medical purposes in 2012, it will soon be available as a drug therapy option in the state once legislation passes through Mass. bureaucracy.

According to federal law, recreational marijuana is illegal and is listed as a category 1 drug in the U.S. Controlled Substance Act.

Why use marijuana medically? It has proven benefits as an appetite stimulant and for pain relief. According to a review of studies published in June 2012 in “Nature Reviews,” cannabinoids have been shown to reduce tumor growth in animal models, along with reducing side-effects like nausea and vomiting caused by cancer chemotherapy.

For pain relief, marijuana is effective for treating neuropathic pain seen in spinal cord injury, diabetes and multiple sclerosis, among other illnesses. A double-blind study published in December 2012 in “The Journal of Pain” found that low doses of vaporized marijuana alleviated treatment-resistant neuropathic pain. Further studies showed that cannabis can augment the analgesic effects of opiates, and other traditional pain drugs, which causes 15,000 deaths annually due to overdose.

Massachusetts has its own legislation that allows the humanitarian medical use of marijuana in chapter 369 of the acts of 2012. The Health and Human Services Department of Massachusetts has a rigorous process for registration of marijuana dispensaries. As of January 2014, 20 out of 35 Mass. dispensary licenses have been verified, the second stage in a five-stage process set to finish in summer 2014.

Every county in Massachusetts is permitted to have up to five dispensaries. Two are in the pipeline in Boston. Recently, a medical marijuana dispensary gave a presentation about moving into the Theater District, not far from Chinatown. Good Chemistry of Massachusetts, Inc. grew out of a co-op in California, which expanded into Colorado in 2010.

Legally, individuals with a debilitating medical condition such as cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s or hepatitis C can request a physician’s written consent to obtain marijuana. Since recreational marijuana is still illegal nationally, there is uncertainty about these dispensaries’ client base.

Dispensaries will implement security measures to keep those without a prescription from obtaining marijuana. Good Chemistry proposed that dispensing agents check patient identification and registration cards against Department of Public Health registration databases. Only after the information is verified will the patient be allowed into the dispensary.

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