The debate on medicinal cannabis is as hazy as ever

The debate on medicinal cannabis is as hazy as ever

by Jonathan Stanley
article from Saturday 24, February, 2018

I FIND FEW THINGS in medicine as bizarre as the medical marijuana debate. And it has a lot of competition.

It attracts, centrists, libertarians (not me) and socialists alike. It is enticing as being a forbidden fruit, a wonder drug cruelly denied to us by big Pharma and big government. It is the perfect quack medicine because its illegality forbids any serious investigation of the drug clinically in its impure form.

At the same there is something rather primitivist about the whole thing. Only an idiot devoid of medical knowledge would read conclusive proof of purified cannabinoid extracts and decide we should legalise lawn clippings for patients to eat in cakes, or maybe smoke it, or make a decoction or a poultice or maybe just leave it to stew in a bowl of milk under the bed on a Wednesday night. 

It’s drivel. We have used medicinal extracts from plants for millennia. We still do. Imagine a poor child with leukaemia, his sad wee face, weeping mother and a lefty nutter advocating we must allow him to buy Periwinkle Tea if nothing else works. Oh there’d be a field day wouldn’t there? Pink-haired braless activists with their pink Periwinkle badges outside the high court demanding action.

Of course this doesn't happen does it? Drinking Madagascan Periwinkle Tea would make you feel sick, has no recreational drug use, and given we can produce highly purified vinblastine and vincristine who would seriously funnel this gunk down a child´s throat? The concentration of the drug would vary; other alkaloids would have side affects. 

Let’s think of a favourite uncle who drinks too much with a ruddy face who suddenly has a raging pain in his toe. Crocus Tea anyone? Or shall he smoke a dried autumn crocus so the colchicine it contains can soothe the rheumatism? Foxgloves for heart failure? Or maybe some opium on toast for backpain?

Odd isn’t it that colchicine, digoxin and morphine are available in pill form yet the medical potheads want marijuana supplied as a plant? I wonder what they’ve been smoking? Cannabidiol is therapeutically effective. Synthetic cannabinoids are on the market and available or prescription for CERTAIN indications.  

It would be no issue whatsoever for the NHS to produce a generic solid or liquid formulation of cannabinoids with a standardised purity and strength that could be issued on a named patient basis as it has done with methadone for decades. The real reason for the medical marijuana campaign is because activists want access to... marijuana. 

Once legalised the secondary market becomes obvious. I have little issue with legalising cannabis. I’m neutral on it really but a system that ensured that products were labelled clearly for their strength combined with a licence declaring no prior mental illness would work fine and should be argued on its own merit

Using patients to soften up the system for legalising cannabis products for recreational use is selfish and cowardly. People can use standardised cannabinoids for therapy without any hashish floating around the streets just as cancer patients today enjoy the benefits of morphine and codeine without opium dens flourishing.

The evidence that cannabinoids have a place in medicine compliments over a century of efforts by pharmacy to ensure the medicines we consume are safe as possible by ensuring the correct dose and purity. If marijuana was not pleasurable there is absolutely no way activists would be campaigning for this. Even black market cannabis for medical use is cheap compared to many therapeutics. 

But legalised cannabis would be so much cheaper and this campaign is a wedge to ensure that. That, I feel, is what has always supported this movement. 

Patients deserve better than that. They deserve honesty.

Let’s start with a debate on licensing more cannabinoids more cheaply. It can be done with ease. As for legalising the fun stuff, let’s have that too. We do not need to confuse the two.

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