Medical Marijuana: To Legalize or Not, That Is the Question

The debate over medical marijuana is once again heating up at the state capitol. A recent news release, issued by the Pennsylvania Medical Society (PAMED) on Jan. 27, takes a look inside the medical marijuana state debate.

On one side are Senators Mike Folmer and Daylin Leach, who are seeking to legalize marijuana.

“I’m not saying marijuana is a cure, but people ought to have the opportunity for help,” Sen. Folmer recently told the Philadelphia Inquirer, citing anecdotal evidence from parents of children suffering from epilepsy who believe an oil derived from marijuana could work. “It was very compelling,” he said. “I learned that it is nontoxic, no one’s going to die. So I figured, no harm, no foul. There are too many sick people.”

However, state physicians led by PAMED say don’t be so quick to outright legalize medical marijuana.

Karen Rizzo, MD, president of PAMED, explains that legalizing medical marijuana without solid research doesn’t help build a path for the medical decision for the patient and the patient’s health care team to discuss.

“It’s like building a house without a foundation,” she said. “Maybe you’ll get lucky and the house will stand, but maybe not.”

As reported in the Dec. 11, 2014, edition of Neurology Advisor, “despite patients’ and parents’ perception of marijuana as an effective treatment for epilepsy, there is little evidence that proves this is not a placebo effect.”

Within the studies, researches carefully stated that no firm conclusions could be reached until better trials are conducted; thus leaving the door open that medical marijuana may or may not be helpful.

During the last legislative session, then-Governor Tom Corbett supported in-state research, giving lawmakers an opportunity to advocate for necessary funds. But, with the state budget crisis and the necessary research potentially costing millions of dollars, nothing was funded through the state last session.

“The worst thing we could do would be to sell medical marijuana as a ‘home run’ medication and the answer for patients with epilepsy,” concluded Dr. Rizzo in the news release. “If we do, that could be selling false hope to some parents who are desperate to help their children. Physicians are in the business of both caring and curing. We’ve got to fully understand how to use medical marijuana and who it will work on so that we’re not selling false hope to families.”

Read the full news release from PAMED.