Prescription for Pot: A Debate on the Merits of Medical Marijuana


The medical marijuana debate isn't going away any time soon. See what our experts have to say about the latest information and tell us what you think.

The use of marijuana for medicinal purpose has been a hotly debated topic in the United States. While cannabis is still listed as an illegal narcotic under federal law, 15 states and the District of Columbia have statutes decriminalizing medicinal marijuana as therapy for specific ailments. Recently, the American Medical Association released a report urging review of marijuana as a schedule one controlled substance, noting that physicians should be protected from prosecution for recommending marijuana and that further studies should be conducted into marijuana’s use as medicine.

To provide further insight on this controversy, MD Magazine Peers & Perspectives convened two leading experts in the field to debate the merits or lack thereof of medical marijuana. The panel was moderated by Peter Salgo, MD, professor of anesthesiology and internal medicine at Columbia University. The panelists were Joel W. Hay, PhD, a professor of clinical pharmacology and pharmaceutical economics and policy at the Shafer Center for Health Policy and Economics in the school of pharmacy at the University of Southern California, and Joseph I. Sirven, MD, professor and chairman of the department of neurology at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona.

The panelists discussed the potential of medical marijuana for treating a variety of different conditions and their symptoms, including analgesia, problems with appetite, and spasticity. But they agreed that there are many unanswered questions regarding the use of medical marijuana.

Hay said one of his issues with the use of medical marijuana is that fact that it is unpredictable because it has not gone through the FDA’s approval process in which the active ingredient is isolated and purified, then used to develop a pharmacologic standard product.

Sirven said that despite the clinical research proponents point to as underscoring the efficacy of medical marijuana, most physicians still seem to be uncomfortable with it. “There’s that very distinct stigma that’s still attached to the discussion of the drug, for wrong or right,” Sirven said.

To read the entire article based on the roundtable discussion, click here.

We want to know what you think:

Do you believe that marijuana is a legitimate tool for the treatment of certain conditions? Do you believe there is enough clinical research to support its use? Although medical marijuana has been approved by a number of states, it is still a Federal crime for physicians to prescribe marijuana for medical reasons. Do you believe the Federal government should change these laws?

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