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After extensive deliberation among members of the Judiciary Committee, the debate over the legalization of medical marijuana has reached the floor of the legislature with the advancement of LB 643. Advancing with a significant committee amendment, the “Medical Cannabis Act” would permit the regulated prescription of medical marijuana under oversight from the Department of Health and Human Services and medical experts from across the state. The bill creates a registry of users to track those issued prescriptions.
Proponents of the act assert that marijuana and compounds contained in marijuana, called “cannabinoids” offer better potential for treatment of some medical conditions than those products and treatments currently approved by the Federal Food and Drug Administration. Some of these conditions include chronic pain, glaucoma, Tourette’s syndrome, epilepsy, and Crohn’s disease.
As a scientist and clinician, I have many technical and ethical concerns about the claims made about the use of medicinal marijuana. Controlled studies that demonstrate the efficacy of cannabinoids are minimal and results are ambiguous. Anecdotal evidence in specific cases have shown promise, but conclusive evidence supporting these anecdotal claims is lacking. One thing that is conclusive, however, is the dangerous and life-long physiologic effects cannabis use has on developing brains.
Many of the advocates for medical marijuana use children with uncontrolled seizures and the elderly in chronic pain as the greatest beneficiaries of legalization. In the absence of conclusive evidence of its efficacy and safety, we are utilizing these vulnerable populations as test subjects to build that data set. Simply put, this is not an approach I can support.
Diversion of marijuana prescribed for medical use to recreational users, especially young adults, is a major concern for me. The magnitude of the problem of diversion of controlled substances in our rural communities should not be underestimated. Opioid painkillers and ADHD drugs are routinely diverted from the individuals to whom they are prescribed, either intentionally or via theft, and abused by others. To claim it will not be an issue with medical marijuana is to ignore the reality of the problem we are facing with existing controlled substances.
I am not insensitive to the needs of those who have not found relief from currently available therapies. I am a strong proponent of biomedical research, access to clinical trials, and reducing barriers to accessing medical care. However, in the absence of definitive evidence to demonstrate its safety and efficacy, the known disadvantages of legalizing marijuana for medicinal use are too great for me to support LB 643.
Medical marijuana is a contentious issue across the country and I welcome your opinions or concerns regarding its potential legalization. To contact my office, please call 402-471-2732 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. For daily updates, please follow me on Twitter at @JohnKuehnDVM.
Senator John Kuehn, District 38