Nevada conference examines medical marijuana research, politics
RENO, Nev. (AP) — Marijuana holds promising therapeutic value for a broad range of health patients, but further study is needed to determine what types of sufferers it can benefit, a conference of pain management experts was told Saturday.
At a symposium held in conjunction with the American Academy of Pain Management’s annual meeting, scientists discussed their latest research and the obstacles they face trying to develop marijuana for medicinal uses.
Dr. Mark Ware of Montreal’s McGill University said a pilot study is under way in Canada to determine marijuana’s effectiveness in reducing pain for a broad range of patients, including those with cancer, HIV, multiple sclerosis and arthritis.
“I think the question is: How many patients could be using it that aren’t using it?” said Ware, who heads the Canadian Consortium for the Investigation of Cannabinoids. “It’s clearly been effective for some people, and we’re trying to find out how useful it would be for others.
“It might not be good for everybody. Much more needs to be done to determine who can benefit from it,” Ware said.
Dr. Ethan Russo, a Missoula, Mont., neurologist and researcher with faculty appointments at the universities of Montana and Washington, accused the federal governmment of hampering marijuana research in the United States.
He said he won Federal Drug Administration approval for a study on marijuana’s effect on migraine treatment, but the National Institute on Drug Abuse wouldn’t supply the marijuana.
“We’re way behind other countries in this area and it’s because of politics,” said Russo, editor of the Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics. “There’s been a stigma attached to marijuana in the United States over the last 65 years.
“It’s clear that in the area of pain management a lot of treatments are lacking in efficacy, and marijuana has great promise. With government cooperation, we can do much more marijuana research in the U.S.,” Russo said.
Since California became the first state to approve medical marijuana in 1996, six other states have followed suit. But federal law prohibits the sale of marijuana for medical uses.
Despite the law, the federal government has approved 11 marijuana studies now under way in California, said J. Hampton Atkinson of the University of California’s Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research.
The studies will examine the effects of marijuana on a broad range of patients, including those with multiple schlerosis and nerve pain, he said, adding final action on four other other proposed studies is pending.
Dr. William Notcutt of Great Britain’s Norwich University said his studies to date have shown marijuana can benefit multiple sclerosis and chronic-pain patients with intractable symptoms.
Elvy Musikka, 63, of Orangevale, Calif., a glaucoma patient who has used marijuana for 26 years, criticized the federal government for restricting access to medical marijuana.
“It has worked miraculously for me from the start,” she said. “It’s the oldest medicine known to humanity, and I don’t believe more research is needed on it. We know marijuana works but we’re stalling for political reasons.”