Patient self-determination, i.e. self-medicating with cannabis without the guidance or knowledge of a doctor, could pose ‘serious dangers’ according to Dr Kruger:
“My concern is that we’re back to the mid-19th Century with people running around selling “cure-alls,” these tinctures that often have high potency.
“But, we don’t have the evidence-based science that is required for a standard pharmaceutical to see what this is effective at treating.”
While cannabis was moved to a Schedule 2 status in the UK last November, the herbal plant remains a Schedule 1 drug in the US, meaning there is a limit on what research scientists can legally conduct, with funding for cannabis research often being impossible.
Dr Kruger also discussed the limits on research, and his concerns over a lack of standardisation for which cannabinoids, and their ratios, in cannabinoid-based medications:
“It’s so illegal at the federal level that basically researchers still have one hand tied behind their backs and a giant boxing glove on the other.
“It’s like if a physician handed you a bag of pills of all different colours, shapes with maybe some numbers on them and they said ‘here, take them until you feel better.’
“That’s effectively the state we’re in.”
The University of Michigan’s study limited its scope for conditions which can be treated with both cannabis and traditional, pharmaceutical medications, in order to create a genuine comparison.
It’s worth noting, however, that some patients incorrectly believe that cannabis can treat conditions like cancer itself – not just side effects of chemotherapy, like nausea.
The study also found that the majority of respondents viewed medical cannabis as a more cost-effective treatment than its pharmaceutical counterpart.
Price comparison, however, was not the main reason patients were ditching their pharmaceuticals.
Respondents preferred cannabis due to other advantages, such as its minimal side-effects.
Dr Kruger believes that this new evidence should be used to push forward with legalising cannabis for medical consumption on a Federal level, in order to maximise safety for patients who are inevitably going to use medical cannabis:
“The science of the practice has not kept pace with the very rapid legal changes. All policy should be driven by science.
“There’s a lack of integration of these systems’ of the medical cannabis industry, the law, clinicians and public health policy.
“And integration of these systems is what we’re pushing for.”