Medical Cannabis “Lacks Serious Scientific Evidence” 

In a really bad week for medical marijuana, during the end of June, a new report was published in Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) that indicated how most of the conditions approved for medical marijuana treatment in the U.S. lack serious scientific evidence that would back marijuana as effective treatment for conditions such as glaucoma. The authors concluded that medical marijuana laws and conditions allowed under these laws have been approved based on “poor quality studies, patients’ testimonials or other nonscientific evidence.” Needles to say, medical marijuana opponents immediately jumped in and took it as a set-in-stone evidence that medical marijuana does not work. The JAMA report examined 79 previously published studies on the effects of medical marijuana.

What’s important here is to know how to read and interpret these findings, which can obviously be taken out of context.  The report didn’t prove that marijuana is not helpful in treating all those ailments; instead it reported that there is no evidence to that effect. Additionally, the JAMA review found solid evidence about the effectiveness of cannabis in treating chronic pain, which is something many opponents left out of their speeches. So what’s the overall conclusion of this largest review of the research on medical cannabis? Simply put, marijuana may help alleviate muscle stiffness and ease chronic pain, but as far as other conditions are concerned, existing studies haven’t found any good evidence to support claims of its effectiveness.

There is one important thing to consider when discussing the lack of evidence for medical marijuana – by employing strict rules and ignoring absurd obstacles, federal government has been keeping things extremely difficult for scientists who want to conduct research on the drug. What absurd obstacle are we talking about? Well, according to the federal law, marijuana is still illegal in the entire U.S. meaning there is a conflict of state and federal law. Until federal government removes marijuana from Schedule I category, which is reserved for the most dangerous drugs with no medicinal value, such as heroin, LSD and cocaine, any medical research would be difficult, as it takes a ridiculous amount of time to get all the permits.

Regarding the evidence on effectiveness of marijuana in chronic pain management found in the new JAMA review, it is safe to assume that marijuana could save lives, literally. Chronic pain management is a terrible business. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2013 prescription painkillers killed approximately 13,000 people. Prescription painkillers, aka opioids, are highly addictive and as you can see – deadly. Painkillers kill more people annually than car crashes, guns and suicide! Opioid abuse has become a problem of epidemic proportions.

Some reports suggest that there might be a decrease in opioid caused deaths in states that have legalized medical marijuana. This means that, when marijuana becomes a legal alternative to prescription opioids, it will save tens of thousands of lives.  Although some scientists warn that medical marijuana might not be the reason that caused this shift, the evidence strongly suggests so.