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Monday, May 08, 2006

Puffing is the Best Medicine



The Food and Drug Administration is contradicting itself. It recently reiterated its position that cannabis has no medical utility, but it also approved advanced clinical trials for a marijuana-derived drug called Sativex, a liquid preparation of two of the most therapeutically useful compounds of cannabis. This is the same agency that in 1985 approved Marinol, another oral cannabis-derived medicine.
 
Both Sativex and Marinol represent the "pharmaceuticalization" of marijuana. They are attempts to make available its quite obvious medicinal properties ? to treat pain, appetite loss and many other ailments ? while at the same time prohibiting it for any other use. Clinicians know that the herb ? because it can be smoked or inhaled via a vaporizer ? is a much more useful and reliable medicine than oral preparations. So it might be wise to consider exactly what Sativex can and can't do before it's marketed here.
 
A few years ago, the British firm GW Pharmaceuticals convinced Britain's Home Office that it should be allowed to develop Sativex because the drug could provide all of the medical benefits of cannabis without burdening patients with its "dangerous" effects ? those of smoking and getting high.
 
But there is very little evidence that smoking marijuana as a means of taking it represents a significant health risk. Although cannabis has been smoked widely in Western countries for more than four decades, there have been no reported cases of lung cancer or emphysema attributed to marijuana. I suspect that a day's breathing in any city with poor air quality poses more of a threat than inhaling a day's dose ? which for many ailments is just a portion of a joint ? of marijuana.
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