The challenge to the public is that since the 1940s, medical bureaucrats and legislators have ignored the science pertaining to the use of cannabis as medicine. It is my concern that the same will be true for our Washington State Board of Health. If regulators do not understand the existing and emerging science of cannabis, they will be making poor decisions that not only do not benefit the health and well being of citizens; but could also arguably be causing harm in preventing citizens from accessing one of the least toxic forms of pain relief known to science.
Since the 1940s the federal government has commissioned expert medical panels to review scientific information about medical use of cannabis; and has done this almost every decade starting with the LaGuardia commission report in the 1940s, and continuing up to the most recent Institute of Medicine report in 1999. All of these reports repeatedly present the same conclusions based on the most up-to-date science available at the time their publication. They contain informative and straightforward information, stating the clear conclusion that scientific evidence indicates the safe and therapeutic effects of cannabis for pain.
If the Board of Health’s goal is to protect our citizens, the substitution of less harmful medicines in lieu of more harmful drugs, is compassionate and intelligent medicine. Cannabis is the least toxic of any pain reliever by almost any measure. It has never caused a single death, ever. Cannabis does not have to be smoked to be effective, and medical cannabis patients don’t have to get ‘high’ to experience pain relief. Over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen kill more Americans than most people are aware.
As citizens become more attuned to the benefits of cannabis as an inexpensive natural pain reliever that doesn’t have death as a side-effect, many forward thinking doctors are recognizing the amazing benefits of low-toxic cannabis for all types of pain and inflammation, including mild and moderate pain.
Cannabis is a botanical containing hundreds of pharmaceutical compounds that provide three major advantages over single molecule synthetic drugs: 1) The therapeutic effects of primary active ingredients of botanicals may be synergized with other compounds, 2) the side-effects of primary active ingredients may be mitigated by other compounds in the plant, and 3) botanicals in general, and cannabis in particular, have much lower toxicities than those of single molecule drugs.
Cannabis is a plant-based botanical medicine with extremely low toxicity. The Board of Health should understand that because of the unique nature of botanicals, the FDA actually considers botanical drugs to be in a different regulatory class from the regulatory policies applied to single molecule drugs. These federal policies are grounded in sound science, and can be referenced through the white paper published by the Department of Health and Human Services and the FDA.
Recently the Board of Health asked for public comments regarding the development of guidelines for physicians around medical cannabis. I wonder if anybody will be listening. Click here to read a copy of my letter to the board.
Thoughts or questions about this topic? I welcome your comments.
–Dr. Jake Felice, Redmond, Washington
As a post script, I’d like to say that I wish I would have added more information to the board regarding the synergy between opiate medications and cannabis. Cannabis not only helps opiate medications work better, it also helps patients use less of this highly toxic class of drugs.
Below are a few more peer reviewed references supporting this fact:
Synergistic interactions between cannabinoid and opioid analgesics http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14706563
Synergy btw THC and morphine in the arthritic rat http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17498686
Cannabis reduces opiate use in the treatment of non-cancer pain http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12782429
Synergistic and additive interactions of the cannabinoid agonist CP55,940 with mu opioid receptor and alpha2-adrenoceptor agonists in acute pain models in mice. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15778704
Additionally, there is a lot of good science showing synergistic effects between the molecule CBD and THC that I did not have time to explore in this letter. Feel free to comment or email me if you have any questions regarding these synergistic effects.