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ASAM professionals say no such thing as ‘medical marijuana’

Peter Bensinger speaks during a press conference held by ASAM opposing medical marijuana legislation.
Peter Bensinger speaks during a press conference held by ASAM opposing medical marijuana legislation.

Doctors would have no way to prescribe accurate doses of legalized marijuana if an Illinois bill passes allowing pot to be sold for medicinal purposes, a group of medical professionals said Thursday.

Doctors from the American Society of Addiction Medicine, a professional society made up of more than 3,000 members, said marijuana is unstable, unpredictable, and in no way should be considered medicine.

Last Wednesday, the Illinois House approved the HB0001 bill, moving it to the Illinois state Senate for further action. That bill would allow for someone diagnosed with a “debilitating medical conditions” to have access to prescribed medical marijuana.

“Passing state-level legislation to legalize marijuana for use by sick people would put Illinois, and its citizens, on a dangerous path,” ASAM president Dr. Stuart Gitlow said at a press conference Thursday in Chicago. “We can have compassion for the sick and the dying, but we should do so within proper research and scientific protocols.”

Gitlow compared the potential passing of the bill to the promotion of cigarettes for medical purposes in the 1930s. Gitlow said, in the time when cigarette ads and medical journals promoted using particular brands of cigarettes for sore throats, the rate at which people became sick and died due to smoking rose dramatically.

Sixty-one representatives backed the bill.

“Marijuana for medicinal use has been clinically proven to not have some of the severe consequences as other medicinal alternatives have,” said Matt Trewartha, legislative aide to Rep. Robyn Gabel (D-Evanston), chief co-sponsor of the bill. “Some of the opposition is based on the fact that users will use marijuana as a gateway drug. Those who would be prescribed this drug are generally well beyond the age of using it as a gateway drug; chances are they would have found a way to use it as a gateway drug prior in their life.”

But residents like Joshua Ton, 34, interviewed in front of a Columbia College Chicago building, say the legalization of marijuana as medicine is a step in the right direction.

“You either have to take the view that drugs are a social problem or medical,” Ton said, as he lit a cigarette. “Addiction is a medical problem; it’s social only because we criminalize it, it’s a crime to be addicted to something. It’s pro-medical, not anti-decriminalizing.

And Brianna Bramlett, 19, a student, said she doesn’t have a problem with people using marijuana.

“I think it should be passed just so people stop complaining about it,” she said. “If this bill is passed, I’m not going to start using marijuana. I have no need to start using drugs, if people want to start, then just let them.”

Drs. Andrea Barthwell and John Peterson said FDA approval is essential for a new drug to be put on the market. Peterson said marijuana could not be passed as medicine due to its lack of FDA approval and its dangerous method of consumption. [To listen to the full press conference, click here.]

“Cannabis, cannabis-based medicines, and cannabis delivery systems should be subject to the same standards that are applicable to other prescription medications,” Barthwell said. “These medications and devices should not be distributed unless and until they receive marketing approval from the FDA.”

In addition to its lack of approval, marijuana proves is an addictive drug, said Dr. Michael Miller, a past president of ASAM. Miller said the process of addiction to marijuana, regarding brain chemistry and manifested side effects, is similar to that of alcohol, cigarettes, and other drugs. Miller said the legalization issue is not an argument of compassion for those in need of relief, but one about a legislative reform that is attempting to present a new product under the guise of being something helpful, when, in fact, it has not undergone necessary processes.

Gitlow said “medical marijuana” implies that the drug has been synthesized, which it is not.

“So, when we talk about the potential medical uses of the components of marijuana, that makes sense,” he said. “But, medical marijuana – ain’t no such thing.”

Liset Ramirez and Priscilla Lopez contributed to this story.





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