New Castle News

February 4, 2014

Our Opinion: Federal action needed to allow for medical testing of drug

By Staff
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — In recent years there have been intriguing reports about possible medical benefits from marijuana.

These are more than the claims that the drug may ease the symptoms of glaucoma or reduce nausea for chemotherapy patients.

Lately, there has been attention paid to the idea that refined marijuana may stem serious seizures in children. For parents dealing with these horrifying medical problems in their youngsters, marijuana may be a blessing.

But it also may be a curse, because in most states, marijuana remains illegal. It is also illegal at the federal level. Some families have moved to states where medical use of the drug has been legalized, in an effort to pursue hope.

We don’t know if marijuana helps these children. In large part, that’s because there is no rigorous testing of the drug taking place, as happens with most prospective medicines.

Under federal law, marijuana is a Schedule I drug, on par with heroin and cocaine, which means it has no recognized medical value. And there is no sanctioned medical testing taking place in the United States.

So America has become a patchwork of marijuana laws. Perhaps that’s OK when it comes to recreational use of the drug; states and communities set their own standards in a variety of ways.

But on medical matters, America needs a national standard. And there’s little sign of that happening.

In Pennsylvania and elsewhere, efforts are afoot to either legalize marijuana or make it available for medical purposes. Such moves, however, don’t allow for the scientific testing that’s necessary to assess whether the drug does what advocates claim.

Frankly, we think the ban on medical testing of marijuana is absurd. For one thing, it prevents the research that’s needed. It also means people with health problems may be manipulated by scam artists.

As for any health risks associated with marijuana use, we don’t deny them. But are they any worse than the highly addictive pain drugs that are on the market today? Many otherwise honest people have turned to criminal actions when they became hooked on these medications.

It’s all well and good for state legislatures to debate the merits of liberalizing marijuana laws. But medical matters regarding the drug demand federal action.

This is the only way to ensure that properly supervised research, capable of being reproduced and verified, is taking place. Without these steps, any claims to the medical benefits of marijuana remain speculative at best.