'Medical' marijuana — we should look before we leap

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But, the societies say, patients should never smoke marijuana as a THC delivery method because pot smoke is a known carcinogen –– two to five times more potent than cigarette smoke, depending on which part of the cannabis plant is smoked, according to a 2007 study by the Medical Research Institute of New Zealand. The societies also say we need to further study whether marijuana’s active ingredients have any real medicinal value, or whether we’re kidding ourselves.

Here’s what the societies have said about marijuana in recent policy statements, which are found on the federal Drug Enforcement Administration’s website:

The American Cancer Society supports “more research into the benefits of cannabinoids. Better and more effective treatments are needed to overcome the side effects of cancer and its treatment. However, the ACS does not advocate the use of inhaled marijuana or the legalization of marijuana.”

The American Glaucoma Society has stated that “although marijuana can lower intraocular pressure, the side effects and short duration of action, coupled with the lack of evidence that its use alters the course of glaucoma, preclude recommending this drug in any form for the treatment of glaucoma at the present time.”

The Glaucoma Research Foundation has stated that “the high dose of marijuana necessary to produce a clinically relevant effect on intraocular pressure in people with glaucoma in the short term requires constant inhalation, as much as every three hours. The number of significant side effects generated by long-term use of marijuana or long-term inhalation of marijuana smoke make marijuana a poor choice in the treatment of glaucoma. To date, no studies have shown that marijuana — or any of its approximately 400 chemical components — can safely and effectively lower intraocular pressure better than the variety of drugs currently on the market.”
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