How do you view the medical marijuana industry today? What about in 5 years?
I think that we are in the midst of a pivotal shift in the way that marijuana is viewed in this country, both medically and recreationally. The biggest thing that I hope for in the next five years is the removal of marijuana from its current Schedule 1 status, thus enabling cannabis-related research to freely occur and allowing legal access to medical cannabis by patients across the U.S.
The wide range of research being done on the medical benefits of marijuana seems to touch on almost every field of medicine. Are there certain areas that scientists and doctors are focusing more on comparison to others? Some that show more promise than previously predicted?
Yes, the Cannabis plant does have a broad range of medicinal benefits that touch almost every field of medicine. Research is currently largely focused on the pain-relieving, neuroprotective, and anti-cancer properties of the cannabinoid components of the marijuana plant, such as THC and CBD.
What are the most common reasons given by your patients? What are some reasons that you suggest your patients use medical marijuana?
The most common conditions for which patients use medical cannabis include chronic pain due to a variety of causes, sleep disturbances, anxiety, depression, PTSD, glaucoma, cramps, and others. Very commonly, patients want to get off of prescription medications because they are ineffective and/or cause intolerable side effects. More and more, I have patients seeking to use cannabinoids to treat seizure disorders and to directly treat cancer.
Have you had patients react negatively towards treatment from any forms of medical marijuana?
The most commonly reported side effects from the use of medical cannabis include dry mouth, red eyes, sedation, increased appetite, and unwanted psychoactivity. Through the choice of proper strains and delivery methods, however, these effects can be largely avoided or minimized. Unlike the 117,000+ individuals who die every year due to FDA-approved medications, there has never been a death reported from an overdose of marijuana.
Have you seen a rise in request for medical marijuana cards since full legalization in Colorado and Washington, for example?
I have seen a steady increase in interest in the use of marijuana as medicine. I think that legalization efforts confirm in the public’s mind that marijuana is less “dangerous” than alcohol or tobacco. However, I believe that it is the increased awareness related to the medicinal benefits of marijuana that is driving patients to consider cannabis a legitimate medical treatment option. Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s recent CNN specials on the medical benefits cannabis, particularly in the use of marijuana to treat seizures in children, have been very helpful in this regard.
How do you think the medical marijuana industry in California will be affected if recreational use is legalized in the coming years?
As legalization efforts continue, I feel that it is important to distinguish between the recreational and medical uses of cannabis, particularly as related to taxation. It may be reasonable to tax “recreational” cannabis, similar to the way alcohol and tobacco are taxed, if the tax revenues are put to good use…such as to advance cannabis-based research and to promote public health. However, when it comes “medical” cannabis, there should be no tax. “Medical” marijuana should be treated similar to prescription pharmaceutical drugs, which currently are not taxed.
Mark L. Rabe, MD, ABIHM
- Cannabinoid medicine expert
- Holistic and alternative medicine specialist
- Board-certified by the American Board of Integrative Holistic Medicine (ABIHM)
- Northwestern University Medical School
- 25+ years of practice experience
- California Medical Association member