FRANKFORT. Ky. (KT) – Two Republican lawmakers said further study of the effectiveness of medical marijuana was necessary before it could be considered.
State Rep. Danny Bentley, a pharmacologist from Russell, and Dr. Ralph Alvarado of Winchester told the General Assembly’s Interim Joint Committee on Health and Welfare and Family Services on Wednesday that more research needs to be done and results of medical marijuana remain largely unknown.
Bentley, who teaches at the Ohio University Southern School of Nursing, has filed legislation for the 2019 session, a concurrent resolution calling for the expediting of research regarding the safety and efficiency of the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.
“All of us here want to see effective and safe remedies from life-altering conditions such as PTSD, chronic pain, nausea and vomiting, and multiple sclerosis,” he said. “The field of pharmacology is a response to that very desire.”
He said people have always sought remedies when what was available was inefficient. “So much that people often, in desperation, are willing to hope and to try preparations that are, in the end, more harmful than good.”
He cited snake oil salesmen in the 1800s as examples of people who have tired. “So much so that people have been bled, purged, and even slowly poisoned,” he said. “These were uninformed attempts to improve their condition, only to make it worse, and sometimes leading to fatality.”
Since then, Bentley said, evidence-based science is the only safe, recognized and responsible way forward. “Think how far raw opium, coca leaves and mustard gas has come by research and evidence-based science being brought forward.”
He told the panel barriers established by the federal government need to be adjusted “to allow for the responsible and swift advancement of research and conclusion, as we are working closer now with Canada and Israel.”
Bentley said current research for and against legalization can be confusing. “What should we believe? What is the right thing to do? How can we, as legislators, make a responsible decision?” he asked. “Opioids and nicotine were marketed as harmless, but scientific evidence showed that they killed people.”
His bottom line: “We can’t determine the right thing to do without clearing away all the noise, all the clamor and the conflicting accounts, and rely on the experts who are there for that purpose. As I already said, we need more research on the harmful effects. Benefits are modest at best, harm is unknown.”
Alvarado said many have their own idea about medical marijuana.
“I think medical marijuana for some people is ‘I want to grow my own stash in the back yard and use it on my own. I don’t want to pay a pharmaceutical company. I want to be able roll ‘em, eat ‘em, smoke ‘em, whatever it is,’’’ he said. “With that comes a lot of variability. The concentration of THC and CBD, we don’t know the exact dosages and how to give them.”
Alvarado added: “We want to have the proof, and if the proof is there, then we use it.”
In his resolution, Bentley said 31 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico allow for medical marijuana, but the decisions to do so were made by voters or legislators, and not because of a careful scientific evaluation of the benefits and risks of its use.
The resolution urges the FDA, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and the DEA expedite research on the safety and effectiveness of the use of marijuana for certain health purposes.
That would include changing marijuana from a Schedule I drug, which makes it illegal under any circumstances, to Schedule II, which would lift barriers to research.
Such a move was recommended by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine which published a report in January 2017 that summarizes the current evidence and recommends that steps be taken to overcome regulatory barriers so that the health benefits and health risks of marijuana could be more fully understood.