After California became the first state to allow medical use of marijuana, legislators decided in 1999 to fund research that was supposed figure out what the drug was good for therapeutically. Now we have an answer: a report issued today says it seems to ease some types of pain, and maybe muscle spasticity from multiple sclerosis.
Of course, lots of state residents have found their own, much more varied, answers, since California’s law is one of the most open-ended about who’s eligible for medical marijuana. Anyone who can get a doctor to write a recommendation, based on just about any medical condition, can buy marijuana in California. But this is the official report from the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research, based at the University of California, San Diego.
Since its 2000 founding, the center has funded 15 clinical studies, including seven trials. The results include some fodder for medical-marijuana supporters who argue for the drug’s unique importance, particularly the finding that it worked as an add-on to more standard treatments for pain stemming from nerve damage.
The report argues marijuana may have a “novel mechanism of action not fully exploited by current therapies.” The drug may also have an effect on multiple-sclerosis patients’ spastic motions “beyond the benefit available from usual medical care,” the report says. Other research hasn’t shown this effect consistently.
The report also flags some mild side effects, including dizziness and, ahem, “changes in cognition.” Marijuana opponents will probably say that the studies weren’t long-term enough to show the potential downsides of chronic use.
The center has made these findings public before — they can be found on the center’s Web site. Still, the report is important because it pulls together the results in a document that is supposed to reach the general public.
And now that 13 other states have followed California in adopting medical marijuana laws, the research is likely to play a role as the Golden State once again tries to take the lead in marijuana policy: a California ballot measure that would attempt to legalize the drug’s use by adults 21 and older is likely to come to a vote later this year.
The WSJ took a recent look at marijuana research here.
By Anna Wilde Mathews
February 17, 2010
Wall Street Journal
Medical Marijuana: Putting Together California’s Research