Just because it’s “medical” doesn’t mean it’s safe

Anytime I write about marijuana, especially medical marijuana, I get a lot of “blowback” with negative comments. And that’s understandable. No one wants to deprive an ailing patient of a potentially effective treatment.

But the marijuana political lobby cynically used these very true and sincere intentions to its advantage. And now, we’ve opened a disastrous can of worms.

And we’ve found the “smoking gun” pointing to the evidence.

Colorado approved the use of “medical marijuana” in January 2009. At that point, 5,051 people registered to purchase the drug for medical uses. But by June 2011, the number jumped to 128,698. That’s more than a 2,500 percent increase–in less than three years!

But Colorado isn’t the only state that has legalized this drug for medicinal use.

Today, medical marijuana is approved in 21 states and the District of Columbia. And it’s prescribed to “treat” an expanding array of conditions beyond pain relief (the most common condition listed to justify the use of medical marijuana in Colorado). In fact, you can now get a prescription for marijuana for the “treatment” of Alzheimer’s disease, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy, glaucoma, and post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD). And, of course, it’s often used to prevent nausea and vomiting induced by cancer chemotherapy.

But marijuana just isn’t a safe “treatment.”   First of all, it isn’t held to the same rigorous safety standards as other forms of treatment. In fact, it’s hardly been tested at all in randomized clinical trials.

Tell me of one other drug or treatment that doctors legally “prescribe” to an Alzheimer’s patient or a PTSD patient, or any patient, that hasn’t gone through rigorous scientific testing?

You can’t. There isn’t one.

And here’s what’s even more disturbing…

According to a recent editorial published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, claims regarding its effectiveness  for serious conditions like Alzheimer’s, Crohn’s, glaucoma, and PTSD rely solely on “testimonials.”

The medical world unequivocally has disregarded this kind of anecdotal evidence for over a century. It demands randomized clinical trials. And the FDA requires years of monitoring before a drug enters the market–and post-marketing surveillance afterwards.  Dietary supplements (including all those other “herbs”) are held to a higher regulatory standard than medical marijuana too.

There’s also medicine’s fixation on understanding a treatment’s “mechanism of action.” In other words, medical science wants to know exactly how a treatment works. Not just that it does work.

But when it comes to medical marijuana, all those expectations go out the window in a puff of smoke, so to speak. And in many parts of the country, doctors will hand you a prescription for medical marijuana to “treat” just about any condition without even blinking an eye.

We still have very little understanding of how marijuana works physiologically in the body. Much less how it works on the grab bag of unrelated medical conditions for which it’s now being prescribed.

With other prescription drugs–and with dietary supplements–we have precise dosing recommendations. But nobody has any idea about the “right” dose of marijuana to use for the various conditions, or how to get any specific dose from smoking it.

It’s impossible to know exactly how much a marijuana-smoking patient is actually getting. Variations in sources, concentrations, packing, and size of the rolled leaf make it impossible to know how much of the active ingredient a patient gets with each joint. Plus, each patient inhales and absorbs a different amount.

In my opinion, this enormous variability makes “prescribing” medical marijuana less medically and scientifically sound than a 7th grade science experiment.

Furthermore, since patients mainly use marijuana for chronic conditions that require long-term dosing, there are the very real issues of tolerance and dependence to consider. As well as the development of withdrawal symptoms.

In short, the medical use of marijuana has none of the required characteristics for regular treatments in medical practice. It does not meet the standards for an approved drug. Or for a proven herbal remedy.

However, like any genuine “treatment” or “drug,” marijuana does have real side effects.

First, lung cancer is a real concern.

In fact, lung cancer and other lung diseases are associated with the combustion products (smoke) of burning plant material in the tobacco leaf and the marijuana leaf. It’s not associated with the nicotine in tobacco. So smoking marijuana presents the same concerns about lung cancer as smoking cigarettes.

In its infinite “wisdom” the government has spent millions and millions of dollars, passed dozens of draconian laws, and relentlessly campaigned for a half-century, to get people to stop smoking tobacco leaf. But then they turned around and helped them smoke marijuana leaf. Even though science shows they both can cause lung cancer if a person over-does it. (All the while, doing virtually nothing to help lung cancer victims.)

What kind of consistent public policy is that?

No other medication, drug or dietary supplement is administered by smoking.

But all the propaganda out there about marijuana being a “harmless herb” misleads people to think smoking marijuana is somehow miraculously different from smoking tobacco. And it’s not.

Second, research links long-term marijuana use with increased risk of psychosis. And in people who already suffer from a mental illness, smoking marijuana has a negative effect on the course and severity of the illness. [insert hyperlink: https://www.drmicozzi.com/dangers-of-smoking-marijuana-continue-to-emerge]

Third, marijuana clearly increases fatalities on the road…

As I explained yesterday, the number of traffic fatalities involving marijuana more than doubled in the state of Colorado after “medicalization” between the years 2004 and 2011. (But the number involving alcohol remained unchanged.) Now with full legalization this year, the problem will only get worse.

This predictable tragedy should  have been obvious to any politician, judge, lawyer, or citizen–given our society’s tragic experience with “driving while intoxicated.” Nonetheless, the politically correct posse pushing marijuana is often the same one to crack down harder on even light alcohol consumption. Which is clearly not the problem.

Legalization sends a popular message that marijuana must be “safe.” Despite all our costly social lessons about smoking and cancer, mental health problems, and driving while intoxicated.

So now, we have another major public health problem. This time, it’s caused by politicians and government officials pandering to popular demand in some states.

Of course, we also have effective, natural approaches to treat all the problems for which marijuana is commonly prescribed. They offer real cures–instead of just temporary, symptomatic relief. And they don’t involve intoxicating  yourself.

If pain is your big issue, you have many safe and effective natural, non-drug options. To learn more about your options, type “pain” into the search box on my website at www.drmicozzi.com. You will find many good articles about the topic. In addition, you can purchase my special report called The Insider’s Ultimate Guide to PILL-FREE Pain Relief


  1. “Problems with Medicalization of Marijuana,” JAMA, published on line May 20, 2014
  1. “The Medicalization of Marijuana,” Psychology Today (www.psychologytoday.com) 9/6/2011