Overwhelming evidence supports medical use of marijuana

March 16, 2012

I've read a pair of forceful screeds against medical marijuana in The Sun's editorial section lately ("Medical marijuana laws make a farce of medicine," March 7; "Who says marijuana is safe and effective?" March 13). Both make the rather uncontroversial argument that doctors, not lawmakers, should be determining medical policy. They overlook one simple fact though — the lawmaker leading the fight for medical marijuana in Maryland is a doctor, Del. Dan Morhaim. In fact, Dr. Morhaim is the only licensed medical doctor in the General Assembly.

Both articles also make misleading claims of marijuana's potential harms. For example, the March 13 letter asserts that the FDA has attributed four deaths to THC. This is spurious. While the natural THC found in marijuana has never caused an overdose death, the synthetic version of THC found in the FDA-approved drug Marinol has caused four deaths. Regarding the potential for a marijuana-related overdose, a 1988 ruling by the DEA's own administrative law judge found that a marijuana smoker "would have to consume 20,000 to 40,000 times as much marijuana as is contained in one marijuana cigarette. ... A smoker would theoretically have to consume nearly 1,500 pounds of marijuana within about fifteen minutes to induce a lethal response."

As for the claim that there's a lack of adequate research on safety and efficacy, a petition to reschedule marijuana filed last November by Govs. Christine Gregoire of Washington and Lincoln Chaffee of Rhode Island cites as many as 700 peer-reviewed research studies and reports on medical marijuana.

As a cancer survivor, I agree that doctors should make medical policy in Maryland, which is why I urge the legislature to listen to Dr. Morhaim and make Maryland the 17th state to allow seriously ill patients to use marijuana for medical purposes.

Deborah Miran, Baltimore County

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