Former Surgeon General For Medical Marijuana
Special Report - June 27, 2008
Dr. Jocelyn Elders, former United States Surgeon General, visited the North Carolina General Assembly on Wednesday, June 25 to advocate for the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes in North Carolina. In her address to a sparsely attended meeting of House Science and Technology Committee, Elders touted a bill, HB 2405, introduced this session by Rep. Earl Jones (DGuilford) that calls for a Legislative Research Commission study of “whether a public benefit would be derived from making it lawful for physicians to prescribe and patients to possess and use marijuana or its chemical equivalent for medicinal purposes only.”
For the majority of her address, Elders argued that medical marijuana is effective in alleviating pain, stimulating appetite, and altering the mood of individuals suffering from certain ailments and diseases. She asserted that, due to its “5000 year history,” marijuana has passed the two tests that every medication must be subjected to: that it is safe and that it is also effective. “Never, as far as I know, has there been a death caused by marijuana intoxication. You can’t get enough of it,” Elders said. “You can’t kill yourself smoking marijuana, that’s not possible.” To further her claim, she stated that if the federal government was allowed to regulate and tax marijuana, then addiction and negative stigma related to use of the drug would not be the issues they are currently.
Dr. Laura Hansen, an associate professor in the center for aging at UNC-Chapel Hill and co-director of the UNC Pain and Symptom Care Program, also made a presentation to the committee. She spoke about the growing field of palliative care, which focuses on the relief of pain and suffering and the improvement of quality of life. While Hansen stated that marijuana may help to alleviate pain and provide some other benefits to patients who could not tolerate traditional medications, she was also quick to acknowledge that little medical research exists to confirm the effectiveness of marijuana. “One of the major limitations in the area of clinical practice with use of cannabinoids…is that we have very, very, very sparse research in this area. There are very limited clinical trials with the use of these agents and the vast majority of clinical trials are with small numbers of patients…and they use, at times, methods that are shaky.”
Somewhat in contrast to the claims Dr. Elders made about the proven efficacy of medical marijuana, Dr. Hansen stated, “we have very, very limited evidence [with respect to marijuana]…that shows that there is promise in the area of treatment of spasticity in Multiple Sclerosis, there is promise in the area of treatment of nausea and vomiting in relationship to chemotherapy and there may some hint of promise in pain management.”
In addition, the committee heard from two North Carolina women who admitted using marijuana to address medical problems. HB 2405 currently resides in the House Health Committee.
Copyright © 2008. North Carolina Family Policy Council. All rights reserved.