August 31, 2012 | Posted in Marijuana | By

If you’ve tracked us at all on the issue, you know Family Council has serious concerns about current efforts underway to legalize marijuana for “medical” use in Arkansas. That’s because the current proposal blatantly defies federal law and does not put the needs of patients first.

Here’s the kind of medical marijuana we support:

Step 1. Assess Marijuana’s Known Health Problems

Before we talk about legalization, let’s reiterate the known health threats posed by marijuana in its raw form.

  • We know marijuana is not always safe for mental patients.
  • We know young children who use marijuana are at increased risk of developing mental illness later in life.
  • We know that marijuana has more tar and carcinogens in it than tobacco, and we can safely extrapolate that many of these carcinogens are likely to be present even if marijuana is ingested by some means other than smoking.
  • We know there is already a very serious criminal element associated with marijuana.
  • We know that not all marijuana plants are equal, and that potency and effects will vary from plant to plant depending on the variety of the plant and the conditions under which it was grown.

So how do we search out marijuana’s potential medical applications without putting patients at risk? The answer is to follow the laws in place governing medical drugs.

Step 2. Reschedule Marijuana in Congress

Congress and the DEA keep lists, also called ‘schedules,’ of drugs. Schedule I substances are the ones with high risks of abuse and no known medical uses. Marijuana appears on this list.

Schedule II substances are those with high risks of abuse, but some medical uses. The opium plant appears on this list because even though it can be used to make heroin, it can also be used to make morphine, codeine, and other opiates commonly employed in modern medicine.

Schedule II substances are still heavily regulated, and it is crime to possess them without authorization. However, authorization for clinical testing of a Schedule II substance is easier to acquire than for a Schedule I substance.

If the federal government puts marijuana on the list of Schedule II substance, the scientific community can conduct testing to see what medicinal properties—if any—marijuana possesses while simultaneously continuing to keep it out of the hands of drug dealers and addicts.

If—and only if—these tests prove that the cannabinoids (the active ingredients) in marijuana have medicinal properties not currently available to patients, then doctors should proceed to Step 3.

Step 3. Extract or Synthesize the Cannabinods

THC is the most well known cannabinoid in marijuana. There is already a synthetic form of THC which can be administered in pill form. However, medical marijuana proponents maintain that there are other cannabinoids besides THC in marijuana, and that these cannabinoids have medical applications.

If the scientific community determines that these other cannabinoids have medicinal qualities, they can devise methods for extracting or synthesizing them.

Once that is done, they can proceed to Step 4.

Step 4. Seek FDA Approval

Currently, medical marijuana is the only “prescription drug” in America that is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and not necessarily filled by a pharmacist. Many states that have legalized “medical” marijuana do not hold it to the same standards as less serious drugs, such as high-dose Ibuprofen and prescription decongestants, and the law proposed in Arkansas would potentially let most users grow their own marijuana at home.

The reason marijuana does not fall under the FDA’s jurisdiction goes back to the fact that marijuana is currently a Schedule I substance under federal law, thus placing it in the purview of the DEA. The FDA only deals with legal drugs; the DEA deals with the illegal ones.

As derivatives of a Schedule II substance, however, the cannabinoids extracted from marijuana could be approved by the FDA. The FDA could issue standards and regulations controlling the illnesses for which cannabinoids can be prescribed; dosing standards for cannabinoids; and methods by which the cannabinoids are administered, much as it currently does with other prescription drugs.

If the FDA finds that the cannabinoids are not actually medically relevant, have too many serious side-effects that would threaten public health, or other significant issues, it could limit the scope of the drugs’ application or deny it approval altogether; conversely, if the FDA finds the cannabinoids make significant additions to modern medicine, it could expand the prescription of cannabinoids. That is the legal way by which drugs and their prescriptions are regulated.

Step 5. Keep It In the Hands of Doctors and Pharmacists

If marijuana has medicinal properties, the cannabinoids are extracted or synthesized, and the FDA approves them for public use, then it falls to the doctors and pharmacists to manage the cannabinoids in a healthy manner that abides by all FDA recommendations, rules, and regulations and all federal laws. Users will not be permitted to grow their marijuana, it’s true, but then we do not let codeine users grow their own opium poppy plants either.

As a Schedule II substance, marijuana and its derivatives would need to be handled and prescribed by knowledgeable doctors and pharmacists. That is the only way public health and the health of the patients can be protected.

If There Are No Medical Applications…

If at any point during the process outlined above it is discovered that marijuana actually has no additional medical application or that the medicinal qualities are so fraught with side-effects and health complications as to render it dangerous or impossible to properly prescribe, then marijuana and its derivatives should not be authorized for medicinal use. Period.

Concluding Thoughts

If the marijuana plant has legitimate medicinal qualities, like the opium plant and others, then it should follow the very same path of testing and approval as every other drug.

However, the no-holds-barred approach to legalization that we see in Arkansas and elsewhere is simply inexcusable. It poses a serious threat to patients’ health and to the public health as a whole, and it is patently illegal under federal law.

We are a nation of laws. Those laws should be followed when furthering modern medicine. They cannot be ignored out of convenience or political expediency. That is something everyone should be able to support.

Jerry is the founder and president of Family Council. He began Family Council in 1989 after a successful effort to amend the Arkansas Constitution to prevent the use of public funds for abortions. He and his wife reside in Little Rock. They have four sons.

3 Comments

  1. Cody
    September 1, 2012

    I’d love to see actual sources for those incredibly misinformed claims you make in Step 1. The ignorance that exists in this post and all over this website is absolutely ASTOUNDING and a little saddening that people would believe this over taking just a few minutes to do their own research and see that most of what you claim is blatant lies. It is a shame that your organization has continued to feed the ignorance of the american society instead of providing unbiased knowledge for the betterment of the community. You are no better than the reefer madness propaganda lies of the early 1900’s.

    Fortunately most people think differently now and choose to educate themselves with the true facts about marijuana because of how easily accessible the unbiased studies are.

    http://abovetheignorance.org/research.html is one of thousands of resources with links to MANY unbiased studies done on different illnesses and how marijuana positively effects them.

  2. pam swearengin
    September 2, 2012

    it saddens me that there are still people like your “club” still around, It is people like you that have turned me away from christianity. You stand on your soap box and preach about ethics, but karma is a bitch and someday you will have a family member who is in constant pain and then it will be on your head. I have multiple sclerosis and fibromyalgia and i do know what it is like to be in constant pain and the doctors push the so called “safe meds” at me, then i need more meds to get rid of the side effects caused by them. I really pity you people. your sad, angry people.

  3. WBS
    September 2, 2012

    Are you aware that there has never been a death that can be linked to marijuana in the in the thousands of years that it has been used? It is one of the safest therapeutic or recreational substances that exists. What you should be against is incarceration of non-violent citizens and teens. Think of all the parents and teens that are in jail for drug offenses and many get sexually assaulted and some never even make it out of jail. This is a plant made by God and you think it is ok to take children away from their parents and parents away from their children for growing or using it? If you are truly loving Christians you should be on the side of compassion and try to help people not lock them in a cage with murderers and rapists. Jesus would be appalled at the abuse our jail and prison system inflicts on non-violent people. Jesus was a man of freedom not oppression and he told us to leave the judging to God instead of man and criminal prohibition spits in the face of his wishes. Did you know even Pat Robertson has endorsed recreational marijuana legalization? You can find the video on Youtube. The amount of people locked up for non-violent drug offenses is now more than all violent crimes combined and marijuana is still easier for teens to obtain than cigarettes or alcohol. This is because most drug dealers don’t care how old you are and what they are doing is already illegal so they just assume sell to anybody. If you regulate marijuana like alcohol and tobacco it eliminates the criminal market and brings it out of the underground. Please do some research into places that have decriminalized drug use and not just marijuana. These places have seen a dramatic decrease in drug use and death and violence related to drug use. Please don’t just blow this off look at the evidence and think about it there are much better alternatives than what we are doing right now.

    http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1893946,00.html

    Number of American deaths per year that result directly or primarily from the following selected causes nationwide, according to World Almanacs, Life Insurance Actuarial (death) Rates, and the last 20 years of U.S. Surgeon Generals’ reports.

    TOBACCO 340,000 to 450,000

    ALCOHOL (Not including 50% of all highway deaths and 65% of all murders) 150,000+

    ASPIRIN (Including deliberate overdose) 180 to 1,000+

    CAFFEINE (From stress, ulcers, and triggering irregular heartbeats, etc.) 1,000 to 10,000

    “LEGAL” DRUG OVERDOSE (Deliberate or accidental) from legal, prescribed or patent medicines and/or mixing with alcohol – e.g. Valium/alcohol 14,000 to 27,000

    ILLICIT DRUG OVERDOSE (Deliberate or accidental) from all illegal drugs. 3,800 to 5,200

    MARIJUANA 0

    (Marijuana users also have the same or lower incidence of murders and highway deaths and accidents than the general non-marijuana using population as a whole. Crancer Study, UCLA; U.S. Funded ($6 million), First & Second Jamaican Studies, 1968 to 1974; Costa Rican Studies, 1980 to 1982; et al. LOWEST TOXICITY 100% of the studies done at dozens of American universities and research facilities show pot toxicity does not exist. Medical history does not record anyone dying from an overdose of marijuana. (UCLA, Harvard, Temple, etc.)