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The Medical Marijuana Myth

Family Policy Matters / NC Family Policy
The Truth Network Radio
July 5, 2022 9:23 am

The Medical Marijuana Myth

Family Policy Matters / NC Family Policy

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July 5, 2022 9:23 am

This week on Family Policy Matters, host Traci DeVette Griggs welcomes back Luke Niforatos to discuss his recent article in NC Family’s Family North Carolina magazine, entitled “The Medical Marijuana Myth,” and particularly how it relates to the recent push to legalize “medical” marijuana in North Carolina.

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Welcome to Family Policy Matters, an engaging and informative weekly radio show and podcast produced by the North Carolina Family Policy Council. Hi, this is John Rustin, President of NC Family, and we're grateful to have you with us for this week's program. It's our prayer that you will be informed, encouraged and inspired by what you hear on Family Policy Matters, and that you will feel better equipped to be a voice of persuasion for family values in your community, state and nation. And now here is our host of Family Policy Matters, Tracey Devette Griggs.

Thanks for joining us this week for Family Policy Matters. Attempts to legalize marijuana use in North Carolina are making historic gains this year, as a bill SB-711, innocuously entitled NC Compassionate Care Act, has already been approved by the State Senate and now awaits consideration in the State House. Now this would mark North Carolina's entrance into the marijuana industry, albeit under the guise of medical use. Despite its name, the legalization of marijuana has been proven to be far from compassionate in other states when the totality of its impact is considered. Well, here to help us get beyond the rhetoric is Luke Nifirotus, Executive Vice President at Smart Approaches to Marijuana, an organization dedicated to a health-first approach to marijuana policy. His article, The Medical Marijuana Myth, is available in our most recent edition of the Family North Carolina Magazine.

Luke Nifirotus, welcome to Family Policy Matters. Hi, thank you so much for having me on. It's a real pleasure. All right, so you have been known to say that the debate surrounding marijuana as medicine is riddled with half-truths, anecdotes, and empty promises.

Why is that? It really is. So I think, you know, a lot of people hear the word medical marijuana and it, you know, like you said, it sounds innocuous. It doesn't, sounds like something we can do to help people who maybe have tried other medications and they haven't worked and maybe marijuana will work for them.

So I think a lot of people come into this with really good intentions. However, we have to look at the science, right? And so, you know, all the research that is out there tells us that, you know, marijuana is addictive.

It's got grave consequences for our mental health. These are things I can get into later, but there are a lot of scientifically established harms with using marijuana. And as it relates to the medical benefits, what we're seeing is states like North Carolina are choosing to vote on marijuana as medicine. And we don't vote on ibuprofen as medicine.

We don't vote on a Tylenol. You know, w w we have an established process in this country for medicines that goes to the FDA clinical trials, a nonpartisan, you know, no conflict of interest, scientific body reviews, our medicines to make sure that they're safe and efficacious. And so, you know, a lot of people don't realize this, but the FDA has actually already approved several marijuana based medications that you can legally get prescriptions for from your doctor today, like Marinol, which is pure THC and Epidiolex, which is pure CBD, which is something we hear about a lot. And that's a safe way to get your medicine. But when you're talking about voting on your medicine and calling it, you know, medical marijuana, a lot of people don't realize that it's just marijuana. Whether you call it medical or recreational, these stores are for-profit companies that are selling weed that you smoke and just simply calling it medicine. There's no dosage, there's no prescription.

So I think, you know, what we're hearing is anecdotes. You know, you'll hear that people say marijuana worked well for them and, you know, maybe it did work for them, but the issue is that this is not being treated like a medicine. It's not regulated.

It's not overseen by the FDA. And so those are concerns we have to look at when we talk about medicine. Do we really want to let an industry sell weed that people can just smoke and use, which is really not how medicine works? Or do we want to follow the scientific process, which has really worked out well for our country over the last hundred years? Our lawmakers don't know a thing about how to approve medicines, nor should they. They need to focus on policy and representing their constituents and they need to leave scientific decisions to the scientists. And as it relates to medicine, that's really important.

And, you know, I think it's really interesting. You look at North Carolina's law that they're considering, this Compassionate Care Act, it has a wide array of different quote unquote qualifying conditions that would qualify you to receive medical marijuana. Now, what we know from the science is that marijuana-based medications can help with very rare forms of seizures and they can help late stage cancer patients possibly with their appetite or nausea. Those are the two most well-documented instances of benefit for a marijuana-based medication.

If this bill truly was trying to follow what medicine should be, you would think it would address only those two conditions possibly, you know, just to have some sort of basis in the science. But the bill is far broader than that for folks with Crohn's disease and folks with other forms of illness, that there's no scientific literature that supports them, you know, using marijuana in any way, shape or form. Of course, North Carolina has a large military population and PTSD is one of the conditions that people talk about marijuana being helpful for.

Talk a little bit about that. Is it efficient for treating PTSD in your knowledge? That is the inclusion that really upsets me the most because you see all these anecdotes of, you know, let's take care of our veterans and let's give them medical marijuana so they don't use opioids. And that message sounds very good, but unfortunately the literature we're seeing out there actually indicates marijuana may make PTSD worse, not better. There was a massive review of over 500 studies done on marijuana and PTSD just last year. And the summary of all those 500 studies found that not only does it not help PTSD, using marijuana worsens it, it gives them more suicidal thoughts, more issues with depression.

It actually hurts our veterans. So that's one of those conditions that really just makes you scratch your head and wonder why. And unfortunately it's because, you know, again, coming back to this point, we don't vote on our medicines. And so when you are doing medicine through a political process, our lawmakers hear from, and lawmakers from North Carolina hear anecdotes, you know, in testimonies about, Oh, well I use marijuana and that works great for me.

And they have to take that into account. That is just not how we do medicine. If we did medicine that way, then we would have the person who's an alcoholic who says, well, I drink whiskey every day and it helps me with my depression, which we all know it actually makes that worse, but that's that person's anecdote. We would have alcohol as medicine in this country.

We would have other horrific substances as medicine in this country. So the reason why we do that and see why we follow the scientific process is because it's objective. We look at facts and data and we say, is this medicine actually helping people or is it hurting people?

And so, you know, with PTSD, we need to be very clear that the literature does not show a benefit for using marijuana and with PTSD. You're listening to Family Policy Matters, a weekly radio show and podcast of the North Carolina Family Policy Council. This is just one of the many ways NC Family works to educate and inform citizens across North Carolina about policy issues that impact North Carolina families. Our vision is to create a state and nation where God is honored, religious freedom flourishes, families thrive, and life is cherished. For more information about NC Family and how you can help us to achieve this incredible vision for our state and nation, visit our website at ncfamily.org. Again, that's ncfamily.org. And be sure to sign up to receive our email updates, action alerts, and of course our flagship publication, Family North Carolina Magazine.

We'd also love for you to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Boy these anecdotes work though, don't they? I mean, we see this in so many instances where people are pushing issues, where they'll choose this anecdote that really wrenches your heart, but as you just said, the science doesn't support it. So talk a little bit about that. Talk about the science, the research, and the data about the use of marijuana for other medicinal purposes.

First of all, we have to be very clear. The push to legalize medical marijuana is not about medicine. It's about profits. It's about an industry. And so, you know, again, when you legalize medical marijuana, it's not your physician prescribing you anything.

They can't. It's not FDA approved. So you get a card that says it's okay for you to go to a for-profit pot shop that's selling, you know, high potency marijuana products like gummy bears, candies, ice creams, these things that, you know, super high potency, which for those of you who don't know, marijuana 10 years ago was two to 3% potency. Now with this industry, medical or recreational, it's both the same. We're talking about up to 99% potency products.

Okay. So it's a totally different drug. It's much more potent. Um, and so it's much more addictive. And so, you know, we saw what happened with addictive medicines with the opioid crisis, which continues to now it's killing over a hundred thousand Americans a year.

It's devastating. And that was a highly regulated industry that pulled that off the pharmaceutical industry. So the marijuana industry is not even close to the level of regulation as pharma companies, and yet they are also selling them an addictive substance, albeit, you know, a different substance from opioids, but it certainly is much more addictive. Um, and the harms are really on the mental health side. So what the literature tells us is that, you know, I mentioned the two studies that show some benefit of marijuana based medications for seizures and in cancer nausea related to cancer.

But outside of that, we are not seeing an indication of medical benefits for this drug. Now that is not to say that if someone is in the late stages of cancer and they want to, you know, try marijuana or whatever else, I think we can have compassionate laws that maybe respect these one-off, you know, two off situations where someone's really saying, you know what, I'm in the late stages of a terminal illness and I'd like to try any medication, whether it's marijuana or anything else that, uh, you know, I'd like to try something else. I think we can have compassion on those folks with very limited approaches of saying, look, they can try this versus what you're talking about in North Carolina, where you are blanket legalizing an industry to sell what's called medical marijuana. That's a much bigger policy decision with, with broader consequences. So you know, there are ways to have compassion without setting up an entire apparatus to sell and distribute and promote a drug. And so I think that's a key distinction to make there. Now you mentioned the harms that are being seen on the mental health side and, and it's interesting because there are several states that have legalized marijuana, so we can see what has happened and learn from their experiences. Talk a little bit about what we are seeing in those other states.

Absolutely. So with medical marijuana and recreational, cause again, I can't emphasize this enough. It's the same drug, it's the same weed. People are smoking it. They're calling it either medical or they're calling it recreational.

It's an issue of semantics, not substance. So when people are using this high potency marijuana that we're talking about, what we're seeing is if you are a regular user of this high potency marijuana, you are five times more likely to develop schizophrenia or psychosis. Now this is extremely important to talk about, especially now where we're seeing rising rates of violent crime and property crime in States like mine. I'm from Colorado, first state to legalize marijuana. We've seen 40% increase in our violent crime, 20, 30% increase in property crime over the last decade since we legalized marijuana.

Look at California, similar circumstance there. Look at any state that's legalized marijuana and they are seeing soaring rates of property and violent crime. Now not to say we have a causal link established yet, they legalized marijuana and that caused it that we can't say that yet. But what we can do is look at the data that's out there and it's not encouraging right now.

And we need to learn more about what these links are. But when you look at this now really becoming an established link between marijuana use and psychosis, marijuana use and schizophrenia, it's not surprising that we're seeing folks turn violent because those ailments, those mental illnesses are very highly associated with violence. So those are things we really need to look into more, especially as a number of States have decided to legalize this, whether for recreational or, or medical purposes. And I think what we're also seeing is the addiction rates.

That's another concern. One decade ago, one in 10 people who use marijuana in the last year would develop an addiction to it. That's according to our national Institute on drug abuse, um, our federal government's top research institution in, in looking into drugs. Now, 10 years later after States have legalized this, after potency has skyrocketed, one in three people who use marijuana in the last year will develop a cannabis use disorder. So addiction rates are skyrocketing. And that's another thing we should be very concerned about when we look at legalizing quote unquote medical marijuana.

We're about out of time. So talk a little bit about your organization, smart approaches to marijuana. Absolutely.

Yeah. We would love to connect with you and be a resource. Our website is learnaboutsam.org. We are led by science advisory board of people from Harvard, Princeton, Yale, who are doing the research on marijuana every day. They guide all of our work.

All the studies I talked about on this podcast, they actually are available to you on our website. Again, learnaboutsam.org. We are, you know, we see ourselves as the middle road approach to this. We're not looking to, you know, throw patients in prison. We have compassion too. But what we're worried about is legalizing a drug and building an industry around it.

Because when you do that, the potency increases, the promotion, the production, and the commercialization becomes serious health concerns. So that's what our big concern is about and would love to be a resource to you and your communities. And we want to remind listeners that you can find Luke's recent article that he wrote for our latest Family North Carolina magazine called The Medical Marijuana Myth, either in the hard copy of the magazine or on our website at ncfamily.org. And also on our website, you can find ways to contact your local North Carolina lawmakers if you want to speak out about this issue. Luke Neferratis, thank you so much for being with us on Family Policy Matters.

You've been listening to Family Policy Matters. We hope you enjoyed the program and plan to tune in again next week. To listen to the show online and to learn more about NC Families' work to inform, encourage, and inspire families across North Carolina, go to our website at ncfamily.org. That's ncfamily.org. Thanks again for listening and may God bless you and your family.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-27 19:26:57 / 2023-03-27 19:33:22 / 6

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