Marijuana has been enjoying a renaissance of late. Once reviled as a gateway drug to heroin to name but one, it is being rehabilitated as a panacea for ailments ranging from anxiety to Alzheimer’s. With jurisdictions around the world including Canada & the US verging on legalization, is the hype justified?
Marijuana Quality Control? Maybe Not
Storefronts offering marijuana are springing up in Canada & the US but how well regulated are they? The Globe & Mail newspaper in Toronto has done some independent investigating & has found that many do not meet safety standards.1
Samples from 9 different dispensaries were submitted to an independent lab for analysis. The results were surprising & dismaying. Of the 9, 3 were found to harbour pathogenic bacteria and of these, 1 also had harmful yeast & mold.
What Does the Science Say?
Marijuana contains a multitude of compounds ranging from the psychoactive THC (tetrahydracannabinol) to others such as cannabidiol which are not. There are neural and metaboilc pathways which respond to these compounds via chemical receptors known as the endocannabinoid system.2
Among the medical benefits claimed are that it can reduce chronic pain from multiple sclerosis or alleviate nausea associated with chemotherapy or help those afflicted with HIV to gain weight. Much of the evidence supporting marijuana’s efficacy is anecdotal with few hard results to back up these claims.3
When Can We Expect the Results?
It is clear that the same rigorous criteria used to test pharmaceuticals has to be applied to marijuana as well. Therein lies the problem. Research funds for such studies can be hard to come by and there is still a stigma attached to marijuana research. Not surprisingly, many scientists are unwilling to risk their careers on funding that may be hard to get renewed.
Until then, a healthy dose of caution if not skepticism should be applied. Ultimately, any approved medications will be in pill form since the health risks from inhaling the tar in marijuana smoke is at least as great as that of tobacco.
- Globe & Mail: pot-safety-testing-put-public-at-risk
- Wikipedia: Cannabinoid receptors.
- New Scientist: Medical marijuana offers only weedy health benefits
- Globe and Mail: does-research-back-up-claims-of-therapeutic-benefits