With the growing trend in legalization of medical marijuana at the state level, and its as-yet-unresolved conflict with federal law and regulation, the debate over research efforts into its effectiveness as a medicinal substance continues to grow right along with it. From a scientific perspective, research is important if only to refine and reevaluate what “everybody knows.”
The following are some points to consider:
Correlation Is Not Causation
In a properly performed scientific study, the data gathered may or may not indicate a correlation between a variable and the observed outcome. If a correlation is found, it is only the first step to deriving the cause of the observed outcome. Even when comparing data from multiple studies, it does not prove what caused an observed outcome, but rather points to possible areas requiring further research.
Anecdotes Are Not Evidence
Proponents of medical marijuana research (usually outside of the scientific community) will point to various stories and testimonials of the effectiveness of marijuana as a therapeutic substance. Opponents of medical marijuana research (also usually outside of the scientific community) will point to various stories and testimonials of the adverse side effects and horrible tragedies that occur from using marijuana recreationally.
Neither side is relying on scientific evidence. They cannot point to any data that extrapolates to “this always happens” or “this never happens.” It is, at best, second-hand information from scientifically unreliable sources. Anecdotal evidence can be taken into account, but it does not have and should not have the same weight as data derived from a rigorous and properly controlled study.
Legislation And Regulation Are Not Scientific Endorsement
Currently, the DEA classifies marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance, a drug that has no medicinal value and has a high potential to be abused. The scientific evidence supporting this position is scant. Over the last few years, 23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical use. The scientific evidence supporting this position is also scant.
If there was overwhelming scientific evidence one way or another, the scientific community would likely have made an endorsement to that effect years ago. The fact that there are still efforts being made to perform research is the strongest proof the question is not yet settled.
There Are Many Unknown Qualities of Products
Fans of the TV series “Breaking Bad” would readily agree the main character was obsessed with ensuring a high degree of quality control and purity in his product. How many current dispensaries have that same degree of commitment, much less the scientific means to ensure purity?
Medical cannabis in San Diego, and elsewhere, does not have the sort of regulatory framework to provide guidance on what is and what is not considered to be pure. Without that framework, it is difficult to guarantee that delivery mechanisms such as edibles or oils will provide consistent doses with each instance of consumption.
For these reasons, we at Point Loma Patient Consumer Co-Operative continue to support research on medical cannabis and we strive to offer our patients the very best, most consistent, products available.