In Response to: A Growing Threat

I am a semiretired physician who was a skeptic, but now I am now an avid proponent of medical marijuana. I am mildly opposed to recreational marijuana. The authors and respondents tend to conflate recreational with medical marijuana. With that said, I would like to make a few comments.

1. Dr. Strauss is correct that there is a 9% addiction rate with marijuana. However, this is mild, and most addicted individuals have little difficulty discontinuing cannabis.
2. Dr. Strauss is also correct that there has been an increase in ER visits secondary to cannabis, but perhaps individuals with mental disabilities are more likely to smoke and smoke heavily.
3. In states where cannabis has been legalized, there has been a 25% decrease in opioid deaths.
4. There has never been a documented death secondary to marijuana toxicity.
5. Given in appropriate forms and doses, medical marijuana lacks the "stoning" effects of recreational marijuana.
6. As Dr. Strauss accurately points out, recreational marijuana (heavy use) can damage the adolescent brain. Here in Florida, for patients under 18, a second recommendation is required in order to obtain a recommendation for medical marijuana.

I remember my first day. I was shadowing a physician who was recommending marijuana and I asked her, "Does this really work?" She responded, "Just watch." Since that time, I have seen patients on opioids for pain return opioid-free, patients with seizure disorders return seizure-free and off all medications, young patients on medications with migraines two to three times a week return migraine-free and off all medications. After a while, the anecdotes begin to accumulate.

Presently, marijuana is a schedule 1 substance indicating that it has no medicinal value. This is laughable. For patients with unremitting nausea and vomiting due to the effects of chemotherapy, physicians can prescribe FDA-approved Nabilone or Marinol, which are both synthetic THC (marijuana). Because it is schedule 1, it is illegal; therefore it is not possible to obtain a federal grant to do efficacy research, and pharmaceuticals will never support this for obvious reasons. Currently, Israel is the only country that allows this type of research.

Jerome L. Haym, M.D. ’64
Delray Beach, Fla.