Marijuana warnings and endorsements: Where medical communities stand

By Lex Talamo

PHOENIX – Medical communities nationwide have raised concerns in response to the thousands of parents across the country advocating for access to medical marijuana for their children with severe and intractable diseases. Those opposed to treating children with medical marijuana cite a lack of evidence from clinical trials and scant information about the side effects and long-term effects of how marijuana could impact developing children.

Yet other medical associations have endorsed medical marijuana. Advocates reason that marijuana has never been proven to kill anyone and the side effects of smoking marijuana are less harmful than some medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Here’s an overview of the positions of some of the leading medical communities in the country:

American Academy of Pediatrics

  • The academy opposes marijuana use by children and adolescents; opposes the use of medical marijuana outside the regulatory process of the (Federal Drug Administration) but recognizes that marijuana may be an option for cannabinoid administration for children with life-limiting or severely debilitating conditions and for whom current therapies are inadequate; supports studying the effects of recent laws legalizing the use of marijuana to better understand the impact and define best policies to reduce adolescent marijuana use; recommends changing marijuana from a Schedule I to a Schedule II drug to facilitate research and development of pharmaceutical cannabinoids”

American Academy of Family Physicians

  • “The AAFP recognizes that there is support for the medical use of marijuana but advocates that usage be based on high quality, patient-centered, evidence-based research and advocates for further studies into the use of medical marijuana and related compounds. The AAFP requests that the Food and Drug Administration change marijuana’s classification for the purpose of facilitating clinical research. This process should also ensure that funding be available for such research.”

American Psychiatric Association

  • “There is no current scientific evidence that marijuana is in any way beneficial for treatment of any psychiatric disorder. In contrast, current evidence supports, at minimum, a strong association of cannabis use with the onset of psychiatric disorders. Adolescents are particularly vulnerable to harm, given the effects of cannabis on neurological development.”

American Nurses Association

  • “Marijuana (cannabis) has been used medicinally for centuries. It has been shown to be effective in treating a wide range of symptoms in a variety of conditions.”

American Academy of Neurology

  • “The AAN does not advocate for the legalization of marijuana-based products for use in neurologic disorders at this time, as further research is needed to determine the benefits and safety of such products. This is of paramount importance when marijuana-based products are used in patients with underlying neurologic disorders, or in children whose developing brains may be more vulnerable to the toxic effects of marijuana.”

American College of Physicians

  • “Marijuana has been smoked for its medicinal properties for centuries. Preclinical, clinical, and anecdotal reports suggest numerous potential medical uses for marijuana. Although the indications for some conditions have been well documented, less information is available about other potential medical uses. Additional research is needed to further clarify the therapeutic value of cannabinoids and determine optimal routes of administration.”

American Medical Association

  • “Our American Medical Association calls for further adequate and well-controlled studies of marijuana and related cannabinoids in patients who have serious conditions for which preclinical, anecdotal, or controlled evidence suggests possible efficacy and the application of such results to the understanding and treatment of disease.”

American Society of Addiction Medicine

  • “NIDA summarizes the research that the use of marijuana is associated with ‘increased rates of anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia. High doses … can produce an acute psychotic reaction; in addition, use of the drug may trigger the onset of relapse of schizophrenia in vulnerable individuals. Studies have linked prenatal marijuana exposure to reduction in fetal growth, including birth weight, length, head circumference, and gestational age.  Reported long-term effects also vary at different ages and include later deficits in intelligence, depression, and later marijuana use.”

American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

  • “AACAP opposes efforts to legalize marijuana, supports initiatives to increase awareness of marijuana’s harmful effects on adolescents, supports improved access to evidence-based treatment, rather than emphasis on criminal charges, for adolescents with cannabis use disorder, and supports careful monitoring of the effects of marijuana-related policy changes on child and adolescent mental health.”

Pennsylvania Medical Society

  • “Given the known dangers of marijuana, PAMED does not currently support legalization of medical cannabis, though we believe there is sufficient evidence to warrant a relaxation of its Schedule I status to facilitate rigorous controlled, double-blinded studies for a number of disease and conditions, particularly CBD for seizure disorders in children.”

American Epilepsy Society

  • “The recent anecdotal reports of positive effects of marijuana derivative cannabidiol for some individuals with treatment-resistant epilepsy give reason for hope. However, we must remember that these are only anecdotal reports and robust scientific evidence for the use of marijuana is lacking. The lack of information does not mean that marijuana is ineffective for epilepsy. It merely means that we do not know if marijuana is a safe and effective treatment for epilepsy, which is why it should be studied using the well-founded research methods that all other effective treatments for epilepsy have undergone. Such safety concerns coupled with a lack of evidence of efficacy in controlled studies result in a risk/benefit ration that does not support use of marijuana for treatment of seizures at this time.”

Lex Talamo is a Hearst Fellow. Follow her on Twitter @LexTalamo. Come back Aug. 16 to see the full News21 report on “America’s Weed Rush.”