OK: Support For Medical Marijuana Access Based On Facts

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Mike Brake is entitled to his own opinions about medical marijuana. He is not entitled to his own facts.

Fact: Cannabis possesses an extensive history of human use dating back thousands of years, thus providing us with ample empirical evidence as to the plant’s relative safety and efficacy. Moreover, the marijuana plant is one of the most studied biologically active substances of modern times. This extensive science has established its relative safety and therapeutic efficacy for various patient populations.

As acknowledged by the esteemed National Academy of Sciences, “There is conclusive or substantial evidence that cannabis and cannabinoids are effective for the treatment of chronic pain, in the treatment of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, and for improving patient reported multiple sclerosis spasticity.” A search on PubMed using the term “marijuana” yields more than 26,000 scientific papers referencing the plant or its constituents. This totality of peer-reviewed research is far greater than that which exists for most conventional pharmaceuticals, such ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

Fact: Majorities of doctors and patients support legal access to medical cannabis. According to a Jan. 11, 2018 nationwide Quinnipiac Poll, 91 percent of voters say marijuana ought to be legal for medical purposes. An estimated 70 percent of practicing physicians agree with this position, according to a 2014 WebMD survey.

Fact: Thirty states and Washington, D.C., permit physicians to recommend marijuana therapy by state statute. Some of these state-sanctioned programs have been in place for more than two decades. Overall, these programs have been successful. Contrary to Blake’s claims, medicalization has not led to increased teen marijuana use or access, according to dozens of peer-reviewed studies. Nor has it adversely impacted traffic safety. According to a 2016 study published in the American Journal of Public Health, “[O]n average, medical marijuana law states had lower traffic fatality rates than non-MML (medical marijuana law) states. …. Medical marijuana laws are associated with reductions in traffic fatalities, particularly pronounced among those aged 25 to 44 years.”

Numerous studies further conclude that legal cannabis access mitigates opioid abuse and mortality. Data published in November in The American Journal of Public Health reports a 6.5 percent decrease in monthly opioid deaths in Colorado following the enactment of retail cannabis sales. Data published in JAMA Internal Medicine reports that medical cannabis legalization is associated with year-over-year declines in overall opioid-related mortality, including heroin overdose deaths, by as much as 33 percent.

Fact: We know enough about cannabis, as well as the failures of cannabis prohibition, to allow people the option to consume a botanical product that is objectively safer than the litany of pharmaceutical and recreational substances it could replace. That is why in June, voters will approve SQ 788 and amend Oklahoma law in a manner that comports with available science, public opinion, and the rapidly changing cultural and legal status of cannabis.

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