Australian Medical Association (AMA) Queensland wants to see more evidence and research into cannabis oil before it is made available to patients.
According to an article published on the Queensland Times, AMA Queensland president Chris Zappala says there are risks associated with marijuana.
“We know, for example, that the use of cannabis can contribute to mental illness and the long-term effects of prescribing medical cannabis are not known… , particularly if we’re talking about kids who might wind up on marijuana of some form for some years during their critical years of growth and development,” said Mr. Zappala.
The comments came just a few days after medical marijuana legislation passed in Queensland; legislation that will provide patients of all ages suffering various conditions access to cannabis medicines.
AMA Queensland may understandably be just applying the “precautionary principle”. This is where in the absence of scientific consensus, the burden of proof needs to fall on those supporting an action in a situation where an action has even a suspected risk of causing harm.
In theory, it’s a good principle. However, it also needs to be weighed against where not implementing an action could cause more harm (or prolong suffering).
The “wind up on marijuana” phrase used by Chris Zappala will likely drum up visions of kids smoking the stuff and getting high. A major focus in cannabis medicines, particularly children, is cannabidiol (CBD), a non-intoxicating cannabinoid. It has been shown, both anecdotally and in various clinical trials, to be generally well-tolerated and does not create a high.
With regard to mental illness, the cannabinoid linked to possibly triggering conditions such as schizophrenia in predisposed individuals is THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), not cannabidiol.
Many of the expensive drugs used to treat conditions that cannabidiol may also be useful in treating have side-effects. Some of them pretty unpleasant, with additional complications associated with long term use.
For example, opioid abuse has hit epidemic proportions in some parts of the world. That hasn’t stopped their use as the benefits are perceived to be generally greater than the harm caused. (Side note: opioid abuse has been found to be lower in U.S. states with medical cannabis laws).
Cannabis has been used medicinally by humanity for thousands of years. Ongoing research and trials are a very good thing, but in the absence of what AMA Queensland wants to see, at what point would stalling access contravene the general concept of “first, do no harm”?