Medical Marijuana: A Political or Scientific Issue
Florida Agricultural Commissioner Nikki Fried is not happy with state lawmakers trying to cap the amount of THC allowed in medical marijuana products. She is convinced that any such limits would set the state’s medical cannabis program back years. Most of the industry seems to agree with her. Fried’s chief complaint is that legislators are basing their decisions on politics rather than science.
That brings up a larger question: is the whole idea of medical marijuana political rather than scientific? It is a fair question given that Fried and her allies openly acknowledge that the decisions being made by lawmakers are based in politics.
But wait. If the science isn’t there to justify capping THC at 10%, where is the science proving the efficacy of medical marijuana to begin with? The fact is that state regulations allowing the use of medical marijuana have all been put in place politically. The surprising lack of science observed in the run-up to approving medical marijuana continues unabated even as lawmakers try to modify their state programs.
Improving the Program in Utah
Utah’s medical cannabis laws are even stricter than Florida’s. They are so restrictive that just seven of the fourteen licensed dispensaries have opened. Two of them are operated by Deseret Wellness. Likewise, only a small number of growers are licensed to provide enough product for the entire state of Utah. Finally, there are not enough qualified medical providers to help Utah patients get their medical cannabis cards.
State lawmakers are working on improving the program legislatively. For example, there is talk of making it easier for doctors to prescribe medical marijuana without having to be registered. A clear examination reveals that none of the Utah proposals are based in science.
Critics would say that legislators should not act to restrict medical cannabis unless the science is there to back up. Yet at the same time, the referendum that legalized medical cannabis in Utah in 2018 was not based in any science, either. The referendum was clearly political.
Political Decisions in the Political Arena
One of the undeniable truths of life is that the political arena is where political decisions are made. Think about the profundity of that statement for just one minute. Rarely do legislators make laws based on hard science. They make laws based on politics, then leave regulatory agencies to deal with the scientific facts.
Ritalin is a Schedule II substance under federal law. As far as Congress is concerned, any attempt to reschedule it would be a political issue. They leave the science to the FDA. It is up to the FDA to regulate how Ritalin can be utilized. The FDA has to approve the drug for medicinal use. They have to approve any new product similar to Ritalin.
We Need the Science
The medical cannabis industry in Florida is terribly unhappy that lawmakers are looking to further restrict what they do. Their unhappiness is rooted in a lack of science influencing lawmaker decisions. They are absolutely right about the science issue. But the fact remains that medical cannabis was approved by voter referendum without any scientific evidence to support it.
In the end, the disagreement in Florida is clear evidence that we need the science. We need to understand, once and for all, whether cannabis has provable and repeatable medical applications. If it does not, any decisions to continue allowing medical use will be based solely in politics. There is no way around it.
The lack of science has made medical marijuana a political issue from the start. Nothing will change until the science is forthcoming.