Today, Gov. Tom Wolf signed the Medical Marijuana Act (SB 3) into law, making Pennsylvania the 24th state to legalize medical marijuana. This tremendous victory was made possible through the hard work of families, advocates, and lawmakers.
SB 3 will allow patients with qualifying conditions to use and safely access medical marijuana. Once applications are available from the Department of Health, eligible patients whose doctors recommend cannabis will be able to obtain identification cards. The law allows for up to 150 dispensary locations across the state.
When dispensaries open, medical marijuana will be available as pills, oils, gels, creams, ointments, tinctures, and liquids. Vaporization is allowed but smoking is initially prohibited. Dispensaries cannot sell edibles, but medical cannabis products can be mixed into food or drinks. Dry leaf/flower is not allowed immediately but the Department of Health can change that following an advisory board report two years after enactment. For more details, visit MPP’s summary of the Medical Marijuana Act.
Medical Marijuana Activist and Cancer Patient Angel Raich Thrown Out of Hospital for Vaporizing Marijuana
Well, it doesn’t get much more despicable than this. Yesterday, a registered medical marijuana patient with terminal cancer was forced to leave UCSF Medical Center in San Francisco because she was using a vaporizer to ingest her medicine.
A spokesperson for the hospital claimed that use of the vaporizer violated their non-smoking policy. First of all, vaporizing is NOT smoking!
Then, the hospital claimed that even marijuana in vapor form can damage the lungs of other patients. I challenge the hospital to deliver evidence of this, especially considering that a recent study shows marijuana, even smoked marijuana, has little effect on long-term pulmonary function. To the best of my knowledge, there is no data showing any second-hand effects from vaporized marijuana.
This patient happened to be none other than Angel Raich, a long-time medical marijuana activist who battled the federal government in the U.S. Supreme Court for the right to use marijuana to treat the symptoms of her incurable brain tumor.
Marijuana is an accepted medicine in the state of California. For a state university hospital to threaten a terminally ill patient with arrest and federal prosecution, instead of making accommodations so that the patient could use her medicine, is inexcusable.
Just to give you another example of people being denied treatment simply because they use marijuana to treat their conditions, here is a video from our friends at Reason about a man who was taken off a kidney transplant list because he used a legal medicine that his doctor recommended.
What happened to the Hippocratic Oath?
Yesterday I posted a brief summary of a new study of vaporization of marijuana as an alternative to smoking. Since that original post, I’ve spoken to a couple of researchers about this study, and they raised a few points that seem worth sharing:
First, for reasons that aren’t clear, before performing the tests of smoking and vaporization, the researchers put the marijuana through a drying procedure that ordinary marijuana consumers don’t do. This might have eliminated some plant compounds, such as terpenoids, that are actually of interest.
A second possible flaw is that the researchers considered all “byproducts” – defined as substances other than cannabinoids -- together. They didn’t analyze precisely what they were, lumping bad stuff like the toxic combustion products contained in smoke with potentially beneficial plant compounds like those terpenoids mentioned above. That puts the finding that fewer byproducts were produced at 230 degrees Celsius than were produced at lower temperatures in a somewhat different perspective: We don’t know if the same byproducts were produced at 230 degrees as were produced at lower temperatures – and what’s in that mixture could be just as important as how much of it there is.
Opponents of medical marijuana love to condemn smoking, but a new study adds more data to the growing pile of research confirming that vaporization provides the benefits of inhalation without the unwanted combustion products in smoke. In a study comparing vaporization to smoking in the journal Inhalation Toxicology, researchers from Leiden University report, “Based on the results, we can conclude that with the use of the vaporizer a much ‘cleaner’ and therefore a more healthy cannabis vapor can be produced for the medicinal use of C. sativa, in comparison to the administration of THC via cigarettes.”
The article also provides some new practical information on vaporization, suggesting that a temperature of 230 degrees Celsius is ideal, and that using smaller amounts of marijuana in the vaporizer produces more vapor, but does not extract THC more efficiently, so there is no apparent gain in using an amount less than about half a gram at a time.