Medical Marijuana: The State of the Science

Michael E. Schatman, PhD


February 06, 2015

In This Article

Recreational and Medical Use: The Need to "Separate Church and State"

Recreational use of marijuana is now legal in four states and will probably increase. Few would argue that the United States has won the "war on drugs" and that incarcerating marijuana users is a sound policy. Although medical cannabinoids have great potential to ameliorate considerable suffering, the data indicate that most of what is considered "medical marijuana" is used for recreational purposes. People using marijuana recreationally may be self-medicating, often for depression.[186] However, is the same not true for individuals who abuse alcohol? Or prescription opioids?

In some states, such as Washington, it is extremely difficult to find low-THC/high-CBD concentration cannabis products in dispensaries. Of note, and somewhat tragically, many recreational marijuana retailers are advertising low-THC/high-CBD concentration strains, for which they are charging exorbitant prices. The irony is that the dispensaries are profiting by charging higher prices for high-THC/low-CBD concentration strains.

Although the US Department of Justice (DOJ) has postured toward shutting down the dispensary business in the past,[187] no significant changes have happened since dispensaries first opened. Although the media has sensationalized DEA raids shutting down dispensaries that were allegedly operating illegally, these are very profitable businesses that continue to proliferate, often claiming that they help ameliorate suffering when they may in fact be perpetuating it.[188]

In 2013, the DOJ issued guidelines clearly defining what types of activities could potentially result in DOJ action.[189] Furthermore, the passage of the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act in 2014 now prohibits the use of federal resources to interfere with individual states' implementation of their own medical marijuana laws.[190] DEA raids would be expected to decrease as a result of this.

Regardless, a reduction of aggressive DEA behavior does not necessarily suggest that the dispensaries are providing a service to the communities in which they operate, or even to the physically and mentally ill patient populations whom they purportedly serve. At this point, at least in the state of Washington, we are witnessing a transition from legitimate patients seeking "medicine" from "medical marijuana" dispensaries to seeking low-THC/high-CBD concentration products from recreational marijuana providers.


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