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Experts break down health and legal aspects of marijuana

March 20, 2019 5:40 PM | Sally Winkelman (Administrator)

March 20, Wisconsin Health News

National experts broke down the health and legal aspects of marijuana at a Tuesday panel in Madison.

There's some evidence that marijuana can reduce nausea in patients undergoing chemotherapy as well as reduce pain in adults with chronic pain, according to Dr. Ron Wallace, a professor of epidemiology and internal medicine at the University of Iowa College of Public Health and Medicine. Wallace worked on a national report summarizing marijuana’s health effects.

Those with multiple sclerosis who use marijuana also report fewer muscle spasms. But Wallace said that the effects of cannabinoids were “modest."

“Cannabis can help a little bit,” he said at an Evidence-based Health Policy Project briefing. “But it’s not clear whether it’s better than the other options that are out there.”

There’s some evidence that long-term cannabis smoking can worsen respiratory problems and exacerbate some mental conditions, he said. Cannabis can also impair learning, memory and attention.

But it’s unclear how cannabis relates to heart attack, stroke and diabetes. And it’s not known how using marijuana during pregnancy affects pregnancy and childhood outcomes.

Determining marijuana's health effects can be difficult due to a host of issues, including a lack of standardization among the drug, federal restrictions and little funding for research, Wallace said.

Karmen Hanson, program director of behavioral health at the National Conference of State Legislatures, said 34 states have legalized medical marijuana.

Most states require or allow dispensaries and patient registries. They also have a list of specific conditions that patients can use medical marijuana.

But each state’s program is unique and legislators have to design programs that work best for their state, Hanson said.

“No two programs are going to be alike,” she said. “You can’t take what has worked in Colorado and drop it into Wisconsin.”

Gov. Tony Evers’ budgetwould legalize medical marijuana, but parts of it face opposition from Republican leaders.  

Read more. 

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