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Scientific Update Fall 2019


This article was first seen in print as part of our Scientific Update column where readers can catch up on the latest scientific news about cannabis as it relates to our region.

Researchers Debate NY Medical Marijuana Laws in Journal of the American Medical Association.

In February of this year, researchers from Stanford and Boston University School of Public Health published an article titled, “Should Physicians Recommend Replacing Opioids with Cannabis?” The article was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) and criticized legislation in New York and Illinois that allowed patients medical cannabis as a substitute for opioids for chronic pain and addiction.

The authors argued in their report that not enough evidence on the safety, efficacy, or comparative effectiveness of cannabis exists to recommend substituting it for opioids in the treatment of pain or addiction. They stated that medical cannabis is often not held to medical standards, and mentioned a study that found high rates of mislabeled cannabis products.

Their primary concern was that these laws could result in patients choosing cannabis over evidence-based treatments for addiction such as medication-assisted therapy (MAT) which includes drugs like methadone and buprenorphine.

In July, a group from the NY State Department of Health commented on the article via a Letter to the Editor. The authors from NY pointed out several oversights from the original article such as the fact that availability of MAT is extremely limited, and that NY’s regulatory framework for medical cannabis is one of the strongest in the United States.

“This (New York’s) framework does not permit edibles, mandates that excipients be pharmaceutical grade, and includes strict packaging and labeling information, requires each lot of medical marijuana products produced to be tested by an independent laboratory for cannabinoid concentration and contaminants, and requires licensed pharmacists (not budtenders) to provide oversight within each dispensary.”

The researchers from NY also mentioned preliminary evidence suggesting cannabinoids may reduce cravings for different substances and touched on the federal restrictions that make researching medical marijuana so difficult.
Researchers from Stanford replied and stood their ground:
“It is inappropriate, and we continue to assert, irresponsible, in the absence of evidence to recommend medical cannabis as a replacement for opioid agonist treatment of opioid use disorder, a fatal disease in many cases, where there is solid evidence that the latter, but not the former, reduces morbidity and mortality.”

Researchers from UB and Rochester Present Study on Medical Marijuana for Chronic Pain at National Medical Conference, in Las Vegas.

Researchers from GPI Clinical Research and University at Buffalo presented a preliminary study of medical marijuana for the treatment of chronic pain at a national medical conference in Las Vegas, NV. The conference, called Pain Week, is an annual conference focused on pain education for healthcare practitioners. The study is titled, “An Assessment of the Long-term Safety, Tolerability, and Durability of Treatment Effect of Cannabinoids in Adult Outpatients with Chronic Pain.”

The study followed 92 patients over a 24-month period and found that patients treated with medical marijuana products through NYS’s program improved self-reported pain, quality of life, and reduced their opioid use. More on this study is available online here.


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