A Penny for Your Thoughts on Medicinal Marijuana

How’s that folks.  I haven’t blogged consistently in years, now I’ve got two posts in one week and this one is on a topic from left field, or some far off field.

My interest in the question is that I was interviewed by a young man today who is doing a senior project on the use of medicinal marijuana.  He wanted my opinion because I am a pastor and a cancer patient, so he figured I could bring in two perspectives.

I am afraid that I was less than helpful to him because I have not been confronted with this in my ministry nor have I ever considered it or been offered it during my cancer treatment – its not legal in Maryland.

It occurred to me as I talked with the young man that the issue becomes very complicated very quickly.  Almost any argument I could come up with against medical marijuana could be used against most any kind of painkiller.  Things like addiction, being a gateway to other things, etc. are all true of the regular painkillers that are given.

One thing I brought up that I believe has merit is whether or not this is necessary given the many different painkillers already on the market.  Can marijuana provide pain relief you can’t get from something else?  Why bother trying to legalize something that is not necessary, unless there is some clear benefit over what is available now.  Again, I realize that this kind of argument is not definitive, why market oxycontin when vicodin is available?  Why turn to any kind of narcotic given their addictive nature?

The last question this young man asked me is “should Christians even be involved in this discussion?”  He said that he has had some resistance to even talking about such things in Christian circles.  I suppose that marijuana is a street drug that is illegal and has been shown to be harmful, so case closed, nothing more needs to be said.

My response is that Christians absolutely need to be talking about this – its one of those issues much like issues raised by technology and bioethics that, if there is no Christian voice raised, Christians may be soon facing a world that we are incapable of responding effectively to from an ethical standpoint.

So, a penny for your thoughts anyone?  Does anyone know of any resources on this?  BTW – I’m not interested for now in political arguments about this I’m strictly concerned with medicinal marijuana as a painkiller.  I know that Ron Paul and the Libertarians advocate the legalization of marijuana for other reasons, but it would be more helpful at the moment to get feedback strictly on the medical pros and cons.   Thanks for any help you can give.

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23 Responses to A Penny for Your Thoughts on Medicinal Marijuana

  1. Kristi Lance says:

    I think If its legal and it helps someones pain then its should be ok. Thats my opinion.

  2. Wayne says:

    The biggest problem with MM is limiting its use to those who really could benefit from it (if the beneficial claims are true.) what I’ve read is that most scripts written for it are a sham.

    That being said, I think there is a more dignified aesthetic to smoking weed that you don’t have with popping pills.

    • jollyblogger says:

      Yeah, I agree with that. Do you have any documentation that most scripts written for it are a sham. I wouldn’t doubt that, but I wonder if it is documented. And, what’s the dignified aesthetic?

  3. Wayne says:

    Here is a link to a story I read just today.

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2012/04/22/INI31O5BH3.DTL

    By aesthetic, I mean the simple joy of smoking something; lighting it up and drawing it into your lungs and then exhaling. There is an aesthetic to those actions to which swallowing pills could never compare. It’s why so many people start smoking in the first place.

  4. Donald says:

    Marijuana could only be considered a mild painkiller, but its upside is that it is not physically addictive at all, unlike any opiate derived medication. There are zero documented cases of death by marijuana overdose, which is another thing that cannot be said about other painkillers.

    One of marijuana’s most obvious and overwhelmingly successful traits is alleviating nausea and stoking the appetite in chemotherapy patients.

    Finally, marijuana is a natural product that God put on the earth ready to go, while most narcotic pills are highly synthesized with any number of chemicals and compounds which offer all sorts of side-effects both known and unknown.

    It’ll end up being cheaper to produce and cheaper for patients to purchase (copays aside).

    • jollyblogger says:

      Donald – great points, thanks for making them. What would you say to those who argue, as my friend Cavman just below you, that most all marijuana use is for the sake of getting high. Also, per Wayne’s linked article above a lot of states are rethinking this whole issue.

      • Donald says:

        The article cited above is a bit more political than I think is useful here, as it discusses the implementation of the laws more than the success or failure of the drug as medicine. But on a point that relates to the entirety of the issue, it is important to remember that we cannot evaluate marijuana based on its legal status, because that characteristic is imposed, not inherent. In turn, alcohol and certain opiates are legal, but we know that such a status does not make them inherently good.

        I also don’t think it’s accurate to include marijuana and its effects in Bible verses referring to alcohol consumption. If you define drunkenness too loosely, you open it up to include all sorts of things- like any currently legal painkillers, general anesthesia, antidepressants, and even perhaps antihistamines. You can’t just choose the ones you want.

        Yes, most marijuana users do it to get high. But drugs don’t abuse themselves, their users choose to. Yes, choose; which is to say that one can engage in a reasonable degree of consumption without abusing the substance. It is the same with alcohol, opiate-derived painkillers and bacon.

        Should one who can reap benefits be denied them simply because another might abuse it?

  5. cavman says:

    JB,
    You were apparently in the wrong congregation in WH. I had to deal with it, sadly. And now I live in a state that just approved MM.
    I think that it violates the instruction of Paul in Eph. 5. You can have a beer or 2 and not be drunk. But everyone I ever met who smoked pot smoked to get high. I know lots of people who don’t drink to get drunk.
    There are safer alternatives that don’t open the can of worms. We don’t need more people under the influence driving to and from work.
    I keep meaning to call, and then get busy.

    • jollyblogger says:

      Steve – great hearing from you ol’ buddy. But what do you think about Donald’s contentions just above yours. Could it be that marijuana can be used by certain people not to get high but to do these things he mentions.

  6. Terry says:

    David,
    This topic should be preached on by every Bible believing pastor in America and not from a moralistic perspective but first discussing what the Law has to say and then applying the gospel of grace to the topic. So here are some quick observations though the topic deserves a series of blog posting from both you and I.

    1. Do not smoke pot. I say that so I can keep my job and get gainful employment in the future.

    2. The 10 Commandments have a bearing on the issue but not directly. Addressing the issue from a moral perspective requires a nuanced understanding of morality and Christian practice based on that morality. Christian morality is based on worship of God. I would say rather than avoid opening the can of worms we need a nuanced view of the issue.

    3. A high view of life, sanctity of human life, requires in our modern age engagement by pastors, elders and theologians on the issue of pain management. If we neglect this issue we abdicate to the pro-euthanasia crowd to address the issue.

    4. Proverbs 31:6 needs a faithful exegesis:

    CSB Proverbs 31:6 Give beer to one who is dying and wine to one whose life is bitter.
    ESV Proverbs 31:6 Give strong drink to the one who is perishing, and wine to those in bitter distress;
    KJV Proverbs 31:6 Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts.
    NAS Proverbs 31:6 Give strong drink to him who is perishing, And wine to him whose life is bitter.
    NET Proverbs 31:6 Give strong drink to the one who is perishing, and wine to those who are bitterly distressed;
    NIV Proverbs 31:6 Let beer be for those who are perishing, wine for those who are in anguish!
    BGT Proverbs 31:6 δίδοτε μέθην τοῖς ἐν λύπαις καὶ οἶνον πίνειν τοῖς ἐν ὀδύναις
    WTT Proverbs 31:6 תְּנוּ־שֵׁכָ֣ר לְאוֹבֵ֑ד וְ֜יַיִן לְמָ֣רֵי נָֽפֶשׁ׃

    The NIV misses the MT and LXX imperative in the original language and in the early translation.

    5. The church lost her hearing by the American society on many moral issue during the prohibition. She lost her voice due to reliance on an inadequate exegesis of Scripture, a waning understanding of ethics that were reduced to moralism, and using politics to impose her will instead of using the ministry of the Word to transform society. Now is the time to teach deeply on the topic in such a way as to lay a foundation for future generations.

    6. Avoiding the issue won’t work since there are lots of voices out there. Have you looked in your local bookstore that has tons of books on growing the stuff. It is not legal in Maryland but the bookstores have tons of books on the shelves. Movies and TV are more and more addressing the issue. Then the news media also is engaging the issue. Telling the church we don’t talk about it will not work.

    7. Pastors, elders and theologians need to re-read Os Guiness’ book “Dust of Death” which is addresses issues revolving around drug culture.

    8. There are a variety of ways of managing pain. Analgesic are one way which you have made a comparison to MM. The difference as I understand it, is that Analgesic reduces the sensation of pain while MM reduces whether the patent cares that she has pain. A similar approach can be made by giving Prozac, though I understand it is different from MM. Rather than comparing it to analgesics, it should probably be compared to those drugs that reduces the how much the patent cares that he has pain.

    I hope that is some food for thought.

    • jollyblogger says:

      More food than I can digest in a single sitting. Glad to get a recommendation of an Os Guinness book though.

      • jollyblogger says:

        BTW – the “though” was not dismissive. I am going to reread your thoughts and probably sit down and talk with you about them. I’d be curious as to what you think the “import” of Proverbs 31:6 is in this discussion.

  7. I think a lot of the issue is that, in the US, it’s banned outright and rated as a drug with no medical use. However there is ample evidence that it does, indeed, have medical use, especially in dealing with nausea caused by other medication.

    When I had surgery years ago I was given morphine. Now I don’t think I should be able to go to the corner pharmacy and get morphine over the counter, but neither do I think it should be banned. It has its place. I put marijuana in the same category – it has its place in treatments.

  8. EAJ says:

    Chemo made my late husband nauseated and he lost his appetite. MDA gave him pill to help with the appetite but it also made him act rather strange and loopy. We discovered it was a form of Marijuana. I didn’t like the way it made him act and he didn’t like the way it made him feel. It was like he couldn’t focus or think. I dumped the drug down the toilet once I found out what it was. He got something else to help with is appetite and nausea – they worked better and his personality came back.

    I know how difficult it must be to endure the pain and nausea of chemo treatments. And in the end I think the person in pain needs to decide. My husband wanted to be as alert and aware as he could be – this was more valuable to him. But had not the other drugs work to help control things he may have changed his mind. But the fact was other drugs did work and they worked better – at least the desired result was better and I was happier to be able to have conversations with my husband as he was to have them.

    There is also the question of money. How much does it cost to grow marijuana? Next to nothing I imagine. Should a person be allowed to grow their own medicine if they can? Maybe they should. But right now the law says it’s an illegal substance and seeing how it effect the personality and the smell and as mentioned the ugly aesthetic of using it in the smoking form – I can’t get quite past that even if it was legal. There are better ways to help with pain and nausea and I thank the Lord for them and that we had access to them. Not everyone does. But then again I was not the one in pain I was the one trying to care for the one in pain. I was glad to have choices.

  9. chrisinnm says:

    Not so much my opinion as an interesting article I ran across, FWIW-
    http://www.oncologypractice.com/views/commentaries/singleview120425/is-marijuana-medicinal/fcefa4e635.html

    Glad to see you posting again, and keeping you in my prayers!

  10. The one thing I know advocates say to distinguish it from other painkillers is that you can smoke it even if you have a condition that makes it incredibly painful to swallow a pill. Those cases, I’m sure, are very rare, but it’s an argument for making this particular drug legal in those cases. It’s not an argument for doing what’s actually being done. I don’t know of any reason for supporting this drug distinctively outside those cases.

    The idea that we should use it because God made it has interesting implications. For example, we should take arsenic, because God gave us a ready-made poison. I don’t think I’ll be taking much from that argument.

  11. Steve says:

    Wayne,

    Welcome back. How about this as an answer. Pot should be legal. Not just MM. Although I am sure that Cavman will protest, almost all sociologist and economists that have studied the issue have concluded that marijuana is both less addictive and less dangerous that alcohol. Now granted, I have a bias and maybe my reading of the issue is colored by confirmation bias. My bias is that the drug war has failed and I think that all drugs should be de-criminalized,regulated and taxed. Instead, America has chosen a path in which it can claim a kind of “sham” moral high-ground in exchange for: the highest incarceration rate in the world, ceding the drug business to thugs and criminals, thousands of murders and deaths a year by violent “businessmen” protecting their turf. Studies reported by Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron conclude that decriminalizing would result in a net reduction in deaths by thousands per year.

    I concede the issues are complicated. Legalization would reduce the price of these drugs and might lead to an increase in addiction levels (although this is not clear). Marijuana is practically harmless. It’s a dirty, gross habit. So are smoking and hot dog eating contests. Let liberty prevail!

    Steve

    • jollyblogger says:

      Steve – thanks for the input. Am I detecting a Libertarian in the house? I was actually trying to stay away from the political angle on this but I have heard things similar from Libertarians. I am assuming that Ron Paul advocates for what you are saying? I think Milton Friedman did to. Maybe I’ll do another post on this from the political/war on drugs angle.

  12. I am not a regular reader, but I stumbled over here. When my husband and I were downtown in our city on Friday night, all the hippies were out promoting medical marijuana. (They had booths set up.)

    None of them were sick. 🙂

    With that said, I think there are a couple concerns with marijuana that haven’t come up here yet, so I’ll throw them out there for what they are worth. First, in *smoking it* patients are weakening their lungs, changing their oxygenation, and predisposing themselves to complications with pneumonia, etc. At least, that is what I’ve read. It seems like the goal is always to control pain while limiting side-effects. The other is that THC is fat soluble, and this is why potheads seem like potheads years after they stop using. It makes them physically stupider. (Is that a real word??) The longer and more often it is consumed, the more is lodged in the brain tissue, and it can literally take years to get it out after use discontinues. I’m not sure other pain control approaches are this way.

    Just a couple thoughts. Interesting conversation around here for sure!

  13. Anne says:

    Hemp oil can be administered topically and orally, not just inhaled. Check out youtube for topically applied hemp oil which has cured skin cancer. I’ve believed for a long, long time that the prohibition should be lifted on this herb. I’m a Christian nurse, who also happens to have had cancer. We used to pour an elixer of morphine, heroin, cocaine and alcohol (Brompton’s) down the throat of dying persons and worry that they might get “snowed under.” What difference would it have made had we used a marijuana tincture instead for someone like me who is allergic to opiates? Worry they were a little high or be made a little stupid from long term effects?

    I want to have the option to easily access this treatment choice if needed. The argument about risking long-term adverse cognitive effects from marijuana use really isn’t an issue. Cancer patients commonly experience long-term effects from chemo drugs. I was warned of the risks, I chose to proceed, I almost died in anaphylactic shock, but I continued treatment and yes, I now have multiple long-term medically induced side-effects. Chemo-brain, one of them, is comparable to pothead syndrome but I also think it was worth it. I will never be as quick mentally as I once was, but I am alive.

    I’m in Canada where MM is legal but it is very hard to find someone who will prescribe and the hoops through which one must jump once it is prescribed are endless. We need to stop being afraid of that which can help us. Repeal hemp prohibition and return this treatment option to doctors and patients who need it, without red tape or stigma.
    http://www.cannabisculture.com/articles/5169.html

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