Dear Mr. President,
Thank you for the opportunity to write to you on the issue of marijuana (cannabis) for medicinal purposes, especially in light of the recent diagnosis of Senator McCain.
On January 21st, 2014 the Pennsylvania State Nurses Association (PSNA), representing more than 217,000 registered nurses in Pennsylvania, was the first health care provider association to support Medical Marijuana/Cannabis legislation in our Commonwealth. It is our position that prescribers should have in their arsenal of treatments any potential clinically effective drugs available for their use especially when conventional therapies have proven ineffective.
The benefits of medical marijuana (cannabis) have been supported by clinical research, albeit limited research in this country due to marijuana’s restrictions in federal law, specifically the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 completely prohibiting medicinal use of marijuana/cannabis by making it a Schedule I drug (Public Law 91-513). There has been a growing body of evidence that cannabis has a significant margin of safety when used under a practitioner’s supervision when all of the patient’s medications can be considered in the therapeutic regime (Steinborn, 2001; IOM, 1999). Unfortunately, research expansion has been hindered by a complicated federal approval process, limited availability of research grade cannabis, and the debate over legalization. Marijuana’s/cannabis’s categorization as a Schedule I controlled substance raises significant concerns for researchers, health care practitioners, and patients (ACP, 2008). Clearly there is a disconnect between federal agencies and the scientific and healthcare communities as to the value of medical cannabis, which not only hinders ongoing research but precludes patients having safe access to therapeutic marijuana/cannabis.
The Pennsylvania State Nurses Association strongly urges the President to bring together a committee made up of experts in this field. Reputable experts with significant contributions to medical marijuana include: Dr. Sanjya Gupta, MD; Cyril Wecht, forensic pathologist; and Joshua Stanley, a leading medical cannabis entrepreneur. Joshua Stanley, along with his brothers, developed the strain of Charlotte’s Web for little Charlotte Figi who was having over 300 seizures a week, while taking conventional medications approved by the FDA, which only made her worse. The goal of this committee would be to educate yourself and other legislators about the benefits of medical cannabis and to change the classification of medical cannabis to a Schedule 2 or 3 drug. This will allow for clinical research to be initiated in the United States. We also encourage you to watch “Weed” 1 on YouTube to see Charlotte’s journey and her incredible transformation with medical cannabis.
PSNA and the American Nurses Association (ANA) have supported patients’ rights to legally and safely utilize medical marijuana/cannabis for symptom management of intractable diseases and their sequelae while protecting both patients and their providers in an effort to promote the best quality of life for patients needing such therapy. We strongly urge you and your administration to give this health care issue the attention it deserves.
Dr. Mark Crider, PhD, MSN, RN / PSNA President
Betsy M. Snook, MEd, BSN, RN / PSNA CEO