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Posted: Tuesday, 15 April 2014 9:43AM

Doctor weighs medical marijuana ahead of debate in the Louisiana Capitol

It's sure to be a hot topic in Baton Rouge when it comes up this week: medicinal marijuana.

Advocates of the drug say the herb could treat ailments and conditions such as chronic pain, glaucoma, seizure disorders and more.

Dr. Jose Calderon is a physician in psychiatry and addiction medicine at the LSU Health Sciences Center.  He says when Doctors prescribe marijuana, they're telling a patient to take more than 200  psychoactive compounds. 

He says, "It's like giving someone a handful of pills and saying, 'Take This.' "

He notes that while there is a wealth of user based feedback suggesting marijuana helps reduce pain, encourage appetite, reduce nausea, reduce muscle spasms, alleviate anxiety and a host of other positive impacts; marijuana has not been subject to intensive clinical trials like other pharmaceuticals.  So, he says, we don't have the data to measure claims.

"There's not good quality assurance," Calderon noted.

He says negative side effects from marijuana include increased risk of "psychiatric hospitalization... psychosis, schizophrenia and psychotic conditions."

The doctor says other negative impacts of marijuana use include memory loss, risk of addiction,

Dr. Calderon adds, "There are motor impairments that happen with people."

He notes that many medical marijuana users also start taking other drugs, including cocaine and opiates.

The doctor would like to see formal testing to determine to benefits and risks.

"There has to be a due process that needs to be rigorous if one is to take these compounds and prescribe them," he explained.

Calderon also wants to see efforts to determine which active ingredients in marijuana offer specific benefits and isolate them for treatment of individual conditions.

The measure is due to be debated in the Louisiana Legislature Wednesday.  Governor Bobby Jindal has indicated he is at least somewhat open to legalizing medical marijuana with very strict rules.

Photo credit Chuck Grimmett via flickr


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