Physicians and medical officials should look to the history of penicillin for lessons on how to handle medical marijuana, according to Dr. David Nutt - a neuropsychopharmacologist from the Imperial College London.
While medical marijuana is legal in the UK, patients are finding it extremely difficult to get access to cannabis. UK Physicians are still wary of recommending marijuana due to fears surrounding the potential health risks of longterm cannabis consumption and the lack of clinical evidence surrounding its medicinal value.
However, a similar lack of research didn't stop doctors from prescribing penicillin seven decades ago, when physicians were okay with giving patients the antibiotic drug because it met a big clinical need at the time. Medical marijuana, said Nutt, has similar potential and physicians today should "embrace cannabis like penicillin."
"About 70 years ago another natural medicine came into the medical arena," Nutt said of penicillin in a recently published article. "This was welcomed enthusiastically by UK doctors even though there had been no placebo-controlled trials of its efficacy, because it was seen to fulfill a major clinical need."
However, Nutt does agree that there needs to be much more research on cannabis, but medical marijuana's ability to help treat things like severe epilepsy are so well established that he thinks doctors should seriously consider recommending cannabis for those conditions.
His message might fall on deaf ears, though. Nutt has become a controversial figure in the UK medical community over the past decade. In 2009 he was released from his position as the country's Chief Drug Advisor after making the claim in an editorial that horseback riding was more dangerous than consuming drugs like MDMA. Using statistical evidence, Nutt claimed that the rate of serious injury was almost 30 times higher for horseback riders than it was for MDMA consumers.
The point of the article, he said, was to show that many socially acceptable and legal activities are often far more harmful than drug use, which remains highly criminalized in the UK. But his stance probably made critics worry that people would stop playing polo and start going to raves.
h/t: High Times