A Publication of WTVP

As a chemistry major from the University of Illinois, I used to be able to explain anything by the laws of chemistry and physics. Yet the government sometimes challenges me to explain their actions when it defies logic, let alone the laws of physics, chemistry or biology. Such is the case with Illinois legalizing medical marijuana. Why? Entropy, the second law of thermodynamics, states that systems have a tendency to drift toward low performance. This is true for all things—machines, people and even governments (though I think they tend to begin at a low level of performance). This is the only way I can explain the government’s legalization of medical marijuana; the laws of thermodynamics need not apply.

To determine medical marijuana’s medical usefulness, answer a few questions. First, is medical marijuana’s active ingredient, THC, a new treatment not available to patients until now? Absolutely not; marinol is a prescription medication that contains THC, which has been demonstrated to stimulate hunger in some disease cases, like cancer and HIV, and proven helpful in reducing the pain associated with multiple sclerosis.

Second, is there an advantage to delivering THC through smoking medical marijuana versus taking the pill Marinol? Nope, just the opposite, in fact. Smoking provides inconsistent THC delivery because there is no standard percentage in the various forms of prescription marijuana. Smoking marijuana also causes respiratory irritants, and users tend to develop chronic cough, excess phlegm and frequent respiratory illnesses. What about glaucoma, anxiety or headaches? No study demonstrates that smoking marijuana is preferable to using pills containing THC.

Before a medication in pill form is approved by the FDA, it must demonstrate that the medication in each pill is consistent, but this is not done with medical marijuana. The level of THC in marijuana depends on variables like nitrogen, sunlight, hybrid variety, etc. Medical marijuana could also be contaminated by pesticides or microbes.

Are there side effects of medical marijuana? Yes, and with the pills, too. There is known brain function impairment due to THC-binding cannabinoid receptors in the brain which affect pleasure, memory, concentration, movement, coordination, balance, sensory/time perception and new memory formation. A significant side effect from marijuana use is “amotivational syndrome,” defined as losing interest in typically rewarding activities.

Does the use of medical marijuana affect drug screen results? If detected, it will still cause a positive drug screen. It may be legal to use in certain states, but the federal government still upholds the Drug-Free Workplace Act, which says marijuana is illegal. Consider the use of alcohol. Alcohol is legal, but if used at work, or if one is found under alcohol’s influence at work, termination is likely. The metabolism and blood levels that cause alcohol impairment are well known, but the effects of marijuana vary widely for each use and among people. The clearance of marijuana from the body is very slow: the typical weekend user will be positive for three to four days, while a daily user may be positive for six weeks after stopping.

The legalization of medical marijuana was not made to offer physicians a better treatment plan for their patients. It was a political decision that cannot be explained medically. iBi