• July 13, 2016

    NCIA Provides Testimony for Today’s Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on Medical Marijuana

    NCIA executive director Aaron Smith: “It’s long past time for our government to bring marijuana policy into alignment with the science.”

     

    Washington, DC – The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing today at 2:30pm ET on the potential medical benefits of marijuana. National Cannabis Industry Association executive director Aaron Smith was invited to submit written testimony to entered into the record of the hearing.

    Below are some excerpts from Smith’s testimony, followed by the full text.

    Testimony excerpts:

    “The medical community and the American public have been aware of the medicinal benefits of cannabis for decades. Sadly, however, the federal government has yet to engage in any meaningful research on medical cannabis. The DEA has put up bureaucratic roadblocks to legitimate science and has severely limited, if not completely obstructed, legitimate researchers who would study cannabis’ benefits. The result? Americans are denied the opportunity to see the results of FDA-approved, double-blind studies demonstrating the benefits of medical marijuana, while elected officials erroneously point to the lack of these studies as evidence of a lack of therapeutic benefits.”

    “It’s long past time for our government to bring marijuana policy into alignment with the science and allow states to regulate cannabis properly without federal interference. This would replace the criminal market for marijuana, including medical marijuana, with a regulated, tax-paying business sector that is committed to the compassionate care, health, and wellness of its patients, rather than to generating profit at any cost.”

    Full testimony as submitted:

    Testimony Submitted for the Record
    U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary
    Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism
    Hearing on:
    “Researching the Potential Medical Benefits and Risks of Marijuana”

    Aaron Smith, Executive Director
    National Cannabis Industry Association

    July 13, 2016

    Thank you Chairman Graham and Ranking Member Whitehouse for convening this very important hearing and for the opportunity to submit testimony for the record. I am Aaron Smith, co-founder and executive director for the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA).

    NCIA is the only national trade association advancing the interests of the legitimate and responsible cannabis industry. Our industry supports tens of thousands of jobs, tens of millions in tax revenue, and billions in economic activity. Our membership includes more than 1,000 businesses across 40 states, including hundreds of state-regulated cannabis dispensaries that provide medicine for thousands of patients.

    In my many years working in this industry, I have met countless people, heard numerous stories, and witnessed first-hand people who have benefited significantly from medical cannabis, especially when other medicines had failed to remedy their underlying maladies. The evidence is overwhelming — the results of medicinal cannabis have been nothing short of amazing.

    Despite years of experience and positive results, questions about medical cannabis remain.

    Is Cannabis Addictive?

    According to the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine’s 1999 report, Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base,

    Compared to most other drugs … dependence among marijuana users is relatively rare … [A]lthough few marijuana users develop dependence, some do. But they appear to be less likely to do so than users of other drugs (including alcohol and nicotine), and marijuana dependence appears to be less severe than dependence on other drugs.”

    In other words, cannabis is safer than alcohol and most prescription drugs on the market. In fact, on July 6th of this year, National Public Radio broadcast a story on how Medicare prescriptions for many drugs actually drop after medical marijuana is legalized in a state.

    Yesterday the Senate debated S. 524, the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act. It is our view that no debate on opioid addiction should take place without discussing how using cannabis to treat chronic pain can help alleviate the need for addictive painkillers. In fact, if doctors and other medical professionals across this country were able to recommend cannabis to their patients in appropriate circumstances and under medical supervision, we believe we would diminish the over-prescribing, dependency, and abuse of opioids we see today.

    Research supports this theory. A study published by JAMA Internal Medicine in August of 2015 concluded that states with legal medical marijuana access saw a 25% drop in annual deaths from opioid pharmaceutical overdoses. A report published in Health Affairs this month found that a typical doctor in a state that had legalized medical marijuana prescribed 1,826 fewer doses of painkillers per year.

    What Conditions Can Cannabis Treat?

    People who are suffering from cancer, glaucoma, AIDS or HIV, Crohn’s disease, hepatitis C, and multiple sclerosis have found relief by using marijuana. Marijuana is also used to treat cachexia, anorexia, and wasting syndrome; severe or chronic pain or nausea; seizure disorders (such as epilepsy); arthritis; migraines; post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); and Alzheimer’s disease. This is why medical cannabis is supported by, among others:

    • American College of Physicians
    • American Nurses Association
    • American Public Health Association
    • Lymphoma Foundation of America
    • Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
    • Epilepsy Foundation
    • American Academy of HIV Medicine
    • National Multiple Sclerosis Society

    What Does the Research Say About Medical Marijuana?

    As a California native, I remember in 1999 when the California legislature passed S.B. 847, which commissioned the University of California to establish a scientific program to expand the public scientific knowledge on purported therapeutic usages of marijuana. The Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research (CMCR) at UCSD, produced a report with a conclusion that read,

    As a result of this program of systematic research, we now have reasonable evidence that cannabis is a promising treatment in selected pain syndromes caused by injury or diseases of the nervous system, and possibly for painful muscle spasticity due to multiple sclerosis. Obviously more research will be necessary to elucidate the mechanisms of action and the full therapeutic potential of cannabinoid compounds. Meanwhile, the knowledge and new findings from the CMCR provide a strong science-based context in which policy makers and the public can discuss the place of these compounds in medical care.”

    The medical community and the American public have been aware of the medicinal benefits of cannabis for decades. Sadly, however, the federal government has yet to engage in any meaningful research on medical cannabis. The DEA has put up bureaucratic roadblocks to legitimate science and has severely limited, if not completely obstructed, legitimate researchers who would study cannabis’ benefits. The result? Americans are denied the opportunity to see the results of FDA-approved, double-blind studies demonstrating the benefits of medical marijuana, while elected officials erroneously point to the lack of these studies as evidence of a lack of therapeutic benefits.

    Why Is Marijuana Classified as a Schedule I Substance?

    By every objective measure, it makes no sense that federal law classifies cannabis as a Schedule I substance alongside dangerous drugs like heroin. Moving marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II would acknowledge that it has medical benefits, but would still classify marijuana on equal footing with much more dangerous drugs like cocaine and methamphetamines. There is no reason for Congress to move marijuana from one inappropriate schedule to another inappropriate schedule.

    Ultimately, marijuana should be removed from the list of federally controlled substances, enabling states to enact their own approaches to marijuana laws, including medical marijuana laws, without the existing conflict between state and federal law. This will also allow expansion of research into the medical value of marijuana.

    It’s long past time for our government to bring marijuana policy into alignment with the science and allow states to regulate cannabis properly without federal interference. This would replace the criminal market for marijuana, including medical marijuana, with a regulated, tax-paying business sector that is committed to the compassionate care, health, and wellness of its patients, rather than to generating profit at any cost.

    Thank you again for the opportunity to submit testimony for the record. We urge you to permit researchers to study marijuana’s medical benefits. The evidence is simply too great to ignore.

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