Stop the reefer madness and clear the way for real medical cannabis research | Opinion

The Capitol building in Harrisburg is lit in green to celebrate medical marijuana's passage. (Gov. Tom Wolf/Flickr)

By Megan Jones Hoffman

To say that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the current political landscape is a colossal understatement.

No other event in recent human history has led to a simultaneous shutdown of both public worship and public gambling.  Never before had it occurred to any of us to wear a mask and gloves to the bank, or to scrub every item delivered to our front door by UPS. Yet here we are.

Another, likely unexpected, development is the very quick evolution of medical marijuana in the Pennsylvania. In 2016, when the act was passed on the Senate floor, the measure passed by a respectable margin. Despite that, the in-fighting you would expect from state level politicians ensued.

Medical cannabis has been a topic of much concern among physicians, up to, and throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Today it’s an essential industry, allowed to operate when many more “traditional” businesses are shuttered.

Suddenly, researchers at the University of Lethbridge in Canada are studying its potential ability to treat the SARS-family viral disaster, as documented by Forbes in Cannabis Treats COVID-19’ Rallied Weed Stocks: Cannabis Could Aid Pandemic—If Someone Pays To Find Out’.

CNN, the most traditionally corporate news outlet in America, is still holding the sponsor-written line that using marijuana is necessarily as destructive as smoking tobacco, which has been thoroughly debunked already by the National Institutes of Health.

Advocates, patients ask Legislature to ‘fix’ Pa.’s medical marijuana program

These ‘scientific authorities’ reflect the unacceptable level of ignorance they claim to rail against. Further, they fail to recognize the myriad other (non-smoking) methods of using cannabis, the legitimate reasons for doing so, and the capacity for individuals to have meaningful conversations with their physicians regarding the same.

In contrast, the BBC, in its piece Coronavirus: Protective Badges and Cannabis Claims Fact-Checked has authoritatively, and correctly, asserted the truth that CBD, a byproduct of marijuana, has been proven to reduce inflammation throughout the body, and holds a legitimate degree of therapeutic value, even if a full-fledged cure or vaccine for COVID-19 hasn’t yet been established.

Apparently, Dr. Sanjay Gupta and his ilk haven’t gotten the message yet, as demonstrated by this sophomoric commentary in Smoking weed and coronavirus: Even occasional use raises risk of COVID-19 complications.’

This refer-madness mentality is dangerous and regressive, like the initial push to criminalize the hemp plant with the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937.

Independent, scientifically responsible organizations are looking for objective answers to this health crisis everywhere, and have found promise in specific strains of cannabis. Some may, or may not, regulate the body’s dangerous inflammatory response when exposed to COVID-19.

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These same strains may also block pathways the virus uses to infiltrate the immune system, but we won’t know until we put away the historic myth of what cannabis is, and study it fairly.

The market for marijuana may be changing, but regressive attitudes are still polluting the medical industry, and serve to hamstring scientific advancement. If COVID-19 can’t change that, what will?

Megan Jones-Hoffman is a veteran, writer, and mental health advocate on a professional pause for motherhood. For more of her work, please visit mompositive.org. Her work appears occasionally on the Capital-Star’s Commentary Page.