NSU hosts controversial medical marijuana debate

On Oct. 5, a panel of medical experts discussed the risks and benefits of using marijuana in medicine at an event sponsored by the local chapters of the American Medical Student Association, the Student National Medical Association and the Student Public Health Association in the Steele auditorium in the Terry Building.

Crystal A Martin, second–year medical student said allowing research of medical marijuana could put an end to the debate about its use because research will prove whether it is safe or dangerous.

“In medicine, safety and efficacy of new treatments is determined by clinical trials. The current legal status of marijuana makes this nearly impossible,” said Martin.

Martin gave a 20-minute PowerPoint presentation on the pharmacology, potential medical uses and risks, history of use and legislation, and current legal status of medical marijuana before the panel began.

“It’s not important to agree that marijuana should or should not be used in medicine,” said Martin. “It’s much more important for us as students to open our minds and base our decisions on scientific evidence.”

Members of the panel included: Irvin Rosenfeld, one of four patients in the federal government’s Compassionate Investigational New Drug program; Gregory Gerdeman, PhD., a pharmacologist studying the endocannabinoid system and professor of biology at Eckerd College; Matthew Seamon, JD, PharmD and associate professor of pharmacy practice and legal issues at NSU’s College of Pharmacy; Bruce Peters, D.O., professor of pediatrics and addiction medicine at NSU’s College of Osteopathic Medicine; and Michael McKenzie, MD, a family practice physician.

Martin said Rosenfeld’s real-life experience was provocative.

“While I thought Dr. Greg Gerdeman’s research and knowledge was a great asset to the panel, I think Irvin Rosenfeld’s personal experience with medical marijuana was the most informative,” said Martin.

The panel shared their views on the risks and benefits of using the substance, which included assessing the concerns of patients potentially developing lung cancer, addiction, psychiatric disorders, and patients increased risk of having a heart attack.

They discussed the benefits of using medical marijuana to treat nausea and vomiting in patients going through chemotherapy, to increase appetite in AIDS patients, muscle relaxation, and relief for neuropathic pain.

In the future, Martin plans to host a similar event and open it to NSU’s undergraduate community.

She said, “All of the speakers were quite knowledgeable and had a lot to share. I’d like to have another event (with fewer speakers) to give each person more time to speak. I’d also like to try to invite undergrads and see if anyone is interested in starting a NSU chapter of NORML [an organization that works to reform marijuana laws].”

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