WASHINGTON TERRACE — Last week’s town hall meeting at Bonneville High School focused on the ills of marijuana, presenting data primarily from a law enforcement perspective. And some of the information shared seemed to merit closer scrutiny.
Even Lt. Casey Warren of the Riverdale Police Department, one of the evening’s presenters, acknowledged that some of the information was not widely known.
“A lot of these facts I’d never heard before,” Warren said.
Here’s a fact-check on four questions discussed during the presentation:
1. DOES MARIJUANA HAVE ANY MEDICAL BENEFIT FOR EPILEPSY PATIENTS?
This simplest answer is that it’s unknown.
Weber County Sheriff Terry Thompson began the presentation by saying marijuana, an illegal drug under federal law, has “no currently accepted medical value.”
Thompson shared excerpts from a July 2015 letter written by Dr. Amy Brooks-Kayal, past president of the American Epilepsy Society, in which she urged Idaho’s governor to delay adoption of new cannabis legislation and instead encouraged new research.
“In sum, there simply is no clinical, controlled research to support the adoption of new CBD legislation for epilepsy such as your state is considering,” she wrote. “The anecdotal results of a few families in Colorado, shared with the media, should not be the basis for law making.”
The American Epilepsy Society notes 3 million people in the U.S. have epilepsy, and one-third of them experience seizures resistant to treatment.
The organization blatantly warned against the use of medical marijuana until March 2016, when it slightly updated its position to remove the statement that “safety concerns coupled with a lack of evidence of efficacy in controlled studies result in a risk/benefit ratio that does not support use of marijuana for treatment of seizures at this time.”
It now focuses on imploring the federal Drug Enforcement Administration to change the drug’s Schedule 1 classification. Doing so would allow for the use of medical marijuana for “scientifically rigorous research into the development of cannabinoid-based treatments.”
“Robust scientific evidence for the use of marijuana is limited. The lack of information does not mean that marijuana is ineffective for epilepsy,” according to its website. “It merely means that we do not know if marijuana is a safe and effective treatment for epilepsy, which is why it should be studied using the well-founded research methods that all other effective treatments for epilepsy have undergone.”
In December 2016, GW Pharmaceuticals presented results from studies of its CBD product Epidiolex®.
In a statement on the company’s website, GW CEO Justin Gover said key findings provided positive data that it might be effective in treating “two of the most difficult-to-treat epilepsy patient populations.”
2. IS IT POSSIBLE TO DIE FROM INGESTING TOO MUCH CANNABIS?
The DEA fact sheet reflects an overdose death from marijuana has never been reported.
But a case report published in March claims an infant died from a heart problem after exposure to cannabis. News agencies from around the country saw the report and said, as Newsweek did, that the baby was the “first ever death from ingesting too much cannabis.”
Thompson touched on it, too: “Recently an 11-month-old child died from myocarditis (inflammation of the heart) due to exposure to marijuana.”
But two Colorado doctors involved in the case denied that direct conclusion.
"We are absolutely not saying that marijuana killed that child," Dr. Thomas Nappe told The Washington Post. While it was reported as the first pediatric death associated with cannabis exposure, Nappe said the word “associated” does not indicate cause-and-effect.
The case report’s authors — Nappe and Christopher Hoyte — told Live Science their findings justified further research into heart problems linked with marijuana exposure.
3. IS GROWING MARIJUANA ‘DETRIMENTAL TO OUR ENVIRONMENT’?
That depends on the part of the environment you’re looking at.
One of Thompson’s slides came from a report out of Washington state compiled by the Northwest High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, a group formed by Congress under the 1988 Anti-Drug Abuse Act.
The report indicates that in 2016, more than half of all illegally grown plants were on state land, and that fertilizers and other waste products “severely damanged public terrain.” The same year, the report says, some 58,000 illegal plants consumed 43.2 gallons of water in a 120-day cycle. On top of that, a massive amount of energy is needed to grow — powerful 1,000-watt light bulbs, exhaust fans and air conditioners are needed to regulate temperatures.
Collectively, marijuana-growing consumed enough power to operate 2 million homes and produced the CO2 emissions of 3 million cars, the report states.
Thompson said the conclusions show “cultivation of marijuana is extremely detrimental to our environment.”
In April, the California Public Utilities Commission published “Energy Impacts of Cannabis Cultivation,” describing cannabis as energy-intensive when grown indoors. But it also said its the most water-efficient way to grow cannabis.
As far as the economic environment goes, pot is a cash cow. Legalizing medical and recreational marijuana, according to the September 2017 Washington State Economic and Revenue Forecast, will lead to a predicted $245.6 million in taxes and fees between 2017-19 — a $25.2 million increase over the previous two-year period.
4. DOES MARIJUANA USE CAUSE ERECTILE DYSFUNCTION?
There isn’t a report directly linking ED with cannabis, marijuana or THC. But marijuana use might combine with other health factors to lead to ED.
Thompson briefly brought up ED during the presentation.
There seems to be agreement in the medical world that smoking “too much” isn’t good for sex drive.
Marijuana might boost sexual satisfaction if it helps a user relax, according to a February 2016 Men’s Journal story. The information is cited to Dr. Perry Solomon, the chief medical officer at HelloMD, a telemedicine site dedicated to medical marijuana topics.
However, Solomon also cautioned that too much cannabis can be detrimental to male sexuality: "You get that classic stoner couch lock and lose your desire to have sex at all."
Medical News Today noted there might be a connection between marijuana and ED because, like tobacco cigarettes, smoking restricts blood flow. An article on the site also notes THC might impair how cannabinoid receptors in penile tissue function or it could increase blood pressure or heart rate, which could compound the risks of ED.
Interested in listening to the hourlong event hosted by Bonneville Communities That Care? Click on the audio file below.