Impact of legalized medical marijuana in Colombia

CCTV News

Impact of legalized medical marijuana in Colombia

Colombia is among a growing list of countries that have legalized marijuana for medical use. While many applaud the development, this sanctioning also brings new regulations, bureaucracy and costs. 

CCTV’s Michelle Begue has more from Bogota.

Impact of legalized medical marijuana in Colombia

Impact of legalized medical marijuana in Colombia

Colombia is among a growing list of countries that have legalized marijuana for medical use. While many applaud the development, this sanctioning also brings new regulations, bureaucracy and costs.

Little Valeria Rincon was diagnosed with epilepsy when she was just a few months old. Early on, she did not respond well to traditional drug treatment. Her mother says those drugs kept her baby in a constant drunk-like state. Then a pediatrician suggested an alternative. 

“We gave her the first drop of cannabis and Valeria’s seizures went from every day to every three days, she lasted three days without convulsing, so we kept increasing her dosage. Then she started to convulse only every three months, so that was a huge improvement,” Paola Zuluaga, Valeria’s mother said.

Zuluaga says her daughter has not had a seizure in eight months, thanks to medical marijuana. Valeria takes one drop of Cannabis oil three times a day and complements it with one traditional anti-seizure medication. 

Valeria is just one of the patients benefiting from Columbia President Juan Manuel Santos’ decree last December, which legalized the production and sale of Cannabis for medicinal purposes.  Three months after the decree was signed, Colombia approved the sale of Sativex, a marijuana-based pharmaceutical mouth spray used to treat muscle spasms caused by multiple sclerosis. 

Critics have said that big pharmaceutical firms are trying to cash in on societal shifts in medical marijuana and, in the process, driving costs sky high. 

Nestor Alvarez, a patient advocate, feels it would be a bad thing to import cannabis for medicinal use when the nation is already a major producer. It is a concern that may be ironed out by Colombian politicians now working to codify President Santos’ decree into national law.

Senator Juan Manuel Galan, the leader on the bill says local production of medicinal cannabis will be promoted so it can develop as an industry.

Still, it is unclear how lawmakers might attempt to keep prices down. 

For now, the cost of Valeria’s Colombian-made cannabis oil is affordable. Her mother says she is glad there will be regulation to ensure quality for years to come. She also hopes that any law will open the minds of doctors who have refused to consider this alternative approach. 

“I told Valeria’s pediatric neurologist what we were giving her and it was like I was telling her that I was giving my baby a bottle of whisky every single night. She was very mad, she stopped giving us preferential appointments,” Zuluaga said.

For Zuluaga, there is no controversy surrounding medical marijuana. To her, it is quite simply, the miracle plant that has brought back her daughter’s smile.


Sanho Tree on medicinal marijuana in the Americas

For more on the momentum to legalize medicinal marijuana in the Americas, CCTV America Mike Walter was joined by Sanho Tree, director of the Drug Policy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies.

Sanho Tree on medicinal marijuana in the Americas

Sanho Tree on medicinal marijuana in the Americas

For more on the momentum to legalize medicinal marijuana in the Americas, CCTV America Mike Walter was joined by Sanho Tree, director of the Drug Policy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies.

  • Brian Kelly
  • Brian Kelly

    “Low-THC strain only” seems to be a new trend in prohibitionist propaganda rhetoric.

    Read carefully:

    “Charlotte’s story and the concern for other young patients have led some lawmakers to consider passing legislation that only allows patients to access marijuana oils that are high in CBD and that have little or no THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). While it is heartening to see lawmakers’ concern for the plight of patients with catastrophic seizure disorders, these proposals unfortunately exclude the vast majority of those who can benefit from medical marijuana, some of whom also face life-threatening ailments.

    Relative Rarity

    While CBD appears to be particularly effective at treating seizures, the number of individuals treating seizure disorders through medical marijuana programs is relatively low. For example, only 2% of the registered patients in both Rhode Island and Colorado report seizures as their qualifying conditions. While it is imperative that these individuals be allowed to legally access medical marijuana – and the strain they need – it is just as important to remember that there are tens of thousands of other men and women and a small number of children who suffer from a variety of debilitating conditions whose symptoms are alleviated by medical marijuana. The vast majority of those patients have symptoms that benefit from strains of marijuana that include more than trace amounts of THC.

    THC: Why It Matters

    Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is just one of the roughly 85 cannabinoids found naturally in marijuana. Clinical trials and the experiences of hundreds of thousands of patients have shown that THC, and strains of marijuana that include THC, provide important medical benefits for individuals suffering from pain, multiple sclerosis, nausea, and wasting disease. THC is also the cannabinoid most responsible for marijuana’s psychoactive effects. While THC does cause marijuana’s “high,” patients use marijuana for relief, not for euphoria. Patients who inhale marijuana can titrate their dosage precisely to use only as much as they need, reducing or eliminating the euphoria. Some use marijuana only before bed.

    The federal government has officially recognized THC’s medical properties since 1985, when the FDA approved a prescription drug that is made of synthetic THC — Marinol — for nausea. Yet, Marinol is not adequate for many patients who can benefit from marijuana. For nauseated patients, a pill can be impossible to keep down. Meanwhile, many patients benefit from the synergistic effect of THC and the other cannabinoids, such as CBD. Natural marijuana is less intoxicating than Marinol because patients can titrate their dosage and other cannabinoids moderate THC’s psychoactive properties.

    Studies have shown that marijuana that includes THC can alleviate a host of debilitating conditions, including:

    Nausea and appetite loss: Researchers have found THC and marijuana with THC are effective anti-emetics and appetite stimulants for individuals suffering from the side effects of cancer chemotherapy or AIDS treatments.
    Multiple sclerosis: Research has found that marijuana with THC can alleviate spasticity. In addition, Canada, the U.K., and several other countries approved an oral marijuana extract made of equal proportions of CBD and THC.
    Pain: Several studies have found that marijuana strains that include THC can alleviate neuropathic pain — a notoriously difficult-to-treat nerve pain commonly found in amputees, AIDS patients, and patients with multiple sclerosis.
    Since the 1970’s, the federal government has been providing a handful of individuals who suffer from various ailments with marijuana grown at the University of Mississippi as part of the Compassionate Investigational New Drug program. The four surviving patients still receiving federal marijuana receive a strain with almost no CBD that has been essential to managing their conditions — a rare bone spur disorder, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, and a painful condition called nail patella syndrome, respectively. The marijuana these individuals have benefitted from would not be allowed under CBD-only proposals.

    Conclusion

    Medical marijuana legislation should not be so restrictive as to leave behind around 98% of the individuals who can benefit from it. THC has proven medical benefits and individuals who can benefit from strains that include it should not be forgotten when legislators debate medical marijuana bills.”