Last week, ASA was in Tucson, AZ, to discuss medical cannabis with pharmacists and drug regulators from around the nation. What a great event! ASA applauds the wisdom, courage and foresight of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy for organizing the full-day symposium, and I am confident the presentations will inform meaningful dialogue among NABP’s member boards and individual pharmacists in the months and years to come.
Dr. Kenneth Mackie’ kicked off the symposium with an excellent introduction to cannabis and cannabinoids, including a comprehensive summary of cannabinoid pharmacology and some discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of utilizing the whole plant or individual compounds. Next, the American Medical Association provided a historical review of policy thier policy on medical cannabis and discussed the organization’s modified position. Alice Mead, GW Pharmaceuticals, talked up the advantages of the FDA approval process and suggested that approval of a standardized, cannabis-derived drug product wouldn’t necessarily require the government to reschedule cannabis. Instead, GW Pharm seemed to be encouraging a split (or bifurcated) schedule for products like Sativex.
Dedicated medical cannabis researchers, Dr. Donald Abrams, Dr. Gregory Carter, and Sunil Aggarwal, PhD, highlighted the historical and clinical research associated with the medical use of cannabis and featured testimony from medical cannabis patients. The morning wrapped with a point-counterpoint discussion featuring most of the presenters from the morning session. In the afternoon, representatives from the state of California and Health Canada discussed how medicinal marijuana programs have been incorporated into their respective laws and regulations with general success, while representatives from the Iowa Attorney’s General Office provided a review of the Iowa Rescheduling Petition.
By all accounts this symposium was a success! When veteran advocate Eric Sterling asked symposium attendees directly whether they thought marijuana has medical value, a great majority raised their hands. And, when asked directly whether attendees thought cannabis should be rescheduled for medical use, once again the great majority raised their hands. While skeptics were present, they were not unmoved. At the end of the day, symposium attendees overwhelmingly wanted to see cannabis rescheduled and reentered in the US Pharmacopea, believed it was feasible to compound natural cannabis, but wanted to see some safety controls and regulations in place to protect against diversion and abuse.
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It was a lot of information to digest in a single day, especially for individuals who hadn’t had much exposure to the issue. But, discussion was lively and ongoing even as I was waiting for my departure flight! I am confident the ideas and exchanges sparked by the event last week will live on when the NABP reconvenes for their annual meeting in May.