The third and final day of the Drug Policy Alliance 2015 Reform Conference was an exciting and emotional close to a truly remarkable event. For several days, the 1500 attendants had been bombarded with tales of the injustices of the drug war. With so much negativity, the fight for justice can seem overwhelming and unwinnable. However, along with being educated about the traumas, everyone was also enlightened to the strength of our movement.
Strong and courageous individuals from governments and corporations, as well as regular activists, are stepping up to dismantle the drug war and treat people with the compassion they deserve. We have come further in the last five years than the previous forty, and our progress will continue to accelerate as the world continues to become more educated.
One of the worst failures of the drug war has been the prohibition of medical cannabis. The war on all cannabis use has dramatically reduced access to an extremely effective medicine. A panel titled, “Medical Cannabis in 2015: From the Lab to the Clinic” explored some of the latest research and evidence showing the incredible utility of cannabis.
Dr. Ethan Russo, MD, of PHYTECS, discussed barriers and strategies for getting cannabis medicines approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration. Dr. Russo is working with Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, the Israeli scientist who discovered THC in 1964, on the development of high-quality cannabis pharmaceutical preparations.
Dr. Sue Sisley, the Principal Investigator with the Scottsdale Research Institute in Arizona, shared updates on her progress attempting to study cannabis for the treatment of PTSD. She has faced numerous unnecessary barriers to her work because of the stigma against cannabis. Her experience is a testament to how pure politics has needlessly stopped objective clinical trials from being implemented.
Zach Walsh, the Associate Professor and Co-Director at the Centre for the Advancement of Psychological Science and Law, described Canada’s medical cannabis system. While not perfect, it has enabled thousands of patients throughout Canada to gain access to medical cannabis. With the new election of Justin Trudeau, who plans to entirely legalize cannabis, regulations on medical cannabis are expected to ease even further.
Dr. Michelle Sexton, a naturopathic doctor from Washington, talked about her work with patients and the importance of patient-reported outcomes. Without extensive clinical trials, it is critical to listen to patients and always keep learning from them. She has seen cannabis effectively replace pain and antidepressant pharmaceutical pills.
Finally, Dr. Dustin Sulak closed out the medical panel. The physician from Maine is an exceptionally charismatic and intelligent individual who has presented at several prestigious conferences around the United States. Dr. Sulak described the surprising safety and versatility of cannabis medicine. Dosages as little as 3mg or as high as 1700mg are both safe and tolerable. In terms of the magnitude of patient responses, Dr. Sulak said that sometimes cannabis helps a little, sometimes a lot, and sometimes it’s miraculous.
He sees cannabis as one of the most powerful medicines in his toolbox, and his commitment to the plant has grown more over the years as he has seen continuously stronger evidence of effectiveness.
There is no doubt that the world has suffered because of prohibition. But there is also no doubt that we are on the verge of ending this travesty, and finally providing people with the medicine they need and the compassion they deserve.
Photo Credits: David Morgan