Dr. Robert Martin is the co-founder of CW Analytical Laboratories, a testing facility to ensure the potency and safety of medical cannabis and cannabis products for the past three years. We were able to discuss the legalization of marijuana from a public health standpoint, and also discussed with him the uses of medical marijuana and the pros and cons of nationwide legalization of recreational marijuana use from a medical standpoint.
TestCountry: Dr. Martin, thank you for taking the time to discuss the pros and cons of marijuana legalization with us. Your company currently tests cannabis products and medical cannabis for potency and safety. Can we start out by discussing briefly the types of regulations currently in place to ensure the quality and safety of medical marijuana?
Dr. Martin: Currently, only Oakland and Richmond mandate quality testing of medical cannabis northern California. In these cities, specific protocols must be established and followed prior to any patient interface. These protocols include both microbiological and pesticide screening using methods widely accepted as relevant and accurate.
TestCountry: So, are medical marijuana dispensaries required to seek out testing companies such as yours to ensure that the product they are selling is safe, or do they choose to do so on their own?
Dr. Martin: There are a growing number of dispensaries that are truly concerned about patient safety; however, the majority do not follow any quality control protocols to ensure patient safety. In these cases, dispensaries test for potency only, if they test at all, and are obviously more interested in profits than securing safe medicine. All patients should ask for test results at every chance they have during the purchasing process.
TestCountry: Then it sounds like if marijuana were to be legalized for recreational use, there could be some public health issues.
Dr. Martin To healthy adults, there would be little impact on public health, especially if marijuana is grown, harvested, and packaged following good manufacturing practices. However, with the widespread use of pesticides and the evolving knowledge of microbiological implications, I recommend safety testing for all recreational products, as well.
TestCountry: What steps should be taken to protect consumers from the mass production of marijuana, for both recreational and medical use, if the nationwide ban is lifted? Especially since herbal medicines that can be bought in drug stores have such a poor reputation for their potency and effectiveness. For example, should the FDA impose certain requirements to be met on the part of growers and those transporting the substance, much in the same way it creates regulations for other food and drug items?
Dr. Martin: Mass production of cannabis would require the same type of Quality Assurance (QA) as small production scenarios. It is my opinion that specifications and industry requirements must be set to establish standards and practices that all producers follow. It has been shown in the food industry that 80% of contaminations are handling related, and it is the same for the cannabis industry. Handling, storage, and shelf life requirements must be coordinated with microbiological and pesticide screenings to ensure safety and quality. Further, proper labeling for safety and accurate dosage, and tamper evidence of all packaging of cannabis products is recommended.
TestCountry: In your opinion, what would some of the pros and cons of nationwide legalization be?
Dr. Martin: Well, it is my opinion that a nationwide legalization is just what America needs. It would stop a great deal of injustice in our legal system and perhaps assist law enforcement in setting new priorities that are more concerned with protecting and serving than busting cannabis users. It would put the topic of marijuana use back in the home where it belongs at the parent-child interface. State and local municipalities would benefit from the tax revenue it would generate. It would release this alternative for use in the treatment of alcoholism and tobacco cessation. It would enable millions of patients in need of self-medication to treat themselves with no fear of contraindications, especially the liver. Finally, it would begin to stop the black market trade of cannabis currently alive and well in the U.S. However, the lack of nationwide QA programs is a major concern because it doesn’t ensure safe access for users.
TestCountry: Is marijuana anymore or less dangerous or effective from a medical perspective than other commonly used household drugs, such as aspirin?
Dr. Martin: From a biomechanical point of view, THC use via inhalation encounters the cellular interface in the lungs where the cannabinoids are transported directly to the brain via the blood, bypassing the liver. This enables the pain relief required without involved the liver, in any way. No other pain medication, whether over the counter or not, offers this kind of relief. Aspirin, Tylenol, and Advil-like compounds are known to damage the liver with long-term usage, a condition not cited in long-term cannabis use. Cannabis is actually safer than aspirin, as aspirin overdoses claim lives every year. Legal tobacco and alcohol kill millions together, each year yet can be purchased ubiquitously throughout our society. To date, there have been no cannabis related deaths ever recorded from an overdose, whether intentional or accidental. If grown under proper conditions, it is my opinion that it is a very safe herbal alternative.
TestCountry: Are you aware of any benefits that can be received from marijuana as a medicine?
Dr. Martin: Upcoming clinical trials will certainly identify the specific ailments where cannabis may be used effectively, however, many cancer patients utilize the medication during chemotherapy to aid in nausea and lack of appetite. Fibromyalgia patients claim significant pain reduction without psychoactive effects, but most patients use it as some sort of pain relief alternative medicine. Recent uses also include treatment for sleep disorders and depression.
TestCountry: Do you think that if marijuana were legalized for recreational use, would there be a negative effect on the medical marijuana industry or on the reputation of marijuana as a medicine?
Dr. Martin: It is difficult to say, but the image of medical cannabis would suffer as recreational users stop acting as patients and revert to once more looking for the most potent high. The reputation as an alternative herbal remedy will most certainly be maintained and clinical trials will continue to educate our medical community about the efficacy of this medicine, as more patients find its usage.
TestCountry: Dr. Martin, thanks so much for your time. For our last question, do you believe that legalizing the recreational use of marijuana would send mixed messages to consumers about the safety of experimenting with substances deemed as medicine, especially with regard to the increasing trend of prescription drug abuse?
Dr. Martin: Not at all. Legalization would only communicate the acceptance of our society to move forward in our understanding and usage of this herbal alternative. It has been proven over and over, that cannabis use is not a gateway drug and is non-habit forming. With regard to prescription drug use, cannabis provides a safe alternative combined with a professional treatment program, to those who wish to break their addiction to the pills. Finally, it should be recognized that addiction is a very serious and complex situation involving many psychological and physiological aspects of individuals, and can involve a myriad of non-habit forming substances, including cannabis.