Area pharmacist opposes medical marijuana initiatives
Whitley: ‘[Marijuana] is a schedule 1 item, and federally, it’s illegal’
There will be three medical marijuana initiatives on the November ballot for voters to weigh in on — Amendment 2, Amendment 3 and Proposition C — and local Pharmacist Logan Whitley, part owner of Whitley’s Pharmacy, said voters should vote no on all three initiatives until there is more research done on the issue.
“I have very negative feelings toward all three of these bills,” Whitley said. “There aren’t nearly the limitations on them that there needs to be.”
Whitley said one of the initiatives [Amendment 2] allows home growth, which he believes is concerning.
“If this is a prescription medicine, it needs to be regulated as a prescription not grown at home,” Whitley said. “One of the measures, [Amendment 3] is sponsored by Brad Bradshaw, but it seems to me that one person being behind all the research doesn’t seem like it would lead to unbiased results.”
According to Whitley, there are a lot of mysteries behind marijuana. “There isn’t a lot of evidence due to the regulation of it,” Whitley said. “[Marijuana] is a schedule 1 item right now, and federally, it’s illegal, so the study that has been permitted on it has been of mixed results.”
Whitley said it does help with chronic pain, and with nausea and vomiting that comes with chemotherapy.
“It is helpful for the some things,” Whitley said. “However, there are things it’s been tested for that it does not help with.
“There are a lot of well known side-effects to it, it is a psychoactive medication so you do see risks of worsening conditions like schizophrenia and depression.”
According to Whitley, people who already have those psychological conditions could be at an increased risk for worsening those conditions if they are using marijuana.
“Also, the risks associated with inhaling any kind of smoke is known to not be good for you,” Whitley said. “It is not good for your lungs or your cardiovascular system. [Smoking] does increase your heart rate and your blood pressure, which puts you at risk for a cardiovascular disease.”
Whitley said he has a problem with introducing another medication that has so many side effects.
“I know the main reasons that some physicians are very positive about marijuana is that there is currently such an opiate epidemic,” Whitley said. “There is really an astronomical number of opioid overdoses, and of illicit opiate use that people steal or buy [on the black market]. Considering that it’s a narcotic, it has been poorly regulated based on how easy to is to get your hands on it now.”
According to Whitley, he believes people feel like marijuana use will reduce opiate use.
“I think that would be great,” Whitley said. “However, I also feel like if we see such poor regulation of narcotics now what do we expect to see from marijuana regulation.
“Most doctors are very knowledgeable with their prescribing practices. However, it doesn’t take many with poor prescribing practices to cause a problem.”
Whitley said it is not all the physician’s fault either. Until very recently the medical standard for treatment of pain is to treat pain aggressively, and if people are experiencing pain they have a right to pain treatment.
“The ultimate goal is no pain,” Whitley said. “However, that has resulted in huge doses of opiates such as hydrocodone and oxycodone.
“That comes from medical authority, so that’s not necessarily physicians faults. I look at how poorly opiates have been regulated, and I don’t feel very assured that marijuana is going to be regulated any better.”
According to Whitley, his general feeling is that research being done would be put to better use by trying to find new pain treatments, rather than on marijuana, which he believes is already pretty risky.
“They are kind of looking at it from a risk-benefit perspective right now by saying maybe marijuana is a bit better than the opiates that are being used to treat pain right now,” Whitley said. “I don’t want to start dealing with a new medication that is maybe a little bit better. I want medications that are proven to be less addictive, have fewer side effects, are proven to be good for you and promote health.”
Whitley said if there was something on the ballot that promoted research without putting it into the public’s hands first, he may feel differently about the issues.
“Right now, it’s like they are trying to make it available to everyone and do research,” Whitley said. “That is not really how medicines are dispensed. You typically do the research first, and then the drug is passed by the FDA. I feel like that is the proper process to make sure that what we are doing is safe and effective.”
According to Whitley, marijuana doses right now are also a problem.
“If you ask a general physician what a good dose of marijuana is, 95 percent of them are not going to know,” Whitley said. “Most of the research that has been done so far has been done on a very small scale, and I would hesitate to call it reliable.”
Whitley said he prefers medication to be more black and white, and right now, what he is seeing is a lot of gray areas.
“I don’t think physicians will be pushing marijuana — I think people will be asking for it,” Whitley said. “I feel like it’s already so difficult to decipher who needs pain treatment and who doesn’t. When you introduce a new medication like this, you cause more of a problem.
“Yes, there is a whole lot less risk of death using marijuana, but you still have people who drive while they are intoxicated and you have the issues of the psychoactive side effects.”
According to Whitley, heavy use of marijuana has been shown to lower cognitive use, cognitive abilities and performance on cognitive tests.
“Maybe that does have to do with the ratios of CBD and all that,” Whitley said. “That what we need to be studying right now before we just release it to the general public.
“There is very limited information on marijuana helping seizure conditions that I’ve seen. There are a few rare forms of epilepsy that it is effective at treating. Also, with anorexia or cachexia, [people who have HIV or cancer and get anorexic], marijuana has been shown in some cases to help those people.”
Whitley said the benefits seem to be hit or miss.
“Only certain people respond to it,” Whitley said. “In fact, the leading medication out right now, Megestrol, has been shown to be superior to marijuana in treating those conditions.”
According to Whitley, he believes marijuana is going to be safer in an oral form rather than smoking it. However, he believes those oral marijuana medications are still mostly in experimental forms.
“There is an FDA-approved synthetic THC that is rarely used because the risk-benefit hasn’t really shown that it is beneficial to people,” Whitley said. “As far as CBD, my thoughts on that are a lot like other over-the-counter products and herbals, in that if that helps you, that’s great.
“With all over-the-counter products, there is nearly always limited evidence because there are no billion dollar manufacturers that are willing to spend millions on them to do research. If it helps you that is wonderful, I don’t see any potential negatives to using them that I know of.”
Whitley said he hasn’t read much about CBD oils to really find out more about them, partly because his wholesellers don’t carry them so he can’t buy them anyway.
“I also think the logic, ‘If people want it they are going to get it,’ isn’t a reason to pass anything,” Whitey said. “If that logic is true, then we should just make narcotics available to the public.”
According to Whitley, he does have a lot of problems with the FDA because they are so slow.
“The FDA is heavily regulated, but I don’t know if they function as well as they should,” Whitley said. “However, they are the governing body, and the best standard to which we can tell if something has really been tested or not. If there was another independent source that was testing medications, and providing on good authority that something was or was not beneficial then I would look into what they were saying but right now the FDA is it.
“There is no doubt that we are in a crisis because they have narrowed down pain treatment to basically strong opiates, and that is a shame.”
Whitley said he feels like the three marijuana initiatives on the ballot right now are not going to improve anything.
“When I read those three measures, I see things that will have to be revised later because people are going to see that they don’t work very well,” Whitley said. “I feel like there needs to be a lot of independent studies done on this medicine before we release it.”
Whitley said he doesn’t think medical marijuana dispensaries are going to hurt pharmaceutical business, because there are a number of medications that you can only get in a pharmacy.
“The thing that concerns me there is that you are putting medication in the hands of someone who is not a trained medical professional,” Whitley said. “My concern there is that these people who are growing marijuana, what is their medical training or their expertise? Did they go to school for eight years to learn how to do what they are doing?
“I would’t go to a bank or gas station with medical questions. So what am I going to do when I am going to the dispensary for medicine, and all they know how to do is to grow a plant. This is someone who is an expert on pot, but that’s about all. So, if a patient has questions or needs help, that is where your pharmacist helps you now, but you won’t get that in a dispensary.”
Whitley said if marijuana is a medication, his feeling is that it should go through a pharmacy.
“It should be going through some kind of medical facility where someone is trained to help people with their questions, as far as drug interactions and condition treatment,” Whitley said. “Basically, I think people need to be informed of both sides of the medical marijuana issues. It’s an issue that will affect people whether they are using the product or not, because they probably have a loved one who is going to be affected by it so people need to be aware.”
Whitley said he feels like most medical professionals in general who are against medical marijuana right now are really not saying anything on the issue because there is such a positive push for it among people who want to use it or doctors who want to research it.
“It is kind hard to get a word in and say something negative, especially when people are going to take that and look at you negatively for your opinion,” Whitley said. “I certainly don’t wish to hurt anyone’s feelings or create a sense of negativity about anything. I just feel like [the medical marijuana initiatives] need to be looked at from all sides and thoroughly examined before it goes to the ballot.
“I think that a large reason why people are staying silent because they are afraid of backlash. If you look at the number of medical professionals who are supporting it, it is very small.”
Whitley said he wouldn’t be surprised by either outcome on Nov. 6.
“I would encourage people, regardless of their opinion, to vote,” Whitley said. “Voting is your right.”