Medical Marijuana An Ancient Look at a New Medical Approach for Pain Dr. Donna Schwontkowski interviews Dr. Phillip Denney, M.D. 08-04-2008 | Rocklintoday.Com | Dr. Donna Schwontkowski Cannabis: should it be legal or not? Decide for yourself after you read this interview with Dr. Philip A. Denney, a Carmichael medical physician, who expresses his views on medical marijuana below. Q: Dr. Denney, when did you first get interested in using marijuana for pain control? A: I was a child of the 60s and a Viet Nam era vet. After serving in the military, I went to medical school and was amazed at all the scientific literature I found about cannabis. By the way, we call it “cannabis” because marijuana is a Mexican slang word. Q: Did you have the opportunity to recommend cannabis when you first started practicing, 30 years ago? A: No. Cannabis didn’t become legal in the state of California until 1996. I started seeing patients who wanted to use it around 1999. Since then, I’ve seen about 25,000 patients who have considered using cannabis because of their medical condition. Q: Tell us a little about the history of this plant. A: Cannabis was the most commonly used pharmaceutical agent in this country for 100 years, between 1840 and 1940. Then it was made illegal by back room political deals to protect corporate America’s interest in paper and cotton. Q: Weren’t Americans using hemp for paper before those political dealings? A: Yes. Cannabis was the most commonly used pharmaceutical agent for those 100 years and hemp was used for making paper, canvas and cloth. Cannabis is actually a superior fiber but it was very labor intensive until a machine was created in the 1920s to make the process easier. DuPont was worried that it would replace artificial fibers like nylon, polyester and rayon. They created a brilliant public relations campaign that made cannabis a villain. The government lied to the public to protect the corporate interests. Q: In California, it’s legal to use cannabis if someone sees a licensed physician who agrees that their situation is one that constitutes legitimate use. Dr. Denney, why do you say that cannabis is safe? A: Cannabis is an attractive medicine for those with pain because it is very well tolerated and there’s no such thing as a cannabis overdose. The herb doesn’t build up in the tissues, it’s not toxic to the liver and you can discontinue its use easily without problems. That’s not the case with opiates, oxycontin, valium, Zanax and muscle relaxants. Cannabis is not a magic drug that cures things. It just makes pain more tolerable. Q: It sounds like God created a plant for pain control that outdoes any drug that the pharmaceutical industry created. The cannabis that you’re referring to is high quality cannabis, not what’s sold on the street? A: Yes. Q: What do you usually find with patients who try the cannabis? A: What’s common is that someone is on 60 Vicodin pills a day when they first arrive for a medical consult. After using 1/4 oz. cannabis per week, they don’t need the vicodin anymore. It doesn’t happen every time but it happens enough for practitioners like myself to take note of it. This benefits the patients because once anyone can cut back significantly on the drugs that they’re taking, it improves their quality of life. Q: What about risks, say from smoking cannabis? A: It’s not good to smoke anything, but the relative risk of harm from cannabis compared to tobacco is very low. A person inhales both of them. Both are made of cellulose. When you burn cellulose, bad chemicals in the smoke are generated. There’s a similar risk in smoking either cannabis or tobacco. Q: So why do you say that smoking cannabis is relatively safe? A: Because the difference is volume. Someone smoking one pack cigarettes a day is getting 4 to 4.5 oz. tobacco per week. Someone smoking cannabis only does 0.25 oz. per week. The relative risk of lung problems from smoking cannabis is less in those who smokes tobacco. Q: The risk could be eliminated totally from consuming the cannabis in other ways then? A: Yes. There are the infamous cannabis brownies and some people put it in peanut butter. Some people vaporize it through a vaporizer. The active ingredients vaporize and there’s zero smoke. It’s more of an elegant way to use it. Q: Dr. Denney, what’s your prediction about the status of cannabis use in America? It’s legal here in California but what about other states? A: I predict that this political foolishness will resolve once cannabis medications are available in the pharmacy. In Canada, people can get cannabis in the pharmacy. When it happens here, it will allow the government to save face and leave us alone. FDA approval will give them a way to say that they were not against it; they were just against growing it in your back yard. They still will have the opportunity to arrest you if you grow it in your back yard. For more information on medical cannabis, visit California NORML | Dedicated to reforming California's marijuana laws!