The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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February 1, 2014

Doc: It’s tough to back marijuana use

JOHNSTOWN — It is hard for traditional medical experts to endorse the therapeutic use of marijuana or any plant-based product, a local doctor says.

“The problem is reproducibility and dosage,” said Dr. Luis Gonzalez, director of the pharmacy residency program at Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center in Johnstown.

“It is difficult to reproduce the dosage and the purity of a plant-based drug.”

Add to that the fact that marijuana is still classified as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, defined as having “no currently accepted medical use.”

The classification creates more hurdles for those trying to do legitimate research, Gonzalez said.

While he acknowledges marijuana’s anti-nausea benefits, especially for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, Gonzalez said the process of proving therapeutic use of plant-based agents is cumbersome. Scientists must also show the benefits outweigh the potential harm from a new drug.

“We think of natural products from plants as being without risk, but that is not always the case,” he said.

Gonzalez admits the evidence is turning in favor of medical marijuana.

“The practical side of me makes me think, some use is beneficial,” he said.

Randy Griffith covers health care for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/photogriffer57.

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