A few minutes before his treatments, Dr. Grinspoon’s son would take a few puffs.
“We never—for as long as he lived—had to deal with that awful experience of seeing what he went through again,” he says.
Which leaves a clear challenge for researchers: Create a THC delivery method that leads to better absorption while reducing its psychoactive effect. A patch is being developed that would be applied above your gum line and deliver THC in a way that circumvents Marinol’s absorption problems. If approved, the product could be effective for relieving everything from nerve and cancer pain to glaucoma and anxiety.
Researchers believe that regular cannabis use can have neurotoxic effects on maturing brain structures. A 2012 study found that people who started smoking before age 18 showed a greater decline in IQ and cognitive functioning than people who started as adults. Also, heavy teen users—an average of four or more times a week—who continued to smoke as adults experienced an 8-point IQ drop which could not be blamed on alcohol, other drugs, or less education.
THC has what doctors and researchers know as biphasic activity. At low doses it has certain effects, and at high doses it can have opposite effects. In fact, somebody using it to get high with the right dose will be calm, have an appetite, see medical benefits, etc. But, take in too much THC, and a person can become irritable, even psychotic.
In 1937, the federal government passed the Marijuana Tax Act to prevent its recreational use. In the past 10 years, enforcing pot laws has cost taxpayers more than $211 million in the state of Washington alone, according to recent research by the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington State.