New York is joining the trend of states making marijuana available for medical use. But it's still categorized by the federal government as a controlled substance, which makes using it as a drug more difficult. NY1's Erin Billups filed the following report.
Governor Andrew Cuomo's move allowing marijuana use for those suffering with serious health conditions, makes New York the 21st state to do so.
"Medical marijuana can benefit people with pain, muscle spasms, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, potentially some bowel problems and I guess as some yet to be undiscovered indications as well," explains Lenox Hill Hospitalist Dr. Bradley Flansbaum.
It's that undiscovered part, the unknown, that has some in the health industry concerned.
Cannibis has been classified a schedule one controlled substance by the DEA for decades, limiting research on its health benefits.
"Usually when a drug is permitted for widespread use there's larger studies that can be used to monitor the safety and efficacy of the drug. We don't know how marijuana will interact with other drugs that are on the market or other drugs that are out there that people commonly take," says Columbia Mailman's School of Public Health Researcher Joanne Brady.
Brady has a study coming out in the American Journal of Epidemiology that shows increased rates of crashes, injuries and deaths in states that have legalized medical marijuana use with more people found driving under its influence. She says, in all, the literature on marijuana is still pretty thin compared to other FDA approved drugs and states may be putting the cart before the horse.
"You should be allowed to study it before it should be wide scale deregulated. Instead, what's happening is we're deregulating and then maybe we'll be allowed to study it," Brady says.
Dr. Flansbaum agrees there's still a lot of questions surrounding medical marijuana use.
"That horse has left the barn, and people have used it, not through formal FDA channels, but because they can buy it on their own, and we have this huge number of people saying it works, it helps me, it's very hard to suddenly say 'No this can’t be released for common use' both in the medical community, in the ambulatory setting and in the hospital setting,'" Flansbaum says.
New York's law will be coupled with research into how to best dispense marijuana, not into how effective the drug is.