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Does the Marijuana Pill Work?

  • by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director August 4, 2009

    This informative article from CBS News about the government’s claim that there is no need for medical patients to access cannabis, when there is a ‘fake’ cannabis pill on the market, features remarks from NORML advisory board member, professor and author

    Mitch Earleywine, and former deputy drug czar under Bush 1.0 Herb Kleber, which strongly underlines the differences between credible and not credible on the topic of cannabis.

    Credible:

    [One] problem with Marinol is that it’s orally administered,” Dr. Mitch Earleywine, an associate professor of Clinical Psychology at the State University of New York at Albany, said in an email. “Therefore, it takes longer to work than cannabis inhaled from a vaporizer. (Usually 90 minutes at best rather than 15 seconds – a meaningful amount of time to the nauseated.)”

    “It’s harder to control dosage, too, so folks end up discombobulated or without symptom relief,” he added. “In addition, folks who are vomiting can’t hold down the pills.” Earleywine also said that a dose Marinol costs three to five times as much as a comparable dose of medical marijuana.

    Not Credible:

    “Are there actions in the whole plant that you don’t get from just the Marinol? I would be surprised if there wasn’t,” he continued. “The problem is that most of the data about the potential medical actions of the smoked form are anecdotal.”

    Dr. Kleber, who said he has prescribed Marinol to a patient and found it to be effective, points to what he characterizes as a significant advantage of the pill over traditional marijuana: “People don’t abuse it.”

    “Marijuana addiction is becoming common and as a result I’m seeing an increasing number of people who have trouble stopping marijuana,” he said. “Contrary to popular beliefs that there is no marijuana withdrawal, there is marijuana withdrawal. It’s very clear cut.”

    Talk about anecdotal! Dr. Kleber would have readers believe, that cannabis today, as compared to the prior 2,000 years of documented cannabis use by humans is that “Marijuana addiction is becoming common”.

    Really?

    “I’m seeing an increasing number of people who have trouble stopping marijuana”

    Of course you are Herb because as it has been well documented by NORML that the criminal justice system throughout most of the United States presents minor cannabis offenders with the Hobson’s Choice of either going to jail or to visit the offices of the ‘Dr. Klebers’ in America for ‘treatment’.

    Dr. Kleber well knows this, so his statement is for me the working definition of disingenuous!

    Lastly, there is nothing new about Marinol as it has been legal and available for medical patients since the mid 1980s. If the pill worked as Dr. Kleber claims, voters and legislators in the 13 states with medical cannabis laws would not have opted for a whole plant solution.

    Marinol was supposed to be the government’s great ‘silver bullet’ back in the mid 1980s to end the public debate about patients’ need for whole-smoked cannabis–an analog of one of the plant’s major ingredients isolated in pill form.

    Want to know more about ‘pot’ pills vs. the real thing? Checkout NORML’s published paper ‘Marinol vs. Natural Cannabis‘.

    Does the Pot Pill Work?
    The Government Says a Pill Called Marinol Offers the Same Benefits as
    Medical Marijuana. Is it True?

    By Brian Montopoli
    August 4, 2009

    (CBS) “Medical marijuana,” the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says, “already exists.”

    They don’t just mean in California. A pill known as Marinol has been legal and approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use with a prescription anywhere in America since 1985.

    It’s active ingredient? Dronabinol, better known as THC, the primary psychoactive element of the cannabis plant.

    “Marinol provides standardized THC concentrations, does not contain the other 400 uncharacterized substances found in smoked marijuana, such as carcinogens or fungal spores, and is not associated with the quick high of smoked marijuana,” said Neil Hirsch, a spokesman for Marinol manufacturer Solvay Pharmaceuticals.

    But Marinol is not the same thing as traditional, smokable marijuana. It is a less complex substance lacking both some of the good components found in traditional marijuana (such as cannabidiol, which has been found to have anti-seizure effects) and the bad or not-yet-fully-understood components (among them potential carcinogens) that can also come with the drug.

    Ken Trainer, a 60-year-old Massachusetts resident who has battled Multiple Sclerosis for 25 years, said he has long been smoking marijuana to deal with the regular tremors he gets in his arms and legs.

    “If I smoke a joint, the tremors go away most times before the joint is gone,” he said. “It makes my life a little easier.” Marinol, by contrast, “didn’t really do much of anything for me,” he said.

    56-year-old Des Moines resident Jeff Elton, who was diagnosed with gastroparesis six years ago, had a similar experience when he was prescribed Marinol to deal with his chronic nausea and vomiting.

    “I felt no relief, I didn’t feel ill, I felt nothing,” he said. “It might as well be M&M’s.”

    Elton said he switched to marijuana, which he smokes through a vaporizer – a device that heats the active ingredients into a vapor instead of burning them. He said it allows him to keep down his food and regain some of the weight he lost while on Marinol.

    “[One] problem with Marinol is that it’s orally administered,” Dr. Mitch Earleywine, an associate professor of Clinical Psychology at the State University of New York at Albany, said in an email. “Therefore, it takes longer to work than cannabis inhaled from a vaporizer. (Usually 90
    minutes at best rather than 15 seconds – a meaningful amount of time to the nauseated.)”

    “It’s harder to control dosage, too, so folks end up discombobulated or without symptom relief,” he added. “In addition, folks who are vomiting can’t hold down the pills.” Earleywine also said that a dose Marinol costs three to five times as much as a comparable dose of medical marijuana.

    Defenders note that Marinol is not meant to be a cure-all: It has been approved specifically for treating nausea and vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy and for treating anorexia associated with weight loss in patients with AIDS.

    “When the whole push for the smoked product came along, it was often for those two indications,” said Dr. Herbert Kleber, a professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University and the former deputy drug czar under President George H.W. Bush. “And in general, I’ve not seen any need for the smoked form of marijuana for those two indications. Marinol had already been shown to be quite effective for those two things.”

    “Are there actions in the whole plant that you don’t get from just the Marinol? I would be surprised if there wasn’t,” he continued. “The problem is that most of the data about the potential medical actions of the smoked form are anecdotal.”

    Research into the effects of medical marijuana is ongoing: The University of California, San Diego, for example, boasts a Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research engaged in “focused controlled clinical trials on the efficacy of cannabis in patients diagnosed with HIV/AIDS,
    cancer, seizures or muscle spasms associated with a chronic debilitating condition, or any other serious condition providing sufficient theoretical justification.” (The director of the UCSD program, Dr. Igor Grant, was out of the country and could not be reached for this story.)

    The Los Angeles Times, which offers a nice overview of the current research, writes that “a growing body of research supports [medical marijuana’s] medical usage, but some of it is cautionary.” Marijuana has been found to be effective in counteracting severe pain, nausea and loss of appetite, though questions remain about the drawbacks, among them possible respiratory damage and increased cancer risk.

    Dr. Kleber, who said he has prescribed Marinol to a patient and found it to be effective, points to what he characterizes as a significant advantage of the pill over traditional marijuana: “People don’t abuse it.”

    “Marijuana addiction is becoming common and as a result I’m seeing an increasing number of people who have trouble stopping marijuana,” he said. “Contrary to popular beliefs that there is no marijuana withdrawal, there is marijuana withdrawal. It’s very clear cut.”

    The calculus, then, isn’t quite as simple as the Drug Enforcement Administration suggests: Marinol and medical marijuana may share an active ingredient, but they offer somewhat different benefits and different drawbacks. Proponents of medicinal marijuana say it’s disingenuous to hold up Marinol as a direct alternative to the more traditional form of the plant.

    “I just don’t understand how they won’t let me smoke a joint, but they’re more than happy to write me out prescriptions for anything that I want,” Trainer said.

    74 Responses to “Does the Marijuana Pill Work?”

    1. #38 steveyboy Says:
      August 5th, 2009 at 10:28 am

      “I’d be interested in knowing
      the exact ingredients in marinol”

      RE: steveyboy,
      – Please refer to my previous post for that info.
      (Basically, Marinol® capsules contain
      sesame-seed-oil, and a miniscule-quantity
      of SYNTHETIC delta-9 tetra-hydro-cannabinol…)

    2. Rebel with a cause says:

      46 General Jake

      Sounds like you want a fist fight. Perhaps your time will come soon enough. But in the mean time, I for one, am glad that cooler heads, like R.O.E., prevail. We simply don’t need lynch mob mentality “AT THIS TIME.” Cool your heals Jake. If you are a general, you should know that we “PICK OUR BATTLES…and…THE TIME OF ATTACK.” We the People are stirred up enough to act, and are becoming more so on a daily basis…just don’t light the fuse and cause premature ejaculation. That will kill the cause.

    3. John says:

      Joel from PA, I know but isn’t it a constitutuonal issue? I’m no lawyer but if the law says that to be sch 1 it has to have no medical value, and maranoil is really THC then I don’t see how the supreme court can not make them re-schedule. Of course, first someone has to take that far and they have to agree to hear the case.
      All I’m saying is that it’s more ammunition we can use in educating the sheeple.

    4. John says:

      C F Jesus, #47 I didn’t know THC was rescheduled. Does that mean if you have pure THC you can’t get busted?
      All I know is the only way it’s gona change is REVOLUTHON.

      “Prohibition… goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man’s appetite by legislation and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes. A prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded.” — Abraham Lincoln December, 1840

      “While we are postponing, life speeds by.”
      – Seneca (3BC – 65AD)

      “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.”- Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Stephens Smith, 1787

    5. Corey says:

      Ok, as much as I hate to say it, I dont think MJ will ever be legalized. Everybody knows alcohol and synthetic pills are worse…everybody knows the herb isnt addictive or harmful in any way really…and yet it seems every time the legalization issue becomes a hot topic, the flames are snuffed out by the media and the big boys at the white house. If it were going to be legalized, I would imagine it would have been done a long time ago. As long as the pharm companies and politics are running the show and gettin the money, theres no fact or science that will talk louder than money, no matter how many people bitch about it. Either way, I still say f*ck em. Legal or not, ill still buy and smoke the hell out of it…at least if its illegal, I know my purchases arent taxed and going to the government. Keep fighting the good fight though, who knows.

    6. General-Jake says:

      Your right Rebel with a cause i do wanna fight. When i read how non controlling our gov is sposed to be i get pissed. When we call ourselves American and yet all but thinnest shreds of democracy remain i get pissed. When i read of government fat cats destroying famlies and imprisoning innocent men for a plant it makes want to send every last mothers son of em to the firing squad. Then i read commentors want to wait around and se how many more rights can be abolished. Martin Luther and Ghandi preached peace and they won. But George Washington and others like him decided NOT to deal with an oppresive by way of peace. And for that im glad. But i hear you and respect your point as well.

    7. Rebel with a cause says:

      56 General-Jake

      Don’t get me wrong, “There’s going to be a revolution.”
      That’s because war is nothing more than failed policy
      …and…nothing has ever failed as much as our failed leaders, and the policy they promote. That’s because its riddled with tyrrany and deception. As Americans, and let me make it clear that this is America, we are duty bound by our Constitution to “Trow dem bums out on their ear.” Every necessary ingrediant for revolution is being stirred as we speak. When the first stone is thrown…I’ll be right there with you…
      and…I’ll hold your hand in hell my American Brother…but…the recipe says bake cake for 1 hour…
      and…it has only been in the oven for 30 minutes.

      First of all…the cake mix for this 3rd American Revolution is 1 part conservative, 1 part liberal. It has nothing to do with cannabis. It has everything to do with Liberty…Freedom and Justice for all. The problem here is…the 2 part mix is 1 part extreme. I’m a 40 year healthcare mediator by trade, and I can tell you that the hardest task in the world is to get two extremes to agree to anyhting but revolution. There’s just no common ground for either to stand on. When you have two opposing forces standing toe to toe…it only takes one or the other to step over the line to create a gang bang rumble.

      The big picture here is the taste of the cake. When everything is said and done…will we Americans like the taste of the cake we baked. I can tell you right now…I don’t like the mix…so…I’m ready to throw the whole batch out and start all over again…this time using the good old recipe I got from the original baker…our Constitution…not the watered down version these extremists are trying to serve us now. And…if there’s going to be ice cream with the cake…I like old fashioned ice cream vs. the puff stuff, full of air. You know what I mean!

      I’ve always found that the reason for failed policy was lack of organization, and weak policy procedures. We need a strong policy procedure manuel, definitive job descriptions, and a solid business plan before we open our business at hand, namely to take back OUR COUNTRY.

      SO!…HOLD ON GENERAL, GET BEHIND THE GREEN DOOR,
      AND YOU CAN BRING THE CHERRY AND THE ICEING TO PUT ON THE CAKE.

    8. Bluntman420 says:

      What if you’re allergic to sesame oil? Has anyone sued the FDA over this?

    9. Alison Weaver says:

      Here in California, we have a good chance of legalizing COMMERCIAL marijuana, via AB 390. And you know what we’re using as an “argument”? Something all these prohibitionists can relate to: MONEY!

      A way for the state to make money, and turn around the financial quagmire we’re currently in! I send e-letters almost every day to my elected officials (from the President, right on down to my local reps), using the potential pot revenues as “reasons why marijuana should be legalized.”

      I’ve never used Marinol; instead I have a medical marijuana prescription, as does my old man. Often, when I send pot advocacy letters, I mention my use, pointing out that our “use,” DOES NOT contribute to violent drug cartels, terrorist groups, or environmental pollution, because we grow our own “medicine”!

      I, too, don’t like talk of rising up and performing civil disobedience on this issue. I’ve personally experienced a GREAT DEAL of change in pot law, since my first joint back in 1967! All those petitions I signed back in the early ’70s, and advocacy I performed, is finally starting to have an effect. There are now 13 states where you can use marijuana medicinally, with several others almost there.

      I urge everyone who’s SERIOUS about effecting pot law reform to take 5 minutes, and write your politicians — frequently! NORML’s website (which is where you are right now!) makes it SUPER EASY to be involved! I’m on the slowest dial-up on the planet (I live way out in the boonies!), via my one-and-only phone line, yet I STILL manage to send these e-letters daily! Let your voice be heard, and help us make it happen!

      Stay High and Peace!

    10. Jim Crosson says:

      I have a friend who’s husband took a THC pill for the side effects of his chemotherapy. He had a hard time keeping them down and also reported experiencing negative, strong hallucinations when he could keep one down. He eventually went back to his vaporizer. (added by Mobile using Mippin)

    11. smackattack says:

      at 500 bucks for a bottle they want you to think it works. it is oil and thc, with no affect after three years of taking it I finally woke up as it no more than a weak placebo intended as a poor substitute. call your local pharmacy ask them how much it will cost you for a quanity of 90 10mg pills. This guy wants to lock you up for 25 years for having marijuana

      Rep Mark Kirk
      Washington, DC Office
      1030 Longworth HOB
      Washington, D.C. 20515
      Phone: 202-225-4835
      Fax: 202-225-0837

    12. Rebel with a cause says:

      61 Smackattack

      Step right up! Get your Doctor Gov’s snake oil and elixir.

    13. RE: #62 Rebel,
      – Calling Mary-NULL “snake-oil”
      is an insult to legless-reptiles everywhere!!!
      :lol:
      (Though 4 or 5 of the 10mg capsules STILL might prove
      inspirational for one’s viewing of NM’s Painted Desert…
      following a week’s abstinence from all cannabinoids…)
      8)

    14. RE: #62 Rebel,
      – Calling Mary-NULL “snake-oil”
      is an insult to legless-reptiles everywhere!!!
      :lol:
      (Though 4 or 5 of the 10mg capsules STILL might prove
      inspirational for one’s viewing of
      NM’s/AZ’s Painted Desert…
      following a week’s abstinence from all cannabinoids…)
      8)

    15. Rebel with a cause says:

      64 NeuroGenesis

      My apologies to legless reptiles…but…no regards to the serpent in the Garden.

      We discussed Pfizers 40 x Natural THC before. What’s your take on a better anesthetic.

    16. BEHIND THE GREEN DOOR says:

      64 NeuroGenesis

      By “legless reptiles”…are you referring to the prohibitionists in the hen house, that are looking for our eggs…the one’s that crawl on their belly, and strike without warning. Those hissy pissy sissies.

    17. #66 BEHIND THE GREEN DOOR Says:
      August 13th, 2009 at 9:58 am

      64 NeuroGenesis

      By “legless reptiles”…are you referring to the prohibitionists in the hen house, that are looking for our eggs…the one’s that crawl on their belly, and strike without warning. Those hissy pissy sissies.

      RE:
      – I was originally referring to literal
      reptilian-animals of the order Squamata,
      however, since prohibitionists don’t have
      a leg to stand on, THEY DO fit the description,
      as well…

      (Georgia state-rep, Tommy Benton, is
      a prime-example of a snake against the grass…).

    18. cadillac says:

      I came here to see a description for medical marijauna pills…. now i want to start a revalution! yes, the government is shady… plus 50% of them smoke weed and you are right @rj this country would totally be out of debt if everybody was’nt in jail for marijana posession and marijauna was legal!

    19. Anonymous says:

      Nothing ever will replace the instant gratification of a Maryjane plant or even a coca plant! ever nothing that god made can be improved upon only ruined it. our own science; By that we add or take away from the simple design, and the natural affect of it’s design. Your science and all it’s dream’s to pretend there ways are better than god’s only pervert’s the pure and simple realitty that they cannot make anything that will ever replace it. And so as much as they like to play god not everyone has a science lab, or will they forever but the natural way nature produces this drug will go on. OK no matter how they try to burn it or change it or even make it illegal! there will always be a need for the instant gratification that this plant brings even if you eat it, In it,s natural form I no I have dune it and believe me so have animals.
      period

    20. Richard sievert says:

      Nothing ever will replace the instant gratification of a Maryjane plant or even a coca plant! ever nothing that god made can be improved upon only ruined it. our own science; By that we add or take away from the simple design, and the natural affect of it’s design. Your science and all it’s dream’s to pretend there ways are better than god’s only pervert’s the pure and simple realitty that they cannot make anything that will ever replace it. And so as much as they like to play god not everyone has a science lab, or will they forever but the natural way nature produces this drug will go on. OK no matter how they try to burn it or change it or even make it illegal! there will always be a need for the instant gratification that this plant brings even if you eat it, In it,s natural form I no I have dune it and believe me so have animals.
      period

    21. geo says:

      When difficult to obtain the Real Thing, it IS possible to achieve high with Marinol. Like pot, one learns how to get high which is why the first time for some folks is a non-event. You can even learn to have different kinds of highs with practice. (This is why it is so difficult ((and delightful)) to analyze pot. It is a most remarkable little plant.)
      (There is a vast difference in what is called pot or hash. Compare Nepalese Temple Balls with your ordinary sensimilla.)
      Not having eaten for an hour or so, take 10-15mg with glass of water. Then have a nice hot cup of tea or coffee. It takes 1-2 hours to take effect. Is not the same as smoking it but it is a beneficial high.
      The cost is obscene. However, some insurance companies do cover it.

    22. […] Does the Marijuana Pill Work? | NORML Blog, Marijuana Law ReformAug 4, 2009 … This informative article from CBS News about the government’s claim that there is no need for medical patients to access cannabis, when there … […]

    23. Anonymous says:

      Does the pill work on the muscule spasms?
      I have BLEPHAROSPASM (eye spasms) very bad!
      and smoking helps

    24. tony deramos says:

      I have been smoking for 25 year and had esophigial cancer as well as vomitting as well as chronic pane,nothing works marijuana..It’s a joke because we hve t get however we can and/or grow.as far as side effects,every thng as that has side effects of druk drivers killing soneone.It still legal as wellas cigerets it is a proven killer.STILL LEGAL AS WELLAS ALCOHOL.GO FIGURE!

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