National expert cites benefits of medical cannabis in lecture series

By Kerry Gunnels

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The growing interest in the use of cannabis for medical purposes is the result of a demand by patients for treatment options, a national expert on pain medicine says.

“This is the result of a grassroots movement – sorry for the pun, but it’s true,” said Michael K. Moskowitz, MD, MPH, who runs a clinical practice in California and is board certified in both psychiatry and pain medicine.

Dr. Moskowitz joined a panel of experts in medical cannabis to discuss the use of the plant in treating patients at a joint lecture sponsored by the Botanical Research Institute of Texas, or BRIT, and UNT Health Science Center.

The discussion is the first of an annual lecture series the two organizations will present on important and thought-provoking topics.

“The lecture series offers a forum for community education, thought-provoking dialogue and exploration of significant scientific topics like medical cannabis,” said Ed Schneider, PhD, BRIT president and executive director.

As the public demand for medical cannabis increases and scientific research on its possible benefits expands, the federal government eventually will have little choice but to legalize it on a national basis, predicted Moskowitz, who has lectured on the use of medical cannabis since 2010 and has focused since 2015 on its use to treat anxiety and pain.

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“This horse is already out of the barn,” he said. “It left the county, the state, the country a long time ago.”

Pat Maloy, CEO of Cansortium Inc., a medical cannabis company that cultivates, processes and retails cannabis products, said the public doesn’t “understand the level of legalization” that already exists across the country.

According to the National Cannabis Industry Association, 29 states now have comprehensive medical cannabis programs and another 17 have more limited laws.

Even in Texas, state law makers earlier this year broadened the state’s restrictive medical cannabis law to permit its use to treat more conditions, including terminal cancer and autism, Maloy said.

Federal legalization would guarantee safety, standardize quality, regulate production standards and limit the black-market production of medical cannabis products, he said.

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Moskowitz said his research has involved exploring the various medical properties of different strains of cannabis plants and in blending those strains to produce benefits for patients with different maladies.

More research is needed, particularly in the clinical area, “that goes beyond the mom-and-pop stuff that we’ve been able to do,” he said.

Moskowitz said the use of medical cannabis also could have a major impact on the national opioid crisis, pointing out that in states where patients have access to medical cannabis, opioid use has dropped 25 percent.

“From a treatment standpoint, we’re really at the beginning,” he said. “Patients don’t want to get high. They want to be able to deal with their medical problem. They to be a part of their own treatment.”

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