Marijuana advocates – who use marijuana for both recreational and medicinal purposes – have a mixed reaction to a marijuana based painkiller being marketed by a British pharmaceutical company. Sativex, a mouth spray containing cannabinoids, is already being used as a prescription painkiller in Canada, New Zealand and eight European countries. GW Pharmaceuticals has asked the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve Sativex for use in the United States to relieve cancer pain.
How useful would a spray version of marijuana be to a marijuana smoker? American News Report asked a group of college students in California.
“I would probably use the spray, but I enjoy smoking things,” 21-year-old Drue said. “I’d have to use it to know what it’s like, but you can put pot in almost all food and that hasn’t replaced smoking.” Drue, who’s smoked recreationally for four years, doubts a spray version of marijuana on the market would make much of a difference. “I don’t think it will change anything. They have pot chapstick already – I mean, they’ve explored so many different mediums of ingesting THC, I’m surprised that a spray doesn’t already exist,” he said.
19-year-old Shelby, who smokes marijuana to alleviate her irritable bowel syndrome and anxiety, does see some benefit to a spray version of marijuana. “I started smoking weed because of my health problems, so I definitely would look into using it,” she said. “If you’re smoking for health benefits, then you’re probably going to go towards the spray. But if you’re smoking to be a stoner, I don’t see any reason why that would be desirable.” Shelby also doubts that a spray option would be affordable. “They would probably jack up the price on it,” she said.
Harrison, a 20-year-old who has smoked on and off for four years, doesn’t see a spray as something that would catch on in the recreational marijuana smoking community. “The majority of smokers probably wouldn’t switch,” he said. “It’s different. It’s not natural, man. It doesn’t grow from the Earth, bro. Also, it’s a lot more cool to have a Jamaican flag with a vaporizer bottle in the middle of it for style purposes.” Despite his reservations over whether other smokers would take to a spray, he remains open minded. “If it was all the same, in every aspect; feeling, mind and body, then yeah, I’d make it my prime method of getting high,” Harrison said. “It’s probably better for your lungs too, as well as your teeth.”
The social element of smoking marijuana would be eliminated with a spray, says 21-year-old Ryan, who recently quit smoking. “A spray would require no company, and it would be over in a second,” he said. “It was fun going out with friends and having it be a social event, and I think a spray would be good for patients, but for smokers I don’t see it as an effective alternative.”
But whether these smokers will have the opportunity to use Sativex all comes down to the FDA, and in a world where the Drug Enforcement Agency still considers marijuana to be a dangerous drug with no medicinal value, that remains very much up in the air. Regardless of how the FDA rules, it’s a step in the opposite direction of outright legalization, according to Allen St. Pierre, Executive Director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
Although the organization is not against marijuana being used as a prescription drug, St. Pierre says NORML does disagree with the way pharmaceutical companies go about it. “Where NORML takes umbrage with many of the modern pharmaceutical companies seeking to grab market share from the existing botanical cannabis market is in their claims of their drug analogs working better than the organic material,” St. Pierre said.
NORML also accuses pharmaceutical companies of opposing access to actual marijuana by promoting extreme regulation of the actual plant, as well as the fact that “pharmaceutical versions of cannabis trying to get approved claim to cause no psychoactivity at all.”
True to St. Pierre’s accusations, GW Pharmaceuticals’ website does say that there is no evidence of Sativex producing a “high” comparable to recreational marijuana. “The simple analogy is to that of Vitamin C versus oranges,” St. Pierre said. “Many, if not most consumers, may prefer a simple pill with the base ingredients, [but] others may want a whole plant product solution.”
Doctors may also be slow to prescribe Sativex, even if it does win FDA approval. Dr. Stuart Gitlow, the acting president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, says he would wait up to a year before prescribing Sativex to a patient because he wants to know how safe it is or if it can lead to addiction.
“There is no medical indication at this point for use of marijuana other than the fact that state legislatures have been lobbied like crazy by both individuals who would like to use marijuana on a casual basis and by individuals who would like to make money by selling marijuana or producing it,” Gitlow told American News Report. “At the moment marijuana has far more risks than potential advantages, especially when compared against all other medications in use. But this new medication may well get around the risks while offering some benefit.”