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British Scientists Develop New Way to Administer Marijuana

One reason that the medical use of marijuana is sometimes criticized by physicians is because it must be either smoked or eaten. Smoking unclean weed may risk fungal infection for immune-compromised folks, and eating it yields unreliable dosing. Now British researchers offer a third possibility: a water soluble form of marijuana taken through sprays or injections.

Dr. Roger Pertwee of Aberdeen University (and conveniently the secretary of the International Cannabis Research Society) has patented just such a formulation which may reduce those health risks. He also is attempting to eliminate the high that pot gives, calling it "an unwanted side effect," a judgment with which many users might disagree. That may be tough, however, because the same brain receptor on which marijuana acts is involved in both the high and pain blocking.

The British establishment, like its American counterpart, is under increasing pressure to legalize medical cannabis. Indeed, the chief scientist at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) predicts licensing it for medical use within two years. It should be no surprise that major drug companies in the UK and the U.S. are already sniffing around.

This column has consistently argued that medical science should drive such a decision, not politics. Gratifyingly, the British government has launched a clinical trial to assess cannabis' medical benefits, similar to those ongoing in the U.S. If therapeutic value is demonstrated, the RPS predicts, "governments across the world will change their minds" and legalize marijuana for medical use.

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