UC-San Francisco researcher slams THC limits as ‘reefer madness’

medical marijuana
Donald Abrams says his research shows potent plants mean less inhalation of drugs.

A University of California-San Francisco medical chief labeled Florida efforts to cap THC on medical marijuana “misguided” and “ill-informed.”

In letters Monday to two Southwest Florida lawmakers, Dr. Donald Abrams, immediate past chief of Hematology and Oncology at Zuckerberg San Francisco Hospital, said research on the medical benefits of smoked cannabis don’t support the notion THC should be restricted at levels proposed.

He sent identical letters to Sen. Ray Rodrigues, an Estero Republican sponsoring caps legislation in the Senate (SB 1958), and Rep. Spencer Roach, who carries a similar bill (HB 1455) in the House.

The legislation proposes a 10% cap on THC in smokable marijuana and a 60% limit on extracts.

The Legislature, in committee, has heard testimony from Dr. Bertha Madras, an anti-cannabis activist who has argued high potency marijuana poses a health risk. “High potency is associated with more brain changes, addiction, psychosis and hospitalizations,” Madras previously testified to lawmakers.

But Abrams dismisses that as “the Reefer Madness mentality of 90 years ago.”

“We have had the opportunity to disagree with each other in frequent forums and have absolutely no respect for the other’s opinions, just to make that perfectly clear,” Abrams writes about Madras.

Abrams became aware of the THC caps proposed through outreach from One Plant and Brady Cobb, CEO of Bluma Wellness.

Moreover, he said research he oversaw at UC San Francisco finds that the highest potency strains of marijuana required the lowest dosage to patients to receive medical benefits.

“In general, higher potency THC will require less use and, hence, is a harm reduction intervention as opposed to Dr. Madras’ claims,” he wrote.

“The THC content of cannabis available in Dutch pharmacies from their sole supplier, Bedrocan, can be seen on the healtheuropa.eu website … Of the 5 strains available in the pharmacies, the THC contents are 22%, 14% and 14% in the THC dominant varieties and 6% and <1% in the cannabidiol dominant strains. In a study evaluating the strains with regard to their effectiveness in increasing appetite, the higher THC containing chemovars were deemed more effective by patients than the balanced THC:CBD.”

In other words, those using more powerful drugs took less of them.

That finding seems to be backed in a recent study published by Nature.com, Abrams notes. There, users were surveyed about the effects of various potency cannabis about the effects on a variety of symptoms.

“Inhaled flower was felt to be the most effective delivery system,” he notes. “The investigators reported that it was the THC content which correlated best with relief of symptoms, as well as side effects, while CBD content had little effect on either. It has always been my opinion that the plant is the best medicine, but if one is seeking the most bioactive cannabinoid, it is THC and not CBD which has risen to an amazing place in the hierarchy of cannabinoids based on little, if any, scientific evidence.”

Abrams stressed the Legislature simply should stay away from caps legislation.

“I do hope the State of Florida will see beyond the prohibitionist rhetoric of the addiction medicine specialist and understand the wisdom in not limiting THC content of medicinal cannabis offered to patients,” he wrote. “The State would be better off limiting the alcohol content of beverages if you are truly seeking a harm reduction intervention.”

To patient advocates, the letter is validation caps make no sense.

“There is no scientific or medical basis or public health basis for enacting the changes being proposed,” said Ben Pollera, Executive Director of Florida For Care. “In fact, the wealth of evidence is primarily on the other side. This is the Legislature’s cure in search of a disease, and for them the disease is sick people smoking pot.”

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected]

One comment

  • alex

    March 26, 2021 at 1:01 pm

    This is so sad and aggravating for all medical patients. Thank you for being one of the few people educating us on how flawed and unjust this bill is. It truly is horrifying that they attack the mmj program for its danger to society, but completely neglect science, and the fact that there are real problems like the opioid crisis we are currently in. This just appears to be another way to slow the corrections needed in the mmj program and an attempt to bring back the misinformed stigma which only is going to cause hurt and imprisonment. Before i heard about this bill, there was lots of talk about mmj program advancements and bills and now all I see is people getting fired for having mmj cards and the thc cap. The mmj program has already been beat up and needs to be fixed in multiple areas, so why kick us while we are already down?

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