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President's Message: October 2016

Posted By Thomas P. Swales, Ph.D., ABPP, Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Can medical marijuana be harmful? Unfortunately, the answer is yes.

Many states have taken action to either de-criminalize marijuana, or created rules for the prescription of marijuana for certain medical conditions. Ohio is one of the states that has created a medical marijuana law where physicians can prescribe marijuana for the treatment of certain qualifying medical conditions. Bob Stinson, PsyD tasked me to investigate the Ohio medical marijuana law, and I spent a great amount of time reviewing the scientific literature. The evidence is clear that marijuana has benefit for patients with certain neurological disorders. So, how can medical marijuana be harmful, when there is scientific evidence of its benefit to patients?

Posttraumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury were included as qualifying medical conditions in the Ohio medical marijuana law. What is interesting is that these conditions were included in the law based upon personal testimonies, rather than compelling and convincing scientific evidence. This is a reminder to me of why it is important for the Ohio Psychological Association to remain engaged in the legislative process.


Lesson learned. The devil is always in the details.

Reading the bill after it was rushed through the Ohio legislature, it was easy to be distracted by the list of other qualifying medical conditions included in the bill. It is essential that the Ohio Psychological Association stays vigilant, to protect the best interests of our society. Thanks to psychologists Emily Gilmore, Nate Tomcik and others, a position statement on Marijuana as medicine for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury was crafted.

There is no scientific evidence that marijuana or medications derived from marijuana are effective treatments for PTSD. There is growing evidence that marijuana used by individuals with PTSD has many risks, including worse response to treatment, as well as increased risk of violence and addiction (i.e. cannabis use disorders). Most importantly, there are many existing treatments for PTSD that are safe and highly effective. There is no scientific evidence that marijuana or medications derived from marijuana are safe and effective treatment for traumatic brain injury. Finally, marijuana use is associated with higher rates of occupational problems; psychiatric problems, including addiction; neurological and cognitive impairment; and lower quality of life.

Would you like to share your opinion? Feel free to weigh in with your opinion, or additional research, by contacting me, or any other OPA Board member. We will discuss and hopefully take action on the proposed position statement at the next OPA Board meeting.


Thank you,

Thomas P. Swales, Ph.D., ABPP

President, Ohio Psychological Association 

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