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Psychiatric Disorders in Maine's Medicinal Cannabis Law

Psychiatrist Jeremy Spiegel testifies before the State of Maine Legislature

Dr. Jeremy Spiegel testifies at the Maine State House
Today's blog post is a transcript of my testimony in support of the proposed Maine law, LD 1062, “An Act To Add Conditions That Qualify for Medical Marijuana Use” which I delivered at the State House in Augusta, Maine on May 14th, 2013. The inclusion of psychiatric disorders at the discretion of a physician would give patients another option when conventional treatments fail or remain inadequate for the potentially disabling symptoms of certain disorders.

This act would allow physicians to recommend medical marijuana in the treatment of psychiatric disorders such as anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder. As it stand now, the Maine law only allows for certain conditions to be treated with cannabis, somatic conditions such as Crohn's Disease, Seizure Disorder and Chronic Intractable Pain.

 

Senator Craven, Representative Farnsworth, and members of the Health and Human Services Committee, my name is Jeremy Spiegel. I’m a psychiatrist and medical director of Casco Bay Medical, with offices in Portland, Maine, Danvers, Massachusetts, and New York City. Casco Bay Medical is a private psychiatric and mind-body practice specializing in addiction medicine, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

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I’ve been a physician for 17 years. In that time I’ve seen scores of people self medicate effectively with cannabis.

Originally my bias was not for cannabis, in fact my training did not include understanding cannabis as an option for treatment.

Over the course of years anecdotal evidence – and now real, first hand evidence of the use of medicinal cannabis from what I’ve seen in my everyday practice--has swayed my clinical understanding of where and how this agent can be employed to alleviate symptoms of psychiatric disorders.

In a nutshell here is what I entreat all of you to do for the sake of the public good:

Let the doctors do their job.

Don’t block access to people who need the medicine.

My understanding of cannabis as treatment emerged once my eyes became open to what had been present in my clinical practice for years.

Sir William Osler, arguably the founder of modern medicine, instructed us physicians to “Listen to the patient -- they’re telling you the diagnosis” and after such listening we then look to the science.

By listening to my patients I’ve amassed an overwhelming amount of incidental evidence for the benefits of medicinal cannabis for psychiatric conditions.

Now the science is catching up with just this clinical experience.

Why are we drawing the line at certain conditions and not others?

Studies from across the world demonstrate benefits of cannabis in depression, anxiety, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

I urge your support for LD 1062.

In closing, as more and more scientific evidence of marijuana’s benefits emerges, the reasonable and judicious clinician can feel increasingly comfortable utilizing this medication for very specific psychiatric disorders, either adjunctively—as an add on therapy—or as sole treatment.

Science, not politics or prejudice, must be our guide. We must look with our own eyes without fear or prejudice. Only then can anyone expect to receive the best treatment possible.

Thank you for your time today and I’m happy to answer any questions you may have.

 

Jeremy Spiegel, M.D. is a psychiatrist and medical director of Casco Bay Medical, with offices in Greater Boston, Massachusetts and Portland, Maine.

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