FACT FINDER: Experts debate the benefits and harm of medical marijuana

Experts speak on the medical effects of marijuana // WSBT 22

It's a debate that has been going on for nearly 100 years-- marijuana, its legalization and safety.

While dozens of states, like Michigan, have given medical cannabis the go-ahead, many people are adamantly against it. People have some pretty strong positions on this.

Some medical professionals and scientists say many people benefit from the drug. Others say research proves there is no medical use for it.

"It was more of a biological question than a medial question at that time,” said IU South Bend Science Professor, Thomas Clark.

For the past four and a half years, Clark has been studying the medical effects of marijuana.

"So here's just a short list pulled out- pretty easily out of the literature of things we know marijuana can help with,” said Clark.

His curiosity prompted him to sift through endless amounts of research and what he found was clear. Marijuana can help people with chronic conditions.

"They've found in lab studies that it actually stops or reverses the progression of Alzheimer's disease. It prevents things like obesity, diabetes mellitus. It kills cancer as it develops without harming cells around it,” said Clark.

Clark says there are adverse effects such as memory issues but he says those effects are minor compared to what the drugs in your medicine cabinet can do.

"It's less toxic than aspirin and Tylenol,” said Clark.

"Aspirin, Tylenol, they don't cause Schizophrenia. Marijuana does. Is that worth the trade off with your kids? I don't think so,” said Prosecutor Victor Fitz.

Fitz was an integral part of stopping the sale of medical marijuana in Cass County.

"We said take it elsewhere. We don't want it here,” said Fitz.

He has done research of his own and says he opposes it because of what medical professionals have found.

"The federal drug administration has studied this long and hard and they have scheduled marijuana as a class one drug and that means a drug that has no medical use,” said Fitz.

Fitz says one in 50 people in Michigan have a medical marijuana card. He says that's a lot more than who it was intended for, such as cancer patients and those nearing the end of life. He says it's hurting our communities and most importantly, our children.

"What happens when marijuana gets to our kids? When children begin to use marijuana regularly by the age of 14 by the time they turned to the age 35, they will have irrevocably lost approximately eight IQ points. Is that what we want for our kids?” said Fitz.

He sees its damaging effects first hand and believes pot is a gateway drug.

"I'm talking reality we know that most of the individuals in Cass county, the first drug they use is marijuana,” said Fitz

“There's an association no a causation,” said Dr. David Crocker.

Crocker is the force behind Michigan Holistic Health in Kalamazoo. He says over the past eight years his practice has seen more than 10 thousand patients.

"The most common thing that we see is severe and chronic pain. We see nausea patients, HIV, cancer patients, glaucoma, lugherics, seizure patients,” said Crocker.

Crocker is careful to examine a patient's medical history before providing a recommendation to the state for a medical marijuana card. But he maintains the drug is helping his patients.

"A lot are extremely excited cause they've tried a lot of different things without success,” said Crocker.

But Fitz doesn't agree that's their only option.

"I think in most cases I think they will find their physicians telling them, these are the vast majority that have gone to medical school- that that's not the best solution,” said Fitz.

Clark, who has no stake in the game, says while more research needs to be done, the decision shouldn't be left in the hands of the law.

"Right now the politicians are telling us what is and what isn't medicine. I don't think that's right,” said Clark.

Whether you are for or against medical marijuana the debate continues.

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