Expert's Take on the Public Push for Medical Cannabis

30 June 2022 16:02 WIB

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - The use of medical cannabis has recently been taking public heated discussion after a mother of a child suffering from cerebral palsy called for the legalization of the plant for medical therapy. Gadjah Mada University expert on pharmacology and clinical pharmacy, Zullies Ikawati, explained that cannabis - which is currently still categorized as a class 1 narcotic under Law No.35/2009 - can be used for medical purposes.

“It comprises a number of phytochemical components that are pharmacologically active. Marijuana contains cannabinoid compounds which consist of various other compounds. The main one is the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is psychoactive,” Ikawati explained as posted on the UGM website on June 30. 

Psychoactive, said Zullies, means that it can affect the psyche which causes dependence and its effects on the mental. Another compound is cannabidiol (CBD) which has pharmacological activity but is not psychoactive. CBD has an effect, one of which is anti-seizure. 

It is worth mentioning that CBD has been developed as a drug and approved by the United State’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Epidiolex is a legal drug that contains 100 mg/mL of CBD. This drug is indicated for adjunctive therapy for seizures seen in Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome (LGS) or Dravet syndrome (DS), which have not responded to other drugs.

“In the viral case for someone suffering from cerebral palsy, this seizure symptom is what the cannabis will try to overcome,” she wrote. 

Zullies added that CBD has indeed been clinically proven to treat seizures. However, CBD is the ingredient for the anti-seizure therapy and not the cannabis plant as a whole, as consuming it in its plant form - which still contains THC - will cause various side effects on a person’s mental state. 

“The term medical cannabis or marijuana (ganja) refers to a calculated therapy under specific doses. If normal ganja is, let’s say brewed, it does not have a standardized measurement but in the form of medicine it can be called medical marijuana,” she added. 

However, the UGM professor said that cannabis is not the only drug that can help treat cerebral palsy. There are other alternatives to treat seizures such as medications that contain morphine, which in its natural form is derived from opium that is classified as class 1 narcotics. 

“What should be legalized is not the ganja plant but the derivatives from the plant that has been clinically tested and comprehensively evaluated for its benefits and risks,” she added. 

DEVY ERNIS 

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