The sort of nonsmoked, rapid-onset delivery system the IOM called for exists today. Vaporizers take advantage of the fact that cannabinoids vaporize at a temperature below the temperature at which the plant material starts to burn. By heating marijuana to the proper temperature, a vaporizer allows inhalation of the cannabinoids, providing the rapid onset of action and easy dose titration that patients prefer without the hazardous combustion products contained in smoke.
A study of one such product, the Volcano, published in the June 2006 Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, concludes with language startlingly parallel to the IOM’s "What is currently needed for optimal use of medicinal cannabinoids is a feasible, nonsmoked, rapid-onset delivery system. With the Volcano, a safe and effective cannabinoid delivery system appears to be available to patients".
Multiple independent analyses (many more than can be listed here) have found that marijuana has medicinal value, and the biggest objection to its use, the pulmonary risks of smoking, has been eliminated by technology. What about the FDA’s other objection, that state medical marijuana laws somehow undercut the drug-approval process?
It is, in a word, nonsense. The FDA tries to bolster its case by characterizing these laws as "making smoked marijuana available for a variety of medical conditions", but they do no such thing. State medical marijuana laws do not authorize marketing, distribution, or sales of marijuana. They simply exempt patients who meet certain conditions (usually a physician recommendation and/or diagnosis with a qualifying condition) from arrest and punishment under state laws that otherwise forbid marijuana possession or cultivation. Indeed, the lack of a legal means for patients to obtain medical marijuana has been a source of controversy in some states, such as Rhode Island.
Does the FDA not understand the difference between licensing a drug for marketing and simply choosing not to arrest individuals who possess it under certain conditions? Does the agency believe that arrest and jail is an appropriate way to deal with a patient’s choice to self-treat with an herbal product not approved as a medicine by the FDA? Do they now want to start jailing the millions of Americans who use ginseng, St. John’s wort, and other herbal products?
Of course not. The FDA has jettisoned science, objectivity, and logic to help politicians prop up a morally and scientifically bankrupt policy. And that should make every American very, very nervous.