weed town hall

Patrick Tighe (left), a UF associate professor of anesthesiology starts off the Town Hall Medical Marijuana at UF HealthStreet.  He sits alongside two other panelist, Jay Kuchera (middle), a board-certified anesthesiologist and Robert Cook (right), UF Epidemiology Professor. 

The devil’s lettuce. The horrible herb. Satan’s salad. The medical use of this controversial leafy green was up for discussion Wednesday night.

UF HealthStreet, a community engagement branch of the UF Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute, has been hosting interactive town halls since 2015. However, it held its first informational event on medical marijuana, said Tamara Millay, spokesperson for UF HealthStreet.

More than 40 people attended the hour-long event that was also live streamed.

The event featured expert panelists including Patrick Tighe, a UF associate professor of anesthesiology, Jay Kuchera, a board-certified anesthesiologist, and Robert Cook, a UF epidemiology professor.

Two professionals also tuned in online, Shanna Babalonis from the University of Kentucky College of Medicine and Ruben Baler, a health science administrator from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

The town hall allowed audience members to ask anonymous questions to the panelists and spurred a discussion on the impact of medical marijuana.

The panelists presented their thoughts on medical marijuana, which they considered often overused and not medically beneficial for long-term treatment. After, Tighe read the first question asking why they thought this when people like Dr. Oz from “The Dr. Oz Show” are saying the opposite.

Tighe explained the primary reason medical marijuana is used in this country is for pain reduction, but new studies have found insufficient evidence for the effectiveness of it in treating general pain.

From an anesthesiologist’s perspective, Kuchera said because marijuana addiction has increased from 10 percent to 30 percent in recent years, the amount of anesthesia medical professionals have to administer is increasing between 25 percent to 300 percent.

“That’s not something that I want to get wrong in one of my patients, and that is a really big change that we have completely unanticipated,” Kuchera said.

Kuchera said marijuana could have positive treatment results if it is used properly, but through his research and medical experience he sees more of a desire for recreational use, which is causing a lack of trust between the patient and the medical professionals.

“I definitely see a lot of suffering, and I see a lot of need,” Kuchera said. “If we are too aggressive and we make too many claims, if we do it the wrong way we can damage this drug that is very promising.”

Miaisha Mitchell, 74, traveled from Tallahassee to Gainesville Wednesday morning to learn about this controversial drug.

She said she enjoyed the meeting because she left with a fuller understanding of medical marijuana.

“I was interested to find out if medical marijuana was actually a beneficial treatment alternative or if it was just a bunch of people jumping on the bandwagon,” Mitchell said.

Correction: Jay Kuchera is a board-certified anesthesiologist, but he is not on the American Board of Anesthesiology.