Study Confirms Cannabis Prohibition Represents a “Public Health Problem”
This massive report is a big deal, and it could play a major role in determining the schedule status of cannabis in the near future...
About 85% of Americans support legalizing medical marijuana, and it is estimated that at least several million Americans currently use it. While millions of patients are already using medical marijuana - and more and more states are decriminalising the drug - scientists are still denied access to high-quality weed, which makes it hard to properly investigate the risks and benefits of consuming the plant. This has created a truly unique paradox in modern medicine, in which physicians are authorizing treatments to patients, and patients are regularly using medication without a scientific basis of knowledge on patient outcomes…
Medical Marijuana Therapy has proven to have a whole range of therapeutic benefits. The use of medical marijuana has been well documented for millions of patients suffering from a wide range of health conditions including cancer, epilepsy, chronic pain, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Users report marijuana use is capable of easing symptoms of chemotherapy, chronic pain, and post traumatic stress disorder. - many of these effects haven't been tested in externally valid, randomised clinical trials.
There are however few subjects that can stir up stronger emotions among doctors, scientists, researchers, policy makers, and the public than medical marijuana. Is it safe? Should it be legal? Decriminalized? Has its effectiveness been proven? What conditions is it useful for? Is it addictive? How do we keep it out of the hands of teenagers? Is it really the “wonder drug” that people claim it is? Is medical marijuana just a ploy to legalize marijuana in general? Not to mention the differences between state and federal laws adding to the complexity of the situation.
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine released a 440-page page report that looked at nearly 11,000 cannabis studies. The resulting research study was the result of the efforts of a 32-person committee that included researchers, doctors and educators from across the country.
We Read It, So You Don’t Have To
Despite changes in state policy, the federal government has not legalized marijuana and continues to enforce restrictive policies and regulations on research into the health benefits or harms of cannabis products that are available to consumers in a majority of states,” said the report.
“These policies and regulations may impose barriers to conducting research on the health effects of cannabis and cannabinoids has been limited in the United States, leaving patients, health care professionals, and policy makers without the evidence they need to make sound decisions regarding the use of cannabis and cannabinoids.
The R&D process can be a daunting experience for researchers,” stated the report... Major barriers to research are preventing scientists from pursuing the full range of research that is needed to understand the impacts of recreational and therapeutic use of cannabinoids,” the American Psychological Association (APA) said in a recent advocacy briefing.
The report concludes that researchers have very limited insight into the effects of cannabis, and the government is to blame... since government restriction on research are so excessively burdensome that they’d perpetuate a public health risk posed by lack of evidence-based information on the health effects of cannabis and cannabinoids. And then spends several pages documenting all the restrictions the government puts on cannabis research, especially studies on the potential therapeutic benefits.
The restrictiveness of this system becomes increasingly clear when you consider that Israeli Universities and hospitals are able to conduct the type of high-quality clinical trials that are necessary to prove medicinal efficacy for treatment of specific disorders. And Israeli cultivators are able to work with renowned scientists to genetically engineer and select the best, most effective cultivars possible for treating different disorders. Regulating a wide-spread medical cannabis program has the added advantage of gathering a large amount of metadata, which is then reused by research centers to drive further innovation in the field. And research can solve the main problem that bothers most people’s perception of cannabis; creating a non-smokable drug delivery vehicle that still contains all the elements of the cannabis extract.
The American Research (Prevention) System
In order to promote research on cannabis and cannabinoids, the barriers to such research must first be identified and addressed.
For starters, the report points out that Cannabinoids are classified as a Schedule I substances; the highest level of drug restriction (Controlled Substances Act of 1970). All research conducted with marijuana can only legally be completed by investigators that are registered with the DEA; which creates additional hurdles that don’t exist for studies on other substances.
The APA, which represents more than 115,000 scientists, clinicians and educators, pointed out that the process to register to study cannabis “can take more than a year to complete and creates administrative burdens that serve as significant disincentives to pursuing research” and that Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) oversight “involves redundant scientific protocol review.”
The committee identified several additional barriers to conducting basic research on cannabis and cannabinoids, including:
Sourcing BioMass (Plant Material)
Researchers have consistently complained about the quality of marijuana available for research from the only approved supplier, a farm at the University of Mississippi, which operates under a NIDA contract. The limited potency of the Cannabis sativa products available through the University of Mississippi; known colloquially among researchers as “the farm”.
It would therefore seem that results from studies using Cannabis sativa obtained from the University of Mississippi offer little to no insight into the effects actually experienced by medical marijuana patients in terms of both therapeutic benefits and negative side effects, if any,"... Unfortunately, anecdotal reports suggest that marijuana from “the farm” is inferior in its appeal to users in both real world contexts and research studies, which may affect the validity and generalizability of self-administration studies.
Since Prohibition, significant changes have taken place in the policy landscape surrounding cannabis legalization, production, and use. During the past 20 years, numerous states; including The District of Columbia, have legalized cannabis and/or cannabidiol (a component of both hemp & cannabis aka marijuana) for medical conditions or retail sales at the state level and some have gone so far as to legalize both the medical and recreational use of cannabis. These landmark changes in policy have impacted cannabis use patterns and perceived levels of risk.
In the absence of an appropriately funded and supported cannabis research agenda, patients may be unaware of viable treatment options, providers may be unable to prescribe effective treatments, policy makers may be hindered from developing evidence-based policies, and health care organizations and insurance providers lack a basis on which to revise their care and coverage policies. In short, such barriers represent a public health problem.”
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