Jan 24, 2017 12:10 PM

Medical Marijuana: Will Trump's Administration Ease Research Restrictions?

Over 20 years ago, in 1996, California made the first step towards American marijuana revolution and legalized cannabis use for medical purposes. Today, we have 28 states with legal medical marijuana, and weed supporters claim that the plant helps save people's lives on a daily basis. According to pro-cannabis activists, this plant may be helpful in managing an impressively large variety of conditions: from stress and fatigue to epilepsy, ADHD, HIV, PTSD, cancer, and more. The only problem is that there is not enough concrete scientific data to say for sure if using weed as a medicine is a good idea. So, what stops thousands of scientists across the U.S. from finding an answer to that question?

Decades without the needed research

In the first half of the 20th century, both the U.S. federal regulations and international agreements treated cannabis like a dangerous drug with a high potential for abuse. The Congress made the final move in 1970 when they passed the Controlled Substances Act―a document that classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug.

According to the Controlled Substances Act, cannabis is just as harmful and dangerous as heroin or LSD. What does it mean for people who think cannabis has certain medicinal properties? Long story short, there was no way for a scientist in the U.S. to hold a clinical trial on cannabis without breaking the law.

U.S. Drug Policy: Pros and Cons of Ending Marijuana Prohibition
U.S. Drug Policy: Pros and Cons of Ending Marijuana Prohibition
Up and down the western hemisphere, marijuana policy remains a hot topic of discussion. In 2016, a UN General Assembly Special Session focused on the drug problems in the world, particularly on marijuana problems.

Legalization did not change that much

Year by year, certain states in the U.S. were getting a bit closer to switching their focus from prohibiting marijuana to regulating and controlling it. Unfortunately, it did not make it much easier to study cannabis.

Last week, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine published a report. The report contains a comprehensive review of scientific research on the health impact of marijuana. The scientists have analyzed over 10,000 scientific abstracts published since 1999 and made almost 100 conclusions on pros and cons of using cannabis and cannabis-derived products.

National Academies Publish Monumental Marijuana Research Report
National Academies Publish Monumental Marijuana Research Report
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has recently published its review of more than 10,000 marijuana research studies, which were conducted since 1999. Here we offer a brief recap of the review's findings on the health benefits of cannabis and cannabinoids.

But even though the number of papers the researchers have studied is more than impressive, one of the major conclusions they made was that there is still too many barriers to cannabis research. In order to conduct a study on marijuana, a scientist needs to get an approval from both state and federal agencies. Furthermore there is only one lab the scientists can work with when it comes to weed samples―a lab at the University of Mississippi. Not to mention that as long as marijuana remains on the Schedule I list, the government is officially denying it may have any potential for medical use, so there will be no official clinical trials.

Denmark Launches New Medical Marijuana Trial
Denmark Launches New Medical Marijuana Trial
Denmark’s authorities have recently announced that a new trial program on medical cannabis is going to be launched in 2018. Physicians will be allowed to prescribe medical marijuana to a number of patients with certain diseases and conditions.

What does it mean for medical cannabis patients?

When it comes to medical marijuana studies, there is always not enough scientific research. There is not enough data to prove that using medical marijuana is safe and there is not enough data to say otherwise. We have a lot of studies and anecdotal reports from patients about medical cannabis short-term effects, but there is no information on the long-term effects or potential harm of cannabis. And the worst thing is, this problem may remain unsolved for years because of the current regulatory barriers.

University of Canberra Will Trial Medical Marijuana in Treatment of Melanoma
University of Canberra Will Trial Medical Marijuana in Treatment of Melanoma
Australian scientists are going to work out a new cannabis-based medicine for skin cancer, with clinical trials to begin in the ACT in 2017.

So, basically, if you decide to medicate with cannabis, no one will tell you what the results of this therapy will be. You will have to make this choice at your own peril. And it would not be that bad if medical cannabis was not used for treating children.

For example, CBD oil―a concentrated form of the non-psychoactive extract derived from cannabis or hemp―is believed to be one of the most effective alternative treatments for drug-resistant epilepsy. It is widely used for treating patients with epilepsy, including kids.

In most cases, CBD oil shows amazing results, especially in kids: the frequency of seizures is reduced and there is no need for those kids to take strong, harmful, and ineffective pharmaceutical medications. But what about the long-term effects and consequences of the cannabis therapy? In order to find an answer, scientists need more freedom.

York Hospital Makes Successful Medical Marijuana Studies on Children With Epilepsy
York Hospital Makes Successful Medical Marijuana Studies on Children With Epilepsy
According to the experiment at Wellspan Health in York County, Pennsylvania, medical marijuana can effectively alleviate seizures in children. This can turn to be one of the most successful studies on marijuana.

What is the solution?

The easiest and the most obvious way to solve the problem of the existing limits on medical cannabis research is to remove their main cause―change the legal status of cannabis on the federal level. And the latest report of the committee of health experts from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine states, among other things, that there are “conclusive or substantial evidence” that cannabis can effectively treat such conditions like chronic pain, chemotherapy-induced nausea, as well as some symptoms of multiple sclerosis. That conclusion alone should be enough to at least reclassify marijuana, since Schedule I substances are considered to have no accepted medical use.

16 Years of Medical Cannabis Research in Single Guide
16 Years of Medical Cannabis Research in Single Guide
The recent Statistic Brain Research Institute's data shows that nearly 1.14 million Americans are currently legal medical marijuana patients. Among those who use the drug, 92 percent find that marijuana alleviates symptoms of their serious medical conditions, including chronic pain, migraine, arthritis, and cancer.

Now, the biggest question is if the new government would follow the example of Canada, Australia, and other countries that legalized medical cannabis on the federal level and made it easier for scientists to do their job? What do you think about it? Share your thoughts and leave a comment below.

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