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LIVING: Scientists believe medical marijuana should be much easier to study

By Evan Kaden
Special to Cannabis Daily Record

No matter the how many strides the medical marijuana movement has made, the fact remains that it is still illegal at a federal level.

So illegal in fact, that it is considered a Schedule I substance, one that is as dangerous as heroin. This has made research on medical marijuana somewhat archaic in the US, despite how far it’s come in a legal sense.

In August 2016, people sat poised in preparation for the US government’s decision on rescheduling marijuana, which is legal for medical use in 28 states and the District of Columbia. The bill was rejected and marijuana continued to be classified as one of the most dangerous drugs around, despite the fact that it is helping countless medical patients all across the country.

Although the government promised to moderate rules so it was easier to grow the plant for scientific study, the fact remains that it is a (very) illegal drug which makes it (very) difficult to study it in the depth scientists desire.

According to Sachin Patel, associate professor at Vanderbilt School of Medicine, if marijuana was deferred to a Schedule II substance it would make it would “allow the research to get done that needs to get done to determine if this is going to be good medicine, and for what.” Patel, who has studied cannabinoids in depth, has been researching medical marijuana for over fifteen years.

Marijuana, in the states it has been approved for medical use, has shown to treat a number of different conditions. Many people are prescribed marijuana for chronic pain, glaucoma, nausea, and other various conditions. The problem is that research to discover what else marijuana can treat medically, has either been put on hold or gone through so many different restrictions and disturbances from the government, that research projects have simply fizzled out.

There are however, the research trials that have been completed. And many of them show promising results when it comes to using marijuana as medicine. There have been numerous reports published that highlight the health benefits of cannabis, all of which scientists want to be given the green light to study in more depth. Cannabis has been shown to be an excellent remedy for conditions such as Alzheimer’s epilepsy, and cancer. And the scientists who study this substance in depth believe that by rescheduling the drug, it would make it easier to perform more studies to back what has already been discovered.

Research scientists who have been studying the medical effects of marijuana for decades believe that with a rescheduled drug policy, marijuana could be tested in “large, double-blind clinical studies.” Not only would this allow for more scientific evidence that marijuana truly can help with many medical conditions it is not yet approved for, it would also speed things up when it comes to research and the results seen because of it. Which in turn has the potential to help thousands of people suffering from chronic medical conditions.

Another aspect of the current federal laws concerning medical cannabis includes the research funds granted by the government to study this plant. According to USA Today, a study conducted by Arizona State University showed that only $297 million of the $1.4 billion allotted for marijuana research was used to actually study marijuana’s medicinal value. The $1.1 billion that was left over was spent on studying the abuse and addictive potential of cannabis. It is clear that in order to see the research it warrants, cannabis is going to need to be considered at the federal level in a very different light.

The scientists who stand behind medical marijuana have long argued that it is one of the safest and most effective medicines for a variety of different diseases. Allowing studies to go forward to prove the effectiveness of medical marijuana could potentially save the lives of countless people across the country. According to Gregory Gerdeman, Assistant Professor of Biology at Eckard College, “in the biomedical research community, it is universally understood that cannabis is a very safe, well-tolerated medicine.” Unfortunately, statements like this are largely ignored by the political powers that be.

While many would argue that there are many aspects of medical marijuana that should change on a federal level, scientists simply want it to be easier to study. Time reported there are a few core questions scientists want answered when it comes to medical marijuana. These include:

  • What marijuana does to the brain
  • If it is an effective treatment for cancer
  • If it can help brain and cognitive function
  • It’s effectiveness on anxiety
  • What the long-term consequences of using it are
  • If it can help the opioid epidemic

As long as the federal government continues to hold its current restrictions on marijuana, studying it in further detail is going to remain a long process.

According to Dr. Yasim Hurd of Mount Sinai, who studies the effects of marijuana on the brain, he “understands the cautious nature of the government, whose role is basically to protect its citizens.” He also believes however that “it is disappointing that marijuana continues to be included on the DEA’s list of the most dangerous drugs.”

Because as long as it continues to do so, the research it deserves will continue to be put on hold. And no matter how easy it’s become to just find an online smoke shop, research it seems is an entirely different story.

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