When it comes to clinical trials and scientific studies medical marijuana research is treated differently than any other drug – both prescribed medications and illegal street drugs. Why is this though? Is it because some people still have outdated views on marijuana and the possible benefits that the drug can offer? Is it because opponents are worried users might feel good or abuse the drug in some way?
Medical Marijuana Research and the Federal Government Drug Classification System
One big obstacle to any new study on medical marijuana research is the way that this drug is classified by the federal government. Since marijuana is categorized as a Schedule 1 drug under federal law this means that the federal government does not recognize that the plant has any medical or therapeutic benefits at all. Efforts to change this classification have failed so far.
U.S. Public Health Service Review Approval Requirement Recently Lifted
One big barrier to medical marijuana research was recently lifted by the Obama administration. Until the change was announced anyone who wanted to research the medical benefits of marijuana had to seek U.S. Public Health Service Review approval before any research could be started. This process could take months or even years to complete and was an enormous delay.
The USPHS review approval process was not required for any drug in the Schedule 1 category except for marijuana. Researchers could perform studies and trials on LSD, PCP, heroin, and even ecstasy without this added step but marijuana research was the exception. Since cannabis is a natural plant used safely for thousands of years, this seems somewhat harsh and hypocritical.
How a Lack of Scientific Studies Harms Patients and Veterans
A lack of comprehensive medical marijuana research is harming patients and veterans all across the USA. Millions of people struggle with chronic pain and other symptoms that could be helped with medical marijuana. Veterans who have served our country with honor are not achieving the best quality of life because of PTSD, and the suicide rate for veterans is high.
Veterans and patients can benefit from medical cannabis in many ways. In fact, Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access is a group dedicated to changing the current laws and systems for veteran health care. Changes are happening but they are very slow. Senate lawmakers recently voted on an amendment that would allow recommendations for medical marijuana from VA doctors in states where it is legal.
The Catch 22 for Researchers on Medical Marijuana Studies
Anyone interested in medical marijuana research can be caught in a catch 22. State laws allow the medical use of this drug in many states but it is still illegal for any reason under federal law. The proper forms and authorizations must be filled out and long delays in research approval are common. The lack of studies is used as an excuse to keep marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug on the federal list.
Why is Marijuana Research Singled Out?
Many believe that medical marijuana research is singled out because of opponents who do not believe that the drug should be used in any situation. In order for research to be approved that involved cannabis no less than four government agencies must provide approval, while no research on any other drug in any schedule must meet these cumbersome requirements.
What is the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research?
One organization that has continued with medical marijuana research is the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research in California. This organization aims to coordinate scientific studies and medical research on marijuana in order to assess the effectiveness and safety of cannabis and related compounds in medical treatments.
Research on Medical Marijuana is Expected to Increase Significantly in the Next Few Years
With more states legalizing medical marijuana, and some legalizing the drug for recreational use by adults as well, research on medical marijuana is expected to increase significantly in coming years. More medical professionals and scientists than ever are starting to realize that this plant can have many medical uses and to advocate for more research.