Medical marijuana supporters rejoiced today as the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released findings which concluded that marijuana is an effective medicine. The federal government classifies marijuana as a Schedule I substance which is based off of a determination that marijuana has no medical value.
Today’s report obviously shoots down that claim, as does the fact that the federal government owns patents based on marijuana’s medical properties, in addition to the federal government growing and distributing marijuana for medical purposes. Below are press releases about today’s report from NORML and the Drug Policy Alliance, respectively:
The National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a comprehensive report today acknowledging that “conclusive or substantial evidence” exists for cannabis’ efficacy in patients suffering from chronic pain, and sharply criticized longstanding federal regulatory barriers to marijuana research – in particular “the classification of cannabis as a Schedule I substance” under federal law.
Authors of the report also addressed various aspects of marijuana’s effect on health and safety, acknowledging that the substance may pose certain potential risks for adolescents, pregnant women, and for those who may be driving shortly after ingesting cannabis. In each of these cases, these risks may be mitigated via marijuana regulation and the imposition of age restrictions in the marketplace.
Commenting on the report, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said:
“The National Academy of Science’s conclusions that marijuana possesses established therapeutic utility for certain patients and that it possesses an acceptable safety profile when compared to those of other medications or recreational intoxicants are not surprising. This evidence has been available for some time, yet for decades marijuana policy in this country has largely been driven by rhetoric and emotion, not science and evidence.
“A search on PubMed, the repository for all peer-reviewed scientific papers, using the term ‘marijuana’ yields over 24,000 scientific papers referencing the plant or its biologically active constituents — a far greater body of literature than exists for commonly consumed conventional drugs like Tylenol, ibuprofen, or hydrocodone. Further, unlike modern pharmaceuticals, cannabis possesses an extensive history of human use dating back thousands of years, thus providing society with ample empirical evidence as to its relative safety and efficacy.
“Today, 29 states and Washington, DC permit physicians to recommend marijuana therapy. Some of these state-sanctioned programs have now been in place for nearly two decades. Eight states also permit the regulated use and sale of cannabis by adults. At a minimum, we know enough about cannabis, as well as the failures of cannabis prohibition, to regulate its consumption by adults, end its longstanding criminalization, and to remove it from its Schedule I prohibitive under federal law.”
The report marks the first time since 1999 that the National Academy of Sciences has addressed issues surrounding marijuana and health. Authors reviewed over 10,000 scientific abstracts in their preparation of the new report.
Today, the National Academy of Sciences released a groundbreaking report, “The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research.” The report states that there is conclusive evidence that marijuana can be used as a medicine. The report did not find clinical evidence for all conditions marijuana treatment is often associated with, but it recognizes its efficacy for treating many medical conditions such as “chronic pain in adults…chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting and multiple sclerosis spasticity symptoms.”
“This report is vindication for all the many researchers, patients and healthcare providers who have long understood the benefits of medical marijuana,” said Michael Collins, Deputy Director of National Affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance. “To have such a thorough review of the evidence conclude that there are benefits to medical marijuana should boost the case for federal reform. It also underlines how out of touch the DEA and other marijuana reform opponents are when they claim otherwise.”
The report is skeptical of marijuana’s benefit in treating some medical conditions, such as cancer. Nonetheless, the report, “a comprehensive review of the current evidence regarding the health effects of using cannabis and cannabis-derived products,” is a strong rebuke to many of those who have denied that marijuana can be used as medicine. It also found evidence that suggests “smoking cannabis does not increase the risk for cancers often associated with tobacco use – such as lung and head and neck cancers.”
Currently 28 U.S. states have medical marijuana laws, and 16 additional states have CBD laws (a non-psychoactive component of medical marijuana). Last summer, the DEA announced that it would not reschedule marijuana. The NAS report notes that “There are specific regulatory barriers, including the classification of cannabis as a Schedule I substance, that impede the advancement of cannabis and cannabinoid research.”
Just this week, President-elect Trump’s candidate for Attorney General, Senator Jeff Sessions, was asked at his nomination hearing about what he would do about medical marijuana patients who are following state law but violating federal law. Sessions gave a wishy-washy answer, acknowledging the Department of Justice’s limited resources but ominously saying, “I won’t commit to not enforcing federal law.”
Medical marijuana amendments routinely passed the Republican-controlled House and Republican-controlled Senate Appropriations Committee over the past three years, while an amendment to end federal marijuana prohibition outright failed by just nine votes last year in the House.
The uncertainty over medical marijuana and how the Trump administration will approach the issue is expected to drive efforts at reform in Congress. Advocates anticipate the reintroduction of the CARERS Act, a bill that would let states set their own medical marijuana policy without federal interference, and would remove many research barriers.