Scientists claim the US Government is still limiting cannabis research. Patients now have better access to cannabis than researchers do.
A group of scientists have just published an article claiming that the US government is holding back proper research into cannabis due to its overzealous regulation of the substance.
While millions of patients are already using medical cannabis – and more and more states are decriminalizing the drug, scientists are still denied access to high-quality marijuana, which makes it hard to properly investigate the risks and benefits of consuming the plant.
“This has created a unique and unnecessary paradox in modern medicine, in which doctors are authorizing treatments to patients and patients are regularly using medication without a scientific basis of knowledge on patient outcomes, forced rather to rely only on scientifically invalid or anecdotal information,” say Sarah Stith and Jacob Vigil (the University of New Mexico)
In a letter published in Science, the researchers claim that while we have compelling evidence that marijuana has a whole range of therapeutic benefits, users report that it 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, randomized clinical trials.
That is because the US government continues to list Cannabis sativa as a Schedule 1 drug. A category limited to drugs with “no currently accepted medical use” and “high potential for abuse” – despite the fact that more than 75% of US doctors polled think medical marijuana is a safe and effective treatment.
Due to its classification, researchers can only access cannabis through the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) – and NIDA only supplies product that’s significantly less potent than the cannabis available on the street.
“Millions of patients have been granted the authorization to use medical marijuana and cannabis-based products by their respective state health departments and 4 states have begun taxing and regulating cannabis sold for ‘recreational’ purposes,” said Vigil and Stith.
“However, the federal government continues to categorize Cannabis sativa as a Schedule I Drug under the Controlled Substances Act, a more restrictive categorization than that used for cocaine, methamphetamine and PCP.”
The big problem with this NIDA-controlled drugs is that, despite multiple proposals from other universities, the government only supplies cannabis grown at the University of Mississippi. And their plant is a lot weaker than the product prescribed by doctors.
For example, the highest content of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana – available to researchers through NIDA is 12.4%, the researchers reported. Last year, the only two clinical studies funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH) used products with potency levels between 3.5% and 7% THC.
To put that into perspective, the medical marijuana now sold in Colorado averages 18.7% with some strains as strong as 35% THC. Some states, including New Mexico have given permission for edibles and vaping products to contain up to 70% potency.
“Clearly, results from studies using Cannabis sativa obtained from the University of Mississippi offer little insight into the effects actually experienced by medical cannabis patients in terms of both therapeutic benefits and negative side effects, if any,” say Vigil and Stith.
The researchers call for government control over marijuana research to start easing up alongside their regulation of medical cannabis, so scientists can make sure everything available to the public is actually safe and effective.
“As long as clinical research on marijuana is controlled by regulators expressly opposed to any increase in its consumption, health care cost reductions may be missed, and intoxication and long-term effects will remain unknown,” they write.
“Most important, many severely ill patients may suffer unnecessarily because no one knows the true benefits or risks of consuming Cannabis sativa.”
Based on an original article at sciencealert.com