The possibility of rescheduling marijuana could ease research on the medical uses of weed. The current picture of medical marijuana research in the U.S. is bleak, and with the wide range of weed's potential medical uses, experts cannot help but be inspired by the reclassification news.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has announced its plans of changing the category of marijuana from Schedule I drug to Schedule II drug.
Schedule I drugs are those considered to have high potential for abuse. Examples of these drugs include heroin and LSD.
Schedule II drugs, examples of which as morphine and cocaine, are recognized as having acceptable medical uses. However, administration must be strictly regulated.
The Dire Situation Of Medical Marijuana Research
The road sure is bumpy for researchers attempting to study Schedule I drugs such as marijuana. The process typically involves seven arduous steps and consultations with three federal agencies such as the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and DEA.
Igor Grant from the University of California, San Diego has experienced first hand how to undergo the challenges of gaining approval just to study marijuana. He says a study that looks to determine marijuana's medical benefits entails about six to 18 months just to be approved.
Researchers have to wait for so long before the experimentation and research part can even begin. The heart and enthusiasm they have at that start may have practically dwindled by the time they get that sweet approval.
With the constraints, some experts opt to just study the only two FDA-approved cannabinoids called dronabinol and nabilone. These are just the active components of marijuana, and not marijuana itself.
"Marijuana is made up of over 60 cannabinoids, and cannabinoids have tremendous promise," says addiction specialist and marijuana expert Dr. Kevin Hill.
Possible Medical Uses Of Marijuana
The most popular use of medical marijuana is pain relief. However, there is more to weed than alleviating pain that cannot be relieved by conventional treatments anymore.
In 2015, the American Academy of Pediatrics called for the reclassification of marijuana to help clinical studies investigate its possible benefits in children. The group particularly hoped to enrich research on the effects of marijuana in adolescents suffering from treatment-resistant long-term seizures.
The Epilepsy Foundation of America has also showed support for reclassification to better explore the effects of marijuana on patients with epilepsy.
Medical marijuana is already legal in 23 U.S. states and in the District of Columbia. More states are looking to follow suit, hence Hill says it's time to move forward and have more research on weed's other medical uses, best standards of use and long-term outcomes.
Rescheduling Sparks New Hope
Rescheduling marijuana to a less tighter classification may mean approval for studies would be much easier to obtain and transactions with federal agencies, lesser in frequency.
Having more states approve marijuana for medical use may soon be a reality. However, this does not change the possibility that people may be using weed for medical ailments that have not yet been studied. With this, caution and regulation is still of utmost importance.