The U.S. surgeon general is the latest to join a fast-expanding list of prominent American who want federal regulations to allow to more and better cannabis research.
The mainstreaming of cannabis continues to pick up momentum.
What’s especially telling is how many people (or organizations) have changed their tune.
In 2017, you had retired U.S. Marine Corps General and recent White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly publicly advocating for more research and allowances to be made for veterans. His “medicine is medicine” comment was short, yet powerful.
In 2018, former Speaker of the House John Boehner famously flipped from being “unalterably opposed” to marijuana legalization to an advocate for the industry and a board member with Acreage Holdings. He said during our American Cannabis Summit that the switch happened for him after talks with a veteran and later with friends who used cannabis, people he never would have thought would be pro-marijuana.
This week, news feeds have been filled with comments from Surgeon General Jerome Adams from a law enforcement conference last month in Massachusetts, which in recent weeks saw its first recreational cannabis retail stores open. Adams, virtually unprompted, said he had deep concerns with cannabis being considered a Schedule 1 drug.
Adams said Schedule 1 status is hurting important research efforts into the plant and its potential health effects. It’s a sentiment we’ve heard from many top researchers and medical professionals, including Dr. Michael Dor, who is a Senior Advisor for the Israeli Ministry of Health and a Founding Advisory Board Member with the National Institute for Cannabis Investors.
Today, I want to talk about why re-scheduling is important for research efforts that could help tens of thousands of patients, not to mention hundreds of companies that want to develop products.
Take a look…
U.S. Researchers Need Better Product Quality and Access to Make Valuable Strides
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies chemical compounds into five categories: Schedule 1 through Schedule 5. Schedule 5 is considered the lowest risk for potential abuse.
Schedule 1, by federal definition, has the most risk for abuse and dependence. In addition, a Schedule 1 designation – which is what cannabis carries – means there is “no accepted medical use.” At this point, it’s preposterous. Marijuana is classified on the same schedule category as LSD, ecstasy, and heroin. Yet cocaine and opioid-based medications, which have gained increasing infamy in the press over the last year because of its addiction epidemic, are only on Schedule 2.
The DEA has opened the door for overdue reform here by placing U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved Epidolex, a cannabis-based pharmaceutical developed by GW Pharmaceuticals PLC for epilepsy patients, on Schedule 5, next to prescription-grade Robitussin. In essence, federal agencies have acknowledged through their actions that “no accepted medical use” is a phrase no longer applicable to cannabis.
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Yet, as long as all cannabis products other than Epidiolex remain on Schedule 1, research efforts are severely held back. It’s a big reason why the United States is so far behind research-friendly countries like Israel when it comes to studies related to cannabis and its many compounds. In the meantime, Israel has become such a hotbed for research, it’s about to become a world power when it comes to cannabis exporting.
The Schedule 1 designation badly limits U.S. researchers in a number of ways. Many have shied away from studies at academic institutions reliant on federal grants in fear they would be penalized. And those who do typically do not have access to quality cannabis product.
Until recently, the United States would only allow research-grade cannabis to be grown in one location: at the University of Mississippi. My research team and I have traveled the continent going to medical cannabis conferences and meetings over the last two years. To say researchers are unhappy with that arrangement would be a massive understatement.
To briefly summarize though, the quality of the cannabis researchers have received from the University of Mississippi is far below what is ideal. For instance, most of it would not reach quality levels to be sold anywhere in state-legalized markets like California and Oregon.
There are also delays based on supply and red tape. We’ve heard horror stories like one researcher waiting nearly eight years for the cannabis supply to arrive – and it was unusable for research because the cannabis was covered in mold.
This is doing no favors for Americans suffering from various ailments – nor U.S.-based companies that will benefit greatly from having access to better data closer to home.
That’s part of why the attorney general wants cannabis to be studied like other forms of pain- and anxiety-relieving drugs. Surely, Adams is seeing the increasing number of studies out there – often from outside the United States – and the massive increase in anecdotal testimony from people showing cannabis’ health benefits.
This Human System Interacts Naturally With Cannabinoid Compounds
Among the many systems of the human body is a network of receptors custom fit to work with the compounds the cannabis plant produces.
This network is called the endocannabinoid system, and it interacts specifically with the 100-plus cannabinoid compounds produced by this remarkable plant.
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is just one of these compounds and, it has growing support from researchers, doctors, and even the mainstream press of late for this powerful natural remedy.
In a research report published in Frontiers in Neurology, researchers examined the results of a meta-analysis comparing the benefits of CBD extracts and CBD isolates in treating certain types of “treatment-resistant” epilepsy.
The study found strong results in reducing epilepsy symptoms. It also found far fewer severe side effects from the use of CBD, especially in extract form.
The researchers also found what we’re hearing about so often of late: “the entourage effect.” Essentially, when paired together with other molecules, this cannabinoid compound interacts amazingly well with the existing endocannabinoid system within the human body – far better than most drug compounds do on their own.
Medical professionals and the industry alike want more studies like this. And with the positive momentum in public sentiment and even among formerly opposed lawmakers, we’re soon going to start seeing the type of government reform that will allow better and more research to take place.
This is a critical development to watch for in 2019.
Thanks for being an important part of the National Institute for Cannabis Investors,
Executive Director, National Institute for Cannabis Investors
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