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Cannabis Research Should Become Easier Soon in the US

Cannabis Research Should Become Easier Soon in the US

According to the US federal government, cannabis is a Schedule I drug with high abuse potential and no currently accepted medical use. The government maintains this scheduling even though research shows that cannabis can treat a broad range of physical and mental health issues.

The Mayo Clinic, one of the country’s leading healthcare centers and medical research institutions, notes that cannabinoids, including THC and CBD, are used to treat conditions like:

  • Severe and chronic pain
  • Severe nausea or vomiting caused by cancer treatment
  • Glaucoma
  • Multiple sclerosis and muscle spasms
  • Epilepsy and seizures

Thousands of people also use cannabis to find relief for conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression.

Researchers also acknowledge that using marijuana could cause adverse effects, including:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Impaired concentration or memory
  • Increased risk of heart attack and stroke
  • Slower reaction times
  • Dizziness

A fair amount of research has gone into reaching those conclusions. Still, researching cannabis is extremely difficult because scientists must get permission from the federal government. It’s a lengthy process that doesn’t always get approved.

That could change very soon now that President Joe Biden has signed the Medical Marijuana Research Bill into law.

Expanding Cannabis Research

A bipartisan group including Dianne Feinstein (D-California), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) introduced the act to the Senate. They say that its goal “is to facilitate research on marijuana and its potential health benefits.” They expect it to make cannabis research easier by “streamlining the application process for scientific marijuana studies and removing existing barriers for researchers that frequently slow the research process.”

Some medical cannabis users might argue that enough evidence already exists to make marijuana a mainstream treatment. Perhaps that’s true for some health conditions. Still, it makes sense for scientists to continue studying the compounds in cannabis.

The human body has an endocannabinoid system that plays several roles in health. The system helps control hunger, reduce inflammation, and ease pain. Cannabis plants contain hundreds of chemical compounds that interact with receptors in the endocannabinoid system. Ideally, research will make it easier for doctors to treat medical cannabis more like they treat other medications. If researchers can pinpoint specific cannabinoids and what amounts trigger the desired response, the future of cannabis could include highly personalized products that improve health while minimizing unwanted side effects.

It’s possible that we’ve only scratched the surface of how cannabis compounds could improve health. Further research should reveal more applications and find safe delivery methods.

Data Could Lead to Federal Legalization

The federal government has already signaled its openness to accepting cannabis chemical compounds as treatment options for some health conditions. However, rescheduling marijuana will take a lot of effort and involve multiple agencies.

Advocates for ending marijuana prohibition need more data to convince agencies that rescheduling cannabis will benefit individuals and society. Plus, many of those agencies rely on prohibition to justify their budgets.

The DEA’s budget has grown annually since 1972. In 2021, the DEA’s budget exceeded $3.113 billion, a 15.2% increase from the previous year. Clearly, the DEA does much more than control illegal cannabis sales and cultivation, but it contributes significant time and assets to its Domestic Cannabis Suppression / Eradication Program. Rescheduling cannabis and making it legal for adults to buy from licensed dispensaries could interfere with the DEA’s budget and plans.

Of course, drug enforcement agencies will still have plenty of battles to fight. Cannabis legalization hasn’t eliminated black market sales. And much more harmful drugs deserve attention from agents.

However, the potential threat of a lower budget probably concerns agencies like the DEA. An abundance of data showing the benefits of cannabis could help persuade federal agencies that it doesn’t make sense to spend so much time and money pursuing people who break marijuana laws. Evolving laws might not even hurt their budgets. Instead, they could allow agencies to focus on much bigger concerns to public health and safety.

The Future of Cannabis Depends on Good Research

Streamlining the application process and removing barriers for researchers will only make it easier for the scientific community to learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of cannabis. Ideally, legislators, public opinion, and federal policies will follow the data.

At this point, cannabis advocates should see the new rules as a massive success. It doesn’t immediately change how the federal government treats cannabis sellers and consumers. But it does create a clearer path toward full legalization.

November 26, 2022Comments Off
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