Does cannabis really relieve pain? If there remains any doubt, let’s examine how the American Pain Society answers the question.
The Chicago-based organization, comprised of scientists, clinicians and other health professionals, earlier this week endorsed compromise legislation in the U.S. Senate amending provisions of the Marijuana Effective Studies Act of 2016. The bill would remove excessive regulatory barriers inhibiting researchers from obtaining marijuana plants for studies to assess the herb’s medical effectiveness and safety.
“This is a very important bill that I fully endorse,” said a leading medical cannabis researcher, Mark Wallace, MD, an APS Board Member and chair, Pain Medicine Division, Department of Anesthesiology, University of California San Diego. “A key component is Title 3, which will allow researchers to manufacture cannabis that represents more real-world experience. Currently, researchers are limited to working with NIH-produced marijuana for their studies.”
The original MEDS Act was co-sponsored by Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT). A second bill with a similar purpose but different details is co-sponsored by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Charles Grassley (R-IA). Sponsors of the competing bills have reconciled their differences and now support compromise legislation.
Wallace said that many regulatory barriers prevent legitimate and responsible scientific research on the potential benefits and risks of medical cannabis, and countless individuals with chronic pain use marijuana without professional guidance based on reliable studies.
“Passage of The MEDS Act will allow scientists to study more thoroughly the safety and clinical efficacy of medical cannabis,” said Wallace. “Cannabinoids are clinically promising chemical compounds, but there is a critical need for robust research to find targets for medical development.”
In June 2016, the APS published guidance in The Journal of Pain for physicians caring for patients who use cannabis. The paper identified future research priorities to better understand the health effects of cannabinoids and explained that expanded medical use will require high-quality medicinal grade cannabis with strict quality control and known constituents.