The latest Gallup poll shows that 94 percent of the American population believes that marijuana should be legal for medicinal purposes. But it would appear that the United States has a long way to go before cannabis is considered safe and effective medicine.
As it stands, researchers struggle for the necessary approval to study the effects of the herb and make determinations into its therapeutic benefits. Meanwhile, other countries are making strides to become leading contenders in the realm of medical cannabis. Because of this, the US is on the verge of forfeiting the $30 billion medical marijuana industry.
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Researchers like Lyle Craker, who has been a professor at the Stockbridge School of Agriculture since the late 1960s, recently told Bloomberg that he has spent nearly two decades trying to convince the feds to give him a license to grow marijuana. He even tried again after the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced last year that it would allow more researchers than just the University of Mississippi to cultivate government marijuana.
But Craker has yet to hear anything from the Feds. “I’m never gonna get the license,” he said.
Although Craker has never used marijuana, he believes the time has come to uncover the mysteries of the plant. “I mean, if it’s going to kill people, let’s know that and get rid of it,” he said. “If it’s going to help people, let’s know that and expand on it.”
Craker believes there is “something wrong” with the DEA and he admits that cannabis has been given a bad name that is “tough to let go of.”
Still, the federal government is not entirely opposed to marijuana. It has allowed Britain’s GW Pharmaceuticals to study cannabis-based drugs for the past several years. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently awarded the company approval for its drug Epidiolex, which will be marketed nationwide to epilepsy patients. This is a spray version of the trendy cannabidiol (CBD) – a product similar to what is available at dispensaries in medical marijuana states. Epidiolex will be an expensive treatment, but unlike cannabis products available at the state level, most insurance networks will cover it.
Now that Republicans are expected to cut Medicaid and Medicare, medical marijuana could be more beneficial in the United States than ever. A study published in a 2016 issue of Health Affairs shows that prescription drug spending has dropped in states with medical marijuana programs on the books.
Rick Doblin, founder of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), says if the FDA would ever approve “the marijuana plant in bud form,” it would be “incredibly cheap.” It would ultimately become an affordable medicine for people who cannot afford health insurance or who have been eliminated from government subsidized health care.
There is no doubt that medical marijuana could be huge for America. We know this because it already is for other nations.
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“Businesses outside of the country are already making billions of dollars,” Doblin said. “Canada, the Netherlands, and Israel all have booming cannabis research sectors; in Israel, some of the work is government-funded. We have enormous opportunity that we’re squandering as a country to reduce health-care costs, build businesses, and create jobs,” he added.
Some blame the Trump administration, namely US Attorney General Jeff Sessions, for preventing the expansion of medical marijuana research. Others say the Obama Administration could have done more to help the cause. But Congress is ultimately responsible for keeping cannabis in the dark ages. Federal lawmakers have had every opportunity to downgrade the Schedule I classification of the cannabis plant. Yet, there is simply not enough support.