We need FDA legalization of medical cannabis so that it can be studied in the U.S. for effectiveness against multiple disease states and the risks of using it as treatment. At the same time I would want it to be taken out of the jurisdiction of the DEA and classified as a supplement or a natural product.
First we have to know the difference between the FDA and DEA. The FDA is a governmental body that licenses and inspects legal drugs, additives and supplements. The DEA is a federal law enforcement agency dealing with drug crimes.
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The DEA classifies drugs based upon their “acceptable medical use and the drug’s abuse or dependency potential.” At this time cannabis is a Schedule 1 drug in the same group as heroin, LSD, ecstasy and peyote. From a federal standpoint it is felt that there is no acceptable medical use. Many states do not take this position and have legalized medical cannabis.
It is unknown if or when the federal government will legalize cannabis. If it is legalized, we have to ask ourselves if we want it to be controlled by the DEA.
So let us examine some of the potential benefits and risks of FDA and DEA supervision.
A strong benefit of FDA approval of cannabis as a pharmaceutical is the study of drugs under its supervision. There are rigorous standards of safety and efficacy that have to be attained before FDA approval. This can prevent risking side effects. The cost of this is time. It can take years to achieve FDA approval.
If cannabis is legalized and controlled by the DEA, I would expect that is would then become listed as a Schedule 2 drug. This would put it in the same category as Vicodin, cocaine Dilaudid and Dexedrine. If it became listed as a Schedule 3 drug, it would be in the same group as codeine and anabolic steroids.
At this time, depending upon the state, medical cannabis can be prescribed by MDs (although they may then put their DEA license at risk or find themselves in legal jeopardy), DOs, ARNPs, physician assistants and naturopaths. Having the DEA control cannabis would limit the type of healthcare provider who could write a prescription.
I am hopeful that medical cannabis will soon be federally legalized. I would also want it to be reclassified as a natural product and taken out of the jurisdiction of the DEA. This would allow the science of cannabis to be studied in the U.S. in a more deliberate fashion without handcuffing patients into waiting for the studies to be completed and the preparations to be available.
The argument against listing this as a natural product and not as a pharmaceutical would be the abuse potential. I feel the need for scientific studies outweigh this potential risk. Furthermore, having cannabis as a scheduled drug would put us backwards into history with its use mainly as a black market drug.
Now with a new administration governing us, we can only wait to see in which path they will proceed with medical marijuana.