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Here Are Some Known Unknowns About Medical Cannabis

On August 11, 2016, we were dealt an unexpected blow to supporters of medical cannabis research when it rejected two petitions to moderate its stance on marijuana. Instead, the federal agency reaffirmed its classification of the plant as a schedule I drug—that is to say, a substance with no accepted medical purpose and a high potential for abuse.

(In an apparent concession, however, the DEA did agree to expand the number of officially-registered marijuana “manufacturers,” who are legally allowed to supply product for approved medical research. Previously there was only one supplier: the University of Mississippi.)

The refusal to reclassify puts the DEA out of step with 25 states plus the District of Columbia, which have passed medical marijuana laws. More than that, it’s clear that the DEA has even lost that bastion of conventional wisdom, Time magazine.

The day the fed announced its retrograde position, the weekly news review that we all assumed had gone out of business sometime during the second Bush administration published its measured support for weed, starting with a quotation from a Mount Sinai Hospital physician, who called the Fed’s decision “disappointing,” and culminating with this observation from a biology professor: “In the biomedical research community, it is universally understood that cannabis is a very safe, well-tolerated medicine.” There was not a single dissenting opinion, not even for a fig-leaf of “balance.”

The piece concludes with what the magazine concludes are the seven most burning scientific questions about marijuana. And they match up closely with our concerns here at the Fresh Toast.

Here’s the breakdown:

It’s already a given that cannabis is effective and safe as a palliative, but are there diseases it might actually cure? Time’s top candidates for medical cannabis are cancer, Alzheimer’s, and anxiety. That’s three questions we’d all like answered.

On the other side, however, we still know very little about the longterm effects of cannabis use. Until we have more data, that uncertainty will overshadow any potential medical breakthrough. In particular, we need to better understand the effects of cannabis on the brain

That’s two more questions. A third (bringing our total to six) concerns the pharmacological nitty-gritty of cannabis: What of the many varieties of cannabinoids are medically useful? Is whole plant better than synthetics. And if whole plant is best, how do we dose it properly?

Finally, the magazine also looks hopefully to weed’s potential to stem our addiction to opioid pain relievers.

Answers for all of these are in the works, but it’s going to take time. Because of the DEA’s intransigence, we’re going to have to wait that much longer

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