I’m a bit behind on this but here goes…
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) ruled on Friday that marijuana has “no accepted medical use” and should therefore remain illegal under federal law — regardless of conflicting state legislation allowing medical marijuana and despite hundreds of studies and centuries of medical practice attesting to the drug’s benefits.
The judgment came in response to a 2002 petition by supporters of medical marijuana, which called on the government to reclassify cannabis, which is currently a Schedule I drug — like heroin, illegal for all uses — and to place it in Schedule III, IV or V, which would allow for common medical uses.
Since the IOM report was released more than a decade ago, the evidence for the medical benefits of marijuana and related drugs has continued to increase. In the last three years alone, cannabinoids have been found to help kill breast cancer cells, fight liver cancer, reduce inflammation, have antipsychotic effects and even potentially help stave off the development of Alzheimer’s disease and reduce progression of Huntington’s disease.
Further, a 2011 review of the effectiveness of cannabinoids for non-cancer pain found “no significant adverse effects” and “significant” analgesic effects.
Although the DEA judgment sounds like a setback for medical marijuana advocates, in one important sense it is an advance. The government had long delayed making a judgment on the petition, but now that it has, it makes it possible for advocates to appeal it in federal court. Now, that process can be set in motion.
It’s worth noting, though, that this isn’t the first time a petition to reclassify marijuana has been filed and rejected. The Los Angeles Times reported:
The first was filed in 1972 and denied 17 years later. The second was filed in 1995 and denied six years later.Both decisions were appealed, but the courts sided with the federal government.
Still, if an appeals judgment were based on scientific evidence, rather than political considerations this time around, it’s easy to imagine a very different outcome.
Many people would love to just isolate active ingredients in cannabis (e.g. THC) and approve those for medical use rather than an inelegant jumble of chemicals (cannabis). It’s a neat solution. There are problems such as issues of cost, development, intellectual property, whether other chemicals are important (THC without CBD - i.e. current medicines! - may be more dangerous), and whether growing/smoking etc. are therapeutic in themselves. But even without those issues, why do the British and American governments have to be so childish in refusing to say anything positive about cannabis (e.g. it appears to have medical uses but ideally - for fighting non-medical use - we’d prefer the development & use of derivatives) while delaying these proceedings for years and years on end?