Nearly three dozen states and the District of Columbia now allow the medical use of cannabis. Strangely enough, almost all of the studies looking at the efficacy of cannabis as a medical treatment have focused on pain management. Yet states with legalized medical cannabis allow the drug as a treatment for everything from Alzheimer’s disease to ALS and epilepsy.
It is a curious situation given how resistant government normally is to drugs that are not approved by the FDA. And of course, the FDA is reticent to approve drugs that have not undergone robust clinical testing. We are now at a crossroads where medical cannabis is concerned. With Washington choosing to not enforce federal law for the most part, we have to decide, once and for all, where our nation stands on medical cannabis.
Facilitating that will require more clinical research. Here are five reasons every politician and regulator – at both the state and federal levels – should be in favor of more rigorous clinical testing:
1. Growing Anecdotal Evidence
There might not be a ton of clinical evidence in support of the efficacy of cannabis for treating diseases like Alzheimer’s and epilepsy, but the amount of anecdotal evidence is growing by the day. There are now millions of medical marijuana users around the world. Nearly all of them report measurable benefits from doing so. All of that anecdotal evidence should not be ignored.
2. The Ongoing Opioid Crisis
One of the more common uses of medical cannabis is pain management. As we all know, the ongoing opioid crisis is a direct result of people using prescription opioids to manage their pain. If opioids are dangerous drugs – and they are – it seems like we ought to be interested in looking at every alternative – even medical cannabis. It makes no sense to continue the fight against opioid abuse while leaving marijuana unstudied.
3. Our Understanding Has Changed
When marijuana was first classified as a Schedule I drug, we knew very little about it. Our understanding of it has changed considerably. According to the doctors at Utahmarijuana.org, we also have a greater understanding of the human cannabinoid system. Basic principles of scientific study demand that we attempt to make better use of what we now know by more aggressively studying medical cannabis in a clinical setting. Otherwise, knowledge gleaned over the years goes to waste.
4. Conflicting Federal and State Laws
Federal and state laws regarding cannabis production, distribution, and use are currently in conflict. They conflict because federal standards do not recognize any medical benefit related to cannabis. Furthermore, federal law still recognizes marijuana as a highly addictive drug. Many would argue against those views. Yet the only way to resolve the disagreement is through clinical study. Only honest and transparent research will settle things.
5. The Need for Consistency
Last but not least is the need for consistency. Opioids are highly addictive. We know that. They are also dangerous when not used under the direct supervision of a doctor. Unfortunately, we assume the same things to be true about medical marijuana even though the drug has not been clinically studied to a large degree. In the interests of consistency and fairness, we owe it to medical cannabis users to undertake the necessary clinical studies. If we are going to continue to ban the drug at the federal level, we need evidence that justifies doing so.
It is time for more serious marijuana research at the clinical level. A failure to undertake such research will only exacerbate the unnecessarily confusing environment we now find ourselves in.