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The use of cannabis in scientific research in the US has been at a standstill for the last five decades. The limit on where scientists could access cannabis for research was limited to just one facility at the University of Mississippi. This facility was granted the ability to produce cannabis for research purposes as part of a contract with the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Because of this, recent opportunities surrounding cannabis and its medicinal uses have been lackluster at best.
In May 2021, however, changes were made by the Drug Enforcement Administration that would allow for other American companies to produce cannabis for research purposes. After the registration is complete for these companies, more scientific study can go into cannabis and its uses. But what does new access to medical marijuana for scientific research in the United States mean for medical marijuana development?
Currently, around 30% of the United States has access to legalized recreational marijuana, and over 30 states have medical marijuana programs implemented to help patients cope with various health disorders. These legalizations, however, have only been made at the state level. Marijuana is still considered illegal at a federal level. Because of this, clinical research using cannabis is also illegal under the country’s federal laws. This disconnect has made it a complicated and confusing time for clinical researchers looking to truly explore the benefits of medical marijuana.
Although the recent changes implemented by the Drug Enforcement Administration cannot change federal law, they do loosen the reins on the use of cannabis for clinical research by giving scientists more options when it comes to obtaining cannabis products. By giving researchers more leeway to study cannabis and its possibilities, the use and production of medical marijuana could change drastically in the years to come because of new scientific findings on the subject.
In recent years, many states have legalized the use of medical marijuana for a variety of health conditions including multiple sclerosis, chronic pain and psychological conditions, as well as to help curb the side of effects of cancer treatments. Although there is some research to support the use of medical marijuana for these and other conditions, there is not nearly as much as there could be in future now the new rules have been put in place. Because of the changes, further study of cannabis and its effects on health and illness can paint a broad new picture of the possibilities available when using marijuana as medicine.
The conditions that are currently approved in many states could also end up being the tip of the iceberg when it comes to treating medical ailments with marijuana. With the vast number of strains and differences in CBD vs THC content, the potential to use marijuana for more medical research could open doors many medical professionals and patients were unaware existed.
Now that the wheels are moving towards more access for clinical researchers, many see this as a step in the right direction for the scientific study of cannabis and its medical uses. Although it will help with more solidified results in the medical marijuana realm, it’s not going to negate any issues that still lie ahead for clinical research. For example, the increase in places that can legally produce cannabis for scientific research is growing, but studying cannabis is not necessarily going to become any easier because of it – researchers who are looking to do so will need to have a specialized license because they are still working with a Schedule 1 drug.
Unfortunately for researchers Grants allowing scientists to conduct their research are also not easy to obtain. All this considered, the recent developments have been a small step in the right direction toward allowing scientists to obtain and study the use of cannabis in medical scenarios anywhere in the country, without having to be approved to work with a federally illegal substance. The road towards freedom to study marijuana and its health benefits may still be long, but it is finally moving forward for the first time since 1968.