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At the close of 2018, the U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams called on the federal government to rethink marijuana’s classification as it pertains to medical research. While the Surgeon General did not go so far as to condone legalization for recreational use, he did say that medically, marijuana should be studied, noting, “While I support local solutions to help solve our national public health challenges, they must be led by science driven policy. Currently, NIH funded research on marijuana is pressing forward and we are making progress in studying marijuana and its impact on the human brain, body, and behavior as well as on our communities. We should continue to seek ways to encourage and enable research to best inform policies regarding the potential medicinal properties of marijuana.”

Because the cannabis plant is made up of hundreds of different chemical entities, there is much to learn about the array of chemical compounds– individually and in combination– that could provide medical treatment across many health states. The FDA has already approved cannabinoid oil and other derivatives of the plant for treatment of everything from anxiety to epilepsy. Further, as the nation faces an opioid epidemic, discussions surrounding non-opioid pain relief options are growing around Capitol Hill, with cannabinoids at the top of the list.

While the Surgeon General is right in his position on medical research, the move would serve other purposes as well. The change he proposed could be significant for justice system reforms and an economic triumph for the U.S. His belief– and that of researchers around the world– is that the current U.S. classification of marijuana inhibits research for medical advancements that include cannabis and cannabinoids, with the U.S. falling behind in both knowledge and financing. Not only are countries such as China and Israel lapping the U.S. in medical innovations and research, but G7 countries like Canada are earning billions of dollars by having legalized cannabis. For example, in the latter six months of 2018, Canada’s market has run wild with IPOs, including American-based cannabis companies flooding the market.

“The relevance of the Surgeon General’s call to reschedule cannabis cannot be understated,” says Dr. Mark Rosenfeld, CEO of ANANDA Scientific. “The chemistry found only in cannabis plants can provide relief across an incredible array of adverse health states. It does this with minimal side effects and with the prospect of being eminently cost-effective in its use.” He goes on to explain that, “The medicinal use of cannabis today has its roots in the 1960s, when Israeli scientists began studies on its unique chemistry. A government program for administering medical cannabis has been in place there for 12 years, and doctors do not hesitate to encourage its use as an effective pharmaceutical alternative. Meanwhile, the United States remains regrettably behind because of its draconian and antiquated anti-cannabis laws. In no small way due to the regulatory and legal nightmare defining the situation for medical cannabis in the U.S., the science supporting its medicinal efficacy remains tentative. But reversing the excessively harsh and prohibitive laws for cannabis in the United States remains essential for making cannabis chemistry real human medicine. It is important to realize that states have approved the medicinal use of cannabis through legislative processes, not scientific or medical ones. That has gotten in the way of scientists determining with certainty the therapeutic impact of cannabis and thus of patients wishing to beneficially use it.

Billions On The Table

The Surgeon General’s public comments come alongside a congressional report released this week entitled, “The National Cannabis Economy,” highlighting economic benefits of legalized cannabis at the state and national levels. The report concludes that this year alone more than $11 billion will be earned by the marijuana industry, and that sales will reach $23 billion by 2022 due to, “job creation, more tax revenue, and better patient care.”

Nicole Fisher, Healthcare
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