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The DEA opened a path to cannabis research (containing THC, CBD and other cannabinoids) even though it is still a schedule 1 substance nationwide.
The Science Alert commented on the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) ruling to keep cannabis a schedule 1 substance, implying it has no accepted medical use.
Although the DEA ruling disappointed many, Science Alert sees the decision as a step in the right direction. One aspect of the decision could possibly make a difference for medical marijuana in the future.
Currently all researchers can only study a limited supply of cannabis grown at the University of Mississippi, which is contracted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
The announcement of 11 August states that the DEA will finally allow other institutions around the country to obtain licenses to grow cannabis specifically for medical research. The increased number of authorized marijuana growers supplying researchers is a step in the right direction.
DEA encourages cannabis research?
The DEA announced a policy change designed to foster research by expanding the number of DEA- registered marijuana manufacturers. This change will provide researchers with a wider variety and more robust supply of cannabis.
The DEA said this change illustrates its willingness to foster research on medical cannabis. This is a practical approach, since 25 states have legalized medical marijuana to some extent and others have legalized recreational use, said DEA Acting Administrator Chuck Rosenberg.
This clears a significant stumbling block out of the way of researchers eager to conduct tests to demonstrate the potential uses of cannabis, allowing them to build up evidence that schedule 1 classification is not warranted.
Even though some states made an effort, it was still all-but impossible to conduct research. There is an urgent need for research studying cannabis(containing thc, cbd and other cannabinoids) but it is impossible to study the drug properly in an atmosphere of prohibition. It has been so hard, because it is tricky to gain access to the limited supply, Sue Sisley from Department of Veterans Affairs and the University of Arizona College of Medicine told The Washington Post.
She explains that without studying pot, it is impossible to demonstrate it has any medical use, despite the fact that most researchers think certain compounds in cannabis might help certain health conditions. There is not enough research on marijuana to determine what chemical carries out a desired effect, and how it does this says Yasmin Hurd, a professor of neuroscience and psychiatry at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
Identifying medical compounds
In plants, there are many different chemicals; marijuana may have as many as 400. There are specific components of the plant that could be developed for medical intervention. If we don’t know which specific chemical of hundreds has the helpful effect, we don’t know what is helping people. This is what needs to be clarified and demonstrated for approval for medical use, Hurd said.
This change in the DEA’s policy could help cannabis research to identify medical compounds which could lead to developing specific marijuana strains with high levels of those compounds, or more likely, to derive drugs from marijuana. If that happens, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves the product, the DEA may reschedule cannabis.
Rescheduling will change cannabis from being treated as equal to LSD or heroin, and means acceptance that it has medical use. The DEA says it is not opposed to cannabis research, and has approved applications for registrations submitted by researchers wanting to use NIDA supplied marijuana if the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) determined it to be scientifically meritorious.
“What this didn’t address is the mountain of regulatory hurdles we have to surmount in order to do our studies,” says Ryan Vandrey, Ph.D.
Research studies were previously severely limited. This policy change could open things up, leading to medical marijuana being approved federally.
The next question
Could individual extracts in pharmaceuticals really be as effective as a whole-plant extracts? Will the DEA ever really reschedule cannabis if only specific extracts are used by pharma? Please feel free to give us your opinion on these questions.