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Raymond writes: "In the federal drug classification scheme, marijuana is classed at the very top. It is considered to be a Schedule I substance - a category reserved for drugs with a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use."

Protesters share a joint. (photo: Shawn Thew/Getty Images)
Protesters share a joint. (photo: Shawn Thew/Getty Images)

Huge Scientific Study Refutes the Federal Government's Stance on Marijuana

By Laurel Raymond, ThinkProgress

14 January 17


“It just reinforces what our policy makers should already know.”

n the federal drug classification scheme, marijuana is classed at the very top. It is considered to be a Schedule I substance — a category reserved for drugs with a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use.

For years, however, scientists have done study after study showing that this classification is misguided. On Thursday, the National Academy of Sciences put one more nail in the coffin with one of the most thorough reviews of the research to date: a massive, 396-page report on 10,000 research studies on marijuana, assessing therapeutic benefits and risk factors.

The review, conducted by a panel of experts led by Harvard public health researcher Marie McCormack, is broken out into 100 different conclusions — many of which are just assessments of the current state of the research.

“Given that our federal government still considers it Schedule I, which means there are no accepted medical benefits…this is a pretty clear refutation of that.”

It is particularly significant, however, that the review states quite clearly that there is “conclusive or substantial evidence” that marijuana is effective for the treatment of chronic pain, as a tonic for nausea and vomiting in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, and in treating spasticity in multiple sclerosis patients.

“Given that our federal government still considers it Schedule I, which means there are no accepted medical benefits…this is a pretty clear refutation of that,” Taylor West, the deputy director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, told ThinkProgress.

Marijuana has also been floated as a potential treatment for a whole host of other disorders — such as easing insomnia relating to painful syndromes, increasing appetite in people with HIV/AIDS, decreasing severe anxiety, and combating the effects of PTSD. Although there’s moderate to limited evidence supporting marijuana’s effectiveness, the report found, the research here isn’t yet conclusive.

The review also looked at the health risks associated with marijuana use, dispelling some popular arguments against it. For example, according to the review of the research, smoking marijuana is not associated with the same cancer risks as tobacco — there was no evidence that marijuana use was associated with lung, head, and neck cancers. Tobacco, unlike marijuana, is recreationally legal nationwide.

That doesn’t mean, however, that marijuana is completely absolved of health risks. Researchers did find an association between marijuana use and schizophrenia and some other psychoses, though they cautioned it wasn’t clear whether marijuana use contributed to the psychoses or whether people developing psychoses were turning to marijuana as a form of self-medication. Smoking marijuana may cause respiratory distress, though it’s likely to disappear after use stops. Like alcohol, using marijuana before driving contributes to car accidents.

“It just reinforces what our policy makers should already know,” said West. “This is a product with significantly lower risk factors than other things that we regulate and consume, like alcohol.”

Another big takeaway from the report was its assessment on the current state of marijuana research — which is, there’s not enough of it. Because of its Schedule I status, it’s simply too hard for researchers to study.

“It is often difficult for researchers to gain access to the quantity, quality, and type of cannabis product necessary to address specific research questions on the health effects of cannabis use,” the authors conclude.

Meanwhile, marijuana is the most commonly used illicit substance in the U.S., and more than half of states in the country allow some form of medical marijuana. Eight states and the District of Columbia allow recreational use. Yet while state-by-state it’s becoming more accepted and common, researchers are still hamstrung by the scientifically-outdated federal classification.

“It’s frankly immoral that we continue to make it so difficult to do research into marijuana.”

As a result, unlike substances like alcohol or tobacco which, although they pose risks, have been studied and regulated, “no accepted standards exist to help guide individuals as they make choices regarding the issues of if, when, where, and how to use cannabis safely and, in regard to therapeutic uses, effectively,” the study’s authors warn.

That’s a state of affairs that ought to concern both pro and anti marijuana lawmakers and advocates.

“It’s frankly immoral that we continue to make it so difficult to do research into marijuana,” said West.

This latest review is just one more piece of evidence that marijuana’s federal status deserves to be reexamined — a move that would be quite popular among the American public. According to a national poll conducted in June, 89 percent of Americans support medical marijuana, and 54 percent support full legalization.

As President-elect Donald Trump prepares to take over the White House, attention has recently been focused on the incoming administration’s stance on marijuana. While Trump professed support of medical marijuana and said he would leave the issue up to the states on the campaign trail, his nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) as the next attorney general has alarmed marijuana advocates. Sessions, in remarks on Capitol Hill, has made it clear he is not in support of marijuana legalization.

West, however, said that too much focus on the White House may miss the mark: “It’s important to make sure that members of Congress are paying attention to this too.”

“Congress has the power to change this law. We know the majority of Americans support it. Plus, now we have yet another piece of evidence supporting marijuana’s therapeutic benefits. Really, it’s a matter of members of Congress listening to their constituents,” he said. your social media marketing partner


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+20 # ronnewmexico 2017-01-14 16:23
Well a look at the state of legalization shows usually a thing or two.

Here in New Mexico is shows to my opinion, the power of the liquor lobby who has significant support in state legislative lobbying.
In other places usually (as with the surprise no vote on Bernies attempt to get Canadian drug prices for our own), the power of the drug manufacturers lobby. Pot is a definate competitor to the patented opoids for pain relief..

Canada is due in about a year or so to go for complete legalzation for medical and with some conditions recreational use.
The war on drugs has been a complete failure and resulted in a disproportionat e amount of minorities in jail. Really it is time to treat drug abuse as a medical problem.

That aside recreational use of marijuana has not half the negative side effects of alcohol and when legal it seems to have only positive effects upon the state thar first legalized it.

Sessions Trump trying to make the states stop legalization…my guess is they just would not, and disasterous consequences would result. This is not 1980 or so the states would refuse to comply, even though legally they can not.

Imagine if instead of this russian nonsense the dems brought up Sessions statements focused on that. Imagine if that happened. Peoples may actually care a bit. And it cwould be clearly progressive.
A real issue that actually affects them. Imagine that. Peoples may start to care.

+6 # PeacefulGarden 2017-01-15 05:25
Half the side effects as alcohol? Please, try a 10th of the side effects.

Our loving, friendly, giving, Federal Government has known for decades that increase in alcohol purchases is a statistical correlation with an increase in violent crime.

This is all about alcohol consumption. Pot is illegal because of the taxes on alcohol. Alcohol doesn't even need a lobby, the Federal Government is the lobby for alcohol.

Sessions was put into place because he is an idiot who can be swayed by "good ol' boy banter". So, the Trump admin but him in place to do a whole bunch of illegal and unethical stuff, financially, while he, grandpa sleeps on the couch, and is too tired to create a docket. If anything, Session could be distracted with the Pot issue by the Trump admin.

Our communities are so fraught with anxiety, including the scientific community, because we don't know what these old farts are going to do. Their past if packed with lies and unethical statements.

I have been screaming this for about 4 decades now; Pot harmless, Tobacco deadly. Pot illegal, Tobacco promoted and taxed by our loving Feds. Feds living in 1820. And the same for alcohol.
+3 # ronnewmexico 2017-01-15 13:25
I said not half. Which means in this context any number less than half. Which is why I chose that phrasing. It does not mean half.
+4 # John of Milpitas 2017-01-14 23:41
As I recall, didn't Obama originally say when he was first running for prez that he would legalize it? Another "Yes we can" failure.
+13 # jimbo 2017-01-15 01:11
Research presented by the Salk Institute and recently linked to by suggests that marijuana is effective in slowing down and even stopping the progression of Alzheimer's. That more research in this area is prevented by legislators whose interest are more concerned by where their next nickel comes from is criminal, especially considering that millions will be contracting this awful disease soon, as the population ages. A great way to put an end to the stupidity of sessions is to make sure seniors are aware of the hope of marijuana use putting an end to the nightmares of so many of us.
+13 # janie1893 2017-01-15 02:37
marijuana is very effective in treating chronic pain and has much less negative long term effects on one's body than do most prescription pain relievers. It should become an accepted prescription medication that doctors can freely make accessible to patients.
+14 # JCM 2017-01-15 08:36
Another issue surrounding marijuana is hemp. In some cases a superior product to cotton but the cotton lobbies helped create legislation to outlaw marijuana and that included growing hemp, eliminating competition to cotton. It's all about race and money.

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