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U.S. Representatives Earl L. Carter and Earl Blumenauer published a call for the government to remove marijuana from the list of Schedule I drugs in NBC News’ opinion section Monday. They argue that marijuana’s current classification, which labels cannabis as dangerous and without any medical benefits, has prevented researchers from studying a substance that is being legalized on a medical and recreational basis across the country.
Carter, a Georgia Republican, and Blumenauer, an Oregon Democrat, believe that it’s past time to remove many of the hoops researchers must go through to even begin to study the effects and medical benefits of cannabis.
“[R]esearchers seeking to conduct clinical research must jump through several hoops to submit an application to the FDA and get approval from the DEA before starting their work,” they wrote. “Furthermore, all research efforts must go through the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the cannabis used must be sourced from their authorized facility. In 2016, the DEA announced that it would create a process to license additional manufacturers for research, but it has yet to approve a single application despite bipartisan congressional pressure.”
The representatives support their argument by pointing out that over 90 percent of U.S. residents approve of legalizing cannabis for medical purposes and the FDA approved oral cannabidiol (CBD) solution for the treatment of two forms of epilepsy in 2018. They also express concern that not only could the current red tape prevent people from getting treatment that could help them, it could be preventing some from realizing that they “need to pursue a different treatment.”
An increasing number of federal U.S. legislators have been getting on board in terms of cannabis decriminalization or full legalization. Recent business deals between large cannabis companies have caused speculation that legalization could be right around the corner in spite of the DEA’s continued refusal to take the drug off of the list of the most tightly-controlled substances.
As more states legalize cannabis and more people try it for treatment of physical and psychological illnesses, there has been increasing concern that research has fallen too far behind. As the opioid epidemic has raised questions about what to do about the millions of people who need regular pain relief, U.S. researchers have been unable to quickly and effectively research how well cannabis could act as a full or partial replacement for drugs that are physically addictive and carry the risk of overdose.
“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,” said ANANDA Scientific CEO Dr. Mark Rosenfeld.
“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.”