The current Schedule 1 status of cannabis on the Controlled Substances list places the plant in the company of life-threatening and unsavory drugs. For example, highly addictive substances like heroin, cocaine, and LSD are listed as Schedule 1 drugs.
If you feel that cannabis is lumped in categorically with “the bad guys” of illicit substances, you aren’t alone. For example, all of the other drugs in the Schedule 1 category are highly addictive. And they have a higher than average overdose potential for people who use them, unlike cannabis, which has yet to be documented as the singular cause of any overdose death worldwide.
The movement to decriminalize cannabis use in the United States is gaining momentum. Before decriminalization can happen (and expungement), cannabis must be removed from the Schedule 1 classification. A change in political leadership in America in 2024 may also mean an end to cannabis prohibition.
The lack of evidence-based research has been the ‘excuse’ provided by U.S. federal agencies for decades. However, countries like Israel and Thailand have been forging ahead with cannabis clinical trials that involve human research. And the data needed by American health and safety regulators may come from the evidence provided by international studies instead.
What is currently standing in the way of U.S. federal legalization of cannabis? A shift in public opinion and patient advocacy by healthcare providers is leading to significant changes. And some predict that the federal legalization of cannabis in the United States will happen soon.
Why Have Attempts to Federally Legalize Cannabis in America Failed?
The American federal government has dug in for decades on the matter. Rescheduling or even descheduling cannabis (and regulating it like tobacco products and alcohol) runs up against staunch resistance in the Supreme Courts. And the defense from the Drug Enforcement Agency and other federal authorities is always the same; there is not enough evidence-based research to confirm that cannabis use is safe.
That argument has been compelling. While cannabis has been used medicinally for more than 5,000 years, it has been prohibited since the early 1920s in America. In August of 2020, the Supreme Court denied the DEA’s request to dismiss a motion to reschedule cannabis. However, by October, the US Supreme Court declined to hear the case. Lobbyists and patient advocacy groups will have to start again in 2024.
Cultural opinion about cannabis in the United States has changed significantly in the past ten years. With thirty-six states legalizing medical cannabis, patient advocacy groups and physicians have supported the efficacy of cannabis as alternative medicine. Nonetheless, cannabis legal reform at the federal level has stagnated.
The MORE Act is a series of legislative changes that may create an end to the inclusion of cannabis in the propagandized “war on drugs.” The bi-partisan legislation is expected to be approved once more by the U.S. House of Representatives in 2024. And it will move to the Democrat-controlled Senate for a vote. The American democratic party has been leading the process for the decriminalization and federal legalization of cannabis.
Asking for Evidence-Based Research While Making It Impossible to Acquire
There was a small glimmer of hope regarding a softening of the federal stance against medical cannabis. The federal judge stated on record “that it is undeniable that cannabis has medical properties.” Even that statement moved the dial toward decriminalization in 2020.
If it is evidence that federal regulators want, then researchers are going to provide it. Longitudinal studies of cannabis use are not available. And that is one reason why the federal government continues to throw red flags at the decriminalization of cannabis use. The contradiction? New pharmaceutical drugs are introduced to American consumers absent from longitudinal studies. That’s why each commercial has a twenty-page list of potential hazards and safety disclaimers.
MarijuanaDoctors.com discussed the increase of international cannabis research and the apparent contradiction. Clinical studies can’t gain legal access to cannabis for trials. Even when clinical studies were proposed, the federal government would not allocate funding for the research. They will not provide research funds for a prohibited substance.
The raw cannabis needed for trials, the permission to conduct the research, and the funding to complete the studies were inaccessible. That is how to progress in the mainstream adoption of medical cannabis has been stifled. Strategically, and administratively making it impossible to provide the evidence needed to decriminalize marijuana.
The ‘pot’ thickens. The FDA has recently approved one cannabis-derived drug and three more synthetic cannabis drugs for immediate prescribing; Epidiolex, Marinol, Syndros, and Cesamet. The drugs treat symptoms that are state-legalized qualifying health conditions for medical cannabis use.
Israel May Be the Global Leader in Cannabis Research
Clinical studies of cannabis in Israel do not face the same obstacles and red-tape. In September 2020, a new study was published in the Drug & Alcohol Review journal. The study “Medical cannabis and cognitive performance in middle to old adults treated for chronic pain” provided evidence-based data that may help.
Researchers Sharon R. Sznitman, Simon Vulfsons, David Meiri, and Galit Weinstein stated in the report that: “Considering the accumulating evidence showing the efficacy of cannabis use for multiple health conditions common in older individuals, the lack of adverse effects on the brain in the current sample of individuals with chronic pain who were older than 50 years can contribute to a better risk-benefit assessment of [medical cannabis] treatment in this population.”
As America grapples with an epidemic level of opioid abuse and deaths from overdose of prescription pain medications, medical cannabis may be a solution. In 2017 alone, physicians in the United States wrote 58.8 prescriptions for opioids per 100 Americans. A total of 191 opioid scripts that year for pain management. That same year, more than 47,000 Americans died from an opioid overdose.
On July 21, 2020, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a brief and issued “draft guidance to encourage cannabis-related clinical research.” After decades of demanding research results and providing an administrative and financial blockade against cannabis studies, things seem to be changing at the federal level. The new openness to acquiring evidence-based data is a positive step toward making marijuana a mainstream wellness option.
Israel Prepares to Legalize Recreational Cannabis in 2024
In 1964, Israel was the first country to isolate THC from cannabis. Professor Raphael Mechoulam of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, with Yechiel Gaoni, also discovered anandamide. It is a fatty acid neurotransmitter derived from the metabolism of eicosatetraenoic acid and omega-6 fatty acid. This discovery was the precursor to understanding how cannabis interacts with the body’s CB1 and CB2 receptors.
Israel legalized the use of medical cannabis (under doctor supervision) in the early 1990s. It was authorized for the treatment of cancer, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, chronic pain, and PTSD. Starting in 2004, the
The Israeli army began using THC for the treatment of soldiers with PTSD.
Israeli Justice Minister, Avi Nissenkorn, announced in November 2020 that the country is preparing to legalize recreational use of cannabis in 2024. Residents aged 21 years and older will be able to purchase cannabis from licensed retailers. Smoking cannabis in public, however, will still be prohibited.
Justice Minister Nissenkorn also indicated that the move to legalize recreational weed would also reduce black market drug cartels. Squeezing the criminal element out of the system, Israel also plans to become a major exporter of quality cannabis.
Experts from Herbzdepot say that, “While THC (chemical component) is the most well-known cannabinoid for its capability to get people high, CBD is the evolving enigma for its capacity to bring both mental and physical benefits. As marijuana peddles through mainstream society by various means, CBD has emerged as an easy door for those who don’t want to shy away from it although may the social stigma associated with it may take time to deplete.