For the first time ever, both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate have passed a marijuana reform bill they can send to the president. The bill does not decriminalize marijuana or reschedule it. In fact, it doesn’t have anything to do with individual consumption. Rather, the bill opens the door to increased research into medical marijuana.
Although not the full decriminalization bill pro-marijuana advocates continue to push for, the bill does do a lot for the medical cannabis community inasmuch as it paves the way for research that should ultimately end the efficacy question. The bill makes it easier for researchers to obtain cannabis for their studies. As an added benefit, it so also protects medical providers who wish to discuss cannabis with their patients.
Cannabis Is Hard to Come By
Ever since marijuana was added to the Schedule I list of controlled substances, federal regulators have tightly controlled access to it – even for research purposes. Simply put, cannabis has been very hard to come by for the better part of 50 years. The government making it so difficult to study marijuana is the main reason research has been so lacking for so long.
By loosening the chains and taking concrete steps to expand research, lawmakers are responding positively to changing attitudes about marijuana. Lawmakers recognize that marijuana may prove to offer tangible medical benefits that can be clinically documented. They also recognize that public support of marijuana legalization is steadily growing.
Until we know the details of the bill, we don’t know how access issues will be addressed. But expanding research almost certainly means providing more federally approved marijuana or allowing researchers to source it from elsewhere. Either way works.
States Want the Data, Too
It stands to reason that medical marijuana advocates are not the only ones interested in expanded research. The states probably want it, too. Among the 37 states that have already legalized medical marijuana, few have cited clinical evidence in support of their legislation. It makes sense that lawmakers would want some clinical evidence so they cannot be accused of supporting medical marijuana on political grounds.
But above and beyond the politics, state lawmakers need a path for moving forward. The best path is grounded in actual scientific data clearly demonstrating what medical marijuana can do for patients. If clinical studies prove it’s helpful for a particular condition, states will want to add that condition to their lists. If research proves it doesn’t help a condition already on a state list, lawmakers might want to drop it.
Research Will Answer the Skepticism
If nothing else, expanded research will answer marijuana skepticism with clinical data. Future studies might prove the skepticism fully warranted. But it might also prove otherwise. We will not know until the data starts emerging. The most important thing right now is that passage of the federal bill should jump-start research efforts in earnest.
Clinical research into marijuana’s efficacy as a pain reliever should be high on the priority list. According to Utah dispensary Beehive Farmacy, chronic pain is the number one reason people use medical marijuana. But so far, only anecdotal evidence supports its efficacy. It is time for research to prove whether marijuana is an effective pain reliever and, if it is, how it works.
Regardless of how you feel about marijuana legalization, hopefully you can support expanded research. Marijuana’s Schedule I classification status is based on a belief that the drug has no medical value. Now we need actual research to prove whether that decades-old belief is accurate.