Surgeon General Warning: Cannabis’ Status as Schedule 1 Substance is Blocking Research
Cannabis remaining a Schedule 1 substance in the United States is only doing more harm than good, and even health authorities are acknowledging this fact.
Jerome Adams, surgeon general of POTUS, recommended revisiting cannabis’s status in the US Controlled Substances Act of 1970 on Thursday, citing its impact on medical and scientific research. Cannabis is currently placed alongside ecstasy and heroin, an unfair status reserved for substances that are highly addictive and have no medicinal value.
Adams, who also happens to be the top adviser for Alex Azar, the US Secretary of Health and Human Services, raised his concerns during a Harvard University dialogue on drug addiction in Boston. “Just as we need to look at criminal justice laws, rules and regulations, we need to look at health laws, rules and regulations, and that includes the scheduling system,” Adams said, as reported by the State House Wire Service.
“I’ll take it somewhere else: marijuana. We need to look at the way we schedule different medications across the board, because one of the concerns that I have with marijuana is the difficulty that the folks have to do to research on it, because of the scheduling system,” Adams explains.
As of the time of writing, 33 states have passed cannabis measures for medicinal use. Despite that we are constantly up in arms with the federal government thanks to prohibition. While cannabis stays in its current status, there’s no way that scientists would be able to conduct more studies, or improve on existing ones, quality and quantity-wise.
Adams has expressed his doubts about cannabis actually being a feasible solution for the opioid crisis. However, he supports science-based initiatives particularly in harm reduction, such as the use of syringe exchange which would inhibit the spread of HIV and other diseases.
“While there are many varying opinions on the use of marijuana, one thing we can all agree on is that we need qualified researchers to study the science to determine if there are any potential medicinal benefits to chemicals derived from cannabis,” Virginia Republican and House Judiciary Committee Bob Goodlatte disclosed following the panel passing a measure that would expand the list of cannabis growers that have been authorized to harvest government-grade cannabis to three, up from just one.
Skewed Cannabis Research In The United States
The thing about scientific and medical research is that, while evidence is good, studies are not created equal.
On January 2017, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine published the most thorough report we have today on the science of how cannabis worked. It of course contained a lot of positive news, as you would expect with cannabis being used as medicine for many illnesses.
But what was concerning was that the researchers tasked with putting together the report realized that there is a bias with cannabis research in the country. Specifically, they noticed that the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) had a hand in producing studies that ended up with negative results with regards to cannabis.
“In the United States, cannabis for research purposes is only available through the NIDA Drug Supply Program,” reads the report. “The mission of NIDA is to ‘advance science on the causes and consequences of drug use and addiction and to apply that knowledge to improve individual and public health, rather than to pursue or support research into the potential therapeutic uses of cannabis or any other drugs… As a result of this emphasis, less than one-fifth of cannabinoid research funded by NIDA in fiscal year 2015 concerns the therapeutic properties of cannabinoids.”
In other words, around 80% of cannabis studies produced in 2015 yielded negative results, and the remaining 20% were all that was dedicated to analyzing the therapeutic benefits of the plant.
What’s even worse is that NIDA has been accused of unethical behavior from investigation by journalists, government watchdogs, and health professionals around the world. The NIDA is responsible for funding around 85% of the plants that are used for studying drug abuse and addiction, yet they have been found to release unfavorable studies, support false research, and publish contradictory statements which would then sway public opinion.