The annual American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) meeting was held in California earlier this month, and medical marijuana was a hot topic of discussion.
Cannabis experts from North America and the U.K. presented a wide range of data that supports increasingly popular claims of the potential significance of cannabis and cannabis-derived compounds in therapeutic medical treatment, citing it not only as an effective tool for pain management but also in treating neurological disorders like epilepsy and possibly even anxiety disorders. Side effects, while measureable, are also short-lived and disappear after use is discontinued (at least in adults).
But, they acknowledge, research is insufficient. While a partial reason for this, at least in the United States, is the continued classification of marijuana as a controlled Schedule 1 substance – in the same group as heroin, ecstasy, and LSD – with tightly regulated access for clinical research highly restricted and requiring multi-agency approval, another reason is, simply, money.
Reports Chemistry World, the print and online magazine of the European chemical sciences organization the Royal Society of Chemistry, “The field is stalled because large clinical trials require the deep pockets of the pharmaceutical sector, but a major barrier is the lack of intellectual property around some of these compounds. ‘They are old drugs, they are hard to lock in patents, and that makes it difficult for someone to invest significantly into these kinds of research studies that might not have the long-term payback,’ explained Mark Ware, who runs the pain research unit at McGill University, Canada.”
Is it true that we have to wait for Big Pharma to catch up to the “green rush” before clinical research can really be done in earnest and to the degree needed to firmly substantiate the correlations between cannabinoid compounds and effective treatments for everything from chemotherapy-induced pain and nausea to PTSD that pioneer studies have strongly suggested?
The situation might be even more complicated than Ware implies: there is evidence suggesting that Big Pharma is in fact actively lobbying against medical marijuana (once again: money), but with 23 states as well as the District of Columbia and Guam now allowing for some degree of public medical marijuana and/or cannabis programs and a voting public increasingly eager to get on with it already, medical marijuana is increasingly something not to be buried or ignored.