Marijuana and its derivatives can be effective medicines for treating pain, nausea, vomiting, muscle spasms and other conditions, but cannabis is not harmless, and more research is needed, the nation’s top scientists concluded in a landmark review of research released Thursday.
The nonprofit National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine issued their report, “The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids,” summarizing the current state of evidence for the efficacy of medical marijuana and recommending new studies.
The 395-page report will stand as the most official medical review of the botanical drug, which an estimated 8 percent of Americans used in the last month.
Chief among the peer-reviewed findings, the scientists criticized cannabis’ placement atop the U.S. government’s list of dangerous, medically useless drugs.
Even though marijuana has no lethal overdose level, the federal government ranks marijuana as “Schedule 1” — above prescription opioids like Vicodin and OxyContin that were linked to more than 180,000 deaths from 1999 to 2015.
Cannabis’ Schedule 1 designation is a regulatory barrier that “impedes the advancement of ... research,” the study found. “It is often difficult for researchers to gain access to the quantity, quality, and type of cannabis product necessary to address specific research questions on the health effects of cannabis use.”
The report is likely to increase pressure on lawmakers to reschedule marijuana. The drug, the study found, does have medical uses.
“Conclusive or substantial evidence” confirms cannabis can treat chronic pain, nausea, vomiting, and multiple sclerosis spasticity. There is moderate evidence cannabis can improve sleep, and limited evidence pot or its derivatives can help manage post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety.
“Our government should de-schedule marijuana,” said Berkeley-based physician Dr. Frank Lucido, who specializes in medicinal cannabis.
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Susan Soares has written for Cannabis Now Magazine, Alternet, and Sensi Magazine.