On January 12th, the National Academy of Sciences released a groundbreaking report, "The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research." The report states that there is conclusive evidence that marijuana can be used as a medicine. The report did not find clinical evidence for all conditions marijuana treatment is often associated with, but it recognizes its efficacy for treating many medical conditions such as "chronic pain in adults…chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting and multiple sclerosis spasticity symptoms."
"This report is vindication for all the many researchers, patients and healthcare providers who have long understood the benefits of medical marijuana," said Michael Collins, Deputy Director of National Affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance. "To have such a thorough review of the evidence conclude that there are benefits to medical marijuana should boost the case for federal reform. It also underlines how out of touch the DEA and other marijuana reform opponents are when they claim otherwise."
The report is skeptical of marijuana's benefit in treating some medical conditions, such as cancer. Nonetheless, the report, "a comprehensive review of the current evidence regarding the health effects of using cannabis and cannabis-derived products," is a strong rebuke to many of those who have denied that marijuana can be used as medicine. It also found evidence that suggests "smoking cannabis does not increase the risk for cancers often associated with tobacco use – such as lung and head and neck cancers."
Currently 28 U.S. states have medical marijuana laws, and 16 additional states have CBD laws (a non-psychoactive component of medical marijuana). Last summer, the DEA announced that it would not reschedule marijuana. The NAS report notes that "There are specific regulatory barriers, including the classification of cannabis as a Schedule I substance, that impede the advancement of cannabis and cannabinoid research."
Just this week, President-elect Trump's candidate for Attorney General, Senator Jeff Sessions, was asked at his nomination hearing about what he would do about medical marijuana patients who are following state law but violating federal law. Sessions gave a wishy-washy answer, acknowledging the Department of Justice's limited resources but ominously saying, "I won't commit to not enforcing federal law."
Medical marijuana amendments routinely passed the Republican-controlled House and Republican-controlled Senate Appropriations Committee over the past three years, while an amendment to end federal marijuana prohibition outright failed by just nine votes last year in the House.
The uncertainty over medical marijuana and how the Trump administration will approach the issue is expected to drive efforts at reform in Congress. Advocates anticipate the reintroduction of the CARERS Act, a bill that would let states set their own medical marijuana policy without federal interference, and would remove many research barriers.
Tony Newman 646-335-5384