Today marks the 10-year-anniversary of the publication of the Institute of Medicine’s landmark study on medical cannabis: Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base.
When the White House commissioned this report in response to the passage of California’s Compassionate Use Act of 1996, many in the mainstream media, and many more lawmakers, were still skeptical about marijuana’s potential therapeutic value. The publication of the Institute of Medicine’s findings — which concluded that cannabis possessed medicinal properties to control pain and nausea, and to stimulate appetite — provided the issue with long-overdue credibility, and began in earnest a political discourse that continues today.
So what have we learned in the ten years following the release of this groundbreaking study? As I write today in both Reason Magazine online and in The Hill.com’s influential Congress blog (post your feedback here):
In Ten Years, Medical Marijuana Has Gone From Fringe to Mainstream — So Why Is It Still Against The Law?
via The Hill.com
We’ve affirmed that the use of medical marijuana can be used remarkably safely and effectively.
We’ve learned that cannabis possesses therapeutic value beyond symptom management, and that it can, in some cases, moderate disease progression.
We’ve discovered alternative methods to safely, effectively, and rapidly deliver marijuana’s therapeutic properties to patients that don’t involve smoking.
We’ve learned that restricted patient access to medicinal cannabis will not necessarily result in higher use rates among young people or among the general public.
And finally we’ve learned — much to the chagrin of medical marijuana opponents — that in fact the sky will not fall if we grant patients the right to use it.
Today, the only practical impediments prohibiting the legal use of medical marijuana are political ones. The Obama administration should heed the advice of the Institute of Medicine and initiate clinical trials regarding the medical use of cannabis, and it should remove federal legal restrictions so that states can regulate marijuana like other accepted prescription medicines.