The present classification of cannabis and its organic compounds as schedule I prohibited substances under federal law is scientifically indefensible, according to a just published review in The Open Neurology Journal.
Investigators with the University of California at San Diego and the University of California, Davis reviewed the results of several recent clinical trials assessing the safety and efficacy of inhaled or vaporized cannabis. They concluded:
“Evidence is accumulating that cannabinoids may be useful medicine for certain indications. Control of nausea and vomiting and the promotion of weight gain in chronic inanition are already licensed uses of oral THC (dronabinol capsules). Recent research indicates that cannabis may also be effective in the treatment of painful peripheral neuropathy and muscle spasticity from conditions such as multiple sclerosis. Other indications have been proposed, but adequate clinical trials have not been conducted.
“… The classification of marijuana as a Schedule I drug as well as the continuing controversy as to whether or not cannabis is of medical value are obstacles to medical progress in this area. Based on evidence currently available the Schedule I classification is not tenable; it is not accurate that cannabis has no medical value, or that information on safety is lacking. It is true cannabis has some abuse potential, but its profile more closely resembles drugs in Schedule III (where codeine and dronabinol are listed). The continuing conflict between scientific evidence and political ideology will hopefully be reconciled in a judicious manner.”
The lead author of the review, Dr. Igor Grant, is the director of the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research. In recent years, the CMCR has conducted various FDA-approved ‘gold standard’ clinical trials evaluating inhaled cannabis as a therapeutic agent. The results of several of those trials are summarized here.
Under federal law, schedule I controlled substances are defined as possessing “a high potential for abuse, … no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and there is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.” Heroin and Methaqualone (Quaaludes) are examples of other Schedule I substances.
In 2011, the Obama administration — via the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) — formally denied a nine-year-old administrative petition filed by NORML and a coalition of public interest organizations calling on the agency to initiate hearings to reassess the present classification of marijuana as a schedule I controlled substance without any ‘accepted medical use in treatment.’ In her denial of the petition, DEA administrator Michele Leonhart alleged: “[T]here are no adequate and well-controlled studies proving (marijuana’s) efficacy; the drug is not accepted by qualified experts. … At this time, the known risks of marijuana use have not been shown to be outweighed by specific benefits in well-controlled clinical trials that scientifically evaluate safety and efficacy.”
Coalition advocates are presently appealing the DEA’s denial of their petition in federal court.
Full text of the paper from The Open Neurology Journal, entitled “Medical Marijuana: Clearing Away the Smoke,” is available online here.