Huge scientific study refutes the federal government’s stance on marijuana
“It just reinforces what our policy makers should already know.”
By Laurel Raymond
Jan 14 2017
In the federal drug classification scheme, marijuana is classed at the very top. It is considered to be a Schedule I substance — a category reserved for drugs with a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use.
For years, however, scientists have done study after study showing that this classification is misguided. On Thursday, the National Academy of Sciences put one more nail in the coffin with one of the most thorough reviews of the research to date: a massive, 396-page report on 10,000 research studies on marijuana, assessing therapeutic benefits and risk factors.
The review, conducted by a panel of experts led by Harvard public health researcher Marie McCormack, is broken out into 100 different conclusions — many of which are just assessments of the current state of the research.
“Given that our federal government still considers it Schedule I, which means there are no accepted medical benefits…this is a pretty clear refutation of that.”
It is particularly significant, however, that the review states quite clearly that there is “conclusive or substantial evidence” that marijuana is effective for the treatment of chronic pain, as a tonic for nausea and vomiting in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, and in treating spasticity in multiple sclerosis patients.
“Given that our federal government still considers it Schedule I, which means there are no accepted medical benefits…this is a pretty clear refutation of that,” Taylor West, the deputy director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, told ThinkProgress.
Marijuana has also been floated as a potential treatment for a whole host of other disorders — such as easing insomnia relating to painful syndromes, increasing appetite in people with HIV/AIDS, decreasing severe anxiety, and combating the effects of PTSD. Although there’s moderate to limited evidence supporting marijuana’s effectiveness, the report found, the research here isn’t yet conclusive.
The review also looked at the health risks associated with marijuana use, dispelling some popular arguments against it. For example, according to the review of the research, smoking marijuana is not associated with the same cancer risks as tobacco — there was no evidence that marijuana use was associated with lung, head, and neck cancers. Tobacco, unlike marijuana, is recreationally legal nationwide.
That doesn’t mean, however, that marijuana is completely absolved of health risks. Researchers did find an association between marijuana use and schizophrenia and some other psychoses, though they cautioned it wasn’t clear whether marijuana use contributed to the psychoses or whether people developing psychoses were turning to marijuana as a form of self-medication. Smoking marijuana may cause respiratory distress, though it’s likely to disappear after use stops. Like alcohol, using marijuana before driving contributes to car accidents.