We’ve all either heard tales of how cannabis can be an extremely effective painkiller — or we’ve experienced it our darn selves. After all, when someone does a search for the benefits of cannabis — or marijuana, or CBD, or whatever search term they look for — they will find an endless list of claimed
The same thing goes for when people go into a dispensary and ask questions. Cannabis users are typically quick to say that this plant can provide benefits in virtually every area of life, including reducing anxiety, fighting cancer, helping with mental disorders, providing people with better sleep, and much much more.
But while anecdotally we all know that weed can be of medical benefit to those who choose to consume it, where’s the science to back it up?
Well, the answer to that question is a lot more tricky than it should be. While the nation at large is rapidly approaching a point where people can no longer deny that the cannabinoids and other compounds found in marijuana can be used to ease pain and assist humanity in other ways, the science behind it is sorely lacking. And that’s because valid cannabis studies into the medicinal benefits of cannabis are extremely limited.
That’s of no help to the people who may be on the fence about using cannabis products, and it’s especially detrimental in the fight to change the plant’s legal status. If we want the benefits of the plant to be more widely available to people outside of legal states, there need to be more scientific studies done on the benefits. But why haven’t there been more studies done? And what’s the issue when it comes to validating these claims?
Well, here’s what you should know about what’s holding up the bid for valid scientific studies into cannabis — and why it’s hurting everyone in the process.
Why there are so few scientific studies into the benefits of cannabis.
If you want to make a claim about the medical benefits of something, it’s necessary to have a study to back it up. But while there are a handful of peer-reviewed scientific studies into the plant, there aren’t nearly as many as there need to be. There are three reasons for this:
1. It’s still a Schedule I Drug.
Marijuana has for decades been listed as a Schedule I drug by the federal government. This classification means that it is considered to currently have no accepted medical use and that it has a high potential for abuse. Cannabis sits up there with a ton of other Schedule I drugs, including heroin, LSD, Ecstasy, methaqualone, and peyote.
This classification means that researchers are, in large part, disallowed from looking at what the medical benefits of the plant could be — the research has been mostly limited to how cannabis is an addictive drug that will kill you instead.
While there have been looser parameters related to research in recent years, it’s still incredibly difficult to get funding or approval to do any studies at all into the plant.
And that’s true despite the fact that cannabis is now legal in many states. The federal classification still trumps the state classification in many ways — at least when it comes to research.
In short, the lack of research all comes down to the fact that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration still refuses to reclassify it into a more reasonable tier, which would help to eliminate much of the stigma and allow additional research to be done. It would also allow researchers to move forward without the threat of federal funding being pulled from them (or the threat of other punitive actions). Without a reclassification, the plant remains out of the hands of researchers in our country.
2. There’s a financial incentive.
The fact that marijuana is relatively easy to grow, is a plant, and can’t really be patented by the major pharmaceutical companies means there is less financial incentive for pharmaceutical companies to research THC as a drug — or fund research into how this plant could have medical benefits. After all, you can’t really patent a cannabinoid or a strain of cannabis, can you?
Well, not really. But you can create a synthetic version of THC and use it in pharmaceuticals, which Big Pharma is already doing with drugs like Marinol and
Cesamet, which are used as anti-nausea treatments for cancer and AIDS patients. Both drugs use a synthesized version of delta-9 THC, called dronabinol, as the active ingredient.
But that’s a synthetic version of a cannabinoid — not an actual extract from the plant itself. And these companies aren’t going to invest millions into long-term studies when they know it is unlikely that they will be able to recoup that investment.
3. Time also plays a role.
To reiterate, there have been some looser parameters recently for studies into the plant. At one point in the not too distant past, the only reason researchers could study cannabis was to prove that you’d become addicted to it (or face any other number of negative repercussions), but things have changed a bit in recent years.
While it is true that there are some studies going on right now, and that is good news, the reality is that it still takes time. Scientific studies will often span decades or even generations.
And since cannabis has been universally illegal in most countries for such a long time, these studies have been virtually impossible to conduct. As the laws change, it is likely that many more studies will begin, but it will still be quite some time before the truly authoritative research will be completed.
The danger of missing scientific data related to cannabis
Cannabis users, whether recreational users or medical patients, know just how beneficial the plant can be to various aspects of their life. The majority of people who aren’t already familiar with these products, however, tend to be unaware and reluctant to trust the anecdotal evidence. This means they are needlessly suffering from a huge number of physical, mental, and emotional difficulties that could be helped using the various cannabis products that are available today.
As more and more studies are being done, there is little doubt that the evidence will show how beneficial cannabis products can be. This is why it is so important to continue to push for additional scientific studies to be conducted and share the information from research in this area as it is released.
It will take time, but eventually it will become clear that the prohibition on the cannabis plant has cost society a heavy toll in many different ways.