It's currently easier to buy and smoke pot in the US than for scientists to study it.
When it comes to medical marijuana, the United States is really behind the times. In fact, now that 23 states and D.C. have legalized the drug at least for medical use, it’s actually easier for people to buy pot for personal consumption than it is for scientists to research it. Pretty ridiculous.
As pot continues to become legal across the country for either medical or recreational use, scientists are hoping that they no longer have to jump through so many hoops in order to study the plant and its therapeutic potential.
For a long time, it’s been known that marijuana can treat pain and nausea, making it the perfect candidate for patients with cancer and chronic pain. However, scientists have only figured out why marijuana has these effects in the more recent years — cannabinoids, the active chemicals in marijuana, activate receptors on brain cells and change the messages they send.
Further, THC is the best-known cannabinoid, but scientists believes that others might be useful in treating the symptoms of various diseases like epilepsy, cancer, and autism.
There’s still a lot of research that needs to be done since many of the reports on the effects of marijuana are largely anecdotal. For instance, a recent report that came out in November from researchers at McGill University found that the scientific evidence was severely lacking for marijuana’s effects on patients with rheumatism, an umbrella term for any disease marked by inflammation and pain in the joints, muscles, and fibrous tissue, like arthritis.
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Although medical marijuana is becoming increasingly legalized throughout the country, it’s less meaningful unless we know how to harness its therapeutic effects. Given that there are two main subspecies of marijuana, indica and sativa, and countless strains, there’s a lot of guesswork when it comes to prescribing patients the perfect medical marijuana. But hopefully, 2016 will be a year full of pot-related discoveries since the policies around the drug are slowly but surely reforming.
In November, Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders introduced a bill that would remove marijuana from the list of substances regulated by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). If approved, this would make it much easier for a lab to procure the plant.
Currently, labs must get approvals from the DEA, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the National Institute on Drug Abuse — even in states where medical marijuana is legal. Frustratingly, this process can take months or even years before approval is gained.
Thankfully, back in June, the White House took one step out of this complicated process. Researchers no longer need permission from the Public Health Service, which makes the pursuit of researchable weed a little less painful.
It’s clear that the Obama administration is working toward a more pot-friendly society in its efforts to reform drug policy as well as free jailed prisoners who received overly-harsh punishments for marijuana-related crimes.
So for all of you marijuana advocates out there, rest assured that 2016 will likely be a revolutionary year for pot — for both drug policy and scientific research.