As of the beginning of 2020, medical cannabis is legal in 35 states.

Given that its legalization has been successful in the majority of the country, many people have wondered why it is not more mainstream as a treatment. There are still many doctors who will not make a recommendation for medical marijuana, even as an option to opioids or narcotics. The reason for any skepticism or reticence probably lies in the fact that there is a relative scarcity of clinical studies regarding medical cannabis. This lack of research into cannabis is typically considered a result of its Schedule 1 classification by the DEA.

Federal law dictates how a Schedule 1 drug may be studied and therefore regulates scientific access to cannabis. The DEA also limits the financial resources and institutional availability allocated to any Schedule 1 drug’s research.

Schedule 1 drugs are defined as substances, chemicals, or drugs with “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” This definition poses the problem in the quest for more research. It is a challenge to secure funding to study a drug’s medicinal benefit while the government’s official stance is that it has no medicinal benefit. Without adequate funding, scientists won’t conduct extensive studies.

Are There Any Clinical Studies into Cannabis?

There are many clinical research studies, generally conducted by private companies. Because these companies are private, they can get around the federal funding problem. Researchers gather data, typically utilized to maximize the effectiveness of their established product line. Without medical peer reviews, some have questioned the scientific validity of the results and findings. However, most agree that these studies have resulted in promising outcomes for the future of medical cannabis as a more mainstream therapeutic solution. 

Medical Cannabis Research Challenges

Beyond the dearth of research funding, acquiring cannabis for clinical trials poses an issue with consistency. With so many strains and chemovars, it isn’t easy to definitively support the abundant anecdotal evidence of success from cannabis patients. 

The inability to reliably test the various chemovars and simulate varied frequency of use has failed to allow clinical research studies to make sweeping conclusions. For instance, you may be able to prove that smoking THC-rich cannabis has positive benefits when dealing with chronic pain. But does this determine that the usage of a CBD-rich topical will be equally effective? Unfortunately, it does not.

User Responsibility / Partnership with their Physician

It may be many years before the clinical trials catch up to the usage of medical cannabis. In the meantime, recommending doctors can reassure patients that medical cannabis is a natural solution. In fact, marijuana has been utilized for medicinal purposes for centuries and across cultures. (Read how the body reacts to THC and CBD.)

In contrast with opioids and narcotics, medical cannabis offers no recorded cases of death by overdose. This fact alone should help prospective patients to consider it as a safer alternative to these other drugs which have been rampantly abused in recent years.

How to Proceed

Once a patient is determined to have a qualifying condition, they should consult with a licensed physician proficient in the recommendation of medical cannabis. Together, they will discuss the various forms of administration, such as edibles, topicals, or smokable flowers, and proposed frequency. Once a patient experiences a specific variety, administration, and frequency, these variables can be modified for optimal results.

It is important to note that because cannabis is a federally rated Schedule 1 drug, physicians cannot legally prescribe it. Therefore, they will provide you with a recommendation to take to a dispensary for fulfillment.

For more information and to get started on your treatment, call Dr. Daniel P. Stein at Neurology of Cannabis in Sarasota.