Federal Health Agency Blames Schedule I Status For ‘Slow’ Cannabis Research, Commits To Fund Studies


Unfortunately, cannabis’ status as a Schedule I drug has delayed the progress of effective research about the plant’s medicinal uses. While some states have chosen to legalize cannabis at the state level, the DEA and the United States at large still categorize it as Schedule I controlled substance.

Medical and scientific organizations, seemingly dissatisfied with the lack of large-scale randomized controlled trials in cannabis research, are starting to voice concerns about the roadblocks hindering such studies. As more case studies and relevant examples showing the positive, beneficial effects of medical cannabis are surrounding the need for industry-wide research. This need is becoming an unavoidable force that will hopefully help to drive the growing call for reconsidering cannabis’ Schedule I status nationwide.

The State of Cannabis Research

In the decades following federal prohibition that started with the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, evidence of the medical uses of cannabis became more anecdotal in nature. As such, the rigorous standards of blinded, randomized controlled trials required of the pharmaceutical industry are nigh attainable to advance towards reattaining the drug’s prominence once held in the American pharmacopeia prior to the passage of the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937.

Though it initially happened at a snail’s pace, the pool of verified research into the medical properties of cannabis has expanded exponentially in recent years. However, government actions threaten to limit that growth. Any present research being conducted into the medical use of cannabis is hindered by the Schedule I status of the drug, a struggle that affects the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) on a regular basis. NCCIH, which studies new and alternative medicines, is often met with pushback when medical cannabis enters the conversation.

To complicate matters further, forthcoming national budget alterations are poised to slash funding for institutions like the NCCIH by up to $20 million. Unfortunately, this move seems to indicate a lack of understanding on the part of U.S. leadership when it comes to alternative medicines that may be beneficial to the country’s populace. A budget cut of such significance would, of course, affect research into other alternative, potentially useful, medicines as much as it would for cannabis.

A Positive Outlook

NCCIH will be forced to rely on investments from a variety of sources in order to continue appropriate levels of research into cannabis. Fortunately, the amount of support from scientists and other interested parties appears to be quite significant and will allow the NCCIH to further expand their research into cannabis for pain management.

Referencing aspirin’s humble origins as the bark of a common tree, the NCCIH mentions plans to continue discovering naturally-derived substances capable of pain relief. NCCIH isn’t the only entity supporting research activities related to cannabis, either. The NCCIH and several other organizations, including the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, recently publicized requests for public input regarding studies into the efficacy of cannabis treatments. Pain relief remains the most common topic, but the possibilities are endless. It is the opinion of some medical professionals that many mental illnesses may be treatable or at least eased by cannabis-based medications, additional research for which would be invaluable.

What Does It All Mean?

The complaints made by health organizations about the progress of cannabis research are certainly valid, and coming cuts and legislation changes threaten to make the process even more difficult. However, the efforts of a variety of research institutions and scientific entities are producing literature that may tip the scales of public perception; all the medical cannabis industry needs now is an understanding that factual proof exists where once anecdotal evidence reigned.

Of course, budget issues and the disconnected legislature between states still serve as roadblocks to the progress of cannabis research. As the body of legitimate research expands, however, medical professionals and patients alike can only hope that the stigma around cannabis will evaporate, the Schedule I status will be reconsidered, and cannabis as a widely-accepted treatment will be a reality.

Today’s blog post is written by Rick Liogier-Weyback, MD, founder, and president at Doctor Jane and our licensed medical cannabis physician. If you are considering cannabis treatment or are wondering if medical cannabis may be right for you, please contact our team at your earliest convenience.

About Doctor Jane

Doctor Jane is South Florida’s most discreet, professional, and convenient concierge medical cannabis practice. Dr. Luis Enrique R. Liogier-Weyback and his wife, Katie Liogier-Weyback, B.S., R.N., founded Doctor Jane on the core tenets of bringing personal, convenient, professional and discreet patient care to the medical cannabis treatment process. Doctor Jane provides South Florida patients and their caregivers with a safe space where they can exercise their right to access medical cannabis therapy in an environment of their choosing, free from stigma and complications.

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