Major Study Aims to Prove that Cannabis is Medicine

A major nationwide study is underway in the United States of America aimed at proving once and for all that cannabis is medicine. The organisers of what is being called a “crowd-sourced” approach to the issue – – claim that up to 227,883 qualified medical marijuana patients and 464 physicians have been invited to participate, by using the company’s ‘symptom tracker’ app to “monitor and review their patient’s progress, while technically mining the collected data so that it can be used to medically benefit and improve the quality of the patient’s condition.

The aim is for the data collected via the app to “bridge the understanding between doctors, patients, and their related medical conditions,” as well as providing the basis for monthly updates on the study’s progress as it seeks to vastly improve the understanding of how cannabis medicine works.

The key aim of all of this is to seek to prove that cannabis does indeed have medicinal properties, and should therefore be treated as such. Currently, cannabis is classed as a Schedule 1 drug in the US, meaning that it is officially considered to have no medical benefit and a high potential for abuse. Fighting this ridiculous state of affairs should in theory be simple – after all, thousands of peer-reviewed studies say otherwise. And yet, for some reason, it has not been.

Challenges have been made to cannabis’ Schedule 1 status, but despite the fact that half the country now has some form of state-level medical marijuana law, the DEA have refused to budge. Just a few months ago in fact, they reaffirmed their stance, claiming that “This decision isn’t based on danger. This decision is based on whether marijuana, as determined by the FDA, is a safe and effective medicine. And it’s not.”

Technically of course, he’s not wrong. Marijuana is not defined as a safe and effective medicine by the FDA, but they’re never likely to classify it as such whilst the DEA are still stubbornly opposed to the idea. It’s the kind of circular non-logic that keeps the drug war afloat.

As absurd a situation as it is, and as ludicrous as it is that patients and doctors – who know that cannabis works for them based on their own experiences and the stacks of research papers that back them up – have had to take matters into their own hands, it is far from a unique situation.

In the UK, cannabis is, as in the US, classified as Schedule 1, and considered to have no medicinal value. And yet despite parliament’s insistence that this is the case, one of the most successful medical cannabis companies in the world is based here. GW Pharmaceuticals have had a license to grow cannabis in the UK since 1998, and have used that license to bring to market a prescription drug – Sativex – to treat spasticity in Multiple Sclerosis patients.

Future GW products will treat treatment-resistant childhood epilepsy, among probably many other diseases, and will continue to make huge profits for GW’s shareholders. All of which is completely at odds with the government’s official stance on medical cannabis. They get around this awkward contradiction by classifying Sativex as a totally separate drug to cannabis, presumably meaning that the addition of alcohol and peppermint is what makes it medicinal whilst raw cannabis isn’t.

Everyone, even those who fight to uphold the status quo, must see that this situation is untenable, and efforts to fix it should be applauded. I’m not sure how much good a crowd-funded study like the one being undertaken in the USA is going to help when decades of medical research has failed to do so, but if it can raise awareness of this key contradiction and change just a few minds, then it will be worth it.

Deej Sullivan
Deej Sullivan is a writer and activist from the UK. He regularly writes on drug policy and politics for NORML UK, the UKCSCs, London Real, and his own blog,


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