Many members of the American cannabis community have been holding their breath for decades in hopes that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration might wave its magic wand and hocus pocus, alakazam, poof: marijuana is all of sudden considered safe and effective medicine in the eyes of the federal government. If you are one of those people who fall into this cohort, we’re going to go out on a limb and say it’s okay to breathe. Not because all of your oxygen-deprived brains had some bizarre, occult-like influence on the FDA’s negative outlook on weed – they certainly didn’t. Marijuana, at least in smokable forms, will probably never be acknowledged for its ability to treat a single health condition.
However, this does not mean the herb will not be made legal soon for recreational use. In fact, officials with the FDA are sure that it will.
Just last week, FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb said federal marijuana legalization was destined to happen “soon.” The head of Uncle Sam’s gatekeeper to pharmaceutical commerce told CNBC on Friday that the day of the doobie is swiftly approaching. “I think there’s an inevitability that it’s going to happen at the federal level at some point soon,” Gottlieb said.
Unfortunately, the big cheese of the FDA refused to elaborate on just how close the nation is to legal weed. All he was willing to say is that his agency, for better or worse, is not supportive of the pot products that claim to have healing powers for everything from the common cold to cancer.
“We do regulate compounds that are making drug claims and we regulate botanical use of marijuana,” Gottlieb told the news source. “We have approved compounds derived from marijuana, but there is no demonstrated medical use of botanical marijuana. That’s the bottom line.”
The approved compound of which the FDA chief spoke is cannabidiol (CBD), specifically when used in a drug called Epidiolex. The FDA put its seal of approval on the pharmaceutical earlier last year, making it the first cannabis-based medicine ever to be cleared for distribution in the United States. But this action had absolutely no impact on the legality of other CBD products.
While the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration classified Epidiolex a Schedule V, all other CBD products derived from the cannabis plant remain a Schedule I dangerous drug on the agency’s Controlled Substances Act. The overall message is the federal government will only give cannabis medicinal clearance when a drug company puts it through a rigorous approval process, which includes years of clinical trials. Otherwise, marijuana cannot and will not be labeled medicine.
But even if some diehard cannabis purists still have faith that the FDA will one day revere the cannabis plant for all of its therapeutic benefits, Gottlieb says that is unlikely as long as it is presented in smokable forms.
“I prescribed blood pressure pills and all kinds of other things to my patients when I was a practicing physician not too long ago,” Gottlieb said back in May. “I never told a patient to go home, crush up a pill, roll it in a piece of paper and smoke it. Using a lung as a drug delivery vehicle isn’t optimal. That’s not to say that we wouldn’t evaluate it if it came in; it just wouldn’t be an optimal way to deliver an active ingredient.”
But this should in no way be viewed as bad news. Considering the head of the FDA feels confident marijuana will be federally legalized in the near future, it appears the entire cannabis community — not just a small percentage — will come out as winners in the end. There is a lot of talk that Congress will get the ball rolling on nationwide legalization at the beginning of the next session. Perhaps Gottlieb knows something that we don’t?
Many predict the United States will legalize cannabis no later than 2020, so it is critical for the discussions surrounding this level of reform to begin soon on Capitol Hill. And when legalization takes hold, it will not matter if a person wants to use marijuana to ease pain or just to provide them with some squinty-eyed perception. Toss out the labels, marijuana will be for everyone.
TELL US, do you think you’ll see cannabis legalized on the federal level?