A major cannabis report released last week by the National Academy of Sciences covered the good, the bad, and the ugly consequences of our self-imposed black market. But one of the biggest parts was the continued obstacle to research presented by cannabis’s status as a Schedule 1 drug.
In 300-plus pages, the report covered many aspects of the current relationship between Americans and cannabis when it comes to policy and science. Many of the folks who have been working on the issue way before it was cool were quick to chime in on the report with a slew of statements on the findings.
One of the earliest was the Marijuana Policy Project via a statement from their Communications Director Mason Tvert, who spearheaded efforts in Colorado for a decade prior to legalization before taking on national media duties for MPP,
“These findings clearly undermine the federal government’s decision to classify marijuana under Schedule I, which is reserved for substances with no medical value,” Tvert said. “It confirms that marijuana has several medical benefits and is not nearly as problematic as people are often led to believe. There is no rational or scientific justification for our nation’s current marijuana prohibition policy.”
The statement noted that the NAS report found no links between smoking marijuana and the development of lung, head, or neck cancers, nor did it establish a link between marijuana use and asthma or other respiratory diseases. It also found no correlation between cannabis and elevated mortality rates, no substantiated evidence of the gateway theory from cannabis to other drugs and no link between use and aggressive behavior.
“The report essentially concludes that marijuana is not harmless, but it is not as harmful as many other products that are regulated for adult use,” Tvert said. “If the researchers conducted a similar study on alcohol, they would conclude that it poses far more harm and provides far fewer medical benefits than marijuana. Marijuana is objectively less harmful than alcohol, and that should be reflected in our nation’s laws.”
Paul Armentano, Deputy Director of NORML — the nation’s oldest cannabis policy organization, — pointed out much of the public health and safety concerns brought up in the report would be solved by a properly regulated marketplace.
“The National Academy of Science’s conclusions that marijuana possesses established therapeutic utility for certain patients and that it possesses an acceptable safety profile when compared to those of other medications or recreational intoxicants are not surprising,” Armentano said. “This evidence has been available for some time, yet for decades marijuana policy in this country has largely been driven by rhetoric and emotion, not science and evidence.”
He also pointed to the vast amounts of research information on cannabis.
“A search on PubMed, the repository for all peer-reviewed scientific papers, using the term ‘marijuana’ yields over 24,000 scientific papers referencing the plant or its biologically active constituents — a far greater body of literature than exists for commonly consumed conventional drugs like Tylenol, ibuprofen, or hydrocodone,” he said. “Further, unlike modern pharmaceuticals, cannabis possesses an extensive history of human use dating back thousands of years, thus providing society with ample empirical evidence as to its relative safety and efficacy.”
Marijuana Majority Chairman Tom Angel also weighed in on the report.
“The specific findings on marijuana’s medical benefits and health risks aside, the most significant part of this groundbreaking report to me is that the authors so clearly said that cannabis’s current classification as a Schedule I drug erects unnecessary barriers to further research,” Angel said. “It’s way past time for marijuana to be rescheduled, and this prestigious report adds significant weight to that ongoing debate.”
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