The government holds conflicting opinions on marijuana’s safety and use. These opinions have resulted in conflicting policies, a handicapped cannabis industry, and lack of research into its untapped medical benefits. The US surgeon general, Jerome Adams, recently spoke out in support of greater cannabis acceptance for the country’s greater good.
Current cannabis policies differ widely across government institutions.
Federally, authorities consider cannabis a dangerous drug.
Locally, several state legislatures recently approved its use for medical or recreational purposes.
Scientifically, cannabis is classified in the same research category as heroin.
The lack of consensus has made legalization, scientific study, and medical use difficult. Cannabis businesses must wade through red tape in order to operate. The risks and rewards of using marijuana aren’t clear, due to inadequate research. Individuals with chronic illness – who could be helped by marijuana products – may not use cannabis due to uncertainty about its health value.
The surgeon general is primarily concerned about the obstacles to marijuana research.
“One of the concerns that I have with marijuana is the difficulty that the folks have to do research on it,” he said, stating the challenges of discovering cannabis’s health benefits.
Without proper research, it’s difficult to market cannabis for health benefits. Because cannabis is currently classified as a heroin-level drug for research purposes, it’s difficult for scientists to study its medicinal effects. The US suffers as a result.
The Significance of Cannabis Research
Failing to research cannabis’s benefits could harm American health on several fronts.
Possibility of pharmaceutical addictions
Cannabis is often prescribed for pain relief or anxiety. Several comparable medications (cocaine, adderall, etc.) can become addictive for users.
While cannabis can be addictive in some situations, it’s proven to be less addictive than previously thought; some have suggested that cannabis could ease or prevent addictions to prescription medication.
More research is necessary to know for sure.
However, without the ability to research cannabis’s health benefits in comparison to its addictive properties, it’s impossible to say whether cannabis could rescue individuals from addiction to more harmful drugs. More cannabis research could provide addiction-free solutions to currently-dangerous pharmaceuticals.
Potential to solve health problems
Additionally, lack of scientific study on cannabis results in untapped health benefits.
Cannabis is a complex plant, with over 200 possibly-health-promoting chemicals (“terpenes”). Some of these chemicals have already been shown to decrease inflammation, improve memory, boost alertness, and decrease stress. Terpenes can even reduce risk of seizures and ease cancer treatments.
As a result, cannabis is now being used by individuals with joint pain, memory decline, anxiety, ADHD, epilepsy, cancer, spinal cord disease, and more. For some, it’s the most effective medication they’ve tried.
If researchers can find further benefits to cannabis, it may become a preferred solution for other health problems as well.
Leaving cannabis health benefits on the table means many patients in the US suffer unnecessary pain and face physical challenges alone.
Advances in medical funding
Cannabis research and medical funding are inseparable.
Cannabis research results in greater cannabis consumption (as more health benefits are discovered and its use is accepted). Countries with advanced cannabis research tend to use cannabis more widely: the Netherlands, Canada, and Israel are some of the top countries for medical marijuana research. These countries have a greater understanding of cannabis’s benefits, a higher cultural acceptance for medical marijuana, and a more robust cannabis industry.
Cannabis is highly-taxed, and some of that tax money goes toward medical research grants. As a result, a flourishing cannabis industry corresponds to increased funding for medical research.
By making cannabis research more accessible, the government opens the gates for more tax benefits and future medical discoveries. Restricting cannabis closes the door to grant money, necessary to continue studies on tumors, incurable diseases, and more.
The US must make research more accessible in order to keep pace with other countries’ medical advancements.
The surgeon general’s support is the first step towards a healthier US. Though more action is necessary, Jerome Adams’ actions could help broaden cannabis research and provide more treatment options to those suffering from chronic illness.
What will the future hold? Hopefully, greater acceptance and more research – but only time will tell.