White House drugs czar Rahul Gupta gave an interesting interview in late May 2022, an interview in which he reiterated the Biden administration’s commitment to cannabis reform. According to Gupta, the president is fully behind developing the medical benefits of cannabis while taking an integral approach to reform. But the most interesting aspect of the interview was this: it amplified the conundrum of cannabis research.
Gupta acknowledged that Medical Cannabis does demonstrate recognizable benefits for patients. He mentioned its ability to help manage chronic pain. He even discussed Medical Cannabis as being better for pain management than opioids. But then he reminded the audience that marijuana remains a Schedule I controlled substance because the federal government does not acknowledge that it has any known medical benefits.
Here is the conundrum: researchers have an exceedingly challenging time doing comprehensive studies due to marijuana’s status under federal law. But without cannabis research, there is no way to definitively prove medical benefit. Researchers have been struggling with this issue for decades.
Although the drug czar did not come out and say it directly, his comments implied that the White House doesn’t want to get directly involved with marijuana reform. Rather, it would be better for Congress to step in and do what needs to be done. If you believe in small government and limiting executive branch overreach, it is hard to argue that point.
What has so many cannabis proponents frustrated is the fact that promises of reform have been offered for years. Our best chances came when Biden took the White House in January 2021. With both the Executive and Legislative branches under Democrat control, we were supposed to have a marijuana reform bill signed into law by now. But some 18 months after Biden’s inauguration, we still aren’t any closer. Even more frustrating is the realization that time appears to be running out.
Even if a comprehensive reform bill doesn’t make it to the president’s desk by the end of 2022, Congress should at least do something to loosen the reins on cannabis research. This is assuming that the incremental approach to reform is the best way to go. An incremental approach would see marijuana rescheduled from Schedule I to Schedule II. That would at least create a more open environment for researching its medical benefits.
Anecdotally, we know that chronic pain patients routinely report pain relief as a result of using Medical Cannabis. We even have some small-scale studies confirming those reports. In fact, one of the most recently published studies comes out of Israel. It shows that low-dose THC can offer long term pain relief through aerosolized inhalation.
The bottom line is that we need more research. And to get it, we need to take steps to encourage it. The current conundrum only prevents cannabis research through a closed regulatory loop that seems impossible to break without Congressional action. While lawmakers try to figure it out at the federal level, patients need to jump through hoops at the state level to get their hands on Medical Cannabis.
We are reasonably confident that reform will eventually come. In the meantime, cannabis research may continue to be thwarted by federal policy. We will be here for you, nonetheless.
If you are interested in getting your Utah Medical Cannabis Card, feel free to visit any one of our clinics throughout the state. We can help guide you through the application process and provide the medical evaluation you need to get your card.