Landmark Study: Marijuana Effective Medicine, But Has Drawbacks

Article by David Downs, SF Gate

Trimming cannabis flowers

Marijuana can be an effective medicine in some cases for treating pain, nausea, muscle spasms and other conditions, but the drug that is wafting into the mainstream is not harmless, and more research is needed, the nation’s top scientists concluded in a landmark report released Thursday.

The nonprofit National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine issued its report, “The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids,” summarizing the body of research into the efficacy of medical pot. The 395-page paper stands as the most official medical review of the botanical drug, which an estimated 8 percent of American adults used in the past month.

Chief among the findings, researchers criticized the U.S. government’s continued listing of marijuana as a “Schedule 1” drug, meaning it has no established medical use and a high potential for abuse. Pot ranks above prescription opioids, such as Vicodin and OxyContin, that were linked to more than 180,000 deaths from 1999 to 2015.

Cannabis’ Schedule 1 designation “impedes the advancement of … research,” the study found. “It is often difficult for researchers to gain access to the quantity, quality, and type of cannabis product necessary to address specific research questions on the health effects of cannabis use.”

Echoing the response to the report by medical marijuana advocates in the Bay Area and around the country, Berkeley-based physician and cannabis specialist Dr. Frank Lucido said, “Our government should de-schedule marijuana.”

The National Academies commissioned the review of research in reaction to the swift expansion of medical and adult-use pot laws in America. Twenty-eight states and Washington, D.C., have legalized medical pot, and eight states and Washington, D.C., have legalized recreational use.

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