Mayo Clinic Research Concludes that Federal Policy is Stifling Potential Head-to-Toe Therapeutic Breakthroughs by Keeping Marijuana as a Schedule I Drug
Mark L. Rabe, MD, ABIHM
A special article published in the February 2012 edition of the peer-reviewed journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings examined the controversies surrounding medical marijuana legalization efforts with the intent of educating physicians as to whether marijuana is a panacea, scourge, or both. It concludes:
“By forcing marijuana to languish as a Schedule I drug with a ‘high potential for abuse, no accepted medical use, and no accepted safety for use in medically supervised treatment,’ the federal government thumbs an illogical nose at contemporary public sentiment, recent scientific discoveries, and potentially head-to-toe therapeutic breakthroughs.” And “…reclassification would be a first step toward reconciling federal and state law and permitting long-stifled research into a potential trove of therapeutic applications to commence.”
The study, in conjunction with the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, was based on a PubMed review of 112 scientific publications based on a keyword search.
The article notes that cannabis has been used as medicine for over five-thousand years, including by “contemporary Americans who eschew mainstream medical treatments while embracing herbal remedies.” Medical cannabis works by affecting the endocannabinoid system, an integral part of the body’s central homeostatic modulatory system.
The endocannabinoid system is described as having a wider range of targets for the potential development of new therapeutic drugs than any other signaling system discovered during the past 15 years. Medications that could potentially be developed by interacting with the endocannabinoid system include analgesics, muscle relaxants, immunosuppressants, anti-inflammatories, appetite modulators, antidepressants, antiemetics, bronchodialators, neuroleptics, antineoplastics, and antiallergens.
The article notes that development of new pharmaceuticals has been thwarted by the federal government’s seeming unwillingness to have new scientific discovery replace long-standing ideology. Bureaucratic hurdles not erected for other potential pharmaceuticals continue to interfere with legitimate cannabis research.
It also points out that for most individuals the recreational use of cannabis is essentially harmless. For about 10% of all users, however, the drug may become addictive, and it may have a negative impact on a small percentage of individuals predisposed to psychotic illness.
Finally, the author states that the government’s focus on the recreational use of cannabis is resulting in the ongoing squandering of opportunities to study marijuana’s risks and benefits and to develop new pharmacotherapies.
Bostwick, JM. Blurred Boundaries: The Therapeutics and Politics of Medical Marijuana. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 2012; 87(2):172-186.