Marijuana is considered a Schedule I drug, the most restrictive designation given by the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) that places all drugs regulated by federal law into one of five schedules. What this means is that crude marijuana:
- Has no currently accepted medical use
- Has a high potential for abuse
- Lacks the accepted safety for use of the drug under medical supervision
- Cannot be prescribed by a doctor
- Is not sold in a pharmacy
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve of the use of smoked marijuana medical purposes and its use is, therefore, unregulated. This has significant implications for patient care since there are too many health risks associated with such use. Past evaluations by several Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) agencies, including the FDA, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and National Institute for Drug Abuse (NIDA), found no sound scientific studies supported medical use of marijuana for treatment in the United States and no animal or human data supported the safety or efficacy of marijuana for general medical use.
The evaluation and study of marijuana is increasing and evolving. There are several FDA approved marijuana-based medicines and additional new drugs in the formative stages and currently going through FDA clinical trials which are the global gold standard of medicine study and approval. Additional marijuana-based drugs are being studied and evaluated in the UK. Some of these drugs are:
- Dronabinol (trade name Marinol) is FDA approved and can be helpful for the nausea associated with chemotherapy or the wasting disease that appears with AIDS.
- Epidiolexis FDA approved and helps adults and children with severe forms of epilepsy (Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome). The plant-based drug is a highly purified form of cannabidiol.
- Sativex (Nabiximols) is currently in use in the United Kingdom and many other countries around the globe. It is presently going through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval process. Sativex was developed to provide relief of muscle spasticity and pain in persons with Multiple Sclerosis.
Legitimate scientific research on the potential harms and benefits of marijuana as well as the development of new medicines using the FDA approval process is of the utmost importance as the future of marijuana in American society is evaluated and science-based policies are established.