What is the Future of Medical Marijuana?
Many wonder what the future of medical marijuana holds with the rapid rise in the stock of marijuana over the past few decades. Estimates predict that more than 3 million Americans possess medical marijuana cards as of May 2017. Between that period and now, not less than 4 more American states have legalized medical marijuana, bringing the total number to 33. For a drug that is still categorized as ‘having a high abuse potential, no medicinal use, and severe safety concerns’ under federal law, you have to admit the rise has been truly rapid.
If anything, we have learned that medical marijuana would remain controversial in the coming years. But that does not stop those who are willing to benefit from the many amazing therapeutic benefits. The big question remains, what does the future hold for medical marijuana?
Would the backs and forth still continue, or would everyone come to terms with the fact that cannabis is a drug you can trust? And importantly, is there a chance that the federal laws would relax its regulation of the drug?
A Lot Depends on Research
The current claim by the federal authorities is that there is not enough research to categorically prove the efficacy and safety of medical cannabis. Things are changing already and the assertion would be nothing short of laughable in the next few decades. The major reason why there has been a relative dearth of research is the difficulty in obtaining the drug, even for research purposes. Presently, there is only one federal stash of medical marijuana throughout the country. And the administrative bottlenecks researchers have to navigate before they can gain access to the stash is discouraging.
With the widespread legalization among American states, researchers now find it easier to gain access to the drug and the body of knowledge in the field of medical marijuana is growing by the day. Even with this, it’s hard to shake away the feeling that there is a need for more large-scale cannabis studies.
The future of cannabis research would definitely drift towards this direction. As the drug’s stock rises, there’ll be more organizations willing to throw their weight behind medical marijuana research. Consequently, more funds would be available and more long-term safety and efficacy studies can be conducted on a larger scale.
The trend of increased funding is already being observed in the United States and Canada. Healthcare and Wellness companies, Pharmaceutical companies, Universities, and other research institutes have all shown interest in medical marijuana. And it’s safe to say the future holds a lot of promise.
Standardization for Prescribers
Currently, it’s difficult to prescribe a standardized dose of medical marijuana for patients. Most patients discover the ideal dose for their condition via trial and error. If the drug is to gain widespread acceptance, this trend cannot continue. There is a number of factors that prevent doctors from prescribing a standard dose.
The first and probably the most important is that most prescribers do not have sufficient knowledge about medical cannabis. The drug is not in any med school syllabus. In fact, a lot of prescribers do not trust medical cannabis and may be skeptical about crossing federal law by prescribing it. To become a prescriber in Florida, you are required to take a 2-hour course and examination. Other states have similar crash programs that are usually insufficient to gain in-depth knowledge. For a drug that potentially requires extensive dosage individualization, there is only so much that can be covered within two hours.
The diverse strains and dosage forms could also be a clog in the wheel of standardization. Hence, the process of standardization should start from cultivation right to the packaging of the dosage forms. The labels of the diverse preparations should carry detailed information containing their CBD and THC contents. This would greatly help the cause of prescribers.
More Funding from Financial Institutions and Consequently, Lower Prices
The skepticism surrounding medical marijuana is not only found among prescribers. Banks and other financial institutions are also reluctant to provide loans and other funding means for cannabis-based businesses. A survey showed that only 3% of banks in America are willing to associate themselves with the cannabis industry. This is definitely a mitigating factor for start-ups and organizations that are looking to scale up. When you add the exorbitant taxes to the relative unavailability of financial aid, you would understand why the selling price of medical marijuana looks outrageous.
The states that have legalized medical marijuana have also come up with ways through which financial institutions can help the cannabis industry without breaking the law. The outlook for the near future looks promising. More financial institutions are willing to lend a helping hand. And with the emergence of more local competitors, the much-desired price crash would likely come soon.
Is Full Legalization in the Cards?
The debate surrounding full legalization for medical marijuana would probably continue for a long time. Sometimes last year, President Trump signaled his support for a bill that would allow state marijuana laws to supersede federal laws. When you factor in the high public support, you’ll be tempted to conclude that it is only a matter of time before things change at the federal level.
However, things couldn’t be more complicated. A good number of older citizens in the U.S are anti-marijuana. This class represents a significant percentage of voters. If the decision is subjected to a vote, there is a fair chance that the law would stay the same. Another survey also showed that most Americans would vote for a candidate that belongs to a different side of the marijuana divide. Thus, senators know that they can play safe without incurring the wrath of their voters.
For now, the fate of medical marijuana lies in the results of large-scale clinical trials as well as long term safety and efficacy studies. Once these are able to prove the therapeutic efficacy as well as the safety of medical marijuana beyond a reasonable doubt, perhaps the stance of more senators and voters would change. In the relative absence of such, the more realistic prediction is that things would still remain this way for a long time to come.
Would Legalization Really be a Step Forward?
In many quarters, the discourse is that federal legalization would be the next big step for medical marijuana. While legalization would, no doubt, come with a host of benefits, it is not without inherent disadvantages.
Legalization would mean marijuana would be rescheduled to schedule 2. While this would be great for tax cuts and marijuana businesses looking to get loans from banks, it could spell doom for small dispensaries. Schedule 2 drugs are strictly regulated by the FDA. Medical marijuana joining that illustrious class means the same regulations that apply to prescription drugs would apply to medical marijuana. Big pharmaceutical companies would have an incentive to take over the industry and local manufacturers and dispensaries would go out of business in no time. Worse still, the prices are likely to skyrocket and obtaining the drug could become more difficult.
While all these problems could spend doom for a lot of businesses and users, they are not exactly insurmountable. The best approach is to deal with the problems one at a time. Getting medical marijuana legalized at the federal level should be a top priority.
The Future Bodes Well
Medical marijuana appears to thrive on controversies. It’s a classic example of ‘no publicity is bad publicity’. The debates surrounding the drug is only making it more popular. Through word of mouth only, many more people are now proud users of medical marijuana. Even more people have shelved their rigid opinions about medical marijuana in favor of a flexible stance. The stocks of marijuana companies are rising as global spending on legal cannabis is projected at $32 billion by 2022.
There can be no argument that more work needs to be done in the field of medical marijuana research. Even at that, the future of medical marijuana is nothing short of exciting.