Medical marijuana drugs slowed by research, approval gridlock

Michigan middle schoolers accidentally eat marijuana edibles, are hospitalized
Posted at 4:59 PM, Sep 09, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-09 20:21:16-04

(KGTV) - While support for medical marijuana is speeding up on a state level and in nationwide opinion polls, federal advancement is slowing due to research and approval gridlock.

There’s no denying the popularity of marijuana in the United States, with THC and cannabis products approved for medical use in 33 states. Recreational use is supported in 11 states, including California. The election results are echoed in a 2016 Quinnipiac University poll which showed 81 percent of Americans support medical marijuana legalization.

California's support of medical marijuana started more than two decades ago when voters passed Proposition 215, the “Compassionate Use Act of 1996.” Laws calling for regulation of medical marijuana were passed in 2015 and 2016, with recreational marijuana becoming legal in 2018.

While voters increasingly approve marijuana legalization in various states across the country, the federal government has been slower to grant permission for use.

RELATED: Timeline: How marijuana laws have changed in California

In 1970, the Drug Enforcement Agency rated marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance, defined as having a high potential for abuse with no accepted medical use for treatment. Almost 50 years later, the Federal Drug Administration has not approved marketing cannabis for the treatment of any condition. However, four cannabis derived or related products have been approved for use with a prescription from a licensed healthcare provider.

Epidiolex contains a purified form of CBD for treating seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut or Dravet syndrome in patients as young as 2 years old, according to the FDA. Also approved by the agency are Marinol and Syndros, used for treating weight loss in AIDS patients.

RELATED: Judge: California child can take cannabis drug to school

In order to approve drugs, the FDA relies on applicants and scientific investigators to conduct research.

“The FDA is aware that several states have either passed laws that remove state restrictions on the medical use of cannabis and its derivatives or are considering doing so. It is important to conduct medical research into the safety and effectiveness of cannabis products through adequate and well-controlled clinical trials,” FDA officials report.

The agency said it supports medical marijuana research by providing information about the process to conduct the research and requirements needed to develop a cannabis-derived drug, supporting developers through meetings and regular interactions, and providing general support.

RELATED: UC San Diego to study cannabis impact on essential tremor

Research is expanding to meet public demand for new medical treatments. In 2017, the National Institutes of Health supported 330 projects focusing on therapeutic properties of cannabinoids and CBD.