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Free the weed (research)

medical weed.jpgAs more and more US states allow medical use of marijuana, science needs to catch up, says a new paper in a prestigious medical journal.

Multiple states have already passed laws that endorse – if not outright legalise – medical usage of marijuana.

Yesterday advocates marijuana legalisation of marked ‘four-twenty’, as the celebration of cannabis smoking held on 20 April is known. And while a survey conducted by AP found that 55% of Americans don’t want marijuana legalized – versus 33% who do – 60% support medical use of the plant.

Cannabis is clearly a burning issue right now.

But as states press ahead with laws that provide for medical use, actual research on the medical benefits of marijuana is sparse. In a new perspective piece in the New England Journal of Medicine, Diane Hoffmann and Ellen Weber, warn that, “Restrictive federal law and, until recently, aggressive federal law enforcement have hamstrung research and medical practice involving marijuana.”

As they note, the American Medical Association also recently called for more research in this area (see: AMA craving for a fresh look at medical pot).

Reclassifying marijuana as a schedule II drug – rather than the current federal designation as a schedule I drug along with heroin and LSD – might facilitate research in the area and help the FDA regulate. “Current roadblocks to conducting clinical trials, however, make this more rational route of approval unlikely and perpetuate the development of state laws that lack consistency or consensus on the basic features of an evidence-based therapeutic programme,” say Hoffmann and Weber, of the University of Maryland School of Law in Baltimore.

Currently, they note, state laws are a hodgepodge of differing rules on what conditions medical marijuana can be used for, how much can be used and how the drug can be obtained.

“In states debating new legislation, policymakers are grappling with question that only scientific research can answer,” they write. “For what conditions does marijuana provide medicinal benefits? Are there equally effective alternative? What are the appropriate doses for various conditions? How can states ensure quality and purity?”

More news

D.C. Council unanimously backs medical marijuana in preliminary vote – Washington Post

Medical Marijuana Bill Moves on 4/20 – Denver Daily News

Medical pot use can conflict with job rules – USA Today

Image: medical marijuana dispensary in California by Neeta Lind, via Flickr

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