More than two decades ago, in 1996, California became the first U.S. state to legalize cannabis for medicinal purposes. Since then, a further 29 states have followed suit, with others going further and legalizing the drug for recreational use, too. However, marijuana still appears on the DEA’s list of scheduled drugs – in category 1, alongside heroin and LSD. But that could be about to change, as the World Health Organization (WHO) has suggested that evidence does not support the current scheduling of the drug.
It should come as no surprise — given the drug’s current rating — that many anti-marijuana campaigners are worried about the side-effects – both medically and recreationally. And while various studies have shown health benefits of marijuana, there is evidence highlighting the dangers. These dangers are most commonly associated with smoking the drug and the chemical tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the psychoactive component of cannabis, responsible for the drug’s “high.” The UK’s NHS website explains the risks which include reduced fertility, lung disease, and psychotic illnesses such as schizophrenia.
Over recent years, the WHO has responded to increased interest from Member States regarding the medicinal use of cannabis. Used all over the world, the drug is a popular choice for treating epilepsy and is commonly used in palliative care, too. It has gathered evidence concerning possible side effects and therapeutic use. The report, published December 13, focuses on the compound cannabidiol (CBD), one of at least 113 active components in cannabis, highlighting some key findings.
“Recent evidence from animal and human studies shows that its use could have some therapeutic value for seizures due to epilepsy and related conditions.”
More importantly, the report goes on to destroy a key argument used by anti-marijuana campaigns regarding addiction and dependence.
“Current evidence also shows that cannabidiol is not likely to be abused or create dependence as for other cannabinoids”
For activists such as Citizens Against Legalizing Marijuana (CALM), this recommendation is likely to be unwelcome. Their homepage references the DEA’s current scheduling of the drug within the first two paragraphs.
“Schedule I drugs are classified as having a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment, and a lack of accepted safety for use.”
However, there is already a level of recognition that cannabidiol is less harmful than THC. This is why some states have adopted limited access marijuana product laws. These laws allow the use of low THC, high CBD varieties of the drug to be administered for therapeutic purposes.
While the World Health Organization’s report concludes that there is no justification for the current scheduling of marijuana, it does confirm that a further review of the drug and its related substances will take place in 2018.