With all the measures legalizing cannabis across the United States — currently, 23 states and D.C. have legalized it (at least as medicine), and several others are working to put legalization on the ballot in 2016— it’s no surprise that it’s now easier than ever to obtain marijuana for personal and medical use.
There’s an imbalance, however, in how easy it is for patients to buy cannabis compared to how difficult it still is for scientists to procure samples and conduct research on the revolutionary potential of the marijuana plant.
What scientists are hoping for in the new year is that the vast, untapped potential for medical and therapeutic research — a benefit of studying the plant that is often overlooked in the cash-crazy business of cannabis — might be more easily discovered.
What scientists want is for the barriers to their research to be torn down along with the barriers of marijuana prohibition crumbling throughout the nation.
It seems a day can’t go by without news of some promising new breakthrough regarding cannabis. Scientists have long known that marijuana can treat nausea and pain.
But they only recently figured out why: Chemicals in marijuana called cannabinoids can activate receptors on brain cells, changing the messages they send to one another.
THC, of course, is the best-known cannabinoid, and probably the most exciting for cannabis users, since it creates that pleasurable sensation known as being “high.”
But researchers suspect other compounds in the plant, less-famous cannabinoids, might be useful in treating the symptoms of neurological diseases such as fibromyalgia, epilepsy, and even autism.
Because medical researchers often rely on federal funding and approval from agencies like the Drug Enforcement Administration, Food and Drug Administration, and National Institute on Drug Abuse, the federal prohibitions on cannabis make procuring samples difficult.
In June, the White House took one step out of the complex process: They no longer need permission from the Public Health Service too.
And according to Popular Science, Senator Bernie Sanders introduced a bill last November that would remove marijuana from the list of substances regulated by the DEA—a move that would take it out of the company of heroin and make it much easier for a lab to buy.
It’s one of the reason many cannabis-advocates are supporting the Vermont Senator in his presidential bid.
(Photo Credit: slate.com)