How many medical pot studies will it take?

Via Flickr by Goodnight London
Via Flickr by Goodnight London

When a federal appeals court this week snuffed out the possibility of re-classifying marijuana, it did so with a simple argument: pot has no “currently accepted medical use.” What would it take to change its tune?  “Adequate and well-controlled studies proving efficacy,” according to the Drug Enforcement Agency.

So, how is it possible that the problem is a simple lack of studies? Researchers have been studying marijuana for decades. Actually anyone who’s ever read the back pages of a city rag can testify that medical marijuana studies are rampant. And not all of them are clinical trials that sell themselves as “Want to Smoke Weed and Get Paid?” There are about 100 on-going trials listed by the National Institutes of Health. Consider a fascinating sample list of health conditions for which medical pot has been tried as treatment (emphasis is mine):

Nausea and Vomiting, Appetite Loss, Spasticity, Headache/Migraine, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Bladder Dysfunction, Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Diarrhoea, Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Tremor, Dystonia, Hiccups, Tourette’s Syndrome, Tics, Hyperkinetic Movement Disorder, Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Trichotillomania, Parkinson’s Disease, Huntington’s Disease, Traumatic Brain Injury, Tinnitus, Pruritus, Night Sweats, Epilepsy, Isaacs’ Syndrome, Intraocular Pressure, Night Vision, Asthma, Bronchodilation, Blood Pressure/Hypertension, Cancer, Alzheimer’s Disease, Neuroprotection, Schizophrenic Psychosis, Bipolar Disorder, Depression, Anxiety, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Alcohol Dependency, Opioid Dependency, Cocaine/Crack Dependency, Cannabis Dependency, Sleep

In fact, Americans for Safe Access cited more than 200 published studies demonstrating marijuana’s efficacy for various medical uses, including a 1999 study by the respected Institute of Medicine, a government adviser on health issues. So what gives?

Basically the feds aren’t stoked on the quality of the research. The peer-reviewed studies are considered “phase I” testing under the FDA’s criteria and don’t meet the “phase II or III” definition based on how long the clinical trial extend and the limited number of participants involved. That’s according to Alex Kreit, associate professor at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, who specializes in controlled substance law. Kreit says he was a little surprised the court accepted the DEA’s line of argument without deeper consideration of the quality and quantity of study that’s been performed over the years, but he expects it will be the subject of appeals. More on tonight’s show with Kreit about the Los Angeles medical marijuana ballot initiatives, here.

You can hear the Which Way, LA? on this topic, below: