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Whereas researchers in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s primarily assessed marijuana's ability to temporarily alleviate various disease symptoms -- such as the nausea associated with cancer chemotherapy -- scientists today are exploring the potential role of cannabinoids to modulate disease.
For example, scientists are investigating cannabinoids' capacity to moderate autoimmune disorders such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and inflammatory bowel disease, as well as their role in the treatment of neurological disorders such as Alzheimer's disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (a.k.a. Investigators are also studying the anti-cancer activities of cannabis, as a growing body of preclinical data concludes that cannabinoids can reduce the spread of specific cancer cells via apoptosis (programmed cell death) and by the inhibition of angiogenesis (the formation of new blood vessels).
Most recently, in 2016, the US Drug Enforcement Administration rejected a pair of administrative petitions that sought to initiate rulemaking proceedings to reschedule marijuana under federal law.
The agency opined, "[T]here is no substantial evidence that marijuana should be removed from Schedule I." To the contrary, there exists ample scientific and empirical evidence to rebut the federal government's contention.
Despite the nearly century-long prohibition of the plant, cannabis is nonetheless one of the most investigated therapeutically active substances in history.
Specifically, they determined that overdose deaths from opioids decreased by an average of 20 percent one year after the law's implementation, 25 percent by two years, and up to 33 percent by years five and six.
under medical supervision.' By contrast, cocaine and methamphetamine -- which remain illicit for recreational use but may be consumed under a doctor's supervision -- are classified as Schedule II drugs. Recent legal and administrative efforts to amend marijuana's scheduling under federal law have been unsuccessful.
In July 2011, the Obama Administration rebuffed an eight-year old administrative inquiry seeking to reassess cannabis' Schedule I status, opining: "[T]here are no adequate and well-controlled studies proving (marijuana's) efficacy; the drug is not accepted by qualified experts. At this time, the known risks of marijuana use have not been shown to be outweighed by specific benefits in well-controlled clinical trials that scientifically evaluate safety and efficacy." More recently, in April 2015, a federal judge upheld the constitutionality of cannabis' Schedule I classification in a case argued by members of the NORML Legal Committee.
(For a comprehensive summary of relevant studies finding that legal cannabis access is associated with decreases in opioid use, abuse, hospitalization, and mortality, please see NORML's fact-sheet, Relationship Between Marijuana and Opioids.) Arguably, these recent discoveries represent far broader and more significant applications for cannabinoid therapeutics than many researchers could have imagined some thirty or even twenty years ago.
Cannabinoids possess a remarkable safety record, particularly when compared to conventional prescription drugs.
Researchers are also exploring the use of cannabis as a harm reduction alternative for chronic pain patients.