The World Health Organization's new report on cannabidiol (CBD) found that the compound (which does not produce any kind of high — and may actually counteract the psychoactive properties of THC) is not addictive, has no potential for abuse, and shows promise in a number of medical trials.
So of course Trump's Drug Enforcement Agency wants to class it as a Schedule I narcotic, reserved for substances with "a high potential for abuse"; "no currently accepted medical treatment use in the U.S."; and "a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or substance under medical supervision."
CBD is currently in US Phase III clinical trials as an effective treatment for epilepsy, and in earlier trials for other applications.
Apologists for Trump's prohibition on using the phrases "evidence-based" and "science-based" say that these phrases are used ""as a bullying tactic, in lieu of an actual argument" and argue that the phrase "CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes" isn't a denial of objective reality, because "Science is (ought to be) value-free, yet CDC and more broadly federal policy should embody values too."
But the plan to schedule CBD is a crisp, unambiguous example of how policy making in the absence of evidence, because of values that are unsupported by evidence, produces terrible outcomes. People with chronic pain have turned to extremely dangerous substances to treat them, prompting an epidemic that has killed more Americans that the Vietnam war. The evidence for the existence of a non-habituating, safe pain treatment is a major cause for celebration.
But the Trump administration and the Republican party represent a base whose "values" are largely aligned in opposition to the legalization of any part or derivative of marijuana. So the "evidence" of the harm from marijuana is weighed against the faith of the policymakers and their base, and the evidence is discarded in favor of the "values," to the detriment of individuals who are doomed be denied an effective treatment for debilitating illness, and to society because of the loss of those peoples' productivity, the pain and suffering of their families, and the foreclosure of CBD to help mitigate the opiod crisis.
Instead, CBD is thought to have a broad range of actions on the endocannabinoid system—a collection of neurotransmitters that bind to receptors in the nervous system to mediate a variety of physiological processes, including mood, appetite, pain, and inflammation. Though researchers are still working out all of CBD's functions, studies on animals and a small number on humans have found no evidence that it is toxic or addictive. It's a relatively safe compound that is no more addictive than placebo in studies.
In terms of therapeutic potential, several clinical studies have found that pure CBD is effective at treating some types of epilepsy. In some cases it can completely eliminate seizures. There's even a pure CBD product (Epidiolex®) currently in phase III trials. And researchers are also looking into using CBD for a range of other medical conditions. Though this work isn't as far along as the epilepsy research, the ECDD noted that there's positive preliminary data for treating a range of conditions. These include Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's, anxiety, pain, nausea, inflammatory bowel disease, and rheumatoid arthritis. There's also evidence to suggest that CBD may be helpful in combating opioid addiction.
With the expanding data and the growing acceptance of marijuana in the States, there has been a crescendo of interest in CBD and other cannabis products. Yet, the DEA has doubled-down on its position that CBD, as a part of marijuana, is a schedule I drug. In December of last year, the DEA made the point clear by creating a new drug code for marijuana extracts, including pure CBD.
World Health Organization clashes with DEA on marijuana compound CBD [Beth Mole/Ars Technica]
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