History was made on June 25 when the FDA approved the first ever CBD-derived drug for two rare and extremely severe forms of epilepsy. This monumental move is likely to change the history of medical marijuana forever. Not only is it the first time the FDA has acknowledged that cannabis has medical value, but the decision has the potential to dramatically change the way the US government upholds current cannabis policy.
First Cannabis-Derived Drug Approved by the FDA
While the FDA has approved synthetic cannabis medications (Marinol, Syndros, and Cesamet), this is the first approved drug made with cannabidiol (CBD), a cannabis-derived chemical compound. Epidiolex is made by GW Pharmaceuticals, a UK company that focuses on cannabinoid-derived medicine.
Marijuana has been illegal under federal law for decades and since the 1970s has been on the list of Schedule I substances. These are drugs that are defined by the government to have no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Aside from marijuana, other Schedule I drugs include heroin and psychedelics like LSD, peyote, psilocybin, and more. According to the US government, marijuana is more dangerous than cocaine, meth, Oxycontin, and methadone.
Will the Approval of Epidiolex Force Rescheduling and Increased Domestic Research of Marijuana?
The FDA approval of Epidiolex, however, might just be what’s needed to finally reschedule marijuana. While people have worked tirelessly for years to get marijuana removed from the list of Schedule I drugs, the US government hasn’t budged. The approval of Epidiolex though, directly contests the complete prohibition of cannabis. It’s difficult to say it holds no medical value when it was approved by the FDA.
Here’s the catch. Even though Epidiolex was approved by the FDA, it’s still considered a Schedule I substance. But it can’t be considered a substance without medical value and still be approved as medicine. In order to provide Epidiolex to epilepsy patients, marijuana must be rescheduled. It is now up to the FDA and the US Justice Department to make this historic move.
While increasing evidence from scientists and researchers around the world of the countless medical benefits marijuana provides, the US government continues to deny any such evidence that it contains therapeutic benefits. Any research on medical cannabis in the US is done with marijuana grown from only one source: a cannabis research farm at the University of Mississippi.
While the FDA did say that it will “continue to support rigorous scientific research on the potential medical uses of marijuana-derived products,” there are several government officials that are likely to make this a very difficult task indeed. While the DEA said it was open to increasing the number of domestic cannabis producers for research purposes and ultimately received dozens of applications from professional sources, the Justice Department under control of Attorney General Jeff Sessions has rejected each one.
Approval of Epidiolex not only calls for increased research on cannabis, but also that it is soon rescheduled. The abuse potential of CBD has been found to virtually non-existent, which could help the rescheduling of Epidiolex from a Schedule I substance to Schedule III or IV.
In the current system, the classification of cannabis stands in the way of countless individuals that could benefit from its medical value. The consent to use Epidiolex by the FDA for patients with severe forms of epilepsy signifies a new beginning of cannabis policy, research, and potential.