Marijuana policy remains a controversial, highly debatable issue at all levels of government structure. Even though use of cannabis has been made legal for medical and even recreational purposes in some states, with more states likely to put the question on ballot this year, there is still a number of things that can surprise us. For instance, the news that while organic marijuana remains heavily scheduled, synthetic one seems to be greenlighted.
As of now, marijuana remains listed as a Schedule I substance. According to Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), substances that fall into this category are ‘defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse ’. While there have been petitions asking DEA to reconsider heavy regulations on marijuana use, in 2015 Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued recommendation to maintain it as a Schedule I drug. And even though a number of studies have been conducted since then, exploring medical potential of cannabis and having found that it may be of use in alleviating or treating such conditions as cancer, fibromyalgia, depression, chronic nerve pain and some other issues, there is still no sign of statewide legalization of the plant.
At the same time, synthesizing the substance is what the officials seem to be okay with. Last year DEA has approved manufacturing of a drug called Syndros, which is a synthesized liquid THC that falls into Schedule II substance. What are the facts behind this move?
- The manufacturer to produce Syndros would be INSYS Therapeutics Inc. Their website states that the company’s vision is to ‘improve the quality of patient care by building a specialty pharmaceutical company focused on cannabinoids and novel drug delivery systems that address unmet patient needs’;
- The company donated $500,000 to push the scales away from legalization of marijuana in Arizona in 2016, which is the state where public support for it was not overwhelming, with about a half of voters undecided before the voting. This has prevented marijuana becoming legal in the state, while its synthetic analog is about to be widely accessible;
- The founder and ex-CEO of INSYS Therapeutics Inc., John Kapoor, has faced charges regarding conspiracy and bribing doctors to push through nigh numbers of prescriptions for fentanyl nasal spray that have helped him to maintain his billoinaire status. Forbes estimates his net worth to be close to 2 billion dollars at the moment. In October 2017, Kapoor resigned as chairman of Akorn, a generic prescription drugs manufacturing company, due to the charges he had been facing.
- Opioid overdose-related death rates have skyrocketed recently, being as high as 20,100 deaths in 2016, with fentanyl playing major part in there, many blame Kapoor for triggering current opioid crisis that President Trump declared to be a ‘public health emergency’ in late 2017.
So, while these events have been continuing to occur, organic marijuana’s legalization is a pending question even in states like Arizona, where it has already been put on ballot, and it seems we are pretty far from it going legal nationwide, even for medical purposes only. At the same time, even strong proponents of legalizing the plant have to remember that cannabis is not a panacea to the gravest diseases of our time, and even though it does make it better when it comes to alleviating pain or some other symptoms, it’s not a cure in itself, and some current medical hypotheses still lack verification by clinical trials, which is to be conducted yet.