The U.S. Federal Drug Administration believes marijuana has no medical value. Research on its application and efficacy is subject to federal approval. Unfortunately, without the proper research, you can’t fully understand the pros and cons of medical marijuana and all you’re left with are numerous unanswered questions.
Research restrictions have effectively squashed investigation of the role of medical marijuana in treating conditions like AIDS, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, chronic pain, epilepsy, glaucoma, PTSD and more.
Limited research has shown beneficial effects on neuropathic pain, agitated behavior, hypertension, spasticity and dream recall. But, the scale of U.S. research prevents substantive conclusions.
1. Will legalized cannabis outpace medical research?
Illegal use still dominates the market. The price of legal adult-use can be prohibitive, and location remains an issue even in states that have legalized or decriminalized possession.
Rural areas remain underserved by retail businesses, but that does not eliminate the customer base. And, the black market continues where medical use is limited to derivatives with low (or zero) tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and high cannabidiol (CBD).
These conditions create a cloudy picture when trying to predict future revenues. At the same time, critics are quick to advocate for research into negative health effects including:
- Cannabis contains carcinogens.
- Marijuana is addictive to 9 or 10% of users.
- Studies indicate that cannabis, “especially in high doses, can produce a toxic psychosis in individuals who have no history of severe mental illness.”
- Increased availability to adolescent smokers may contribute to a drop in I.Q., long-term depression and increased risk of suicide.
Still, with serious restrictions on quality research, both advocates and opponents are free to cherry-pick test results to make their respective cases. As these circumstances continue, it is likely the market demand will outpace research in the U.S.
2. Won’t the multibillion-dollar market encourage corporate abuse?
“Big Tobacco” marks the low point of corporate greed and irresponsibility. So, anti-institutional users are likely to ask how soon will the potential billions in marijuana sales evolve into the same abuse?
- Existing regulations address some of these concerns; for example, they discourage advertising and sales to adolescents.
- Currently, there are no providers comparable in size and reach to tobacco’s great powers. Still, tobacco interests are reported to have invested in research.
- Markets run themselves. Consumers will decide what they want and are willing to pay.
To protect the public against abuse, that public needs to demand and audit transparency.
3. Is driving high the same as driving drunk?
People smoke marijuana for the euphoric effects, a “spectrum of behavioral effects [that] is unique, preventing classification of the drug as a stimulant, sedative, tranquilizer, or hallucinogen.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports,
Low doses of THC moderately impair cognitive and psychomotor tasks associated with driving, while severe driving impairment is observed with high doses, chronic use and in combination with low doses of alcohol.
As noted in The New York Times,
Unlike alcohol, which has an undisputed – and usually quite apparent – influence on driving, there is no clear-cut consensus on the amount of marijuana that must be consumed to impair a driver’s ability.
That presents a problem for law enforcement. Sobriety kits engineered for alcohol consumption do not succeed in detecting THC levels, so police departments are looking at testing based on saliva swabs and breathalyzers.
4. When will legal medical marijuana destroy the illegal market?
The black market will not disappear any time soon. Legal or illegal, this is not a typical market. The high demand and heavy taxes on legalized sales put the price well beyond the budget of most users.
But, black market dealers pay no rent, license fees, or shipping and handling. And, they create no paper trail that could embarrass a user.
Gabriel Martin, running a legal medical marijuana collective in Ft. Bragg, California told NPR that,
If you’re going to engage in contraband sales – or private sales, as we call them – that market is going to consistently exist… Anywhere you have finance you’re going to have [a] black market.
A legal market will certainly impact quality, supply, and prices in the off-market for marijuana sales. However, any idea that a reliable legal source will drive down prices may be naïve in the presence of human nature.
Product quality, however, may serve as sales distribution factor. It may, in fact, be technology around product quality and assurance that drives this.
New seed-to-patient technologies are predicted to assist in the elimination of the black market, as they assure patients of quality medications.
Now that cannabis is legitimized, although there will always be a back alley market, this certainty can sway those patients who have had to secretly acquire medicine.
This type of technology brings security and comfort to both business owner and patient, in addition to tracking and forecasting future revenues and sales. – Jerry Pham, co-founder and COO of medical cannabis tracking and loss protection company, MediK8mobile
5. What’s the future of medical marijuana without serious research?
Research is active despite the difficulty of legal compliance and funding. The Medical News Bulletin reports that:
- Cesamet (Nabilone) mimics THC to treat vomiting and nausea associated with chemotherapy.
- Epidiolex, a cannabinoid that is purified from a marijuana plant, contains no THC. Not yet FDA-approved, is it presently being investigated as a potential form of treatment for children suffering from epilepsy.
- Marinol (Dronabinol) is a synthetic delta-9-THC prescribed to reduce vomiting and nausea associated with chemotherapy.
- Namisol, an oral pill with pure natural delta-9-THC, is currently being examined for the possible treatment of people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis and chronic pain.
- Sativex (Nabiximals), a mouth spray available in the U.K., contains THC and CBD to treat neuropathic pain and spasticity linked to multiple sclerosis.
Good questions deserve good answers, but answers do not always come easily or clearly. Still, It could easily be argued that with some degree of legalization and decriminalization in eight new states, more states will sign on.
The potential for huge revenues will drive an expansion in the industry that will, as comes to all business cycles, contract, shake out and stabilize.
If you’re going to enter this market, you need to consider who has the answers to these five questions about medical marijuana.