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Historic Proposal to Reclassify Marijuana: A Gateway to Legalization or a Pathway to Addiction?
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Published 9 months ago on
September 1, 2023

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The Health and Human Services Department under the Biden administration has proposed that marijuana be reclassified from a Schedule I to a Schedule III drug, marking a historic shift in federal policy. This change would place cannabis in the same category as codeine-laced Tylenol, viewed as less addictive and harmful. However, the final decision rests with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which has rejected similar propositions four times in the past.

Although the reclassification would not impact individuals with prior marijuana convictions or alter state laws, it could potentially pave the way for cannabis to be sold through pharmacies following FDA research. The move is also likely to significantly reduce tax obligations for marijuana business owners, who currently face a 60% tax rate due to Section 280E. However, it would not immediately resolve banking issues faced by these businesses, as many financial institutions remain wary of supporting what is federally considered an illicit trade.

While total legalization is the ultimate goal for advocates, the proposed reclassification is seen as a significant step towards that end. If marijuana were to be fully legalized, regulation would likely resemble that of alcohol, with most control resting at the state level.

NIH Study of Potential Benefits as Well as Adverse Effects of Cannabis Use

A study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has revealed the detrimental impacts of marijuana use, especially among adolescents. The research outlined various adverse effects including cognitive impairment, memory loss, motor coordination issues, altered judgment, paranoia, and addiction. The study further emphasized the potential for marijuana to negatively influence brain development, particularly in teenagers. Regular use of the drug during these formative years could lead to decreased prefrontal region activity and reduced hippocampus volumes. It also raises the risk of anxiety, depression, and psychosis.

Conversely, another NIH study discussed potential therapeutic benefits of cannabis use. According to the research, oral cannabinoids can be effective in treating nausea and vomiting induced by chemotherapy, chronic pain, and muscle stiffness related to multiple sclerosis (MS). However, the effects are modest and there is insufficient data to evaluate its impact on other conditions. The most common reason patients cite for medical cannabis use is chronic pain relief. The study found evidence supporting the efficacy of cannabis or cannabinoids in reducing chronic pain symptoms.

The NIH Cannabis Research Report

The methods of the 2020 study dubbed “Cannabis (Marijuana) Research Report” study involved the use of two longitudinal twin studies to investigate the cannabis gateway effect, which is the theory that cannabis use can lead to the use of other illicit drugs. The study aimed to identify the probability and predictors of this effect.

The conclusions drawn from the study were that cannabis use was indeed associated with an increased risk of using other illicit drugs. This risk was found to be higher in individuals who started using cannabis at an earlier age. Furthermore, the study concluded that individuals with a family history of substance use disorder were at a higher risk of using other illicit drugs.

Overall, the health effects of cannabis use are complex and depend on a variety of factors, including the amount and frequency of use, the age at which use begins, and individual differences in biology and genetics.

Read more at NPR.

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