Only a small number of states currently have laws on the books allowing medical marijuana, but help may be on the horizon for patients in other states who could benefit from the ingredients in cannabis plants — clinical trials are currently underway for the world’s first pharmaceutical developed from raw marijuana instead of synthetic equivalents.
British pharmaceutical company GW Pharma is developing a mouth spray called Sativex it hopes to market in the U.S. as a treatment for cancer pain, and if the trails go well, FDA approval could be granted as early as next year.
The spray contains delta 9-THC and cannabidiol, two of marijuana’s two best-known components. The drug has already been approved in Canada, New Zealand and eight European countries to relieve muscle spasms associated with multiple sclerosis.
Since the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration categorizes pot as a dangerous drug with no medical value, FDA approval would mark a major milestone and could increase pressure on the federal government to revisit its position. It could also encourage other drug companies to develop their own marijuana-based drugs.
“There is a real disconnect between what the public seems to be demanding and what the states have pushed for and what the market is providing,” Aron Lichtman, a Virginia Commonwealth University pharmacology professor and president of the International Cannabinoid Research Society, told USAToday. “It seems to me a company with a great deal of vision would say, ‘If there is this demand and need, we could develop a drug that will help people and we will make a lot of money.'”
That said, marijuana advocates fear that the government will use any new prescription products to keep pot illegal.
“To the extent that companies can produce effective medication that utilizes the components of the plant, that’s great. But that should not be the exclusive access for people who want to be able to use medical marijuana,” Americans for Safe Access spokesman Kris Hermes said told USAToday. “That’s the race against time, in terms of how quickly can we put pressure on the federal government to recognize the plant has medical use versus the government coming out with the magic bullet pharmaceutical pill.”