Medical Cannabis: Top 3 US Rulings in 2013

With 20 states and the District of Columbia having enacted some sort of cannabis legalization, you might be surprised by the top medical cannabis news of 2013.

The medicinal use of cannabis has a long and varied past. Some records date it medicinal use as long ago as 2700 BC. It was prescribed for Queen Victoria in the 19th century for menstrual cramps.

Until the early 1900s, American doctors frequently prescribed it for their patients. In 1937, the federal government prohibited all future prescribing of medical cannabis. The American Medical Association baulked at the legislation, extolling its great benefits, but to no avail—it was officially taken off the market in 1942.

It wasn’t until 1996 that individual states started legalizing the medicinal use of cannabis, and two states have legalized the recreational use of cannabis.

Keep reading for a summary of the top three medical cannabis legislations in the US covering the 2013 year.

Reclassification Challenge Denied

In January, the US appellate court issued a ruling denying the legal challenge to reschedule medical cannabis so that it is no longer a Schedule 1 drug. The ruling was a 2-1 decision, which asserted that “adequate and well-controlled studies on the medical efficacy of marijuana do not exist.”

Federal Government Won’t Challenge State Cannabis Laws

In August, the US Department of Justice released an update to the cannabis enforcement policy. The action was long overdue and was the direct result of state governments approving medical cannabis.

The memo states eight rigid conditions the states must follow in order for the federal government not to intervene. Furthermore, the governors of Colorado and Washington where laws have been enacted that now authorize the production, the distribution and the possession of cannabis, were assured "that it is deferring its right to challenge their legalization laws at this time."

FDA Approves 1st Clinical Trials of Cannabis for Pediatric Epilepsy

Though there has been evidence since the 1970s cannabis can help for an array of epileptic conditions, 2013 marked the first clinical trials approved by the FDA. Thus far, two studies have been approved, each involving 25 children with epilepsy.

A UK company called GW Pharmaceuticals has created a drug called Epidiolex, which is rich in CBD, and is the first drug company to initiate a cannabis-based drug in clinical trials of epilepsy treatment.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta Reverses Opinion in Favor of Medical Cannabis

Also notable in 2013, Dr. Sanjay Gupta (Senior Medical Correspondent for CNN) published an online article, Why I changed my mind on weed, that reversed his 2009 TIME Magazine article titled "Why I would Vote No on Pot."

"I mistakenly believed the Drug Enforcement Agency listed marijuana as a schedule 1 substance because of sound scientific proof. Surely, they must have quality reasoning as to why marijuana is in the category of the most dangerous drugs that have 'no accepted medicinal use and a high potential for abuse.'
It doesn't have a high potential for abuse, and there are very legitimate medical applications...We have been terribly and systematically misled for nearly 70 years in the United States, and I apologize for my own role in that."

The Future

If these clinical trials of Epidiolex in the US and the UK prove successful, the US federal government would likely remove cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug.

With initial results expected to be available in early 2014, if successful, parents of children with epilepsy for whom traditional medicines don’t work have much to look forward to.

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