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New research out of Temple University about the effect of federal Schedule I status of cannabis means for research and legislation. Primarily, the federal legality of cannabis has resulted in a “Patchwork” of state regulations, which aren’t consistent among the 29 States plus Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, and Guam, which have all legalized medical marijuana. This patchwork has resulted in a few things, some good and some bad. The study evaluated different factors in how states approached medical marijuana programs, including qualifying conditions, how patients register, privacy and civil rights concerns, testing, and how states permit and label medicine.

The study evaluated different factors in how states approached medical marijuana programs, including qualifying conditions, how patients register, privacy and civil rights concerns, testing, and how states permit and label medicine.

Researchers were particularly concerned that the federal scheduling of cannabis means that the legitimacy of cannabis as a medicine: “If we’re serious about marijuana as a therapy, as a drug, if we mean it’s medicine, then we need to do research on it,” said Scott Burris, director of Temple’s Center for Public Health Law Research. “We need to do trials.” There was also concern that the many disparate approaches to medical marijuana could result in patients in some states not getting the quality of medication, or privacy protection, that they would from federal regulation of a medicine.

On the other hand, researchers listed a few key benefits of the trend. “Serious deficiencies in this state efforts would add to the rationale for federal rescheduling and the integration of marijuana into the standard controlled substances and pharmaceutical regulatory framework,” noted Burris in the report. “If, on the other hand, states are able to successfully manage the safe use and distribution of a new pharmaceutical product, critics of federal oversight of the pharmaceutical industry would have an interesting case study to ponder.” Burris suggested that cannabis could be a tool for states to help reinvent how the FDA handles medicines, since the variety of benefits of the plant

Burris suggested that cannabis could be a tool for states to help reinvent how the FDA handles medicines, since the variety of benefits of the plant don’t fit into the strict carbon-copying of medicines currently the norm in the FDA.

“It’s safe to say we’re going to be in a period of negotiation” regarding state laws and whatever federal approach results, Burris said. “Negotiation is fine. Just putting our heads in the sand is bad.”