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World Health Organization Moving Towards Recommending Cannabis for Medical Purposes

by Paul Fassa
Health Impact News

In late December 2017, the WHO (World Health Organization) issued a statement from its Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD):

The ECDD did an initial review of a cannabis compound called cannabidiol (CBD). Recent evidence from animal and human studies shows that its use could have some therapeutic benefit for seizures due to epilepsy and related conditions.

Current evidence also shows that cannabidiol is not likely to be abused or create dependence, such as for other cannabinoids (such as Tetra Hydro Cannabinol (THC), for instance).

The ECDD, therefore, concluded that current information does not justify scheduling of cannabidiol and postponed a fuller review of cannabidiol preparations to May 2018, when the committee will undertake a comprehensive review of cannabis and cannabis-related substances. [Emphasis added] (Source)

The WHO is responsible for setting health policies throughout the world, as its name indicates. The WHO is part of the United Nations, with the function of creating international policies regarding medical practices and setting drug standards and classifications or schedules with the expectation that individual nations within the UN comply.

Raul Elizalde, a medical marijuana advocate and president of hemp-CBD company HempMeds Mexico, personally lobbied the WHO’s ECDD a few days before that committee met. Elizalde helped spearhead Mexico’s medical cannabis legalization in June of 2017. His personal conviction goes beyond profiting from the Mexican CBD company he’s created.

His first daughter was having hundreds of seizures weekly until CBD with less than one percent THC was introduced to her. Now she’s off the pharmaceutical medications and experiencing only a very few occasional less severe seizures.

Elizalde confirmed the already known medical efficacy and safety of CBD while persuasively reminding the committed that keeping the whole plant scheduled at a prohibitive level deprives many children with epilepsy the only treatment that’s safe and effective.

Some months ago there was considerable hope that the United States’ DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) was going to change the schedule for cannabis from Schedule 1 to at least Schedule 2. Schedule 1 is for drugs considered dangerous, addictive, prone to abuse, and with no medical merit or benefit. Schedule 2 drugs have a high potential for abuse but can be prescribed for medical purposes.

The list of Schedule 2 drugs contains fentanyl and oxycodone among many others. So hoping for placing cannabis into this schedule was a compromise since cannabis is not addictive and dangerous compared to some of those drugs in that schedule that have addiction and death as potential side-effects.

Very few alternative health sites carried the news. Even less mainstream media outlets carried the WHO announcement, the very few that did were in England and the Philippines, not the USA.

Will the FDA Address Growing Global Acceptance of Medical Cannabis?
In the summer of 2016, the DEA checked with the FDA to get its decision on whether cannabis had any medical merit, and the FDA declared there was none while receiving license fees that add up to a few million dollars from pharmaceutical companies for testing and marketing synthetic THC and CBD products.

The FDA’s real-world function is to protect its clientele, the companies within the pharmaceutical industry, which pays fees to the FDA to approve human trials that the drug companies control and eventually license them for marketing.

The pharmaceutical industry then profits highly from isolating active ingredients from different sources, in this case, cannabis, and recreating them synthetically to earn copyrights that last 20 years, giving that drug company exclusive marketing rights. (Source)

But now that the WHO’s own Expert Committee on Drug Dependence is heading for a final meeting in June to finalize its decision on CBD and review other whole-plant cannabis products for medical purposes, the FDA has been put into a position where it’s forced to conduct a public survey for input on marijuana’s medical efficacy and safety.

The surveys have to be submitted this year, 2018, by April 23rd. The survey requests comments from “interested parties” regarding the use of whole plant cannabis that also includes THC and CBD. Here’s the FDA’s stated purpose: (Source)

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is requesting interested persons to submit comments concerning abuse potential, actual abuse, medical usefulness, trafficking, and impact of scheduling changes on availability for medical use of five drug substances.

These comments will be considered in preparing a response from the United States to the World Health Organization (WHO) regarding the abuse liability and diversion of these drugs.

Instructions on submitting electronic or regular mail comments with an emphasis on medical usefulness and the absence of abuse potential through your own experience can be obtained here. Encourage medical practitioners in the know and sympathetic scientists to comment if possible. Maybe this could be an influence, especially with the current mindset of the WHO regarding CBD.

Recent Cannabis Research Proving Cannabis is Safer Than Opiod Prescription Drugs
The paper “Rationale for cannabis-based interventions in the opioid overdose crisis” was published in BioMed’s Harm Reduction Journal August 2017 and it provides evidence to support cannabis as an exit drug from opioid painkillers and heroin.

This is contrary to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ remarks that marijuana is a gateway drug that contributed to the opioid crisis. Here’s that paper.

A large review or meta-analysis, The use of cannabis in response to the opioid crisis: A review of the literature, covered 11,513 records, 789 abstracts, and 134 full-text articles screened from 2000 to 2017, using databases from Medline, PubMed, CINAHL, and Cochrane databases and concluded:

Review of the current literature suggests states that implement MC [medical cannabis] policies could reduce POM (prescription opioid medications) associated mortality, improve pain management, and significantly reduce health care costs.

However, MC research is constrained by federal policy restrictions, and more research related to MC as a potential alternative to POM for pain management, MC harms, and its impact on POM-related harms and health care costs should be a priority of public health, medical, and nursing research. [Emphasis added] (Abstract source)

It would be powerful to include a study or two with whatever anecdotal experience you or someone close to you may have had with cannabis for any medical purposes.