(NaturalNews) The pressure is on for researchers and pharmaceutical companies to develop drug-based, non-synthetic versions of marijuana for medical use, as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is poised to approve such varieties in the near future. But this potential approval appears to be reserved only for Big Pharma, as the marijuana plant itself could continue to remain a controlled substance at the federal level with no recognized health benefits.
The Associated Press (AP) reports that GW Pharma, a British pharmaceutical company, is currently undergoing advanced clinical trials for the world's first drug made from raw marijuana, which it will seek FDA approval for by the end of 2013. There are currently a number of synthetic cannabinoid drugs on the market that have been approved by the FDA, but none that incorporate actual marijuana (http://www.justice.gov/dea/ongoing/marinol.html).
Known as Sativex, the marijuana spray contains both delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol, which are considered to be raw marijuana's two most well-known active components. GW Pharma is hoping to receive US FDA approval of Sativex for the treatment of cancer pain, as the drug has already been approved in several other countries for the treatment of muscle spasm pain caused by multiple sclerosis.
While this is great news on the medical marijuana front in America, it does not necessarily imply that either the FDA or the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) will loosen its regulatory grip on the actual marijuana plant. Like regulators did with the stevia plant, marijuana could receive approval only in patented form from drug companies (http://www.healthynewage.com/blog/stevia-fda-approved/).
"To the extent that companies can produce effective medication that utilizes the components of [marijuana], that's great. But that should not be the exclusive access for people who want to be able to use medical marijuana," said Kris Hermes, a spokesman from the pro-marijuana group Americans for Safe Access.
"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."
If the federal government does approve Sativex and other drug-based forms of real marijuana, though, it will have to change its official position that marijuana has no medical benefits. If the plant's two most known ingredients are approved for medical use as a drug, in other words, the government's only choice to remain consistent will be to finally admit that marijuana does have medicinal value, and thus legalize it.