The American Heart Association says marijuana should be removed from the USA’s Schedule I controlled substance category – but not to encourage wider use.
Not all cannabis is equal in the eyes of the law in the USA. Hemp and marijuana are both cannabis, but are treated very differently.
The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp’s Drug Enforcement Administration Schedule I controlled substance designation. Hemp is defined as any part or derivative of the Cannabis sativa L. plant containing less than 0.3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) by weight. Anything above that is considered marijuana at a federal level, and is still a Schedule I controlled substance (listed as “marihuana”).
Schedule I indicates a substance has no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse – so it needs changing just based on the medical use aspect. The American Heart Association suggests it also needs to change to enable further research.
“Our understanding of the safety and efficacy of cannabis has been limited by decades of worldwide illegality and continues to be limited in the United States by the ongoing classification of cannabis as a Schedule 1 controlled substance,” said the AHA in a scientific statement published in the journal Circulation.
While the AHA recognises cannabis “may” have therapeutic benefits, it says few are cardiovascular in nature.
“Conversely, many of the concerning health implications of cannabis include cardiovascular diseases, although they may be mediated by mechanisms of delivery.”
The AHA recommends people do not smoke or vape any substance, including cannabis products. In terms of smoking, the AHA says cannabis smoke contains components similar to tobacco smoke. Its concerns around vaping appear to be primarily associated with situations where vitamin E acetate oils are being used as a carrier; which was believed to be associated with a spate of serious illnesses last year.
The Association says it is important only legal cannabis products are used due to a lack of controls on the quality or the contents of cannabis products “sold on the street”. However, even some legal products have had a less than stellar record on the quality front.
While there will be continued arguments for and against marijuana use for medical purposes, there does seem to be broad support from various corners for it to be no longer designated a Schedule I substance for various reasons.
Whether and when this will will happen remains to be seen. It was hoped back in 2016 marijuana would be rescheduled, but the DEA still considered it did not meet the criteria for currently accepted medical use. A lot has changed since then in terms of indicating it does.