In what initially appeared to be a progressive move, the FDA has approved three cannabinoid-based medications for medical use. The problem? All three approved medications: Marinol, Syndros, and Cesamet are derived from synthetic THC rather than the natural cannabis plant. In a world where growing a medicinal plant can result in federal charges, while a synthetic, man-made, more harmful version is given legitimacy, we can only assume that federal agencies have troubling motives behind such decisions.
The classic FDA conundrum
The FDA website acknowledges that,
MARIJUANA OR MARIJUANA-DERIVED PRODUCTS ARE BEING USED FOR A NUMBER OF MEDICAL CONDITIONS INCLUDING AIDS WASTING, EPILEPSY, NEUROPATHIC PAIN, TREATMENT OF SPASTICITY ASSOCIATED WITH MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS, AND CANCER AND CHEMOTHERAPY-INDUCED NAUSEA.
Yet, the government just won’t budge when it comes to approving the plant itself for medicinal purposes.
Oddly, the FDA claims that they have “not found any such product [botanical marijuana] to be safe and effective for any indication,” but sees no issue with approving synthetic THC, which can be up to 100 times more potent than natural THC and is known to cause debilitating effects like:
- Hypertension or irregular heartbeat
- Elevated blood pressure
- Chest Pain
- Kidney Damage
What is synthetic THC?
Synthetic THC has a similar chemical structure to natural THC. It binds to the brain’s CB1 receptors as well but since it’s much more potent, patients routinely complain of side-effects up to and including the conditions listed above.
With funding from the National Institute of Drug Abuse, THC was first synthesized in the 1980s for research purposes. But it didn’t take long for pharmaceutical companies to begin manufacturing and profiting from synthetic cannabis.
The FDA’s drugs of choice, Marinol and Syndros are used to treat extreme weight loss in patients with AIDS or cancer. While Cesamet is used to treat nausea and vomiting in chemotherapy patients. Not one of the three approved drugs contains natural cannabinoids.
Why can’t the FDA approve real marijuana?
Cannabis’ federal Schedule I classification as a controlled substance prevents the FDA from conducting clinical research regarding marijuana’s long-list of health benefits.
In fact, the FDA must register with the DEA and obtain weed from the National Institute of Health to perform any clinical trials. It’s quite the convoluted process.
CONDUCTING CLINICAL RESEARCH USING MARIJUANA INVOLVES INTERACTIONS WITH SEVERAL FEDERAL AGENCIES. THIS INCLUDES: A REGISTRATION ADMINISTERED BY THE DRUG ENFORCEMENT ADMINISTRATION (DEA); OBTAINING THE MARIJUANA FOR RESEARCH FROM THE NATIONAL INSTITUTE ON DRUG ABUSE (NIDA), WITHIN THE NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH, OR ANOTHER DEA-REGISTERED SOURCE; AND REVIEW BY THE FDA OF AN INVESTIGATIONAL NEW DRUG (IND) APPLICATION AND RESEARCH PROTOCOL. – FDA.GOV.
In addition, pushing synthetic THC medications through Big Pharma ensures that prices remain high and that money is funneled not to independent cultivators, but multi-billion dollar corporations and to pad federal budgets via drug seizures.