WHO concluded in 2018 that CBD, hence medical cannabis, is safe and well-tolerated in humans (and animals) as it is not associated with any known negative public health effects and neither has any abuse potential. Furthermore, WHO reported that CBD has been found as an effective treatment for epilepsy as demonstrated in several clinical trials, whilst preliminary evidence suggests that CBD may be beneficial in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, psychosis, Parkinson’s disease, and other severe conditions.10
Change in legislation and growing awareness
WHO’s action may be seen as a symbol of the rapid growth globally within legalization- and decriminalization of cannabis the last decades and especially in recent years, as society has become well aware of cannabis’ healing properties and the many thousand years of documented use.
In 2018, 46 countries out of 195 globally have decriminalized the plant for medical purposes to various degrees11, whilst some have opened up for recreational use as well, here among the Netherlands and Canada12. In 2018, the bill Hemp Farming Act legalized industrial hemp (cannabis) with a concentration of no more than 0.3% THC in all of the United States13, allowing medical cannabis to be produced, sold, and used freely under the authorities of the FDA14. However, the distinct states have individual regulatory systems regarding medical hemp and cannabis15 resulting in various degrees of legalization16.
Legal cannabis equals a decline in prescription drugs
In the last decade, many studies have been conducted in order to understand the full potential of cannabis in patients and the health sector17. However, especially one study from the U.S. supported many previous studies by stating very clearly that “That the use of prescription drugs for which cannabis could serve as a clinical alternative fell significantly, once a medical cannabis law was implemented”18. Bradford & Bradford who conducted the study in 2013 found as well that the decline in prescription drugs was estimated to be a $165.2 million per year saving for medicare programs19.
The capitalization of medical cannabis within the pharmaceutical industry
These estimated numbers provided by scientific studies have understandably caught the attention of the pharmaceutical industry.
In 2019, Teva pharmaceuticals, the world’s biggest generic drug manufacturer, are in collaboration with a medical cannabis company 20, whilst GlaxoSmithKline Plc and Pfizer Inc. are looking into how they should utilize medicinal cannabis to serve consumers21. Nevertheless, GlaxoSmithKline Plc and Pfizer Inc. believe that there is lacking evidence of cannabis’ benefits21, despite Pfizer Inc.’s own history of producing and running clinical trials of synthetic cannabinoids in the 1970’ies22. Given WHO’s report from 2018, decades of studies, and Pfizer Inc.’s own history – the claim of “cannabis used in treatment is lacking evidence” – might seem contradictory. The contradiction becomes even more obviously seen in the light of the pharmaceutical industry’s current actions, as the industry inclusive GSK & Pfizer Inc. do not take any chances in losing the opportunity to capitalize on the possible medical cannabis revolution21 as they are applying for 14 Cannabis patents in Canada, in competition with 9 other pharmaceutical companies globally22.
The great interest in cannabis from the pharmaceutical industry, indicates that much can be learned from history, but even more important, the use of cannabis’ healing proprieties in clinical treatments are not new – as a matter of fact, it is ancient news.
Now the challenge is to educate legislators about medical cannabis’ many benefits, so society’s demand for the plants healing properties can be fulfilled and heard, and cannabis once again can become a part of the clinical methodology.