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This week the Food and Drug Administration announced that it has approved the first ever marijuana-based pharmaceutical drug.
And while the newly approved drug may not be as alluring as legalized marijuana to the public, it represents a big step forward for the medical marijuana industry. For the maker of the approved drug however, the approval comes with a caveat, the drug cannot actually be marketed because of the current federal drug laws and the prohibition on marijuana.
What's This New Drug?
Epidiolex is a "plant-derived oral solution of cannabidiol." Cannabidiol is more often referred to as CBD. CBD is a chemical in marijuana (and hemp) that is known for having widely applicable medicinal benefits. If you're thinking that doesn't sound right, you may be confusing CBD with THC.
THC is the psychoactive chemical in marijuana that causes users to get high. The new drug doesn't have THC and won't get anyone high. What might surprise many is that it was approved to treat children as young as two suffering from conditions that result in epileptic seizures. However, federal drug laws still consider marijuana, even CBD, to be a Schedule I drug, on the same level as heroin.
Federal Law Enforcement Rescheduling
Under the federal Controlled Substances Act, marijuana and its chemical ingredients are considered dangerous drugs with no medicinal benefit. And while the public is now widely aware that marijuana does have medicinal benefit thanks to the efforts of pioneering states like California, it is expected that the DEA will act. The FDA has already issued a report to the DEA recommending reclassifying marijuana, at least as far as CBD goes.
The maker of the new pharmaceutical is hopeful that the rescheduling will happen within the next 90 days. Depending on how the marijuana is reclassified, there could be large changes in how marijuana laws are enforced across the country. However, even if the federal government reclassifies it, many states will need to change their criminal laws before anything will really change for marijuana enforcement in states where it is still illegal.