Often overshadowed by other aspects of this past election cycle, the legalization ofrecreational marijuana in three major states, including California, is a major step for federal reform. As of now, under federal law, marijuana remains illegal, classified as a Schedule 1 substance under the Controlled Substance Act and enforced by the Drug Enforcement Administration. Substances classified as Schedule 1 are determined by the Food and Drug Administration to have high potential for dependency and no accepted medical use.
So what does it mean that marijuana is legal in California, yet is still illegal under federal law? In the case of conflicting legislation, federal law prevails, implying the illegality of marijuana throughout the country in spite of state laws. The true concern, however, isn’t whether the drug is illegal, but whether the Controlled Substance Act will be enforced. In the past, the Obama administration chose not to challenge state laws legalizing marijuana as long as those states maintained strict rules involving the sale and distribution of the drug. This means that using marijuana in a legalized state won’t be an invitation for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to come knocking on your door.
There is the possibility that this arrangement will be withdrawn by the new Trump administration. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters on February 23, 2017 that the administration has no plans to continue the permissive approach of the Obama administration, viewing recreational marijuana use as a flagrant violation of federal law. However, an official stance will probably differ greatly in tone, as a completely antagonistic approach will likely receive public backlash.
THC vs. CBD
With popular attitude toward marijuana relaxing over the past decade, scientific research on the drug has made huge leaps. Considered the principal active component in marijuana due to its psychoactive effects, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) has long been the prized compound, with the strain’s potency measured purely by its THC content. But THC is only one of 85 known active compounds, which includes an increasingly popular compound called cannabidiol (CBD).
CBD was originally regarded only as a counter to THC, with a higher CBD content reducing the intensity of the high and preventing feelings of paranoia. However, recent research has shown CBD to also have pain-relieving, anti-inflammatory, and anti-anxiety properties without the high-inducing effects of THC. New strains that contain a strong balance between CBD and THC are now being highly sought after.
Medical Benefits of CBD
CBD has also presented promising effects that may lead to the development of medication for difficult to treat diseases, such as Crohn’s disease, PTSD, and multiple sclerosis. Of particular significance is the drug’s use to treat Dravet’s Syndrome, a debilitating form of epilepsy that affects children. Patients suffering from this disease can have up to hundreds of seizures a day that worsen as they age. Current treatment methods include wearing an eyepatch, eating a specialized diet, and, in the worst case, having brain surgery, but none of these have a consistent success rate. Marijuana seems to be the miracle drug these patients have been waiting for. Researchers specifically developed a strain for a young Dravet’s Syndrome patient named Charlotte. This strain, called Charlotte’s Web, has a much higher level of CBD and almost no THC, making it optimal to treat seizures without inducing a high. This CBD dominant strain is a huge success, reducing Charlotte’s monthly seizure count of 1,200 to only three.