Marijuana’s official designation as a Schedule 1 drug — something with “no accepted medical use” — means it is pretty tough to study.
That can be frustrating to scientists who, regardless of their position on its legal status, almost uniformly agree that more rigorous scientific analyses of the drug are desperately needed.
Marijuana isn’t as simple as it seems. It’s a plant made up of hundreds of different compounds — each of which have a variety of potential effects ranging from pain relief to reducing blood pressure. Some of them play no role in getting you high.
As a result, many experts say, barring marijuana research with a sweeping, all-inclusive ban simply doesn’t make sense.
“In terms of does cannabis hold any therapeutic potential, cannabis contains many constituents. It’s not just THC. And whether these have medicinal properties that can be used, the answer is very likely, and they should be studied,” Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, who is the chair of Columbia University’s department of psychiatry and serves as the director of the New York State Psychiatric Institute, told Business Insider.
In fact, marijuana contains roughly 400 compounds, each of which is thought to potentially affect the brain and body in a different way.
“We clearly do not have that much research about marijuana, and you need to know what chemical is carrying out its effects,” Dr. Yasmin Hurd, a professor of neuroscience and psychiatry at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, told my colleague Kevin Loria last fall. “Like many plants, marijuana has many different chemicals. There are specific components of the plant that can be developed for medical interventions,” Hurd said.
Unfortunately, we don’t know which compound is responsible for which effect. And without further research into the drug, we never will.
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