by Noelle Skodzinski
Medical marijuana advocates have been pushing for a rescheduling of the drug by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) for years. Support for the drug's rescheduling has grown in recent years,Â asÂ more than 20 states have legalized it for medical uses,Â andÂ theÂ listÂ ofÂ diseases and ailments for which the drug has perceived treatment benefits has expanded. One of the most compelling uses of the drug has been to treat children with severe epilepsy, and even some conservative states have approved the use of cannabidiol (CBD) oil (a non-high-producing compound found in cannabis) for such use. Now, in an extremely significant policy statement update, theÂ American Academy of PediatricsÂ (AAP) has recommended that the DEAÂ reschedule marijuana from a Schedule 1 drug–which, according to the DEA's classification, means that it has no medicinal use and a high potential for abuse–to a Schedule II drug. (Heroin also is classified as a Schedule 1 drug.)
Reclassifying marijuana asÂ a Schedule II drug would make it federally legal for registered medical practitionersÂ to prescribe marijuana. Examples of other Schedule II drugs, according to the DEA drug schedule, are: methamphetamine, hydromorphone (Dilaudid), meperidine (Demerol), oxycodone (OxyContin), Adderall and Ritalin.
In its policy statement, the AAP cites a lack of published studies regarding the benefits of medical marijuana or pharmaceutical cannabinoids toÂ children. It stated that it "recognizes that marijuanaÂ may currently be an option for cannabinoid administration for children with life-limiting or severely debilitating conditions and for whom current therapies are inadequate," andÂ recommends the DEA reschedule marijuana so that the drug can be researched under regulations set byÂ the Food and Drug Administration.
The AAP's policy statement includes mention of the association's opposition to marijuana use by thoseÂ under age 21, andÂ its opposition to "'medical marijuana' outside the regulatory process of the US Food and Drug Administration."
It also states that it opposes legalization due to the "potential harms to children and adolescents," and itÂ encourages examination of states that have legalized recreational marijuana to determineÂ the impact on adolescentÂ use. ItÂ recommends strict regulations around marketing and advertising to the adolescent market.
The pediatric association also supports decriminalization of marijuana amongÂ adolescents and young adults, and "encourages pediatricians to advocate for laws that prevent harsh criminal penalties for possession or use of marijuana." It recommendsÂ a focus on treatment for those with use problems instead.
Among the AAP's other recommendations are:
- Â in states that have legalized marijuana, the sale of the drug should be regulated the same way alcohol and tobacco are regulated, and a minimum age requirement of 21 should be established to be able to purchase marijuana;
- Â also in states with legalization, theÂ revenueÂ from the sale ofÂ the drug should be used to "supportÂ research on the health risks and benefits of marijuana";
- Â strictÂ penalties should be established for those who sell marijuana to people under age 21; and
- Â all marijuana products should beÂ distributed in childproof packaging to prevent accidental consumption by children.
The AAP discourages the smoking of marijuana, because, it states, "smoking is known to cause lung damage," citing the articleÂ "Adverse Health Affects of Marijuana Use" from The New England Journal of Medicine, 2014. It also recommends against adults consuming marijuana in the presence of minors.
Read the full policy statement updateÂ here.
(Feature image by Laurie Avocado.)Â Â