A decision could come within weeks that could dramatically affect access to medicinal marijuana for thousands of patients with malignant mesothelioma.
Parts of the marijuana plant have been used for centuries to treat a wide variety of ailments, including intractable cancers like pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma and cancer-related pain.
However, access to marijuana and its medicinal derivatives called cannabinoids is not always easy for mesothelioma patients, especially if they do not live in one of the 25 states that have legalized its use.
That is because marijuana is classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as a Schedule 1 substance, officially declaring it to have no beneficial medical qualities and classifying it as “illicit”.
But that position may be about to change. The DEA is discussing the possibility “rescheduling” marijuana, moving it up the scale from a Schedule 1 substance to a Schedule 2. A decision could come as early as the next few weeks.
Although this potential reclassification of cannabis might seem to be good news for mesothelioma patients who use it (or want to), experts are mixed about the impact it may have.
While Schedule 2 substances are acknowledged to have medical benefits, they are also considered highly addictive (morphine and oxycodone are Schedule 2 substances) and are heavily regulated by the FDA.
According to an article on The Motley Fool website, a change in the regulatory picture for marijuana and cannabinoids could put some suppliers out of business and make the product more expensive and harder to come by for patients who want to use it as part of their mesothelioma treatment.
Marijuana and Mesothelioma Survival
But there are also potential upsides to medical marijuana rescheduling in terms of its use in the treatment of mesothelioma. Schedule 2 substances are easier for researchers to study. There are currently few clinical studies of medical marijuana. Schedule 2 substances are also legal for doctors to prescribe to their patients with mesothelioma or other conditions.
In the meantime, the lack of clinical studies or prescribing rights for medical marijuana have not kept thousands of mesothelioma patients like Californian Andy Ashcraft from using it.
Like many pleural mesothelioma patients, 69-year-old Ashcraft had stopped responding to conventional medical therapies and had run out of treatment options when he and his wife Ruth discovered cannabis oil.
Cannabis oil contains tetrahydracannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), two active ingredients which have been shown to cause a build up of ceramide, eventually killing the mitochondria that mesothelioma cells need for energy.
The Ashcrafts obtained cannabis oil through California’s Medical Marijuana Program and Andy, now a six year mesothelioma survivor, has used it since 2013 as part of his daily mesothelioma-fighting regimen. Click here to read more about the Ashcraft’s story as well as the history and use of medical marijuana as an alternative mesothelioma treatment.
Surviving Mesothelioma will continue to monitor the status of medical marijuana and to keep mesothelioma patients and their families updated on any changes that could affect their treatment options.
Baca, Ricardo, “The good, the bad, and the ugly of moving pot to Schedule II”, June 27, 2016, The Cannabist
Williams, Sean, “Arguably the Most Important Marijuana Decisions Ever is Just Weeks Away), June 25, 2015, The Motley Fool