Cannabis research — even for medical purposes — is highly restricted in the United States. But we have seen plenty of glimmers of hope about its benefits, and signals that cannabis can treat severe disease. Take, for instance, Jazz Pharmaceuticals’ (NASDAQ:JAZZ) recent announcement of its acquisition of GW Phamaceuticals (NASDAQ:GWPH). Through the deal, Jazz will bring cannabidiol-based Epidiolex, a treatment for certain types of seizures, into its portfolio.
Dr. Chanda Macias is a medical cannabis advocate, researcher, and dispensary owner. She joined Olivia Zitkus and Corinne Cardina of the Healthcare and Cannabis Bureau on a March 19 episode of Fool Live to talk about the medical benefits of marijuana, and why they’re worth more investor attention.
Olivia Zitkus: Thank you. Hi, Dr. Chanda. I’m happy to be with you.
Dr. Chanda Macias: Hi. Thank you for having me.
Zitkus: Of course. I’m going to take it to the benefits of medical marijuana, you led in with the perfect little segue there, and talk about why cannabis is still classed by the way that it is in our legal system. My first question is, when you’re telling people about the medical benefits of cannabis, what evidence do you site?
Macias: What’s so interesting, Olivia, as a lot of people may or may not know, is that it’s very restrictive to do research with cannabis in the United States. So most places that are conducting this research are outside of the U.S. like Israel, for example. I’ve been working with different companies. One is Ilera Therapeutics that has been operating in Pennsylvania, as well in Australia, they exchange on Australian exchange to have these clinical trials conducted. These are medicines that help people and patients for autism pain relief. When you think about why is that significant, well, GW Pharmaceuticals just had a M&A with Jazz Pharmaceuticals for over a billion dollars. Again, I’m triggering the audience out here. This is a real industry with real impact. When you think about cannabinoid medicine and how it’s advanced over the last three to five years, what everyone will know is that its trajectory is going to be unbelievable. So for our scientists out there, our business investors that are considering to really look into cannabis, I think this is the time to take action and take it fast.
Zitkus: Awesome. Given all those things that you said about the medical benefits, do you have any big ideas or big picture reasons why you think marijuana is still labeled a Schedule 1 drug in the United States, given evidence of its ability to treat severe disease?
Macias: I do. Olivia, when I say that there is anecdotal research, just focusing and being in the industry for the last 10 years and working with thousands of patients, I’ve seen how it works within them. I can’t claim it as research as you know, we discussed previously. But also what’s important here is that the patients are directing that narrative, that they want to see this happen. So why isn’t it happening as fast? Because it’s very complicated. It’s complicated because there is not only social justice reform, social equity issues involved, but also this is what prohibition looks like. This has happened with the alcohol industries, many other industries where we have to now piecemeal legalization so that it can open it up. So we have to remain patient, continue to educate our legislators on the benefits, not only health-wise, but economically, that’s happening. When I say economically, Olivia, what I mean is that a lot of programs are expanding their medical and adult used programs to help with deficits in their budget today, especially by the results of COVID-19.
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