The fight to legalize medical marijuana in the U.S. took another leap forward last year with five states passing legislation allowing the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes.
Twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia now have some form of medical marijuana legislation in place, representing the majority of the country for the first time in history.
Despite this, marijuana is still listed as a Schedule I controlled substance by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the use of whole or crude marijuana is not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
“I think that the fears that this country had at the beginning of these laws proved to be unfounded,” Steph Sherer, founder and executive director of Americans For Safe Access (ASA), the nation’s leading medical marijuana advocacy group, told Asbestos.com.
Several small research studies found the biologically active components in marijuana, called cannabinoids, are effective in managing symptoms associated with cancer and cancer treatments such as pain, nausea and anxiety. It can also improve appetite and sleep quality.
For patients living with an aggressive, debilitating cancer such as mesothelioma, marijuana could significantly improve their quality of life. There are not enough large-scale studies at this point to suggest marijuana can help control or cure cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.
“While our members reflect a diverse list of medical conditions, what they have in common is that cannabis either can treat them or is treating them,” Sherer said.
Medical Marijuana Still Rare in South, Midwest
Medical marijuana measures were on the ballot in four states during the 2016 elections.
Florida, Arkansas and North Dakota all approved legislation permitting marijuana use for medicinal purposes, while Montana voted to ease restrictions on an existing law.
Five states that legalized medical marijuana in 2016:
Arkansas: Ballot Measure