In the United States, marijuana is deemed a controlled substance prohibited by federal law. However, many states allow the use of medical marijuana for its potential to help alleviate nausea, pain, and more.

Medical marijuana derives from the dried buds and leaves of the Cannabis sativa plant. Cannabis contains numerous active compounds, two of which are chief for their possible abilities to be supportive in medical use: CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol). THC is the major marijuana ingredient that gives people a “high.”

Are medical marijuana and its active compounds safe to use? What does the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have to say about medical marijuana? Our experts are here to help you learn more.

Is Medical Cannabis Safe to Use?

The FDA says that further studies are needed to decide if medical cannabis is safe, but the possible side effects may include:

  • Increase in heart rate
  • Dizziness
  • Poor memory and concentration
  • Slow reaction time
  • Increased risk of strokes and heart attacks
  • Increase in appetite
  • Addiction potential
  • Cyclic vomiting syndrome
  • Poor drug-to-drug interactions
  • Hallucinations or risk of mental illness
  • Severe withdrawal symptoms

FDA Regulations

As mentioned, federal law prohibits the use of the cannabis plant or any of its derivatives. However, CBD from the hemp plant with less than 0.3% THC is legal for consumption under federal law. While most states allow THC for its potential to be supportive in medical use, federal law is above state law. In states where medical marijuana is legal, you can still get arrested and charged with marijuana possession.

In June 2021, marijuana was decriminalized in Louisiana by the governor.  However, possession of up to 14 grams of marijuana will get you a $100 fine, with no jail time threat. A separate bill also signed by the governor allows patients in the state medical cannabis program to smoke the whole-plant cannabis flower.

Last year, the state marijuana program received an extension: a signed bill allowing doctors to recommend cannabis for debilitating conditions they think appropriate. The doctors would not limit themselves to the list the current law allows.

Congress passed the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act in 1938. It gave the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the power and mandate to regulate manufacturers and sellers of food medicine and cosmetics. This act protects the public from buying tainted food and drugs.

The FDA has recognized the potential of cannabis and its derivatives.  The FDA also acknowledges that some companies market products with cannabis and its derivatives. It is in direct violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, which may risk consumers’ health.

The FDA has approved a CBD-based drug called Epidiolex. This drug may have potential in alleviating epilepsy seizures in children ages two and above for two rare types of epilepsy: Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. This is the first cannabis drug the FDA has approved after a rigorous approval process.

The FDA also approved Nabilone (Cesamet) and Marinol (Dronabinol), also marketed as Syndros. The two drugs suffice for the potential treatment of nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy. Dronabinol may be used to improve appetite in people with HIV and AIDS.

What Is the 2018 Farm Bill’s Definition of Hemp?

The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 or the 2018 Farm Bill became law in December 2018. This law changed the rules on hemp production and marketing. It stated that cannabis and its derivatives with less than 0.3% of THC when dry no longer qualified under federal law as controlled substances.

The 2018 Farm Bill preserved the authority of the FDA to regulate any products with cannabis or its derivatives under the FD&C Act and in Section 351 of the Public Health Service Act. Thus, the FDA still treats any products with cannabis or its derivatives as with other regulated products.

Marketing Foods With CBD

The FDA regulates foods and dietary supplements differently, but with the same focus on protecting consumers. It is illegal to sell any food with CBD across states or even market CBD as a dietary supplement. 

The FDA recognizes that there is a lot of public interest in marketing CBD in food, including dietary supplements. The same statutory provisions prohibiting CBD marketing in food and nutritional supplements allow the regulator to create exceptions. The stakeholders in the industry requested that the FDA consider making the exception for them to market CBD in traditional foods, as a supplement, or both.

If you live with chronic pain and would like to learn how to manage it, contact us by filling the form below: