Medical marijuana, also known as cannabis, is taking the medical world by storm. Most commonly considered to be no more than a derivative of the recreational drug, medical marijuana is a known treatment for conditions like chronic pain and epilepsy (1). Research is exploring how cannabis is useful in combating conditions like anorexia, nausea, pain, insomnia, and depression. Studies are beginning to show the possibility of cannabinoids not only acting as a powerful treatment for the negative side effects of chemotherapy but also having a direct anti-cancer effect on the body. (2)
Despite the incredible potential for medical relief medical marijuana presents, any use or prescription of cannabis or cannabis products (ex. CBD) (3) is entirely illegal in the majority of the 50 United States. A person might wonder why on earth this might be. Especially when it more effectively treats ailments with fewer negative side effects than common pharmaceutical drugs. (4) Why would our country outlaw a substance that, while regulated carefully for purely medicinal use, would remain outlawed when it has been proven to do so much good? Well, the answer might be rooted in something you might not expect right away. Money.
The Difference Marijuana Can Make
A study conducted by analytics firm New Frontier Data explored what impact the introduction of marijuana to medicine is affecting two things beyond health: economy and industry. A simple statement made by Giadha Aguirre De Carcer, CEO and founder of New Frontier Data, can describe the general conclusion of their findings.
“If cannabis were to be adopted nationally, we would begin to see a trend of patients turning to medical cannabis as a substitute or complement to pharmaceuticals.”
Researchers from New Frontier Data considered the top nine conditions classified by the National Academies of Science that are most effectively treated by medical marijuana:
- Chronic Pain
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Nerve Pain
- Chemotherapy Induced Nausea and Vomiting (CINV)
- Tourette Syndrome
Observing the sales of more conventional pharmaceutical drugs used to treat these six conditions, a 2016 Health Affairs study found that states which had legalized medical marijuana saw an 11 percent decrease in such drugs after said legalization.
New Frontier Data used those statistics to project what the overall monetary impact would be not only for those states which have already legalized medical marijuana but if the treatment became fully legalized in all 50 United States. They concluded that the total amount of money lost to the pharmaceutical companies in this scenario could reach up to $18.5 billion between 2016 and 2019.
What It Means
“The United States constitutes 35 percent of the global pharmaceutical market, the largest market in the world, and a major driver of the U.S. economy,” said Aguirre De Carcer in New Frontier Data’s published report.
Though $18.5 billion is an incredible amount of money, Aguirre De Carcer explains how, going up against the largest international industry in the world, “medical cannabis would be a drop in the bucket when it comes to impacting the total pharmaceutical industry.”
However, on the front of specific sectors of the industry, especially those that act as highly profitable sub-markets for pharmaceutical companies like chronic pain or symptoms associated with chemotherapy, Carcer and her researchers believe that medical marijuana could make a serious impact. With such profits on the line to be gained or lost depending on the legal status of it and its treatments, it’s no wonder that national legalization might be continually stalled at the behest of the economic machine that is big pharma.