Medical marijuana is a hot topic right now.

Pretty much anything medical marijuana, non-medical marijuana, hemp, or cannabis related is THE topic in certain business circles, and with a lot of very good reasons that it should be.  I’m going to avoid the politics, at least my personal ones, in this weeks post, but I am going to briefly discuss where we are politically in the US and Canada, at least at this moment.

[READ: Banking and transaction processing for medical marijuana companies]

Perhaps you’re anti-drug (and that’s OK, there are plenty of pills and powders I wish would just disappear forever!), or maybe you have no idea what’s going on in cannabis as a business, medical marijuana, recreational use, or whatever.  No problem, here’s a quick primer to bring you up to speed:

  • 26 US states + the District of Columbia currently have voter initiated medical laws on the books.
  • Several of these US states also have recreational use laws, also voter initiated.
  • Three more US states are set to allow medical marijuana usage via legislative measures.
  • Canada has “Licensed Producers” which are federally licensed companies, working from grow through distribution to provide medical marijuana to qualified patients.

Does medical marijuana really work?

That depends on who you talk to about the benefits, perceived or real.  Since cannabis has been restricted to a Schedule I drug for years now, there are almost no studies that have been done under government auspices that influence US drug policy.

[LISTEN: How did medical marijuana and other cannabis laws fare at the ballot box?  PODCAST EPISODE]

At the moment, there are numerous studies underway, many involving PTSD sufferers, as well as epilepsy, seizures, and cancer treatment related issues.

Cannabis (all kinds, not just medical marijuana) is still considered federally illegal in the US, and there are a lot of stumbling blocks for entrepreneurs and holistic medicine practitioners who want to incorporate the plant in their treatment plans.

The majority of Americans (57%) think that medical marijuana should be legalized; many of these people think that recreational cannabis should also be legal.

Is the DEA selling out to big pharma when it comes to medical marijuana?

It seems likely that this is the case.  Last week’s announcement that Insys had been awarded Schedule II status for their synthetic marijuana drug was a bit of a shocker.  Insys, if you’re not familiar, are a maker of a fentanyl drug believed to be responsible for at least one death.  Executives were arrested and charged with bribery and at least one lawsuit is pending against the company.

Insys also contributed ~$500,000 to the campaign to defeat recreational use cannabis in Arizona last year (the company is headquartered in Chandler AZ), which amounted to roughly 10% of all donations for the opposition campaign.

This is not the first company that the DEA has gotten into bed with that’s detrimental to the industry as a whole.  GW Pharmaceuticals, a British company, is also working on a drug designed to treat epileptic seizures and is seeking regulatory approval currently.

What does all this mean for the future of medical cannabis?

It’s still too early to tell – if the plant can be shown to have a lot of medical benefits, then you can be sure that the DEA and the FDA are going to jump in and regulate it like drugs; which would not be a good thing for those seeking to regulate it like alcohol.

Recently the Congressional Cannabis Caucus was formed; it’s a bi-partisan group working in the US House of Representatives to legalize medical marijuana and potentially recreational cannabis use for adults in the US.  California, Washington, Oregon and Alaska all have founding Congressmen.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions thinks that all forms of marijuana are the work of the devil; it does seem that the current administration may have more to worry about at the moment than whether or not voters in a majority of states want to use cannabis and marijuana products.

Right now it’s just a waiting game.