A synthetic pharmaceutical, Marinol, was approved by the FDA in 1985. It was the pharmaceutical industry's answer to people that wanted to use medical marijuana legally. For a variety of reasons, Marinol does not help that many people. No synthetic form of marijuana will ever be as good as a medicine that is derived from the whole marijuana plant, as any patient will tell you. The pharmaceutical industry knows this, which is why they have been scrambling to get a product to the market that is derived from the cannabis plant, and not a synthetic product that is meant to mimic the cannabis plant.
Despite objections from long time medical marijuana activists, it appears that some of our worst fears will become a reality as soon as early 2016. Per the Huffington Post:
Look for the first naturally-derived, Big Pharma-produced cannabis product to be on the market by the first half of 2016, perhaps even sooner.
Epidiolex is a liquid formulation of pure, plant-derived cannabidiol (CBD) manufactured by the British company, G.W. Pharmaceuticals. It is currently on the FDA Fast Track and has entered its final Phase 3 study for pediatric epilepsy disorders such as Dravet's and Lennox-Gastaut's syndromes with results scheduled for the first quarter of 2016.
Barring an unlikely catastrophic finding, there are plenty of signs that Epidiolex will breeze through this final stage and will thus have cleared the FDA's testing requirements. For any other drug the remaining details would be purely administrative but Epidiolex is derived from cannabis and that puts a few more hurdles in the way before marketing can begin. There are, however, plenty of signs that government officials are literally paving the way for this new player.
Among the most significant occurred on June 24, 2015. Before a packed hearing room, the U.S. Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, established in 1985 to "expand international cooperation against drug abuse and narcotics trafficking" took on the decidedly domestic issue of what to do about medical cannabis. The meeting was chaired by two unlikely medical cannabis proponents, Senators Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).
On one hand, I like to see patients getting relief. On the other hand, I do not trust the pharmaceutical industry, which is in the business of getting people to buy medicine, and not the business of helping people feel better so that they no longer need to buy pharmaceutical products. I have always felt that the pharmaceutical industry has no place in the medical marijuana world. Once this product is available nationwide, I think we will see a halt to non-CBD medical marijuana legislation, and we will hear a lot of politicians say something like, 'Medical marijuana? Yeah, we already handled that. go get some Epidiolex.' That's what they have done for Marinol for so long, and it has always frustrated me. I think it's time for activists to double down on their efforts and get out in front of this new product. We need to push state legislatures to legalize REAL medical marijuana in states that don't already have it. Otherwise if we don't, we will be left with choosing Epidiolex, or breaking the law to obtain raw cannabis.