U.S.: Experts Issue Standards on Cannabis, Restore Classification as a Botanical Medicine
American Herbal Pharmacopoeia monograph lays scientific foundation for quality assurance and expanded research
The American Herbal Pharmacopoeia (AHP), in a historic move, on Wednesday released the first installation of a two-part Cannabis monograph that classifies cannabis (marijuana) as a botanical medicine, alongside many other widely accepted complementary and alternative medicines.
Written and reviewed by the world's leading experts, the cannabis monograph brings together an authoritative compendium of scientific data, including long-awaited standards for the plant's identity, purity, quality, and botanical properties. The monograph provides a foundation for health care professionals to integrate cannabis therapy into their practices on the basis of a full scientific understanding of the plant, its constituent components, and its biologic effects.
"The inclusion of cannabis in the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia returns the plant to its place alongside as a proven botanical medicine, which has been used for centuries by countries and cultures around the world," said Steph Sherer, executive director of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), which helped support the development of the cannabis monograph.
"Health care professionals, researchers and regulators now have the tools to develop effective public health programs for medical marijuana and to further explore its therapeutic benefits," Sherer said.
ASA will host a Google Hangout on Thursday, December 12 at 5:30 pm PT, featuring a panel of experts discussing the ramifications of the cannabis monograph and a new cannabis certification program.
The first cannabis monograph was introduced in the 3rd edition of the U.S. Pharmacopoeia in 1851, where it remained until the 12th edition in 1942, making the AHP monograph the first of its kind in more than 70 years. Cannabis medicines were produced by Eli Lilly and other American pharmaceutical companies until the federal Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 sharply reduced U.S. cannabis production and prescriptions.
AHP began development of a cannabis monograph in 2011 in part because of a need for validated standards to guide laboratory analysis for quality control of cannabis and related products. However, AHP also recognized that the expanding use of medical marijuana makes accurate information regarding appropriate use and safety important for health care decisions.
Patients, providers, and regulators will also benefit from proven testing standards that can quantify the key chemical compounds, or cannabinoids, that are tied to the plant's therapeutic effects, as well as identify potentially harmful pesticides, metals, and microbes.
The cannabis monograph was reviewed by the world's leading researchers and represents one of the most comprehensive and critically reviewed documents on cannabis in recent times. Much of the information was developed in collaboration with researchers at the University of Mississippi under the guidance of Dr. Mahmoud ElSohly, who oversees the only federally legal source of medical marijuana in the U.S.
The Therapeutic Compendium, the second installment of the cannabis monograph due out this spring, will document the thousands of years of therapeutic cannabis use around the world and describe the totality of modern research on how cannabis directly treats a broad range of conditions and symptoms. It will encompass historical data, pre-clinical and clinical pharmacology, indications, contraindications, side effects, dosing, preparations, safety, use in pregnancy, and interactions with conventional medications, among other fields of information.
"The adoption of cannabis into the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia as a safe, effective and low-cost botanical medicine is a testament to this human-plant relationship and a significant footprint on the trail towards acknowledgment as such by a much broader audience," said Dr. Michelle Sexton, one of the authors and reviewers of the cannabis monograph who is a naturopathic doctor, herbalist, educator and clinical cannabis researcher. Dr. Sexton is currently the medical research director at the Center for the Study of Cannabis and Social Policy.
AHP was formed in 1995 to promote the responsible use of herbal products and herbal medicines. It is a worldwide network of botanists, chemists, herbalists, medical doctors, pharmacists, pharmacologists, and other experts in medicinal plants.
AHP has published monographs for 28 different botanicals, including aloe vera leaf, American ginseng root, and echinacea. The organization expects to eventually publish more than 300 monographs, covering the most widely used western, Ayurvedic, and Chinese botanicals.
Later this week, ASA will launch Patients Focused Certification (PFC), a third-party certification program for the medical cannabis industry based on the AHP Cannabis monograph and new quality standards for medical cannabis products and businesses issued by the American Herbal Products Association. PFC certification and professional training will be available in all 20 medical marijuana states and the District of Columbia.