You know cannabis has gone mainstream when, thanks to rapid legalization in the US, and explosive growth in medical and commercial use, even scientists can no longer ignore the highs and lows of marijuana.
The American Chemical Society (ACS)—the world’s largest scientific society, with 158,000 members—has taken the latest step in that direction. Its cannabis chemistry committee, created in 2014 in response to a member petition, has been upgraded to a subdivision.
This is more than a symbolic gesture: ACS has a strong voice in shaping US government policy on scientific matters.
According to Chemistry World, the subdivision’s role includes providing “expertise in laboratory safety, chemical management, and chemical safety practices.” Ezra Pryor, president of Ezchem cannabis consultancy and the member behind the 2014 petition, is concerned about the the lack of knowledge about cannabis analysis. Since 2011, the number of cannabis-testing labs in the US has increased from two to more than 20, but there are yet no standardized methods for analysis.
Most of these labs only check for potency. Some test for contamination with heavy metals, and a minority test for microbiological, mycotoxin, solvent, and pesticide residues. Because there are no federal laws around cannabis testing, there is no uniformity in how we measure the quality of cannabis being sold. In the end, it is the consumer that suffers.
Despite its medical use being legal in some states for nearly 20 years, cannabis is still classified by the US Drug Enforcement Agency DEA as a Schedule I drug, which is for substances that have no accepted medical use and high potential for abuse. This classification, a recent study from the think-tank Brookings Institute argues, is the main impediment in conducting scientific research on cannabis.
With nearly 20 states having legalized medical marijuana, the DEA might be forced to change its mind. The newest subdivision of the world’s largest scientific society can only help.