It was bound to happen eventually as the United States government couldn’t deny the medicinal benefits of the cannabis forever. While Uncle Sam had previously approved Drobinal, synthetic THC drug, GW Pharmaceutical’s Epidiolex is Cannabidiol (CBD) derived from the actual cannabis plant. The FDA’s approval of the epilepsy/seizure treatment is a somewhat complicated blessing and a potential curse for medicinal marijuana programs across the nation. The ball is now in the DEA’s court as the Drug Enforcement Administration has to sign off on the drug before it can be prescribed.

On one hand, it is a great step forward for the medical cannabis movement that that FDA certified that the cannabis plant itself has medicinal properties and that patients suffering from seizures can get relief, particularly those that live in states without effective cannabis laws on the books or would otherwise not use a non-FDA approved medicine. It is great news for patients in prohibition states, as everyone’s hearts have to go out to those that have been without an effective treatment for epileptic seizures, especially young children.

As more patients benefit from Epidiolex (if the DEA allows the medicine), it will likely open more eyes to the folly of the War on Cannabis and educate more people about the medical benefits of the misunderstood plant. More research should go into studying other cannabinoids, eventually providing patients with more life-improving and life-saving cannabis-based medicines.

The danger of Epidiolex to the cannabis community is the money that Big Pharma may use to lobby Congress to eliminate state medical programs. State medical laws remain extremely important because many patients have found particular strains are best for their condition and that they need THC or other cannabinoids as well as CBD to treat their condition. A lot of patients also find it very therapeutic to tend to their own gardens. We must be more active than ever to protect the will of the voters and the health of patients in medical cannabis states against the likely onslaught from Big Pharma.

So long as federal law protects state medicinal systems from interference, such as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment has, then the approval of cannabis-based medicines pose no threat. However, it is understandable that some patients and their advocates are wary. Some Reefer Madness prohibitionists are already claiming victory in their war against patients, claiming that this is the “beginning of the end” for medical cannabis. We’ve defeated these anti-patient zealots time and time again since 1996, and we must remain vigilant to defeat them again and again as they are backed by bigger and bigger checks from Big Pharma.

What does Big Pharma’s plans mean for the cannabis community and industry? What opportunities may arise from the continued education about the cannabis plant? How will adult-use and medical programs coexist due to changes in state and federal law? Learn more about these topics and more at the upcoming International Cannabis Business Conference in Portland, Oregon, this September 27th-28th. Get your tickets by September 12th to save $200 and secure your spot before the event sells out.