Long before I began this project, I had steadily reviewed the scientific literature on medical marijuana from the United States and thought it was fairly unimpressive. Reading these papers five years ago, it was hard to make a case for medicinal marijuana. I even wrote about this in a TIME magazine article, back in 2009, titled “Why I would Vote No on Pot.”

Well, I am here to apologize

I mistakenly believed the Drug Enforcement Agency listed marijuana as a schedule 1 substance because of sound scientific proof. Surely, they must have quality reasoning as to why marijuana is in the category of the most dangerous drugs that have “no accepted medicinal use and a high potential for abuse.”

They didn’t have the science to support that claim, and I now know that when it comes to marijuana neither of those things are true. It doesn’t have a high potential for abuse, and there are very legitimate medical applications. In fact, sometimes marijuana is the only thing that works…

We have been terribly and systematically misled for nearly 70 years in the United States, and I apologize for my own role in that…

Looking forward, I am especially intrigued by studies like those in Spain and Israel looking at the anti-cancer effects of marijuana and its components. I’m intrigued by the neuro-protective study by Lev Meschoulam in Israel, and research in Israel and the United States on whether the drug might help alleviate symptoms of PTSD. I promise to do my part to help, genuinely and honestly, fill the remaining void in our knowledge.

Charlotte gets a dose of the cannabis oil twice a day in her food.

Gedde found three to four milligrams of oil per pound of the girl’s body weight stopped the seizures.

Today, Charlotte, 6, is thriving. Her seizures only happen two to three times per month, almost solely in her sleep. Not only is she walking, she can ride her bicycle. She feeds herself and is talking more and more each day.

“I literally see Charlotte’s brain making connections that haven’t been made in years,” Matt said. “My thought now is, why were we the ones that had to go out and find this cure? This natural cure? How come a doctor didn’t know about this? How come they didn’t make me aware of this?”

The marijuana strain Charlotte and now 41 other patients use to ease painful symptoms of diseases such as epilepsy and cancer has been named after the little girl who is getting her life back one day at a time.

It’s called Charlotte’s Web.

Medical marijuana is legal or decriminalized in 18 states and the District of Columbia, but opponents say it encourages use among those to whom it hasn’t been prescribed. Californians for Drug Free Youth Executive Director John Redman said it can also be particularly dangerous for children and teens, whose brains are still developing:

“When California was having its debate about medical marijuana in 1996, preventionists had warned of the wrong message such a policy would send. Indeed, in the intervening years, drug use has risen (research is now emerging that directly links medical marijuana states with higher levels of drug use), and now more young people enter treatment for their marijuana use than for all drugs (including alcohol) combined. They now think that marijuana is ‘medicine’ –- how bad can it be for you? Dispensaries, many of which market their wares around high schools and parks, have no doubt contributed to these higher use levels.”

Stories like these convey the reality that the senseless war on drugs touches lives beyond recreational users looking for a good buzz. Millions of other Americans who suffer from similar disorders could be getting help from cannabis at this very moment, if it weren’t for a variety of state/federal laws, bureaucratic obstacles, and prohibitionist legislators.

Scientific research could take cannabis and find new medical uses for it beyond what we’ve already discovered. But instead, the illegality of marijuana makes research funding near-impossible to secure. And government agencies that do obtain the grants have a clear incentive to vilify the drug in order to justify their existence.

Of course, marijuana is not a magic cure-all for everything under the sun — as alt-medicine quacks might believe — but that doesn’t negate the fact that cannabis contains easily-identifiable benefits, plus countless others we’ve yet to explore. That our government still considers marijuana to be a Schedule I narcotic, despite addiction rates lower than alcohol and tobacco, is baffling, enraging, and above all, an impediment to our medical progress…

[S]ocial conservatives and drug warriors follow the same precautionary principle they (rightfully) mock the Europeans for employing. The mindset holds that if something is potentially dangerous, the burden of proof that it’s not harmful falls on those taking action. As entrepreneurial Americans, we ridicule that mentality because it chokes off the risky-but-voluntary decision-making that leads to innovation and technological progress. But for largely bureaucratic and Puritan reasons, we refuse to allow marijuana the same benefit of the doubt.

“I think there are too many people in jail for too long, and for not necessarily good reasons,” Holder said in the interview, turning from the department’s highly criticized crackdown on drug law enforcement. As NPR noted, almost half of the people in federal prison are serving time for drug charges.

“The war on drugs is now 30, 40 years old,” he continued. “There have been a lot of unintended consequences. There’s been a decimation of certain communities, in particular communities of color.”…

“The country is in a bipartisan moment [in regards to drug policy] that makes major criminal justice reform possible,” Bill Piper, Director of National Affairs of the Drug Policy Alliance, told The Huffington Post. “You see it with bipartisan bills in Congress and bipartisan calls for sentencing reform. There’s an opportunity that the administration realizes it can take advantage of, and I hope that they do.”