Tuesday, October 27, 2015
UK Independant: "Medical marijuana research being stifled by US government"
The federal government is strangling vital research into medical marijuana, claims a report by a major US think-tank. “Statutory, regulatory, bureaucratic, and cultural barriers have paralysed science and threatened the integrity of research freedom in this area,” says the report by the Brookings Institution.
The report’s authors, John Hudak and Grace Wallack, say the debate is not really about marijuana at all. Rather, it is about scientific freedom, and improving public health. Right now, the Food and Drug Administration classifies marijuana as a Schedule I substance, with “no medically accepted use.”
Researchers have to go through an onerous application process to acquire medical marijuana for studies, and can wait years to get officially sanctioned product from the one legal growing facility in Mississippi.
"These bureaucratic policies are not only unscientific, they lack common sense," Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Laws Foundation, told The Independent. He said the agencies that control research into marijuana also oversee federal prohibition of marijuana, so are naturally inclined to stymie research. The lack of federal support makes universities leery of compromising their reputations by studying medical marijuana, the report says.
So what’s to be done? Activists and lobbyists focus on rescheduling marijuana to a Schedule II drug, but according to the authors, that is not enough. Scientists need comprehensive reforms, like expanding the Compassionate Use Programme and an end to the federal monopoly on legal marijuana production.
An act of Congress could cut through the tangled regulations, and as it happens, there is a bipartisan bill wending its way through Congress now. The bipartisan CARERS act would end federal prohibition of marijuana, and allow each state to craft its own policies on medical marijuana.
Mr Armentano was not optimistic. He said there' was already ample scientific evidence that cannabis had medical utility, but that "science has never driven marijuana policy. If it did, the United States would already have a very different policy in place."
Dan Riffle, who handles federal lobbying at the Marijuana Policy Project went a step further. "Marijuana, like alcohol, is a drug that is used primarily by adults in social settings, and like alcohol, should be removed from the list of controlled substances altogether and regulated as such," he said.
Riffle praised the CARERS Act, but points out it would have to get past the "old-school drug warriors" of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees.