The Obama Administration Made Medical Marijuana Research Easier


Finally, we’re one step closer to making it easier for the scientists to research marijuana. Because the federal law still considers marijuana illegal, and continues to ignore the pleads for its removal from the Schedule I category – the one reserved for drugs such as heroine and LSD – researchers had to undergo a rigorous application procedure if they wanted to research such a dangerous drug that, according to the federal government, has no medicinal value. One of the long-standing bureocratic obstacles was recently removed. It was the one that wasn’t required for any other drug research, no matter which category it belonged to.

A complicated, time-consuming process

Until couple of weeks ago, if you wanted to conduct marijuana research, you’d need to do the following:

  • Submit your study proposal to the Food and Drug Administration for a thorough review of its “scientific validity and ethical soundness.”
  • Submit your proposal to a separate Public Health Service (PHS) board, which performs pretty much the exact same review as the FDA.
  • Get a marijuana permit from the Drug Enforcement Administration.
  • Obtain a quantity of medical marijuana via the Drug Supply Program run by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), which maintains a monopoly on medical marijuana grown for research in the U.S.

Step 2 was the problematic one for researcher and advocates. For them, it didn’t make any sense having to go through this particular step if they wanted to conduct marijuana research, while it wasn’t required for research into any other drug, including cocaine and heroine. Not only it was an unnecessary step, but it could also take months to complete! During recent years, advocates of overhauling marijuana laws, researchers, members of Congress, and even marijuana legalization opponents have called for the PHS review to be removed, pointing out the obstruction of scientific research because of its existence. This week, the Department of Health and Human Services agreed, determining that the PHS review process is redundant, and that it is “no longer necessary to support the conduct of scientifically-sound studies into the potential therapeutic uses of marijuana.”

Removing marijuana from the Schedule I category

“The president has often said that drug policy should be dictated by unimpeded science instead of ideology, and it’s great to see the Obama administration finally starting to take some real action to back that up,” said Tom Angell of the Marijuana Majority, a pro-legalization group. Even those opposing the legalization agreed and saluted this change. It’s a step in the right direction and an obstacle that should have been removed a long time ago, as the development of a non-smokable marijuana medication goes forward. However, there are still many unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles to marijuana research. For instance, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)’s monopoly on medical marijuana grown for research in the U.S. doesn’t exist for any other drug, meaning that heroin and cocaine are easier for researchers to work with. Meanwhile, marijuana remains a Schedule I drug. Go figure!


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