Jul 17, 2016 9:25 AM

How Federal Government Stifles Cannabis Research

The use of cannabis as a part of treatment for many conditions is not a new notion. Today, more and more doctors resort to this way of treatment because in some cases cannabinoids turn out to be more effective than convenient drugs. The legalization of medical marijuana is a successful movement that has already hit home with people in 25 states of the U.S. So, why does the federal government insist on stifling valid scientific research?

Legalization of Cannabis: A Guide to Marijuana Laws by State
Legalization of Cannabis: A Guide to Marijuana Laws by State
Cannabis legalization is gaining momentum across the U.S. The number of states where marijuana is legal continues to increase, yet the precise meaning of “legal” depends on your location. This article is our quick guide to state marijuana laws.

A recent article published in Science shows that the government complicates the research of Cannabis sativa to such an extent that only the chosen few can study this subject. We should point out that cannabis is still considered a Schedule I drug, despite the massive legalization of its use for medical and even, in some states, for the recreational purposes.

Thousands of patients are benefitting from prescription drugs that are based on cannabis, and even more people are using marijuana recreationally. At the same time, any Schedule I drug is supposed to have a high potential for abuse and should not be accepted for medical use. So, where is the truth and who is right—meagre studies that show vast benefits of the plant or the government that places cannabis in the same category as cocaine and LSD?

IRB and DEA Approval

A scientist who wishes to conduct clinical trials on the effects of Cannabis sativa in human subjects must receive the approval of an Institutional Review Board, fill for an Investigational New Drug with the Food and Drug Administration, register their study at the Drug Enforcement Agency and receive its approval as well. Besides, all cannabis that will be used for trials has to be bought through NIDA.

The complexity of all these procedures slows down the studies greatly. It is unclear why a scientist's medical study requires an IND after it has already been approved by an Institutional Review Board. The next step, receiving approval from DEA, obliges the scientists to purchase cannabis only through NIDA because the Agency prohibits possession and distribution of the herbs.

It is often the case when researchers who have been navigating the system for several years receive a rejection from one of the federal entities. The DEA, for example, is quite famous for stalling and obstructing many sound cannabis studies.

NIDA's Cannabis Issues

Nowadays, many universities petition for growing weed for their research themselves, however, the right to grow cannabis for research purposes remains exclusive to the University of Mississippi.

The scientists also face is the limited potency of sativa products provided by the University of Mississippi. Unfortunately, these products do not always match the potency of the cannabis remedies usually prescribed for use in vivo. The highest level of THC in the cannabis provided by NIDA reaches only 12.4 percent. In contrast, a survey conducted by the owner of a state-certified cannabis testing laboratory shows that the average potency of marijuana sold in Colorado is 18.7 percent THC, while some strains even reach 35 percent of THC. Besides, some concentrates that have been created lately may have THC levels of up to 70 percent.

This is why the studies conducted with the use of cannabis sold by NIDA do not give as much insight into the real effects of marijuana strains that circulate the market as the scientists would want to. Unfortunately, cannabis still remains somewhat of a mystery to science due to the federal ban on clinical research.

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