Since 1999, all privately funded marijuana research studies in the United States have had to go through a Public Health Service review in addition to getting approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and institutional review boards.
Today, the White House took a major step forward to support cannabis research by eliminating the Public Health Service review requirement. Now, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) will help facilitate medical marijuana research.
Bipartisan support for this move
In late May, Smart Approaches to Marijuana presented a plan that aims to ease restrictions on scientific research into marijuana. The group was co-founded by former United States Congressman Patrick Kennedy and opposes the legalization of marijuana. Their plan called for the following actions:
- The government will allow multiple entities to grow marijuana for research purposes.
- The Department of Health and Human Services will eliminate the lengthy review process associated with marijuana research.
- The DEA will eliminate certain regulatory requirements for research into cannabidiol (CBD). The DEA will work with states to allow a pure CBD product to be distributed more broadly for research.
A necessary step
Democratic Representative Earl Blumenauer said the following in a press release:
“I hope this action will facilitate easier access to marijuana for medical researchers. Considering the widespread use of medical marijuana, it is absolutely essential that we allow doctors and scientists to research the therapeutic benefits and risks of its use. There is still more to be done to ensure this happens. I am working on legislation to address these issues, and I look forward to working with the Administration and my colleagues in Congress to further increase research.”
Drug czar spokesman Mario Moreno Zepeda said, “The Obama Administration has actively supported scientific research on whether marijuana or its components can be safe and effective medicine. Eliminating the Public Health Service review should help facilitate additional research to advance our understanding of both the adverse effects and potential therapeutic uses for marijuana or its components.”
United States strict policies causing a “brain drain”
Marijuana advocates have said that the federal government’s strict rules on marijuana research have prevented researchers from performing necessary studies in the United States. These strict polices have caused the United States to experience a “brain drain” with regard to scientists interested in learning about the medical benefits associated with marijuana.
Dr. Alan Shackelford moved to Israel after seeing U.S. drug laws block clinical studies into promising applications that treat illnesses which conventional medicine cannot treat. Dr. Shackelford is a Harvard-trained physician who was Charlotte Figi’s doctor.
“I went to Israel because I was frustrated,” he said. “Israel is the one place in the world that combines the scientific expertise, world-class universities and scientists. It’s so exciting.”
Currently, 27 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana, decriminalized marijuana, or both. Also, 4 states have legalized recreational marijuana and 14 states have legalized a limited form of marijuana by allowing patients access to cannabidiol (CBD).
For the first time ever, the Gallup poll and the General Social Survey found that a majority of the public favors the legalization of marijuana.
Representative Blumenauer recently said that the medical marijuana train has definitely left the station and he could not be more accurate!