Medical marijuana research constrained by NIDA’s weed monopoly
Issues concerning limitations on medical marijuana research have caught government agencies in a tangled web of outdated regulations. Green Rush Daily reported that cannabis researchers in the US are only allowed to study cannabis grown solely by the federal government. Add to this the lack of research funds to back organizations and individuals to conduct studies regarding the plant’s medical benefits.
In the report, researchers argue that they can only get cannabis with Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels ranging from 2 percent and 6.7 percent, and cannabidiol (CBD) levels from 0.02 percent and 0.08 percent, based on the limitations set by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
A relatively low amount compared to any dispensary within the country. In states that have legalized medical marijuana, such as in Colorado, cannabis strains with THC levels just below 28 percent and CBD level of 7.8 percent can be acquired at dispensaries. Although researchers have asked NIDA for cannabis strains with higher THC and CBD levels, it is just not possible.
In short, medical marijuana research is restricted only to the amount and strain, mandated by the federal government, specifically by its governing agency, NIDA. Scientists argue that such limited amount of marijuana to study may not be enough to categorically place it as a medical alternative.
Federal law restrictions
Historically, under the federal law, smoking or mere possession of marijuana is illegal. This serious war on drugs started in the 1970’s with President Nixon, who under the Controlled Substances Act, classified marijuana as a Schedule I drug. Drugs under this category were considered to have no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the US. Furthermore, these drugs were considered to have a high potential for abuse like heroin and LSD.
This is one of the reasons why all marijuana research conducted should be provided solely by a NIDA-approved supplier, in this case, the University of Mississippi. Green Flower Media recounted how in 1968, the University of Mississippi along with other universities were granted contracts to grow cannabis to support federal marijuana research. As time passed, it was only in this university at the Ole Miss that continued with the program. Situated in the world-renowned college town of Oxford, the University of Mississippi is the National Center for Development of Natural Products, which studies various plants and their benefits and consequently forms part of the School of Pharmacy. Within the confines of its laboratories is the Marijuana Research Project or commonly known as the M-Project.
Even if this twelve-acre farm is housed within the university, it is surrounded by double fences, guards and high-tech security devices to ward off prying college students. The university is under contract with the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and NIDA, a branch of the National Institute of Health (NIH). Since then, the hub became the only source of all federally funded marijuana research.
There have been conspiracy claims over Ole Miss’s marijuana monopoly for over 40 years, and they are pointed at these government agencies, DEA, FDA, and NIDA, who are all suspected to be working together to suppress cannabis research by maintaining a monopoly of supply for research purposes. A Medical Marijuana blog wrote how these agencies were able to maintain marijuana as a Schedule I drug with high potential for abuse.
Over the years, the DEA has received petitions to move it from Schedule I to a less strict Schedule II regulation. However, all these petitions were denied, saying that marijuana as a medicine has no sufficient medical claims. Furthermore, the blog added that the DEA’s former and current head have made their views public, regarding marijuana as medicine, and both did not agree that marijuana indeed has any medical benefits. Statements were made even after President Obama stated that marijuana is indeed safer than alcohol.
However, just recently, the DEA has slightly changed its mindset regarding medical marijuana, when it approved clinical studies for patients with post-traumatic stress disorder. This, according to scientists, will open doors to new knowledge that will help medical marijuana research.
With the increasing states that have already legalized marijuana, and with the recent first DEA-approved marijuana research, medical marijuana is finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Even crowdfunding platforms have opened up to cater to emerging medical cannabis companies, thanks to Obama’s JOBS Act.
Los Angeles-based medical cannabis company, Med-X, is among the beneficiaries of the first Regulation A+ crowdfunding platform under this Act. “Obama is really good at executive decisions. He did practice that throughout his presidency. He did bring us the JOBS Act, he paved the way for medical marijuana to be where it is today,” said Med-X COO Matthew Mills in an interview with Cenk Uygur.
“JOBS Act is huge, we have a responsibility now as a company and we’re going to see a great deal financing coming into our company, not only to think of acquisitions and mergers to make all investors happy,” Mills added.
To date, there are 24 out of 50 states that have legalized marijuana in some forms. Apparently, the billion dollar sales revenues have attracted to its growing acceptance. Still, the restrictions medical marijuana research is facing, especially in terms of source, could hamper the growth of the industry and the relief patients could possibly get from the drug.