Barriers to medical marijuana research: a killer ideology?

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The field of medical marijuana research took a bold new turn recently, with a bi-partisan group of 26 senators and representatives urging President Obama to remove the barriers posed by legislation that have held back progress in this field.


In a letter to the president, the lawmakers point out that although 23 states have legislation which allows for medical marijuana programs; researchers, patients and doctors are subject to federal barriers which impede scientific progress.


Outdated Ideology


Chief among the coalition’s concerns is that under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I substance. Drugs in this category are considered to have no accepted medical use. This means it is easier to do research on methamphetamines and cocaine than it is on cannabis.


Rescheduling marijuana as a drug will require one of the following conditions to be met.


  1. A high potential for abuse must not exist
  2. It must be able to be safely administered under medical supervision
  3. It will require an accepted medical use.


With numerous researchers and influential medical bodies, including the National Cancer Institute, confirming that cannabis oil may be effective in the treatment of cancer, seizures and other ailments, it becomes apparent that at least one of the criteria has been met.




Over the last 43 years, several petitions to have marijuana re-classified have failed. These were often overruled by the DEA or the administration has failed to provide information as to why the petitions were rejected.


The coalition of senators are now calling for public hearings to be held so as to address issues of transparency. They have asked the president to allow the testimony of doctors, researchers and patients to be included in the public hearings.


Breaking the monopoly


As it currently stands, the University of Mississippi is the only licensed body allowed to grow cannabis for medical research in the United States. This monopoly does not exist for any other Schedule I drug.


Researchers believe that this poses a serious hindrance to progress. Inadequate supply not only limits availability but also variety. Researchers feel that they will never be able to fully investigate marijuana’s medical potential if the situation continues.


With this in mind, the senators have requested that the monopoly be broken so that the US can work on par with other industrialized nations that are currently leading the field in medical marijuana research.


What results can we expect?


The senators are hoping that these two actions will not only encourage developments in medical science, but will also lead to other areas of innovation. These include the development of cannabis based bio-fuels and organic hemp plastic composites.


Considering that medical cannabis may have life-saving potential as a medicine, it can be said that possible benefits far outweigh the concerns – certainly in terms of medical research. With stumbling blocks based on uninformed speculation and irrelevant legislation out of the way, it is hoped that research into the efficacy and safety of medical marijuana will be fast-tracked.


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