One Barrier to Cannabis Research Removed, Others Remain

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director June 23, 2015

    Cannabis ResearchSeveral mainstream media outlets are reporting that the US Department of Health and Human Services has removed a requirement mandating that all investigative protocols seeking cannabis for clinical study must undergo a Public Health Service review. The review process, which was enacted in 1999 and applied only to clinical studies involving cannabis, was long criticized by advocates as unnecessarily burdensome and time-consuming.

    Commenting on the change, a Health and Human Services spokeswoman said, “The department expects the action announced today will help facilitate further research to advance our understanding about the health risks and any potential benefits of medications using marijuana or its components or derivatives.”

    But as I point out in today’s news wire coverage here, such claims are likely overstated.

    That is because unique hurdles to clinical cannabis research will continue to exist as long as the plant is a) classified as a schedule I controlled substance defined as possessing no medical use and b) the source material for clinical trials must be provided by the US government’s lone supplier, the University of Mississippi (which is overseen by the US National Institute on Drug Abuse).

    Further, despite this announced change, the DEA and NIDA (along with the FDA) still must oversee all clinical marijuana research. One of these agencies (the DEA) is in place to enforce the federal criminal prohibition of marijuana. The other agency (NIDA) exists largely as an outgrowth of marijuana’s schedule I status. It remains highly unlikely that the very agencies in place to oversee and preserve cannabis prohibition would ever permit the type of rational review that would ultimately lead policymakers and the public to question the status quo.

    Finally, it bears repeating that ample scientific research already exists to contradict cannabis’ federal, schedule I status as a substance without medical utility, lacking acceptable safety, and possessing a high potential of abuse. More clinical research is welcome, but unfortunately science has never driven marijuana policy. If it did, the United States would already have a very different policy in place.

    19 responses to “One Barrier to Cannabis Research Removed, Others Remain”

    1. Andrea says:

      Many rivers to cross that’s all ? my Mum birthed ten non baptised children her recipe “bit at a time”

    2. Julian says:

      Thank you Paul; at least SOME one is conducting well researched investigative reporting. Even NPR is regurgitating the latest “anecdotal” propaganda;


      I love how a clearly paid advertisement from our neighborhood prohibitionist pharmaceuticals uses anecdotal evidence about marijuana causing schizophrenia to back up the University of Bristol UK and AMA’s claim that marijuana “may cause schizophrenia and we don’t know why…”

      For the record, if you have schizophrenia or believe you are genetically predispositioned to develop symptoms, any experienced marijuana can tell you, anecdotally, that you need a strain of marijuana high in non-psychoactive CBD’s and low in psychoactive THC, (but not completely without THC or other cannabinoids and terpenes). If your brain is already psychoactive you need to balance that with a Charlotte’s Web variety of the herb.

      “Anecdotal” was a word Hillary used recently to describe marijuana’s medical efficacy, and we can trace the dollars to Big Pharma, who is trying desperately to turn the Department if Health and Human Services patent on cannabinoids (U.S.Patent #6630507) into dollars in a similar way that GW Pharmacueticals already has, trying to patent the herb and sell it to patients with seizures at an exhorbitantly high cost.
      The problem for Big Pharma is they have to call marijuana “anecdotal” medicine so it never gets adequate research or competitive patenting while Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline figure out how to gain their own patents for cannabinoids at the molecular level.

      But that will happen just as soon as we allow the patenting of the horse or the pig (I still get the horse!) because marijuana works synergistically using a variety of cannabinoids, THC CBD and terpenes at once, making marijuana…well, patentingly unpatentable. As Dr. Mechoulam, the “father” of marijuana research puts it, marijuana has an “entourage effect” allowing a variety if chemicals to work together to heal, protect and nourish the human mind and body.

      To the dismay of BigPharma, they cry that states are legalizing marijuana with “anecdotal” evidence, and worse for these international corporations, they can ‘t patent marijuana and price gouge the poor and infirmed! That’s their whole marketing strategy! What ever will Big Pharma do if they can’t scare us now with the word “anecdotal”??!!

      Guess Big Pharma will have to go green, sell herbal “anecdotal” remedies and let the bottom drop out of their patent-hoarding. If ya can ‘t beat’m, join’m! Hey, maybe Pfizer can get into the vaporizer business?

    3. Just An Observer says:

      Remember when Obama laughed us MJ folks off? If the #1 Democrat can’t be bothered with us it will be hard to get the ball rolling until we have a POTUS who will be proud to free the weed from those Schedule 1 chains.

    4. Miles says:

      It is truly sad and maddening that over 50% of our Congressmen and Senators are A$$holes! That is why this stupid idiotic crap goes on and on with no seeming end in sight…

      Only in America could things be this totally screwed up. America was never intended to be a place where .01% of the population has 99% of all the wealth but corruption has enabled this to happen. A total redistribution of wealth is in order if we ever want to be a free country again; the way our founders intended!

      It is tragic that the Koch Bros, among others, seem to be more powerful than the Feds when it comes to making policy decisions…

    5. TheOracle says:

      That’s great. Now, just legalize cannabis at the federal level because we’ve waited long enough. Legalization is long overdue. Get rid of the rest of the barriers.

      Just one prohibitionist politician in Pennsylvania holding up the whole works. His arguments for keeping the legislation in committee have been debunked.


      You have to click to enlarge the spreadsheet for an easy read, has links.


      So now there is a discharge resolution to get it out of that committee.


      Even when this finally passes, the prohibitionists will keep the actual implementation stalled as long as they can. It could take years before there is an actual brick and mortar cannabis dispensary open. Harrisburg politicians are masters at gumming up the works, and I’ll be surprised if they meet the state’s budget deadline. People’s lives and health and quality of life is at stake with medical marijuana while they’re farting around.

      Viable seeds need to be legal. That way nobody would have to wait for dipstick politicians to just move forward and legalize.

    6. What else is there to research. Marijuana is good for your health. Find your nearest cannabis dispensary and fire one up!

    7. Galileo Galilei says:

      To thwart the advance of medical science is a crime against us all.

      Just sayin’….

    8. dk says:

      I expect Obama will do something before leaving office.

    9. Evening Bud says:

      This seems pretty big to me. The first step in rescheduling?