Friday, November 11, 2011

"Shouldn't We Wait for Further Research to be Done Before Marijuana is Used as Medicine?"

     This question is a good one.  Who wouldn't want to make sure that a substance like cannabis is safe and effective before using it?  Here's the thing: cannabis has undergone NUMEROUS studies by a variety of groups and institutions.  My question is, "How much research is required before cannabis is accepted?"  More research is always desirable, but we know enough right now to know that there is no justification for arresting patients using medical marijuana under their doctor’s care. Check out many of my previous posts on the medical benefits of cannabis and you will see that I have cited many reports from universities and laboratories showing the efficacy of cannabis as a medicine.
      In addition, the federal government has huge restrictions on cannabis research because of the plant's Schedule I status.  As a Schedule I drug, marijuana can be researched as a medicine only with federal approval. Until California voters passed Proposition 215 in 1996, federal authorities blocked all efforts to study marijuana’s medical benefits. Since then, federal restrictions have been loosened somewhat, and a small number of studies have gone forward, but that happened because the passage of ballot initiatives forced the government to acknowledge the need for research. The federal government remains intensely hostile to medical marijuana, and if the political pressure created by ballot initiatives and legislative proposals subsides, the feds will surely go back to their old, obstructionist ways. The federal government has been supplying medical marijuana to a small group of patients for over 20 years, in what is officially deemed a research program, but has refused to study even its own patients!
     Another problem is that all medical marijuana research must be done with marijuana supplied by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. NIDA’s product is poor-quality, low-grade marijuana that is likely to show less efficacy and greater side effects than the marijuana available through medical marijuana dispensaries in California and elsewhere - but it remains illegal to use this higher-quality marijuana for research! Scientists and activists have appealed to the Drug Enforcement Administration to allow other sources of marijuana to be used, and in 2007, DEA Administrative Law Judge Mary Ellen Bittner ruled that a proposed University of Massachusetts project to grow and study marijuana for medical purposes should be allowed to proceed. But the DEA does not have to obey Bittner’s ruling and has given no indication that it intends to do so. The U.S. government remains the largest single obstacle to medical marijuana research.
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