More than 30 states have medical marijuana applications — yet scientists are simply permitted to use cannabis plants out of a single U.S. origin for their study. That is set to change, because the federal government begins to add more growers to the mix. Drew Angerer/Getty Images hide caption
More than 30 states have medical marijuana applications — yet scientists are simply permitted to use cannabis plants out of a single U.S. origin for their study. That is set to change, as the federal government begins to add more growers to this combination.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images
After more than 50 decades, the national government is lifting a roadblock to cannabis study that scientists and advocates say has lacked rigorous studies of this plant and possible medication development.
That changed earlier this month, when the Drug Enforcement Administration announced it’s in the process of registering several additional American companies to create cannabis for scientific and medical purposes.
It is a movement that promises to accelerate understanding of the plant’s health consequences and possible remedies for treating conditions — chronic pain, the negative effects of chemotherapy, multiple sclerosis and mental illness, among many others — that are yet to be well researched.
“That is the final political barrier of study Schedule 1 drugs,” he states.
About one-fifth of Americans currently live in a state where recreational marijuana is valid — and even more than 30 countries have medical marijuana applications. Nevertheless scientists still aren’t permitted to just use the cannabis offered at state-licensed dispensaries because of their clinical study because cannabis remains illegal under national law.
“This is a big disconnect,” states Dr. Igor Grant, a psychiatry professor and director of the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research at University of California, San Diego.
The new DEA decision does not solve the conflict between federal and state laws, but it will provide researchers a new, federally sanctioned pipeline for more goods and breeds of cannabis.
“We’ll see a couple of years or more of volatile cannabis study and potential new treatments,” states Dr. Steve Groff, founder and chairman of both Groff North America, one of three companies that has publicly announced it has preliminary approval from the national authorities to cultivate cannabis for study.
A long-running fight to overthrow national”monopoly”
Despite their efforts, scientists have encountered legal and administrative barriers to growing pharmaceutical-grade cannabis for years.
In 2001, Dr. Lyle Craker, a dominant plant biologist, initially applied for a license to cultivate marijuana for study — only to experience years of delay which kicked off a protracted court battle with the DEA, which needs to greenlight research to Schedule 1 drugs like cannabis.
“There’s tens of thousands of different cannabis kinds that have unique compound profiles and create unique clinical consequences, but we did not have access to that normal diversity,” says Dr. Sue Sisley, a cannabis scientist and president of the Scottsdale Research Institute, which also obtained preliminary DEA consent to create cannabis for study.
Just in 2016 did the national authorities signal a change in policy which would open the door for fresh growers, but applications to do so languished for ages. Craker and many others ended up suing the national government over the delay.