The US government has announced they will loosen key restrictions on the use of marijuana for scientific research. The new rules, announced on May 21 and coming into force this December, will empower the National Institute on Drug Abuse to sell marijuana to any privately funded scientists whose research proposals have been approved.
Previously, marijuana was virtually impossible to acquire for research, as it could only be given to scientists who had a federal grant to access it. Only three such grants have ever been given out. Now, any group with an approved study and independent funding can have access to federal marijuana.
The New York Times quoted Mike Nevin, a member of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, as saying “This news gives us great hope.” In 1998 his board allocated $500,000 towards studying marijuana’s benefits for cancer and AIDS patients. “We are hoping the federal government will grant us the ability to do this study,” he said, “and we are willing to pay.”
Currently, all federal marijuana in the US is grown under contract to NIDA by the University of Mississippi. The University grows 1.8 acres at a secret site every second year.
However, NIDA announced it is now seeking “proposals from qualified organizations having the capability to grow, harvest, extract, analyse, store and manufacture marijuana cigarettes, and distribute cannabis, and marijuana cigarettes to NIH grantees and other researchers to support basic and clinical research.”
Hopefully they’ll find someone who can grow better pot than the University of Mississippi. The same day the feds made their announcement, California NORML released the results of tests they had sponsored at DEA-licensed laboratories, analyzing the feds’ Mississippi-grown bud and comparing it with bud from various Californian medical-pot clubs.
The NORML study found that federal pot was by far the least potent tested, with THC levels of less than 4%, compared to a range of 12.8% to 15.4% THC in club-bought bud. Further, the federal pot had only negligible levels of CBD, which is known to relieve muscle spasms and has other unique medicinal properties.
The recent US Institute of Medicine marijuana report cited smoking as the number one health concern of using medical marijuana. Based on THC content, government cannabis delivers far less medicine per puff of smoke than the pot clubs’.
The Institute of Medicine report recommended that some patients be permitted to smoke marijuana, but the government says it does not intend to approve “single-patient requests for marijuana,” because “they do not produce use useful scientific information.”
“It is a tiny step forward, but far too tiny,” said Ethan Nadelmann, director of the Lindesmith Center, which backs a variety of drug-reform and harm reduction organizations. “It’s an implicit acknowledgement that the government has blocked research into medical marijuana for explicitly political reasons for the last two decades.”