One Barrier to Cannabis Research Removed, Others Remain

Several 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 thoughts

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

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

    Just sayin’….

  7. @evening bud;
    Yes, the removal of barriers to study marijuana from the same office that holds the patent to Cannabinoids is a small yet vital step to descheduling. Another small step; for the first time my iPhone just recognized the word “cannabinoids” and even felt obliged to capitalize it for whatever reason. Baby steps, my brothers, baby steps…

    The fact that child protective services is in the spotlight now with the case of Shona v. The U .S. Gov. is, I suspect, a contributing factor for this hasty decision.

    If soldiers with PTSD being denied marijuana to prevent suicide cupeled with prescribing them an overdose of opiates from the VA doesn’t wake Congress up, or revelations that cannabis reduced brain tumors in the original Shaeffer Commission Report of 1970, or even the WEED documentaries with Dr. Sanjay Gupta not only revealing that cannabis mitigates seizures in children but that the Department of Health and Hunan Services will take custody of these children from marijuana refugees who were forced to take asylum there if the parents dare cross state lines to visit family, and prohibit these children from life saving medicine, drug them with disabling pharmaceuticals in a potentially violent private foster care system for profit… and all while OWNING the patent to cannabinoids as “neuroprotectants,” #6630507. Oh, and while peddling this unconstitutional discriminatingly lethal authority against the disabled to the highest pharmaceutical bidder, thereby prohibitively raising the cost of herbal marijuana to sick epileptic children in a highly illegal monopoly over the patenting of a plant one could potentially grow in their own medical marijuana grower. (Looks like a mini fridge, but its packed full of hydroponics).

    That’s about the size of it. Coming to the Supreme Court, during or after 2016 elections. You might wanna stack up on your popcorn and have some good herb available, cuz the show is only going to get better from here. 🙂

  8. @ Julian,

    Well it seemed like it to me. Sometimes when I read something on this site that seems to be positive news, and then read other posters’ less-than-enthusiastic responses, I have to go back and reread the article to make sure I’ve interpreted it right. But as you wrote, it appears to be a baby step in the right direction.

    I personally am looking forward to 2016. Call it morbid curiosity. It could be a tragedy in the making–GOP takes full control of the Fed govt–or it could be a great year, with several more states legalizing. We’ll see.

  9. It’s coming on three years since Dr. Gupta first called for a new approach on MMJ research. Two years since the NY Times did their series and called for nationwide legalization? Cannabis doesn’t have to be proven effective across 160 different syndromes – just ONE, to come out of Schedule 1.
    What I would like to see a panel of NORML lawyers discuss is, to what degree the feds are dragging their feet due to their fears of liability, reparations, the whole private prison scam busting wide open, etc. Hmmm? Please?

  10. Has anyone thought of a nationwide petition to the DEA and the Justice Dept. to reduce classification to a Class 2 or 3? Perhaps it has been done, but I haven’t heard of it. A strong public outcry could encourage change.

  11. @Julian, yes Pfizer has the right name to be in the vaporizer bizzzness, a Pf of Vapor so to speak. At least a couple billion vaporizers are needed to vapoconvert the 1.2 billion lifethreatened nicoaddicts (and krieg our Know-it-well Prize, you, me and the NORML staff share $1.5m).

    Any place in the daily circuit where any psychocues could coerce that quit-attempting victim to “light up a lucky” (Sinatra 1943), there needs to be a plug-in or portable vaporizer or a flexdrawtube one-hitter– bedroom, washroom, garage, car, office, locker room, kitchen, briefcase etc. etc.

    Maybe Pfizer will hire 3,000,000 sweatshop laboring women in India now hand-rolling 450-mg beedis (tobacco wrapped in a tendu leaf) to make vape toke utensils for the planet instead.

  12. Meanwhile patients continue to suffer. Patents on a plant that will provide homeowners with stoned bunnies all over america is doomed to lighting the fire of intolerance so prevalent in american disrespect of patient rights.

  13. @quax,

    Well I sure aint no lawyer, but as many a marijuana consumer has had to defend themselves legally, I can tell you that there are serious international liabilities at stake in our evolving U.S. Drug Policy, and we don ‘t have to travel to Honduras to prove it. Although, if you survive, the entire region of Central America has insurmountable evidence that U.S. and international drug policy has and continues to commit crimes against humanity by:
    1) Deporting lethal gang leaders without informing other governments of the deportee’s criminal history
    2) Deporting/incarcerating and refusing asylum to drug war refugee women and children by the thousands for the profit of private prison owners in locations recently toured in Texas, for example, by Democratic Representative Joaquin Castro
    3) impersonation of local police by a Federal U.S. agency in the D.O.J. (DEA) to rob, rape and even murder a pregnant woman for answering the door in a village in Honduras during a routine drug raid
    4) Conspiracy to instigate a civil war by using U.S.AID and the ATF to fund and arm both cartels and local governments using CIA covert operations to remove Democratically elected foreign presidents as well as “tracer programs” to sell U.S. weapons–already paid for with U.S. Tax Dollars– that only the ATF has the exclusive right to provide the serial tracking numbers for… And…
    5) complicit international racketeering and money laundering by U.S. banks in order to wash dirty drug money both for foreign cartels and the U.S. D.O.J that uses corrupt asset forfeitures to unlawfully seize property without due process in the name of “anti-terrorism,” (which, in effect, is legalized robbery and terrorism…)

    So are there “liabilities” you ask, to regulating international drug policy? Yes, of course there are. But whatever the just cost we pay either in international courts, bank closures or watching our leaders tried in the Hague is a small price to pay for the continued atrocity of America’s corrupt and fatal drug policies.
    The U.N. Is meeting over the issue of international drug policy next year. The Organization of American States has been diplomatically trying to broker a solution between Latin American countries who continue to have human rights violations from U.S. and international drug policies and the quickly evolving U.S. Policy for legalization.

    Fortunately for us all, Donald Trump doesn’t lead the way when it comes to international drug diplomacy, and money launderers like him are already switching their gears to made-to-fail presidential campaigns in order to take advantage of Citizens United to wash their dirty money as U.S. banks fall under increased international scrutiny and foreign competition from Chinese investment firms.

    The amazing thing about these changes to regulate our drug policy and confront the organized crime within our own DOJ and the Controlled Substances Act is that WE, ordinary motivated citizens, through advocacy from NORML, the MPP, the DPA and even and growing Hemp History booths are educating, donating and making the effective improvements to our made-to-fail drug policy. The industries of prohibition are grasping at straws to keep their lost and drifting boat afloat, and are already investing in alternatives in a new legalized drug economy. DEA agents are defecting and going to work as consultants for Marijuana Investment Firms. We even made the director if the DEA resign because we finally have enough Congressman on our side to pass pro-marijuana legislation and conduct adequate internal investigations of an agency gone infectiously rogue. We are revealing to the world that the Controlled Substances Act is a threat to our national security and that Snowden’s revelation of DEA surveillance programs and their S.O.D. “Parallel evidence” deception is violating the basic Constitutional rights domestically terrorizing American citizens with civil asset forfeitures without due process. WE are doing this, every time we contact our Congressman and let them know we vote. WE are taking back our liberty every time we help protect the rights of others, foreign or domestic, from the ravages if our barberous drug policies.
    There is more work to be done, but when we consider what and who were up against, the sweeter the victory.

  14. Prohibitionist Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has recently been diagnosed with cancer. In May of this year he vetoed legislation that would have decriminalized marijuana paraphernalia, under the specious argument that if police saw someone toking while driving they couldn’t do anything to prevent it, which was debunked immediately by an MPP spokesperson.

    Now, in June of this year the governor has been diagnosed with cancer. Like Pennsylvania Senator Mike Folmer and other politicians who come down with cancer they often quickly change their positions on legalization when they’re the ones, when it’s they who have the cancer, when they’re the ones who are affected and can benefit from cannabis.

    Senator Mike Folmer is now THE leading Republican proponent in a public office in Pennsylvania who is putting forth legalization legislation.

    Someone needs to pull Governor Hogan aside and get him some medicine to help him when he has little to no appetite and feels like total shit from the cancer treatment. As a cancer patient battling for years now already, I never wish cancer on anyone just so they’ll have to suffer to have them change from prohibitionist to legalizer.

    I’m thoroughly convinced cannabis can help the governor cope better with his treatment for cancer, and that it can improve his quality of life immensely for the better. There’s no need for him to suffer needlessly just because cannabis is illegal at the federal level. He’ll need some kind of paraphernalia as a delivery method to relieve his suffering, and I’m sure with his attitude he definitely will not be driving under the influence.

    Best of luck, Governor!

  15. “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.”

    Yet, I’m not following how come you’re under the impression specific varieties of marijuana with specific properties can not be patented… Of course they can. We have a Plant Patent Act. Lets try using logic a bit more; someone that isn’t a drug company had better start filing for their varieties patents or they will be filed by drug companies and you’ll not be allowed to even grow said varieties without their permission–even while marijuana itself is legal.

    We as a community need to stop with a stupid statement that marijuana is somehow unpatentable! Of course it is.

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