Nearly Half Century Later The U.S. Is Finally Re-Opening The Doors To More Cannabis Studies
U.S. researchers have been allowed to use cannabis from only one domestic source: a facility based at the University of Mississippi, through a contract with the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) since 1968. This has hindered rigorous studies of the plant and possible drug development. That changed recently, when the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced that it is in the process of registering several additional American companies to produce cannabis for medical and scientific purposes. This move will help in fast-tracking the understanding of the plant’s health effects and possible therapies for treating conditions such as chronic pain, the side effects of chemotherapy, multiple sclerosis and mental illness, among many others.
The fact that cannabis is illegal under federal law makes it hard for scientists to use cannabis sold at state-licensed dispensaries for their clinical research. This is a surprising road-blocker because more than 30 states have medical marijuana programs and about one-third of Americans currently live in a state where recreational marijuana is legal.
For scientists trying to get permission, there have been unlimited administrative and legal hurdles, especially since the DEA has to give its permission for all research into Schedule 1 drugs like cannabis. In 2016, the federal government signaled a change in policy that would open the door for new growers, but the actual story is that applications for new growers weren’t approved swiftly.
For Grant of UCSD, the problem with the long-standing supply of cannabis isn’t so much the quality, but the lack of different products like edibles and oils and of cannabis strains with varying concentrations of CBD and THC, the plant’s main psychoactive ingredient.
The constraints on research cannabis also have impeded the pathway to drug development because the NIDA facility’s cannabis could only be used for academic research, not for prescription drug development. Even with more growers coming online, it is still by no means easy to study cannabis because researchers need a special license when working with a Schedule 1 drug and grants to conduct these studies are hard to come by. The biggest leap forward for research would come from moving cannabis out of the Schedule 1 drug classification. There are big hurdles ahead, but this step is hoped to make next steps a bit easier.
Read Full Article: https://www.npr.org
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