FOLLOW UP: Why Marijuana Testing Isn’t Happening

Category: blogging about bloggingcharlotte's webcongressman on marijuanaDon AbramsEarl BlumenguerFalling Down Funny BookGovernor John HickenlooperGovernor on MarijuanaJohn HickenlooperJohn McCain on marijuanaKevin Sabetmarijuana researchMark Hawkinsno THCPatrick KennedyPatrick Kennedy on marijuanaSeizuressenator on marijuanaUncategorized Comments: No comments

I wrote a blog recently about a strain of marijuana called cannabidiol, or “Charlotte’s Web,” a strain of marijuana with virtually no THC, the substance which “gets you high.” It is a true “medicine” that is being touted by epileptic believers as a new miracle source of relief. (You can read that blog here: I received many emails from people who told me that they would support legalization of medical marijuana but they want to see more research done. What these people clearly fail to appreciate is that current laws in the United States prohibit exactly that. As long as marijuana is a “schedule one” drug, research is next to impossible. And politicians know this fact. So they ride a very funny line of both calling for more testing and blocking the very testing they seem to demand.

Arizona proposed legalizing medical marijuana. Senator John McCain is opposed to medical marijuana. “We obviously have great sympathy for those who struggle in pain or discomfort from debilitating diseases and medical conditions but this proposition is not the solution (1).” Obviously he does not need to see any actual research. His current medical knowledge is enough to support opposition to medical marijuana.

Former Rhode Island Congressman Patrick Kennedy (son of Senator Ted Kennedy) and Kevin Sabet, President Obama’s senior advisor at the Office of National Drug Control and Policy, spoke in Vermont when that state was considering legalization last year. They worked very hard to compare marijuana to tobacco and alcohol (both of which, I might add, are not even scheduled drugs on the DEA list (2)). “The bottom line,” said Kennedy “is all we need to know is what we already know from alcohol and tobacco, and that is they target kids. (3)” Scare tactics aside, is he not saying that we don’t need any testing on marijuana at all?

Politicians can stand back and say that they have not seen any quality research and they’re right. There is not enough quality research. And why, if medical marijuana is such a great idea, are there no solid numbers?

Because Schedule 1 drugs have the highest level of restriction. Researchers must apply for a license from the DEA before they can even do any sort of research on humans (4). This is obviously not approval that the DEA has been particularly willing to give.

Then you need money and actual marijuana before you can do any research. For drugs like marijuana (Schedule One Drugs) the majority of national money comes from the NIDA, The National Institute on Drug Abuse. Don Abrams, chief of hematology/oncology at San Francisco General Hospital and professor of clinical medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, has studied marijuana. He says that, the “NIDA…has a congressional mandate to only study substances of abuse AS substances of abuse. (5)” Studying medical marijuana is not studying substance abuse. So again, merely by its’ classification, government money is just not there.

Why don’t people just do the research anyway? Because at that point, even with the full consent of the people they are testing on, researchers are doing illegal tests with illegal drugs. And that is a horribly slippery slope to go down.

Oddly, there is currently a study of Ecstasy (MDMA) for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (6). Because of the way Ecstasy is made, groups do not have to go through the NIDA for funding research even though Ecstasy is also a schedule 1 drug. Recent regulations allowed for it to be made in some outside labs, funding was acquired independently, and the study proceeded (7). But because of an international treaty called “The Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs” only one group in the United States has been given control of the legal supply of marijuana and that group is the NIDA.

The schedule one classification alone states that marijuana has “no medicinal value.” Keeping it in the hands of the NIDA means that research is almost only approved to people researching its’ abuse. It needs to be rescheduled before testing can happen.

People are certainly trying. There have been several proposals to remove marijuana from the schedule 1 list, the first of which being all the way back in 1972 (8). Most recently, 18 members of Congress led by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) wrote a letter to President Obama asking him to reschedule marijuana just last month (February 12, 2014) (9). I would think, however, that given the presidents’ record of shutting down legal medical dispensaries, they will not have much luck with that bill (10).

Colorado has even taken it a step further. Having legalized medical marijuana in their state, Governor John Hickenlooper allocated a seven million dollar request to study how marijuana can affect everything from posttraumatic stress to epilepsy (11). The advantage here being that in-state funding can lead to in-state product and legal testing. It would be a first such study in the United States if it passes.

I understand the position people have of resisting supporting medical marijuana until they see more testing. It is an easy and conservative position to take. “I want to know it works, first.” Me, too. But while people are making efforts to see this happen, politicians get to ride the wave of political opinion and say that they, too, want to “see more research” while stopping that research from ever happening.

I don’t understand the “targeting kids” position with medical marijuana. My anti-convulsants sure don’t target kids. And I certainly need it, despite what Senator McCain thinks. I wish these politicians could fall down for a week and find out how much they need relief.

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