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Marijuana Science

NIDA Acknowledges Drawbacks To Monopoly On Marijuana Supply

national institute on drug abuse nida
(image via Wikipedia)

By Danielle Keane, NORML Political Director

Members of the US Senate at a hearing yesterday expressed skepticism in regard to federal policies limiting the ability of investigators to engage in clinical studies of marijuana’s health benefits.

Senators heard from representatives from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), University of Mississippi Medical Center, Arrowhead Regional Medical Center and Project SAM on a variety of issues

The hearing’s most noteworthy moment came when Nora Volkow, director of NIDA, acknowledged that the monopoly on marijuana cultivation for research purposes ought to be amended. Currently, NIDA contracts strictly with the University of Mississippi to grow marijuana for use in research studies. This has led to a cannabis supply that is often delayed significantly and lacking in quality.

Dr. Volkow was supported in her acknowledgement by Dr. Douglas Throckmorton, Deputy Director for the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research with the FDA who answered, “Yes, I think there are advantages to a broad supply of varied marijuana.”

When questioned on whether or not other drugs in the Schedule 1 classification experience this same monopoly, Dr. Volkow said no and there was no scientific reason to treat them differently.

This acknowledgement by Dr. Volkow falls in line with a previous ruling by a DEA administrative law judge in 2007 which was later set aside by former DEA Director, Michele Leonhart.

Other topics discussed at the hearing included expanded access programs which have currently authorized treatment for 400 patients in the U.S. using Epidiolex. Epidiolex is a formulated product containing cannabidiol (CBD) that possesses orphan drug status from the FDA to treat pediatric epilepsy.

While it is clear that Senators Gillibrand (D-NY) and Booker (D-NJ) are making strides to reform federal medical marijuana law, it remains to be seen if Senator Grassley (R-IA), who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Sen. Feinstein (D-CA) will also take action.

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  • Lawrence Goodwin

    I am so grateful to The Weed Blog for this coverage of such historic public forums. My local media here in upstate New York completely fail to inform citizens about the many changes taking place on this subject. Maybe 2015–year 78 of the Anti Marihuana Tyranny–will one day be remembered as the point at which our federal lawmakers finally began to shed their collective hysteria regarding cannabis plants (although it’s hard to be optimistic as long as snakes like Grassley and Feinstein hold positions of power). Let us not forget the 1988 ruling by Francis Young, administrative law judge for the Drug Enforcement Administration, who called cannabis flowers “…one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man”(and women). Almost 27 YEARS ago!!!!! Young ruled that it would be “unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious” for the DEA NOT to move “marihuana” to Schedule II of the Controlled Substances Act. This delay does not exemplify bureaucratic incompetence. It is CRIMINAL, considering the tens of thousands of Americans who’ve been arrested since then for nonviolent cannabis offenses, and the millions more who’ve suffered in every part of the country without safe and legal access to medical cannabis. Where would cannabis research and commerce be today had Young’s decisive ruling been properly instituted? The Anti Marihuana Tyranny must be exposed and defeated once and for all.

  • Robert Dalrymple

    I hope that the momentum continues to allow for cannabis research in the United States. We also need to have other sources of cannabis for research as well. There are many amazing master cultivators that can help find the right strains to research. There are thousands to pick from so it does not make sense that we have to look at one source when we have several legal states that can help in this endeavor. Let the private sector take on cannabis research and you will likely see an amazing creative and collaborative effort that you can only get from private companies, obviously under the watchful eye of the federal government.