Research into the medical efficacy of marijuana could be significantly expanded under a new policy announced this month:
The Obama administration is planning to remove a major roadblock to marijuana research, officials said Wednesday, potentially spurring broad scientific study of a drug that is being used to treat dozens of diseases in states across the nation despite little rigorous evidence of its effectiveness.
The new policy is expected to sharply increase the supply of marijuana available to researchers.
And in taking this step, the Obama administration is further relaxing the nation’s stance on marijuana. President Obama has said he views it as no more dangerous than alcohol, and the Justice Department has not stood in the way of states that have legalized the drug. [New York Times]
Although a wealth of data does exist illustrating the medical benefits of cannabis, scientists have historically faced obstacles in obtaining it for research purposes. Until now, the only official supply available for approved scientific study has been grown at the University of Mississippi, which researchers often found difficult or impossible to access. Additionally, scientists have expressed concern that the available strains lacked the diversity and elevated cannabinoid content commonly produced by expert cultivators serving patients in regulated medical marijuana programs.
In order to address these issues, academic institutions will now be able to apply for federal licensing to produce research-grade cannabis. This has the potential to create a diverse supply that better reflects the variety and high quality of commercially available medical cannabis in states where it is legally available to patients. Although it is not yet known how many cultivators will be licensed, the possibility of being able to choose between suppliers and seek out specific strains is exactly what researchers have been hoping to see.
In our daily work with medical marijuana patients suffering from a wide range of conditions and symptoms, we’ve seen countless incredible outcomes. Existing data, though impressive, do not yet reveal the complete picture we need in order to understand how and why medical marijuana works so well for so many people. The answers we seek are now closer than ever to be being realized, and this creates exciting new possibilities for patients, physicians and policy makers seeking to understand the importance of cannabis medicines.