Agency Removes Separate Research Barrier, Ending Monopoly on Research
Drug Policy Alliance: Next Administration Must End Federal Marijuana ProhibitionThe DEA on Thursday announced that it was not rescheduling marijuana, in effect refusing to recognize marijuana’s medicinal benefits. But in what is viewed as a victory for the marijuana reform movement, the DEA said that it was ending its monopoly on marijuana research.
“Keeping marijuana in Schedule I shows that the DEA continues to ignore research, and places politics above science,” said Michael Collins, deputy director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “In reality, marijuana should be descheduled and states should be allowed to set their own policies.”
One move that was positive was eliminating obstacles to research. “Ending the DEA-enforced NIDA monopoly is a very welcome move that will enable more research,” said Collins.
For decades, the DEA has promoted an unjustified monopoly on research-grade marijuana for use in federally-approved studies – which effectively made it impossible for scientists to put marijuana through clinical trials to demonstrate it meets FDA standards for medical safety and efficacy. Marijuana is the only substance in the world that DEA has prohibited from being produced by private laboratories for scientific research.
Although the DEA licenses multiple privately-funded manufacturers of virtually all other scheduled drugs, it currently permits just one facility – operated by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) – to supply marijuana to scientists. And NIDA has a long track record of obstructing medical marijuana research – by manufacturing intractable delays, providing poor quality research material, and not providing marijuana for multiple FDA-approved studies. The announcement today should change that reality.The DEA has been forced to respond to Congressional movement on marijuana. The CARERS Act, sponsored by Senators Booker, Paul, and Gillibrand, contains provisions to end the DEA-mandated NIDA monopoly. Last year, the Obama Administration removed other research barriers that CARERS sought to eliminate.
“Marijuana prohibition ruins thousands of lives every year through meaningless arrests – disproportionately impacting people of color,” Collins said. “Thankfully, voters in numerous states are legalizing marijuana through ballot initiatives. The next Administration must move quickly to end federal prohibition, and undo this destructive and racially-biased policy.”
“President Obama always said he would let science — and not ideology — dictate policy, but in this case his administration is upholding a failed drug war approach instead of looking at real, existing evidence that marijuana has medical value,” said Tom Angell, chairman of the pro-legalization group Marijuana Majority. Angell called the decision “disappointing.”Executives at New Frontier, a data provider in the cannabis industry, said they were not surprised by the DEA’s announcement to deny petition requests to change the legal classification of marijuana.
“We do not see this announcement having much effect on the growth of the cannabis industry because the industry has been working under a Schedule I classification all along and has continued to grow,” said New Frontier CEO and founder Giadha DeCarcer. “However, it could spur advocates to make a more forceful argument through legalization on the state level since they are not seeing a change in attitude on the federal level despite, 89 percent of Americans being in favor or the legalization of medical marijuana, and 56 percent in favor of adult use.”
“It is interesting, the striking contrast between the DEA stance that marijuana shows no medicinal value while the NIH website states they believe it is effective in the management of pain relief, epilepsy and certain forms of cancer,” DeCarcer said. “The NIH’s position clearly diverges significantly from the DEA that cannabis has no possible therapeutic value.”“From the cannabis research perspective, the market will benefit from more institutions being allowed to conduct research,” DeCarcer said. “A lack of access to various strains has always been an issue and this approach allows the DEA to spur more cannabis research while taking a go-slow approach on rescheduling.”
Congresswoman Barbara Lee of California agreed that the decision to at least end certain research prohibitions by ending the University of Mississippi monopoly on growing federal cannabis represents progress. “These failed marijuana prohibitions stand between patients and their medicine,” she tweeted on Thursday.
“Politicians aren’t doctors or scientists,” Rep. Lee posted on Twitter. “Marijuana research prohibitions are outdated, unscientific, and dangerous for those who need #MMJ [medical marijuana].”“Cannabis has been objectively and scientifically determined to be safer than alcohol or tobacco, and the legal status of Cannabis needs to be taken into the same context as these other popular adult-use substances,” said Mark Slaugh, executive director of the Cannabis Business Alliance (CBA). “The DEA has a vested financial interest in maintaining the prohibition of marijuana and furthering the war against it, which has locked up millions, destroyed countless lives, and squandered hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars.
“States with legal marijuana understand the safe nature of this plant and its therapeutic benefit to many patients,” Slaugh said. “The American people have accepted marijuana in mainstream society and the question should not be one of rescheduling this plant, but rather, how do we effectively regulate cannabis in a de-scheduled world.”