The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is well known for its strong anti-marijuana stance, but now it's turning a new leaf by acknowledging that there are simply too many roadblocks to perform good cannabis research.
Last month, a number of government agencies came together to discuss future guidances on performing cannabis research. While the workshop didn't yield any massive legislative changes, it did show that some of the agencies most known for their opposition to cannabis legalization are starting to understand the severity of of the federal government's blocks on research.
Among the representatives was NIDA research director Dr. Susan Weiss, whose presentation highlighted some of the country's "cannabis research barriers." Weiss noted that there is a "complex and lengthy registration process" that researchers must go through and once they are approved they only have a single choice of where they can source their cannabis from. She also criticized the "continuing Schedule I status of non-intoxicating components of cannabis (e.g., CBC)" despite the fact that there are now medications derived from CBD that have FDA approval.
Many of these issues were echoed by Dr. Emmeline Edward - a research director for the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH).
"Despite marijuana being 'legal' in some states, the federal government has not legalized cannabis and continues to enforce restrictive policies and regulations," reads a slide from Edwards' presentation, as obtained by Marijuana Moment.
Researchers not associated with federal institutions who were present at the workshop also voiced their disappointment with the current system. Dr. Margaret Haney, a professor of neurobiology at the Columbia University Medical Center, quoted a recent statement made by US Surgeon General Jerome Adams, saying that the government's drug scheduling system is not working "as ideally as it could." Haney also pointed towards Senator Orrin Hatch's (R-Utah) Marijuana Effective Drug Study Act as an encouraging piece of legislation that she hoped to see pushed through in 2019. If passed Hatch's bill would make preforming cannabis research much easier.
While none of the agencies present called for changes to federal drug policy outright, there was a general sentiment that at the very least you need good science to make good laws. And for that you need to let the research happen.