The U.S. government must "declare independence" for cannabis researchers.
That's the message of a report released by researchers at the Brookings Institution, a prestigious nonprofit think tank in Washington, DC.
"Statutory, regulatory, bureaucratic, and cultural barriers have paralyzed science and threatened the integrity of research freedom," say the study's authors, John Hudak and Grace Wallack.
Even in states where marijuana is legal, there is federal interference between doctor and patient, according to the report. Organizations such as the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) can go offside with a state's cannabis laws because of federal jurisdiction. As a Schedule I drug, cannabis is classified as having no medical value, and is subject to rigorous suppression by the DEA.
That scheduling has created a Catch-22 for cannabis research, writes Christopher Ingraham in The Washington Post.
"Research into medical applications of marijuana is constrained by the Schedule 1 designation. And the plant is designated Schedule 1 because there isn't enough research into medical applications."
That scheduling isn't just a legal definition: it's a stigma. Hudak and Wallack note that many universities avoid cannabis research because donors and parents of students might morally object to such studies. The controversial nature of cannabis has also pitted researchers against universities.
Good Science Impeded By DEA Policy
As a result, American physicians are recommending medicinal cannabis based on "anecdotal evidence or limited science." To fix that situation, Hudak and Wallack propose rescheduling cannabis as a Schedule II drug. This would:
- reduce the arduous process of acquiring licenses to obtain cannabis for testing.
- enable researchers to expand their testing on human subjects.
- de-stigmatize cannabis research in universities and society.
However, the main obstacle barring reform is the DEA itself, which has repeatedly rejected petitions to reschedule cannabis.
Instead, it has proactively pursued its Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program, even in Oregon where recreational and medical cannabis is legal, and in California, which legalized medicinal cannabis in 1996.
DEA Is Unwilling To Bend
And it doesn't look like that policy will change anytime soon. In an interview with FOX News in September, Chuck Rosenberg - the DEA's acting administrator - didn't mince words when asked if it was time to change the DEA's policy.
"Yeah, I don't think so," Rosenberg answered. "Marijuana is dangerous [...] I wouldn't recommend that anyone do it. So I don't frankly see a reason to remove it. We, by the way, support, and have supported, a lot of legitimate research on marijuana, fully behind that; I think it's great. If we come up with a medical use for it, that would be wonderful. But we haven't."
Nor will they, according to Hudak and Wallack, while cannabis remains a Schedule I drug.