Uncle Sam is finally offering researchers a more assessable approach to studying the medicinal benefits of marijuana. On Monday, the Obama Administration announced that it would no longer force the scientific community to endure some of the bureaucratic red tape that has prevented many of them from studying the potential health benefits of the herb for nearly 20 years.
In an official notice, which is expected to be published on Tuesday, the White House said that it is eliminating the necessity for researchers to undergo a separate Public Health Service Review—a process that has been required since 1999 as part of the approval requirements for marijuana research.
Reports indicate the decision was made to eliminate this obstacle because the current politics surrounding medical marijuana have overshadowed the necessity for these guidelines.
“The Obama Administration has actively supported scientific research on whether marijuana or its components can be safe and effective medicine,” Mario Zepeda, a spokesperson for the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), told The Huffington Post. “Eliminating the Public Health Service review should help facilitate additional research to advance our understanding of both the adverse effects and potential therapeutic uses for marijuana or its components.”
Researchers have said for years that the process of seeking approval to study marijuana was a veritable pulling-of-the-teeth in desperate need of simplification. Even some of marijuana’s most infamous opposing forces have come forward recently to suggest that more needs to be done to better facilitate the exploration of this plant.
As we learned earlier this year in the case of Dr. Sue Sisley—who recently received federal approval to begin studying the effects of marijuana on post traumatic stress disorder—the procedures for obtaining a green light for an undertaking of this manner is a grueling affair that can take several years.
Not only have researchers been forced to undergo the Public Health Service review, but they also are at the mercy of the National Institute on Drug Abuse for a supply of their standards. However, drug policy experts suggest that with the introduction of highly publicized proposals, like the CARERS Act and several amendments aimed at crippling the powers of the DEA against medical marijuana states, the Obama Administration has been working to assemble progressive policies that they insist will lead to more exciting levels of reform in the near future.
“This announcement shows that the White House is ready to move away from the war on medical marijuana and enable the performance of legitimate and necessary research,” Bill Piper, Director of Drug Policy Alliance’s Office of National Affairs, said.
Although medical marijuana advocates are encouraged by the lifting of the Public Health Service Review, they claim more needs to be done, like eliminating NIDA’s monopoly on marijuana production, as well as downgrading the Schedule I classification of the cannabis plant under the Controlled Substances Act.
“Given what the president and surgeon general have already said publicly about marijuana's relative harms and medical uses, it's completely inappropriate for it to remain in a schedule that's supposed to be reserved for substances with a high potential for abuse and no therapeutic value,” said Tom Angell, with the Marijuana Majority.