This story was first published by Cannabis Now Magazine.
The federal government is reportedly taking steps to more easily facilitate the research of medical marijuana. The Obama Administration published a notice in the Federal Registry indicating the elimination of some bureaucratic restraints that have continued to stymie cannabis research for nearly two decades.
This crucial announcement reveals that the White House has abolished the Public Health Service (PHS) Review that has been required of researchers seeking permission to study medical cannabis since 1999. The removal of this extra step now puts marijuana closer to a level playing field as other controlled substances that have not been forced to undergo an extra review before research can commence.
The decision to eliminate the PHS review, according to reports, comes as the political opinion of medical cannabis continues to outshine the need for ultra-restrictive obstacles that have kept this plant, largely, in the dark for almost 20 years.
“The Obama Administration has actively supported scientific research on whether marijuana or its components can be safe and effective medicine,” said Mario Zepeda, a spokesperson. “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.”
One of the biggest complaints among researchers seeking to study marijuana is that it’s next to impossible to get past the federal government’s unreasonable guidelines. Even those who staunchly oppose the legalization of cannabis, including Kevin Sabet, have come forward recently to express their disdain for Uncle Sam’s efforts to prohibit a serious exploration into this plant.
Lawmakers, however, are encouraged by the Obama Administration’s decision to chip away at the wall that stands between cannabis finally being recognized as an accepted treatment option for various conditions and diseases.
In a press release, Representative Earl Blumenauer of Oregon said, “Today’s decision by PHS is a significant step toward improving an antiquated system that unfairly targets marijuana above and beyond other substances in research. I hope this action will facilitate easier access to marijuana for medical researchers. Considering the widespread use of medical marijuana, it is absolutely essential that we allow doctors and scientists to research the therapeutic benefits and risks of its use. There is still more to be done to ensure this happens. I am working on legislation to address these issues, and I look forward to working with the Administration and my colleagues in Congress to further increase research.”
Drug policy reform advocates also chimed in on the news of the Obama Administration’s latest contribution to marijuana reform.
“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,” said Bill Piper, Director of Drug Policy Alliance’s Office of National Affairs. “This is progress but the White House should also end the NIDA’s unique monopoly on marijuana production and allow private entities to grow marijuana, thus facilitating even more important research.”
Other cannabis advocates agree that while the elimination of the Public Health Service Review is a good start, more needs to be done to unleash the leaf.
“The next step should be moving marijuana out of Schedule I to a more appropriate category, which the administration can do without any further congressional action,” said the Marijuana Majority’s Tom Angell. “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.”