The Obama administration just announced that marijuana researchers will now have to overcome fewer obstacles to obtain federal clearance.
The last week has seen exceptionally positive reforms regarding medicinal marijuana in the United States. A week after the public received word that the Drug Enforcement Administration was increasing federal marijuana production quotas, the Obama administration announced that marijuana researchers will now have to overcome fewer obstacles to obtain federal clearance.
Prior to this revision, independent researchers were required to endure lengthy review processes from the Public Health Service (PHS) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in order to obtain approval for research.
While the fundamental goals behind these review processes are aimed at quality assurance, such bureaucratic systems also tend to delay lab trials. In order to boost efficiency, the Obama administration removed the committee in charge of the PHS reviews, leaving researchers with only the FDA’s Investigational New Drug (IND) procedure to approve their studies. As Mario Moreno Zepeda, spokesperson for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, told the Huffington Post:
“The Obama administration has actively supported scientific research on whether marijuana or its components can be safe and effective medicine. 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.”
Regulations regarding product supply remain untouched as the DEA and National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) refuse to surrender their monopoly on marijuana for scientific research to private growers─a position long criticized by advocates who claim that the marijuana supplied by NIDA is low quality and not relative to the higher potency of marijuana sold on the street. To be fair, in response to the ongoing criticism, NIDA altered their growing methods and developed a wider “menu” for researchers to choose from.
The current procedure for non-government funded marijuana research consists of a review of ethics, scientific integrity, proper conduct, and the safety of test subjects as well as procuring a DEA-issued registration for Marijuana. After this procedure is complete, researchers are able to contact NIDA and place an order for the amount and type of marijuana they need for their studies.
Let us hope that these new changes, including the DEA’s recent increase in research marijuana production quotas, are transparent. If they are, the U.S. government has finally taken a series of progressive steps in the realm of cannabis—even if they are baby steps).
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