The Obama Administration took a significant step in the name of marijuana research today by eliminating a dated, widely criticized, bureaucratic protocol that has inhibited the enhancement of cannabis science since 1999.
The White House announced the elimination of the previously required Public Health Service review, which was a necessary step before privately funded marijuana research could be approved by the government. The call for the elimination of this protocol was made by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, including opponents of legalization. (When even those in favor of continued prohibition support a change in policy, you know it was bad — but we’ll delve more into that later.)
“The president has often said that drug policy should be dictated by unimpeded science instead of ideology, and it’s great to see the Obama Administration finally starting to take some real action to back that up,” Tom Angell of the Marijuana Majority told the Washington Post.
Until today, if researchers not funded by the government wanted to conduct a scientific study on marijuana, they would have to first submit their proposal to the FDA for review of its “scientific validity and ethical soundness.” If approved, they would then submit another proposal to the separate Public Health Service board to perform basically the same review as the FDA, which could take months to complete. If both entities approve said proposals, researchers would then seek to obtain a marijuana permit from the DEA. If granted, they could finally apply to acquire the marijuana needed for their research through the National Institute for Drug Addiction, which has monopolized federally sourced marijuana with its Drug Supply Program.
While we're no stranger bureaucratic overkill in this country, the fact that Public Health Service review was required only of marijuana research proves how skewed and loaded against reform this protocol was. Scientists seeking to conduct experiments on any other drug — including weed’s infinitely more harmful Schedule I "peers", such as heroin, cocaine, or methamphetamine — did not have to jump through the hoops of the Public Health Service review. That hurdle was saved for marijuana research alone.
Though it’s nothing new, it’s still shocking that a country whose majority is in favor of medical marijuana and whose states continue to demonstrate a forward-thinking approach toward marijuana reform would still be fighting these stacked, skewed protocols created to prohibit research, and in turn education and enlightenment.
Now let’s address why the media is so excited that an anti-legalization group publicly supported this change. Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) first made headlines when it was exposed as one of the major anti-legalization efforts to be funded by pharmaceutical companies in The Nation’s now infamous article, “The Real Reason Pot Is Still Illegal”. (If you haven't read it yet, you should.) We’ve explained the logic behind this red herring organization taking a pro-marijuana research stance (spoiler alert: it’s profit-based and total bullshit). Think I sound paranoid? Here’s SAM’s public reaction to the elimination of this protocol that they so admirably supported, delivered by the man Rolling Stone named the No. 1 enemy of legalization, SAM president Kevin Sabet.
“I think it’s a sensible change, but people are being delusional if they think this will result in a flood of research on the drug — but it’s a step in the right direction as the development of a non-smoked cannabis medication goes forward,” Sabet said.
Oh, did you just plug pharmaceutically developed "cannabis medication" while "advocating" marijuana research at the same time your pharma-funded organization is using misdirection and backhanded tricks to fight legalization? You smarmy fuck.
By supporting the elimination of the Public Health Service review, SAM gets sparsely researched headlines congratulating them on their interest in science and medicine over personal agenda — which if you have any awareness of the workings of Big Pharma should make your eyes roll so far back into your head they actually detach. (But don't worry, there's a drug for that.) SAM couldn’t have chosen a better time to take a pro-research stance and snag some positive headlines, as all logic and most political parties agree the dated protocol had to go.
But I digress.
As awareness rises, we can look forward to more of these small victories, which will in turn save our country and its residents countless resources misspent on demonizing and prohibiting marijuana. In the name of medical research, decreased prison sentences, and de-stigmatization — and throwing it in the face of money-grubbing pharmaceutical corporations — I hope it comes sooner than later.