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Federal Health Official to Congress: Prohibition Harms Research Into Marijuana's Benefits

There would be far more literature about cannabis’ therapeutic efficacy if federal regulations and agencies didn't impede studies.

June 20, 2014 | Alternet

Those who work in marijuana policy reform have long been aware that federal regulations and agencies significantly impede investigators’ ability to conduct clinical studies of cannabis, in particular those protocols designed to evaluate the plant’s therapeutic potential. During recent testimony on Capitol Hill, Nora Volkow, the director of the US National Institute on Drug Abuse, admitted this fact publicly to members of Congress. (View the entire June 20 hearing, titled "Mixed Signals: the Administration’s Policy on Marijuana, Part Four," here.)

Though Volkow appeared Friday before the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform ostensibly to speak about her recent review in the New England Journal of Medicine (a paper I previously critiqued for AlterNet here), she spent a significant portion of her time defending her agency’s virtual stranglehold on investigators’ ability to engage in cannabis-specific clinical research.

Under federal law, all clinical protocols involving the ingestion of plant cannabis by human subjects must use cannabis grown at the University of Mississippi and provided exclusively by the federal government via NIDA. Similar clinical research restrictions do not presently exist for any other drug, including other schedule I controlled substances such as heroin and LSD, both of which may be obtained by clinical investigators from privately funded, federally licensed manufacturers. So acknowledged Volkow in the following exchange with Virginia Democrat Gerry Connolly:


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