White House removes obstacle to medical marijuana research

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Brett Levin/Flikr

By Renee Lewis / Al Jazeera America / June 22, 2015

Barack Obama’s administration on Monday took a step toward supporting research into the medical properties of marijuana, lifting bureaucratic requirements that long stifled scientific research.

By eliminating the Public Health Service review requirement, the Office of National Drug Control Policy has made researching the drug easier.

“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,” said Mario Moreno Zepeda, a spokesman for the office.

Today’s marijuana politics have long since outgrown the requirement, according to drug reform experts. Supporters and opponents of legalization alike have called for the ban into research to be lifted.

“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, the director of the Drug Policy Alliance’s office of national affairs, said in a press release.

The Public Health Service review was introduced by Bill Clinton’s administration, which mandated individual reviews of all applications for marijuana research through the Department of Health and Human Services.

That bureaucratic hurdle meant that marijuana became more difficult to study than cocaine or heroin.

Marijuana is the only Schedule I drug that the Drug Enforcement Administration prohibits being produced by private laboratories for research. The federal government limits production for research to just one facility at the University of Mississippi.

In the U.S., 23 states, the District of Columbia and Guam have legalized marijuana for medical purposes. Recent polls suggest majorities of Democrats and Republicans say they believe the decision of how to regulate marijuana should be left up to individual states.

“This is progress, but the White House should also end the [National Institute on Drug Abuse’s] monopoly on marijuana production and allow private entities to grow marijuana, thus facilitating even more important research,” Piper said.

With The Associated Press

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