New Federal Policy Will Allow Universities to Grow Research-Grade Cannabis
Earlier this year the DEA stated that they would consider removing marijuana’s Schedule I status, which oddly ranks it among the most dangerous and addictive drugs in existence. Although the agency recently decided against it, rejecting yet another bid to reschedule cannabis as a Schedule II drug under the Controlled Substances Act (which would classify it as a medicine and allow it to be used for research purposes), there is a potentially brighter side to the outcome for medical marijuana proponents. A new federal policy will allow universities to apply for a permit to produce “research-grade” cannabis, signaling the possibility of further studies looking into the plant’s efficacy as a legitimate drug.
Why the Exclusivity, Where’s the Transparency?
Previously, the University of Mississippi was the only organization permitted by the federal government to grow marijuana in the U.S. A new policy that is scheduled to take effect this week, is supposed to make it possible for other universities to apply to do the same. This would mean that we could eventually see a few more academic institutions cultivating the plant for research purposes, although it remains to be seen how many applicants will actually receive approval.
Under fair conditions, one would expect to see the majority of applicants approved, and it would seem that there would be a great deal of universities cultivating cannabis within the 25 states where it is now legal for medical use, especially considering the fact that anyone can purchase cannabis seeds as souvenirs, and the Justice Department has been making little effort to curb cannabis commerce in states that have passed medical legislation.
Commercial Cultivation for Independent Research Will Remain Illegal
Although patients in MMJ-friendly states are allowed to cultivate marijuana for their own personal use, for reasons unbeknownst to us, only universities would be permitted to cultivate the plant for research purposes. It’s important to note that the universities will be growing cannabis and then distributing it to researchers for testing.
It has not been made clear why university-grown cannabis would be of a higher quality or potency than a medical crop tended to by a skilled patient or caregiver, but the truth seems to be the opposite. In fact, in terms of potency and strain diversity, the medical marijuana community in states like California and Colorado are producing cannabis that is light years ahead of the unimpressive product reported to be cultivated at UM (scientists have even been complaining about it).
Not Enough Evidence to Support Schedule I Status?
The major argument that is justifying the DEA’s stance to keep marijuana under Schedule I is that the FDA has previously stated that “marijuana has no accepted medical uses for treatment in the U.S.”
By “treatment” are we referring to the suppression and soothing of symptoms, or a complete cure for a disease? Because a long list of peer-reviewed studies show that cannabis has the potential to serve as both. Meanwhile, there are plenty of legal medications that are highly toxic at moderate doses and yet are only effective at suppressing symptoms with no real use in providing any sort of long-term cure.
By the same logic, one could contend that there’s not enough evidence to suggest that marijuana is as dangerous and addictive as other Schedule I drugs like cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamines, which are quite clearly much more devastating substances than marijuana. Even President Obama has agreed that alcohol has a much more potent intoxicating effect than marijuana, yet it remains federally legal for anyone over the age of 21.