Researchers looking to study the potential health benefits of medical marijuana use are accusing the government of steering its own supply of the drugs toward probes favoring keeping the drug illegal on the federal level, McClatchy Newspapers reported on Wednesday.
“Nobody could explain it — it’s indefensible,” University of Arizona assistant professor Suzanne Sisley told McClatchy. “The only thing we can assume is that it is politics trumping science.”
Sisley said officials at the Health and Human Services Department (HHS) waited three years before approving a university study into whether veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder benefitted more from smoked or vaporized marijuana, despite the Food and Drug Administration signing off on the project.
Though marijuana use is illegal at the federal level, CNN reported last year that the government still holds a patent for it.
The government’s “stash” is located in a 12-acre garden on the campus of the University of Mississippi. University researchers grow about 13 pounds of the drug per year, with much of it distributed for use in projects approved by both HHS and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). The institute reported providing more than $30 million in federal funding for 69 studies related to the drug in 2012.
Steven Gust, special assistant to NIDA Director Dr. Nora D. Volkow, disputed the criticism that the government is discouraging medical-benefit research into the drug, telling McClatchy that 5 to 10 projects in that realm received approval from his agency.
“This is an untruth that’s been put out there by certain groups,” Gust was quoted as saying. “Quite frankly I wonder if it’s not having the perverse effect of actually decreasing the amount of applications and interest in research.”
Gust told McClatchy that the government’s marijuana distribution plan fulfills the terms of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, an international treaty supported by the International Narcotics Control Board. The board, a United Nations group, has called on the U.S. to challenge the 2012 votes to legalize the drugs in Colorado and Washington.
But critics contend that the government has stifled research while at the same time hurting needy patients by hoarding its own marijuana supply while making it illegal on a federal level.
“We’ve actually had more than 100 families who are living with epilepsy move to Colorado to get access for their kids to a preparation of medical marijuana,” Epilepsy Foundation chair Warren Lammert was quoted as saying. “But marijuana that’s available to patients can’t be studied.”
[Image: “Two Retro-Styled Women In Mink Coats Smoke Weed” via Shutterstock]