Drug Law

LA Times Editorial on Federal Marijuana Research

| by ASA

Kudos to the Los Angeles Times for publishing an editorial on medical marijuana that gets at the heart of the federal obstruction of meaningful research into one of the most promising therapeutic substances.

Despite a press release recently issued by Americans for Safe Access on the federal solicitation of proposals for the production and distribution of medical marijuana, and a report published in April highlighting the government’s monopoly on marijuana research, mainstream media coverage has been scant.

For more than 40 years, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has awarded an exclusive contract to the University of Mississippi to produce and distribute marijuana for research purposes. And, although several studies in the United States have amply illustrated the medical efficacy of marijuana, the National Institute on Drug Abuse has funded most studies, favoring a focus on the supposed negative effects of marijuana. Because of a general resistance by the federal government to better understanding the medical benefits of marijuana, numerous countries have surpassed the United States on this issue.

Pointing out the government’s charade of competitive applications for the production and distribution of research grade marijuana, the Times recognized that the “rigged contest has successfully thwarted meaningful academic inquiry into marijuana’s medicinal value.”

Perhaps more importantly, the Times discerned that, “Even if the university were running a perfect program, one institution cannot fulfill the country’s research needs.” And, the Times is not alone in reaching that conclusion. The DEA’s own Administrative Law Judge ruled in 2007 that the marijuana produced by the University of Mississippi was of insufficient quality and quantity for research purposes.

By issuing a public request for applications, the government can feign a position of fairness and impartiality with respect to medical marijuana research. But, the Times rightly concluded that:

Merely shifting the contract from one institution to another, however, won’t change the status quo. That will only happen when the federal government changes policy and awards multiple contracts for this important research.

Let’s hope that editorials such as this one place the requisite pressure on the DEA and the federal government to break the monopoly on the supply of research marijuana and bring to bear the importance of better understanding all of the therapeutic benefits of marijuana.