The DEA’s disappointing announcement this month regarding its refusal to reschedule marijuana was tempered with the claim that they would begin allowing research to be done on the medicinal benefits of the plant. For over 40 years, the University of Mississippi was the only place allowed to be growing pot for research purposes. NIDA, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, tasked the university with the role of finding out how marijuana is harmful, which is something that, to this day, they have not been able to prove. Legal growers and users have described the marijuana grown by the university as extremely low quality “ditch weed.” Until now this was considered to be the only legal weed grown in the country. Despite the fact that many states have chosen to legalize marijuana, in the eyes of the DEA, it is still an illegal drug with a Schedule I classification, which classifies it as one of the most dangerous drugs next to heroin and LSD, having no proven medicinal benefits.
The Importance of Broadening Marijuana Research
The DEA’s decision to not reschedule the plant, was based on the fact that there was no evidence of medicinal benefit coming from any federally sponsored research. In fact there has been plenty of research done around the world that proves the medicinal benefits of marijuana, but the DEA will only acknowledge research done by their federally approved facility in Mississippi, which has been mainly focused on proving its harm. The small facility with its limited strains and low quality marijuana does not hold the capabilities to expand its research so the DEA will be approving new researchers. Unfortunately, their regulations are so restrictive and tight that no one wants to apply.
Growing Pot for the Feds Has a Few Strings Attached
One of the issues with growing pot for research purposes is that the seeds have to come from a legal source. The DEA is refusing to consider any marijuana grown in states where it is legalized as legal marijuana. They have made it clear that they don’t want to approve anyone with a history of working in federally “illegal” marijuana. This disqualifies all the companies who have been working in the field until now. The cost of running a facility that complies with the DEA’s restrictions is also too much to cope with for most universities. The cost of the level of security they require is more than what many companies can handle.
Opening the Door for the Pharmaceutical Business
Universities and those in the marijuana industry face heavy challenges if they apply to work with the DEA; challenges with which many do not want to deal. Unless the DEA makes the process clearer and more sensible, the only people that have a chance of legally growing pot and researching its benefits would be pharmaceutical companies. This would present an extremely disappointing but not entirely surprising reality.
Hope for the Future
Having said this, there are researchers willing to take up the challenge. Lyle Craker studies the medicinal benefits of plants at the University of Massachusetts and has been trying for years to legally research marijuana. He now has a chance to do this work. Other researchers with a passion for discovering the medicinal benefits of the plant may also have a chance to get approved if they can get the right funding. Only time will tell how the situation pans out and how the attitudes surrounding the issue changes as more and more states choose to legalize the herb.