Senators Challenge DEA to Explain Lack of Marijuana Medical Research

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There has been a great deal of cannabis-related activity this past year in the halls of federal and state governments that promise significant changes to the laws and policies of the medical and recreational cannabis industries. The latest action in Washington, DC involves eight senators sending a letter to three federal agencies demanding to know why there are so many obstacles to medical cannabis research. 

Barbara Boxer.
  • Barbara Boxer.
The letter was sent to the Department of Health and Services (HHS), Office of National Drug Policy, and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The eight senators who signed the letter include Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, Barbara Boxer, D-California, and Ron Wyden, D-Oregon. The senators demanded an explanation for why these three federal agencies have not taken advantage of ever-growing knowledge base that is being generated by well over one million medical cannabis patients living in forty states as well as the medical programs that have developed from within the thriving medical cannabis industry.

“With the patient pool of medical marijuana users growing in the United States, we believe that federal agencies have both an opportunity and a responsibility to craft a sensible research and public health strategy that allows us to generate meaningful data and conclusions from this ongoing natural experiment,” the senators wrote in the letter. “It is important that we make a concerted effort to understand how this drug works and how it can best serve patients through appropriate methods of use and doses, like any other prescribed medicine.”

The letter asked the DEA, HHS and the Office of National Drug Policy about their specific plans to facilitate research of the potential health benefits of marijuana and gave the agencies until Aug. 30 to respond.

The letter comes on the heels of a Senate Drug Caucus hearing on cannabis-based medicines and an Obama Administration announcement calling for an end of the Public Health Service review, which has been widely criticized as a purposeful logjam of unnecessary red tape designed to discourage scientists and physicians from conducting meaningful research of the medical values of marijuana. Also a bipartisan group of senators has introduced legislation that would allow marijuana-related businesses to access banking. The banking restriction has forced many businesses to operate on a cash-only basis, which creates safety issues as well as keeps a cloud of black market taint over an industry that operates legally in 23 states and the District of Columbia.

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