If you're like me and the extent of your marijuana-research insights comes from supposition or movies like Half Baked, then you might have believed scientists studying the impacts and benefits of cannabis have long had access to the most fire of flower, the cream of the crop, the best of the herbage.
Or at the very least you'd expect researchers to have the same access as consumers. But you'd be wrong. Consumers are operating under state laws when they "experiment," but researchers and labs are typically operating under federal programs, grants or licenses — factors that have long complicated research. As reported by NPR earlier this year:
“Since 1968, U.S. researchers have been allowed to use cannabis from only one domestic source: a facility based at the University of Mississippi, through a contract with the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).”
According to cannabis clinician Dr. Sue Sisley, the head of the Scottsdale Research Institute, who has worked with cannabis firsthand, that's not the case. Dr. Sisley stated, “There's thousands of different cannabis varieties that all have unique chemical profiles and produce unique clinical effects, but we didn't have access to that normal diversity.”
She describes the test product as an "anemic" greenish powder. “It's very difficult to overcome the placebo effect when you have something that diluted,” according to the report from NPR, which went on to point out that “the constraints on [researching] cannabis also has impeded the pathway to drug development because the NIDA facility's cannabis could only be used for academic research, not for prescription drug development.”
But it looks like times are changing.
Also from NPR:"... the Drug Enforcement Administration announced it's in the process of registering several additional American companies to produce cannabis for medical and scientific purposes."
Breaking the Fed's Mississippi monopoly could certainly expand our knowledge and understanding of the numerous cannabinoids and strains in the game, and allow for more comprehensive and effective research.
"It's definitely a big step in the right direction because the industry is moving much faster than we are in research," says Michael McDonell, an associate professor of medicine and director of the university's cannabis center.
But it still won't be easy to study cannabis, he says, because researchers need a special license when working with a Schedule I drug and the grants to conduct these studies are hard to come by.
So, how much valuable research have we already missed? How much more will we miss by keeping this medicinally charged plant locked behind red-tape hell?
Letting this knowledge slip through the cracks is bad for the industry, it's bad for medicine, it's bad for the consumer — and it's bad science.