Congressional pressure appears to be mounting on the Drug Enforcement Administration regarding research on the potential medical benefits of marijuana.
The Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control heard Wednesday from two U.S. Senators (Senator Cory Booker D – New Jersey and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand D – New York) who want the DEA to loosen its restrictions on the supply of marijuana available for research purposes.
“It is long past time that we do more serious scientific research into the medicinal efficacy of marijuana,” said Daniel S. Bennett, M.D., CEO of the National Pain Foundation. “Anecdotal evidence that marijuana helps in chronic pain conditions has been mounting. The DEA’s monopoly on research supply is hurting science and perhaps by extension, many of the 100 million chronic pain patients in the U.S.”
Officials from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the Food and Drug Administration agreed with the Senators and expressed support at the hearing for removing barriers to research that have been created.
The supply of marijuana available for research purposes is grown at the University of Mississippi. Researchers have criticized the DEA for refusing to license additional marijuana producers, which they say is preventing the study of marijuana’s medical benefits and the development of marijuana-based medicines.
They have also criticized the poor quality and low potency of the marijuana that is currently available, which they say further hinders meaningful research. A DEA administrative law judge ruled that licensing additional producers would be in the public interest, but the DEA has refused to follow the non-binding ruling.
“The DEA is waging an irrational war on marijuana that is costing people their lives. They are standing in the way of research and the development of potentially life-saving medications,” said Dan Riffle, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project. “While the DEA is clinging to reefer madness, there are seriously ill people clinging to their lives who could be benefitting from medical marijuana. The DEA is preventing children with seizure disorders and people suffering from diseases like cancer and AIDS from accessing a medication that their doctors recommend and could dramatically improve the quality of their lives.”
Medical marijuana is available in 23 states and the District of Columbia.
While news of a report by the Journal of American Medical Association issued this week indicates that some of the medical benefits of marijuana might be overblown, that same report indicates that chronic neuropathic pain and cancer pain sufferers have experienced reduced pain from cannabinoids, chemicals in marijuana that produce pharmacologic effects inside the body.