Drugs  
comments_image Comments

White House Drug Strategy Report No Real Interest in Studying Marijuana, Just Demonizing It

The White House’s official justification for the ongoing multigenerational drug war was light on facts and heavy on rhetoric.
 
 
Share
 
 
 
 

 The White House on Monday, with little fanfare, issued its annual (and long overdue) 2011National Drug Control Strategy report.

As usual, the White House’s official justification for the ongoing multigenerational drug war was light on facts and heavy on rhetoric, particularly as it pertained to the federal government’s fixation with criminalizing cannabis. Here are just a few examples (all of which are excerpted from a section of the report, entitled ironically enough, ‘The Facts About Marijuana‘) of your government on pot.

[C]onfusing messages being conveyed by the entertainment industry, media, proponents of ‘medical’ marijuana, and political campaigns to legalize all marijuana use perpetuate the false notion that marijuana use is harmless and aim to establish commercial access to the drug. This significantly diminishes efforts to keep our young people drug free and hampers the struggle of those recovering from addiction.”

Marijuana and other illicit drugs are addictive and unsafe. … The science, though still evolving in terms of long-term consequences, is clear: marijuana use is harmful. Independent from the so called ‘gateway effect’ — marijuana on its own is associated with addiction, respiratory and mental illness, poor motor performance, and cognitive impairment, among other negative effects.”

“The Administration steadfastly opposes drug legalization. Legalization runs counter to a public health approach to drug control because it would increase the availability of drugs, reduce their price, undermine prevention activities, hinder recovery support efforts, and pose a significant health and safety risk to all Americans, especially our youth.”

You get the idea.

Of course, none of these allegations represent anything new for this (or previous) administrations, and NORML has responded in detail to most of the Drug Czar’s claims previously. I did, however, take notice of this particular paragraph in the report, which appears under the title ‘Medical’ Marijuana.’

“In the United States, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has approved 109 researchers to perform bona fide research with marijuana, marijuana extracts, and marijuana derivatives such as cannabidiol and cannabinol. Studies include evaluation of abuse potential, physical/psychological effects, adverse effects, therapeutic potential, and detection. Fourteen researchers are approved to conduct research with smoked marijuana on human subjects.”

Only in an environment of absolute criminal prohibition can the administration imply, with a straight face, that allowing a grand total of 14 legally permitted scientists to study a substance consumed by tens of millions of Americans for therapeutic and/or recreational purposes is somehow to be construed as ‘progress.’ That total doesn’t even legally allow for one scientist per medical marijuana state to actively assess how cannabis is impacting that state’s patient population.

Moreover, this acknowledgment comes from the very same administration that on Friday flat out rejected the notion of even allowing hearings on the question of marijuana’s schedule I classification because, in their opinion, “there are no adequate and well-controlled studies proving efficacy.” Of course, with only a dozen or so scientists in the whole county even permitted to interact with pot and humans can there be any wonder why such studies aren’t more prevalent?

(By the way, remember the results last year of the series of FDA-approved ‘gold standard’ clinical trials assessing the safety and efficacy of inhaled cannabis in severely ill patients? Apparently neither does the DEA. Nor are they aware ofthese ‘well-controlled’ studies of medical cannabis. Or these.)

Interestingly, according to the DEA’s 2010 white paper on cannabis (no longer online), last year there were a total of 18 scientists licensed by the government to work with marijuana in a clinical setting. Perhaps next year there will only be ten. If the DEA and NIDA have there way perhaps by 2013 there will be zero.

As for the other 95 US scientists legally authorized by the federal government to assess the efficacy of ‘marijuana extracts and marijuana derivatives’ in animals, most of them were here last week — at the annual meeting of the International Cannabinoid Research Society. But even these ‘chosen few’ acknowledge that there work has next to no influence on the very administration that authorizes it.

Marijuana Researchers Meet At Pheasant Run
Researchers from around the world studying the effects of marijuana and exploring possible medical uses meet each year to compare notes and share their findings

About 250 scientists from around the world have gathered this weekend at Pheasant Run Resort sitting through seminars titled “Endocannabinoid Signaling in Periimplantation Biology,” and “Cannabinoids and HIV Pathogenicity,” to name a few, for the 21st Annual Symposium of the International Cannabinoid Research Society.

ICRS members meet once a year to compare notes on research studying how cannabinoids, compounds from the cannabis plant (more commonly known as marijuana) or from the brain called endocannabinoids, affect the body and how it functions.

While most attendees are scientists, many are graduate students or training scientists as well as physicians interested in learning how these chemicals might be useful in treating human disease.

“We are all around the world working on our own projects,” said Cecilia Hillard, ICRS executive director, professor of pharmacology and director of the Neuroscience Research Center at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

“That’s why it’s so wonderful for us to get together once a year so we can really share things that we learn,” she said.

For example, she said someone may be studying how bone is formed, and she is studying how the brain works.

“I learn a lot by learning how the bone is formed, and they learn about how neurons work,” Hillard said. “It’s really a lot of what we call a ‘cross-fertilization’ of ideas.”

While the society is not political, Hillard says the type of research that is done on the controversial topic of medical and personal use of marijuana is nonetheless important.

“We’re carrying out scientific investigations trying to understand what these molecules do,” Hillard said. “What we try to contribute to the debate is the reality.”

She said scientific investigation is done in a very neutral way, trying to understand what these molecules do.

“The mass appeal is, ‘is there a good use for this in the treatment of human disease?’” Hillard said. “Most of us really have a passion for looking at these molecules because there is a lot of potential for treatment of human disease.”

The findings of this research are published in scientific journals so that the information is available to anyone. She said sometimes “you have no idea the impact your work is having.” Hillard said part of the mission of the ICRS is to educate the public.

“I wish the politicians would (look at the data) but I don’t think they do,” she said.

Paul Armentano is the deputy director of NORML (the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), and is the co-author of the book Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink (2009, Chelsea Green).
 
See more stories tagged with: