Only fourteen researchers in the United States are legally permitted to conduct research assessing the effect of inhaled cannabis in human subjects, according to data included in the White House's 2011 National Drug Control Strategy, released last week.
In a section of the report entitled 'Medical Marijuana,' the administration states, "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." However, it later clarifies that of these 109 scientists, only fourteen "are approved to conduct research with smoked marijuana on human subjects."
Among those scientists licensed to work with either cannabis or its constituents -- primarily in animal models -- most are involved in research to assess the drug's "abuse potential, physical/psychological effects, [and] adverse effects," the report stated.
In 2010, a spokesperson for the US National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) -- the federal agency that must approve any US clinical trial involving marijuana -- told the New York Times: "[O]ur focus is primarily on the negative consequences of marijuana use. We generally do not fund research focused on the potential beneficial medical effects of marijuana."
Earlier this month, DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart denied a nine-year-old petition seeking to initiate hearings regarding the federal classification of cannabis as a schedule I substance, stating in part, "[T]here are no adequate and well-controlled studies proving efficacy."
Commenting on the report, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: "Only in an environment of absolute criminal prohibition would this or any administration purport to the public that it is acceptable to allow no more than fourteen researchers to clinically study a substance consumed by tens of millions of Americans for therapeutic or recreational purposes. This acknowledgement illustrates once again the administration's supposed commitment to 'scientific integrity' does not apply to cannabis."
For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director, at (202) 483-5500 or Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director at: firstname.lastname@example.org.