October 25, 2015

Brookings Institution Makes The Case For Allowing More Medical Marijuana Research

October 25, 2015
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marijuana researchI am a public television and radio nerd. It was something that I developed while I was an undergrad. One of my political science professors said that the closest thing to a neutral media outlet in America that you will ever get is public media. Everything else is corporate backed, so there will always be some bias in the reporting from mainstream media. But, that’s just my personal opinion. I’m sure there are people that feel strongly one way or another, so as always, feel free to sound off in the comments.

I first learned about the Brookings Institution listening to NPR, and watching PBS news and round table discussion shows like Washington Week. The Brookings Institution is a think tank based out of Washington D.C. that has had some recent publications dealing with cannabis reform. John Hudak Ph.D. (Fellow, Center for Effective Public Management) and Grace Wallack (Senior research assistant, Governance Studies, Center for Effective Public Management) at the Brookings Institution recently authored a piece that dealt specifically with the issue of the need to remove barriers to marijuana research.

The ‘we need more research’ dragging the foot argument is one of my biggest pet peeves in politics. So many politicians go to that position when asked if they support marijuana reform. They just shrug their shoulders and act like they want to see more research, but also act like they are powerless to do anything about it. If an elected official truly wanted to see more research for marijuana, they would do something about it. But instead they just refer to it like there’s nothing that can be done about the situation, and hope that people just quit asking about it.

If marijuana is truly dangerous, then reform opponents shouldn’t have anything to worry about when it comes to research. However, all prohibitionists will fight research at all costs because they know that once the truth gets out there, officially and extensively, so many of their arguments will be debunked instantly. The reform community is perfectly fine with more research. What we are not fine with is sitting around talking about it, but not being allowed to actually ever see it being done like we see with so much other research. The piece by John Hudak and Grace Wallack dives really deep into this subject, and asks a lot of questions and explores some answer about what it would take for the federal government to open up the ability to research marijuana on an equal scale to other medicines.

Below is more about the document from the Brookings Institution. You can read it in its entirety at this link here:

Of all the controlled substances that the federal government regulates, cannabis is treated in unique ways that impede research. Specifically, the U.S. government has held back the medical community’s ability to conduct the type of research that the scientific community considers the experimental gold standard in guiding medical practice. Thus, the use of cannabis for medical treatment is happening in states based largely on anecdotal or limited science. In many cases, patients and doctors operate according to a learn-as-you-go approach—a situation that is inexcusably the fault of federal policies failing to keep pace with changing societal views and state-level legal landscapes.

In “Ending the U.S. government’s war on medical marijuana research,” authors John Hudak and Grace Wallack argue that it is time for the federal government to recognize the serious public policy risks born from limited medical, public health, and pharmaceutical research into cannabis and its use. As medical marijuana becomes increasingly accessible in state-regulated, legal markets, and as others self-medicate in jurisdictions that do not allow the medical use of cannabis, it is increasingly important that the scientific community conduct research on this substance. However, statutory, regulatory, bureaucratic, and cultural barriers have paralyzed science and threatened the integrity of research freedom in this area.

Hudak and Wallack explore the specific federal government policies that limit medical marijuana research and detail the consequences of those policies for the medical community and for public policy. They also examine some of the existing proposals that seek to ameliorate these challenges, concluding that some are meaningful and would make substantive changes that advance medical research, while others are narrow-sighted, misunderstood, and fail to provide the type of large-scale change necessary to achieve reformers’ desired goals. Analyzing the efficacy of one often-proposed solution, the rescheduling of marijuana from a Schedule I narcotic, Hudak and Wallack argue that this specific policy proposal is limited in its ability advance constructive medical research.

Ultimately, the authors recommend a more comprehensive set of policy reforms that will liberate the medical community in its pursuit of research into marijuana.

Follow John Hudak Ph.D. on Twitter.


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