|Graphic: New York Medical Marijuana Society|
|The National Institute on Drug Abuse: “Our 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”|
Nearly two years ago, the Obama Administration issued its heralded “Scientific Integrity” memorandum which said “Science and the scientific process must inform and guide decisions of my Administration.”
Coming, as pointed out by NORML’s Paul Armentano at AlterNet, just months after the American Medical Association called for “facilitating … clinical research and [the]development of cannabinoid-based medicines,” the memorandum stoked the hopes of pot activists who want to see the commencement of long-overdue human studies into the safety and effectiveness of medical cannabis.
But that was before cold gray reality, also known as the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), weighed in. NIDA, which oversees 85 percent of the world’s research on controlled substances, reaffirmed its longstanding policy of “no medical marijuana” to The New York Times.
“As the National Institute on Drug Abuse, our focus is primarily on the negative consequencs of marijuana use,” a spokesperson told the Times in 2010. “We generally do not fund research focused on the potential beneficial medical effects of marijuana.”
|Paul Armentano, NORML: “Without abrupt changes at the highest levels of government … scientists will indefinitely lack the human follow-up data necessary to answer societal questions regarding cannabis safety, efficacy and proper dosage”|
This is the federal government’s marijuana mindset, in a nutshell: That any use of marijuana is by definition “abuse”; therefore, we’ll study only “negative consequences” and not medical benefits. It’s a circular and hollow argument, but it still holds a lot of sway.
A review of the U.S. National Institute of Health website, clinicaltrials.gov, shows that NIDA’s ban of medical marijuana research continues. Though an online search of ongoing FDA-approved clinical trial using the keyword “cannabinoids” (the active components in marijuana) yielded Armentano 65 hits worldwide, only six studies involved subjects’ use of actual cannabis.
The other 59 studies used synthetic cannabinoid agonists like dronabinol or nabilone, the commercial marketed marijuana extract Sativex, or the cannabinoid receptor blocking agent Rimonabant, which keeps you from getting high.
So much for the AMA’s request for clinical cannabis research.
On the other hand, preclinical (animal) trials of cannabinoids are continuing at a record pace, Armentano points out.
Many of these studies highlight the ability of cannabinoids to manage a wide range of symptoms. But even more intriguing, Armentano points out, are the results indicating the potential to halt the development of serious diseases including cancer, diabetes and multiple sclerosis.
“Nevertheless, without abrupt changes at the highest levels of government — changes that do not appear to be forthcoming despite this administration’s public demand for ‘scientific integrity’ — scientists will indefinitely lack the human follow-up data necessary to adequately answer societal questions regarding cannabis safety, efficacy and proper dosage,” Armentano writes.