Federal Government Must Loosen Grip On Growing, Using Cannabis

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People hoping the federal government would revise its policies when it comes to medical cannabis were disappointed last week when the Drug Enforcement Administration declined requests to reclassify the substance.

The DEA was acting upon petitions to remove cannabis from Schedule I. This keeps cannabis in the classification of substances “with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” Other drugs listed under Schedule I include heroin, LSD, ecstasy, methaqualone and peyote.

This legally prevents doctors from prescribing it, although the District of Columbia and 25 states have adopted policies allowing the use of medical cannabis. The Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment to the fiscal year 2016 appropriations bill, signed into law last year by President Barack Obama, prohibits the U.S. Department of Justice – including the DEA – from using money to interfere with state medical cannabis laws.

That maintains the status quo for the time being. But with the presidency on the verge of changing hands and new members of Congress sure to be elected, it’s anyone’s guess if this provision will be extended to future federal spending bills.

There was some good news last week for those promoting the potential benefits of cannabis. The DEA ruled that additional research facilities will be allowed to grow marijuana in studying its medicinal value.

The University of Mississippi holds an exclusive contract with the National Institute on Drug Abuse. It is the only facility federally licensed to grow marijuana for the sake of research. The DEA has not announced how many other facilities will be allowed to grow marijuana for research.

This latest development will hopefully open more doors for researchers who believe cannabis has legitimate medicinal uses. Having additional sites growing marijuana for research purposes will offer more varieties of the substance. This could lead to promising results in determining if cannabis can be used as a pain-killing drug.

The government’s tight grip on the use of cannabis has hampered researchers attempting to study its potential value. The lack of conclusive results, then, has strengthened the government’s resolve to keep it under Schedule I.

The objective of the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment should be put into law permanently through legislation that is separate from the annual appropriations bill. Medical professionals should oversee how drugs like marijuana are classified, not law enforcement personnel. This would ensure that decisions are based solely on the health benefits offered by specific substances along with the risks posed.

Congress also must protect the banking mechanisms employed by firms engaged in medical cannabis transactions. The threat of having their financial assets seized the moment they deposit money into a bank hinders how these companies legally operate their businesses.

Public/private partnerships should be formed within the medical cannabis industry. Private-sector firms make use of geneticists whose expertise would help public entities.

If the modest change in policy announced last week advances the work of researchers, they should be able to answer more of these questions. But if scientists continue to feel the strain of government regulations, the DEA’s policy must be altered.

People suffering from a variety of health issues deserve to know if medical cannabis could help them, but they’ll never discover this if proper research into this issue remains tied up in bureaucratic red tape. Denying treatment that may provide relief to these individuals is not a position the government should take.

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker
Full Article: Federal Government Must Loosen Grip On Growing, Using Cannabis
Author: Staff
Contact: 315-782-1000
Photo Credit: Sacramento Bee
Website: Watertown Daily Times