How the Government Impedes Scientific Research on Marijuana

How the Government Impedes Scientific Research on Marijuana February 28, 2013

This past weekend was the National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference in Washington, DC, and a theoretical physicist from Cal Tech gave a talk in which he laid out the many ways that the federal government impedes scientific research into the potential medical benefits of marijuana and then uses that lack of research to justify continued obstruction.

The most blatant example of this behavior came last year, when NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse) blocked an FDA-approved clinical trial testing marijuana as a remedy for post traumatic stress disorder, PTSD. It’s especially sad to note that the study participants were veterans, with PTSD deemed untreatable by other means. After 12 years of war, this is how we treat them. […]

As a physicist, I can assure you that this not how physics works. … We are all expected to act like grownups and accept it gracefully as experiments prove our favorite theories are false. In physics, unlike marijuana policy, we consider the right message to send to be the message that’s true. […]

Consider what American science might look like if all research were run like marijuana research is being run now. Suppose the Institute for Creation Science were put in charge of approving paleontology digs and the science of human evolution. Imagine what would happen to the environment if we gave coal and oil companies the power to block any climate research they didn’t like.

There is a bill in Congress that would remove federal oversight authority over marijuana research from the NIDA. I suspect it has about a zero chance of passing because the moment it came up our eager legislators would go all Reefer Madness on it.

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  • Well, many of our lawmakers can speak from personal experience that marijuana use is bad for you: look what it turned them into!

  • hunter

    The coal and oil companies already have the power to block any climate change research they don’t like, which is all of it — at least, all of it that gets any federal funding.

    Otherwise, words fail me, not because I’m shocked and amazed, but because I’m not.

  • Nixon’s dead and the hippies retired, but Nixon’s still fighting the hippies.

  • janiceintoronto

    As a licensed medical marijuana user I can say that this article is, unfortunately, right on the money. The demonization of marijuana is -still- pervasive in Ottawa, in the person of our Prime Minister. The government is ignoring the scientific evidence of the safety of marijuana and prefers to make policy with their eyes and ears closed to reason.

    Medical marijuana works, and needs to be made legal everywhere.

    At present it is estimated that marijuana’s LD-50 (fatal dose) is around 1:20,000 or 1:40,000. In layman terms this means that in order to induce death a marijuana smoker would have to consume 20,000 to 40,000 times as much marijuana as is contained in one marijuana cigarette. NIDA-supplied marijuana cigarettes weigh approximately .9 grams. A smoker would theoretically have to consume nearly 1,500 pounds of marijuana within about fifteen minutes to induce a lethal response.

    No one has ever been able to generate a death from overdose of marijuana.

  • kermit.

    As soon as we repealed Prohibition, we made cocaine and marijuana illegal. (After all, who uses them except Mexicans, colored folk, and jazz musicians?) There were well-established federal agencies in place to fight drug use, so we established new anti-drug use policies to keep all of the interested parties employed.


    Decriminalizing these recreational drugs, especially marijuana, would produce taxable income, keep people who are otherwise non-criminal (like vets with PTSD) gainfully employed, save on law enforcement costs, and stop funding criminal gangs. Our anti-freedom drug policies have caused much pain and cost billions in Latin America over the decades.


    By the way, for any fans of Reefer Madness out there, I recommend Googling Catnip, Egress to Oblivion .

  • TGAP Dad

    I am conflicted on this one. On the one hand, I like research to be conducted fairly and impartially. On the other, this obsession with studying it, specifically, looking for therapeutic benefits, just reeks of deciding on a “cure” and looking for justification. Of the known or claimed therapeutic benefits of marijuana, none is as good as the actual, clinically-tested, inexpensive, safe, pharmaceuticals currently on the market for those conditions. There is no condition for which marijuana is the standard of treatment, or even part of the regimen. I have casual social relationships with several doctors, and they universally agree that the only patients who come to them looking for a med card, are only looking to have an official stamp to get baked.

    Be that as it may, I would really like to see a more robust body of research on the effects of marijuana on humans, and it would be nice if this research were conducted honestly and ethically.

    The other dimension to this issue, is the effects on some young people who really get hooked on weed. I have a son who at one point in time was a promising student who excelled in math and physics before discovering a plentiful supply of cheap weed. Now he’s a college dropout (actually flunk-out) with a part-time minimum job and no motivation to do anything but smoke more weed. So you’ll understand why I’m a little hesitant to enthusiastically endorse the squandering of scarce research money on finding a justification for pot acceptance. And yes, I understand that this is not the fate of everyone who takes a pull on a bong, it is the fate of some. Maybe we could research why that is the case.

  • The “catnip, egress to oblivion” is OMG funny!

  • Oops, sorry about the video link. I wish there was a “delete dumb link” option…

    On the other, this obsession with studying it, specifically, looking for therapeutic benefits, just reeks of deciding on a “cure” and looking for justification.

    Yeah. I think “I want to get high. It’s my life. Fuck you if you don’t like it.” approach much better. I wish society allowed that. Since weed doesn’t do anything to me except put me to sleep, I can’t say if it interferes with my driving but there are compensating controls that can be put in place like with alcohol (which really fucks up your mind and body) or tobacco.

    I love the pure authoritarian hypocrisy on this issue. Especially since we’ve got elected leaders who used the stuff enthusiastically at various points in their lives and apparently don’t feel damaged or traumatized enough by it to disqualify themselves from running for office.

  • Peter B

    >Of the known or claimed therapeutic benefits of marijuana, none is as good as the actual, clinically-tested, inexpensive, safe, pharmaceuticals currently on the market for those conditions.


    When percocet started to damage [redacted]’s liver his doctors suggested getting a “420 card”. The debilitating headaches are not totally gone but he now has many more good days than when he was on percocet. And his liver enzymes have returned to normal.

    It took several tries to find how to take marijuana. He is a non-smoker and did not like smoking. He tried edibles. It helped. Finally got a vaporizer. It worked better.

    Due to federal laws he decided to skip a cruise vacation.