Item 1: Los Angeles Times publishes an excellent editorial: The DEA’s marijuana mistake
But guess who bears responsibility for this level of ignorance? The DEA itself, which through its ultra-tight restrictions on marijuana has made it nearly impossible for researchers to obtain the drug for study, and the National Institute for Drug Abuse, which controls the availability of the tiny quantity of research-grade marijuana that is federally approved for production.
Item 2: The DEA responds: The DEA’s pot defense [Blowback] by Robert Bonner – full of deceptions and misdirections.
And yet the editorial is based on the myth that the DEA has made it “nearly impossible” for researchers to obtain marijuana for such scientific studies. To the contrary, not a single scientifically valid study by a qualified researcher has ever been denied by the DEA or, for that matter, by the National Institute of Drug Abuse. And there is ample government-grown marijuana, specifically for research, available at the marijuana farm run by the University of Mississippi. More surprising, as your editorial points out, is that there is still no scientifically valid study that proves that marijuana is effective, much less safe, as a medicine. [...]
Essentially, I invited those who advocate marijuana use as a medicine to conduct research and then present it to the DEA. I laid out a road map for what they needed to do. If scientifically valid studies demonstrated that marijuana was “effective” and “safe,” as the FDA defines those terms, the agency would reclassify marijuana into one of the other schedules. It is amazing that 20 years later there is still no such scientific study establishing that marijuana is effective as a medicine. And yet in the interim, the well-funded marijuana lobby, including the National Assn. for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and others, have spent tens of millions of dollars on convincing voters to pass medical marijuana initiatives based on anecdotes but not science. [...]
One can only conclude the marijuana proponents did not go this route because doing so would have shown that cannabis is not an effective and safe medicine. Alternatively, we are left to conclude that their agenda was not about marijuana to help sick people, but rather was getting voters to pass medical marijuana initiatives as a wedge to legalize the drug for “recreational” use.
Item 3: Noted scientist Rick Doblin (of Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS)) responds.
I have put my full energies for the last 20+ years into trying to conduct FDA-approved medical marijuana drug development research. Unfortunately, my experience, to which I hope you will give some credence, is exactly opposite of the open door to research that you claim exists. MAPS has obtained FDA and IRB approval for three different protocols to which NIDA refused to sell any marijuana, preventing the studies from taking place. In addition, NIDA refused for 7 years to sell MAPS 10 grams (!!) of marijuana for laboratory research investigating the vapors that come out of the Volcano vaporizer, compared to smoke from combusted marijuana.
Furthermore, MAPS has been involved for the last decade in litigation against DEA for refusing to license Prof. Craker, UMass Amherst, to grow marijuana exclusively for use in federally regulated research. In 2007, DEA Administrative Law Judge Bittner recommended, after extensive hearings with witness testimony, that it would be in the public interest for DEA to license Prof. Craker to grow marijuana under contract to MAPS, ending the NIDA monopoly on the supply of marijuana legal for use in FDA-regulated studies. DEA waited for almost two years and then rejected the ALJ recommendation just six days before the inauguration of Pres. Obama. On May 11, 2012, oral arguments took place before the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals in a lawsuit by Prof. Craker challenging DEA’s rationale for rejecting the DEA ALJ recommendation. A ruling is currently pending from the 1st Circuit. From my perspective, DEA’s rationale for rejecting the DEA ALJ recommendation is arbitrary and capricious, but of course what matters is what the 1st Circuit will eventually decide. [...]
My conclusion is opposite of yours, when you said, “One can only conclude the marijuana proponents did not go this route because doing so would have shown that cannabis is not an effective and safe medicine.”
Rather, one can only conclude that privately-funded medical marijuana drug development research is being aggressively and actively obstructed by DEA/NIDA/PHS because they know it can be scientifically proven that marijuana, smoked or vaporized, is both safe and effective.