Earlier today, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) announced they will lift the public health service (PHS) review on marijuana research projects not funded by the federal government. The PHS review process was established in 1999 following a 1998 Institute of Medicine report that called for more in depth scientific research on marijuana. While the process was intended to facilitate greater research today it is broadly recognized as undermining legitimate scientific inquiry.
"The US government has systematically impeded marijuana efficacy research, and the PHS review has played a large role in that stonewalling," said Dr. Sue Sisley. "It was a shameful tactic used by opponents of marijuana research who never wanted the public to see objective data about the efficacy of marijuana. To see the government finally eliminate this waste of taxpayer dollars is a triumph and hopefully represents another historic shift in drug policy reform."
Last month a bipartisan group of lawmakers led by Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) sent a letter calling on the Secretary of Health and Human Services to end the PHS review process. Marijuana is listed as a schedule I drug under the Controlled substances, however no other schedule I substance is required undergo PHS review.
“The elimination of the PHS review of privately-funded medical marijuana protocols is an important step forward that's taken 16 years to achieve,” said Rick Doblin founder and executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies. “The next and even more crucial reform is ending the monopoly on DEA-licensed marijuana that can be used in FDA-regulated research, a monopoly that is currently held by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Once there are privately-funded, DEA-licensed medical marijuana producers, then the question of the medical use of marijuana will be evaluated by the FDA based on scientific data, the same as with all other drugs."
Since 2009 Dr. Doblin and Dr. Sisley have been attempting to conduct a major research study on using marijuana to treat post traumatic stress disorder. On March 12th, 2014 the Department of Health and Human Services approved the research study. Later that year the state of Colorado awarded a 2 million dollar grant for the study. Despite these developments the study still continues to wait for NIDA to deliver the marijuana necessary to begin. The DEA has refused to issue additional licenses to grow marijuana for research purposes citing international treaties as the reason for not doing so, despite other treaty parties such as the United Kingdom issuing multiple licenses.