Senators Demand Answers on Administrative Barriers to Cannabis Research

Earlier this week, Senator Elizabeth Warren (MA) and 7 other U.S. Senators sent a letter the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office of National Drug Control Policy, and the Drug Enforcement Agency seeking specific answers on a number of bureaucratic barriers to medical marijuana research.  The letter comes just a few weeks after the Senate Drug Caucus hearing on cannabis-based medicines and the White House announcement to terminate the Public Health Service review process for marijuana, which had been cited by many as one of the major pieces of federal red tape standing in the way of scientists and physicians. 

Joined by Senators Merkley (OR), Wyden (OR), Mikulski (MD), Markey (MA), Boxer (CA), Booker (NJ), and Gillibrand (NY), the letter acknowledges that there is a significant state-legal medical marijuana patient population, and asks why isn't the federal government taking advantage of this ever-growing knowledge base. The Senators note that HHS has the tools to collect data while states continue to implement their medical marijuana programs. With well over a million registered medical marijuana patients living the 40 states with that have some sort of legal protections for patients, there is a great deal of information to be gathered, analyzed and disseminated. This could take place much more rapidly and on a far greater scale than relying merely on traditional FDA human subject trials. 

The letter also seeks administrative answers regarding the DEA-imposed NIDA-monopoly on the research supply of marijuana in the United States. The forced monopoly is solely the result of DEA's interpretation of international treaties, yet some of our closest allies, such as the United Kingdom, interpret the treaty to allow for multiple license holders. The Senators asked for a response by August 30, 2015.

The level of action in the past few months at the federal level regarding medical marijuana research has been unprecedented. Even longtime opponents such as Senators Grassley (IA) and Feinstein (CA) wrote an op-ed in the Time this week seeking greater medical marijuana research.  ASA will continue to provide updates when the HHS, ONDCP, and NIDA submit their respective responses to the Warren letter.