Marijuana researchers need marijuana to conduct their research. That sentiment might seem obvious, but don’t tell the Drug Enforcement Agency. Back in the final months of Barack Obama’s presidency, the DEA announced it would license more growers to supply marijuana for scientific research.
More than two years have passed, and scientists are still waiting on the DEA to issue those licenses. Dr. Sue Sisley is acting as principal investigator for a landmark study on the effects marijuana has on veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. Along with the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, Sisley fought for years to attain federal approval to begin the study.
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Sisley and her team’s research have been underway for a year now, but their development could be in jeopardy, thank to bureaucratic roadblocks.
“Until the DEA licenses other growers for research, we’ll continue to be stuck in limbo, not able to do what the medical community has been demanding,” Sisley told Stars and Stripes.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse – the only federally approved source for marijuana – is providing marijuana for the study now. However, NIDA, a government research institute, is allowed only to provide marijuana for academic research, not commercial sales, which would be necessary for the next phase of the study, said Brad Burge, communications director for MAPS.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires Phase 3 trials to be conducted with the same product that would be commercially available if the trials proved marijuana safely and effectively treated PTSD.
According to Sisley, there’s really no “study drug” to conduct Phase 3 trials for marijuana-related research. Last week eight Senators, five Democrats and three Republicans, sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions asking to finalize their decision on the licenses. The Senators added in the letter they knew 26 applications had been filed. They asked for a decision by Aug. 10, which has now passed and still no word.
“Our nation’s need for meaningful, federally sanctioned research is critical,” the Senators wrote in the letter. “Research and medical communities should have access to research-grade materials to answer questions around marijuana’s efficacy and potential impacts, both positive and adverse. Finalizing the review of applications for marijuana manufacturing will assist in doing just that.”