Pro: Marijuana studies smoke out confusion
Marijuana is many things to many people: A drug, a medicine, a plant, a lifestyle and a gateway to the abuse of other substances.
The wide range of opinions on marijuana in the U.S. comes from the contradictory and confusing influences we have around us. As children, programs like Drug Abuse Resistance Education tell us that weed is a horrible substance, which is a gateway to a ruined life where soon you’ll be giving handjobs under bridges for crack.
Yet, we now have 20 states, including Arizona, where marijuana is issued as medicine for certain conditions. Meanwhile, Colorado and Washington have legalized recreational usage. Also, as we’ve grown up, we’ve become increasingly aware of the constant use of the drug around us. We know people who have used it, or do use it, and have had nothing happen to them.
However, more than half the states do not have laws that allow use in any capacity, and even in states where there are medicinal laws, there is the potential for raids by federal law enforcement. In Washington last year, four medicinal marijuana dispensaries were raided by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
With all of the controversies and seemingly contradictory information coming out, it would seem the best thing to do would be to perform more studies — use science to prove and disprove everything and give us an accurate picture of what marijuana is. However, to perform these studies scientists, must traverse a gauntlet of legal hurdles.
Shaunacy Ferro described the process of approval, without delving into the issues of funding, in an article for Popular Science.
“To do clinical research with marijuana, you need a DEA license, and you need to get your study approved by the FDA,” Ferro writes. “When it comes to actually obtaining research-grade marijuana, though, you have to go through the National Institute on Drug Abuse.”
Even those who have the most noble of motives, like Dr. Sue Sisley, a researcher at the University of Arizona College of Medicine — Phoenix, who is attempting to study how medicinal marijuana could help veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, are stuck fighting in legal trenches to perform their studies.
Sisley’s struggle has gained national attention over the three years she has been trying to conduct the study. She’s closer now, but still unable to actually conduct her experiment.
In an interview with the Daily Wildcat in March, Sisley described some of the hoops she had jumped through to perform the study.
“The frustrating thing now is … I haven’t been able to get any information from the university about where they will actually allow this marijuana study drug to be stored,” Sisley said. “They have to find a home for it somewhere.”
The article explains that though Sisley has approval from the Food and Drug Administration, the lack of a storage facility prevents the study from receiving a permit from the DEA.
Even with approval from the DEA, Sisley would still need to secure funding, which has turned into another battle in the Arizona Legislature where some lawmakers fight to support bills that would allow funding, while others attempt to kill such bills.
The struggle to study marijuana prevents us from gaining knowledge about its benefits as well as its potential dangers, and it seems in some weird, cyclical way that a lack of understanding is used to prevent more studies from being conducted.
This, to me, is the greatest failure of drug policy in regards to marijuana research. It prevents the advance of knowledge when we need it.
If scientists had the abilities to research as they should, with fewer loopholes, we would know so much more, and no longer be trapped in a smoke cloud of marijuana misinformation.
— Eric Klump is a journalism senior. Follow him @ericklump.