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Medical Marijuana Research Hits Wall Of U.S. Law

The General

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Nearly four years ago, Dr. Sue Sisley, a psychiatrist at the University of Arizona, sought federal approval to study marijuana's effectiveness in treating military veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. She had no idea how difficult it would be. The proposal, which has the support of veterans groups, was hung up at several regulatory stages, requiring the research's private sponsor to resubmit multiple times. After the proposed study received final approval in March from federal health officials, the lone federal supplier of research marijuana said it did not have the strains the study needed and would have to grow more, potentially delaying the project until at least early next year.

Then, in June, the university fired Dr. Sisley, later citing funding and reorganization issues. But Dr. Sisley is convinced the real reason was her outspoken support for marijuana research. Dr. Sisley's case is an extreme example of the obstacles and frustrations scientists face in trying to study the medical uses of marijuana. Dating back to 1999, the Department of Health and Human Services has indicated it does not see much potential for developing marijuana in smoked form into an approved prescription drug. In guidelines issued that year for research on medical marijuana, the agency quoted from an accompanying report that stated, "If there is any future for marijuana as a medicine, it lies in its isolated components, the cannabinoids and their synthetic derivatives."

Scientists say this position has had a chilling effect on marijuana research. Though more than one million people are thought to use the drug to treat ailments ranging from cancer to seizures to hepatitis C and chronic pain, there are few rigorous studies showing whether the drug is a fruitful treatment for those or any other conditions. A major reason is this: The federal government categorizes marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, the most restrictive of five groups established by the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Drugs in this category – including heroin, LSD, peyote and Ecstasy – are considered to have no accepted medical use in the United States and a high potential for abuse, and are subject to tight restrictions on scientific study.

In the case of marijuana, those restrictions are even greater than for other controlled substances. (Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, though nearly half the states and the District of Columbia allow its medical use and two, Colorado and Washington, have legalized its recreational use.) To obtain the drug legally, researchers like Dr. Sisley must apply to the Food and Drug Administration, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the National Institute on Drug Abuse – which, citing a 1961 treaty obligation, administers the only legal source of the drug for federally sanctioned research, at the University of Mississippi. Dr. Sisley's proposed study also had to undergo an additional layer of review from the Public Health Service that is not required for other controlled substances in such research.

The process is so cumbersome that a growing number of elected state officials, medical experts and members of Congress have started calling for loosening the restrictions. In June, a letter signed by 30 members of Congress, including four Republicans, called the extra scrutiny of marijuana projects "unnecessary," saying that research "has often been hampered by federal barriers." "It defies logic in this day and age that marijuana is still in Schedule 1 alongside heroin and LSD when there is so much testimony to what relief medical marijuana can bring," Gov. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island said in an interview. In late 2011, he and the governor of Washington at the time, Christine O. Gregoire, filed a petition asking the federal government to place the drug in a lower category. The petition is still pending with the D.E.A.

Despite the mounting push, there is little evidence that either Congress or the Obama administration will change marijuana's status soon. In public statements, D.E.A. officials have made their displeasure known about states' legalizing medical and recreational marijuana. The agency's position seems at odds with that of President Obama, whose Justice Department has allowed states to legalize either medical or recreational marijuana as long as they follow certain federal priorities, such as not allowing sales to juveniles. Mr. Obama has also said that he believes marijuana is no more dangerous than alcohol and that he is bothered by the disproportionate number of minorities incarcerated for possession of the drug.

Asked if there was an inconsistency between the president's stance and that of the Drug Enforcement Administration, a White House spokesman, Matt Lehrich, said: "The administration's policy continues to be that while the prosecution of drug traffickers remains an important priority, targeting individual marijuana users is not the best allocation of federal law enforcement resources. The D.E.A. is carrying out that policy." There are signs, though, of a possible shift in attitude within the federal government. In May, the D.E.A. issued new rules to increase the government's production of marijuana for research this year to 650,000 grams from 21,000 grams.

And at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, for instance, records show that at the beginning of this year there were 28 active grants for research into the possible medical benefits of marijuana in six disease categories. Most of the studies focus on the potential therapeutic uses of individual cannabinoid chemicals from marijuana or synthetic versions and not the plant itself. Furthermore, a dozen or so of those studies are being conducted with animals and not humans. Additionally, other National Institutes of Health entities have been supporting marijuana research. As for independently funded marijuana research, the federal government has cleared 16 projects since 1999, 13 of them at the University of California, San Diego. Moving the drug to a less restrictive category could do more than reduce some obstacles to research, proponents say. It would be a significant step toward allowing doctors around the country to prescribe the drug. Federal lawmakers say it could also permit medical marijuana operations that are legal at the state level to take business deductions on their federal taxes.

Dr. Sisley's predicament shows that even in states like Arizona, where medical marijuana is legal, the matter remains politically volatile. Last month, Arizona authorized the use of marijuana for patients undergoing conventional treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder. Dr. Sisley's study is supposed to use five different strains of marijuana that would be smoked or vaporized by 70 veterans. The goal is to develop a marijuana drug, in plant form that would be smoked or vaporized, approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Her firing seemed to stem from a fight over money. In March, the Arizona House passed a Republican-sponsored bill designed to provide her project with some funding from fees collected in the state's medical marijuana program. But the measure died when State Senator Kimberly Yee, a Republican who is the chairwoman of the Education Committee, refused to put the legislation on the panel's agenda. Ms. Yee said at the time that she preferred the funds be used for antidrug education.

Angry about her opposition to the bill, a group of veterans began a recall effort against Ms. Yee. Some of those veterans had been treated by Dr. Sisley in the past, and Senate leaders concluded that Dr. Sisley herself was involved in the campaign. The State Senate president, Andrew Biggs, called the university's chief lobbyist, Tim Bee, to complain that Dr. Sisley seemed to be lobbying too aggressively and inappropriately. "Tim said he would call me back after he found out more," Mr. Biggs said in an interview. "And then he did and told me, 'This will not be a problem going forward.' "

In April, a university vice president, who said he was calling on behalf of the president, Ann Weaver Hart, told Dr. Sisley that Mr. Biggs thought she should resign, Dr. Sisley recounted. In June, she received a letter from the university saying her annual employment contract would not be renewed as of Sept. 26. Dr. Sisley denied participating in the recall effort. She acknowledged talking to senators and their aides about funding, but as a member of the Arizona Medical Association. "The university could not take the political heat from the hyperconservative legislators and fired me and deserted all these veterans who have been fighting alongside me for years," she said.

A university spokesman, Chris W. Sigurdson, said that while university policy prevented him from discussing specifics about Dr. Sisley's case, the school had not been pressured to fire her. (Mr. Biggs also denied trying to get her fired.) He added that the university had proposed that another faculty member take over the project as lead investigator. Late last month, the university notified Dr. Sisley that it had denied her appeal for reinstatement. Rick Doblin, founder and executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, which is sponsoring Dr. Sisley's research, said he would now try to persuade the Arizona Board of Regents to allow the study to continue at another state institute with Dr. Sisley as the lead investigator. Mr. Doblin said he was committed to staying with her as the lead investigator and would help her look for an alternate research location. A switch to a new study location would require further regulatory review for the proposed research, which still needs another approval from the D.E.A., Mr. Doblin said.

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News Moderator - The General @ 420 MAGAZINE ®
Source: Nytimes.com
Author: Serge F. Kovaleski
Contact: Contact Us
Website: New York Times - Medical-marijuana-research-hits-the-wall-of-federal-law
 

guy4

New Member
To Dr. Sisley if you get a chance to read this,

Perhaps this is a different way to do your research. As I read it, vets can obtain Marijuana for PTSD or pain in your state already. If so then you can find a group of vets who have medical use cards and if you make it known which strains you wish to research and who they can get them from, you should be able to do the study. It would fully legal at the state level, but you would not get paid other than kudos for doing the research.
 

billwhit

New Member
I'm a disabled Vet who has occasional bouts of PTSD, along with Hep C and chronic back pain from my military injury. I have also had a Liver Transplant, in 2005, because of the Hep C, which my doctor said I must have gotten back in the 70's for it to do so much damage. I used Cannabis since I was 17, for fun, but now at 62, I use it to take my aches and pains away and it helps with my PTSD also. After my transplant, my doctor recommended cannabis but where I live, it is illegal, but he said it would be the best thing I could use for my condition if I knew where to get it. So sad that our Federal Government is so ignorant of the goodness of cannabis, sure is a hindrance for our Vets and other patients who could benefit from it.
 

guy4

New Member
Bill,

I feel for you as you helped your country and you can't even get a simple herb to help you. The doctors probably will give pain meds but they usually are against anything not in a pill form or can be a controled dose. I did a check of Austria and found llike you said that it's illegal but can still be gotten on the street.

I believe that if and when the United States legalizes it most of the world will do the same.
As it stands it seems when the United States created the war against drugs back in the 60s all other countries who had anything to do with the US did the same. This war never did any good other than to raise prices for the many cartels who provided drugs. I only want Marijuana to be legal as I know nothing else can have a decent argument to legalize other drugs.

Already Canada, Mexico, and other countries have relaxed their pot laws, making me believe it will continue even to your country.

I wish you well and hope you can find relief some way.
 

billwhit

New Member
Thanks, guy4, for the nice remarks. I went years without, when I first moved to Austria, eventually meeting someone how had connections. I ended up buying 400 and 650 watt HPS and growing my own, but the cost of electricity was just too much, just for a personal stash. I now have someone who has been growing his own for decades, in fact, that is all he has done in his fifty years, and every couple of months I make a run to Vienna. Since I only use a Dugout one hitter, it lasts a lot longer, and every two months he has a new crop finished, and all of it is top grade! I get around 30 grams for 200 euro ($267.) every two months and usually have about a gram left at the end of two months, and that is indulging from 9am till I go to sleep, lol! I know lots of people here, but really only have had one friend in 24 years, and he doesn't indulge, so I am alone in my highness, lol! Oh well, it works out for me, and my ten grandkids provide plenty of laughs, lol! Course, none of them have any idea what grandpa does, just that he's a lot of fun and crazy, lol! Since I am retired and everything we have is paid for, the output for my medication is no problem at all. God Bless!
 

guy4

New Member
Bill,

I am very glad you have a solution which helps. If you ever want to go back to growing your own, please take a look at LED lights. They range all over the place as far as price goes. I know that for the most part they are only using about 1/3 of an HID as far as elect. goes. They still need ventilation so you will need fans to keep the temp down, as all I have seen just put the heat back into the room or tent you are growing in. It's a fun hobby as well, and you can get great results for your efforts.

Have a great day,
Guy
 

billwhit

New Member
I have been checking out the LED's but the ones over here are very expensive. I did grow outdoors for a few years. I have a house on the edge of a small village, in Hungary, that is my "get away from it all" hideout, and I would have four or five outside. Only problem was that there is so much dirt weed growing in Hungary that my girls would always get pollinated. I always enjoyed growing, watching the tops develop, using the microscope to check out the resin glands and feeling how sticky they are. And the smell is wonderful, lol! Maybe again one day. My cousin, also from Oklahoma, moved to Colorado when they legalized and is now growing his own. He is a year or two older than me, around 64, and I have never seen him happier, lol!
 

guy4

New Member
Bill,

So sorry to hear that outside doesn't work for you. I believe that will be true in the US as well, mostly because many states want to grow hemp for other purposes and of course it doesn't have any THC but will pollinate any good bud out there. I normally would recommend using a small green house which would get rid of the problem but you would have to filter all air in and out to make sure. This would cost a bit but can be made from a few 2x4s and a lot of plastic and electric for fans filters and whatever you want to use like soil or hydro.

I wish I had the money to come over there and help set up something. It would be a lot of fun, and I am sure it's really nice where you live.

Take care,
Guy
 

billwhit

New Member
I love growing but I have a friend, as I said, that has been growing since he was 15, he is now 50, just a kid compared to me, at 62, lol! Every two month, right on schedule, he has a new crop ready and each time it is a different type. So, he keeps me supplied with some of the kindest buds around this area. I am going to keep checking out the LED's. They are like everything else, when they first come out, they are expensive, but with time, the price goes down. Oh, it is nice here in Austria, but way too crowded and too many Liberals for me, lol! Great people over here, once you get to know them.
 
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