Cannabis, medicine, employment, and science

Why won’t the Obama Administration open up scientific research on the medical utility of cannabis?

The New York Times has a sad story about people in states where the medical use of cannabis is legal under state law, and who have medical recommendations to use it, who are getting fired under companies’ “drug-free workplace” rules. Those rules, which do not distinguish between being intoxicated on the job and showing up at work with metabolites of past drug use still in your system, are recommended by the Federal government (with lots of lobbying help from the drug-testing industry) but not mandated except in the transportation industry and for some federal contractors.

The story is technically imprecise on one key point: no one has a “prescription,” properly speaking, for cannabis. Only an FDA-approved medicine can be “prescribed.” What the patients have are medical recommendations, which in some states, including California, are handed out virtually by request, with no real medical evaluation.

Until and unless non-medical use of cannabis is legalized nationally – something I expect to happen, but not for at least another decade – there’s only one reasonable solution to this set of problems.

Someone needs to do the appropriate clinical research to get some strain of cannabis, or some mix of the chemicals in cannabis other than the currently legal pure THC, approved by the FDA as “safe and effective” for some condition.

For that to happen, the Federal government has to stop its current policy of obstructing clinical research. It does so both by maintaining a monopoly on the production of research cannabis for a single supplier, which in turn will supply only the government itself (and even then with only a limited range of materials), and by creating an extra bureaucratic step, not applicable to any other Schedule I drug, that makes it virtually impossible to obtain any of the resulting cannabis for clinical research.

Many advocates of “medical marijuana” tacitly or explicitly oppose the clinical-research approach, even though that puts them on the same side of the issue as the drug warriors and the Drug Enforcement Administration. They insist that no research is needed because they already know the answer. (To advocates, “data” is just the plural of “anecdote.”) And they fear, quite correctly, that cannabis as a prescription drug would be no cheaper than illicit-market cannabis, and that actual prescriptions wouldn’t be nearly as easy to obtain as California “recommendations.”

The more sophisticated among them will say explicitly (in private) that “medical marijuana” is the best organizing issue for drug policy reform, and that FDA approval of cannabis as a real, live medicine (just like methamphetamine) would take a lot of the wind out of their sails.

That’s pretty clever of them, though perhaps not very scrupulous. By the same token, it’s pretty silly of the drug warriors to have fallen into their trap.

The real mystery is why the Obama Administration, which has largely dropped drug-war language and ideology and is generally in favor of gathering and using scientific information to make policy, hasn’t changed course on this issue.

Given the overwhelming support for the medical use of cannabis found in every poll and confirmed in several referenda, and given the fact that the DEA’s own administrative law judge ruled in favor of breaking the research-cannabis monopoly and had to be over-ruled by the DEA Administrator, I would have thought the choice to let the science speak for itself would have been a no-brainer. But I would have been wrong.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

27 thoughts on “Cannabis, medicine, employment, and science”

  1. You haven't prescribedrecommended any solution for the current dilemma: What should genuine MMJ users do at present, and in the near-term?

    Also, what are the prospects of someone funding clinical trials for a non-patented product such as cannabis? Or which can be sourced elsewhere from an established market?

  2. "The story is technically imprecise on one key point: no one has a “prescription,” properly speaking, for cannabis. Only an FDA-approved medicine can be “prescribed.” "

    Ah, no, I'm pretty sure that anything my doctor writes a little note recommending I take has been "prescribed". That's what the word means after all; Approved by the government doesn't show up in the definition. Please refrain from trying to change the usage to make the FDA happier.

  3. Mark, many of us have asked ourselves what will become of cannabis. It seems too late for it be treated like an herbal supplement, making the FDA drug route seem reasonable to some, such as yourself. But I wonder if you have a sense of how a natural plant could be inserted into a system that is based on isolation of individual substances. You suggest that a particular strain of cannabis be nominated as a new drug, but I can't think of a single example of a drug prescribed in raw plant form. How would this work?

  4. But Mark, (aside from where it's legally mandated) these are private industries, and can set policy however they like for their workplace. Why should the heel of the government be placed on their necks, forcing them to hire people they obviously consider losers? It's a free country and people can find somewhere else to work.

    OK, I'll admit I'm just trying to help Brett out…. 🙂

  5. It has come to this. Mark's ideas on marijuana are so warped that Brett has pointed out a factual error and is the correct one. Prescriptions are medical recommendations. "Valid" or "legal" prescriptions may be regulated, but you can't change the definition of the word. Mark might quibble in that the the recommendation does not take the traditional form of a prescription specifying each of drug, dose, route, frequency, and indication, but plenty of prescriptions get written that are either not legal or not valid or both.

  6. Doctors are licensed by their states and are legally responsible for the prescriptions they write. If you were a physician on the stand in a malpractice lawsuit case, and the opposing lawyer asked "Did you prescribe the Oxycontin that killed the patient or did you just recommend that he look into getting some pain medication?" and you responded "Oh words are just words, let's not split hairs" you would have plenty of time to study philology in the future given that you would no longer hold a license to practice medicine.

  7. Marijuana is not a prescription drug under the federal food drug and cosmetic act because it cannot be legally marketed as a drug. It lacks an approved application.

    It doesn't appear to be a prescription drug under California law either. Section 130501 paragraph (n) of the California Health and Safety code states "'Prescription drug' means any drug that bears the legend:

    'Caution: federal law prohibits dispensing without prescription,' 'Rx only,' or words of similar import." The medical marijuana statute (section 11362 of the same code) makes no mention of a doctor's prescription. The doctor must attest in a patient's medical records that "the person has been diagnosed with a serious medical condition and that the medical use of marijuana is appropriate." This is not consistent with even the common understanding of a doctor's prescription. Doctor's prescriptions are given under the doctor's supervision. He tells you how much to take and how often and schedules further appointments to judge whether the current regimen is appropriate etc.

  8. Mark,

    California has been doing research on medical cannabis since passage of Prop 215. UCSD and UCSF are the leading facilities on this. And the drug reform community pushed for this, has been instrumental in getting non federal cannabis for use in the studies as well. Check out Cannabis Clinicians for more information about California research.

    It's also true that employment can be conditioned on not using medical cannabis, regardless of having a recommendation. A prescription for marinol provides protection, as THC metabolites from Marinol are indistinguishable from THC metabolites from raw cannabis. Marinol isn't well tolerated by many medical cannabis users with a common complaint that it makes them too high/spacey. Given the ease of titration of smoked/vaporized whole cannabis this makes some sense to me.

    Pot docs don't provide Marinol prescriptions as well as recommendations. While Marinol is Schedule III, I suppose there is fear of being investigated for over prescribing.

  9. "…that cannabis as a prescription drug would be no cheaper than illicit-market cannabis…."

    With respect to cost, what's to stop a prescription-holding patient from growing his/her own? Even if cultivation remains illegal it's fairly simple to evade detection if done on a small scale. And, the home-grown THC would, presumably, be chemically indistinguishable from that of a licit source.

  10. Mark writes, "The more sophisticated among them will say explicitly (in private) that “medical marijuana” is the best organizing issue for drug policy reform." They have said it in public as well. In his cover article in "National Review" back in 2004 (?), Ethan Nadelmann detailed the ways in which medical marijuana might pave the way for full legalization.

  11. The main issue is not whether the government is going to force private businesses to hire people who use pot with a doctor's recommendation/connivance.

    In these times, the issue is misconduct, as in "discharged for misconduct" as in "ineligible for unemployment insurance benefits."

    Oregonians are among those in the weird Twilight Zone created by the vicious drug warriors who (like Obama) enjoyed using drugs for recreational purposes but who also are among the subset of those who enjoy even more inflicting pain on those unlucky enough to have peed positive on a piss test. In many Oregon workplaces, that gets you fired and, just for fun, we take away your unemployment because, after all, what an idiot you were to think that the state's acquiescence to your growing your own dope for your medical condition (and the issuance of a card by the state attesting to it) meant that you wouldn't be punished for having a hard to treat medical condition.

    Here in Oregon where jobs are exceedingly scarce, employers are becoming very active in challenging unemployment eligibility decisions, and they have succeeded in putting medical marijuana users in a vicious and immoral catch-22.

  12. Many advocates of “medical marijuana” tacitly or explicitly oppose the clinical-research approach

    Just curious — where are all of these pro-legalization folks who seek to suppress government-approved cannabis research? I don't see any support provided by Kleiman above for this assertion, and I’ve never once met a single person who could be described that way. We all know that the truth shall set us free, and every reform advocate I’ve ever met would say “bring it on.”

    Kleiman is all over the place on cannabis policy — sometimes I really like what he’s saying, but other times he flies off the rails. It’s clear that he realizes there are fundamental and extremely harmful flaws in our current approach to cannabis, but it seems that the paternalist in him has a very hard time abandoning the idea of heavy-handed government involvement and restriction of consensual activity. I'm glad that he's calling out our government's shameful censorship of the truth about cannabis, but these lukewarm endorsements of reform can be a bit frustrating.

  13. I have never met or read the writings of a medical cannabis proponent that was against doing the required research. Actually it's quite the opposite is my observation. Perhaps you are confusing the claim that there is no research needed to determine if cannabis is in fact medicine with being against further research.

    I'd really like to see some evidence that any significant proponent of medical cannabis is against research. I am certain that you are mistaken in that assertion. I'm sure you can dig up a fringe nutcake or two with that opinion because the cannabis community has more than their share of whackos.

    As far as the research is concerned I say bring it on. I'm tired of arguing with know nothings who claim that medical cannabis is just an excuse to get high. We don't have any problem getting cannabis without the medical laws. There's plenty of cannabis available to anyone who wants it.

    In Iowa a fellow named Carl Olsen submitted a petition to the Iowa Board of Pharmacy to study whether cannabis should be rescheduled with the ultimate goal of allowing research into its medical efficacy. The Iowa Board of Pharmacy pooh-pooh'd his petition. Evidently it's not legal for them to refuse as Mr. Olsen, with the help of the Iowa ACLU, sued and a Court ordered the Iowa BoP to perform the study. After doing the study they recommended 6-0 that cannabis should be reclassified to schedule 2. From pooh-pooh to unanimously in favor. I think it reasonable to infer that there's a mountain of evidence that cannabis is medicine from this action alone. Something caused them to do a 180 and I doubt it's because the Iowa BoP is staffed by hippies. Iowa's lawmakers don't share my opinion because though because they've refused to reschedule. Par for the course though for government lawmakers to ignore studies they don't like when it comes to cannabis.

    To continue my shameless appeal to authority argument here are some more authorities that have acknowledged that cannabis is efficacious medicine:

    The Oregon Board of Pharmacy actually did move cannabis to schedule 2 earlier this year acknowledging that cannabis is medicine. They don't need to wait for their lawmakers to approve their action.

    The governments of Holland, Canada and Israel have all recognized cannabis as medicine and provide their patients directly. Germany has just joined them, but in Germany the doctors will write prescriptions that will be filled by licensed pharmacies.

    Rhode Islands legislature codified into State law that cannabis is medicine, and overrode the Governors veto of that bill. They had no regrets because after a year or two they voted for and passed an expansion of the program including authorizing dispensaries. They once again had the supermajority needed to override yet another veto from the know nothing Governor.

    Virginia has recognized that cannabis is medicine. As a matter of fact they were the first State to do so way, way back in 1978. You may never have heard about this law because Virginia's legislature only allows medical cannabis by a doctor's prescription and supplied by a licensed pharmacy both of which are forbidden by Federal law. There were several other States that also passed similar laws in that time period but I don't recall which ones. I recall Virginia doing so because I was living there at the time. It's possible that there are as many as 30 states that have recognized medical cannabis if you include the ones that passed laws similar to Virginia. The Virginia law was a reaction to Bob Randall's winning his lawsuit against the Federal government. That win resulted in the creation of the Compassionate IND program, which still has 4 participants that receive somewhere around 8 pounds of cannabis per year. The medical cannabis that the Feds provide is crap. I know this because I've met both Elvy Mussika and George McMahon and you can't end up in the general vicinity of either one without having them insist on showing of their GI cannabis. The Feds actually use a solvent to extract the THC and CBD from the cannabis they've grown, and then spray it back onto the vegetable matter before rolling the joints. They do that so that the cannabis has a easily measurable, standardized dose of THC. Anyone who thinks that cannabis can't be made to have standardized doses just doesn't know what they're talking about.

    New Mexico's legislature studied the issue and then legalized cannabis as medicine. The State licenses dispensaries and cultivation centers to meet the patients needs.

    New Jersey's legislature codified into State law that cannabis is medicine this year.

    The DC City Council voted unanimously to codify cannabis as medicine earlier this year.

    Maine's voters last year approved an expansion of their medical cannabis law and authorized licensed dispensaries to meet the needs of their patients.

    The American Medical Association this year recommended that cannabis be moved to Schedule 2 and be recognized as medicine.

    The British Medical Association recognizes cannabis as medicine.

    The California Medical Association has recognized cannabis as medicine for over a decade.

    The American College of Physicians recognizes cannabis as medicine.

    The International Cannabinoid Research Society members aren't a bunch of whacked out hippy alternative medical practitioners. I think it notable that Dr Donald Tashkin is a member. For those unaware, for a decade and a half Dr. Tashkin was the ONDCP's 'go to' guy when they needed 'research' 'proving' that cannabis is dangerous to ingest. Dr. Tashkin has repudiated all of the bogus research that he did at the behest of the ONDCP. But the ONDCP still trots out his work when it suits them. The ONDCP has no compunction in presenting bald faced lies as fact when it suits them to do so.

    Bayer Pharmaceuticals has made a substantial investment in GW Pharmaceuticals. GW Pharmaceutical's entire existence is to make whole plant cannabis compounds and sell them to sick people by prescription. Oh well, one of the nice things about the ignorance of the masses in this case is that GWP's stock is cheap. The $10,000 I've invested in their stock will make a substantial contribution to my retirement after the know nothings are finally shown to be incorrect. Steenkin' filthy rich is really not out of the question. I've put my money where my mouth is. There is simply no doubt that the endocannabinoid system is essential for keeping human beings healthy and happy. I do think that Bayer knows what is medicine a lot better than know nothing laymen or politicians with a political agenda.

    Some people give this idiotic line that the people were 'scammed' and that the result is not what they'd intended, as if that were true. So why do current surveys show that 75-80% of the people in the US actively support allowing doctors and scientists to recommend the use of cannabis as medicine? It's been 14 years since California passed Prop 215 and support for allowing doctors and scientists to make the decision of what's medicine has only increased.

    The only reason that these 'vague' medical cannabis laws have taken root is because it's the only way to get the needed medicine to the patients because of the idiotic and cruel Federal laws that prohibit doctors and scientists from making medical decisions, instead leaving it to politicians with a political agenda.

    Has anyone reading this ever woke up sick and thought, 'well I'm sick, I'd better call a politician'? Perhaps you go to a doctor, but make sure to get a second opinion from a politician? If not, have you ever known anyone who did think that? Then why are we letting politicians with a political agenda decide what is medicine and what is not? The decision should be left up to accredited scientists and licensed medical professionals. Did you know that doctors can prescribe cocaine and methamphetamine? Look up the brand name Desoxyn and google "prescription cocaine" if you don't believe me. But the fact that so many know nothings have no clue that there already is medical cocaine and medical meth seems to me to support the notion that doctors do a pretty good job of dispensing these substances appropriately.

    I could actually go on for several pages listing the authorities that have acknowledged that cannabis is medically efficacious. But I think the above amply demonstrates that the only people trying to scam the public on the subject of medical cannabis are those that claim that medical cannabis is a 'scam' or a 'stalking horse'.

    Yes, let's do some advanced research. Of course you know that means that the Feds will have to change their rule that they won't approve any cannabis research that might result in finding anything positive about cannabis as medicine. True research begins with the researcher saying "I do not know" not "how do I prove what I want to prove."

  14. daksya, it is totally untrue that cannabis medicine is not able to be patented. In fact the US government owns one of the existing patents on cannabis medicine. Just check out US Patent 6630507 titled "Cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants" which is assigned to The United States of America, as represented by the Department of Health and Human Services.

    It is totally untrue that plants can't be patented. Monsanto owns hundreds if not thousands of plant patents. The USPTO has issued thousands and thousands of patents on plants.

    GW Pharmaceuticals is developing cannabis medicine and owns some patents on certain compounds.

    I'm sure you've heard others state this 'cannabis can't be patented' malarkey but it's simply untrue, especially if we're talking about compounds extracted from the plant. If the Federal government would get their idiotic butts out of the way within 10 years whole plant medical usage would fall to zero. It is factual that ingesting whole cannabis is a very crude and undesirable delivery method. The only reason that it's happening is because of the intransigence of the Federal government. Ironic in that what the government disapproves of would disappear if they would change their attitude.

  15. Duncan20903, cannabis as in cannabis sativa/indica or its whole extract, specifically, is not patented, and is already widely used (duh) for medicinal and other purposes. So, unlikely to be patented. Specific compounds within, or obscure/exotic plants, may be patented, and I didn't claim otherwise.

    As for whole plant usage, if the approved corporate offerings are expensive, then it will persist, regardless of efficiency.

  16. As usual, the author's arguments are marred by constructing a strawman argument, without citation, about some in favor of legalization who supposedly don't want more research into cannabis, but, like their nemesis prohibitionists, prefer blind faith and ideology.

    I'm a little late to the party here, but echo the thoughtful rebuttals of readers Malcolm Kyle and Duncan20903 knocking some stuffing out of the strawman argument. I'd like to add a couple of related points.

    There have been a number of efforts through the regulating administrative agencies such as the DEA and National Institute for Drug Abuse to reclassify cannabis (the slang term "marihuana" is used in Federal Law and I believe the governing US-authored UN treaties as well) over the years since the Controlled Substances Act ignored the recommendations of the inaugural commission chaired by Gov. Schafer, at Nixon's insistence…google "nixon", "marijuaua" "jews" for Nixon's explanation in his own words from his Watergate bugged office). These included getting access to high quality marijuana for research through the NIDA and DEA, which blocked the efforts and ignored the recommendation of the hearing officer to grant the permit to Dr. Lyle Craker of the University of Massachusetts. NIDA has only allowed research or access to marijuana when it's designed to prove cannabis is harmful. The positive findings cited above came from researchers who had to misrepresent their purposes to do the research.

    Similarly, like Professor Craker's research license application's rejection last year, several petitions to downschedule cannabis from Schedule 1 (no medical value, extremely "addicitive", like Heroin) over the years, replete with scientific evidence and logic have been rejected by the DEA, usually after a positive recommendation of the Adminisrative Law Judge after a multiday trial-type hearing with experts and pre-filed testimony, followed by briefs. These reports from the 1830s on are documented on the online Schaffer Library of Drug Policy if you care to refer to them.

    Indeed, if you look at the history of research and blue ribbon panel investigations of cannabis since the 19th century's Indian Hemp Commission of the British Raj, you'll see a remarkably consistent finding that cannabis is a safe and effective drug whose toxicity and potential for "addiction" (itself a poltical rather than scientific term) is low, followed by governmental actions which ignore this research and frustrate efforts to do further research.

    So it's not "research" most reformers are opposed to. It's political interference in science and preference for Soviet style politically correct junk science over truth, Lysenkoism, if you will. It's also the "heads we win, tails you lose" position on the results of the research, where any harm or even junk science cherry picked statistics will support your side (e.g., Monitoring the Future studies of kid's drug usage, emergency room "mentions" of blood tests for drugs inferring acccident causation, impaired driving or safety based on old metabolites etc) will justify the regime and any un-p.c. findings will be buried and ignored by the powers that be.

    SImply put, the administrative agency game which controls "scientific research"{ in accordance with legal criterion and the legislative system behind it (the US Congress and UN) are corrupted institutions where no just relief from these oppressive laws will be had. Instead, state initiatives and referendums where available (mostly in the west) seem the only reasonable redress. I have no hope the NY Legislature will expand medical marijuana beyond terminal AIDS patients and not those in states where people and physicans are allowed to recommend for a much wider and more realistic range of medical conditions.

    I know how Professor Kleiman is always looking for this supposed middle of the road position that equally castigates the motives and truthfulness of reformers and prohibitionists alike, but I'd like him to put his money where his mouth is as far as this false equivalency meme he's putting out there that and please CITE the cannabis proponents who don't want research of FDA involvement more because they hate and fear science proper more than they do a corrupted bureaucracy which has proven time and again that politics trumps good science and prefers dishonest junk science.

  17. Folks, it's not hard to get permission to do medical cannabis research in Canada, the UK, Switzerland, or The Netherlands. A tiny fraction of the amount of money that has gone into various referenda (I've heard an estimate of $5 million) would have easily financed that research. Only Rick Doblin's MAPS, out of all the "drug policy reform" outfits, has even been trying to get the research job done, and MAPS has constantly struggled to raise funds as well as hitting bureaucratic roadblocks because it's trying to do the work here rather than abroad. If the "reformers" favor research, let them put their money where their mouth is. But the mantra that "no more research is needed because we already know the truth" is virtually an article of faith, as some of the comments on this thread illustrate. That's aside from the folks who resist having to get their sacred herb from a government-licensed pharmaceutical company.

    Now I have no doubt, based on the research in hand, that well-done clinical trials on the right indications would yield favorable results. But the advocates resist having to actually do the research and submit it to the FDA, because they have The Truth and anyone who insists on science is a Doubting Thomas, and probably in the pay of the DEA.

    (As to the patenting issue, of course cannabis itself, and its medical use, can't be patented. But the FDA isn't going to approve "cannabis" generically. It's going to approve either a specific mix of chemicals extracted from cannabis or it's going to approve a specific strain or group of strains, grown according to a specific method, and blended to yield a reproducible cannabinoid profile. There's plenty of room in there for intellectual-property claims. No, the first outfit through won't have a permanent monopoly; any competitor can simply repeat the clinical-trial process with its own material.)

  18. Mark, there's a significant difference in 'haven't spent millions' to get the research done, and 'are opposed' to research. I still say you are misrepresenting the position of medical cannabis advocates. But the main fallacy in your post above is that these advocates speak with one voice. That is particularly ludicrous when talking about the herd of cats that make up the cannabis community. Are you aware that there's a number of potheads who are organized to promote the defeat of Prop 19 this fall? They are fringe idiots. That they are against Prop 19 doesn't mean that all of us are going to vote no. You're use of the phrase 'sacred herb' sounds like something that would come from out of their mouths. There's only so many resources and the main priority is (and should) getting the idiotic prohibition ended. Hey, did you know I've bought several thousand shares of GW Pharmaceuticals? They are doing research on whole cannabis extracts. So I guess I think that means I have put my money where my mouth is. Sorry I don't have $5 million or even $1 million or I'd certainly consider directly sponsoring some research. One good thing that's come out of the idiocy of prohibition is that GW's stock is severely under priced, at least if there are as many significant application as I believe there to be. Oh I do see that I mentioned that in my post above.

    The really ironic thing is that the main cannabinoids that have medical utility aren't psychoactive. I admit that's my uneducated opinion but it's the only thing I can figure as the reason for the mass rejection of Marinol. There's no black market trade in Marinol as far as I know, and looking up the sales figures for Marinol support that conclusion. It's a schedule 3 drug so it's not particularly hard to get a prescription. But the last number I heard for annual sales is about $20 million, which is paltry when the OTC price of Marinol is considered. The heroin users love Oxycodone. Did you know there's less than 200,000 past month heroin users based on the government published numbers? Have people really almost quit using heroin in the US? I find it much more likely that they've migrated over to the pharmaceutical versions.

    Why do you suppose that potheads don't love Marinol? I've actually got 4 Marinol pills left over from a prescription I filled in 1993. If you knew my appetite for cannabis you would find that remarkable. The reason I never bothered getting a refill or even finish the ones I have is because Marinol is 'the one that Mother gives you that don't do anything at all,' at least for me. WRT the legitimate market it would make no sense for the large cohort of patients who reject Marinol in favor of whole plant cannabis if it worked. There are insurance plans that would cover the cost of Marinol but not a one in the US that would cover whole cannabis medicine.


    daksya, whole cannabis plant therapies won't exist 10 years after the idiot lawmakers finally allow the needed research to proceed.

    I have no clue why you think that because people use whole cannabis for medical would mean that strains wouldn't be patented. You're simply mistaken concerning the patent issue. No they won't be able to patent the species but they certainly will be able to patent proprietary strains and genetically modified cannabis. Have you ever heard of 'Roundup ready' corn? People have been eating corn for millenia but Monsanto still owns a patent.

    From the link above:

    "Under the agreement, signed with Yissum, the Research Development Company of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, GW has acquired the rights to a number of important cannabinoid patents invented by Professor Mechoulam. The company will be working closely with him and his team for the next three years to develop these new opportunities in furtherance of its scientific and commercial activities. The patents include inventions relating to

    cannabidiol (CBD), one of the cannabinoids on which GW’s research is focused, and endocannabinoids (cannabinoids found in the human body)."

    From the second link above:

    "While the the American Medical Association claims pot has no medical value, Big Pharma is busy getting patents for marijuana products." (notice the date is before the AMA passed the resolution that the government should recognize the medical utility of cannabis and move it to schedule 2).

  19. Duncan20903: I fear we are talking past each other. Assume there's an ailment X for which there's no medication available at present. APharmaCo spends $$$ to successfully discover & test substance S, manufactured/sourced via an exotic and/or technical process. Now, APCo can price S as per market research and expect business since all sufferers of X have only one avenue of treatment. Even if AnotherPharmaCo were to develop substance Y, pricing would still be comparable, given the cost involved, and the profit-seeking nature of BigCo. Now, in the case of cannabis, it's a natural plant, granted there's the usual biovariety, but at base, it's a generic entity. If BPCo elects to explore the field of cannabinoid therapeutics, they will spend $$ to develop a reproducible, specific strain of cannabis and patent it, and they will spend $$$ for the necessary trials. Now, when they enter the marketplace, they will be competing with the established black market and/or small-scale co-op product. And they'll have to price their formal offering competitively enough, after having sunk their money into the whole R&D/regulatory pipeline/marketing domains. They can't rely too much on the veneer of legitimacy since all current MMJ users don't care about FDA approval (or they wouldn't be MMJ users at present).

    So I'm trying to see the economic viability of a legal product offering being developed out of cannabis in the US, and can't. And I suspect that BigPharma can't either, and hence, even 13/14 years after Prop 215 in CA, don't see any effort by them to put serious effort into bringing CB-related products to market.

  20. I would suggest that part of the reason for not relying exclusively on the FDA route is that it could very well put off the question for 5-10 years which seems unacceptable.

  21. Mark says: "But the advocates resist having to actually do the research and submit it to the FDA, because they have The Truth and anyone who insists on science is a Doubting Thomas, and probably in the pay of the DEA."

    Read all the thousands of scientific studies that support medical marijuana (start with the references in and then read the politically motivated statement by the FDA (… ) and see who is really interested in science. It's sure not the FDA.

    Why would a reform organization sink millions of dollars into a process that is politically controlled, when every bit of evidence out there indicates that the FDA would string the approval out for decades? That's been the result of every effort to change things within the system. Look at the re-scheduling process: first one took 22 years before it was denied; the current one has been under review for 8 years. Or take a look at Americans for Safe Access' effort to change factually false information in HHS under the Data Quality Act (which is supposed to require agencies to respond within 60 days). They filed it in October of 2004 and it took HHS two years to respond (I believe the case is still under litigation). The FDA's statement (linked above) is a clear indication that they are not independent of these delaying tactics.

    You mentioned the importance of Rick Doblin's MAPS efforts, and that is critical to the situation as well. As long as the DEA controls access to marijuana used in scientific study that also taints the process of the FDA approval. As long as the DEA continues to arbitrarily stop independent research, it dampens the research options.

    The fact that the federal government has been doing everything in its power to stop science is a pretty poor reason to accuse reformers of being anti-science.

    The FDA is not a process for approving medical cannabis. It is an active and malignant obstacle. Until the FDA becomes a scientific review process, the only responsible approach for reformers is to go directly to the people.

  22. Mark,

    you're also ignoring the research being done in California , research that was supported by the reform advocates.

    University of California faculty are PI on virtually all of the publications in the above link. UCSD and UCSF are the primary institutions doing the research.

  23. "If the Federal government would get their idiotic butts out of the way within 10 years whole plant medical usage would fall to zero. "

    Ironically, the situation is much the same with respect to recreational use of tobacco. It's well known that users of tobacco are actually addicted to the nicotine, not any other substance in the plant. And research has established that nicotine, (while it's not exactly something that promotes your health.) is not the cause of tobacco related cancers. They're caused by other compounds in the plant.

    The obvious response for an industry which wants to continue having customers, (Having established customers die on you is bad for sales.) would be to sell the nicotine isolated from the plant. But, every time the tobacco industry tries to become instead the nicotine industry, and market it's drug without the cancer causing plant material, the FDA blocks them.

    The latest attempt is the "E-cigarette", and predictably, the government is stopping shipments of them at the border, in order to make sure that smokers will continue to contract cancer.

    If the federal government ever got it's idiotic butt out of the way, whole plant usage of tobacco would plummet, too. Along with lung and throat cancer rates.

  24. Mark, you keep repeating your notion that cannabis orgs must fund foreign research to be legitimate. Plenty of foreign research existed in 2006 to put holes in the following statement:

    FDA: "A past evaluation by several Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and National Institute for Drug Abuse (NIDA), concluded that no sound scientific studies supported medical use of marijuana for treatment in the United States, and no animal or human data supported the safety or efficacy of marijuana for general medical use."

    Obviously, even in the Obama administration, the cannabis culture wars are far from over in the agencies listed above. Why should anyone believe these agencies will suddenly start accepting as legitimate foreign research funded by what would certainly be described as "pro-drug lobbies" in DEA publications?

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