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Medical marijuana research hampered by Feds

By Oscar Pascual |

As medical marijuana laws spread across the US, federal agencies are still more concerned about their abuse.

A report from News21, the Carnegie-Knight national student reporting project based at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, revealed that $1.1 billion of the $1.4 billion the National Institutes of Health used for marijuana research , was spent on research into abuse and addiction. Meanwhile, only a paltry $297 million was spent researching possible medical benefits and its effects on the brain.

“We don’t have any new things to treat pain,” Dr. Todd Vanderah, chief of pharmacology at the University of Arizona, USA today. “We are still dealing with narcotics that have been around for thousands of years, and it has led to this problem of drug abuse and the rise of heroin.”

The difference in spending doesn’t stop there. While the NIH spent $297 million on medical marijuana research, the agency provided two to four times that amount to fund similar research on benzodiazepines like Xanax and opiates, which can cause dependence on prescription drugs or even heroin.

Another barrier to federal research into medical cannabis is the application process, a lengthy and difficult effort that requires approval from the FDA, the Drug Enforcement Agency and the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

“It took me three years from when I got funding to when I was able to enroll my first subject,” Dr. Mark Wallace, a researcher who studies pain treatments at the University of California-San Diego, told USA today. “Once we got approval, it wasn’t that hard to get the marijuana.”

While steps have been taken to ease restrictions on future medical cannabis projects, doctors and patients alike are now pushing for extensive medical research.

“We know it will help our children or potentially give them a better quality of life,” said Heather Shuker, the mother of a child with a form of epilepsy known as Dravet syndrome. USA today. “We’re denied that because they (federal agencies and doctors) don’t know the long-term side effects of medical cannabis.”

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

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