Wednesday, October 21, 2015

DEA told to stop harassing medical marijuana providers; paper calls for end of war on research

A federal court in California ruled that the Drug Enforcement Administration cannot interpret marijuana laws as it sees fit and needs to stop harassing medical marijuana providers, Christopher Ingraham reports for The Washington Post. The issue is an amendment to last year's government spending bill that "lists the states that have medical marijuana laws and mandates that the Justice Department is barred from using federal funds to 'prevent such States from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.'"

"When the legislation was passed, advocates and lawmakers on both sides of the issue agreed that the bill basically prevented the DEA from going after medical marijuana dispensaries, provided that such dispensaries were acting in compliance with state law," Ingraham writes. "The DEA, however, didn't see it that way. In a leaked memo, the Justice Department contended that the amendment only prevents actions against actual states—not against the individuals or businesses that actually carry out marijuana laws. In their interpretation, the bill still allowed them to pursue criminal and civil actions against medical marijuana businesses and the patients who patronized them."

The federal court said DEA's interpretation of the rule "defies language and logic," "tortures the plain meaning of the statute" and is "at odds with fundamental notions of the rule of law," Ingraham writes. "The ruling could have a broad impact on the DEA's ability to prosecute federal medical marijuana cases going forward."

Researchers John Hudak and Grace Wallack have written a paper for the Brookings Institution in  which they "argue that it is time for the federal government to recognize the serious public policy risks born from limited medical, public health and pharmaceutical research into cannabis and its use." The paper, "Ending the U.S. government's war on medical marijuana research,” says that "as medical marijuana becomes increasingly accessible in state-regulated, legal markets, and as others self-medicate in jurisdictions that do not allow the medical use of cannabis, it is increasingly important that the scientific community conduct research on this substance," Hudak and Wallack write for Brookings.

"However, statutory, regulatory, bureaucratic and cultural barriers have paralyzed science and threatened the integrity of research freedom in this area," Hudak and Wallack write. In the paper they "explore the specific federal government policies that limit medical marijuana research and detail the consequences of those policies for the medical community and for public policy. They also examine some of the existing proposals that seek to ameliorate these challenges, concluding that some are meaningful and would make substantive changes that advance medical research, while others are narrow-sighted, misunderstood and fail to provide the type of large-scale change necessary to achieve reformers’ desired goals."

"Analyzing the efficacy of one often-proposed solution, the rescheduling of marijuana from a Schedule I narcotic, Hudak and Wallack argue that this specific policy proposal is limited in its ability advance constructive medical research," Hudak and Wallack write. "Ultimately, the authors recommend a more comprehensive set of policy reforms that will liberate the medical community in its pursuit of research into marijuana." (Read more)

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