The White House Just Lifted Restrictions on Cannabis Research

Published on June 23, 2015 · Last updated July 28, 2020

A monumental announcement was just published hot off the White House press that the Obama Administration will be making a crucial reduction on restrictions that have tied the government’s hands on marijuana research policy.

Up until now, all marijuana research that is not funded by the government must go through a Public Health Service review, a requirement that applies to cannabis research only; no other controlled substances listed as Schedule I under the Controlled Substances Act are subject to the same process. As a result, the review process has been criticized by researchers and lawmakers alike.

The Public Service Health review was established in 1999 to ensure that all studies were scientifically valid, but often created a barrier for new studies. One must submit the scientific proposal to the Food and Drug Administration and be approved based on the “scientific validity and ethical soundness” of the project. After jumping this hurdle, the study must also be approved by the Public Health Service board, and only then would the researchers be granted a cannabis permit from the Drug Enforcement Administration and receive a portion of government-grown cannabis from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which controls the only legal, federally-grown cannabis in the United States for research purposes.

With support from the Obama Administration, lifting the bureaucratic red tape will allow marijuana research a much greater degree of freedom and allow the research parameters to expand and include positive benefits of cannabis, instead of focusing solely on harmful effects. In addition, researchers will no longer be required to pass through four separate government organizations for approval on future marijuana research studies.

A statement from the Office of National Drug Control Policy spokesman Mario Moreno Zepeda affirmed this decision, saying:

“The Obama Administration has actively supported scientific research on whether marijuana or its components can be safe and effective medicine. Eliminating the Public Health Service review should help facilitate additional research to advance our understanding of both the adverse effects and potential therapeutic uses for marijuana or its components.”

This step indicates a major shift in the political stance and regard for cannabis and its uses, and should open the door to not only new and groundbreaking cannabis research, but may eventually lead to a change in federal drug policy.

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Lisa Rough
Lisa Rough
Lisa is a former associate editor at Leafly, where she specialized in legislative cannabis policy and industry topics.
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