MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Admin. Eases Availability for Research
The Clinton administration Friday announced that it will sell government-grown marijuana to scientists who want to study the drug. The Los Angeles Times reports that for most of the last 20 years, "the production and distribution of marijuana for clinical research has been restricted under several federal laws and international agreements, making it all but impossible for non-federally funded researchers to obtain it" (Cimons, Los Angeles Times, 5/21). The New York Times reports that Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Gen. Barry McCaffrey, an "ardent" opponent of medical marijuana, supported the decision. The office's chief counsel, Chuck Blanchard, said that "as long as you are willing to show that it is high-quality research and also provide your own funding, you can have access to medical marijuana." Experts expressed hopes that eased access to the drug could produce alternative delivery systems, such as inhalers, that "enable patients to benefit without suffering the toxic effects of smoke" (Stolberg, New York Times, 5/22). Researchers will submit study proposals to a Public Health Service medical committee for review (Sisk, New York Daily News, 5/22).
Medical marijuana and HIV/AIDS advocates hailed the decision. Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws Foundation, said, "For the last 22 years, the federal government has had a lock on the use of whole smoked marijuana for studies -- they grow it at the University of Mississippi. ... We've been imploring the government to come up with a system that will allow these studies to go forward. We want to do the science, but marijuana has become so politicized" (Los Angeles Times, 5/21). Still, some charged that the White House's policy shift did not go far enough. Lindesmith Center Director Ethan Nadelmann said, "It is a tiny step forward, but far too tiny. It's an implicit acknowledgment that the government has blocked research into medical marijuana for explicitly political reasons for the last two decades" (New York Times, 5/22).