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US Senators Press Federal Officials to Expand Medical Pot Research

Mark Miller

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U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) urged the federal government to allow increased research on medicinal cannabis during a hearing held by the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control last week.

Speaking before officials from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Food and Drug Administration, Gillibrand did not mince words, openly criticizing an FDA official for not expanding drug trials for children suffering deadly seizures.

“You have thousands of patients in my state alone who need access to this medicine, and they don’t get accepted by the drug trials,” she said to FDA Deputy Director Douglas Throckmorton.

“That’s outrageous,” added Gillibrand, who is backing proposed federal legislation to mandate increased medical marijuana research.

For their part, NIDA and FDA officials agreed with lawmakers that barriers to cannabis research should be removed, and they collectively blamed the DEA.

NIDA may only conduct research on medical marijuana provided by the DEA. Though the DEA has increased the amount of weed for research in recent years, the agency won’t license any other pot cultivator other than the University of Mississippi, which produces sub-standard cannabis flowers compared to high-potency, medicinally effective strains available from cultivation experts in states like Colorado and California.

It could be argued that by only providing lower-grade cannabis, marijuana’s efficacy is diminished in the limited research that is conducted, furthering the DEA’s goal of keeping pot Schedule I—classified as having no medical use. Hopefully, the work of legislators like Booker and Gillibrand will lead to improved and expanded medical pot studies.

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