Scientists and researchers on cannabis are pushing for an approval to study the plant and make a breakthrough on the medical research. For years, these experts are trying to reach out to the government and Drug Enforcement Administration to allow major research and studies on marijuana.

However, with the major hurdles still on sight, scientists can’t make any significant moves to study cannabis. The recent fiasco comes after the continuous delay of DEA on a research conducted by Dr. Lyle Craker of the University of Massachusetts. According to Craker, it has been almost 20 years since he filed the application to study cannabis pharmaceutical.

The scientist wishes to study the plant’s potential in treating certain conditions, and whether it’s safe for patients. Decades passed, and still Craker hasn’t received any movement on the case. Given this, the scientist wishes to take the issue on court and end the ‘obstruction’ on marijuana clinical research.

The problem nowadays is, scientists don’t have access to particular marijuana products for research purposes. It has been the case for decades, and researchers can’t get any approval from the drug enforcement agency. Meanwhile, with most states opening up for legalization, people can easily get their cannabis from dispensaries and still nothing for experts.

With Craker’s case, it’s also about publicly announcing plans on how the federal government and DEA process clinical study approvals on cannabis. In the words of Allen Hopper, who’s representing Craker, DEA needs to end the hurdles and obstruction on clinical research with cannabis.

Going deeper into the case, there’s a manifestation that researchers can’t possibly define and discover more breakthroughs as their resources are limited. So, the question goes as to how scientists can understand better when they don’t have anything to study.

Hopper claimed that if Craker’s application was processed, there could be more available remedies coming from the marijuana plant. With politics and discrimination overriding, marijuana’s potential in helping people is repressed. For decades, this has been the case, and scientists need to fight back in order to seek permission to study cannabis.

Federal Laws

DEA Hurdles Scientific Studies on Marijuana

In addition to Craker, there’s also another scientist who’s prevented from studying marijuana in line with psychological conditions like PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder. Dr. Sue Sisley decided to study the psychiatric effects of the plant to see how it can improve patients suffering from PSTD.

Patients like military veterans claim marijuana helped them sleep better and reduce nightmares. As a primary care physician and psychiatrist, Sisley said she’s skeptical at first but was later on eager to know more about the effects of cannabis to PSTD patients.

However, due to the illegal status and scheduling of the plant, she can’t easily get access to any resource. In fact, since her persistence to study cannabis, Sisley was fired from the University of Arizona and lost a study partner at another university. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs also create a hurdle on blocking Sisley on recruiting patients for research purposes.

The biggest milestone was in 2016, when finally, her request to get cannabis for research was approved by he Scottsdale Research Institute. The only problem is, she’s only provided ‘powdery mishmash of stems, sticks, and leaves.’ The tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content is lower at eight percent, which isn’t enough to study its effects.

Additionally, the sample marijuana also tested positive for yeast and mold, which aren’t safe for testing to military veterans. Usually, the THC content that should be present is 20 percent, also available for products in dispensaries.

Sisley also mentioned that researchers cannot hand out moldy marijuana products to subjects because that poses another health-related risk. She also can’t shop around for cannabis because apparently, there’s a 1968 memo by DEA requiring all scientists to use marijuana samples from a 12-acre farm at the University of Mississippi.

The major argument of Sisley’s side is, there should be a wide array of sample varieties to be able to identify the effects on patients. If the samples are limited to a particular farm, the results will be different. The samples can ‘stifle’ the research as it doesn’t match what people are actually using or consuming.


The problem now is, experts can’t get their hands on the products available on the market today because of the DEA’s memo. Without thinking about it much, scientists can easily tell how problematic it is to claim certain effects are applicable for a small sample size—those who are using marijuana from the University of Mississippi.

After all these things, DEA promised it will let more people grow marijuana for research purposes but delayed for more, due to the ongoing pandemic. In March, the agency proposed new rules on how scientists need to turn over marijuana research to DEA. According to Sisley, this is another fiasco that would delay the attempt to study cannabis.

Sisley sued the government, demanding for a legal justification on the actions. It was later found out that there’s a secret 2018 memo that blocked the DEA from approving additional cultivators. The scientists need to deal with the battles alone, having limited to no resources. Then, violating the set of rules can also impose and tarnish their reputation on publishing the research.

Experts call this as a maze to navigate the cannabis clinical research, instead of being open to study the wonder plant. All the scientists want is to lessen the restrictions for study purposes, so the experts can determine potential benefits of the plant as well as the harms, in case marijuana will be legalized on a federal level.

Legal cannabis is already a huge deal in the United States, with some states acquiring more taxes from marijuana products. In addition, new breeds of products from several properties in cannabis flood the commercial and retail market. These aren’t only limited to CBD and THC-infused products, but others as well.

The only thing stopping scientists from discovering more about the plant is the existing federal laws that could prohibit their access to a wide array of cannabis samples. DEA still classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug, under the restrictive category.

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