cannabis studies focused on negative effects
cannabis studies focused on negative effects

Why are Most Funded Cannabis Studies Focused Only on the Dangers of Using Marijuana?

Why are paid-for-cannabis studies always focused on the dangers of using weed?

Posted by:
DanaSmith on Monday Oct 19, 2020

Why are Most Funded Cannabis Studies in the US Focused on Its Risks?

cannabis studies that look at dangers of marijuana

A Look Into Why NIDA Should No Longer Have Monopoly On Cannabis Research


Cannabis legalization in the United States began moving full steam ahead starting 2016..


Yet, it’s almost 2021 and scientists are still struggling to conduct studies in cannabis due to a wide range of limitations imposed by, well, the federal government.


The data is in to prove it: recent analysis of funding for cannabis research conducted in the United States as well as Canada and the United Kingdom revealed that with $1.56 billion was allotted for cannabis research from 2000 to 2018, HALF of that amount was focused on its potential harms.


A little over a billion dollars came from none other than the US National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), which has been the biggest culprit so far when it comes to spending money focused on researching potential side effects of cannabis instead of working towards developing cannabis-derived medications that could save lives.


“The government’s budget is a political statement about what we value as a society,” explains Daniel Mallinson, a Pennsylvania State University cannabis policy researcher. “The fact that most of the cannabis money is going to drug abuse and probably to cannabis use disorder versus medical purposes – that says something,” he tells Science Mag.


The analysis was put together by Jim Hudson, who consults for medical research and government agencies. He compiled public grant data from 50 funders such as the NIDA and the Arthritis Society in Canada. For the analysis he took a deep dive of a total of 3,269 grants that covered cannabis keywords then classified them into different categories. He found that the United States spent $1.49 billion for the 19 year period, while Canada spent $32.2 million, and $40 million for the UK. But while UK funding was also found to be focused on the side effects of cannabis, the funding in Canada was more allocated towards learning about the endocannabinoid system.


Anyone who wants to learn more about how Hudson analyzed the public data can be found on his website, though the raw data is not available.


It’s no secret that the NIDA has long been dominating funding for cannabis studies, in the United States and abroad too. However, over the recent years we have had newer sources of funding such as the US Department of Defense, who has already spent a few million dollars dedicated to cannabinoid research.


The Problem With NIDA


The major issue here is that NIDA still controls most of the funding, and the implications for negatively biased cannabis studies is not something to be taken lightly. People consume the information on the internet, especially if it LOOKS to be a credible study but is not. Having people access correct information online about the health benefits of cannabis is critical to saving lives.


Despite the majority of Americans supporting cannabis legalization, there is still so much that is not understood by the general public. Stigma played a huge role in this, but inadequate education also has, primarily because of restrictions on research despite a spike in interest towards the drug.


In the United States, clinical research on cannabis is becoming harder to do. Scientists need to get an FDA approval to conduct a clinical trial, then get a Schedule 1 license just to possess then do research on cannabinoids. Both of these tasks alone is extremely tedious to do! There are no requirements that are set forth by the FDA nor the DEA on how these documents can be processed, so there is constantly a delay in the research.


What makes matters worse is that the NIDA has monopolized the only legitimate source for cannabis that can be used for research. Though several states have already legalized cannabis recreationally, it is still not legal for any licensed producer to supply the cannabis for scientists to use in studies. Another complication is that it is considered illegal to buy or accept donated cannabis; this is viewed as trafficking of a Schedule 1 drug.


US Cannabis Research Policy Found To Be In Violation Of International Law


Earlier this year, scientists were successful at forcing the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to show an internal document, supposedly used to postpone the approval of more cannabis producers for research.


It revealed much more than that: the documentation also showed that the Justice Department has felt that the existing licensing procedures in place for cannabis cultivation has violated international treaties for many decades now. One agency, the Scottsdale Research Institute (SR), also an applicant who was asking for permission to federally cultivate cannabis for research, slammed a lawsuit based on the Freedom of Information Act in March this year. They claimed that the DEA used a “secret” memo as their basis for interpreting international drug treaties in order to delay the acceptance of more cannabis manufacturers.


The said memo was dated June 2018, and called: “Licensing Marijuana Cultivation in Compliance with the Single Convention on Narcotics Drugs,” was published on the website of the Justice Department. “The parties acknowledge that this Settlement Agreement is entered into solely for the purpose of settling and compromising the claims in this action without further litigation, and it shall not be construed as evidence or as an admission regarding any issues of law or fact, or regarding the truth or validity of any allegation or claim raised in this action, or as evidence or as an admission by Defendants regarding Plaintiff’s entitlement to any relief (including attorneys’ fees or other litigation costs) under the Freedom of Information Act,” it reads.


In other words, the document has confirmed the suspicious of many scientists all along: during the final months of Obama’s administration in 2016, they stated they would approve more cannabis manufacturers but once Trump became president, his Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) discreetly released the internal memo that allowed them to interpret international treaties in such a way that approving more cannabis producers would be impossible.


“There may be well more than one way to satisfy those obligations under the Single Convention, but the federal government may not license the cultivation of marijuana without complying with the minimum requirements of that agreement,” says the Justice Department.


The Justice Department also says that even if the government merely assumed they were in accordance with international treaties by allowing NIDA monopoly of the cannabis cultivation facilities for research, that’s actually not the case.


“We conclude that the existing licensing framework departs from Article 23 [under the Single Convention] in three respects. First, the division of responsibilities between DEA and NIDA, a component of the Department of Health and Human Services (‘HHS’), contravenes Article 23(2)’s requirement that all Article 23 functions be carried out by a single government agency. Second, neither of the two government agencies ‘take[s] physical possession’ of the marijuana grown by the National Center, as required by Article 23(2)(d). Third, no federal agency exercises a monopoly over the wholesale trade in marijuana, as required by Article 23(2)(e).”



These things are happening right under our noses, yet what’s being done about it? The law needs to change in order to allow right and just applications from other entities to legally produce cannabis for research, and remove these never-ending roadblocks experienced by scientists for cannabis research – thus allowing UNBIASED research to finally happen.








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