Pubdate: Sat, 5 Sep 2009
Source: Ashland Daily Tidings (OR)
Copyright: 2009 Ashland Daily Tidings
Note: Reprinted from the Los Angeles Times


When the federal Department of Health and Human Services recently 
issued a request for proposals, seeking competitive applications for 
the production, analysis and distribution of "marijuana cigarettes," 
the request might have seemed a bit unusual to those unfamiliar with 
Washington's dance around cannabis research. The federal government, 
after all, is not widely known to support marijuana cultivation.

But those in the know just shrugged. The department has issued 
similar requests every few years to select a contractor to conduct 
government-approved marijuana research, and with depressing 
regularity it has then awarded an exclusive contract to the 
University of Mississippi. For 40 years now, Washington has sought 
such "competitive applications" and Mississippi "wins" every time.

This rigged contest has successfully thwarted meaningful academic 
inquiry into marijuana's medicinal value, without which the debate 
over its efficacy is bound to endure. Other studies -- not conducted 
by the University of Mississippi -- have suggested that marijuana has 
therapeutic value. But because the United States has discouraged such 
research and made it legally difficult to undertake, these studies 
have been limited in scope. What's missing is the broad research 
analyzing the cultivation and properties of different strains and 
their effects on a variety of illnesses. For example, a strain of 
cannabis that is most effective with glaucoma may not be the same 
strain best suited to cancer patients.

Even if the university were running a perfect program, one 
institution cannot fulfill the country's research needs. In February 
2007, when Administrative Law Judge Mary Ellen Bittner recommended 
that the Drug Enforcement Administration grant a license to cultivate 
marijuana for research purposes to a botanist at the University of 
Massachusetts, she said she had concluded that the supply of 
marijuana from the University of Mississippi program was of 
insufficient quality and quantity for research purposes.

The deadline for this latest round of applications is Oct. 9. The 
government should take the opportunity to break the University of 
Mississippi's monopoly and choose a different institution. That step 
alone would be a sign that the Obama administration will prioritize 
science over politics. Merely shifting the contract from one 
institution to another, however, won't change the status quo. That 
will only happen when the federal government changes policy and 
awards multiple contracts for this important research.

Los Angeles Times 
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard Lake