Pubdate: Mon, 15 Aug 2016
Source: Trentonian, The (NJ)
Copyright: 2016 The Trentonian


The Obama administration's decision to expand opportunities for 
scientific research of medical marijuana, while leaving cannabis 
classification under its longtime most-dangerous-drug status, strikes 
us as an important step, but hardly a solution.

The decision is hopeful in that it signals an attempt to end the 
bureaucratic hurdles that prevent scientific study of the drug that 
so many advocates claim has curative powers. But leaving in place the 
stigma and legal problems that a Schedule I designation creates makes 
the administration's attempt to find some middle ground difficult to 
truly appreciate.

And by leaving cannabis in that most-dangerous category - a category 
that defines pot as having zero medicinal value - the decision leaves 
in place restrictions that baffle researchers and does nothing to 
ameliorate the many problems state-legal cannabis businesses must 
navigate. Nor, obviously, does it do much good for personal freedom 
in states where cannabis remains illegal. And so the destructive, 
decadeslong war on pot hobbles along.

But declassifying cannabis was a long-shot. Despite the fact that 
public opinion toward legalization has greatly shifted toward 
acceptance, legitimate questions about its safety exist. More study 
is in order, and to that end, Thursday's news is positive.

The decision means more researchers now may be allowed to grow 
marijuana for testing purposes. For more than 40 years, the feds have 
restricted cannabis grows for research to the University of 
Mississippi, which has produced low-grade, low-THC weed that 
researchers say is difficult to obtain.

Consider the plight of Sue Sisley, a doctor interested in studying 
pot's therapeutic potential in treating post-traumatic stress 
disorder. She's been working for nearly seven years for access to the 
federal government's approved supply.

Looking over the federal guidelines issued Thursday, Sisley found an 
immediate stumbling block. Turns out that the best cannabis growers 
in the world, those in Colorado and Washington, where cannabis is 
legal, wouldn't be allowed to participate in the expansion because 
those experts have been growing in violation of federal law. These 
are growers skilled in producing specific strains with specific 
attributes that researchers would covet.

Medical marijuana patients and their advocates in Colorado, 
meanwhile, see the slow progress as borderline cruel. And little 
wonder, given anecdotal stories that suggest cannabis can provide 
real benefit in helping reduce pain, tame seizures and slow the 
spread of certain diseases.

Perhaps the next administration will be able to take this week's 
progress further. As the Brookings Institution's John Hudak notes, if 
the feds had reclassified pot, the next president might be tempted to 
consider the problem solved, when in fact many more complicated 
questions must be worked through before we have a reasonable and 
trustworthy system for bringing cannabis into the mainstream legal 
and medical marketplace.

- - Denver Post, Digital First
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