What Marijuana Researchers Want From The Feds

The results of a survey on what the marijuana research community wants from the federal government are in.

In sum, researchers want more: More strains, more potency, more cannabinoids and more methods of delivery.

All marijuana studies in the U.S. must be conducted with cannabis obtained from the federal government. Since 1968, the only legal source has been University of Mississippi, which operates under a license from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

But scientists have complained that it is difficult to obtain marijuana from the facility and that even when their applications are granted, the product is often of poor quality. So in July, NIDA asked researchers to submit suggestions on how the federal government could better fulfill their needs.

Last week, NIDA posted a summary of the suggestions it received.

“The most consistent recommendation was to provide marijuana strains and products that reflect the diversity of products available in state dispensaries,” the agency reported.

“We are in a rather untenable position of having a multitude of products on the market that are freely available and readily purchased and used by the lay public and yet, scientists with proper and valid Schedule I licenses are barred from utilizing these products in clinical trials,” one researcher commented. “This would seem counterintuitive to the mission of our governmental agencies, who strive to keep the nation safe. A mechanism for clinical researchers to acquire safety and efficacy data on products already in the marketplace is critical and has serious public policy implications.”

NIDA says several researchers are requesting permission to transport state-legal retail cannabis products across state lines so they can be tested at approved laboratories.

Researchers also want the government itself to produce strains with potency profiles that are in line with what is commercially available in a growing number of states. Additionally, “edibles, hash oil, budder, wax, shatter, etc. equivalent to what is available in Colorado should also be made available,” NIDA reported.

And, scientists want greater variety of strains with different cannabinoid profiles, “to include not only a range of THC concentrations, but also other cannabinoids (e.g.CBD, CBG, CBN, CBC and THCV), terpenes and flavonoids.”

They specifically suggest more study on the effect of terpenes, which would be made possible if the government provided “strains with similar cannabinoid chemistries but with varying (low and high) quantities of terpenes (linalool, terpinolene, nerolidiol, myrcene, etc.).”

Scientists also want to increase research on different methods of delivery for marijuana beyond just smoking and vaping, to include oral, sublingual, rectal and dermal applications.

Other suggestions include:

Provide well characterized, common strains, including those characterized as “indica,” “sativa” and “hybrid.”

Produce concentrates with both hot and cold ethanol extractions (for inhalation studies), with oil extractions (for ingestion studies) and using CO2 based extractions.

Improve the quality of placebo marijuana. Multiple responders noted that the currently available placebo marijuana does not smell, taste or look like regular marijuana and thus does not serve as an effective placebo.

The Obama administration announced earlier this year that it would soon open a process to license more legal producers of marijuana for research beyond the Mississippi site, but it is not yet known when those permits will be granted or when the first seeds will be planted at other facilities.

For now, NIDA says, the new recommendations will “help guide efforts across the federal government to expand access to diverse marijuana strains and products for research purposes.”

Photo Courtesy of Allie Beckett.

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