The CARERS Act, the Senate Bill filed last month to greatly liberalize federal medical marijuana laws, includes a provision requiring the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) issue three licenses permitting manufacturing of marijuana and derivatives for FDA-approved research.
Right now, the University of Mississippi is the only federally legal game in town for manufacturing marijuana for research. The National Institute on Drug Abuse has issued just this one marijuana cultivation license and so all federally approved clinical trials must obtain their marijuana from this single source.
To put it bluntly—it’s schwag.
The product coming out of Colorado, California, and Washington is light years ahead of what is being produced at Ole Miss and it is hoped that this Senate Bill will allow the Feds to start playing catch-up and give researchers and patients access to the same grade product available through state regulated programs.
Decades of senseless prohibition have stifled marijuana research at a time of exponential advances in research technologies. As a result, there is a huge lack of good science out there on marijuana. That is not to say that the science we have is bad, but there just is not nearly enough of it. Imagine how farther advanced our understanding of marijuana would be today if 45 years ago Congress hadn’t deemed marijuana to have “no currently accepted medical use.” In the meantime, countries like Israel are way ahead of us when it comes to marijuana research and technology and the longer we wait to get serious about it, the more we will fall behind.
Cannabis is a complex plant. Unlike alcohol, which has only one active ingredient, cannabis is comprised of dozens of cannabinoids—some of which have been discovered just in the past decade. Cannabinoids, unlike alcohol, interact with each other — a phenomenon known as the “entourage effect” — and they can produce widely varying effects depending on the product’s cannabinoid profile.
Though U.S. scientists have made strides to understand how cannabinoids effect humans, an even more fundamental problem is the lack of common standards to test cannabis for these various cannabinoids. Much like you see nutritional labels on food, states are beginning to mandate potency labeling for cannabis so patients and consumers know what is in their product.
Too often, what you see on the label is not exactly accurate. Marijuana testing methodologies are nowhere nearly as sophisticated as for other consumer products such as food, the labels on which are backed by armies of analytical chemists using finely tuned methods for ensuring food safety.
Why should marijuana, if regulated, be treated any differently?
There is a huge need for research to bring marijuana up to the same standards to which we regulate food, drugs, and, cosmetics. The CARERS Act looks like it will be a good first step for people who want to know what exactly they are consuming in their cannabis and for companies that want to provide that information without violating federal law.