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‘Unusable’ Government Weed Is Derailing Medical Research Efforts

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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Researchers using federal funds to study the medicinal benefits of marijuana are forced by the government to work with what experts say is “not a usable form of cannabis.”

In the 1960s, the federal government mandated any studies on weed conducted with federal money must use marijuana supplied by the government. The results are creating a problem for scientists, who must work with a product that is very different than commercial marijuana. Government pot is grown exclusively at the University of Mississippi with low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and experts say it doesn’t even resemble current marijuana, hindering the real world application of their research, reports The Washington Post.

Sue Sisley, a researcher conducting the first clinical trial studying the effects of marijuana on veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, said the marijuana she received was full of stems and leaves, very different from marijuana veterans may be using outside the study.

“It doesn’t resemble cannabis,” Sisley told PBS “News Hour” in March. “It doesn’t smell like cannabis.”

Sisley also tested the weed and found only 8 percent THC, despite being told it would contain roughly 13 percent THC. By comparison, commerical marijuana averages around 19 percent THC. Experts say the Drug Enforcement Agency’s designation of marijuana as a Schedule I drug hinders researcher’s ability to access viable weed.

“In two decades of smoking weed, I’ve never seen anything that looks like that,” Jake Browne, a weed critic for The Cannabist, told The Washington Post. “People typically smoke the flower of the plant, but here you can clearly see stems and leaves in there as well, parts that should be discarded. Inhaling that would be like eating an apple, including the seeds inside it and the branch it grew on.”

Medical researchers are becoming more vocal in their criticism of the DEA marijuana designation and implore officials to reform their policy. Veterans attempting to obtain medical marijuana as an alternative treatment to chronic pain and PTSD are petitioning the government to ease restriction on marijuana research and also to amend the policy of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to include medical marijuana.

It is a violation of VA policy to prescribe or even recommend marijuana to a patient, due its status as a Schedule I drug alongside deadly narcotics.

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