In a new Brookings Institution report, John Hudak and Grace Wallack describe in detail the bureaucratic barriers to medical marijuana research. These roadblocks, they write, are "inexcusabl[e]" in light of the need for more information about the therapeutic properties of a plant legally used for symptom relief by more than a million patients across the country.
Hudak and Wallack argue that marijuana's Schedule I status, which supposedly hinges on its lack of "currently accepted medical use," discourages image-conscious institutions from sponsoring studies. They say "moving marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II"—which could be done by Congress or by the attorney general in consultation with the Department of Health and Human Services—"would signal to the medical community that the [Food and Drug Administration] and [the National Institutes of Health] are ready to take medical marijuana research seriously, and help overcome a government-sponsored chilling effect on research that manifests in direct and indirect ways."
The authors think that "ending the U.S. government's war on medical marijuana research" is good politics as well as good policy. They note that medical marijuana has brought together "strange bedfellows" in Congress—both Sens. Chuck Grassley (R–Iowa) and Dianne Feinstein (D–Calif.) have expressed interest in removing unnecessary barriers to research—and has broad popular support, with various polls indicating that 70 to 80 percent of Americans think patients should be able to obtain cannabis if their doctors think it could help them.