A year ago, on August 8, 1997, an "Ad Hoc Group of Experts" assembled by the National Institutes of Health released a report on its February "Workshop on the Medical Utility of Marijuana," recommending that the National Institute on Drug Abuse make it easier for researchers to obtain marijuana for medical research. Under current NIDA policy, set by Director Alan Leshner, researchers must apply to the NIH for federal grant funding for their research, in order to obtain marijuana from NIDA. NIDA will not provide marijuana for research being conducted with private funds, even if that research meets accepted FDA standards and has FDA approval. Because NIDA has a monopoly on legal marijuana for research, if NIH doesn't choose to fund a marijuana study, the study cannot take place, even if private funds are available. The NIH Experts Group recommended the following policy:
"Whether or not the NIH is the primary source of grant support for a proposed bona fide clinical research study, if that study meets U.S. regulatory standards (U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) protocol approval and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) controlled substances registration) the study should receive marijuana and/or matching placebo supplied by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)."
The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) charged last week that the Clinton Administration is stalling on the medical marijuana research issue, a full year after issuance of the NIH report:
"If a study does not require government funding, scientists should not have to waste time applying for a grant, only to get rejected because of a lack of funds," said MPP's Chuck Thomas. "NIDA has effectively rejected the expert group's advice."
"Tens of thousands of seriously ill people nationwide are already risking arrest and imprisonment by using marijuana for medicinal purposes," said Thomas. "Because the FDA-approval route is being blocked by NIDA, the Marijuana Policy Project is urging the American people to pass state and local laws to remove criminal penalties for patients who possess or grow their own medicinal marijuana."
ACTION REQUEST: Please contact Dr. Leshner's office, (301) 443-6480 or e-mail [email protected] and tell him that "NIDA should provide marijuana to all FDA-approved studies, without requiring an NIH peer review." Let us know at [email protected] so we can assess our impact. We will also share that information (but not your name, without your explicit permission), with MPP and other organizations working on this issue, to aid in the lobbying effort.
The disparity between statements promulgated by drug czar Barry McCaffrey, vs. the thoughtful examinations of the NIH scientists panel, is illustrated by an article in our newsletter of a year ago, titled "The Scientists and the General", http://www.drcnet.org/guide8-97/nihondcp.html. For more information about NIDA's efforts to block research, visit http://www.mpp.org/NIDAbro.html. MPP is online at http://www.mpp.org, and can be reached at (202) 462-5747.