Loosened regulations on medical marijuana research could provide advances in treatment

Posted at 2:58 PM, Jun 10, 2021

For more than 50 years, cannabis research has been limited to marijuana that comes from one federally approved facility in Mississippi.

Now, the DEA says more companies can provide marijuana for research, eliminating roadblocks to learning about the drug's medical properties.

"For example, as street product increased in potency to 12% 15%...I think the (National Institute on Drug Abuse) — at least that program — had difficulty keeping up with that trend," said Dr. Igor Grant, the director of the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research at UC San Diego.

Grant also says it's been difficult for a single company to keep up with demand from researchers across the country.

He also said that the new DEA policy would increase the diversity of research products. In the past, researchers have only been able to study cannabis that can be smoked, leaving out products like THC creams that can be used to treat aches and pains.

Dr. Sue Sisley, the president and principal investigator at the Scottsdale Research Institute, says past DEA regulations have limited her study on marijuana as a PTSD treatment for military veterans.

"Now, finally, we will have the appropriate study drug that can help us move forward to uncovering new treatments for these vets," Sisley said.

Having a real-world form of cannabis for studies will also provide much-needed answers for patients.

"All of this strain science, like what strains are best for what illnesses, those studies have never been able to be done because the strains that were available at the University of Mississippi were so limited," Sisley said.

Having more information on medical marijuana will allow researchers to warn people whether or not cannabis should be used with certain prescription medicines — particularly when it comes to older people.

"Drugs for your blood pressure or diabetes, or whatever it may be — these are all areas that need to be looked at, independent of how you give it, whether it's smoked or taken by mouth," Grant said.

Both researchers agree that although the loosened regulations are a big step forward for medical cannabis, there's still a long way to go.

Sisley is starting a new push in federal court to get marijuana's drug schedule reclassified. Currently, marijuana is listed by the DEA as a Schedule I drug — the same classification as heroin and LSD.