It's not news that marijuana may have healing qualities: after all, medicinal cannabis has been (sort of) the law of the land since 1996, when California voters passed Proposition 215 . Still, it was a very big deal when the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research released the results last Wednesday of its 10-year, $9 million study on pot's medical efficacy.
The good news? The tests were the first clinical trials conducted on marijuana in almost 20 years. The bad news? They might be the last clinical trials conducted for the near future - and who knows? - maybe another 20 years.
The issue isn't whether or not pot can alleviate pain, stimulate appetite, act as a sleep aid or perform a host of other functions for ailing patients. That much advocates have been saying for years. CMCR director Dr. Igor Grant and his team added their voices to the chorus, saying that marijuana could indeed be an effective treatment for pain-related ailments. The problem is that finding more dollars for more research, especially at the federal level, is going to be tough.
There's nothing quite like the UC-San Diego-based Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research, in California or anywhere else in the 50 states. And that's more bad news: the center conducted its latest studies thanks to a $9 million grant awarded by state legislature in 1999. All but $400,000 of that is gone, baby, gone, and there's no more funding currently coming down the pike. What's worse is that the center could close unless more funding is awarded, state Sen. Mark Leno warned recently. Good luck finding that in Sacramento, where funding for CMCR would have to compete with funding for cash-strapped roads, schools, and everything else in broke-ass California.
The picture is even bleaker on the federal level: Currently only the University of Mississippi is allowed to produce pot for research, and federal officials have repeatedly blocked efforts by a Massachusetts-based researcher to produce hemp for scientific purposes.
Pot, you see, is still a schedule 1 controlled substance, with a high tolerance for abuse and low medicinal application, according to the US Department of Justice. Only more research will convince the Department of Justice to reclassify pot's status, regardless of how many states (13) allow medicinal cannabis; only more money will allow more research.
And there's no more money.
Advocates are "obviously troubled by that," said Aaron Smith, statewide director of the Marijuana Policy Project. Smith and others watched in disgust as the Bush White House blocked marijuana research attempts and upped DEA raids of clinics. The fact that Barack Obama is now in the White House has given pot advocates "some hope that [funding for marijuana research] would go forward."
Oh, right. Hope. Hope for change. How's that working out? "It's been a year now," Smith said, "and we're still waiting."
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