Tuesday, October 20, 2015
Regular readers know I have often praised the cutting-edge research being done by the The Brookings Institution on the legal, political and social realities surrounding modern marijuana reform. The latest big Brookings publication in this arena, authored by John Hudak and Grace Wallack, is titled "Ending the U.S. government’s war on medical marijuana research." This publication provides an effective and detailed review of the multiple problems for scientific research created by federal laws, and here are a couple notable paragraphs from start and end of the lengthy report:
The federal government is stifling medical research in a rapidly transforming area of public policy that has consequences for public health and public safety. As medical marijuana becomes increasingly accessible in state-regulated, legal markets, and as others selfmedicate in jurisdictions that do not allow the medical use of cannabis, it is increasingly important that the scientific community conduct research on this substance. However, statutory, regulatory, bureaucratic, and cultural barriers have paralyzed science and threatened the integrity of research freedom in this area.
It is time for the federal government to recognize the serious public policy risks born from limited medical, public health, and pharmaceutical research into cannabis and its use. People are using cannabis nationwide to treat a variety of ailments. Doctors in dozens of states are recommending the use of this product as a pseudo-pharmaceutical intervention. The elderly, veterans, children, and people from every demographic group in the nation claim that the use of cannabis assists in the treatment of their medical conditions. Despite this, there is limited scientific research on the efficacy of this product overall or by condition or dosage, on interactions, on composition, on side effects, or much of anything else....
As the next president comes to office, he or she will inherit a marijuana policy regime that is inconsistent and often contradictory. It is incumbent on President Obama’s successor to introduce some uniformity, discipline, and sensibility to this policy area. Focusing on medical marijuana research would be a good place to begin — and the issue’s politics for the next president should be encouraging. In fact, the next president need not wait until January 20, 2017, to pursue and capitalize on this political opportunity; candidates for the presidency should make marijuana work for them....
Candidates are hesitant to take a bold position on (medical) marijuana policy. And frankly, this reluctance is very difficult to understand. Public support for medical marijuana reform is quite high across the country and at the state-level. Multiple polls put the national support for physician-prescribed marijuana between 70 and 80 percent approval. Polling suggests that in most states — even the most conservative states — support for legalized medical marijuana is at least two to one, and polling at rates of 80 percent or higher in swing states like Ohio, Iowa, Florida, and Virginia. Medical marijuana also polls favorably in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Wisconsin.
Yet, candidates are meek on the issue. Oddly, they are comfortable or even eager to take bold positions on much more controversial topics including the Affordable Care Act, entitlement reform, foreign intervention, climate change, and immigration policy, to name a few. But the medical marijuana reform embraced by the public seems to scare candidates. Medical marijuana reform should be an easy one for a candidate seeking to connect with prospective voters and the expansion of medical research in the area should be an even easier consideration