To support marijuana research, the Denver-based IMPACT Network recently started a program called Scientists for Legalization. Twenty-five scientists have joined so far, and they're asking the government to fund cannabis research at the state and national levels. They're also asking that researchers who study marijuana have protection.
"Patients have more access to medical marijuana than researchers do, and it is criminal or against university policies in most states for researchers to study locally grown marijuana strains or cannabis products," IMPACT wrote in its grant application to the Drug Policy Alliance.
Scientists interested in marijuana research are consistently under threat of termination, according to Michele Ross, president of the nonprofit IMPACT Network.
Because they're worried about losing funding or prestige, universities actively deter their researchers from studying marijuana, Ross says, adding that one school warned staffers that they would be considered to be "aiding and abetting an illegal industry" if they studied marijuana.
And Ross knows just how tough things can get. She came out publicly in support of cannabis when she was conducting research in Los Angeles. After she did so, her lab was raided. "There are consequences to becoming vocal about something that should be protected by free speech," she says.
The Drug Policy Alliance, the largest global drug-reform group in the nation, recently recognized Scientists for Legalization, awarding IMPACT $10,000 to fund the program. In a letter announcing the grant, the DPA saluted IMPACT's advocacy efforts to remove cannabis from the Controlled Substance Act and its efforts to promote "the legalization and federal and state funding for cannabis research."
Although the list of scientists who have joined Scientists for Legalization has not yet been made public, IMPACT confirms that Colorado-based researchers have signed on.
"Scientists haven't really lobbied the government to make any changes," Ross says. "Again, we're all really scared.... Nobody is speaking up and saying this is how this should be, this is unfair practices."