Marijuana: Jared Polis on why the feds should end the monopoly on pot testing

Congressman Jared Polis is among the majority of U.S. House representatives who voted in favor of defunding DEA raids on medical marijuana businesses in states where MMJ is legal. But even though that effort is currently stalled in the Senate, Polis is trying to push ahead on other cannabis-related fronts.

Case in point: Polis is among thirty Congressional signatories of a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell. The missive asks that Burwell take steps toward ending what Polis describes as the federal government's "monopoly on marijuana research."

As you know, the feds list cannabis as a Schedule I narcotic, meaning it has no known or accepted medical use -- even though more than twenty states and the District of Columbia have legalized MMJ.

A possible way to end this disconnect is to conduct studies that prove marijuana's medical efficacy. But the letter maintains that "scientific research clearly documenting these benefits has often been hampered by federal barriers."

How so? Researchers not funded by the National Institute of Health who hope to study Schedule I narcotics must get approval through the Food and Drug Administration and the Institutional Review Board, be registered with the Drug Enforcement Administration, and meet the qualifications for required state and local licenses. However, those focusing on marijuana have to jump through additional hoops, including a Public Health Service review. And even if such scientists are blessed by bureaucrats at this stage, the only source of pot that can be legally used for research is "grown by the University of Mississippi under contract with the National Institute on Drug Abuse," the letter points out.

Polis and company see these last, specific-to-pot steps as unnecessary and ask Secretary Burwell to make changes to allow non-NIH-funded researchers approved by the FDA, the IRB, the DEA and their state and local governing bodies to "access marijuana for research at-cost without further review."

In a statement sent to Westword, Polis sees such a policy shift as representing common sense.

"There is no reason that the federal government should have a monopoly on marijuana research, particularly in states where the voters have chosen to regulate marijuana for medicinal or recreational purposes," he notes. "In these states, there is a legitimate interest in ensuring that citizens are able to maximize medical benefits and develop new applications that the federal government lacks the will or the funding to discover.

"The House of Representatives has already expressed its will that the federal government should not interfere in states with legal medical marijuana," Polis continues, "and the ability to conduct state or privately funded research is an integral part of a successful regulatory program."

Here's the letter to Secretary Burwell.

Marijuana Testing Letter

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.

More from our Marijuana archive circa May 30: "U.S. House votes to defund DEA medical marijuana raids in Colorado, other MMJ states."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts

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