After more than 50 years, the federal government is lifting a roadblock to cannabis research that scientists and advocates say has hindered rigorous studies of the plant and possible drug development.
Since 1968, U.S. researchers have been allowed to use cannabis from only one domestic source: a facility based at the University of Mississippi, through a contract with the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
That changed earlier this month, when the Drug Enforcement Administration announced it’s in the process of registering several additional American companies to produce cannabis for medical and scientific purposes.
It’s a move that promises to accelerate understanding of the plant’s health effects and possible therapies for treating conditions — chronic pain, the side effects of chemotherapy, multiple sclerosis and mental illness, among many others — that are yet to be well studied.
“This is a momentous decision,” says Rick Doblin, executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), which has spearheaded research into other Schedule 1 drugs — the most restrictive class of controlled substance, which the federal government defines as “drugs with no currently accepted medical use.”