PRIVATE AND STATE-FUNDED
MEDICAL MARIJUANA RESEARCH
SHOULD BE ENCOURAGED,
PROVIDE NIDA MARIJUANA TO ALL FDA-APPROVED PROTOCOLS
PROVIDE NIDA MARIJUANA TO PROTOCOLS REVIEWED BY
A NON-NIH PEER REVIEW PROCESS
In all areas of science and medicine other than the medical use of marijuana, research funded by
private resources rather than federal grants is welcomed and encouraged. For medical marijuana,
however, even state-funded studies are currently prohibited. The prohibition of all medical
marijuana research not funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is sustained only by
virtue of the monopoly held by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) on the supply of
marijuana legal for use in FDA-approved research.
Dr. Alan Leshner, Director of NIDA, states that NIDA will consider supplying marijuana to
projects that request only the marijuana and not federal funds as long as the protocols are peer-
reviewed. Yet the only peer review process that Dr. Leshner has indicated that NIDA will consider
valid is the NIH grant review process which reviews protocols only in the narrow context of grant
applications for the full sum of a proposed research budget.
The prohibition on private and state-funded marijuana research is especially ironic in light of Dr.
Leshner's rationale. Dr. Leshner portrays NIDA policy as being the only method by which he can
fulfill his responsibility to ensure that government assets are not squandered on unworthy research
projects that have been approved by the FDA. Yet if the National Institutes of Health ever
approve a marijuana grant request, this policy, claiming to save scarce federal
resources, will actually cost hundreds of thousands of dollars of federal monies
that would otherwise have been assumed by private or state sources.
According to a report prepared in November 1996 by Dr. Mahmoud ElSohly, the scientist
directing the University of Mississippi marijuana growing operation contracted by NIDA, it costs
$200/kilogram to produce marijuana suitable for use in human clinical research and approximately
$920/kilogram to process it. The medical marijuana protocol by Dr. Abrams which was originally
approved by the FDA required only 5.4 kgs of marijuana, at a cost to NIDA of roughly $6,000.
This study would have cost $60,000 to conduct and would have been funded byprivate sources.
The revised protocol that Dr. Abrams was forced to submit to the NIH for review and funding,
only to have it rejected, called for just one pound of marijuana, representing a cost to NIDA of
$1,120. That study would have cost the federal government $300,000 to conduct.
NIDA's policy to refuse to provide marijuana to private and state-funded
research will potentially result in unnecessary federal expenditure. Furthermore,
important research that the FDA has considered sufficiently safe and well-designed
will have been needlessly delayed, harming both patients and the free scientific
process that the Clinton Administration speaks so highly of protecting.
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