Rick Doblin Asks the Government About Their Obstruction of Cannabis Research

The Nexian explains how MAPS’ FDA-approved study of marijuana for treating symptoms of PTSD cannot begin due to obstacles put in place by the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). The article highlights MAPS Executive Director Rick Doblin’s recent letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services explaining how research can only move forward if the PHS protocol review process ends and/or the NIDA monopoly on marijuana ends.

Originally appearing here.

Cannabis legalization for both medicinal and recreational purposes is currently sweeping through various state legislatures throughout the United States, in violation of both U.S. federal law and international treaties. Unfortunately, researchers at the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) have been left high and dry in their attempts to move forward with sanctioned research into the medicinal benefits of Cannabis. Well…ok…maybe more dry than high, but you get the point. Even though MAPS has received approval by both the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Institutional Review Board (IRB), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has essentially stonewalled efforts to proceed with the proposed research. With this as a backdrop, last week Rick Doblin sent the DHHS a letter inquiring as to the government’s refusal to cooperate with these research efforts.

As Rick Doblin rightly points out in his letter, "MAPS is the conservative wing of the medical marijuana movement." However, politicians who view themselves as "Drug Warriors" and fear the political backlash of being seen as "soft on drugs," know full well that Cannabis is the linchpin in the War on [Some People Who Use Certain] Drugs. Without Cannabis, the massive amounts of funding for drug interdiction and incarceration–in the forms of direct budgetary funding, military surplus grants, and prison grants, to name but a few–would be unjustifiable. For this reason, even MAPS’ conservatively reformist efforts to end the monopoly held by the National Institute on Drug Abuse on the supply of marijuana for FDA-regulated research and to remove the extraneous Public Health Service review (a procedure only imposed on researchers wishing to study Cannabis) are being fought tooth and nail by government agencies.

In his letter, in addition to calling out the DHHS for their inaction, Doblin explicitly laments that a recent op-ed in the New York Times focused on the macro-bureaucratic rescheduling of Cannabis, rather than the micro-bureaucratic shuffling of departmental procedures and monopolies. This critique evidences the institutional tunnel-vision that can appear when sanctioned research into "criminal" arenas is allowed; dividing populations with similar interests into "criminal" and "legitimate" classes, and fomenting internal schisms that obfuscate the real issues. Evidencing the medicinal benefits of cannabis may help end prohibition and the pain and suffering it causes. However, the psychedelic community, especially researchers, should not become so fixated on the research they are intent on carrying out that they forget the underlying humanitarian reasons they are engaged in such research in the first place. Ending drug prohibition and facilitating research into currently criminalized substances will require a united effort between sanctioned researchers, underground researchers, human rights advocates, drug users, non-drug users, parents, children, and other human beings of all stripes.