WHEN HIPPOCRATIC AND HYPOCRITICAL COLLIDE:
How NIDA’s anti-marijuana bias is hurting the people it professes to protect
There is a long history of negative propaganda associated with the use of marijuana dating back ~80 years to the film Reefer Madness (1936): A movie which was so comical in its representation of pot-smokers as murderers, rapists and generally depraved individuals, that it enjoyed a re-branding as an exploitation film in the 1970s and was even remade into a musical satire in the 1990s. Not so comical is the continued reticence of federal governing bodies to objectively (and fairly) examine both the negative and positive effects of the drug.
The use of marijuana as a psychoactive drug and for medical purposes is hardly new; evidence shows cannabis use dates back at least as far as 2727 BCE. in ancient China, as well as historically in ancient Rome, Greece, the Middle East and Northern Africa. In fact, cannabis’ history of cultivation both as medicine and for pyschoactive effect closely mirrors that of two other crops: the coca plant (cocaine) and the opium poppy (morphine, codeine, heroin and oxycodone). Unlike those other crops, there has been a persistent stigma associated with marijuana use and cannabis research that has stood in the way of extensive unbiased research.
This is curious, considering that the potential negative effects (addiction and withdrawal properties specifically) of cannabinoids compared to cocaine and opioids/narcotics are significantly lower.
Research into the coca and poppy plants has been thorough and extensive (in spite of the higher risks associated with their derivatives) and the results have yielded numerous medical advances, with applications in multiple areas of medicine including pain management, eye and nasal surgery and anaesthesia.
Objective research of cannabis efficacy is harder to find. This is not to say that there has not been any research performed, or that those studies in themselves are unreliable. The issue is moreso that studies are forced in large part to make use of anecdotal evidence and patient self-reports, due to limited availability and access to medical marijuana for research.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) currently holds a federally-granted monopoly on the U.S.’s medical marijuana supply, with a laboratory at the University of Mississippi being the only facility permitted to grow medical marijuana. They also oversee an estimated 85% of the world’s research on controlled substances. The effects of this on the research of marijuana both domestically and abroad are complicated: NIDA exerts control both over what studies are approved for research, as well as what types of studies are approved.