Researchers: Anti-Marijuana Laws Hamper Scientific Advancement

A new article published this month in the journal Nature Review Neuroscience leads with some powerful words for anti-marijuana advocates from some of the world’s top scientists.
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The scientists say that drug prohibition hampering scientific study is the worst case of scientific censorship since the Catholic church banned the works of Galileo and Copernicus.

Ouch.

Our Los Angeles marijuana lawyers hope our lawmakers will take that to heart in weighing their options for future legislation.

The paper was penned by former U.K. government advisors (one of those a professor at the Imperial College of London) and Professor David Nichols of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. The piece, entitled “Effects of Schedule I drug laws on neuroscience research and treatment innovation”, decries the sweeping governmental regulations that stringently restrict the possession of Schedule I narcotics – including marijuana.

For starters, the researchers say the laws were not based on science, but rather on hype. The dangers and harms of many of these substances were severely overstated at the time the laws were passed.

The tragedy is not so much that a college kid can’t do ecstasy on the weekend without risking arrest. Rather, the researchers say, it’s the fact that scientists aren’t able to gain access to study the drugs in controlled environments to explore their potential for other medicinal uses. In many cases, access to the drugs for the purposes of study are impossible.

What that means is we have people who are ailing. We have substances that could potentially help them. But the researchers who might connect those dots are bound by overly broad laws that, in today’s world, are simply nonsensical.

And what is the motivation? It’s not scientists, the paper’s authors say. It’s politics. And that, say the legal scholars, is “scandalous.” The only issue that came close to this, they said, was the Bush administration’s ban on embryonic stem cell research. That legislation, however, affected only the U.S. Bans on marijuana and other Schedule 1 narcotics, such as MDMA and psychedelics, are repeated in nation after nation.

The researchers argued that adopting a “more rational approach” to the regulation of these drugs, scientists might then be empowered to make advances that could lead to exponential treatment innovations in areas such as traumatic brain injuries and psychosis.

One of the study’s authors, Professor Brian Nutt, had been the leader of Britain’s Advisory Committee on the Misuse of Drugs up until four years ago, when he sharply criticized his colleagues’ refusal to consider the committee’s review of scientific advise on the possible uses of marijuana and other drugs.

Researchers are able to get around the bans in some ways – usually by conducting surveys or other methods that don’t involve active administration of the drug. For example, a study published recently in the American Journal of Medicine surveyed blood test results of some 4,700 purported marijuana users. What they found was that marijuana users tended to be less obese and have lower levels of insulin resistance. What that means is that there could be something in the drug that could help ward off diabetes, a problem that affects about 26 million people in the U.S.

However, singling out what that element of the drug is would be tough for scientists to do without actually having access to it.

This is a prime example of the kind of opportunities we may be missing out on.

The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.

Additional Resources:
Drug Prohibitions Hurt Science, Researchers Say, June 12, 2013, By Phillip Smith, The Daily Chronic
More Blog Entries:
California Marijuana Legislation Rejected by Lawmakers, June 9, 2013, Los Angeles Marijuana Lawyer Blog