In the face of obstacles to marijuana research from both the Drug Enforcement Administration and the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a theoretical physicist at the California Institute of Technology and one-time MacArthur Fellow is calling out the federal government on its obstruction of science.
During an address before a medical marijuana conference Friday, John H. Schwarz explained how the DEA and NIDA act as a “tag team” to censor science, with NIDA holding a monopoly over legal access to cannabis for research, and the DEA refusing to reconsider the drug’s designation in the Controlled Substances Act as a dangerous substance with no medical value on the basis that sufficient research does not exist. He alleges that the government has blocked research even though it has long been aware of marijuana’s potential to serve many medical benefits including shrink aggressive cancer cells is because it might “send the wrong message to children”:
The most blatant example of this behavior came last year, when NIDA blocked an FDA-approved clinical trial testing marijuana as a remedy for post traumatic stress disorder, PTSD. It’s especially sad to note that the study participants were veterans, with PTSD deemed untreatable by other means. After 12 years of war, this is how we treat them. […]
As a physicist, I can assure you that this not how physics works. … We are all expected to act like grownups and accept it gracefully as experiments prove our favorite theories are false. In physics, unlike marijuana policy, we consider the right message to send to be the message that’s true. […]
Consider what American science might look like if all research were run like marijuana research is being run now. Suppose the Institute for Creation Science were put in charge of approving paleontology digs and the science of human evolution. Imagine what would happen to the environment if we gave coal and oil companies the power to block any climate research they didn’t like.
Of course, as Schwarz acknowledges, interest groups such as coal and oil companies often do have a significant influence over policy decisions, regardless of the underlying science. Even blocking research outright — a much less common tactic — is not unique to marijuana. The NRA has had tremendous success, for example, in blocking gun violence prevention research. It remains, however, a uniquely insidious tactic that Schwartz says harkens back to the era of witch hunts. And as Schwartz points out, organizations tasked with “drug enforcement” and battling “drug abuse” are not well-positioned to remain neutral on the best way to handle drug policy. A bill introduced by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) would take federal oversight of marijuana research out of the hands of NIDA.
Like many marijuana advocates, Schwarz has a family member whose life was altered by medical marijuana. His wife, Patricia, resorted to remedies as extreme as electric shock before turning to marijuana to treat her chronic bladder inflammation — the only remedy that worked.
“After a few months of using it,” around the time of the passage of Proposition 215’s passage in California 16 years ago, he said, “her bladder function returned to normal and so did our lives, except for one thing: we were now facing the wrath of the most powerful government in the world.” And they still are.