Cannabis research at risk as political climate adjusts

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

If there is one thing that gives the cannabis industry its consistent momentum, it has to be the groundbreaking research that is being carried out to develop medical-grade products, such as those used for the treatment of epilepsy, chemotherapy-induced pain and autism.

Over the last few years, the world has been enlightened about cannabis’ medicinal powers, with studies revealing how the Cannabidiol (CBD) compound can be extracted from cannabis plant matter and used to slow cancer cell growth.

This is just one of many uses for cannabis and its chemical compounds, with both CBD and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) boasting antioxidant and neuroprotective effects.

Without ongoing research, industry advocates would be unable to produce pharmaceutical-grade goods for consumers, such as oils, infused edibles, liquids and capsules.

Until recently, the Department of Justice shielded individuals from prosecution, which essentially prevented the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) from picking a legal battle with those individuals.

However, after the Trump administration repealed a rule that safeguards ‘green’ states. People who want to get involved in medical cannabis research and development (R&D) may now struggle to do so.

“For a lot of people who are in the medical cannabis space, this is one of their biggest fears about Sessions – that he would rescind the non-interference cannabis policies of Obama,”Jahan Marcu, Chief Auditor for Americans for Safe Access and the Patient Focused Certification (PFC) Program, said.

Reversal of the Cole Memo

On January 19, 2018, US attorney general Jeff Sessions reversed guidance that was put into place by the Obama administration, or the ‘Cole memo’ as it is better known, preventing federal prosecutors from causing interference among cannabis-friendly states with the aim of achieving ‘previously established prosecutorial principles’.

Image result for cole memo

If Congress chooses not to extend protections, the Department of Justice will be able to spend money tracking down state-compliant medical cannabis businesses. Patients would also be affected.

Although the rescinding of the Cole memo has left people feeling somewhat perplexed and frustrated, the overall situation has served as a much-needed stimulus for conversation in regards to overcoming obstacles that separate state and federal cannabis laws.

“It is very important, particularly for medical marijuana, to give that clear protection there won’t be federal funds used on prosecuting it,” is a statement from co-founder of Way and Way Cannabis Consulting, Erik Williams.

Increasing Regulation for Medical Cannabis Programmes

Aside from the prevention of unwarranted raids and arrests, the Cole memo inspired states that broadened medical cannabis program regulation.

At present, just four states have not legalized medical cannabis, with 15 states developing medical cannabis schemes since 2013, when the Cole memo was initially issued.

Individuals who take on an academic position inside a medical cannabis dispensary ought to make themselves aware of what is happening to avoid legal disputes.

This is especially true for pharmacologists or chemists who could potentially be kicked out of their own homes if the DEA finds reason to do so. After all, much of this cannabis research requires an investment of some kind, such as a grant.

Getting Ready for Law Enforcement Action

The federal crackdown for state medical cannabis has certainly put a spanner in the works for medical cannabis business owners, what with private investors turning their backs to previously appealing investment opportunities.

Sessions has angered many with his decision, most of whom are well-known Republicans. Since cannabis programs can bring in generous amount of tax and medicine revenue, is it any wonder why Sessions is getting the cold shoulder?

Active industry advocates should prepare for law enforcement as a means of reducing their chances of being targeted. By investing in regulatory compliance and in-depth staff training, cannabis science can be fought for.