Marijuana Study For Veterans With PTSD Approved, In An Unexpected One-Eighty By The White House

In what amounts to a historic shift in federal drug policy, the Obama administration has given the go-ahead to researchers to study marijuana as a potential treatment for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. Medical marijuana advocates have been pushing for this for over two decades, and the Department of Health and Human Services finally cleared the study last week. It’s the first time in U.S. history that the federal government has sanctioned a study into the possible medical benefits of weed.

Back in 2011, the Food and Drug Adminsitration approved the study, which was proposed by researchers at the University of Arizona. But in order to actually carry it out, researchers needed to purchase marijuana from the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), whose marijuana farm in Mississippi is the only federally-approved source of the drug. However, HHS has long refused to sell NIDS weed for any studies other than those that focused on marijuana’s addiction potential.

But that all changed last week, when — in a completely unexpected move — HHS approved the sale. The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), which is helping fund the study, was delighted at the decision.

“MAPS has been working for over 22 years to start marijuana drug development research,” a spokesman said in a statement, “and this is the first time we’ve been granted permission to purchase marijuana from NIDA.”

The decision is the most recent development in the White House's mixed legacy on drug reform. On the one hand, the DEA substantially upped the number of raids on medical marijuana facilities during the first few years of Barack Obama’s presidency. More recently, though, the Justice Department has made several equally-significant pro-marijuana decisions, including allowing banks to conduct business with marijuana-related industries and opting not to interfere with Colorado and Washington's legalization of recreational marijuana in 2012.

The NIDA sale still needs to be approved by the DEA, but that’s expected to come quickly and uncontroversially now that HHS has signed off.