Article by Alice O’Leary Randall, Huffington Post
Many marijuana activists and reformers were disappointed recently when the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued their long anticipated “big announcement” of the summer and marijuana wasn’t rescheduled. Rumors had been swirling for months that DEA would re-schedule marijuana, moving the prohibited substance out of Schedule I and into, well, no one really knew because there was really no substance to the rumor. As an observer of the marijuana reform movement for nearly four decades, this writer never gave the rumors any credence. DEA will reschedule marijuana the day after they pry Charlton Heston’s cold dead hands from his NRA rifle.
The DEA did take some action and it is significant. Essentially they announced the end of a monopoly. For fifty years, and perhaps longer, the University of Mississippi has been the only legal producer of cannabis in the United States. The DEA announced that will change. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has awarded the contract to Ole’ Miss for decade after decade and the University has been providing researchers and a few medical patients with what passes for marijuana in the federal government’s thinking but which most legal users describe as “ditch weed.”
I once visited the Mississippi “pot plantation” and was taken aback with how small the acreage actually is. It was in September 1978 and the medical marijuana movement was picking up steam with four states enacting laws that authorized intrastate research using federal supplies of marijuana. In 1979 that number would grow to 20-plus and it was clear that the “pot plantation” could not possibly provide the amount of marijuana the states would require to make these research programs a reality. The feds were able to short-circuit the state medical marijuana research programs by releasing synthetic delta-9 THC (a.k.a., Marinol) and for the next thirty years the Ole’ Miss pot plantation just kept rolling along, servicing a handful of legal medical marijuana patients and researchers still trying to find the “harm” in marijuana.
Then the “Eureka” moment occurred. Researchers discovered theendogenous cannabinoid system (ECS) in the 1990s and cannabis research would never be the same. This discovery of an entirely unknown physiological system—found in every mammal — set the scientific community abuzz. In particular the community was excited about a little known cannabinoid, CBD, which seemed to have a multitude of therapeutic properties but none of the pesky psychoactive properties associated with THC.
Simultaneously in the U.S. there was a new round of state laws being enacted, this time via the ballot box. Medical cannabis patients found their voices and loudly demanded legal access. Entrepreneurs began growing cannabis and, most importantly, openly discussing and experimenting with different strains. Think Charlotte’s Web and you get the picture. Cultivators of legal cannabis began to conduct the experiments that NIDA and DEA should have done years before. And countries like Israel, Spain and Canada began developing strains of cannabis that gave legitimate researchers the cannabis they needed to explore the wonders of the ECS. The U.S. government had missed the boat, the golden age of cannabis research had sailed without them.