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Feds Okay Study That Examines MMJ to Treat PTSD

Initially given the go-ahead by the FDA, the study has finally gotten approval from HHS though researchers still must seek the blessing of the DEA.

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By Shawn Dwyer

03/17/14

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In a surprising move by the federal government, the Department of Health and Human Services has signed off on a study that will look at marijuana as a treatment for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. The move is seen as a startling shift in U.S. drug policy.

The study was first proposed by the University of Arizona and was approved long ago by the Food and Drug Administration, but researchers have been unable to purchase marijuana from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Last week, however, HHS wrote a letter paving the way for researchers to purchase medical marijuana, though the university still needs approval from the Drug Enforcement Agency.

Once obtaining that approval, researchers will measure the effects of different strains of marijuana in treating 50 veterans with PTSD. According to the Veterans Administration, roughly 11 to 20 percent of soldiers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from the disorder. Nationwide, around 7.7 million adults have PTSD.

Despite the study’s approval, marijuana remains a Schedule I drug under the government’s Controlled Substance Act, which means the drug is considered to be addictive while possessing no medical benefits. But last month, a contingent of congressmen asked the Obama Administration to declassify pot as a Schedule I drug. “Classifying marijuana as Schedule I at the federal level perpetuates an unjust and irrational system,” their letter to the White House read in part. “We believe the current system wastes resources and destroys lives, in turn damaging families and communities. Taking action on this issue is long overdue.”

So far, the Obama Administration has given no indication whether or not it was willing to consider the proposal, even though Attorney General Eric Holder announced new regulations in January that would allow for banks to conduct business with pot retailers in Colorado and Washington without fear of federal prosecution.

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