June 24, 2024

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Why Medical Cannabis Research Has Been Hampered by Washington

3 min read
Cannabis marijuana leaves. Overhead flat lay studio shot

One of the concerns raised by medical professionals still not sure of medical cannabis’ efficacy is a lack of reliable research. Although the tide is changing, critics do make a valid point. Research into medical cannabis has been limited since marijuana was put on the Schedule I list of controlled substances back in the 1970s. Unfortunately, the realities of Washington have hampered research unnecessarily.

Federal Law Remains Intact

Federal law regarding the legality of marijuana and its derived products remains intact despite the fact that more than three-dozen states now have medical cannabis programs in place. The states have been allowed to establish their programs by virtue of the fact that federal law enforcement has voluntarily agreed to turn a blind eye. But marijuana is still illegal under federal law.


As such, Washington has limited the availability of marijuana for research purposes. For decades, there was only one approved growing facility to cover the entire nation. And according to a recent report from the Daily Utah Chronicle, the quality of the marijuana produced at that facility is often insufficient for research purposes.

The good news is that federal regulators have opened the door to establishing numerous additional growing operations in support of research. The University of Utah hopes to establish one of those operations in the future, according to the Chronicle. University officials just announced the opening of the new Center for Medical Cannabis Research at the school as well.

Marijuana Hard to Come By

Questions surrounding whether marijuana is a suitable medicine have lingered for years. Yet ancient cultures utilized marijuana medicinally, spiritually, and recreationally for centuries. We have plenty of historical evidence of its use as a medicine in particular. So why has research been so fleeting?

As previously mentioned, marijuana has been hard to come by for some 50 years. One growing operation to support all the potential research universities and private sector facilities could be doing simply is not enough. But above and beyond limited supply is the reality that Washington has to approve all research before any marijuana can be packaged and shipped.

Getting permission has traditionally been almost as difficult as getting one’s hands on the plant itself. The many hurdles attached to cannabis research have made it not worth the effort. But again, the tide is changing. Washington seems more willing than ever before to not only approve research, but to help make it happen.

Meanwhile, In the States

Meanwhile, the states are pressing forward with both medical cannabis and improving access. Utah lawmakers have been especially busy in the last several years, taking a clunky and arcane medical cannabis law and continually modifying and tweaking it to make it one of the best in the nation.

As we turn the calendar to 2024, medical cannabis patients in southern Utah now have access to their medications via a brand-new pharmacy known as Zion Medicinal. Serving patients in the St. George and Cedar City areas, the pharmacy owes its license to the fact that lawmakers wanted to expand access.

Lawmakers have also added to the list of qualifying conditions, increased the term of a medical cannabis card to a full year, and given the green light to any doctor, advanced practice nurse, or orthopedist with prescribing authority in the state to recommend medical cannabis.

Medical cannabis has indeed come a long way over the last decade. And now that Washington has eased up on research restrictions, advocates expect to see a lot more data demonstrating that cannabis can be an effective medicine when used properly.

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