Among the more fascinating presentations at Institute of Cannabis Research (ICR) 2019 Conference was from a researcher who has genetically shown the federal government’s own marijuana is much more closely aligned to hemp than it is to the currently available medical cannabis varieties in Colorado.

Dr. Anna Schwabe

The delightfully coiffed Dr. Anna Schwabe presented some fascinating results from her genetic comparison of Colorado hemp, several cultivars of Colorado medical cannabis, and the federal government’s own marijuana, produced by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).  Admittedly, many of Dr. Schwabe’s slides showing the universe of genetic study were over-the-head of this writer. But her bottom line was unmistakable: NIDA marijuana is genetically a lot closer to hemp than it is to any of the available medical cannabis products in Colorado. Dr. Schwabe’s conclusion, amplified a few days later by publication of her research in the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories bioRxiv (http://m.aryspub.com/e3018) says it all: “These research results suggest that medical participants consuming NIDA marijuana for research purposes may experience different effects than those consuming legal cannabis from dispensaries.”

Whoa!  So the millions of dollars that have been spent to study the medicinal and abusive effects of cannabis are actually being conducted with high-grade hemp? 

Um, yes. 

This is bombshell news folks. NIDA’s monopoly on research marijuana is bad enough, but to now learn that the product is not any better than cultivated hemp that has been legalized across the U.S. by the 2018 Farm Bill really does take the cake. Potential researchers are made to jump through hoops, endure endless harassment by DEA and NIDA bureaucrats, and then wait several years for what? The joy of conducting research with a high grade hemp that they could likely purchase legally in their own state? Best of all, research like Dr. Schwabe’s provides investigators with a means of locating product that is genetically similar to NIDA’s tightly guarded, albeit clinically questionable, product.

Dr. Schwabe and her colleagues write, “As the interest for medical Cannabis increases, it is important that research examining the threats and benefits of Cannabis use accurately reflect the experiences of the general public.”  It is a polite way of asking NIDA to join the real world.

When will the U.S. federal government stop treating this plant as if it were plutonium? ❖

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