Late last week, in a speech at a medical marijuana conference flagged by Think Progress, Caltech theoretical physicist John H. Schwartz blasted the federal government’s treatment of marijuana research. Schwartz described the Catch-22 situation set up by the “tag team” of the Drug Enforcement Administration and the National Institute on Drug Abuse: At the same time the government says there is insufficient research to change marijuana’s designation from “a dangerous substance with no medical value,” government bodies systematically block such research from taking place.
Think Progress cited passages from Schwartz’s pointed remarks:
The most blatant example of this behavior [from the government] came last year, when NIDA blocked an FDA-approved clinical trial testing marijuana as a remedy for post traumatic stress disorder, PTSD. It’s especially sad to note that the study participants were veterans, with PTSD deemed untreatable by other means. After 12 years of war, this is how we treat them.
The physicist, of course well-versed in the idea of confirmation bias, then compared the way marijuana research is currently run to allowing creationists to oversee paleontological research:
Consider what American science might look like if all research were run like marijuana research is being run now. Suppose the Institute for Creation Science were put in charge of approving paleontology digs and the science of human evolution. Imagine what would happen to the environment if we gave coal and oil companies the power to block any climate research they didn’t like.
As Think Progress noted, “as Schwartz acknowledges, interest groups such as coal and oil companies often do have a significant influence over policy decisions, regardless of the underlying science.” However, there is something peculiarly infuriating about the federal double bind when it comes to marijuana — that is, demanding and blocking research at this same time.