Marijuana Research to be Expanded for Medical Use

DEA to Allow Universities to Apply for Marijuana Research

On August 10, 2016, the New York Times ( announced that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will allow universities to apply to grow marijuana for use in federally funded research. At the present time, the University of Mississippi is the only institution authorized to grow it for use in medical studies.
Researchers at the University of Mississippi and their approved garden.

Researchers at the University of Mississippi and their approved garden.

According to John Hudak, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, “It will create a supply of research-grade marijuana that is diverse, but more importantly, it will be competitive and you will have growers motivated to meet the demands of researchers.” At the same time, the DEA has turned down requests to remove marijuana from “Schedule 1” classification. According to the DEA, the drug has “no currently accepted medical use” in the United States. However, the Department of Justice has made it clear they will not prosecute as long as patients and doctors follow state law. My Comments: In my practice I see patients who live in New Hampshire and in Vermont. Both states have legalized marijuana for medical use.  Approved use includes cancer, glaucoma, AIDS, as well as other conditions. Although shortness of breath, or breathing difficulty, is not an approved use in either state, it is possible that anyone with COPD may qualify for another or a related reason.  For example, in Vermont medical marijuana is approved for a medical condition with one or more of the following intractable symptoms: “cachexia (weight loss) or wasting syndrome, severe pain or nausea or seizures.” At the present, I have one patient who lives in Vermont and has severe COPD and uses oxygen 24/7. He/she is using cannabis oil for cachexia (weight loss and wasting). A drop of the oil is placed under the tongue each night for persistent breathing difficulty. He/she has reported marked improvement in his/her shortness of breath.
Approved garden for growing marijuana plants.

Approved garden for growing plants.

It is unclear how many universities will receive licenses to grow marijuana. Researchers will have to receive approval from the DEA and the Food and Drug Administration to perform medical studies. Hopefully, scientists will study the effects of oral marijuana on shortness of breath.  

Donald A. Mahler, M.D. is Emeritus Professor of Medicine at Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth in Hanover, New Hampshire. He works as a pulmonary physician at Valley Regional Hospital in Claremont, NH, where he is Director of Respiratory Services.