Any researcher attempting to study marijuana must obtain it through the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). The U.S. research crop, grown at a single facility, is regarded as less potent–and therefore less medicinally interesting–than the marijuana often easily available on the street. Thus, the legal supply is a poor vehicle for studying the approximately 60 cannabinoids that might have medical applications.
This system has unintended, almost comic, consequences. For example, it has created a market for research marijuana, with “buyers” trading journal co-authorships to “sellers” who already have a marijuana stockpile or license. The government may also have a stake in a certain kind of result. One scientist tells of a research grant application to study marijuana’s potential medical benefits. NIDA turned it down. That scientist rewrote the grant to emphasize finding marijuana’s negative effects. The study was funded.