Colorado to federal government: Let our colleges grow pot for research

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MEDICINAL MARIJUANA

Ryan Milligan tends to the plants he grows at the Greenwekrs facility for sale to medical marijuana dispensaries in Denvery, Colorado, on August 3, 2011. Photo by Randall Benton/Getty Images.

Colorado colleges may soon begin growing their own weed — that is, if a group of state officials have their way.

In a letter sent to federal health and education officials last month, the state’s attorney general’s office asked for permission for Colorado’s colleges and universities to “obtain marijuana from non-federal government sources” for research purposes, the Los Angeles Times reported.

They say the state’s legalization of pot has raised larger questions about the drug’s health affects, which could be studied to “fill the void of scientific research” at universities.

“Current research is riddled with bias or insufficiencies and often conflict with one another,” Colorado Deputy Attorney General David Blake wrote in the letter, which was sent to five federal agencies including the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Education and the National Institutes of Health. 

Only one federally approved marijuana farm exists at the University of Mississippi’s National Center for Natural Products Research, which is operated by the National Institute of Drug Abuse, according to the Brush News-Tribune.

But bureaucratic red tape make it difficult for researchers to obtain the pot, so Colorado officials would instead like universities to contract with NIDA to grow their own weed locally. 

“We are basically seeking permission for an activity that has been banned for 70-plus years,” Rep. Dan Pabon (D-Co.), who helped craft the state’s marijuana laws, told the LA Times. “Universities are generally where the best research takes place so why not have the best and brightest working on discovering not only the dangers but also the therapeutic benefits of marijuana?”

While marijuana is legal in Colorado, save for some qualifications, it remains illegal under federal law, and the state is still struggling to regulate marijuana products like edibles and stay ahead of potential health threats that increased consumption of the drug may cause. 

“The conversation is changing,” Teri Robnett, a member of Colorado’s Medical Marijuana Scientific Advisory Council, told the LA Times. “We have hospitals using cannabis therapy for epilepsy. What kind of epilepsy does it work best on? The only way we can find out is through research, but until we can grow our own marijuana all researchers have to go through NIDA.”

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