Despite the Trump administration’s best efforts to curb marijuana research on a federal level, it seems that scientists have even more issues to deal with on a day-to-day basis, even when it comes to the quality of government weed used for government research. Why are scientists demanding better weed for government research, you might ask? Because inaccurate findings could, in turn, affect both medicinal cannabis research and the patients who stand to benefit from it.
Low-Grade Cannabis Draws Inaccurate Conclusions?
According to most researchers, the bottom line is this: the cannabis samples they’re given by the government—specifically the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)—for federally-funded studies is more or less schwag. And considering that mandated testing has been around since the 1960s, the issue is hardly recent.
One of the most vocal opponents of current federally-sanctioned cannabis samples for testing is Sue Sisley, a medicinal marijuana research whose recent work includes a cutting-edge clinical trial studying the benefits of medical pot for military veterans suffering from PTSD.
“It doesn’t resemble cannabis. It doesn’t smell like cannabis,” Sisley told recently told reporters, describing the weed cultivated by NIDA she’s forced to work with.
So what are these differences? Weed commonly found on the street is verdant, lush, and healthily-budded. In comparison, the cannabis Sisley and other researchers are given for their work is usually brittle, light in color, and has a higher ratio of stem to flower.
Final Hit: Scientists Demand Better Weed For Research
It’s not only the appearance of these test samples that fail to reflect the average quality of cannabis consumed by both recreational users and medicinal marijuana patients.
The federal weed, which is grown out of a sole facility in Mississippi, contains a much lower percentage of THC compared to commercial weed found in states where pot is fully legalized.
As Sisley noted, the federally-sanctioned strains are supposed to have a THC potency of 13 percent—still less than the national commercial average. In many cases, the samples contain a meager 8 percent. (By comparison, the typical percentage for weed in Colorado is 19 percent.)
Even worse: some scientists have reported batches that are more or less compromised. For example? Sisley told the press that certain samples for her trial tested positive for mold. At best, it’s a factor that could have jeopardized her results, and sequentially, her entire research.
At worst, if the weed was given to trial participants, those with mold allergies could have suffered from severe complications. (While Sisley explicitly excluded patients with such allergies from participating in the trial, it’s beside the point.)
While some scientists have rightfully pointed out that the low-grade weed provided by NIDA doesn’t necessarily matter for certain tests conducted in a lab setting, others argue that they’re ultimately not reflective of the impact it could have on real patients in the real world.
On top of that, it can affect timelines and logistics for scientists; Sisley’s trial, for instance, incurred months-long delays due to the unusable weed NIDA provided.
To Sisley, the issue is simple for scientists demanding better weed for government research. “If you’re trying to do a study where you imitate what patients do in the real world, you can’t,” she said.