One of the biggest problems in the discussion of marijuana legalization, or the health benefits or drawbacks, is that scientifically, what the plant can and can’t do boils down to a big ol’ shrug. If you’re going to legally study marijuana, you need the approval, and the drugs, from the government, and securing that is a long, painful regulatory process. The government tends to be deeply skeptical of requests to buy its weed, but the Drug Enforcement Administration is changing its tune.
The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies filed a request to run a study examining if veterans suffering from long-term “treatment-resistant” post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. The DEA surprisingly not only approved the study, but is letting the team test four different strains to see which, if any, are the most effective. With the DEA on board, that paves the way through the rest of the regulatory obstacles; the tests, with 76 veterans, will begin once the marijuana arrives later this year.
It’s been theorized marijuana might be a useful treatment for PTSD, and there’s been promising evidence in studies on rats, but by and large, when it comes to smoking marijuana to treat PTSD, the evidence has been little more than anecdotal. The lack of a legit scientific study means the VA won’t change its stance on marijuana use. Not unreasonably, they want scientific evidence in hand before they tell veterans it’s OK to smoke up, or allow doctors to prescribe it in the 23 states where it’s legal.
One study is unlikely to change deeply entrenched attitudes about marijuana. And frankly, it’s unlikely the claims some marijuana advocates make about its benefits really hold water. But without scientific evidence, there’s no way to know for sure, and that the DEA is allowing these studies to happen is a first step toward securing that evidence.