The White House announced that, effective June 2015, the Public Health Service Review is being removed, taking away a major obstacle to medical marijuana research.

According to Bill Piper, Office of National Affairs director for the Drug Policy Alliance, the move shows that the government is ready to stop waging war on medical marijuana by enabling necessary and legitimate research. The announcement definitely signifies progress but there is more to be done, he added.

For instance, after the removal of the PHS review, marijuana reform advocates are hoping that the White House would move next to end the National Institute on Drug Abuse's monopoly on producing marijuana for research, allowing private entities to grow pot as well which will facilitate research.

The PHS review began during the Clinton Administration in response to urging from the Institute for Medicine to not just increase marijuana research but ensure that the process was kept under the strictest controls possible. This prompted the Clinton Administration to instruct the Department of Health and Human Services to individually review all research applications for marijuana, heavily slowing down studies to the point that it was easier to research heroin and cocaine than marijuana.

Published in the federal register, the announcement comes days just before a Senate hearing involving medical marijuana takes place.

There's actually a lot of momentum around marijuana reform for 2015. For starters, the CARERS ACT was introduced and amendments were passed in the House and Senate stopping the federal government from interfering with medical marijuana. And now this move by the White House.

Marijuana is the only remaining Schedule I drug that the Drug Enforcement Agency bans from being produced by private labs for scientific research. While the DEA has authorized multiple private companies to manufacture all other drugs in the same category, it is allowing just one facility within the University of Mississippi to produce marijuana for use in research under a NIDA contract.

Aside from Guam and the District of Columbia, 23 states legally allow the selling of medical marijuana while another 16 have passed laws providing access to cannabidiol, a non-psychotrophic component derived from marijuana that has been shown to be uniquely effective in treating epileptic seizures in children. Only in Washington, Oregon, Colorado and Alaska is marijuana legal like alcohol. Voters in Nevada, Massachusetts, Maine, California and Arizona will decide ballot initiatives involving legalizing marijuana use for adults in 2016.

Latest polls of both Republicans and Democrats show that there is a strong belief that the decision to legalize marijuana and how should be left to states.

Photo: Neeta Lind | Flickr

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