Marijuana Legalization Research: Smoking Pot Green-Lit By DEA, Agency Approves Trials For Legal Medical Drug In Clinical Settings

Smoking pot just got somewhat of a green light from federal regulators, and weed-smokers are over the moon about the latest news.

According to a Fortune report, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (or DEA) approved the smoking of marijuana in bona fide medical research settings. It's the first time the agency has given the thumbs up to the practice.

The news bodes well, not only for smokers; according to a Fortune-Morning Consult poll, a majority of Americans approve of legalizing pot. Those polled show that one-in-four, or 25 percent, support decriminalization.

Officials found that 78 percent of residents across all states favor medical marijuana use and 58 percent back legalization for recreational use. The news is not all surprising considering 24 states have already legalized pot for medicinal purposes (pain management and other chronic conditions that allopathic medicines have not addressed).

The Obama Administration and DEA cleared the way for American military veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (or PTSD) to use. Many vets and advocacy groups have longed lobbied Congress to legalize the use of marijuana as an alternative and low-cost way to the treat this condition and other ailments.

Approved trials are already underway in the private sector to study the possible medical benefits of marijuana and its constituents, like cannabis extracts (cannabidiol). However, the DEA established a new milestone by legalizing the testing and evaluation of the plant for the expressed purpose of legal medical drug development. Apparently, tolerance has entered the calculus.The move in support of marijuana legalization runs counter to the drug agency's longstanding disapproval stance against medical or recreational use. Just last year, DEA boss, Chuck Rosenberg, characterized medicinal marijuana as a "joke."

"What really bothers me is the notion that marijuana is also medicinal -- because it's not," he said. "If you talk about smoking the leaf of marijuana -- which is what people are talking about when they talk about medicinal marijuana -- it has never been shown to be safe or effective as a medicine."

Federal officials say they are trying to systematize marijuana from being a Schedule 1 drug. Its current classification places it in the same company with LSD and heroin -- two highly addictive narcotics. The drive is to remove it altogether or place it in a category of less dangerous drugs.

In January of 2015, proponents of the drug realized a small victory. During a criminal trial that involved allegations against illegal marijuana growers in Northern California, federal judge Kimberly U. Mueller paused and convened a hearing over five days to discuss several issues.

The judge took a radical step towards considering and evaluating research that contends marijuana is safe and offers medical benefits. She also explored removing pot from the schedule of addictive drugs.

Today, lawmakers appear to have a change of heart and are discussing options to offer vets state-sanctioned marijuana medical intervention programs.

Recently, members of the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a measure that is geared towards empowering doctors to make alternative treatment decisions. Federal lawmakers are working once again to provide military veterans with more direct access to state medical marijuana programs.

The Senate Appropriations Committee recently approved an amendment that gives Department of Veterans Affairs (or VA) doctors the latitude to offer treatment recommendations to patients while bypassing normal bureaucratic red tape.

Although the 2017 Military Construction Appropriations bill is only a stopgap measure, if approved, it does not allow funds to be used to prosecute doctors that recommend medical marijuana, according to Robert Capecchi, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project.

"This measure removes unnecessary barriers to medical marijuana access for the men and women who have volunteered to serve in our armed forces. It will save veterans time and money, and it will allow them to have more open and honest discussions with their primary care providers."

[Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images]