Utah lawmakers balked again this year at joining more than half of all U.S. states and passing a broad medical marijuana law. Instead, they gave state colleges and other institutions a pass to study the medical impacts of the drug with the hope of having comprehensive data by next year.The move ignored the fact that the studies would likely take years, requiring scientists to navigate layers of bureaucracy that can delay research. The slowdown is due to marijuana being considered a Schedule I drug by the federal government, meaning it’s listed along with heroin and peyote among the most dangerous drugs.
Lawmakers and advocates have pushed for the drug to be declassified and grouped with such drugs as cocaine and opiates, which have medical uses but are still illegal for recreational use. The change could make it easier to study and prescribe marijuana, but the Obama administration decided against it last year. Researchers now have to file applications with multiple federal agencies before they can request cannabis products from a university in Mississippi that remains the country’s sole source of pot for federally approved research. So far, there are a handful of projects being considered at the University of Utah, including how cannabidiol impacts people who have autism and anxiety and its effect on post-traumatic stress disorder. But it will likely take years before any of those studies are completed.