What Are They Smoking?

Highlighting inconsistencies in the anti-pot rhetoric of the right

Last week, Maricopa CountyAttorney Bill Montgomery called upon Donald Trump's incoming administration to end marijuana regulation and enforce federal law in states that have legalized it medically or recreationally.

"It's the job of the executive branch that laws are being executed," he said at a press conference Nov. 30. "Today we have a number of states, through their own process of declaring something medical, that created a patchwork system of regulations and programs around the country that are in direct conflict with federal law."

Surely there is no greater sign of the Republicans' new groove than when you start hearing some of the staunchest support the power of federal government.

Unfortunately, Montgomery's reasoning against marijuana hasn't improved much since his case in a 2015 debate, during which his official stance turned out to be something along the lines of "marijuana should be illegal because that's what God wants."

Montgomery's comments are reminiscent of Trump's Attorney General pick, Jeff Sessions, who famously claimed that "good people don't smoke marijuana."

All Montgomery's words really add up to is someone playing a bad game of politics.

It's no secret that Montgomery's policy towards persecuting low-level marijuana crimes is nothing short of hawkish. He once tried to sue a family that had used medical marijuana to treat their 5-year-old son's seizures.

Montgomery took the issue to an unnerving place with what he sees as a double-standard.

"Either this administration means what it says about law and order, or it's a farce." he said. "And in which case, Arizona should be able to pass its own immigration laws, should be able to pass its own laws and regulation on abortion, and the federal government should stay out of our business."

Montgomery refers to SB 1070, which was gutted by the Supreme Court in 2012, and a 2013 abortion law that was struck down by the court. In both cases, the laws were found to conflict with federal law.

The scarier issue with Montgomery's comments, aside from the possible ramifications of a federal ban on marijuana, is his support for laws that treat women and minorities unfairly.

But perhaps the most revealing comment Montgomery made was his wish for marijuana to be regulated by the FDA, a policy that sounds better on paper than in practice due to a little-known issue with the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

A California-based organization known as the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, the organization funding Sue Sisley's research on medical marijuana treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, has been fighting NIDA on marijuana for years.

For 48 years, only a single facility has been licensed by NIDA to grow marijuana for medical research. Most of this marijuana has gone towards research that aims to demonstrate the negative effects of marijuana.

When MAPS attempted to acquire marijuana for a study showing the benefits of marijuana, they received product that fell far below their standards for the experiment, highlighting an issue the scientific marijuana community has faced for years.

The problem with this single-grower monopoly is that, until recently, scientists didn't have the resources necessary to conduct a Phase 3 study necessary for FDA approval of marijuana.

A Phase 3 study requires medication of the same strength that would actually be used by patients. In the case of marijuana, the potency provided by NIDA is much lower than that which you'd find in a dispensary.

MAPS has been wrapped up in litigation since 1992, trying to get approval for a second, federally-sanctioned marijuana grow facility. This legal battle culminated in the DEA's announcement on Aug. 11 to start granting additional licenses.

With more grow facilities, MAPS hopes the market for federally approved marijuana could become more competitive, leading to medication that matches in potency what's available from dispensaries.

With successful Phase 3 studies of marijuana, medical benefits could finally be proven and bolster the case to remove marijuana as a Schedule I drug, ultimately loosening federal restrictions on the drug.

A few months ago, Montgomery's support for FDA regulation could have been seen as a road block to any sort of federal regulation for marijuana. However, with the recent developments on behalf of MAPS, it's not as impossible as it once was.

Still, the FDA has yet to approve any other grow facilities since their August announcement, and who knows what the decision will be when pressured by the possibility of an anti-pot administration.

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