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Tue, Mar 25

Federal red tape ties up marijuana research

Hidden in a locked room on New York University’s campus in lower Manhattan, a half-tonne steel safe guards hundreds of vials of a drug extracted from marijuana. To the US government, the drug — Epidiolex — is one of the world’s most dangerous substances, ripe for abuse. But to Orrin Devinsky, a neurologist at the university, it is a potential treatment for tremors in children with severe epilepsy. Although Epidiolex, made by GW Pharmaceuticals in Salisbury, UK, is not psycho­active, it took Devinsky six frustrating months to secure local and national approval for a clinical trial that began in January. “If some teenagers broke in, they’d get nothing out of it,” he says. The physical and regulatory barriers that nevertheless surround Epidiolex point to the stigma that continues to stymie research on marijuana and its derivatives, even in US states that have moved to legalize its sale and use, such as Colorado and Washington (see ‘Slow burn’). Read more.