Dr. Gerald Berkowitz, a professor of plant science at the University of Connecticut, is currently studying the potential use of cannabis as a treatment for neurological disorders. Because of several changes in federal policy on cannabis, he can study specimen’s grown at the university’s department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture Research Farm. This policy is of utmost importance, because regardless of your view on the legalization of cannabis, it is always imperative that substances such as these are allowed to be researched.
According to Berkowitz, the policy that makes his research possible is Section 7606 of the 2014 Farm Bill, which states that “institutions of higher education or a State department of agriculture may grow or cultivate industrial hemp if the industrial hemp is grown or cultivated for purposes of research conducted under an academic pilot program or other agricultural or academic research.
For his research, this means that he has the ability to study cannabis as a potential medical treatment for diseases like epilepsy. If he succeeds in his research, the repercussions will be massive, contributing to the public health of many people who would otherwise have not been treated if this research were banned. However, even if it is discovered that cannabis cannot be used as a treatment, it is still important to study the negative effects of cannabis as well.
Refusing to study cannabis because it is an illegal substance would be equivalent to refusing to study opiates or chemical weapons such as sarin or ricin. Even if they cannot be used to improve health, patients can still be affected by them, meaning we need to know what the health effects could be. Research, therefore, is essential purely for the purpose of gaining knowledge, regardless of whether that knowledge can be used to create treatments or counter negative effects.
The fact of the matter is that while cannabis still has not been legalized, many people will still partake in its use. With permission to study this substance, researchers have the ability to predict what the health effects will be on these people, which is imperative to understanding how dangerous cannabis truly is and what regulations need to be imposed for it. And if there is any chance that diligent research could yield a treatment for epilepsy, the new policy described in the Farm Bill will undoubtedly be worth it.