Health Highlights: Aug. 11, 2016

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

More U.S. Universities Will be Allowed to Grow Marijuana for Research

The number of universities in the United States allowed to grow marijuana for research is going to be increased, Obama administration officials say.

Currently, the University of Mississippi is the only institution authorized to grow the drug for use in medical studies. It’s unclear how many more universities will receive licenses to grow marijuana, The New York Times reported.

The policy change — expected to be announced Thursday — is expected to significantly increase the amount of marijuana available for research and could boost study of the drug, which is being used in the U.S. to treat dozens of diseases despite little scientific evidence of its effectiveness.

Twenty-five states allow the medical use of marijuana for health conditions such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Crohn’s, Tourette’s syndrome, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, The Times reported.

Until now, some scientists had to wait years for, or were unable to, obtain marijuana approved by the federal government for research

The new Drug Enforcement Administration rules will “create a supply of research-grade marijuana that is diverse, but more importantly, it will be competitive and you will have growers motivated to meet the demand of researchers,” John Hudak, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told The Times.

The new policy limits the number of universities that will be allowed to grow marijuana. To apply, a university must have an approved research protocol and security measures for storing dangerous drugs.

Scientists will still have to receive federal government approval to conduct medical research of marijuana. And the government still classifies marijuana as a highly addictive drug without medical value. Two petitions were filed separately in 2009 and 2011 demanding a change in that policy, but the DEA has not said when it will answer them, The Times reported.

Despite that, proponents of medical marijuana research welcome the federal government’s decision to allow more universities to grow the drug.

“They’re looking at the science, taking a nuanced view,” Kevin Sabet, a former Obama administration drug-policy adviser and president of the group Smart Approaches to Marijuana, told The Times. “It’s a good day for science.”

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