It may field quips about “higher” education, but Washington State University is getting $70,000 in taxpayer money to study growing marijuana for medical purposes.
The money was contained in successful legislation sponsored by Sen. Jeanne Kohl, a Seattle Democrat, and Sen. Bob McCaslin, a Spokane Valley Republican whose wife died of cancer last fall.
Marijuana and its active ingredient, THC, can help control the nausea and pain of cancer chemotherapy and radiology, AIDS or HIV-related illnesses, as well as glaucoma, multiple sclerosis and other diseases.
THC can be prescribed in pill and smokable form, but is synthetically derived. The plant form is both cheaper and more effective, some health experts say.
“It seems to be in some cases better than anything else on the market,” Bob Smith, WSU’s vice provost for research, said Tuesday.
WSU’s College of Pharmacy will use the money to study the feasibility of doctors with Food and Drug Administration approval dispensing marijuana to some patients, Smith said. Another $70,000 will go to the University of Washington for similar work.
The legislation directs the universities, the state Department of Health and the state Board of Pharmacy to determine who would grow it, the appropriate chemical content of marijuana to provide safe and effective relief, licensing procedures, the plant’s potential benefits, and an estimate of the cost of growing, processing and distributing the substance.
Washington patients could receive marijuana from a farm at the University of Mississippi, said Smith. The facility has more than 30 years experience growing the plant for research by the National Institute of Drug Abuse, he said.
Marijuana could end up being grown here, but a pot farm would require extensive security, Smith said.
“You can’t just put it into a field on the Palouse,” he said.