University of Florida says it won’t risk federal funding to participate in marijuana research

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Florida budget writers won’t have to worry about funding research on medicinal marijuana any time soon.

The 2014 Charlotte’s Web law opened the possibility of new research at state universities on effectiveness of cannabis.  But the University of Florida, the state’s top-rated research university said the school can’t fully participate in the research because despite a new state law, marijuana is still illegal in the eyes of the federal government.

“We receive hundreds of millions of dollars in federal grants and student aid and we must comply with federal law to keep receiving federal funding,” said Janine Sikes, UF’s assistant vice president for media relations.

“We had outside counsel look into this and confirm we would risk our federal funding if we fully participate,” Sikes said about the research provision in the new law.

UF receives more than $300 million in federal dollars that would be put at risk if it is found to violate federal law.

“It is disheartening to see a federal law stifle innovation and research in Florida,” said Rep. Matt Gaetz, R- Fort Walton, the House sponsor of the Charlotte’s Web law. “I have the highest confidence if they could the University of Florida would almost certainly participate in the research but with that amount of money at stake they made a prudent decision.”

The measure that lawmakers approved in the spring requires that physicians ordering a cannabis extract to treat patients submit their patient treatment plans to the University of Florida College of Pharmacy for research on the safety and efficacy of medical-grade marijuana.

There is no problem with that provision.

“We can handle data,” said Sikes.

A second provision though, authorized bio-medical research funding for “new” research on the effect of cannabadiol on childhood epilepsy.  That’s where UF said it cannot go.

The marijuana plant is illegal under federal law and grants and other funding would be at risk if researchers started handling the plant.

“The issue is to change federal law,” said Sikes. “In the meantime we are doing what we need to do to protect our funding.”

Gaetz said there are indications that the Federal Drug Administration is willing to work with states on lifting roadblocks of this nature.

“They created the problem,” said Gaetz. “So, they have to be part of the discussion.”