Ole Miss Talks About Pot
December 29, 2012

Individuals Linked To America’s Only Legal Marijuana Farm Sound Off On Pot Debate

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports — Your Universe Online

Even though the use of marijuana was recently legalized in the states of Colorado and Washington, and is currently available for medical purposes in 18 different states as well as the District of Columbia, possession of it remains a federal crime - except at the University of Mississippi.

According to Jared Robert Senseman of The (Jackson, Miss.) Clarion-Ledger, that's because in 1968, the Oxford, Mississippi-based school affectionately known as 'Ole Miss' was selected as the first and only legal marijuana farm since the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act made the drug illegal.

The marijuana farm was established as part of the US government's Investigational New Drug program, which allowed a limited number of patients to use medical marijuana grown at an on-campus research laboratory, Senseman explained. The program, which stopped accepting new participants 20 years ago, provided marijuana for as many as 30 patients at one time, but currently supplies just four people.

"The pot was grown for research being done by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and was supplied to a small number of patients who were able to prove marijuana was the only therapeutic drug that would alleviate symptoms from their varying illnesses," he said. "Mahmoud ElSohly, the head of the marijuana research program since 1981, said he doubts the new laws in Washington and Colorado will make a big difference to his work, but he said it may cause an increase in drug abuse, particularly among young people."

"The danger of high-potency marijuana is not necessarily with people that are chronic users of the drug. They probably know how to limit themselves to the right amount of smoke. The problem is with young people who are trying marijuana," ElSohly told The Clarion-Ledger reporter on Friday. "The psychoactivity of high-potency marijuana is really not a pleasant thing. People get paranoid and very irritable, almost violent sometimes. They get the opposite of the activities sought by the user."

One of the four remaining Investigational New Drug program patients, 73-year-old glaucoma patient Elvy Musikka, told Senseman in an interview she had been taking marijuana for more than three decades. Musikka credited it for helping her keep her sight, as it has been shown to relieve glaucoma-related pressure in the eye and, in some cases, actually reverse damage caused by the disease.

She also advocated expanded use of the substance, saying there is "no state, no place, where people do not seriously need this medicine. There is public support for all of us, everywhere. We have five generations of lies and misinformation keeping us incapable of rendering rational decisions as individuals, or as a nation, on this issue."

However, a former DEA agent and Ole Miss criminal justice professor doesn't see federal legalization of marijuana happening anytime soon. As he told Senseman, "Federal law is supreme in the United States, it will always override state and local law.

"Despite Oregon and Washington having legalized and decriminalized possession of marijuana, it doesn't negate federal policy. I don't see any of these legalization measures making any major inroads anytime soon. I don't think the American public as a whole would want to entertain that," he added.