True or False: A federal study will pay you $3,000 a week to smoke weed

Here at The Cannabist, we are regularly reminded of the knowledge and passion that so many of our readers have for this plant — and the high standards our readers hold us to as journalists who are a part of the national conversations surrounding cannabis, legalization, commercialization and normalization.

But there are also the very few moments when we question our readers — if only because they’re reading, believing and sharing news stories that clearly have no grounding in reality.

Like other stories before it — claiming that “marijuana overdoses kill 37 in Colorado on first day of legalization” or “Colorado pot shops are accepting food stamps” or “KFC gets occupational business license to sell marijuana in Colorado restaurants” — a new viral story has tricked many folks.

The gist of the report, which has appeared on more than a dozen websites (cannabis-centric and otherwise), says the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) has commissioned comprehensive research on marijuana’s effects on the human body — and that researchers will pay 300 participants $3,000 each for every week of the trial.

I’m guessing we’ve heard from more than 100 of you about this in the last few weeks; you want to know where to apply, how it works, can we help. And the letters continue to roll in — sometimes from longtime readers, sometimes from longtime friends of mine who want to cash in on their own cannabis usage.

But I’m here to tell you, dear readers, that you’re smarter than that. You hold us to high standards in our reporting on serious news, and now we hold you to the same high standards in your reading — and sharing and self-publishing.

Of course the federal government isn’t going to pay you that kind of money to smoke weed. And here’s why.

You’re surely familiar with the current state of cannabis research in the United States. Less than two months ago, respected national think tank the Brookings Institution called out the federal government for the many roadblocks to medical marijuana research, saying: “The federal government is stifling medical research in a rapidly transforming area of public policy that has consequences for public health and public safety. Statutory, regulatory, bureaucratic, and cultural barriers have paralyzed science and threatened the integrity of research freedom in this area.”

When an important analysis was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in June, saying that medical marijuana hasn’t yet been proven scientifically to remedy most of the conditions governments have authorized it to treat, pro-legalization activists and pro-research scientists surprised many when they responded in agreement with the analysis findings — and made a plea for more research.

“The research on the efficacy of marijuana has been systematically impeded by the federal government for two decades,” Dr. Sue Sisley told The Cannabist in June. She is conducting a study on pot’s effects on PTSD patients with a $2 million grant she received from the state of Colorado. “That (the analysis’ authors) are suddenly wanting to call out the lack of science, it’s such hypocrisy it’s sickening.”

The Obama administration owned up to flaws in the federal research process when it relaxed the review process for proposed studies in June — and according to The Washington Post, “There are still more bureaucratic hurdles to marijuana research than to research in any other drug … meaning that heroin and cocaine remain easier for researchers to work with.”

So cannabis research isn’t easy, right? Right.

But even given these obstacles facing marijuana research in America, this made-up, $3,000-a-week promise comes down to something my mom once told me: Propositions that sound too good to be true are likely just that.

Let’s consider this: The United States federal government, which still classifies cannabis as a Schedule I drug alongside heroin and LSD, wants to pay you $3,000 a week to get high daily?

Alas, nope. You can even Snopes it: “No, the federal government isn’t paying study participants $3,000 a week to smoke marijuana,” the site’s reporting. A friend of mine sent an email to NIDA; “They claim no ties to the study that’s circulating the ‘Net currently,” he texted me later.

Remember: You’re the discerning reader who appreciates legitimate cannabis journalism I was referencing earlier. And just as you hold us to very high standards in your emails, comments and tweets, we will hold you to the same high standards regarding where you get your information from.