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November 8, 2012

Slate's Explainer: How do you get into a marijuana study?

Colorado and Washington legalized recreational marijuana use on Tuesday, putting the states at odds with the federal government, which categorizes the drug as dangerous and medically useless. Marijuana advocates point to 6,000 studies on cannabis in the past three years, some of which show medical promise and little risk for adults. How do you get into a marijuana study?

Just call the researchers. The National Institutes of Health maintains an online database of clinical trials that are in the recruitment process. As of this writing, there are approximately 100 marijuana studies currently enrolling patients. Each listing contains inclusion criteria (the types of people the researchers are looking for) and exclusion criteria (characteristics that will remove otherwise qualified people from contention). Some studies are limited to patients afflicted with serious illnesses, like the "Medical Marijuana Use in HIV+ Patients Prospective Cohort Study" currently enrolling at Wayne State University. And not all of them involve the promise of free pot.

"Alcohol, Marijuana, and Risky Sex: Group Interventions With Detained Adolescents," for example, is aimed at reducing marijuana use among teens.

But there are a few trials that might interest someone looking for a free high. Consider the University of Iowa's "Effects of Inhaled Cannabis on Driving Performance." Participants will be dosed with varying amounts of alcohol or vaporized cannabis, then placed into a driving simulator to measure their performance.

There are some restrictions. You must be a social drinker and marijuana user already, but you can't have an addiction. People who are susceptible to motion sickness are out, and you must live near the driving simulator in Iowa. Keep in mind that getting into the study doesn't guarantee free marijuana — two control groups will get no THC whatsoever. (Previous studies have shown that low doses of marijuana have little to no impact on driving performance.)

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