Growing Acceptance of Medical Cannabis in United States Impacts Demand for More Research; What Research Already Exists

ONE-TIME EXCLUSIVE USE ONLY AS A TIE-IN WITH THE JUNE 2015 ISSUE OF NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE. NO SALES, NO TRANSFERS. COVER MAY NOT BE CROPPED OR ALTERED IN ANY WAY. ©National Geographic

One-time exclusive use only as tie-in with the June 2015 issue of National Geographic Magazine. No sales, no transfers. Cover is not cropped or altered in any way. ©National Geographic

Acceptance of medical cannabis is growing in the United States. Earlier this month, Cannabis Industry Today covered Positive Change Stirring For Marijuana Legalization outlining the changes from shifting public opinion to politicians backing reform.

Now mainstream magazines Time (May 14, 2015) and National Geographic (June 2015) have published articles touching on topics Oaksterdam University has been sharing with students since 2007. The National Geographic articles are available online and provide an honest and fair look at cannabis as the once-vilified drug and the expanding demand for more information about the science of cannabis.

Since 1970 cannabis has been classified as a Schedule 1 drug1 under the Controlled Substances Act, making it illegal federally. And, any research university that receives federal financial aid and federal research funding mush abide by federal laws even if it is located in states where medicinal marijuana is legal.

“While it seems at odds with its mission, the DEA oversees cultivation of marijuana for research….while the number of federally approved research studies is small….the DEA has requested an increase to its 2015 marijuana crop and the NIDA has expanded its list of types of cannabis available for research as well as posted a new funding announcement seeking research projects within the last two months.”

While it seems at odds with its mission, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) oversees cultivation of marijuana for research. However, only one license exists—issued to the University of Mississippi—and it is funded through a National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) contract. Researchers may apply to obtain marijuana through the NIDA drug supply program, which requires approvals from the Department of Health and Human Services or the National Institutes of Health, as well as the Food and Drug Administration. The DEA and local drug enforcement officials must also approve research facilities for secure storage and handling. The approval process alone can be time-consuming.

From a quick review of the NIH website anyone can see the list of research studies conducted using the federally grown research-grade marijuana. As of January 2014, there were 28 active grants funded by the NIDA related to marijuana as medicine in the areas of autoimmune disease, inflammation, pain, psychiatric disorder, seizures, and substance use disorder/withdrawal/dependence. Since 1999, there have been 16 independently funded research projects cleared through an HHS scientific review panel as well as the FDA and DEA looking at medicinal cannabis benefits in HIV, multiple sclerosis, sleep, neuropathic pain in spinal cord injury, diabetic peripheral neuropathy, cancer pain, and chronic, treatment-resistant post-traumatic stress disorder. You have to admit that 44 federally approved research studies is a small number.

There is growing positive news on this front though. Going forward, the DEA has requested an increase to the 2015 marijuana crop from 125,000 to 400,000 grams. The NIDA has expanded its list of the types of cannabis available to researchers.   And, in late April, the NIDA posted a new funding announcement seeking research projects examining the therapeutic potential of cannabinoids and endocannabinoid system across a variety of pain conditions.

“Research about the medical benefits of cannabis isn’t starting at ground zero, however….there are over 20,000 published studies or reviews in the scientific literature referencing the cannabis plant and its cannabinoids, nearly half of which were published within the last five years.”

 

Image from cover of Sixth Edition of Emerging Clinical Applications for Cannabis and Cannabinoids: A Review of the Recent Scientific Literature, by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director

Image from cover of Sixth Edition of Emerging Clinical Applications for Cannabis and Cannabinoids: A Review of the Recent Scientific Literature, by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director

Research about the medical benefits of cannabis isn’t starting at ground zero, however. In his booklet Emerging Clinical Applications for Cannabis and Cannabinoids—A Review of the Recent Scientific Literature, Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, has compiled scientific literature from 2000 to 2013. In the booklet’s introduction, Armentano states, “To date there are over 20,000 published studies or reviews in the scientific literature referencing the cannabis plant and its cannabinoids, nearly half of which were published within the last five years according to a keyword search on the search engine PubMed Central, the US government repository for per-reviewed scientific research.”

The booklet, available online at the NORML website, focuses on 20 clinical indications chosen because patients frequently inquire about the therapeutic use of cannabis to treat these disorders and is designed as a primer for patients considering the use of cannabis and for physicians looking to recommend medical cannabis.

As a side, but related, note: Did you know that the U.S. Government holds a patent for cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants? There’s so much more to learn about cannabis and the science of cannabis. Interested? Consider enrolling in an upcoming Oaksterdam University Cannabusiness Seminar in Las Vegas (June 12-15) or Washington, D.C. (June 27-28), or one of our summer seminars in Oakland.

1 Drug Enforcement Administration definition of Schedule 1 Drugs are “…drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Schedule I drugs are the most dangerous drugs of all the drug schedules with potentially severe psychological or physical dependence.” Cannabis is included in the same group of drugs as heroin, LSD, ecstasy, methaqualone and peyote.

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