As more and more states pass laws toward cannabis law reform, studying marijuana’s medical properties has become a priority for some lawmakers. Colorado is now preparing to funnel $9 million into medical marijuana research, as per a bill signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper last month.
The approximately $9 million is to be issued in grants by the state health department over the next five years, with which medical researchers will study marijuana’s health effects. According to the Denver Post, the research will reportedly include clinical trials on marijuana products currently being offered in Colorado’s medical and recreational markets — this sort of direct product review has never been encompassed by federally funded research.
“Our intent is to be rigorous scientifically, but to also act with some expediency because these are products that a large percentage of our population is using today,” said Dr. Larry Wolk, the executive director and chief medical officer of the health department. “We want to make sure that what’s happening out there in everyday practice isn’t harming people.”
Thus far, federal cannabis research has been limited due to the plant’s inanely high priority scheduling on the DEA’s controlled substance list. The state of California, however, slotted $8.7 million for marijuana research in 1999, and over the next 12 years state-funded studies found that smoked marijuana is indeed capable of relieving pain, that MMJ patients with multiple sclerosis experienced a reduction in spasticity while medicating with marijuana, and that vaporized marijuana is easier on the lungs than smoked marijuana.
Colorado, using money from the registration fees of medical marijuana patients, plans to build further on that research.
The health department expects to start accepting applications for grants as early as later in 2014, according to Dr. Wolk, but researching the plant in regards to those medical conditions already approved for the medical marijuana program will take priority. The state should be able to fund between 10-15 different studies. “We’re trying to turn over all the stones on this,” Wolk said.
It remains clear, however, that the federal government continues to resist recognizing marijuana’s medical properties. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) released a polarized report earlier this month that links the drug to some adverse effects such as addiction and impairment of brain development. According to the Denver Post, any evidence that the plant might have therapeutic qualities was deemed “less than convincing.”
Meanwhile, there are millions of people around the world with personal stories about the cannabis plant and its various healing properties. The anecdotal experiences of medical marijuana patients continue to indicate the drug’s usefulness in treating pain, nausea, spasms, cramps, inflammation, and many other symptoms — with any luck, the grants issued by Colorado’s health department will result in further, and more officiated, acceptance of marijuana as medicine.
Photo Credit: Brett Levin