Medical Cannabis Research

Report Highlights the Need for Historical and Social Context in Cannabis Research

In a recent paper, researchers have advocated for equitable and inclusive practices in cannabis research, addressing the historical and ongoing disparities in enforcement and the industry’s profit distribution.

Full story after the jump.

A recently-published report has highlighted the need for more diversity and equity considerations in the field of medical cannabis research. The paper was published in PNAS Nexus by Renée Martin-Willett and an interdisciplinary team including Wanda James, Madeline Stanger, Angela D Bryan, and L Cinnamon Bidwell: it addresses the historical and ongoing issues of discrimination and inequity in the cannabis industry and research field in the United States.

Despite the legalization of marijuana in several states, the authors note that the profits predominantly benefit wealthy white men, while communities of color continue to face disproportionate enforcement and penalties. The authors propose several actions to promote equity and inclusion in cannabis research. These include enacting legislation and policies focused on equity, supporting scientists of color in entering and remaining in the field, adhering to ethical research practices, and ensuring diverse and inclusive participant recruitment in research studies.

The racialization of the so-called War on Drugs has been well documented across multiple literatures. In the case of cannabis, in particular, there is evidence that communities of color have been disproportionately prosecuted and incarcerated, even though epidemiological data suggest cannabis use rates between Hispanic, black, and white groups are comparable. As a result, existing distrust of the biomedical research establishment by communities of color may be exacerbated in the case of substance use research and cannabis research in particular.

Martin-Willett, et al. – Excerpt from the paper

The paper also highlights the persistent barriers in cannabis research due to federal criminalization, which restricts the scope of research and often leads to a homogenous participant pool, mainly consisting of white men from privileged socioeconomic backgrounds. This lack of diversity in research participants limits the applicability of the findings, the report argues.

To address these issues, the authors suggest adopting principles from community-engaged research. This approach involves creating partnerships between researchers and communities that are based on mutual respect. It emphasizes aligning research objectives with community needs and goals from the outset, rather than solely communicating research outcomes to the public. This method aims to make cannabis research more inclusive and relevant to diverse populations, thereby contributing to a more equitable and just approach in this field.

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