University of Kentucky’s Cannabis Research Center Announces Inaugural Grants

A newly launched center dedicated to cannabis research at the University of Kentucky announced its inaugural grant recipients on Wednesday.

The University of Kentucky Cannabis Center said that its “first set of faculty pilot grants to support innovative and collaborative cannabis research” had been awarded to four researchers at the university’s the College of Nursing, College of Public Health, College of Pharmacy and the Martin School of Public Policy and Administration.

The grants range in the amounts of $75,000-$100,000, and will subsidize research for 14 months.

“We are excited for this opportunity to expand and accelerate cannabis science at UK and conduct studies focused on the public health impacts of cannabis that can directly affect the lives of Kentuckians,” said Shanna Babalonis, the director of the UK Cannabis Center. “We have talented and dedicated researchers across a range of disciplines right here on campus who can contribute meaningful science to the center from multiple perspectives.”

The Cannabis Center was launched in September thanks to a bill that was passed by Kentucky legislators and signed into law by Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear last year. In the announcement at the time, Bablonis said that the “legislature is interested in having us explore the conditions for which medical cannabis might be useful, as well as the most effective dosing and route of administration for each condition.”

According to a press release on Wednesday from the university, the legislation granted $2 million for the center until June 2024.

“The primary objective of the research conducted at the UK Cannabis Center is to provide valuable insights to medical professionals, lawmakers, and the general public regarding the risks and benefits associated with cannabis and cannabinoids. This knowledge will be particularly crucial as Kentucky proceeds with the implementation of new medical marijuana legislation. The center’s research focuses on various aspects, including the health effects of cannabis and its potential for treating specific medical conditions,” the press release said.

The four grant recipients announced by the university on Wednesday are Kristin Ashford, an associate dean of Undergraduate Program and Policy, Good Samaritan Endowed Chair for Community Nursing, and director of the Perinatal Research and Wellness Center, who “will examine cannabis use during pregnancy”; Jay Christian, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Environmental Health, who “will explore cannabis use among Kentucky cancer patients and survivors”; Jayani Jayawardhana, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Health Management and Policy, who will examine the impact of “Cannabis Laws on Opioid and Benzodiazepine Prescriptions and Associated Health Outcomes in Older Adults”; and Caroline Weber, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Martin School, who “will study the changes in cannabis use by examining traffic fatality records.”

Ashford’s study on cannabis use during pregnancy will examine “the perceptions of safety and acceptability for cannabis use among women who are currently pregnant as well as current use patterns and trends over the last five years in Central Kentucky among pregnant persons,” according to Wednesday’s press release.

“We want to know what pregnant women think, feel and do when it comes to using cannabis, in order to give our legislators, health care providers and expectant mothers a better understanding of how to improve the health of women and children in Kentucky,” said Ashford.

Christian’s study on cannabis use among cancer patients will be conducted through a survey that will help him “better understand the prevalence of cannabis use, which methods patients are using (smoking, vaping, eating), and how they are obtaining it.”

“Cannabis laws around the country, including in Kentucky, are changing rapidly. To determine the effect of legal medical cannabis, it’s important to know how people have been using it both before and after the law changes,” said Christian. “This study is a first step in helping us to assess the effects of Kentucky’s new medical cannabis law on cancer patients and survivors.”

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Switzerland Continues to Expand Cannabis Research Trials

One cannabis trial covering the areas of Bern, Lucerne, and Biel, and another in Geneva, were recently approved in Switzerland.

According to a press release on May 10, the SCRIPT study (safer cannabis research in pharmacies randomized controlled trial) that will cover Bern, Lucerne and Biel received approval from the both the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health (BAG), the Cantonal Commission of Ethics and the Ethics Commission of Northwest and Central Switzerland.

Research will be conducted by the Bern Institute for Family Medicine at the University of Bern, which is expected to begin in October 2023-April 2026. The program expects the sample size number of participants to be 1,091.

The head of the SCRIPT study at the university, Reto Auer, explained that the goal is to examine “health and social effects” of a regulated cannabis industry at local pharmacies. “These elements are intended to make the products less attractive, especially for young people—we know that from tobacco prevention,” Auer said in a press release. “Our study therefore does not aim to legalize cannabis in the free market—but to be able to address the problems caused by prohibition and the black market and to test possible harm reduction approaches, as well as a strict control of supply and distribution use demand for cannabis.”

Auer added that education through pharmacy sales staff could help prevent harm caused by preventable harm from tobacco or other substances. “Dispensing at the pharmacy allows for better information and the possibility of reducing damage. Users often do not know what is contained in their cannabis. On the illegal market there is cannabis that contains synthetic cannabinoids, pesticides or fungi—some of which are very dangerous.”

Adults 18 years or older will be allowed to participate in the study. Half of participants will get to purchase cannabis during the first six months of the study. “The comparison of the fate of people in the two groups should make it possible to obtain study results that are as scientifically rigorous as possible,” the study announcement states

An additional study initiative called “The Cannabinotheque: a pilot trial for the regulated sale of cannabis in the canton of Geneva” was also approved by BAG. Beginning in June 2023 through June 2027, this study will “improve knowledge of the substance and its associated issues and concerns and may help reduce the health and social risks that drug consumption usually entails” with a sample size of 1,080 participants.

Switzerland lifted its ban on medical cannabis on June 2022, which paved the way for studies to begin. The country initially announced that it would be conducting a cannabis trial back in September 2021. Switzerland’s medical cannabis law went into effect on August 1, 2022. “Up to now, cannabis for medicinal purposes has not been allowed to be cultivated, imported or processed into preparations without an exceptional permit,” BAG announced last year. “Treatment of patients with cannabis medicinal products that were exempt from authorization was only possible with an exceptional permit from the BAG and only in justified cases. The demand for such permits has increased in recent years. This is administratively complex delays treatment and no longer corresponds to the exceptional character provided for by the Narcotics Act.”

The first cannabis trial in Switzerland, called “Züri Can – Cannabis with Responsibility” launched on March 23, 2023 and covered a total of 2,100 participants. “The City of Zurich Cannabis Study attaches great importance to the self-determination, responsibility and cooperation of all those involved,” the study website stated. “At all reference points, value is placed on individual advice aimed at reducing damage and promoting health. The respective reference points can contribute their different strengths in the area of ​​individual and public health protection.”

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GOP Senators Kill Veterans Cannabis Research Bill

Republicans in the U.S. Senate voted this week to block a bill that would have directed the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to conduct research into cannabis as a treatment for chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In a procedural vote on Wednesday, the Senate declined to advance the Veterans Affairs Medicinal Cannabis Research Bill (S. 326) with a vote of 57-42, falling short of the 60 votes needed to continue debate on the measure.

The bipartisan legislation was introduced by Montana Democrat Senator Jon Tester earlier this year with co-sponsorship by Senator Dan Sullivan, a Republican from Alaska. In February, the bill was approved by the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee with a vote during a closed-door session. 

Under the bill, the VA would be required to conduct a large-scale observational study that evaluates the safety and efficacy of cannabis as a treatment for PTSD and chronic pain. An identical bill (H.R. 1003) sponsored by California Democratic Representative Lou Correa is also pending in the House of Representatives, with Republican Representative Jack Bergman signed on as a co-sponsor.

The clinical study would explore the positive and negative health outcomes of cannabis use by military veterans, including whether using marijuana reduces the use of alcohol or opiates. The study would also investigate other aspects of medicinal cannabis use, including pain intensity, sleep quality, agitation, and overall quality of life. Once the study is complete, the legislation requires the VA to report back to Congress on the results and the feasibility of conducting clinical trials.

Vote Blocks New Research For Veterans’ Health

When he introduced the bill earlier this year, Tester, the chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, said in a statement that the legislation would give military veterans new choices to manage their health care.

“Our nation’s veterans deserve options when it comes to treating the wounds of war, which is why VA needs to have a better understanding of how medicinal cannabis plays a role in their healing,” he said. “Our bipartisan bill ensures VA is listening to the growing number of veterans who find critical relief from alternative treatments like medicinal cannabis, while working to empower veterans in making safe and informed decisions about their health.”

A total of 41 GOP senators voted to block the bipartisan bill, with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer then changing his vote to “no” in order to keep the bill alive under the Senate’s rules. 

In a social media post, Tester wrote that “41 Senate Republicans just chose partisan political games over providing our nation’s veterans their hard-earned benefits and care. 41 Senate Republicans are telling the men and women who have defended our country that their government doesn’t value their sacrifices.”

“Not only are they blocking VA from *researching* medicinal cannabis as an alternative treatment for veterans dealing with chronic pain or PTSD—they’re blocking improvements to veterans homeownership efforts, community-based support, outreach, and more,” he continued. “It’s totally unacceptable.”

In a floor speech before the vote, Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee ranking member Senator Jerry Moran of Kansas, one of the eight Republican senators who voted to advance the cannabis bill, said the measure “is an effort to make certain that veterans are not doing something that is harmful to them and to help them make an informed decision,” according to a report from the Military Times.

But the senators backing the bill on Wednesday were not enough to keep the measure moving forward. GOP Senator John Cornyn of Texas said that the decision to block the cannabis research bill came after “spirited debate” during a Senate Republican policy lunch before the vote.

Cornyn told CNN that there were concerns among GOP senators about the methodology of the clinical trial authorized by the bill because “this retrospective study would be done strictly through volunteers who would come forward and talk about their experience with marijuana and PTSD,” and “it depends on people to self-select and we don’t know how that would skew the results.”

The senator also said that Republicans were not given “assurances” that they would be given the opportunity to offer amendments to the legislation, adding that there were concerns about whether the bill would be taken up by the House of Representatives and the chamber’s GOP leadership.

Political concerns may have also been in play, with critics of advancing the bill suggesting that the potential success of the legislation could be seen as a win for Tester, an incumbent Democratic senator up for re-election in a conservative state.

Cornyn indicated that negotiation on the bill would continue and that the legislation could be revived in the Senate. He explained that Wednesday’s vote was “hitting the pause button” on the measure. Schumer described the vote to stop the bill as “regrettable,” adding that he hopes efforts to resurrect the legislation in the Senate at a later date are successful.

Jeffrey M. Zucker, president of Denver-based cannabis-focused business strategy firm Green Lion Partners and vice chair of the Marijuana Policy Project board of directors, expressed disappointment at the decision to delay action on the Veterans Affairs Medicinal Cannabis Research Bill.

“I’m deeply saddened to hear that the Senate Republicans have blocked a procedural vote to advance this bill. It’s frustrating to see how politics can prevent progress on an issue that could make a huge difference in the lives of veterans and should really have no controversy surrounding it,” Zucker wrote in an email to High Times. “However, I’m still hopeful that lawmakers can come together to pass a bill that allows research into medical cannabis and eventually allows veterans to enjoy the benefits of medical cannabis. Our veterans deserve the best care possible, and medical cannabis could provide much-needed relief to those suffering from chronic pain, PTSD, and other conditions. It’s time for our leaders to put aside their differences and do what’s right for our veterans.”

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California Cannabis Department Grants Nearly $20 Million to Academic Institutions

The California Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) granted $19,942,918 to 16 academic institutions with plans to research cannabis on April 26. The grants will be dedicated to research initiatives exploring the effectiveness of cannabis on “mental health of young people, novel cannabinoids like Delta-8 and Delta-10 THC, and a first-of-its kind study of California’s legacy cannabis genetics, intended to preserve the history, value, and diversity of the communities that steward them,” a press release stated.

According to DCC chief deputy director Rasha Salama, the goal is to have these particular initiatives lead the way in cannabis studies. “It is the Department’s aspiration that these studies will advance the body of scientific research, further our understanding of cannabis, and aid to the continued development and refinement of the legal framework,” said Salama. “These studies will provide valuable insights on topics of interest to California’s consumers, businesses, and policy makers and the Department looks forward to sharing them once they are completed.”

Grants were awarded to institutions in six categories, including cannabis potency, medicinal use of cannabis, health of the cannabis industry, monopolies and unfair competition, California legacy genetics and genetic sequencing, and “other” topics. A total of 98 proposals were considered, and 16 were chosen from that pool based on “strong scientific methodology, their ability to provide useful information for policymaking, their advancement of public understanding of cannabis, and their potential to generate foundational research that will support exponential future knowledge.”

The institution that received the highest grant amount of funds was Cal Poly Humboldt with $2,699,178, which will be sued to tackle the topic of “Legacy Cannabis Genetics: People and Their Plants, a Community-Driven Study.” 

According to a press release, a nonprofit organization called Origins Council and the Cannabis Equity Policy Council is partnering with the Cal Poly Humboldt to work on the initiative. “This research seeks to empower and protect California’s legacy cultivation communities who have overcome great adversity to innovate and steward one of the most important collections of cannabis genetic resources in the world,” stated Origins Council executive director Genine Coleman.

Additionally, the University of California, Irvine and University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) received $2 million each, and both will be conducting cannabis potency studies.

UCLA-based studies secured six grants, and University of California, Berkeley (UCB) received grants for three. Other institutions included University of California, San Francisco, University of California, Davis, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and Cal Poly Humboldt.

One particular collaboration between UC Irvine and UCLA will conduct the “first double-blind, placebo-controlled, federally compliant, drug-administration study evaluating the intoxicating effects of inhaled cannabis plant compared to inhaled concentrates. It is expected [to] establish a clinically significant threshold to define high and low THC concentrations.”

In February, the DCC also announced a new grant program offering $20 million to help support and expand the state’s cannabis industry. “Expanding access to California’s retail cannabis market is an important step towards protecting consumer safety and supporting a balanced market,” said DCC director Nicole Elliott. “The retail access grant program ultimately seeks to encourage legal retail operations in areas where existing consumers do not have convenient access to regulated cannabis.” The grant application window ends on April 28, and $10 million of the grant funds will be awarded by June 20. After that, an additional $10 million will be “available to previous awardees as they issue licenses.”

The DCC released a statement in early March regarding the enforcement statistics from the past two years. According to the agency’s report, the DCC led 61 search warrant operations in 2021, but conducted 155 in 2022. In 2021, the DCC seized more than 41,726 pounds of cannabis (approximately $77,772,936 in value), but that number increased to 144,254 pounds in 2022 (estimated to be more than $243,017,836 in value).

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Senate Panel Approves Cannabis Research Bill

A U.S. Senate panel last week approved a bill that directs the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to conduct research into cannabis as a treatment for chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The bipartisan legislation, which was introduced by Montana Democrat Senator Jon Tester on February 9 and co-sponsored by Senator Dan Sullivan, a Republican from Alaska, was approved by the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee with a vote during a closed-door session on Thursday. 

Under the bill (S. 326), the VA would be tasked with conducting a large-scale observational study that evaluates the safety and efficacy of cannabis as a treatment for PTSD and chronic pain. An identical bill (H.R. 1003) sponsored by California Democratic Representative Lou Correa is also pending in the House of Representatives, with Republican Representative Jack Bergman signed on as a co-sponsor.

The observational study would explore the positive and negative health outcomes of cannabis use by veterans, including whether using marijuana reduces the use of alcohol or opiates. The study would also investigate other aspects of medicinal cannabis use, including sleep quality, pain intensity, agitation, and overall quality of life. Once the study is complete, the legislation requires the VA to report back to Congress on the results and the feasibility of conducting clinical trials.

Senate Veterans Affairs committee chair Jon Tester, a Democrat from Montana, said in a statement when he introduced the bill earlier this month that the legislation will give military veterans new choices to manage their health care.

“Our nation’s veterans deserve options when it comes to treating the wounds of war, which is why VA needs to have a better understanding of how medicinal cannabis plays a role in their healing,” Tester said. “Our bipartisan bill ensures VA is listening to the growing number of veterans who find critical relief from alternative treatments like medicinal cannabis, while working to empower veterans in making safe and informed decisions about their health.”

A New Milestone In Cannabis Policy Reform

Lawmakers in both chambers of Congress have introduced similar legislation in previous years, including a bill that was approved by the House Veterans Affairs Committee two years ago. Thursday’s approval by the Senate panel, however, is the first advancement of a veterans cannabis research bill in the upper chamber of Congress.

“Many of our brave men and women in uniform suffer from unseen wounds of war as a result of their sacrifices on behalf of our country, wounds that often manifest in post-traumatic stress,” Sullivan said in a statement when the bill was introduced. “We owe it to these courageous service members, past and present, to explore and better understand new remedies for these mental health challenges that are safe and effective, treatments that could give our suffering veterans hope.”

Tester’s bill also directs the VA to assess the ability of the agency to coordinate FDA-approved clinical trials into the safety and effectiveness of cannabis and cannabis extracts for health care among veterans. If approved by the VA, the clinical trials would provide study participants with cannabis products from federally licensed producers and compare the results with a control group.

Thursday’s approval of S. 326 by the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee is being hailed by medical marijuana and cannabis policy reform advocates as a significant step forward in the movement to end the prohibition of weed in the United States.  

“I’m heartened to see the U.S. Senate take an essential step forward on what should be a priority we all agree on — taking care of our country’s veterans and providing them with alternative treatments for things like PTSD and chronic pain management,” Steven Jung, a U.S. Army veteran and the chief operations officer of vaporizer manufacturer PAX, said in an email to High Times. “Veterans are in crisis and at much greater risk of suicide than the national average, and it’s time we take action now.”

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Twins Study Busts Cannabis Gateway Theory

Legal access to recreational cannabis has no effect on increasing the probability of disorders using alcohol or illicit drugs, according to a recent study of twins.

In a recent report published by the journal Psychological Medicine, researchers observed data gathered from observing twins living in Colorado and Minnesota. They found no link to legal access to marijuana with the likelihood of developing substance abuse problems. 

“Cannabis legalization was associated with no other adverse outcome in the co-twin design, including cannabis use disorder,” researchers found. “No risk factor significantly interacted with legalization status to predict any outcome.”

“We found mostly a lot of nothing, which I think is personally interesting,” lead researcher Stephanie Zellers added. “I think this is a case where we don’t find much is actually more interesting maybe than finding a bunch of results.”

The study also noted that residents living in legal cannabis states didn’t appear to show an increase in problems associated with mental health, relationships, work and finances.

“Recreational legalization was associated with increased cannabis use and decreased alcohol use disorder symptoms but wasn’t associated with other maladaptations,” researchers wrote. “These effects were maintained within twin pairs discordant for residence. “Moreover, vulnerabilities to cannabis use were not exacerbated by the legal cannabis environment.”

Access to Legal Market

Zellers and her research team observed 240 pairs of twins where one lives in the legal state of Colorado while the other lives in Minnesota, where cannabis remains prohibited. Now aged 24 to 49, the participants have provided data on their personal use of alcohol, tobacco, cannabis and several illicit drugs, as well as measures of “psychosocial health” since adolescence.

“This co-twin design automatically controls for a wide range of variables, including age, social background, early home life and even genetic inheritance” that can influence health outcomes, said co-researcher John Hewitt, professor of psychology and neuroscience at CU Boulder. “If the association holds up, it provides strong evidence that the environment, in this case legalization, is having an impact.”

“There’s lots of things that could explain why one person is behaving one way or why people of one state behave one way compared to another,” Zellers said. “But with twins, we were able to rule out so many of those alternatives—not everything, but a lot of them.”

The recent study acted as a follow-up to prior research that found an increase in adult cannabis use where states have allowed recreational use. Despite the rise in use, however, the team found no relationship to a spike in cannabis abuse or addiction.

“Obviously the cannabis use increases, but we didn’t see an increase in cannabis-use disorder, which is a little surprising,” Zellers said. “We didn’t really see changes in how much people were drinking or using tobacco. No large personality or workplace or IQ differences or anything like that.”

But while cannabis use increased in legal situations, twins living in such areas were also less likely to drive drunk or develop alcohol use disorders.

“You’re combining drinking with something that could be physically unsafe,” Zellers said. “The residents of legal states do that less, which is interesting and maybe something a little unexpected.”

Disproving the Cannabis Gateway Theory

The findings also reject the gateway drug theory that using marijuana only leads to using stronger substances.

“We asked in the last 12 months have you tried or used heroin, prescription opiates, cocaine, methamphetamine, hallucinogens—kind of the whole 11 or 12 categories of illicit drugs,” Zellers said. “And there’s no difference there. People living in a state with legal cannabis, they’re not necessarily transitioning on to more illicit drugs.”

The results are quite promising but are far from an absolute conclusion. The study does have several limitations, as it focuses on adults, and few of whom consider themselves as heavy users.

“Our sample is an adult community sample broadly characterized by low levels of substance use and psychosocial dysfunction,” the researchers wrote. “This limits our ability to generalize relationships between legalization, outcomes and risk factors for the individuals at greatest risk.”

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Yale Announces New Cannabis Research Center

One of the country’s most prestigious academic institutions will be home to a new research center dedicated to studying cannabis. 

The Yale School of Medicine announced the creation this week of “a research center to study the acute and chronic effects of cannabis and cannabinoids on neurodevelopment and mental health.”

Called the “Yale Center for the Science of Cannabis and Cannabinoids,” the center “will be led by Deepak Cyril D’Souza, MD, Albert E. Kent Professor of Psychiatry and a leading expert on the pharmacology of cannabinoids.”

The announcement comes only weeks after Connecticut, where the elite Ivy League university is located, launched legal recreational cannabis sales

After the regulated marijuana market went live, D’Souza sounded the alarm on cannabis use among young people. 

“It’s easy for adolescents to get their hands on tobacco and alcohol and why do we think that’s not going to be the case with cannabis,” D’Souza told local news station WTNH.

“Exposure to cannabis … in adolescents has been associated with the development of some serious psychiatric disorders including schizophrenia and other psychosis,” D’Souza added, as quoted by the station.

The center, which was announced by the university on Monday, will be funded initially by “the Department of Psychiatry, with support from the dean’s office.”

“Funding will support pilot studies toward the development of a P50-type center grant application…” the university said in the announcement, noting that those interested in applying for funding must contact D’Souza.

According to a press release about the new cannabis research center, university leaders “said in their announcement that the launch of the center comes at a time of rapid commercialization of cannabis across the United States,” and that the new “center will use a multipronged and multidisciplinary approach to study the acute and chronic effects of cannabis and cannabinoids.” 

Legal recreational pot sales kicked off in Connecticut last month. According to WTNH, the first week of sales brought in more than $2 million

The state legalized marijuana in 2021, when Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont, who was elected to another term in last year’s election, signed a bill into law.

“That’s why I introduced a bill and worked hard with our partners in the legislature and other stakeholders to create a comprehensive framework for a securely regulated market that prioritizes public health, public safety, social justice, and equity. It will help eliminate the dangerous unregulated market and support a new, growing sector of our economy which will create jobs,” Lamont said in a signing statement at the time. “By allowing adults to possess cannabis, regulating its sale and content, training police officers in the latest techniques of detecting and preventing impaired driving, and expunging the criminal records of people with certain cannabis crimes, we’re not only effectively modernizing our laws and addressing inequities, we’re keeping Connecticut economically competitive with our neighboring states.” 

Lamont announced in December that, as part of the state’s new cannabis law, about 44,000 individuals would have their prior marijuana convictions expunged at the beginning of 2023.

“On January 1, thousands of people in Connecticut will have low-level cannabis convictions automatically erased due to the cannabis legalization bill we enacted last year,” Lamont said in a statement at the time. “Especially as Connecticut employers seek to fill hundreds of thousands of job openings, an old conviction for low-level cannabis possession should not hold someone back from pursuing their career, housing, professional, and educational aspirations.”

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Cannabis Researchers Published 4,300 Scientific Papers in 2022

NORML recently announced that according to a keyword search, there were more than 4,300 scientific research papers published about cannabis in 2022. In 2021, there were an estimated 4,200 papers published; over the last 12 years, more than 30,000 research papers have now been published; and in total, there are approximately 42,500 scientific papers exploring cannabis.

While it’s common to hear opponents of cannabis state that more research is necessary before legalization can occur, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano released a statement to counter that argument. “Despite claims by some that marijuana has yet to be subject to adequate scientific scrutiny, scientists’ interest in studying cannabis has increased exponentially in recent years, as has our understanding of the plant, its active constituents, their mechanisms of action, and their effects on both the user and upon society,” Armentano said. “It is time for politicians and others to stop assessing cannabis through the lens of ‘what we don’t know’ and instead start engaging in evidence-based discussions about marijuana and marijuana reform policies that are indicative of all that we do know.”

NORML compiled numerous scientific studies involving cannabis between 2000-2021, exploring findings from studies on a wide variety of medical conditions such as chronic pain, Huntington Disease, insomnia, Multiple Sclerosis, post-traumatic stress disorder, and so much more. The review analyzes the evolution of researcher’s scope of cannabis. “As clinical research into the therapeutic value of cannabinoids has proliferated so too has investigators’ understanding of cannabis’ remarkable capacity to combat disease,” NORML wrote. “Whereas researchers in the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s primarily assessed marijuana’s ability to temporarily alleviate various disease symptoms—such as the nausea associated with cancer chemotherapy—scientists today are exploring the potential role of cannabinoids to modulate disease.”

Even recently, the scientific community has released many intriguing cannabis studies in recent months. One recent study published in the Journal of Sleep Research found that cannabis was an effective treatment for insomnia, with researchers stating that participants experienced an 80% increase in sleep quality, and 60% were no longer classified as clinical insomnias following the end of the two-week study. Another study found evidence that cannabis has “uniquely beneficial effects” on those with bipolar disorder, while one found a link between cannabis consumption and physical activity in HIV+ patients. And there are many more studies underway, such as King’s College London which recently launched a massive 6,000-person study in September, with a goal of publishing early results in 2023 or 2024.

Cannabis is more mainstream than it has ever been before. President Joe Biden’s recent monumental signing of the Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act which “establishes a new registration process for conducting research on marijuana and for manufacturing marijuana products for research purposes and drug development.” Biden also signed an infrastructure bill in 2021, which contained provisions for cannabis. It states that in two years, the Attorney General and Secretary of Health and Human Services must submit a report that addresses how researchers can receive increased samples of various strains, establishing a “national clearinghouse” that will help researchers better distribute cannabis products for research, and an increased amount of samples for researchers who don’t live in states with medical or adult-use cannabis legalization. 

On the side, studies exploring the benefits of other psychedelic substances are also rising. One study in the journal Psychopharmacology found evidence that psilocybin can treat those with autism spectrum disorder. The University College of London released the results of a recent study as well, which analyzed brain imaging of consumers who attended psychedelic retreats. Another from the University of Melbourne explored how ayahuasca benefits outweigh the risks.

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Smart Approaches to Marijuana Exec Attacks ‘Fake’ Cannabis Research on Fox

Anti-cannabis political organization Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) was represented on Fox News primetime to expose what they believe to be fake research promoted in greed by the cannabis industry. SAM is a political organization opposed to cannabis legalization and commercialization, specifically pushing for penalties for cannabis use.

Executive Vice President of SAM Luke Niforatos joined Laura Ingraham on The Ingraham Angle to discuss how “Big Cannabis” is funding UCLA, Harvard, and MIT studies on the efficacy of cannabis for medical purposes.

“The mainstreaming of pot has come at the same time the drug has increased exponentially in its potency, its THC levels,” warned Ingraham, linking it to “violent behavior.” Ingraham frequently explores the dangers of pot and blamed “pot psychosis” due to widespread legalization for the rise in mass shooting incidents. 

Niforatos then delivered a new mixed bag of reefer madness and hysteria: “Big marijuana is terrified right now, because there are now volumes of research telling us that this new super-charged marijuana that the industry is pumping out is causing psychosis, schizophrenia,” Niforatos said. “We’re seeing addiction rates go up. They’re targeting our kids. All kinds of car crashes on the roads! So all of this is coming out of the research.”

“So what do they do?” Niforatos said, referring to the cannabis industry. “They go to their big brother tobacco, who—by the way is their biggest investor—and they start pumping out fake, bogus research. I’m telling you right now: One of the people that funded the millions of dollars for UCLA’s research on marijuana—that company was called ‘Nugs.’ It’s not run by Sir. Isaac Newton, right?”

Independent Research

Niforatos was referring to an investigative piece by the Los Angeles Times exploring the funding behind cannabis research. Specifically, UCLA researchers were confronted with claims about their lab research being truly independent.

Niforatos went on to describe how the people behind cannabis companies should not be taken seriously.

“These are the canna-bros running these companies, and they’re not trying to advance scientific research, they’re paying for publicity and misinformation, which is exactly what Big Tobacco did, they killed millions of Americans to make a buck, and that’s exactly what marijuana wants to do along with their Big Tobacco investors,” he said.

SAM was founded in reaction to legalization efforts in Colorado and Washington by former Congressman Patrick Kennedy, who supported medical but not recreational cannabis, as well as former White House drug policy adviser Kevin Sabet, David Frum, and others.

However, SAM has been criticized for cherry-picking negative stats from studies about pot.

But Who’s Behind SAM?

In 2016, Vice explored in detail who exactly is bankrolling SAM’s agenda to fight cannabis legalization. Among the list of donors, they found a casino owner, a former U.S. ambassador, cops, prison guards, alcohol merchants, and a pharma company that sells fentanyl.

A $500,000 donation from Insys Therapeutics matched a donation from Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy for the top donors. Insys is a pharmaceutical company known for selling the painkiller fentanyl in the form of a sublingual spray. 

A Washington Post article explored how Insys Therapeutics spent half a million trying to keep pot illegal and “just got DEA approval for synthetic marijuana.” Ironically, a federal jury in 2019 found Insys Therapeutics Founder John Kapoor guilty of running a widespread scheme to bribe doctors nationwide to speak about the company’s fentanyl spray, Subsys.

In 2019, the New York chapter of Smart Approaches to Marijuana was forced to disclose its donors, just ahead of legalization rolling out in the state. The state Joint Commission on Public Ethics denied a request from the organization to keep its donors private. 

Dismissing medical studies about cannabis, with the help from SAM, is a slippery slope.

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Biden Signs Bill To Expand Medical Cannabis Research

President Joe Biden added his signature last week to a bipartisan bill that seeks to broaden and streamline research into medical cannabis. 

Dubbed the “Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act,” the law “establishes a new registration process for conducting research on marijuana and for manufacturing marijuana products for research purposes and drug development,” according to a release on Friday from the White House

Despite medical marijuana’s ubiquity throughout the country, cannabis remains illegal on the federal level, which has hamstrung the potential for research into the area. The newly signed bill aims to change that. 

It passed the United States Senate last month with bipartisan support after it won approval in the U.S. House of Representatives with the Democratic and Republican votes in July. 

It is the byproduct of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, which celebrated Biden’s signing of the bill on Friday.

The group of lawmakers touted the measure as “the first standalone federal marijuana reform law enacted since the adoption of the Controlled Substances Act in 1971.”

The law aims to “facilitate research on marijuana and its potential health benefit…by streamlining the application process for scientific marijuana studies and removing existing barriers for researchers that frequently slow the research process.” 

“For decades, the federal government has stood in the way of science and progress—peddling a misguided and discriminatory approach to cannabis. Today marks a monumental step in remedying our federal cannabis laws. The Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act will make it easier to study the impacts and potential of cannabis,” Cannabis Caucus Co-Chairs Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Dave Joyce (R-OH), and Brian Mast (R-FL) said in a joint statement following Biden’s signing. “Research is foundational for the path forward on cannabis policy. Research is essential to better understand the therapeutic benefits of cannabis that have the potential to help millions of Americans struggling with chronic pain, PTSD, multiple sclerosis, anxiety disorders and more.”

“We celebrate the enactment of this critical and long-overdue legislation, and we know there is much more to do to remedy the ongoing harms of the failed war on drugs,” the chairs added. 

In the other chamber, Democratic Sen. Diane Feinstein of California said that there is “substantial evidence that marijuana-derived medications can and are providing major health benefits,” and that the bill “will make it easier to study how these medications can treat various conditions, resulting in more patients being able to easily access safe medications.”

“We know that cannabidiol-derived medications can be effective for conditions like epilepsy. This bill will help refine current medical CBD practices and develop important new applications. After years of negotiation, I’m delighted that we’re finally enacting this bill that will result in critical research that could help millions,” Feinstein said. 

The group of lawmakers said that the caucus “will continue working to reimagine the federal government’s approach to cannabis and enact further reforms,” including “the SAFE Banking package, the Veterans Equal Access Act, the PREPARE Act, and the Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act.”

It marks the second action that Biden has taken on federal marijuana policy in the last two months. In October, the president announced pardons for those who have previously been convicted of simple pot-related offenses under federal law. 

In addition, Biden also signaled his desire to move toward federal decriminalization, saying he has directed cabinet officials to reclassify marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act, which enshrines federal prohibition on pot.

“As I often said during my campaign for President, no one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana,” Biden said in his announcement. “Sending people to prison for possessing marijuana has upended too many lives and incarcerated people for conduct that many states no longer prohibit. Criminal records for marijuana possession have also imposed needless barriers to employment, housing, and educational opportunities. And while white and Black and brown people use marijuana at similar rates, Black and brown people have been arrested, prosecuted, and convicted at disproportionate rates.”

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