Researchers are now churning out thousands of studies on marijuana each year. And you can expect that stream of science to keep flowing as more places enact legalization, a new review predicts.
To get a better understanding of how the scientific community has responded to the cannabis reform movement, a team based in Israel used online research databases like PubMed and Web of Science to search for marijuana-related studies from 2000 to 2017.
Research on cannabis has rapidly accelerated in recent years, far outpacing the growth in scientific research as a whole, the new study, which was published this month in the journal Population Health Management, found.
While the overall number of scientific publications per year on PubMed increased 2.5 times during the years in review, the number of publications that examine cannabis increased 4.5 times, from 620 to 2388. The number of studies focused on medical cannabis increased nine times over the same period, from 82 in 2000 to 742 in 2017.
Population Health Management
“The results of the present study demonstrate an ongoing increase in the number of publications related to cannabis in general and to medical cannabis in particular,” the researchers wrote. “The spike in medical publications on medical cannabis that began in 2013 is impressive and encouraging.”
The team went on to categorize each study by medical field.
Population Health Management
Cannabis studies that fell into the neurology realm—which would encompass research looking at how cannabinoids affect conditions like epilepsy, for instance—were the most common and experienced the steadiest growth. Oncological studies on marijuana and cancer were the second most common, followed by psychiatric cannabis studies.
Where are the studies coming from?
Though marijuana remains federally prohibited in the United States, the country also pumps out the most cannabis research globally. Sixty-six percent of the studies under review from 2000 to 2017 originated in the U.S. The second biggest source of marijuana research is Canada, which produced 7.5 percent of the studies in review.
The authors of the new paper noted that cannabis research was stunted following the passage of prohibitionist policies in the 70s. And the recent uptick seems to correspond with state-level legalization efforts.
“The absence of an increase in publications on cannabis until recent years would appear to be related to the United Nations Single Convention that prohibited the use of cannabis for recreational purposes and had broad support in most of the developed countries,” the researchers wrote.
“It is noteworthy that the significant growth in the number of publications on medical cannabis since 2013 parallels legislation permitting the use of recreational cannabis in the states of Washington and Colorado in 2012 and in Alaska and Oregon in 2014, and subsequently in many other countries around the world.”
The team was heartened by the emerging trends in marijuana research, arguing that such a proliferation “should provide data, support, and confidence and should open new horizons for treatment of patients.”
And what’s more, the decision by the new study’s authors to categorize previous science based on medical field “can help direct researchers and policy makers to fields in which data are scant or not available at all,” they wrote.
See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:
Marijuana Research Is Exploding In The Age Of Legalization, New Study Finds
The New South Wales (NSW) State Government has announced that it will begin to find trials regarding the effectiveness of medicinal cannabis. The budget allows for $9 million to be supplied over the next four years. Money distribution will begin in the 2015-2016 budgetary year with a $3 million allocation.
The experiment will involve a wide variety of patients, including some children with severe conditions. Epileptic youth, terminally ill adults and chemotherapy patients with extreme nausea are set to take part in the medicinal cannabis trials. According to the Medical Research Minister, Pru Goward, the study is part of the next generation of government funded medical research.
“Medical research unlocks new treatment for disease, offers hope, delivers cures, keeps people well and out of hospital…At its best (it) profoundly improves lives.”
In the aftermath of the New South Wales budgetary decisions, other Australian state governments are taking an interest medicinal cannabis and its validity as an effective form of treatment. In particular, Victoria and South Australia have brought medicinal marijuana into political discourse.
In total, the state government of New South Wales allocated $1 billion for medical research in the newly outlined budget. Moving forward, medicinal cannabis may provide alternatives to traditional forms of medicine when it comes to treating childhood epilepsy and the negative side effects of chemotherapy.
The White House has taken action to immediately remove a long-standing, bureaucratic hurdle required to research the medical benefits of marijuana.
The former process, established in May 1999, made it nearly impossible for researchers to gain access to the plant for scientific studies. It required that all privately funded marijuana studies in the United States submit a study proposal to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) review board. Then the proposal also had to be reviewed by the Public Health Service (PHS) to determine the “scientific and ethical soundness” of the study. Next, a marijuana permit would have to be obtained from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). If all of those steps were approved, the cannabis to studied must come from only one source — the drug supply program from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
Both review processes by the FDA and PHS shared similar goals. They aimed to guide research on drug development while assuring appropriate treatment of human subjects. Advocates of medical marijuana research often argued that the second review by PHS was unnecessary, and many requests have been made to eliminate the PHS review process.
No other Schedule I substances, including heroin and LSD, have been required to go through the extra step of being reviewed by the PHS. Since the 1961 international Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (amended in 1972), marijuana has been listed as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act. The Schedule I classification is reserved for substances that are deemed as having no medicinal value and the highest potential for abuse. It is strange to label a plant that has been legalized for medicinal purposes in nearly half of the United States as having no medicinal value — especially when the federal government owns a patent on marijuana “cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants.”
Tom Angell, founder of Marijuana Majority, spoke on removing cannabis from the list of Schedule I substances:
“The next step should be moving marijuana out of Schedule I to a more appropriate category, which the administration can do without any further Congressional action. Given what the president and surgeon general have already said publicly about marijuana’s relative harms and medical uses, it’s completely inappropriate for it to remain in a schedule that’s supposed to be reserved for substances with a high potential for abuse and no therapeutic value.”
In a notice expected to be published in the Federal Register on Tuesday, June 23, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) notes that the secondary PHS review “overlaps in several important ways” with alternative approval processes and “is no longer necessary to support the conduct of scientifically-sound studies into the potential therapeutic uses of marijuana.”
Following the elimination of the PHS review, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) will now assist in facilitating marijuana-based research. It will still be required that a marijuana permit from the Drug Enforcement Administration be obtained, as well as getting medical marijuana from the Drug Supply Program run by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). According to the notice, the removal of the PHS review phase should assist in streamlining the application and approval processes for cannabis research.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), a leader in Congress for marijuana reform, shared his approval of the policy change in a recent press release:
“Today’s decision by HHS is a significant step toward improving an antiquated system that unfairly targets marijuana above and beyond other substances in research. I hope this action will facilitate easier access to marijuana for medical researchers. Considering the widespread use of medical marijuana, it is absolutely essential that we allow doctors and scientists to research the therapeutic benefits and risks of its use.”
Rep. Blumenauer also stated that that he is “working on legislation to address these issues, and looks forward to working with the Administration and my colleagues in Congress to further increase research.”
Blumenauer was a part of a bipartisan group of lawmakers, including three other state Representatives, who sought out additional cosigners of a letter in May 2014 that urged the elimination of the PHS review process.
While this policy change will help promote further marijuana research, there are still more barriers for cannabis than any other drug. The NIDA monopoly on medical marijuana research in the United States does not apply to other drugs, which makes work with cocaine and heroin easier for researchers than cannabis.
Although the removal of the PHS review is a step in the right direction, Angell believes more can be done for medical marijuana research:
“The president has often said that drug policy should be dictated by unimpeded science instead of ideology, and it’s great to see the Obama administration finally starting to take some real action to back that up. But there’s more to be done. Hopefully today’s action is a sign of more to come.”
Hopefully this policy change will serve as the starting point for continued improvements in medical marijuana research, now that the extra barrier has been removed. We may be able to understand the true healing potential of cannabis in the near future.