Since the United States began dismantling prohibition and legalizing marijuana at the state level, there has been a lot of focus on the country and its evolving cannabis policies. Canada has recently legalized recreational cannabis and is working on integrating its current medical cannabis program with the new program, as is the state of California. What about the rest of the world? We know that Mexico is leaning toward decriminalization and medical legalization, and that Uruguay has legalized medical and recreational cannabis, but there has been little change on the ground in these countries so far. Despite the newness of marijuana research in the United States, there are organizations that have been researching medical marijuana for years, like the International Cannabinoid Research Society (ICRS), the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), the International Association for Cannabinoid Medicine (IACM), and the Institute for Research on Cannabinoids (IROC), and Israel’s Tikun Olam. Companies like MedReLeaf and Tilray also conduct in-depth cannabis research to make better medical cannabis products for distribution.
What is the International Cannabis Research Society?
One of the older organizations in the world that has been studying cannabis and continues to today is like a secret society: the International Cannabis Research Society, to be exact. The ICRS is non-political, non-religious, and dedicated to cannabinoid research in physiological, biochemical, chemical areas, focused on the endogenous cannabinoid system (ECS) or endocannabinoid system in humans and any abuse potential of recreational cannabis. The goal of the ICRS is to provide “impartial” information to anyone who needs it, as well as a forum that is open to professionals in the field of cannabis research. The group has been officially hosting symposiums on cannabis research since 1992, but informal researchers in the field have been meeting for symposiums since 1970. The 2017 symposium was significantly held in Montréal, Canada (which will soon be the first country in the world to legalize recreational marijuana nationwide), and the previous year’s in Bukovina, Poland. The 27th symposium will be held from June 22 to June 27, and topics of publications listed on the site in 2016 included the structure of the human CB1 cannabinoid receptor and how cannabinoid receptors help mediate various body functions. The U.S. Federal government could take a lesson from the openness of the research conducted and discussed by at ICRS symposiums – after all, how can we make progress and gain knowledge without the ability to openly discuss, create, and carry out cannabis studies?
What is the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies?
The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, or MAPS, has also been around for some years, and if you’re looking for scientific studies on the effects of psychedelics like magic mushrooms, LSD, and MDMA, this is your organization. Due to the psychoactive effects of THC, this organization also helps carry out many different studies on marijuana. MAPS has been around since 1986, and is a non-profit research and education organization devoted to medical, legal, and cultural studies surrounding the “careful use” of psychedelics and marijuana. In 2017 from April 19-24, Oakland, California, will host the Psychedelic Science Symposium (I want to go), and you can read the MAPS Bulletin here for the latest in psychedelic and marijuana studies. Features of the event include a psychedelic comedy banquet and a three-hour conference on benefits and risks of psychedelics and marijuana for everything from psychotherapy to neuroscience.
The organization also encourages the use of the Bulletin by educators, drug war prisoners, and government officials, as well as scientists and researchers. (I’m none of those things, but I’ve always been curious, and I was delighted to find out that MAPS existed.) No matter who you are, you can download the entire Bulletin for free from the MAPS website and look over it whenever you want (the cover art is super psychedelic).
What is the International Association for Cannabinoid Medicines?
The International Association for Cannabinoid Medicines (IACM) is focused on cannabinoid medicines, and published the Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics from 2001 to 2004. The IACM is hosting the Cannabinoid Conference 2017 in Cologne, Germany, a country with much laxer marijuana laws than the United States. In Germany, personal use possession of small amounts (30 grams or less) of drugs is generally permitted without fear of repercussions, but it depends on the city and region. The IACM has held 8 conferences to date, and is a Germany-based organization.
What is Tikun Olam?
Tikun Olam is Israel’s first and largest medical cannabis supplier. Tikun Olam, Ltd. is the company that first began treating patients with medical cannabis, following the discovery of THC and other cannabinoids by Dr. Raphael Mechoulam. Mechoulam’s breakthrough science eventually persuaded Israel’s national health department to allow studies and treatment of patients with marijuana. Interestingly, tikkun olam is defined in the Misnah (known as the “Oral Torah”), and means an act of kindness performed to perfect or heal the world. The Jewish phrase may be used when discussing social policy to emphasize safeguarding the disadvantaged. What an appropriate and lovely name for a cannabis research facility, no? As their website states, “empowering patients with access to the professional knowledge to effectively and safely choose and consume the right dose and the right variety” of cannabis is what the organization does best. There is a clinic where patients are guided through care, an elderly patient care program, and a pediatric patient care program. In addition, Tikun Olam has the world’s largest medical cannabis treatment databases with anonymous information to help staff and patients. Tikun Olam partners with Canada’s Medreleaf Corporation and also extends its knowledge to Spain. (Spain currently has a cannabis club program in place for medical patients – similar to the one Colorado should be starting up soon). Tikun Olam has treated more than 10,000 patients, and its ongoing research studies include studies on Crohn’s disease, geriatric appetites and blood concerns, colitis, movement disorders, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), tinnitus, pediatric and adult cancer, and pain and inflammation. The website even includes a thank you letter section from patients.
MedReLeaf supplies many patients with Tikun Olam’s well-researched Avidekel and Midnight medical marijuana strains, and operates as a licensed producer in Markham, Ontario, Canada. The company has 20+ ongoing research initiatives, a cannabis plant breeding program and regular patient monitoring and data analysis, as well. Registered nurses are available to help patients and doctors through the medical marijuana process. MedReLeaf also supplies lockable, child-resistant and airtight containers that can only be opened with the key they supply with their products. Pretty handy, huh?
Tilray is an American-owned company based in Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada, and claims to be “the most sophisticated indoor medical cannabis grow operation in the world.” The company generated $48.1 million in 2014 ($8.5 million went to national, provincial, and city taxes) and created 395 direct and indirect jobs for Canada. The company is currently partnering with the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Canada’s first clinical trial for cannabis and PTSD. With so many people working internationally and in the United States to further the progression of medical cannabis, and find new application for it, the coming years will be exciting for medicine, science, and patients who are suffering through difficult or ineffective treatment options. The cannabis plant has opened up a new world of medical and scientific studies, and well as international cooperation as we gain knowledge and carry out new studies. It’s going to be an extraordinary ten years in cannabis research, and I can’t wait to see the outcome of the many studies that are happening right now all over the world.