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NIH Looking Into Current Barriers to Marijuana Research

nih marijuana research

The leading federal health agency declared it wants to start working on identifying obstacles to cannabis study in order to “strengthen the scientific evidence” of the plant’s therapeutic potential after thousands of years of documented marijuana use for medical purposes.

A request for information (RFI) titled “Investigators’ interests in and barriers to research studies on the health effects of cannabis and its constituents” was published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) earlier this month. Eight of the NIH’s constituent agencies are working together on the new program to gather data on research hindrances like marijuana’s continued Schedule I designation and restrictions on the kinds of products that can be used in clinical studies.

“Cannabis has been used medicinally for over 3,000 years,” NIH stated. “Recently, there has been growing interest from health care providers and the public in the potential medicinal properties of cannabis-related products.” There are certainly positive undertones with regards to the improved data sets that will be generated by the loosening of these restrictions.

The NIH Proves Consistent

The NIH may very well be fellow cannabis advocates as their efforts are in sync with an article we published previously. “Promoting Mechanistic Research on Therapeutic and Other Biological Properties of Minor Cannabinoids and Terpenes” was published by the NIH and eight of its constituent agencies on July 27th.

Research on the marijuana plant has been severely constrained up to this point because it is still illegal on a federal level. However, there is some optimism that the stigma associated with cannabis may soon be eliminated, thanks to the US House of Representatives’ recent passage of the bipartisan bill that will permit marijuana research.

Consider the fact only a small number of the more than 110 cannabinoids and 120 terpenes found in marijuana have undergone extensive research. Before drawing any firm conclusions, more research is necessary to enable us to comprehend and characterize the underlying therapeutic potential and negative side-effects of these small cannabinoids and terpenes.This is a watershed moment to be sure and will finally go a long way to making even greater strides in the field of marijuana research.

NIH Proves Consistent

A Step In The Right Direction

While effective in treating many conditions, it is not a cure-all and more research is needed to determine the safety and effectiveness of marijuana for specific health conditions. Additionally, increased studies in scientific rigor are needed for marijuana to be evaluated as a possible treatment for many health conditions.

For example, we need studies showing how much THC or CBD (and other cannabinoids) you can safely take every day without getting high. What amount produces certain effects; what impact these different amounts have on your ability to drive or operate heavy machinery; and how long it takes before you feel any effect from taking cannabis-based products.

We also need more research on how these compounds interact with other drugs patients may be taking at the same time, like antidepressants or medications used to treat anxiety disorders, to help us understand if there could potentially be negative interactions from using them together. The NIH states it will continue working with outside experts who specialize in cannabinoid research, so they can provide feedback while also sharing their experiences conducting federally approved research involving marijuana products.

Step Right Direction

In closing, the NIH’s request isn’t just about collecting data, though. It’s also about finding out where there are areas where it’s appropriate to loosen some of the restrictions on cannabis research and where it should stay put.

“If there [are] any issues with the existing data sets, then those could be addressed,” said Dr. Mahmoud Elsohly from the University of Mississippi, who helped develop one of the first strains used as part of a federal program for medical marijuana research. “But really it’s all about getting additional data on the therapeutic aspects of this plant.”

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