Cannabis Research

Why I have trust issues:

If you’ve been in the weed game for longer than five minutes, you probably already know the problematic nature of cannabis research. Since the scheduling of cannabis deemed it to be a narcotic with “no medical value,” laws make it nearly impossible to do clinical research. An article in the L.A. Times reported, “Some prominent researchers complain approval is unreasonably tough for scientists whose work aims at finding beneficial uses for the drug.”

Until recently, scientists in the United States performed studies under the directive of proving the dangers of cannabis. Propaganda ensued. Regrettably, claims of lowered IQ, premature aging, lung disease, and addiction (among scads others) enveloped the plant in misinformation. The government even released a study claiming that cannabis kills braincells. However, researchers have never been able to replicate these claims and have largely debunked them. Regardless, concerned parents across the country still quote this when confronted with cannabis.

But even research that indicates cannabis can help treat symptoms of diseases should be approached critically. Because research institutions have national grants and must comply with federal law, scientists must research exclusively with the federally legal source of cannabis, provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

Where does research weed even come from?

Until very recently, 12 acres of campus at the University of Mississippi has provided all the cannabis used for studies. The director of the Marijuana Project at Ole Miss, Mahmoud A. ElSohly, leads the long-time legal grow operation. The garden has begun gearing up to grow around 30,000 plants to facilitate the growing demand by researchers.

ElSohly runs the heavily regulated, out-door facility. He grows the plants for scientists seeking to research its effects after receiving special licensing through several federal agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). ElSohly has been quoted saying, “Pot should never be smoked. You do that to get high and there are ways to move the curative chemicals into your system without getting stoned…THC is not absorbed through the rectum,” in an article for the L.A. Times in 2014.

With regards to legalization happening across the country, ElSohly said in the same article, “The liberalization of those laws really scares me. To have marijuana available just like that? I feel sorry for Colorado and Washington state. In a few years, you are really going to see the impact of the liberal laws they have there.”

To date, Washington state has collected around $401 million from the cannabis excise tax, greatly impacting local communities.

Though ElSohly does believe in the potential benefits of cannabis, he has also admitted having never consumed it. Many long-time cannabis growers have scoffed at his admission. Some compare growing cannabis to professional chefs: how are you going to make a good sauce if you’ve never tasted the recipe?

What does that mean for research?

Basically? Research bud is bunk schwag. And a recent study out of the University of Colorado can confirm.

Using statistics provided by NIDA and lab results from Steep Hill from Denver, Oakland, Sacramento, and Seattle, researchers compared data. “Our results demonstrate that the federally produced Cannabis has significantly less variety and lower concentrations of cannabinoids. Current research, which has focused on material that is far less diverse and less potent than that used by the public, limits our understanding of the plant’s chemical, biological, psychological, medical, and pharmacological properties,” the study reported.

It’s kind of like only testing Xanax at an eighth of a dose.

And while centuries of use—spanning cultures and generations—teaches us incredible amounts about the herb, we still have so much research to do. What are the full effects of cannabis on things like tumor growth or movement disorders? We don’t yet know.

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