U.S. Cannabis Research: Obstacles and Opportunities

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By ebbu Staff

Every year, international scientists are learning more about cannabis, hemp and their chemical compounds—cannabinoids and terpenes.

But here in the United States, the progress of research in these areas has been hampered by the federal status of marijuana. The federal government has thus far refused to remove cannabis from the list of Schedule I drugs where it was placed in 1970. As defined in the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), drugs in this category have “no currently accepted medical use in the United States, a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision, and a high potential for abuse.”

In fact, there is an increasingly large body of evidence that there are conclusive accepted medical uses for cannabis, including treating chronic pain and muscle spasticity, as well as alleviating nausea and vomiting associated with cancer treatments.

Currently, 30 states allow patients with certain medical conditions to use cannabis under medical supervision.

To date, nine states and the District of Columbia have legalized adult-use, a.k.a. “recreational” cannabis. Cannabis researchers in these states, including California and Washington, are more easily able to conduct observational studies, and some states such as Colorado have issued research grants funded by taxes on cannabis sales.

To conduct federally approved research, scientists face an arduous application process to gain access to a single strain of federally provided marijuana, which has been often criticized for being low quality and not reflective of cannabis products available in state-legal markets.

As we’ve learned at our ebbu laboratory headquartered in Colorado, having access to a variety of strains is crucial to conducting research on the hundreds of compounds found in the cannabis plant, including well-known cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and dozens of other rarer cannabinoids.

Identifying the properties and pharmacological effects of cannabinoids and terpenes, and determining how they work on their own and in concert, is the basis for the future of cannabis and hemp research. At ebbu, we are studying rarer cannabinoids such as tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV), cannabichromene (CBC), cannabigerol (CBG), cannabinol (CBN), cannabitriol (CBT), cannabioxepane (CBX) and many others. One of our research priorities centers on development of specialized formulations of cannabinoids and terpenes to generate consistent mood effects.

This research frontier holds vast potential for medical applications as well.

The federal National Institutes of Health currently tracks more than 70 clinical trials involving cannabis, but the majority of them are on the theme of “marijuana dependency” rather than positive medical potential.

There are, however, some signs of hope. Among the most promising, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently issued its first-ever approval of a cannabis plant-derived pharmaceutical drug, GW Pharmaceuticals’ Epidiolex. Before the decision, a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) representative told a reporter with U.S. cannabis news site Leafly that if Epidiolex is approved, the DEA will “absolutely” reschedule CBD.

Meanwhile, U.S. veterans and advocates, including the American Legion, have been applying pressure to government officials to allow research of cannabis for its role in aiding people living with post-traumatic stress (PTSD), experienced by many veterans.

Every year, more states are legalizing cannabis for medical and adult-use purposes, whether it’s through ballot initiatives or legislation. A majority of Americans have access to either medical or adult-use cannabis.

At ebbu, we believe everyone should have the option to access breakthrough medicines available from cannabinoid formulations. And we want to see cannabis research happening coast to coast, to advance what we know about these amazing compounds. We’re hopeful that, with ongoing pressure for political change, both will be a reality in the not-too-distant future.


 

Tagged: cannabis researchglobal cannabis researchSchedule Icannabis sciencecannabis studiesmarijuana research

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