California, a pioneer in medical marijuana, first legalized the plant for medical use in 1996. Unfortunately, at that time, minimal research on the medical properties of cannabis existed in the United States due to prohibition and decades of learned stigma. So, in 1999 the California State Legislature passed Senate Bill 847, which called for a research program to "enhance the understanding of the efficacy and adverse effects of marijuana as a pharmacological agent." This legislation helped to establish the Center for Medical Cannabis Research (CMCR) in the year 2000.
Today, this is one of the premier centers in the U.S. for modern cannabis research, blazing a trail in proving the benefits of a long, misunderstood herb.
What is the Center for Medical Cannabis Research?
Located at the University of California, San Diego, the CMCR conducts pre-clinical and clinical studies of cannabis looking for the therapeutic value and limitations of marijuana. In fact, the CMCR conducted the first therapeutic studies of smoked cannabis in more than 20 years. The research conducted at the facility helps to advance the science of cannabinoid therapy, as well as, influence policy on both State and Federal levels.
This highly-advanced cannabis research facility leads high-quality, scientific studies on cannabis safety and efficacy for various physical ailments including chronic pain, seizures and spasms, mood disorders, HIV and AIDS, as well as other conditions suggested to respond to cannabis and cannabinoids. Additionally, researchers conduct clinical and observational trials to determine the best methods, dosage, and timing for cannabis as a therapeutic agent, while helping investigators in state and federal agencies determine proper regulations.
The Answers are in the Science
While anecdotal stories pour in from all parts of the world regarding the benefits of cannabis and cannabinoids for a myriad of ailments, the scientists at the Center for Medical Cannabis Research work to prove the science of these modern-day medical miracles. To date, the CMCR approved 15 clinical studies including seven clinical trials.
What They've Learned
Of the studies completed thus far, researchers successfully showed cannabis has pain-relieving effects on the nervous system in multiple conditions secondary to injury or disease. Many of the patients included in these studies reported inadequate results from their pharmaceutical medications but noticed a significant improvement while using cannabis as adjunct therapy which suggests cannabis is a viable alternative for patients who may be resistant to traditional therapy.
In addition to relieving pain, the report also concludes cannabis reduces muscle spasticity in Multiple Sclerosis. In a Legislative Executive Summary, the research concluded, "We now have reasonable evidence that cannabis is a promising treatment in selected pain syndromes caused by injury or diseases of the nervous system, and possibly for painful muscle spasticity due to multiple sclerosis. Obviously, more research will be necessary to elucidate the mechanisms of action and the full therapeutic potential of cannabinoid compounds."
Current Research Initiatives
Currently, the Center for Medical Cannabis Research is conducting four studies on cannabis:
Cannabidiol for Autism – Funded by a $4.7 million donation from the Ray and Tye Noorda Foundation, this trial includes 30 children diagnosed with severe Autism. The overall goal is to determine if CBD, the non-psychoactive component in cannabis, helps to reduce seizures, anxiety and self-harming behaviors in afflicted children.
Cannabis for HIV Neuropathic Pain – Pain is a leading cause of disability in patients diagnosed with HIV. Cannabis may help alleviate pain, but what are the long-term consequences? This study aims to find out.
Cannabis and Driving – Public safety research to help determine the level of driving impairment with cannabis consumption.
Cannabis for Lower Back Pain – This study is designed to compare the level of pain relief, as well as adverse effects between tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC and the synthetic, prescription version, Dronabinol.
Advancing Cannabis, One Study at a Time
Unfortunately, the U.S. government stymied cannabis research for the last seventy years with fear and prohibition. Although the anecdotal stories found all over the internet are promising, the only way to gain mainstream approval for cannabis as a therapeutic substance is through valid, respected research. The Center for Medical Cannabis Research is but one of only a handful of qualified research institutions in the U.S. currently studying the effects of cannabis.
Cannabis patients and recreational consumers alike stand by with bated breath as the politicians continue to waver in their position. Although the laws progressively change as the years continue to go by, many people still suffer, waiting for their state to get on board. Meanwhile, research institutions like the Center for Medical Cannabis Research are turning hundreds of anecdotal stories into tales of "I told you so!" until the policies can be changed.