NEW YORK (MainStreet) — British-based company GW Pharmaceuticals is now actively recruiting individuals for ongoing Phase III trials of a new drug called Sativex. The study is calling for volunteers across the U.S. The company, publicly traded on the Nasdaq, is also working with researchers from the University of California's Benioff Children's Hospital on the first major drug and hospital-based clinical trial of a purified cannabinoid that could be useful in treating drug-resistant childhood epilepsy (see Charlotte's Web).

The Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology Journal is also about to publish a ground-breaking study that found that two joints a day for eight weeks put sufferers of Crohn's Disease in complete remission.

Pioneering research at Ohio State suggests that cannabinoids can also significantly reduce Alzheimer's-related brain inflammation as well, lessening the impact of the condition if not helping to prevent its advance. The head of the study, Dr. Gary Wenk also believes that the importance of cannabinoids extends beyond Alzheimer's to any disorder involving chronic inflammation of the brain from neurological conditions like MS to traumatic brain injury.

According to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), one of the nation's oldest and largest marijuana advocacy and educational nonprofits, over 20,000 medical studies (most conducted over the last five years) have shown the medical efficacy of cannabinoids on conditions ranging from pain and nausea to antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties. It has even been reported that cannabinoids can shrink tumors.

There is also a growing thought trend in the pro-marijuana medical community that the endocannabinoid system of the body is as important as the central nervous if not immune system in its significance to human health. Evidence from recent trials and studies also suggests that endocannabinoids and their receptors act as modulatory controls, potentially no different than any other hormone receptor, that fine tunes bodily responses to different stimuli. Research now also seems to indicate that the endocannabinoid system actually controls neurotransmitter release and action from nerve fibers including in the immune system, the stomach, the male and female reproductive systems and cardiovascular systems.

More new findings will undoubtedly surface as the phenomenal results of trials get more frequent and widespread. Many scientists (including academics) who wished to study the plant, particularly in states where it is legal (like Colorado) now can. In fact, the Cannabis Genome Research Initiative at the University of Colorado at Boulder which has just launched an 18 month study to map the DNA of cannabis, is a pursuit more than likely to deliver significant finds including new breeding ideas.

While nobody expects the federal government to fast track legislation or even federal regulatory mandate to change marijuana from its status as a Schedule I drug, the pharmacology, patients and ongoing research have created a market and undeniable demand.

The genie that put marijuana into the "illegal" bottle over 40 years ago may be rendered increasingly harmless by the resounding chorus of those who have found no better Rx for many chronic and otherwise untreatable conditions.

--Written by Marguerite Arnold for MainStreet