NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Post Traumatic Stress Disorder ( PTSD) is one of the many conditions that medical marijuana can help treat. The main problem to date faced by those who suffer from the condition has been the lack of funds to study the condition in a controlled scientific environment.
While the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has funded medical trials to study the medical effects of marijuana across a range of conditions, up until now this money has predominately funded research in other countries, from Israel to Canada. Furthermore, the National Institute for Drug Abuse (NIDA) overwhelmingly gave approval for researchers to use its cannabis stock, grown in Mississippi, for understanding the interplay between cannabis and addiction rather than to treat medical conditions.
That is beginning to change. The state of Colorado is now funding medical research with some of the proceeds from its year-and-a-half-old recreational market. Perhaps the best known recipient of such research money is the infamous trial headed by Dr. Sue Sisley and her team of experts to study the effect of pot on PTSD. After being given approval to move forward by the Department of Health and Human Services, the FDA and the DEA, Sisley was fired from the University of Arizona last year over her efforts. She subsequently received a $2 million grant from Colorado state's Medical Marijuana Scientific Advisory Council, set up an independent lab to perform the study and obtained the approval of NIDA to use its marijuana stocks for her research. Even more importantly, Sisley and her team have selected 76 veterans to take part in the study.
"We chose to study veterans because of the prevalence of debilitating PTSD among this population," said Dr. Marcel Bonn-Miller, the coordinating principal investigator on Sisley's team. "That said, we believe the findings from this work will generalize to individuals with PTSD more broadly."
The development is being hailed as one of the most important forward movements in the medical cannabis space to date in the United States. "These studies are important to lift the stigma regarding the science of marijuana and begin to harness its benefits for those among us that need it most," said David Goldstein, CEO of PotBiotics, a cannabis research, robotics and artificial intelligence startup.
Scott Murphy, founder of Veterans for Safe Access and Compassionate Care was also enthusiastic about the impact of not only the study but also the expected results and data. "This study follows the rules established by the FDA to test the efficiency and safety of marijuana," he said. "It will allow veterans against marijuana or on the fence to know what millions of Americans and the world already know; marijuana is a safe alternative to pharmaceuticals."
Goldstein concurs that research is becoming less controversial and easier to gain approval.
"We're also seeing studies beget studies," he said. "In other words for every study that's done which shows strong medical properties of cannabis, there's more reason and pressure on the feds to increase opportunities research."
Michael Betts, a vet and the Director of Community Outreach for Southern Nevada for Terra Tech (TRTC), is also very optimistic about the impact of this study on future political and medical reform.
"With more medical proof beginning to surface and studies being conducted the patient base is steadily rising, the industry is rapidly growing and more states are beginning to change their laws to allow for some use of medical marijuana," he said. "As more and more studies are approved and the public can be properly educated on the true benefits of the plant, the negative stereotypes surrounding medical marijuana and the patients using it will also change and become more accepted."
Most industry analysts, indeed the study authors themselves, know that the road ahead is still a long one, even for wide-spread acceptance by the general public, let alone the federal government. As Bonn-Miller cautioned, "This study is not an admission by the U.S. federal government that medical marijuana has positive consequences. The only role that the federal government will be playing relates to oversight and provision of marijuana for the study as they do with any study that requires administration of marijuana, regardless of funding source."
The fact that the pot the study will use comes from the much dissed supply of marijuana from the University of Mississippi does not concern the researchers. "NIDA has assured us that we will receive all required types and strengths of marijuana needed to successfully conduct this study," said Bonn-Miller. "They have worked hard to make sure that our supply needs are satisfied."
"As prohibition lifts across the country, so too will the grip on research and hopefully the understanding of cannabinoids," Goldstein said. "It is important to note that the total lack of data on marijuana is perhaps the most harmful thing to patients now, because it could mean we are not providing them with the best treatments possible."
At long last, it appears, the infrastructure if not the mindset of those who repeatedly frustrated such medical research before, is beginning to change. That will have huge impact going forward on the whole debate of medical uses, medically focused entrepreneurs, regulation and access.
Bottom line? Patients will have an easier time obtaining not only cannabis but medical advice from their doctors.
--Written by Marguerite Arnold for MainStreet