On Wednesday, the Colorado Board of Health awarded more than $8 million in research grants to its health officials for studies on the effects of medical marijuana in treating ailments such as brain tumors, epilepsy, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
According to the Associated Press, this line of research is a “new frontier,” due to the fact that “government-funded marijuana research traditionally focuses on the drug’s negative health effects.”
Colorado was one of the first two states to legalize cannabis for recreational use, and one of the 23 states and Washington D.C. to legalize it for medicinal use.
Dr. Suzanne Sisley, a Psychiatrist in Arizona, who will help conduct a study on how treatment with marijuana affects veterans with PTSD, pointed out that this step is a first for the U.S. Government.
“This is the first time we’ve had government money to look at the efficacy of marijuana, not the harms of marijuana,” Sisley said.
Federally funded studies on the effects of medical marijuana have not been done previously, due to the fact that marijuana is still illegal under federal law. Reuters reported that the funding for Colorado’s research was “derived from taxes imposed on the state-regulated sale of medical marijuana.”
Colorado’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Larry Wolk, noted that the lack of research on medical marijuana has hindered both current and prospective users.
“There’s nowhere else in medicine where we give a patient some seeds and say, ‘Go grow this and process it and then figure out how much you need,'” said Wolk. “We need research dollars so we can answer more questions.”
Colorado is funding a total of eight research studies – three that will require federal clearance and access to the plant, and five that are observational studies in which the subjects provide their own cannabis.
According to the Associate Press, the studies in need of federal approval will look at using marijuana to treat post-traumatic stress disorder in veterans, to treat irritable bowel syndrome in adolescents and young adults, to relieve pain in children with brain tumors, and to treat pediatric patients with epilepsy.
The Denver Post reported, “University researchers will conduct all of the studies,” in the hopes that they will provide the best, and most respected “evidence on whether marijuana is a useful medicine.“