The United States is toiling in the dark ages of cannabis research. Due to the legal status of cannabis at the federal level, securing funding for cannabis research is complex and compliance with archaic regulations means the results of your research may not be reflective of real-life cannabis use1. Several countries burn bright leading the way in cannabis research. If you’re a researcher in the United States interested in conducting cannabis research, you may want to consider moving abroad.
The Netherlands, Canada, and Israel are notable as the only three countries in the world with nationally sponsored medical marijuana programs. For over a decade, the Dutch Association for Legal Cannabis and its Constituents as Medicine (NCSM) has been working with criminologists, pharmacists, and researchers to improve the acceptance of cannabis as medicine and stimulate rationale dialogues.
Israel has been a hub for cannabis research for over fifty years with research and innovation on the topic sponsored by the Ministry of Health. The country is notable for fostering the most clinical trials into the benefits of cannabis and being home to the largest facility for cannabis research, cultivation, and development in the world. Israel’s progressive attitude towards cannabis has recently attracted fifteen companies from the United States to conduct their research and development in Israel. They are widely regarded as the worldwide leader in cannabis research.
The state of cannabis research in the United States is a stark contrast to the excellence on display in Israel. To research cannabis in the U.S. you must get your cannabis samples from a single site overseen by the federal government. The samples that are provided to researchers would be unrecognizable to most of us of as cannabis.
When researchers tested the cannabis they were provided, they found mold and yeast that far exceeded the safety standards followed by states with legalized cannabis. The subpar quality of research materials makes it hard to determine the validity of any research conducted with it. The cannabis being researched is simply not reflective of the cannabis being consumed.
As more states move to modernize their cannabis laws and products become available to more consumers, it’s more important than ever for unbiased, scientifically relevant research to be funded and conducted on cannabis. Encouragingly the DEA has taken some steps to allow outside organizations to provide cannabis for research purposes. Although it’s only one small step, it’s still a step in the right direction.
- National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, “The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research”, Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US), 2017. Ch. 15, Challenges and Barriers in Conducting Cannabis Research.