Post date: 8/26/2019

The federal government appears to be getting on board with the reality of the cannabis legalization movement, and now says it wants to get a handle on the health implications. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) just issued a call for grant applications on the effects of changing cannabis laws on public health.

The NIDA is a science-based research body within the National Institutes of Health. It’s responsible for providing the government with research-based information on the causes and consequences of drug use and addiction, and how to improve individual and public health.

The use of cannabis to treat various medical conditions has grown dramatically as more states legalize the cultivation, sale and use of cannabis. However, there has been a dearth of research on the effectiveness of medical cannabis treatments due to the continued classification of cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act. Schedule 1 status is given to drugs the federal government believes have no legitimate medical uses and are highly addictive.

Even in states that have legalized cannabis for medicinal and/or recreational purposes, researchers risk losing access to federal funding if they study cannabis without going through a lengthy and cumbersome federal approval process. But that now appears to be changing.

“Policies around cannabis use in the United States (and globally) are changing rapidly, and far outpacing the knowledge needed to determine and minimize the public health impacts of these changes,” NIDA stated in a Notice of Special Interest (NOSI) issued on August 14.

The NIDA notice references 8 NIH funding sources, and requests applications for research into 13 areas of interest related to the use and effects of cannabis. Research topics NIDA said it’s most interested in granting funding include:

  • Trends in cannabis use, including new products, patterns of use and reasons for use among different populations.
  • The impact of federal, state, and local marijuana policies and their implementation on use and health outcomes.
  • The development of standards for measuring cannabis (including hemp and hemp products) doses, intoxication and impairment.
  • The composition/potency of cannabis, methods of administration, cannabis extracts/concentrates, and cannabis of varying constituents (e.g. cannabinoid or terpene content), as well as how those factors impact physical and mental health.
  • The physical and mental health antecedents of cannabis use, as well as outcomes of use.
  • The impact of cannabis industry practices, including research on marketing, taxes, and prices, on cannabis use and health outcomes (e.g. how different price points impact consumption patterns across different levels of use).
  • The heterogeneity of regulatory schemes (e.g. models for retail distribution of cannabis) and which combinations or components might minimize harm to public health.
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