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Research into CBD for Medical Treatments Gain Steam

Medical cannabis research is receiving some much needed funding: at least $6 million in state and federal monies to research medicinal applications of CBD. The federal government is providing about half the money; the remainder comes from taxes collected by California on recreational marijuana sales in that state.

CBD (shorthand for cannabidiol) is a compound found in cannabis plants that has been linked to reduced pain, anxiety and inflammation. While a majority of states have legalized medicinal uses of cannabis and/or CBD, cannabis continues to be banned under federal law. Hemp, a type of cannabis plant containing very small amounts of THC (the psychoactive compound found in cannabis), is the lone exception to this federal prohibition.

In September the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced 9 research awards totaling nearly $3 million to investigate CBD treatments for relieving pain. The funding is noteworthy as there has been a dearth of federal research on any medical applications for cannabis. Now NIH wants to know if CBD offers a viable alternative to opioids for the treatment of pain.

“The treatment of chronic pain has relied heavily on opioids, despite their potential for addiction and overdose and the fact that they often don’t work well when used on a long-term basis,” said Helene Langevin, M.D., director of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), which is part of NIH, in announcing the awards. “There’s an urgent need for more effective and safer options.”

California Funds Broader Research

More recently, in October, California awarded $3 million in grants to the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), to research a variety of medicinal applications for CBD.

The money, awarded as 5 grants to the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research (CMCR) at UCSD, will help lay the groundwork for studies exploring cannabis applications in a number of “novel medical applications,” the CMCR said in a statement. The studies will focus exclusively on CBD as a supplement or alternative treatment for schizophrenia, rheumatoid arthritis, insomnia, alcohol dependence and anxiety linked to anorexia, according to CMCR.

Funding for the grants comes from Proposition 64, a ballot initiative approved by California voters in November 2016. Prop 64 legalized adult recreational marijuana in the state and allocated a portion of tax revenues from sales of marijuana to fund research into potential new drugs, treatment and health, and safety programs related to marijuana and medical cannabis.

“Within the medical community, there is a lot of interest in the role of medical cannabis and CBD,” said Igor Grant, MD, Distinguished Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Director of the CMCR. “There is a hope that it could be yet another useful agent in some of these conditions, which are difficult to treat or disabling.”

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