Four California Studies to Examine Therapeutic Uses of Medical Marijuana
California has commissioned four new studies examining the use and benefits of medical marijuana for patients with AIDS and other illnesses, the Los Angeles Times reports. The studies will help the state establish "concrete guidelines" for use of the drug (Bailey, Los Angeles Times, 2/23). The research will be funded by a collaboration between the University of California-San Diego and UC-San Francisco called the Center for Medical Cannabis Research, which will pitch in $841,000 for the project this year (Feder, San Jose Mercury News/Contra Costa Times, 2/23). The studies, if approved by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the FDA and the Drug Enforcement Agency, would receive a total of $1.9 million in funding over three years (Ainsworth, San Diego Union-Tribune, 2/23).
In two independent studies, researchers in San Francisco and San Diego will examine whether smoking marijuana can alleviate neuropathy, a condition associated with AIDS, diabetes and other illnesses that causes a "severe tingling and pain" in the hands and feet. One study will focus on hospitalized patients, while another will examine outpatients. Another study in San Diego will look at how repeated treatment with medical marijuana affects the driving ability of patients with multiple sclerosis or HIV-related neuropathy. The fourth study also will be conducted in San Diego and will study how smoked marijuana might ease uncontrollable muscle spasms and pain in multiple sclerosis patients (San Jose Mercury News/Contra Costa Times, 2/23). While the research still needs to be approved by the three federal agencies, approval is "expected to be routine," a UCSD spokesperson said (San Diego Union-Tribune, 2/23). The research could begin as early as May 1 (Los Angeles Times, 2/23).
Scientists conducting the studies hope that the research will lead to additional, larger examinations of potential benefits of medical marijuana. Donald Abrams, a UCSF researcher conducting one of the neuropathy studies, said that the grants are "the first money earmarked for looking at cannabis as a therapeutic rather than looking at its ill effects," he said (San Diego Union-Tribune, 2/23). Scientists also hope that the California research could help snare funding from the federal government, which has been "largely unwilling" to subsidize large-scale studies on medical marijuana (Los Angeles Times, 2/23).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.