Legalized Cannabis Presents Opportunity of a Lifetime for Researchers
Our country has the chance to become a global leader in cannabis research, as Canada prepares to become the first advanced industrialized nation to legalize cannabis. That is, if we capitalize on the opportunities in front of us.
Cannabis research has been restricted for many decades because of the significant barriers that exist preventing scientists from exploring this complex plant that contains over 100 different chemical compounds. Scientists must get special permissions and exemptions to study individual compounds – a lengthy and costly process.
Both THC and CBD are known to have therapeutic benefits, but more research and evidence is needed to understand, validate and approve cannabis-based medicine. And, that research needs strategic and targeted funding.
In its final report, the federal Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation, co-chaired by Dr. Mark Ware, called for more federal leadership on supporting cannabis research, saying it was the dominant theme in their discussions. The task force suggested that a portion of government revenue from taxes on cannabis be used to fund the research. The Canadian Medical Association agreed, saying it will continue to urge Health Canada to support the development of rigorous research.
And, earlier this month, scientists studying the health impacts of cannabis once again called on the federal government to implement a comprehensive research program to inform the medical community and policy makers.
For their part, the federal government admits more needs to be done and they are prepared to invest in research. They say the opportunity for the scientific community to do important research has been significantly restricted by a prohibition environment. Adding, that by lifting that criminal prohibition, they are enabling new research to take place.
And, there is some progress being made. Last month, the federal government announced they are investing $1.4 million into 14 cannabis research projects based out of hospitals and universities across the country.
Post-secondary institutions are now setting up cannabis research centres, which signals a larger commitment to the subject. For example, in November of last year, McMaster University and Hamilton’s St. Joseph’s Healthcare joined forces to create the Michael G. DeGroote Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research to study the effectiveness of medicinal cannabis.
But, any new research needs to be coordinated and communicated effectively in order to create a cohesive body of evidence with solid baseline data. The only way patients are really going to benefit is if the data and knowledge acquired is then put into action by the broader healthcare community and the people tasked with creating the legal framework for cannabis.
It’s also important to note that progress has also been made in the area around the science of agriculture and how to grow better plants. Studies on soilless technology, irrigation and fertilization, to name a few, are receiving significant dollars from cannabis companies. This knowledge can also be applied to more traditional forms of agricultural production, which could have profound impacts not just here in Canada, but around the world.
Canada has the bright minds and the ability to conduct research in all areas of the cannabis sector, which can then be exported to other nations who are looking for leadership. Canada is known as a country who is leading the way in terms of embracing legalization and creating trailblazing regulation.
Our country also has the opportunity to be known on the world stage as the country who pioneers groundbreaking research into the health benefits of cannabis. But, this can only happen if our governments start putting dollars and action behind their words.