Colorado Funds Multiple Studies On Marijuana's Medical Possibilities

12/17/2014 05:10 pm ET | Updated Dec 19, 2014

The Colorado state Board of Health approved nearly $8 million in grant funding Wednesday for eight separate studies investigating the potential medical benefits of marijuana.

All eight medical marijuana research projects that were recommended to the board received approval, Mark Salley, communications director for the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment, told The Huffington Post. The studies, most of which will be overseen by researchers from various universities, will explore marijuana's efficacy when used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder, Parkinson's disease, pediatric epilepsy and brain tumors, and will compare the plant's painkilling qualities with those of prescription opioids.

The aim of the research is to help physicians better understand the biochemical effects of prescribed marijuana, and to build on existing data about proper dosing from previous state-funded medical cannabis research programs. The research is also meant to help Colorado determine which medical conditions should be added to the state's list of ailments that make patients eligible for medical marijuana.

According to the Associated Press, three of the eight studies approved Wednesday still require federal approval and access to the federal government's legal marijuana supply, which is found at the University of Mississippi.

The U.S. government grows marijuana for research purposes at Ole Miss in the only federally legal marijuana garden in the U.S. The National Institute on Drug Abuse oversees the cultivation, production and distribution of these crops -- a process through which the only federally sanctioned marijuana studies are approved.

Federal authorities have long been accused of only funding marijuana research that focuses on the potential negative effects of the drug. Since 2003, hundreds of grants for marijuana-related studies have received federal approval, but only a fraction of those have examined the potential medical benefits of marijuana.

What makes the Colorado studies unique is that all of them are investigating the medical promise of marijuana for various ailments.

A number of studies in recent years have shown the medical and public health potential of cannabis. Purified forms may attack some forms of aggressive cancer, and marijuana use has been tied to better blood sugar control and may help slow the spread of HIV. One study found that legalization of the plant for medical purposes might even lead to lower suicide rates.

The approval of the research grants comes days after Congress passed historic protections for medical marijuana operations in states that have legalized marijuana for medical purposes.

That legislation protects medical marijuana programs in the 23 states where medical marijuana is legal, as well as in 11 additional states that have legalized CBD oils, a non-psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that has shown to be beneficial in some severe cases of epilepsy.

Colorado legalized medical marijuana in 2000 and became the first state to legalize recreational marijuana in 2012.

Still, the federal government continues to ban the plant in any form, classifying it as a Schedule I substance "with no currently accepted medical use."

"The federal government has essentially banned the ability of researchers to study the potential medicinal value of marijuana," Michael Elliott, executive director of the Marijuana Industry Group, a lobbying organization, told HuffPost on Wednesday.

"Today, Colorado has taken its own steps to do what the federal government should be doing -- funding research into the potential medical value of marijuana," Elliott continued. "We know that marijuana has medical value. Now we will be able to show it with research."

Here's a look at the research that was funded Wednesday, provided by CDPHE:

APPLICANT:
University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus
PROJECT:
Do Adolescents and Young Adults with Inflammatory Bowel Disease Benefit from Use of Marijuana?
LEAD RESEARCHER:
Edward J. Hoffenberg, University of Colorado School of Medicine at the Anschutz Medical Campus, Children’s Hospital Colorado
GRANT:
$1,191,329

APPLICANT:
University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus
PROJECT:
A Randomized, Double-blind, Placebo-controlled Crossover Study of Tolerability and Efficacy of Cannabidiol (CBD) on Tremor in Parkinson's Disease
LEAD RESEARCHER:
Maureen A. Leehey, Department of Neurology, University of Colorado School of Medicine at the Anschutz Medical Campus
GRANT:
$831,801

APPLICANT:
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
PROJECT:
Treating PTSD with Marijuana: Clinical and Functional Outcomes
LEAD RESEARCHER:
Marcel O. Bonn-Miller, Dept. of Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania, and VA National Center for PTSD
GRANT:
$1,100,040

APPLICANT:
University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus
PROJECT:
Cannabidiol (CBD) and Pediatric Epilepsy
LEAD RESEARCHER:
George Sam Wang, Department of Pediatrics, University of Colorado School of Medicine at the Anschutz Medical Campus and Children’s Hospital Colorado
GRANT:
$523,955

APPLICANT:
University of Colorado Denver Anschutz Medical Campus
PROJECT:
Medical Marijuana in the Pediatric Brain Tumor Population (palliative care)
LEAD RESEARCHER:
Nicholas Foreman, Dept. of Pediatrics, Pediatric Neuro-oncology, Children’s Hospital Colorado
GRANT:
$1,041,256

APPLICANT:
University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus
PROJECT:
Use of Medicinal Cannabinoids as Adjunctive Treatment for Medically Refractory Epilepsy (pediatric epilepsy)
LEAD RESEARCHER:
Kelly Knupp, Dept. of Pediatrics, Children’s Hospital Colorado and University of Colorado School of Medicine at the Anschutz Medical Campus
GRANT:
$472,577

APPLICANT:
Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies
PROJECT:
Placebo-controlled, Triple-Blind, Randomized Crossover Pilot Study of the Safety and Efficacy of Four Potencies of Smoked Marijuana in 76 Veterans with Chronic, Treatment- Resistant Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
LEAD RESEARCHER:
Marcel O. Bonn-Miller, University of Pennsylvania and VA National Center for PTSD
GRANT:
$2,000,000

APPLICANT:
University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus
PROJECT:
A Double Blind, Placebo-Controlled Cross Study Comparing the Analgesic Efficacy of Cannabis versus Oxycodone
LEAD RESEARCHER:
Emily Lindley, Dept. of Orthopedics, University of Colorado School of Medicine at the Anschutz Medical Campus
GRANT:
$472,398

CLARIFICATION: An earlier version of this story suggested NIDA was the only NIH institute that approves marijuana-based studies, but NIDA is one of nearly thirty NIH institutes that could support studies on the therapeutic potential of cannabis.

Also on HuffPost:

27 Reasons Why U.S. Shouldn't Lead War On Drugs

CONVERSATIONS