The United States government is finally coming to terms with something consumers predicted quite a long time ago: There might be some health benefits to cannabis after all.
The Associated Press reported Thursday that nine federal research grants have been awarded for furthering our education and understanding of CBD, as well as other non-psychoactive cannabinoids derived from cannabis. These grants, totaling $3 million, explicitly exclude THC – the chemical that gets you “high” in marijuana – from federal research.
These research projects are to be funded by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, or NCCIH. The agency reports that they are answering a call from a 2017 report done by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. That report concluded that the current lack of cannabis research posed a public health risk, especially among continued legalization efforts nationwide
“The science is lagging behind the public use and interest,” said Dr. David Shurtleff, Deputy Director of the NCCIH, talking to the Associated Press. “We’re doing our best to catch up here.”
Dr. Shurtleff believes it’s time the federal government pay attention to CBD, especially after THC was deemed unfit for treating pain due to its potential for addiction and abuse. There is not enough research on CBD and its potential pain-relieving properties, and these grants are intended to finally help fill in the gaps.
And with the little research that has been done around CBD in the past, scientists have concluded that cannabis is most medicinally effective at treating chronic pain. In fact, chronic pain is the top reason patients seek medicinal cannabis programs in the U.S.
One prominent grant recipient includes Dr. Judith Hellman from the University of California San Francisco. Her grant research involves the human body’s ability to produce signaling molecules similar to the ingredients found in cannabis. This refers to the body’s endocannabinoid system, or ECS, where internally-produced cannabinoids have been found to be similarly structured to CBD on a molecular level.
Only one grant recipient will perform on human test subjects, however. Deborah Yurgelun-Todd at the University of Utah will perform brain scans on volunteer patients suffering from lower-back pain. Yurgelun-Todd will then administer CBD – mixed with chocolate pudding – to the patients and quantify the difference in pain-signaling pathways. Half of these volunteers will receive pudding without CBD as a control group.
The NCCIH has reported that more CBD studies may be funded through a second round of grants, including two more incorporating human subjects.
With the passing of the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018, better known as the 2018 Farm Bill, the federal government legalized industrial hemp-derived CBD. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) still prohibits the sale of CBD-infused foods, but the 2018 Farm Bill brought newfound attention to CBD products nationwide.
CBD began appearing in everything from tinctures to lotions to pet treats, and scientists are beginning to focus their attention towards this cannabis-derived substance. Preliminary studies of CBD have fostered promising results, but more research is yet to be done.
These $3 million in grants are a good first step towards concrete CBD education. The FDA has been slow to implement any kind of comprehensive studies regarding the future of CBD, and it’s nice to know that other governmental institutions, such as the NCCIH, are doing their part to bring CBD out of the shadows and into American life.