Monday, November 20, 2006

The Cannabis Frontier for Medical Science

University of California San Diego (UCSD) Medical School

Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research (CMCR)

By David Bearman, MD for ABC-CLIO

In 2001 the University of California San Diego (UCSD) Medical School was designated as headquarters for the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research (CMCR). The center was established a little over a year after SB 847 was passed by the state legislature and signed into law by Governor Gray Davis. Under this legislation, California provided nine million dollars for a research program conducting objective, high quality medical studies regarding the efficacy of cannabis (medical marijuana) as a pharmacological agent.

The Center coordinates and supports cannabis research throughout the state of California. The Center currently administers 18 FDA-approved smoked cannabis medicinal trials. They are being performed at UCSD, UCSF, UCI and UC Davis Schools of Medicine. The research focuses on the potential medicinal benefits of cannabis for diseases and conditions as specified by the 1999 National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine Report (IOM) and by the 1997 Workshop on the Medical Utility of Marijuana at the National Institute of Health (NIH).

The Center is studying the use of marijuana for increasing appetite in those suffering from diseases whose symptoms include severe weight loss, chronic pain, nausea associated with cancer treatment, and lack of muscle control involved in such diseases as multiple sclerosis (MS). Scientists are also looking into the affects of cannabis on the body, to determine the mechanisms by which it works. They are trying to find out just how cannabis reduces pain or the effects it can have on the immune systems of AIDS patients.

Scientists working with the Center were critical of the FDA’s April 20, 2006 press release. It proclaimed that smoked marijuana had no medical benefit, but cited no new research findings. The release also criticized those states that had passed voter referenda permitting patients access to smoked marijuana. The FDA said that such legislation let marijuana slip past FDA safeguards to ensure safety and usefulness in medicines. However, doctors involved with the CMCR repond that the FDA has a record of not approving and/or funding studies to examine marijuana’s medicinal benefits. Under this circumstance, it would be nearly impossible to get approval for medicinal marijuana research. Voter approved referenda and research conducted on a state by state basis may be the only option for doctors and academic researchers to push marijuana research forward in the United States.