Colorado has launched the largest state-funded effort to study the benefits of medical marijuana, but for-profit companies won’t be part of the program, officials said.
In early September state officials filed an official request for applications, and they indicated that only “not-for-profit organizations, health care organizations, governmental entities and higher education institutions” would receive grant money.
The state will be handing out about $9 million in marijuana grants this year. Officials with the Colorado Health Department hope the program will make it possible to conduct clinical and observational studies using the actual marijuana products sold on the ground.
“Colorado is a national leader in the development of new strains of marijuana and its component parts that appear to have promising therapeutic effects,” the application request says.
Research on cannabis in the United States is typically limited to only the negative effects of the drug. Those that do examine its benefits must typically do so with forms of pot real people don’t use, such as THC pills.
The program holds out great promise for an understanding of marijuana, how it works, and how it can help patients. But the ban on for-profit participants could complicate the picture.
So could the onerous requirements placed on those who can apply. Under federal law, any research applicant that receives federal funding, such as a university, must clear five separate approvals before conducting pot trials on humans. That includes permission from the country’s top anti-drug agencies.
That makes it nearly impossible to carry out real research on the topic. Most of the organizations with the resources to conduct cannabis trials also receive federal funding.
The state grant money isn’t restricted to scientists based in Colorado, though, which could increase the chances of effective research. But the prohibition on for-profit participants means most groups that apply will be subject to the federal rules.
The grant program is the largest effort by a state to study the benefits of cannabis. Researchers are turning increasingly to state-funded research when possible, since it’s sometimes less burdensome than federal research.