Skip to main content

National Academy of Sciences Issues New Report on the Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research

By January 31, 2017Articles
Colorado to Add More Restrictions for Home Grown Marijuana in 2017-Island Stage Magazine

CBE’s conference partners recently introduced me to Dr. John Holaday, who chairs the scientific advisory board at Curio Wellness (one of the few vertically integrated licensees in Maryland), and recently brought to my attention a publication released by the National Academies of Science entitled, The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research. The study was based on the review, by an esteemed review board of recognized scientific, medical, academic professionals, of what was considered to be credible research on the subject since 1999. The study was chaired professor by Marie McCormick, T.H. Chan Harvard school of public health.

The resulting publication was primarily funded by federal government grants to constituent groups from states that have either active medical marijuana or recreational marijuana programs (and that want to fast track findings about the public health and safety issues that legalization presents)  like;

  • Oregon Health Authority
  • Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority;
  • California Department of Public Health
  • The Colorado Health Foundation
  • Washington State Department of Health

Also federally agencies like….

  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration;
  • National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute;
  • National Institutes of Health/National Institute on Drug Abuse
  • U.S. Food and Drug Administration

…that in some cases have been the center of the bureaucratic induced coma stifling the ability of pro cannabis reformers to conduct verifiable research and evidence to end prohibition once and for all so that national standards and best practices for regulating the industry can finally be implemented to establish consistent guidelines that can be applied at the local, state and federal levels. It is time to end prohibition and the government and quasi-government bodies responsible to the tax paying public that has clearly voiced their collective opinion nationwide  need to move forward to responsibly protect the consuming and non-consuming public.

The resulting publication drew conclusions from all of the data the board reviewed from nearly 20 years of peer published, credible studies and ultimately concluded and issued several recommendations and conclusions. Highlights from the piece that are relevant to the cannabis industry include;


CBE quotes from the report,

“This is a pivotal time in world of cannabis policy and research. Shifting public sentiment, and impeded scientific research, and legislative battles have fueled the debate about what, if any, harms or benefits can be attributed to the use of cannabis or its derivatives. The committee has put forth a substantial number of research conclusions on the health effects of cannabis and cannabinoids. Based on their research conclusions, the committee members formulated four recommendations to:

Address research gaps: To develop a comprehensive evidence base on the short- and long-term health effects of cannabis use (both beneficial and harmful effects), public agencies, 4 philanthropic and professional organizations, private companies, and clinical and public health research groups should provide funding and support for a national cannabis research agenda that addresses key gaps in the evidence base

Improve research quality: To promote the development of conclusive evidence on the short- and long-term health effects of cannabis use (both beneficial and harmful effects), agencies of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, including the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention should jointly fund a workshop to develop a set of research standards and benchmarks to guide and ensure the
production of high-quality cannabis research.

Improve surveillance capacity: To ensure that sufficient data are available to inform research on the short-term and long-term health effects of cannabis use (both beneficial and harmful effects), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, National Association of County and City Health Officials, the Association of Public Health Laboratories, and state and local public health departments should fund and support improvements to federal public health surveillance systems and state-based public health surveillance efforts.

Address Research Barriers

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health, Food and Drug Administration, industry groups, and nongovernmental organizations should fund the convening of a committee of experts tasked to produce an objective and evidence-based report that fully characterizes the impacts of regulatory barriers to cannabis research and that proposes strategies for supporting development of the resources and infrastructure necessary to conduct a comprehensive cannabis research agenda. Committee objectives should include, but need not be limited to:

Finally, Chapter 4 of the report reviewed the therapeutic effects of cannabis or cannabinoids and found that there is conclusive or substantial evidence that cannabis or cannabinoids are effective:

• For the treatment of chronic pain in adults (cannabis) (4-1)
• As anti-emetics in the treatment of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (oral cannabinoids) (4-3)
• For improving patient-reported multiple sclerosis spasticity symptoms (oral cannabinoids) (4-7a)

…and there is moderate evidence that cannabis or cannabinoids are effective for:

• Improving short-term sleep outcomes in individuals with sleep disturbance associated with obstructive sleep apnea syndrome, fibromyalgia, chronic pain, and multiple sclerosis (cannabinoids, primarily nabiximols) (4-19)”

In a nutshell, I come away from reading this piece exasperated by the perpetuation of prohibition and the regulatory/bureaucratic log jam that talks but never endorses or definitively acts even when faced with hundreds of thousands of pages of supportive documentation that finally answer the question of does cannabis have medical benefits that would remove it from its current Schedule 1 status.

So powers that be, get on with it to end this farce once and for all so the appropriate local, state and federal regulators can get on with the best practice of insuring the health and well-being of a supportive public to create a consistent set of standards and rules and regulations that brings the Cannabis Industry in line with the regulated Alcohol and Tobacco Industries.

The complete report can be purchased here.


Leave a Reply