The Boston Globe reported today that two of the area’s premier research institutions, Harvard and MIT, have been awarded a $9 million gift to study the impact of cannabis on human health.

The grant, and the willingness of these two universities to accept it, is a sign of the growing normalization of cannabis in America. During the years of prohibition, researchers were wary of conducting cannabis research, and the federal government made acquisition of cannabis for testing difficult. With full legalization in 10 states and the District of Columbia, and medical cannabis legal in 20 others, widespread public acceptance of cannabis has encouraged long-overdue research.

The grant comes from The Broderick Fund for Cannabis Research, an organization set up by Charles Broderick, and alumnus of both universities, and advocate for cannabis legalization, and an investor in a number of cannabis businesses.

Broderick told the Globe “The lack of basic science research enables people to make claims in a vacuum that are either anecdotal or based on old science. For generations we haven’t been able to study this thing for various sorts of societal reasons. That should end now, as well as the prohibitions that are falling around the world.”

At Home Grow Community, we believe research into cannabis will be good for us all.  There’s strong evidence of its positive health effects; definitive research will help increase acceptance of cannabis and move us closer to full legalization.  We also know that there are some negative effects of cannabis; understanding these, and who may be impacted will help build parameters for safe consumption. 

Support from the Research Community

The Globe article included a number of statements from fellow researchers around the country supporting the research:

John Gabrieli, a professor of brain and cognitive sciences at MIT and one of the grant recipients, said ‘a fast-changing regulatory environment”’is allowing access to better material.

Dr. Igor Grant, a longtime California marijuana researcher who is not involved with the Harvard-MIT project, said the grant ‘will really let them move forward with research that has been difficult to fund.’

‘The work in this area has been very, very slow coming,’ said Grant, director of the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research at the University of California San Diego.

‘This is exactly the type of research we need,’ said Dr. Peter Grinspoon, a Massachusetts primary care doctor and board member of Doctors for Cannabis Regulation, a group promoting legalization and regulation of marijuana. Whether for or against marijuana, Grinspoon said, ‘Everybody wants more research.’”

What Harvard Will Study

Harvard has used the grant to set up the Charles R. Broderick Phytocannabinoid Research Initiative at the Harvard Medical School and affiliated hospitals.  The Globe reports that a team of 30 scientists will investigate a number of interesting avenues:

 “The Harvard team plans to study the effects of marijuana ingredients on brain cell function and the connections between brain cells, testing purified ingredients on mice and rats.

Researchers at Harvard have been studying natural brain chemicals known as endocannabinoids, which are involved in a variety of functions, including memory, appetite, and stress response.

The grant will enable them to expand that research to encompass cannabinoids derived from plants. ‘Marijuana has about 100 different cannabinoid compounds. We understand very little about the specific effects of each of them on the nervous system,’said Bruce Bean, Harvard neurobiology professor and one of the project’s researchers.”

What MIT Will Study

MIT will focus its efforts primarily around the study of cannabis and Schizophrenia:

“The researchers want to pursue intriguing evidence that a component in marijuana known as tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, improves cognitive function in people with schizophrenia. They will look at how THC as well as another key component — cannabidiol, or CBD — affect cognition alone and in combination.

Another MIT researcher will study how chronic exposure to THC and CBD may alter the cell types implicated in schizophrenia, potentially shedding light on why teens who use cannabis are at greater risk of developing schizophrenia and why the drug may be more dangerous for teens than adults.”

MIT researchers will also look at the impact of cannabis on autism and Huntington’s disease, and its effects on attention and working memory.

Sources

We encourage all who are interested in cannabis to learn more about its effects on mind and body. Read the full article in the Globe yourself, and then dig deeper into these studies: 

Boston Globe: “Harvard, MIT share $9 million gift to study marijuana’s health effects” 

Leafly: “The Most Important Cannabis Studies of All Time” 

NPR: “Marijuana’s Health Effects? Top Scientists Weigh In”

Cannabis-Med.org: “Clinical Studies and Case Reports” 

NIH: “Independently Funded Human Studies Approved to Receive Marijuana 1999 to present”