Johns Hopkins University has launched a $10 million federally funded study on the effects of medical marijuana. The study will follow 10,000 patients for a year to analyze cannabis therapy’s effectiveness and impact. The data to be collected will include dosage, method, product consumption, drug interactions, and treatment details.
Thanks to a $10 million grant provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Johns Hopkins University will be conducting research that involves comparing its findings with data gathered from individuals who do not engage in drug use. Furthermore, the researchers will place emphasis on creating a collection of resources and publications regarding marijuana that can prove beneficial in the future.
The research will be under the guidance of Professors Ryan Vandrey and Johannes Thrul. Holding the position of Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science, Vandrey is affiliated with the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. In contrast, Thrul serves as an Associate Professor of Mental Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. This study forms a segment of the Cannabis and Health Research initiative, focusing on exploring the applications of medical marijuana. Collaboration is a key aspect of this research, involving Realm of Caring, a non-profit entity based in Colorado.
“We have the availability of cannabis as a therapeutic, but we’re lacking the quality of data that we have with other medicines,” Vandrey wrote in the university’s newsletter, Hopkins Brain Wise. “Our mission with this research is to understand the health impacts of therapeutic cannabis use. We hope to provide some starting points for understanding what types of products may or may not be helpful and what types of products may be more risky for use in certain populations or for certain therapeutic purposes.”
Thrul went on to explain what volunteers can expect in the study. “We’re tracking them with multiple assessments over the course of their first year with more tightly spaced assessments toward the beginning because our assumption is that as people are starting their medical cannabis journey, they’re likely going to try different products until they find the products that best help them with their symptoms,” he said.
The study aims to compile data that may support medical marijuana policies and regulations. Government policies toward marijuana use have changed drastically over the past decade, with 38 out of 50 states now allowing the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Medicinal cannabis is prescribed frequently for mental health conditions like anxiety and for physical issues like chronic pain. Despite the increasingly widespread use of marijuana, there is not much scientific data on the subject. Vandrey and Thrul seek to change that.
“Under the umbrella term of cannabis exist hundreds of products that are all different in very important and significant ways,” Vandrey noted. “We’re trying to narrow the scope a little bit, find areas of real promise and focus the science on those.”
The study reflects the change in cultural attitudes toward marijuana. Recent surveys have indicated that a majority of Americans now support the legalization of marijuana. President Biden has been steadfast in his assertion that no one should be in prison for marijuana-related offenses and has pardoned various offenders throughout his time in office. The stigma surrounding marijuana has began to decline over the past few years, particularly in light of the rise of highly addictive drugs like fentanyl and oxycodone.