Nora Volkow, Head of the NIDA, Acknowledges Occasional Cannabis Use is Not Harmful
She disclosed during her interview with FiveThirtyEight saying, “There’s no evidence to my knowledge that occasional adult marijuana use has harmful effects. Her statements are significant considering that NIDA has notoriously invested a lot of time and effort to make public the risks of consuming cannabis.
“I don’t think it has been evaluated. We need to test it,” she adds.
Aside from that, Volkow says that she was surprised the research we have today states that cannabis consumers usually have a lower body mass index (BMI). “BMI is lower in marijuana users, and that was very surprising, and yet we know that high BMI, particularly the older you get, can have negative effects,” she says. “This is why we need to study it.”
However, while this doesn’t mean that NIDA nor Volkow is openly supporting the commercialization of cannabis, it’s good news that a federal health official is backing up their statements with science and research because cannabis really hasn’t shown to be harmful for adults, even if they use it occasionally. Thankfully, and unlike other federal officials, Volkow is more rational when it comes to her statements and opinions about cannabis. While she acknowledges that there could be dangers when consumed by pregnant women or adolescents, she also admits that legalizing cannabis hasn’t led to a spike in youth usage.
NIDA Finally Ends Cannabis Research Monopoly
There have been some fairly good news coming from NIDA the past few months.
Another one is that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) authorizes not one but two cannabis companies to grow cannabis for research purposes, reports Marijuana Moment.
Why is this important?
Well, since 1968, the NIDA has been on contract with the University of Mississippi, with the latter being the only official marijuana grower that has been licensed by the DEA to grow marijuana for research. That doesn’t mean that there haven’t been other applications; in fact, there have been numerous, but the DEA has been slow to act on many of them.
In May 2021, many companies were approved to grow cannabis for research. Specifically, the Biopharmaceutical Research Company (BRC) and the Groff North America Hemplex have received their DEA registrations and already moved forward with growing the plants.
“All of these steps are incremental steps that lead to our production at BRC, and certainly all of our peers in the federally legal cannabis industry,” says BRC CEO, George Hodgin, to Marijuana Moment. “These steps are taking place because of the loud drumbeat of the advocates of the cannabis community over the past decades.”
Currently, the kind of cannabis being grown at the University of Mississippi is nothing like what people out there are really smoking. For example, when you visit a dispensary, the most common types of cannabis are those with 15-25% THC, some with even much more. On top of that, you can also buy cannabis oils with as much as 90% THC, as well as concentrates.
Meanwhile, the kind of cannabis grown by the federal authorities is only around 8%. This is an issue for researchers, who have already spoken up many times before about the poor quality of weed grown by the NIDA. The monopoly has been a notorious issue for many years now. What makes it even worse is that the cannabis they grow is frozen and then shipped, which seriously compromises the quality of weed that researchers are studying.
So this is pretty important because the University of Mississippi conducts some very important research on the health benefits of cannabis. In fact, in early January, they were just awarded by the NIDA a $1.37M grant to study how cannabis can help treat HIV-related pain.
The study will be led by Assistant Professor of Pharmacology Nicole Ashpole, Director of Marijuana Project Mahmoud ElSohly, as well as Assistant Professor of Pharmacology Jason Paris. “Cannabis has hundreds of compounds in it other than THC and CBD, and we don’t know much about how these compounds might affect the human body. By exploring the effects of these compounds against HIV pain, we can gain insight into their potential benefits or risks in numerous other inflammatory disease states,” explains Ashpole.
“Our preliminary data suggests that some of the non-psychoactive compounds in cannabis can reduce inflammation in the central nervous system and HIV-related pain using vivo models, “Paris adds.
With the research, they hope to discover treatment that are more effective than current medications for HIV patients as well as those who are uninfected.
“I feel very fortunate to be in an environment that is recognized as a stronghold in this field, and I am delighted to think our ideas can continue to expand the research program here at the university,” Ashpole says.