Zimbabwe’s Medical Marijuana Future Uncertain

In May, the government of Zimbabwe announced a law that allows farmers to grow and sell cannabis for medical and research purposes. The country becomes only the second in Africa to permit medical marijuana, Lesotho being the first to do so in 2017.

The new policy would give researchers in Zimbabwe the ability to conduct their own clinical trials and investigate potential new therapies. And last month, the former minister of Health and Child Care, David Parirenyatwa, told a Zimbabwe Medical Association conference that the government plans to establish a research institute that will position the country as a hub for medicinal cannabis.

The announcements created some buzz in the country, that perhaps a lucrative biomedical marijuana enterprise could emerge in Zimbabwe. But high costs and uncertaintly about the government’s investment in cannabis science have tempered excitement.

“We need to domesticate our own research, and for us to do that, we need to conduct our own research, own data, and to conduct our own clinical trials, which will give us a competitive advantage in the cannabis business,”

says Zorodzai Maroveke, founder and CEO of the Zimbabwe Industrial Hemp Trust, a lobbying organization. “Presently, we have not done any clinical research research on cannabis.”

Maroveke says export and domestic use of cannabis are both being considered. But licenses to cultivate marijuana cost $50,000 USD, and she is concerned that few growers will participate.

Resourse: The Scientist

Canada Could Come to the Fore in Cannabis Research

On October 20, marijuana will no longer be an illegal drug in Canada—a move that could make it much easier to study how cannabis affects the body and the brain. Currently in Canada, to study the physiological effects of cannabis in humans, researchers have to apply for an exemption from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, which has been difficult to get regardless of the political affiliation of government leaders, Milloy says.

Funding hasn’t been easy to come by either, making cannabis research the “poor second cousin of alcohol studies,” notes sociologist Andrew Hathaway of the University of Guelph. But with legalization on the horizon, studies into its effects on health are even more critical, and funders apparently agree, infusing more money into cannabis research. The trouble is that while consumers will be able to easily buy pot, scientists still face restrictions on how they can study it.

A legacy of restricted research on marijuana

Despite widespread use and anecdotal evidence to support marijuana’s benefits, researchers don’t have a concrete grasp on how exactly cannabis interacts with the chemistry and physiology of the brain. Getting insight into marijuana’s effects from Canada’s neighbors to the south hasn’t been productive either. The U.S., too, has made it difficult for scientists to study the plant and its various phytochemicals.

More money, more science

Analysts estimate that a legal cannabis market could become a $5-billion to $6-billion industry in Canada, with some of that money funneled toward research, Milloy notes. New pockets of money are opening, says Hathaway, who has been surveying marijuana users for over two decades, trying to understand the different populations of people who use the drug. But there’s a catch. Federal dollars, he says, are now being awarded to multidisciplinary teams, which could squeeze out researchers working in the field on a smaller scale, or those seeking answers about the cultural ramifications of cannabis use or other topics not directly related to public health.

Resourse: The Scientist

Is Cannabis Really That Bad?

Marijuana is a tricky drug, alternately demonized as a gateway drug and lionized for its medical promise. And while the juries remain out on both sides of the coin, one thing is clear: its use is on the rise. According to the US Department of Human Health and Services, the number of people in the United States who admit to smoking pot in the last month climbed from 14.4 million in 2007 to over 18 million in 2011.

This increase may in part be due to the lack of strong evidence supporting the suspected risks of cannabis use. Indeed, though marijuana smoke carries carcinogens and tar just as tobacco smoke does, definitive data linking marijuana to lung damage is lacking. And a recent long-term study that seemed to conclusively link chronic marijuana initiated in adolescence to a lowered IQ in New Zealanders was quickly challenged by a counter-analysis that pointed to socioeconomic status as a confounding factor. According to survey data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cannabis use increases in teenagers as marijuana’s perceived risks decline, and researchers—and undoubtedly some parents—are anxious to get to the bottom of the matter.

Resourse: The Scientist

What are the medical benefits of marijuana?

Over the years, research has yielded results to suggest that marijuana may be of benefit in the treatment of some conditions. These are listed below.

Chronic pain

The review found that marijuana, or products containing cannabinoids — which are the active ingredients in marijuana, or other compounds that act on the same receptors in the brain as marijuana — are effective at relieving chronic pain.

Alcoholism and drug addiction

Another comprehensive review of evidence, published last year in the journal Clinical Psychology Review, revealed that using marijuana may help people with alcohol or opioid dependencies to fight their addictions. But this finding may be contentious; the National Academies of Sciences review suggests that marijuana use actually drives increased risk for abusing, and becoming dependent on, other substances.  Also, the more that someone uses marijuana, the more likely they are to develop a problem with using marijuana. Individuals who began using the drug at a young age are also known to be at increased risk of developing a problem with marijuana use.

Depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and social anxiety

The review published in Clinical Psychology Review assessed all published scientific literature that investigated the use of marijuana to treat symptoms of mental illness. Evidence to date suggests that marijuana could help to treat some mental health conditions. Its authors found some evidence supporting the use of marijuana to relieve depression and post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms.

Cancer

Evidence suggests that oral cannabinoids are effective against nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy, and some small studies have found that smoked marijuana may also help to alleviate these symptoms.

Resourse: Medical News Today