In a landmark report to the Legislature, the University of California Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research announced in 2010 that its studies have shown marijuana to have therapeutic value.
CMCR researchers, in a decade-long project, found “reasonable evidence that cannabis is a promising treatment” for some specific, pain-related medical conditions.
The findings were the first results in 20 years from clinical trials of smoked cannabis in the United States.
“We focused on illnesses where current medical treatment does not provide adequate relief or coverage of symptoms,” said CMCR Director Igor Grant, M.D., executive vice-chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the UCSD School of Medicine.
”These findings provide a strong, science-based context in which policy makers and the public can begin discussing the place of cannabis in medical care,” Grant said.
The CMCR, established by the Legislature in 2000 at the University of California to conduct controlled scientific studies of medical marijuana, reported positive results in six different human clinical trials regarding chronic pain, spasticity and vaporization.
Four studies showed marijuana to be safe and effective in relieving the chronic pain of neuralgia, a type of pain caused by damaged nerves that is particularly resistant to other therapies. Some 10 percent of the population are said to be affected by this condition.
“The findings are very consistent,” said Grant. “There is good evidence now that cannabinoids may be a good adjunct or even first line treatment.”
A fifth CMCR study found marijuana effective in reducing muscle spasticity in multiple sclerosis patients.
A sixth study demonstrated the effectiveness of smokeless vaporizers as an alternative delivery system to smoked marijuana. California NORML, which has promoted research on vaporizers, advised CMCR researcher Dr. Donald Abrams on that study.
“Today we have good, solid scientific research that will benefit patients in California and across the globe,” said California State Senator Mark Leno at a 2010 press conference announcing the CMCR report.Former State Senator John Vasconcellos, who authored the state legislation establishing the CMCR, called the studies “state-of-the-art” evidence of marijuana’s value for medical use.
“These scientists created an unparalleled program of systematic research, focused on science-based answers rather than political or social beliefs,” Vasconcellos said.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has claimed that scientific evidence of marijuana’s effectiveness is needed before it can be made available for medical use.
“The evidence is in,” said California NORML Director Dale Gieringer, a member of CMCR’s advisory council. “The time has come for the government to change its policy and recognize the medical value of marijuana.”
Study results have been published in high-impact medical journals, garnering national and international attention. Leading experts are calling for a scientific dialogue on the possible uses of marijuana as medicine.
More study will be necessary to figure out the mechanisms of action and the full therapeutic potential of cannabinoid compounds, according to the UC researchers.
A petition to reschedule marijuana for medical use has been pending before the DEA since 2002. California NORML is calling on the Obama Administration to give the petition prompt and favorable attention in light of CMCR’s findings.
The findings are available on CMCR’s website.