A new study published on Sept. 2019 in JAMA noted that twice as many people in the United States are using cannabis to treat illnesses than those using it recreationally.

The study found that 46% of regular pot consumers do so because they are treating a medical condition, as compared to 22% who consume for recreational purposes.

"Adults with medical conditions, especially those with respiratory conditions, cancer, and depression, were more likely to use marijuana," said Hongying Dai, from the University of Nebraska Medical Center and lead researcher on the study.

"At present, marijuana use prevalence decreases with age, even among people with medical conditions,” Dai said. “Because public perceptions of marijuana are becoming more favorable and medical conditions increase with age, older adults might also become frequent consumers of marijuana."

Adults with medical conditions, especially those with respiratory conditions, chronic pain, cancer, and depression, were more likely to use marijuana, according to the survey, carried out among 165,000 men and women between 2016 and 2017.

The study’s conclusion begs a question.

Why aren’t more research dollars being spent to unlock the medical benefits of cannabis?

Although the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced on Sept. 19, 2019 that it was earmarking $3 million for nine research grants to investigate the pain-relieving properties of cannabis, it made clear that the studies would only look at CBD remedies and nothing containing THC.

Which begs another question: Why?

A cursory search on the Internet quickly turned up a study published by the NIH, the same organization which is distributing the $3 million for the THC-less pain research grants: 

“There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that cannabinoids are beneficial for a range of clinical conditions, including pain, inflammation, epilepsy, sleep disorders, the symptoms of multiple sclerosis, anorexia, schizophrenia and other conditions,” wrote several scientists in a Sept. 2018 paper titled “Cannabinoid Delivery Systems for Pain and Inflammation Treatment.”

This may shed some light.

Dr. David Shurtleff, deputy director of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), which is part of the NIH and is funding the new research projects, had this to say about THC:

“THC has been investigated extensively,” Shurtleff said, “and its potential for addiction and abuse make it unsuitable for treating pain.”

Unfortunately, most government agencies that look at cannabis in its entirety, tend to focus on what they view as its potential harms rather than its benefits.

Please do better, NCCIH.

Dr. Shurtleff, it must be said, stood up to Health and Human Services Director and former drug industry executive, Alex Azar, who famously (or foolishly) said in a press conference in Dayton, Ohio that medical marijuana was imaginary and that “there really is no such thing as medical marijuana.”

So, Dr. Shurtleff and research colleagues, please hurry up and prove him wrong.

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