An analysis of cannabis research in the US, UK and Canada has found roughly half of research funds in the US and UK are being used to investigate the potential harms of recreational cannabis, rather than the benefits.
The analysis was carried out by Dr Jim Hudson, a consultant in the field of medical research. He analysed 3,269 grants with cannabis-related keywords, calculating how much the 50 founders in the US, UK and Canada spent on cannabis research between 200 and 2018.
In total, he found that the three countries invested a combined total of $1.56 billion into research. The largest contributor was the US, which spent $1.49 billion in 19 years. Over a $1 billion of this was from the US National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). A by-country breakdown is below.
Funding towards both medical cannabis and the harms of cannabis has increased by 78.8% from the year 2000, with the majority of research in the UK and US focusing on cannabis harms.
The majority of Canada’s funds were spent on researching the endocannabinoid system – the body’s system for digesting cannabis. The study did not consider funding from private medical cannabis companies, nor other countries.
However, the study does hint at the legal and practical problems of studying cannabis as the majority of studies focused on CBD or THC. To a cannabis researcher Daniela Vergara from the University of Colorado, this indicates that researchers do not have the permission or funding to study cannabis in its entirety.
Cannabis is a Schedule 1 drug in the US, with only the University of Mississippi having permission to cultivate the drug for research purposes. Fellow researcher Daniel Mallinson from Pennsylvania State University reviewed Hudson’s data, telling Sciencemag:
The governments budget is a political statement about what we value as a society.
Editors note: all figures are in USD.