The Hill

US Government Grants Millions For Major Marijuana Study

The federal government has released $3 million in grants to support researchers in exploring another potential health benefit of marijuana. The major study will analyze how the drug could be used to relieve pain amid the opioid epidemic. 

Work will focus on the chemical compound cannabidiol (CBD). There has been an increasing number of people who seek CBD-containing products to treat their chronic pain. 

However, medical experts said there is little evidence showing how the marijuana compound helps alleviate pain. Federal health officials aim to determine which parts of marijuana are really helpful.

To understand how CBD works, the government provided grants to nine teams from different universities and organizations, NBC News reported Friday.

"The science is lagging behind the public use and interest. We're doing our best to catch up here," David Shurtleff, deputy director of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), said. The center provided the funding for the marijuana study. 

Shurtleff said the latest grants should address the findings of a 2017 report that highlighted how the lack of marijuana research in the U.S. would affect public health. Another reason to boost efforts to promote the drug’s benefits is the growing opioid addiction among Americans.

The crisis has been linked to overuse of prescription painkillers. Scientists said marijuana has pain-easing properties that could be used to replace opioid as the main prescription drug. 

One of the recipients of the latest grants to study marijuana is Judith Hellman from University of California, San Francisco. Her research focuses on how the body can produce signaling molecules similar to marijuana's ingredients. 

Deborah Yurgelun-Todd, a researcher from the University of Utah, plans to use a separate grant to study the effects of CBD extract on the brains of people with lower back pain. 

A research team in Illinois also received the federal funding. They will create a library of compounds present in cannabis, which may have the potential to treat pain. 

"We make them from scratch and test them one by one," David Sarlah, an organic chemist from the University of Illinois, said.

NCCIH plans to release the second round of grants for two more human studies focused on marijuana health benefits. 

Marijuana Scientists continue to explore the health benefits of cannabis amid the growing number of people welcoming the use of the drug. Pixabay

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