Pubdate: Thu, 18 Dec 2014
Source: Honolulu Star-Advertiser (HI)
Copyright: 2014 Associated Press
Author: Kristen Wyatt, Associated Press


DENVER (AP) - Colorado will spend more than $8 million researching 
marijuana's medical potential - a new frontier because 
government-funded marijuana research traditionally focuses on the 
drug's negative health effects.

The grants awarded by the Colorado Board of Health will go to studies 
on whether marijuana helps treat epilepsy, brain tumors, Parkinson's 
disease and post-traumatic stress disorder. Some of the studies still 
need federal approval.

Though the awards are relatively small, researchers say they're a big 
step forward. While several other federal studies in the works look 
at marijuana's health effects, all of the Colorado studies are 
focused on whether marijuana actually helps.

"This is the first time we've had government money to look at the 
efficacy of marijuana, not the harms of marijuana," said Dr. Suzanne 
Sisley, a Scottsdale, Ariz., psychiatrist who will help run a study 
on marijuana for veterans with PTSD. Sisley plans to do her research 
in private practice after previously working for the University of Arizona.

Federal approval to study marijuana's medical potential requires the 
permission of the Food and Drug Administration, the Drug Enforcement 
Administration, and either the National Institutes of Health or the 
Department of Health and Human Services. And there's only one legal 
source of the weed, the Marijuana Research Project at the University 
of Mississippi.

Twenty-three states, including Hawaii and Washington, D.C., allow 
marijuana use by people with various medical conditions. But under 
federal law pot is considered a drug with no medical use, and doctors 
cannot prescribe it.

Dr. Larry Wolk, Colorado's chief medical officer, says the lack of 
research on marijuana's medical value leaves sick people guessing 
about how pot may help them and what doses to take.

"There's nowhere else in medicine where we give a patient some seeds 
and say, 'Go grow this and process it and then figure out how much 
you need,' " Wolk said.

"We need research dollars so we can answer more questions."

Three of the eight research projects, including the veterans study, 
will still need federal clearance and access to marijuana. The other 
five are "observational studies," meaning the subjects will be 
providing their own weed.
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