The U.S. government has announced that it is allocating $3 million in research grants towards studies on CBD and other chemicals found in the cannabis plant. These studies aim to shed light on the recent surging popularity of CBD as a dietary supplement.
Cannabis has been used by humans recreationally and medicinally for thousands of years. CBD, however, wasn’t discovered until the 1940s by esteemed chemist Dr. Roger Adams and his research team at the University of Illinois. Research on cannabis continued through the next two decades, and its structure was fully elucidated in 1963 by Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, often referred to as the “father of cannabis.” He was able to correctly draw out the structure of cannabidiol for the first time in history. This discovery helped develop our modern understanding of CBD and the endocannabinoid system. It also led to the eventual discovery and isolation of the other 100+ cannabinoids as well as the network of endocannabinoids that includes anandamide and 2-arachidonoyl glycerol (2AG).
As these scientific discoveries were occurring, cannabis experienced a blanket ban in the U.S. All forms of cannabis, even low-THC hemp, were classified as a Schedule 1 controlled substance in the 1970 Controlled Substances Act. This largely prevented most of the general public from understanding and experimenting with the medicinal properties of cannabinoids until the turn of the millennium. Hemp cultivation slowly began to open up in the U.S. in the early 2000s and, now, research labs are really beginning to dive into the world of CBD to develop a clearer understanding of its effects and benefits on the mammalian body.
The research grants have been awarded to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health for nine distinct studies. Human test subjects will only be involved in one of the grant projects, but two more human studies may be funded in a second round of grant awards. The other studies will conduct tests first on human immune cells in the lab and then on mice.
THC will be excluded from all of these studies. Likewise, researchers will use lab-made versions of the cannabinoids and other chemicals being tested, as it would be too time-consuming and difficult to extract from the cannabis plant as these compounds are available in such minute concentrations.
The University of California San Diego’s Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research also recently awarded five grants to faculty members to begin studying the safety and efficacy of medical cannabis as both a supplementary or alternative treatment for a variety of diseases. These grants are funded through California’s Proposition 64, which passed in 2016 and legalized recreational marijuana in the state. This measure allocated tax revenue for research on potential new drugs as well as treatment and safety programs relating to medical and recreational cannabis.
The National Institute of Drug Abuse also said it would grow over 4,000 pounds of marijuana this year at the University of Mississippi for research purposes. The university currently holds the sole federal contract for researching cannabis production.