Skip to main content
Interesting Articles

Canada Could Come to the Fore in Cannabis Research

By July 13, 2018No Comments

On October 20, marijuana will no longer be an illegal drug in Canada—a move that could make it much easier to study how cannabis affects the body and the brain.

“Cannabis has risks and maybe benefits,” says M-J Milloy, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the British Columbia Centre on Substance Use and the University of British Columbia who studies HIV patients’ illicit drug use. Under prohibition, however, “what we, as scientists, have not been able to do is try to figure out what those risks and benefits are in an open way,” he says. “The hope is that legalization of cannabis will take the shackles off scientific inquiry and will allow us to ask and answer the sort of questions we should have been asking twenty, thirty, forty years ago.”

Currently in Canada, to study the physiological effects of cannabis in humans, researchers have to apply for an exemption from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, which has been difficult to get regardless of the political affiliation of government leaders, Milloy says. Funding hasn’t been easy to come by either, making cannabis research the “poor second cousin of alcohol studies,” notes sociologist Andrew Hathaway of the University of Guelph.

But with legalization on the horizon, studies into its effects on health are even more critical, and funders apparently agree, infusing more money into cannabis research. The trouble is that while consumers will be able to easily buy pot, scientists still face restrictions on how they can study it.