Cannabis research continues to flourish across the globe, with a record number of scientific papers published in 2022.
Hundreds more studies were published on cannabis in 2022 than in the years previously, according to figures collected by the US advocacy group NORML.
Campaigners for wider access to cannabis and recognition of its therapeutic potential conducted a keyword search of the National Library of Medicine/PubMed.gov website.
The findings showed that more than 4,300 cannabis studies were published worldwide in the last 12 months, the highest number of cannabis-specific papers ever published in a single year.
PubMed, a free resource supporting the search and retrieval of biomedical and life sciences literature, now cites over 42,500 scientific papers on cannabis or ‘marijuana’.
Since 2010, scientists have published over 30,000 peer-reviewed papers specific to cannabis, with the annual number increasing year on year, according to NORML.
The majority of recent papers have focused on the therapeutic potential of the plant. A 2018 paper assessing trends in cannabis-related publications concluded that the total number of peer-reviewed publications dedicated to medical cannabis has increased nine-fold since the year 2,000.
By comparison, researchers published fewer than 2,000 total studies during the 1980s.
Regulators and medical bodies have continually called for more evidence before they will consider endorsing widespread access to cannabis, which has been shown to have potential in treating a range of conditions, from chronic pain to anxiety and PTSD.
Commenting on the findings, NORML’s deputy director, Paul Armentano, said: “Despite claims by some that marijuana has yet to be subject to adequate scientific scrutiny, scientists’ interest in studying cannabis has increased exponentially in recent years, as has our understanding of the plant, its active constituents, their mechanisms of action, and their effects on both the user and upon society.
“It is time for politicians and others to stop assessing cannabis through the lens of ‘what we don’t know’ and instead start engaging in evidence-based discussions about marijuana and marijuana reform policies that are indicative of all that we do know.”
At the end of last year, President Biden signed The Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act into US law, making it easier for scientists to study the therapeutic effects and potential of cannabis.
Cannabis research in the UK
Following the passing of the historical new US legislation, industry leaders called for the UK government to recognise its potential as a ‘world leader’ by making it easier for companies to invest in research and development.
The UK is thought to be lagging behind countries such as Canada, Israel and Australia where governments have provided funding to support medical cannabis research and randomised control trials (RCTs) which are widely thought of as the ‘gold standard’ of scientific evidence.
According to Health Minister Will Quince, speaking in parliament on Tuesday 20 December, 2022, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) advised there have been ‘20 UK-based randomised clinical trials for cannabis-based medicinal products completed since 2018’, with ‘13 currently ongoing’.
The majority of these have investigated licensed cannabis medicines, including Sativex and Epidyolex. The medicines are produced by Jazz Pharmaceuticals – formerly GW Pharma – one of the few companies to hold a commercial licence for the production of high-THC cannabis in the UK.
Celadon Pharmaceuticals and its private pain clinic subsidiary, LVL Health, is awaiting final MHRA approval for a large clinical trial investigating cannabis medicines for the treatment of non-cancer-related chronic pain in up to 5,000 patients.
According to a recent announcement from the company, a feasibility study has been concluded with the results formally submitted to the Research Ethics Committee.
Meanwhile observational studies such as the UK Medical Cannabis Registry and Project Twenty21 are collecting real-world data on thousands of patients who are prescribed cannabis privately in the UK.
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