More MS news articles for February 2001

UC center to fund four medicinal pot studies

Research to Focus on Drug's Effect on Symptoms of Illnesses

Published Friday, Feb. 23, 2001, in the San Jose Mercury News
Mercury News

Hoping to inject some science into the acrimonious debate over using marijuana in medicine, researchers will examine how the illegal drug might help AIDS and multiple sclerosis patients in the first series of studies sponsored by a new University of California research center.

The Center for Medical Cannabis Research in La Jolla -- a collaboration between the UC's San Diego and San Francisco campuses -- announced Thursday it will spend about $841,000 this year on the following four new experiments:

Dr. Igor Grant, a UC-San Diego psychiatrist who directs the research center, said scientists have encountered daunting barriers to doing research on the therapeutic benefits of marijuana, rather than on its deleterious effects.

"This is really the first state initiative where a state has said, `We are going to look seriously at whether there's any message here, any truth to the benefits of marijuana,' " Grant said. "The money is not a huge amount, but it is enough, we believe, to do high quality, state-of-the-art research.

The research proposals must still be vetted by the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the Drug Enforcement Agency to make sure they comply with federal law.

The marijuana used in the research will be provided by a NIDA-approved farm at the University of Mississippi. Typically, that marijuana, which is rolled by machine into identically-sized joints, has lower levels of the active ingredient THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) than marijuana available on the street, said Dr. Donald Abrams, a UC-San Francisco professor of medicine.

The Center for Medical Cannabis Research opened last August with money from legislation sponsored by state Sen. John Vasconcellos, D-Santa Clara. Vasconcellos has stressed that his bill should not be taken as encouragement for the recreational use of marijuana, and the center uses the botanical term "cannabis" to avoid stigmatizing its research.

The controversy over medicinal marijuana has grown since 1996, when state voters passed Proposition 215, which allowed people to possess and grow marijuana for treatment that is approved by a physician. Studies are under way around the country to test the effectiveness of marijuana in quelling nausea, easing pain, alleviating glaucoma and stimulating appetite to prevent the "wasting" that occurs in many AIDS patients.

Contact Barbara Feder at or (408) 920-5064.