The nation’s leading biomedical research agency
The NIH highlighted the recent surge of cannabis consumption in the U.S. as a catalyst for this decision. “The use of cannabis and cannabinoids for medical and recreational purposes has increased dramatically over the past decade. A 2019 survey estimated that 48 million United States (US) individuals aged 12 years or older had used cannabis in the past year, an increase of 87% from a 2002 survey,” the agency
“Within the U.S., many states have permitted the use of cannabis products, but state policies vary widely regarding the types of products allowed and for what purpose they may be used. Concurrently, the delivery methods of cannabis have diversified and now include edibles, oils, tinctures, topicals and inhaled forms,” the NIH stated.
The symbolism of the United States’ top medical research agency promoting research that looks into the potential medicinal value of cannabis is significant, given the federal government’s long standing prohibition on pot.
Democrats in Congress have signaled their intentions to pass a cannabis legalization bill in the current session. In April, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, which would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act.
Democrats in the Senate have said they intend to produce their own cannabis legalization bill at some point before the Congressional recess in August.
Future of Federal Cannabis Research for Cancer
That federal ban has led to a dearth of credible research on cannabis. In the notice issued on Thursday, the NIH said that “epidemiological studies of cannabis use and cancer risk have yielded limited and inconsistent results.
“While cannabis smoke generates many of the same carcinogens as tobacco, studies to date have not shown a link between cannabis smoking and lung cancer risk. There is some evidence suggesting a link of cannabis smoking to increased risk of testicular cancer. However, studies of other cancer types have shown no or inconsistent association with cannabis use, but these data are limited,” the notice said.
The agency explained that the purpose of the notice was to “[invite] research applications that examine the mechanistic actions of cannabis and cannabinoids in cancer biology, cancer interception, cancer treatment and resistance, and management of cancer symptoms,” adding that the “relevant forms of cannabinoids for study include both exogenous cannabis, cannabis-derived products or extracts, purified or synthetic cannabinoids, and endogenous cannabinoids.”