“I think it’s inevitable that marijuana will become a prescription medicine,” says [Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies’ Rick] Doblin. “It’s just a question of how long we’re going to fight it out as a society.” The fact that the National Institute for Drug Abuse is funding [UC-Davis Dr.] Barth Wilsey’s study is significant. It’s the only trial looking at the potential benefits of cannabis in the institute’s funding history.
With funding direct from NIDA, Wilsey didn’t have to submit his protocol to Human Health Services for approval, eliminating an extra burden of bureaucracy and making for “relatively smooth sailing,” he says.
Wilsey believes one of the reasons his study was funded is because—unlike Doblin—he is looking at a low-THC strain of cannabis, a product that would be presumably less susceptible to diversion by criminal interests. This is intentional, he says, to serve the best needs of his patients. Many are middle-aged, and uninterested in the psychedelic side effects of cannabis. What they do want is relief. And right now, only about half of his patients can find that with conventional prescription drugs. “The science is becoming more robust, and I think we’re going to see more funding,” he says. “As a pain-management therapy, cannabis is effective.”