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This Harvard partnership will answer all your questions about medical marijuana

SOURCE: Esteban Lopez/Unsplash
Harvard and Atlas are teaming up on the largest research efforts yet into medical cannabis.

There are few subjects that can stir up stronger emotions among doctors, scientists, researchers, policymakers, and the public than medical marijuana.

Questions abound about its effects, if it’s safe, and whether it’s addictive. All are important and reasonable questions to ask, especially given that its use is spreading in Canada and the United States, not just on a medical basis, but also on a recreational one.

Although cannabis is illegal in the United States on the federal level, recreational marijuana is now legal in 10 states, while medical marijuana is legal in 33.

But the historical stigmatisation of cannabis has made in-depth research difficult to conduct. In the past, researchers have faced logistical hurdles from federal agencies like the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and, more recently, federal funding being stalled under the Trump administration.

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None of this, however, has stopped a general upswing of acceptance for the natural herb, with more than half of Americans supporting legalisation, reflecting a steady increase over the past decade, according to Pew Research.

Where universities may be lacking in government funding for such research, business is stepping in.

With a booming cannabis market in legalised states, producers are joining up with universities to research the questions that everyone wants answering.

The latest partnership is between ivy-league Harvard University and Canadian medical marijuana grower Atlas Biotechnologies.

Atlas, as a founding partner, have contributed C$3 million (US$2.2 million) to the research programme and will be the university’s sole supplier of marijuana for the research.

The new International Phytomedicines and Medical Cannabis Institute (IPI) – unveiled Sunday at the Global Health Catalyst – will be based at Harvard Medical School in Boston.

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The partnership aims to give credible evidence as to the efficacy of marijuana in certain medical treatments and settle the debate on whether it is harmful. According to Marijuana Business Daily, research will focus on the varying effects of different formulations on neurological disorders and pain.

“If we can prove the efficacy, we will be tapping into an existing medical market but also opening up what I believe to be a very lucrative opportunity for business. But what we’re looking for primarily are less harmful treatments,” Atlas CEO Sheldon Croome told Marijuana Business Daily.

“We believe we’re on to a good market opportunity, but it’s a great opportunity for us to bring something that’s not toxic for the body to market – and hopefully help a lot of people without the risk of addiction and other issues.”

Other private entities entering into the partnership with Harvard include Flavocure Biotech of Baltimore, Cannabis Science of Colorado Springs, Colorado and the consortium Locker Room Consulting-Nestre-Primative.

This collection of some of the biggest names in the industry makes the study one of the largest research efforts yet into medical cannabis.