Over the past decade, researchers have contributed to the scientific discourse on cannabis through the publication of more than 32,000 papers, with 4,000 emerging in 2023 alone, according to NORML’s analysis. The comprehensive exploration challenges critics who state that marijuana lacks the necessary scrutiny to justify legalization.
NORML’s data relies on keyword searches within the National Library of Medicine—PubMed.gov. This year marks the third consecutive occasion where the volume of marijuana-related papers surpassed 4,000, underscoring a sustained interest in understanding both the benefits and risks amid the ongoing legalization.
Paul Armentano, NORML deputy director, highlighted the exponential growth in scientists’ curiosity surrounding marijuana, emphasizing the enhanced comprehension of the plant as well as its active components, mechanisms of action and impact on users and society. Armentano urged policymakers to shift their perspective away from the unknown and engage in evidence-based discussions about cannabis and reform policies based on existing knowledge.
The assertion that marijuana remains inadequately studied frequently emerges in legislative debates at both the federal and state levels. Even President Joe Biden, despite his campaign promises of modest marijuana reform, maintains his opposition to federal legalization, arguing that further study is essential.
Contrary to such claims, the scientific literature on marijuana is vast. Advocates, however, express frustration at a perceived bias in federal research priorities, historically favoring investigations into potential harms rather than benefits.
While 32,000 scientific papers in a decade is impressive, it is reasonable to assume the total would be even greater if not for cannabis’ Schedule I classification. This classification, criticized as a significant research barrier, may see change following legislative efforts to streamline the research process.
Cannabis research in 2023 encompasses a wide array of topics, including government-funded and private studies exploring therapeutic applications, usage trends, drug substitution, minor cannabinoids and the policy implications of legalization. Examples include studies indicating that state-level legalization does not increase underage use and the potential unintended consequences of continued criminalization, such as the promotion of unregulated delta-8 THC products.
A recent scientific paper highlighted significant improvements in the quality of life and reductions in fatigue among patients with chronic health conditions during the first three months of medical marijuana use. These studies represent a fraction of the comprehensive examination of cannabis in 2023, covering political, scientific, cultural and economic aspects.
Simultaneously, the FDA detailed its evaluation of mor than 800 investigational new drug applications involving marijuana, underscoring the profound changes in product form factors, cultural attitudes and the legal landscape surrounding marijuana.
This extensive amount of research on marijuana probably doesn’t surprise industry insiders such as Trulieve Cannabis Corp. (CSE: TRUL) (OTCQX: TCNNF) that often feel that detractors tout “limited research” as a convenient yet incorrect excuse for not ending prohibition.
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