Most Of The $1.5 Billion Spent on Cannabis Research Went To Studies Telling People How Bad It Is For Them

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Most of us like to believe that scientific inquiry is governed by a spirit of curiosity and neutrality, investigating the subject of study from every possible angle. Unfortunately, when it comes to cannabis research in the United States, the approach has been largely one-sided.

According to a new analysis of cannabis research funding in the US, Canada, and the UK, about $1.56 billion went toward cannabis research between 2000 and 2018. Roughly half of that funded research focused on the potential harms of cannabis.

Individual years proved even worse. For example, in 2018, research on potential harms of cannabis received more than 20 times more funding than research on cannabis therapeutics.


What’s more, the biggest chunk of the money (about $1 billion) came from the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a federal government agency. According to the analysis, NIDA put far more money to research cannabis misuse and its adverse effects than on the therapeutic potential of cannabis.

“The government’s budget is a political statement about what we value as a society,” Daniel Mallinson, a cannabis policy researcher at Pennsylvania State University, Harrisburg, told Science Magazine. “The fact that most of the cannabis money is going to drug abuse and probably to cannabis use disorder versus medical purposes—that says something.”

Differences between the US, UK, and Canada

Mallinson reviewed the analysis data, which was done by Jim Hudson, a consultant for medical research charities and government agencies. He assembled the database from publicly available records on research funding.

According to Science Magazine, the bulk of the research took place in the YS, with about $1.49 billion spent during the 19-year period. The UK spent $40 million, and Canada spent $32.2 million.

The UK research also tended to focus on the potentially harmful impact of cannabis. However, most Canadian research focused on the body’s endocannabinoid system and how it interacts with the active chemicals in cannabis.

New players in the cannabis research game

Hudson’s research also turned up interesting information on who funds research. While NIDA is still by far the biggest funder, both domestically and worldwide, other government agencies have increased funding.

For example, the analysis discovered that the U.S. Department of Defense has spent millions on cannabinoid research in the past few years. Also, starting in 2014, Colorado partly went its own way, with the state’s Department of Public Health and Environment creating a medical marijuana research program.

Science magazine reported Colorado’s move is part of a trend of states providing funds for medical research. This is partly in reaction to the federal government restricting research to cannabis from one farm at the University of Mississippi, which has been criticized for providing substandard cannabis.

With the clear signal that the federal government is more interested in the harms of cannabis than the potential good, more states may follow Colorado’s lead.


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