Cannabis Researchers

Over the past decades, academic and pharmaceutical research on the cannabinoid system has lagged compared to the research field of other physiological systems such as the opioid system (with ligands from poppy plants, and involved in e.g. pain regulation), the serotonergic system (with a ligand such as LSD, and involved in e.g. depression) or the dopaminergic system (with ligands such as cocaine and methamphetamine, and involved in e.g. psychoses and vomiting). The reason for this lag cannot be found in the rich historical literature on cannabis effects  and numerous anecdotal patient recordings. However, more likely, clinical researchers who strive to better understand the therapeutic potential of cannabinoids encounter complex legal obstructions. Removing these, mainly administrative, barriers would enable scientists to gain access to crucial elements for research, such as pharmaceutical grade cannabis with standardized cannabinoid and terpene content, international exchange of cannabis products, and chemical reference standards. Furthermore, it would facilitate research collaborations, including more (public) funding spent on addressing the most pressing research questions. This will result in faster progress in understanding the pharmacological characteristics, toxicity and tolerability, and medicinal value of the cannabis plant.

As of 2017, the classification of cannabis as a narcotic drug around the world is based on historical conventions rather than on the current state of scientific knowledge. This situation is seriously obstructing cannabis’ development into modern medicines. Although cannabis products and cannabis constituents have so far not proven to be definite cures for any disease state, studies have shown therapeutic effects with regard to symptom treatment in several pathologies, as described in this chapter. Therefore, the authors believe that, firstly, international conventions and regulations on a national level should be updated to the current state of knowledge with regards to facilitating availability of this medicinal product for patients that benefit from its therapeutic values. Setting up such medicinal cannabis programs requires optimal regulations to safeguard product quality and safety for patients.