Over the past ten years, more than 32,000 scientific papers on marijuana have been published according to data reported by NORML, a marijuana advocacy group. Of those, over 4,000 were published in 2023. Further, PubMed, a free resource supporting the search and retrieval of biomedical and life sciences literature, now cites over 45,900 scientific papers on cannabis or ‘marijuana’, dating back to the year 1840.
“Despite claims by some that marijuana has yet to be subject to adequate scientific scrutiny, scientists’ interest in studying cannabis has increased exponentially in recent years, as has our understanding of the plant, its active constituents, their mechanisms of action, and their effects on both the user and upon society,” NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said in a blog post.
In 2023, marijuana research topics have run the gamut, with a mix of private and government-funded studies that have explored usage trends, therapeutic applications, minor cannabinoids, drug substitution, legalization policy implications, and the study of specific conditions treated with marijuana. What makes these numbers even more impressive is the fact that many states have strict regulations that make research complicated and difficult to stay within the parameters set by the state government.
Recent examples of the research that appeared in 2023 include multiple studies indicating that state-level legalization has not translated into increased underage use, contradicting prohibitionist claims and bolstering the idea that enacting regulated markets can effectively restrict youth access.
Studies have also revealed potential consequences of prohibitionist policies, including how states that continue to criminalize cannabis may be “unintentionally” promoting the use of unregulated delta-8 THC products, for instance.
Over half (53%) of all applications were for research in the field of addiction and pain medicine, according to the paper. This was followed by neurological conditions (19%), immunology and inflammation (14%) and psychiatry (9%).
To list all 4,000 of the studies published in 2023 would be a laborious task. You can view them for yourself by visiting PubMed and using the search tool. However, we can provide an overview of what might be considered some of the more important research in 2023.
October 18, 2023
States that have legalized cannabis for medical use report significant reductions in private health insurance premiums according to a recent study published in the Journal of International Drug Policy.
September 20, 2023
Neither continuous nor occasional cannabis use has been found to be linked to an increased transition rate towards psychosis or worsened clinical symptoms, functioning levels, or overall neurocognition, according to the study authors of a new longitudinal study.
April 10, 2023
Anxiety is a common condition in the United States and yet it is also the most common to go untreated. While 31% of the population are affected, only 46% of those ever receive treatment. The effectiveness of cannabis in treating anxiety has been concisely reviewed in a report from the University of Washington, which offers several general conclusions based upon a large body of research.
February 9, 2023
A cohort study published in JAMA found no increase in psychosis-related diagnoses or prescribed antipsychotics in states that have legalized cannabis for medical or adult-use compared to those that continue to uphold cannabis prohibition.
In addition to studies that address marijuana’s effect on medical conditions, other trends are emerging that will help the marijuana industry in the United States to continue to grow and improve. Among those to watch are modern cultivation and production techniques such as hydroponics, aeroponics, and genetic engineering. Using these techniques, new strains are being created with specific characteristics. In addition, precision irrigation methods, biologically derived pesticide products, better energy efficiency, and closed-loop cannabis extraction systems are actively being researched to minimize the environmental impact of cannabis production.
Another important area of research to watch is the increasing focus on the therapeutic potential of minor cannabinoids. Minor cannabinoids have not been studied as extensively as CBD or THC. Still, recent research has shown potential therapeutic benefits for conditions such as neuropathic pain, neurodegenerative diseases, epilepsy, cancer, and skin disorders.
The development of improved methods to deliver cannabis-based medicines is also an active area of research and holds enormous potential for future treatments. Transdermal patches, nanotechnology, and sublingual formulations are all currently being studied.
While marijuana research is ongoing, there is hope for improvements based on these studies that now exist and are documented. As more states legalize medical marijuana, it’s a natural progression for research to also increase. Since current figures already indicate a year-over-year increase over the past ten years, we should expect that trend to continue as more patients enroll in state programs.
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