“This is the first time we’ve had government money to look at the efficacy of marijuana, not the harms of marijuana.”
-Dr. Suzanne Sisley
Giving back to the cannabis community is a big deal for Smoke Reports. In the last few months there has been a lot of exciting news regarding one of our favorite non-profits, so we felt we should feature their mission.
The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) is attempting to increase scientific study of psychoactive therapy, including cannabis therapy, on serious medical ailments. There are still a lot of bureaucratic obstacles, which is why it is so important for our community to support these legitimate cannabis research programs.
MAPS and Dr. Sue Sisley Fight PTSD
MAPS was founded in 1986 with the mission to research the efficacy and medical applications of psychoactive drugs on a variety of ailments, including PTSD. One of their current projects is garnering a lot of national attention, and was finally approved on Wednesday, December 17th, so it is a good time to get familiar with the organization.
Dr. Sue Sisley was all set for performing cannabis research on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at the University of Arizona, when she was very publicly fired by the university, in what seems to be typical political controversy surrounding cannabis research at public institutes. At the time she was fired, Dr. Sisley and her study sponsor MAPS, seemed to be out of options. Dr. Sisley and her colleagues submitted the research proposal to Colorado’s brand-new Medical Marijuana Research Grant Program, which had only been voted into existence in May of 2014. Without the University of Arizona research location, any progress with her study would require some serious funding, so applying to this new Research Grant Program was a well-timed option. Luckily, a series of events breathed even more life back into her research proposal.
The publicity surrounding Dr. Sisley’s dismissal from the University of Arizona received a lot of attention from the cannabis community in general, but it was certainly not the first time scientific research on cannabis was considered too provocative for a public institution. Then, the media incorrectly announced that the Sisley research proposal had received $2 million in funding for cannabis and PTSD veterans. The community went wild, and Dr. Sisley was swamped by an outpour of support from cannabis sympathizers and PTSD advocates alike. Her chances for approval were greatly improved due to the national attention regarding Dr. Sisley’s woes with the University of Arizona, along with the premature reports of her research proposal’s success. Now that the approval is confirmed, it is time for research to begin.
Funding for Dr. Sisley’s Research
Dr. Sisley’s PTSD research proposal began in 2010, and after all of her academic drama at the University of Arizona, it is very exciting to see her research proposal among the eight finalist studies being reviewed by the Colorado Board of Health. The Colorado Medical Marijuana Research Grant Program was voted into existence in May of 2014 and gives the Colorado Board of Health the ability to approve and fund studies researching the medical efficacy of cannabis. This is the first state-sponsored program funding cannabis research and it is thrilling that Dr. Sisley’s research is now funded to begin in early 2015, which is basically overnight in the world of scientific research programs.
“It’s been almost 5 years now since we started trying to initiate the study. If the grant is approved on December 17, it will be a momentous occasion for whole plant marijuana research, as it will be MAPS’ first-ever government grant since our founding in 1986.” – Brad Burge, Director of Communications and Marketing at MAPS
The study is set to take place at two separate locations: Johns Hopkins University in Maryland and Dr. Sisley’s current research community in Arizona. The study requires $2 million in funding and would support 76 veterans with PTSD in a triple-blind study. Now that the research funding has been finalized, Dr. Sisley and MAPS can take a major leap toward their mission of commencing serious medical cannabis research in America, with state dollars!
Existing Research on PTSD and Cannabis
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a debilitating ailment, and is particularly common among veterans of active wars. There has been a lot of research supporting the benefits of cannabis therapy on PTSD, however more substantial findings are needed to scientifically confirm these reports. With the Colorado Research Grant, Dr. Sisley will now receive her funding and be able to commence research on veterans immediately.
It has been speculated that the endocannabinoid system has major influence on memory and fear, so it would make sense that cannabis could assist in balancing neuroactivity after a traumatic experience. The “pleasure” cannabinoid anadamide has been found to be lower in people living with PTSD, and it is possible this anandamide deficiency is the imbalance that allows for negative triggers and reduced memory coping abilities. Studies on rats have shown the importance of the endocannabinoid system on the healthy process of memory extinction. Rats with diminished endocannabinoid systems had a much harder time ignoring memory triggers from past traumatic experiences. A study in New Mexico yielded limited, but very promising results with cannabis on veterans with PTSD. Nearly 75% of patients had improvements with their symptoms when exposed to cannabis (smoking and vaporization in this case). Considering the number of veterans suffering from PTSD in the United States (nearly 240,000), it is unbelievable that the government is so opposed to researching an effective cannabis treatment for their own troops.
Obstacles for MAPS, All Cannabis Research in America
There has always been heavy federal influence over cannabis research, including which types of cannabis can be used in experiments. The National Institute for Drug Abuse (NIDA) controls which groups receives cannabis for research, and can deny groups vegetative cannabis if they even imagine a federal conflict. Under federal law, groups cannot perform research on cannabis without plants provided by the NIDA. Holding what is essentially a monopoly on cannabis studies, the NIDA allows the federal government to veto research projects as they please. If they do not approve of the study (even if it has already received the nod from other federal agencies like the Food and Drug Administration and the US Department of Agriculture), the NIDA can outright deny plants, or provide impotent plants that do not contain modern quantities of cannabinoids. This means that research teams who have received federal research approval, like Dr. Sisley and MAPS, can get shut down before they even begin substantial cannabis research.
Smoke Reports Supports Cannabis Research
Smoke Reports wants to support all legitimate routes that help develop scientific discourse on this wonderful plant. The success of these types of medical studies is vital to the progress of the cannabis community. We appreciate all groups working to at least declassify cannabis as a Schedule-1 narcotic, so that the benefits of the plant may be studied without complete federal interference. We are not asking anyone to donate money to organizations. We do however take pride in spreading information on organizations who are pushing for reasonable and legitimate studies on cannabis. It is important that as a community, we stay informed and pay attention to the individuals and organizations improving the cannabis situation. Congratulations to Dr. Sue Sisley, MAPS, and the other seven finalist studies that were all approved by the Colorado Board of Health!