When it comes to medical cannabis everyone wants to know what the research says. What they don’t understand is that there is no such thing as “the research”. This isn’t just a casualty of the medical cannabis world, it’s the same in traditional medicine. Before any practitioner decides on an alternative treatment they want to know what the data & research say and this isn’t a bad thing. Where medicine gets hung up sometimes is thinking that there is some definitive, authoritative study that sums up everything and tells us when we should or shouldn’t move forward. That’s not how “the research” works.
“The research” is usually small scale studies of 20 or so patients, maybe a 100 in some cases. It looks with a microscope at one small part of a patient, their environment or their medication. It often tries to statistically eliminate any uniqueness of the individual to give us insight into how a given change will affect a larger group. This works for the single molecule medications or interventions modern medicine us used to but not so well with cannabis and it’s known 111 variables, otherwise known as cannabinoids.
These collections of small studies, completed over decades in some cases, point us in a direction or nudge us in another. They often look at very different outcomes, situations and interventions and are all trying to answer a unique question or thesis. Those of us who look at and study that research have to look at the data that comes out of those studies as individual pieces of a larger body of knowledge. When you combine that research data with case study data the picture starts coming into focus. Over time, given enough research data and patient stories the direction of how medicine is practiced changes.
This is where we are with medical cannabis today. Millions of dollars have been spent studying cannabis, most by the US Federal Government trying to prove it a harm to patients. Had they been able to prove cannabis the harm they wish, we’d have heard about it loud and clear. Instead the work they sponsored let to the discovery of the Human Endocannabinoid System and a much better understanding of how cannabis affects the body. Combine that with the hundreds of thousands of case studies showing the benefit medical cannabis has had on individual patient lives and the needle moves. We need much more research and some states are working research into their medical cannabis models. But that research won’t be available for a while yet. Rest assured, while we wait for more and more information we’ll be here to help you wade through what information we do have.