Cannabis advocates have long known that more scientific studies are necessary for proving the efficacy of marijuana as medicine beyond a shadow of a doubt. However, many researchers wanting to do such studies have faced miles of red tape in their attempts to get approval for the studies and for the cannabis necessary to run the studies. This month, a new development may be reshaping the way researchers in the U.S. access cannabis thanks to the first Canadian cannabis export.
The Confusing Cannabis Landscape in the U.S.
Part of the bureaucratic nightmare surrounding U.S. cannabis research studies stems from the fact that, in the United States, cannabis is still classified as a Schedule I drug and its possession, sale, or use is illegal at the federal level. Meanwhile, some states have legalized the use of medical marijuana and recreational cannabis, though researchers are not permitted to use cannabis from dispensaries for their studies. In addition, Importing cannabis products has remained illegal and U.S. research institutions have had to rely on marijuana grown at the University of Mississippi and regulated by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
In what may be an indication of a thaw of the icy attitudes towards marijuana at the federal level, the U.S. government—the U.S.Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in particular—have recently approved the importation of marijuana extracts for a clinical trial run by the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research at the University of California San Diego. The extract, which will be imported from Canada, will be in the form of capsules and will contain both THC and CBD. This is only the second time the FDA has approved a cannabis-based medicine, with the previous example being Epidiolex, a CBD capsule produced by GW Pharmaceuticals out of Britain.
For the past two years, Dr. Fatta Nahab, the study’s principal investigator, and his team have petitioned to import cannabis capsules from Canada, where medical marijuana is legal. His hard work has certainly paid off for him, his research patients, and for other researchers in need of quality cannabis for research studies. By importing cannabis extract from Tilray in Canada, Dr. Nahab will be assured of a quality product with precise dosing. This would not be possible with the current marijuana available for research purposes in the U.S.
Why Exporting Cannabis to the U.S. Matters
Currently, cannabis drug trials in the U.S. have relied upon the used of dried flower. However, research participants may show a reluctance towards inhaling cannabis, whether through vaping or smoking. Because the stock of marijuana for research purposes is limited in the U.S. and because it is more difficult to ensure the quality and cannabinoid dosage of flower, cannabis extracts are preferred for studies testing the efficacy of cannabis for various medical conditions or symptoms. Having the ability to import cannabis extracts from Canadian producers will allow U.S. research institutions to source safe, regulated cannabis extracts that have been produced to exacting standards and further identify the ways cannabis can help manage particular medical conditions and symptoms. This research may lead to an expansion of the use of medical marijuana in Canada and abroad, allowing for the use of cannabis as a treatment for more conditions than are currently covered.
Beyond the trove of information that increased cannabis research will provide, exporting cannabis to the U.S. also has benefits for Canadian cannabis companies and Canadian cannabis investors.
As Tilray discovered, the ability to export product to the U.S. is positive news for more than just one’s bottom line. Based in the British Columbia and part of a Privateer Holdings of Seattle, WA, Tilray’s stock rose 29% on Tuesday thanks to the news. Tilray is, at the time of writing, the most valuable cannabis stock in the world, which is amazing considering the company only started trading publicly in July.
With the first Canadian cannabis export laying the framework for future exports, Canadian cannabis companies now have a better idea of what it takes to meet both FDA and DEA guidelines and will be better equipped to manage the process going forward. In addition, once the findings of studies like that of Dr. Nahab are shared with the public, there may be an increased demand for Canadian cannabis imports for more studies, as well as for public medicinal use.
At NuSierra, we’re excited to see the expansion of the Canadian cannabis industry and look forward to future exports to the United States.