Fortunately, the tide is changing. In May 2018, Thomas Jefferson University (TJU) announced a collaboration with digital health startup ioVita involving the creation of a comprehensive medical cannabis patient database. This database would include information about 100,000 medical marijuana patients. Keep reading to learn more about the study’s goals, methods and potential impact.
About Thomas Jefferson University’s Lambert Center and ioVita
TJU and ioVita bring two areas of expertise together to collaborate on this project. As part of TJU’s Insitute of Emerging Health Professions, the Lambert Center for the Study of Medicinal Cannabis and Hemp supports the medicinal cannabis industry with education and research. It serves as an academic resource for anyone who wants to get involved with the growing importance of medical cannabis. Meanwhile, ioVita develops technology that empowers patients to take control of their healthcare.
Study Goals and Methods
The team working on the patient database want to make a tangible impact on our knowledge of medicinal cannabis. By recruiting 100,000 database participants, they will conduct the biggest ever longitudinal study on patient reports of medical cannabis’ effectiveness. As a long-time innovator in medicine, TJU values the importance of discoveries in niche fields like medical marijuana. Everyone involved in the project also understands how critical medicinal marijuana is to so many patients’ well-being. Without a robust body of evidence, however, it can be hard for aspiring patients to find the information they need to medicate safely and properly.
TJU and ioVita plan to recruit patients using a multifaceted approach. Their primary source of participants will be MMJ.org, where those who want to take part can register for the study. This website will also eventually host the database itself. The team will also partner with dispensaries and healthcare organizations that work with medical marijuana patients. They have not yet disclosed the exact information that will be included in the database.
The Current State of Medical Cannabis Research in the United States
Because of federal marijuana laws, academics have an incredibly difficult time getting the clearance and resources needed to research medical marijuana. Currently, the majority of states in the U.S. permit cannabis medicine to some degree. But, on a federal level, cannabis has the same drug schedule as hard drugs such as heroin — Schedule I. When the government considers a substance as part of the Schedule I category, they define it as a drug with high potential for abuse and no medicinal value.
It isn’t entirely impossible to study a Schedule I drug. However, regulations put numerous hurdles in place for scientists who want to investigate cannabis’ therapeutic potential. Researchers not only have to get a license from the Drug Enforcement Administration, but also approval from the FDA. Then, they have to work with the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to obtain legal marijuana for research purposes. Since NIDA has the goal of ending drug abuse by studying their harmful effects, the application process stops here for many. That’s why it’s so phenomenal that TJU and ioVita found a legal way to obtain so much data on cannabis medicine.
Future Implications of a Patient Database
We not only have a limited number of studies covering the medicinal benefits of marijuana, but these studies also tend to have smaller sample sizes. Much of this research has educated doctors and patients throughout the world. But, it doesn’t carry as much weight for government officials. It also can’t tell us as much about marijuana medicine as broader research could. Studying a large number of people makes data more reliable, helping us understand a topic in-depth. When academics get data from so many participants, they can better account for outside factors and biases.
Having data on 100,000 patients could change the landscape of medical marijuana research as we know it. To put things in perspective, the Connecticut Hospice study has 65 patients participating. The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia will only observe the small number of patients in their care. Plus, the data will be available to patients, caregivers, doctors and researchers alike. That means that other academics can use the data to examine trends that the original study didn’t consider or cross-reference it with data from another source.
Most importantly, more knowledge can help us advocate for the legalization of medical cannabis on a federal level, opening up even more research opportunities. With more evidence showing medical marijuana’s safety and effectiveness, the facts will be harder to ignore.
What You Can Do to Help
TJU and ioVita plan to recruit patients in July 2018. If you currently take medical marijuana, you could qualify as a participant in their study. We don’t know the exact kind of sample that the team wants, but as they release more information, you can better understand if you can join. On their contact page, they also let you mention what issues you find important so they can shape the study around patient priorities. Or, if you simply want updates, you can enter your email and sign up for their mailing list.
If you want to advocate for the decriminalization and legalization of marijuana, your voice matters. Organizations like NORML can help you find opportunities to push for fairer legislation. Raising awareness about issues in the United States, your state or even your hometown can make a difference.
Learn More About Medical Marijuana Research
As an informed patient, it’s up to you to put knowledge in your own hands. Fortunately, we can help with that — our case studies review research on medical marijuana’s impact on over 50 conditions. And if you need more information about cannabis medicine and your own health, visit a cannabis-trained doctor or certified medical dispensary.