Researchers at The University of New Mexico are partnering with Minerva Canna and other medical Cannabis industry leaders in New Mexico to generate continuous funding for clinical investigations on the safety and pharmaceutical applications of consuming the Cannabis plant.
Because the U.S. Federal government has overwhelmingly prioritized funding for research designed to measure the harmful effects of using Cannabis, there is a scarcity of information and governmental resources for investigating the plant’s potential medicinal applications. The University of New Mexico Medical Cannabis Research Fund (MCRF) was established in 2016 to generate public donations to support a public health research program with the sole mission of measuring the effects, both negative and positive, of using Cannabis.
University scientists and business leaders are collaborating for the fundraising event, “Rounding up for Research,” in which retail patrons can donate their spare change to the MCRF. The research program, directed by senior scientist and assistant professor in the UNM Department of Psychology Jacob Miguel Vigil, has conducted more than a dozen studies on the effects of Cannabis consumption across numerous patient populations. The goals of the studies are to help guide sound regulatory policies and to provide the average citizen with a foundation of knowledge they can use to inform their health decisions. Donations to the MCRF are also used to fund student scholarships and research grants for advancing medical cannabis sciences.
“Our team has shown that not only highly potent cannabis based-products, but even legal hemp oil is effective at treating such conditions as post-operative, chronic neuropathic pain,” explained Vigil. “Based on our observations, I can easily say that there is no other known medication that is as fast-acting, minimally toxic, and significantly effective at treating such a wide range of physiological, psychiatric, and psychosomatic illnesses as can the Cannabis plant.”
The Rounding up for Research fundraising event is unconventional, departing widely from the usual academic system that relies on government funding to pay for the costs of public health research. However, due to Cannabis’ continued Scheduled I federal status, there have been significant legal and logistical barriers for investigators to be able to administer Cannabis for clinical trials in the U.S. By using a broad range of observational research techniques, innovative technologies, and a focus on both the federally illegal and legal varieties of the Cannabis plant, the UNM research team has been successful at elucidating and disseminating many research findings.
“Cannabis has been used as a medicine for thousands of years, but because of past strict government regulations not much is known about its benefits,” says Erik Brionese, founder, Minerva Canna. “It is only very recently that the U.S. government has eased restrictions on research and now more and more is being discovered about the various cannabinoids and their benefits; however, there is a tremendous amount of unknown, particularly with the minor cannabinoids. Everyone stands to benefit from the health discoveries waiting to be revealed with continued efforts of additional research.”
Vigil describes the MCRF as an entity created for the community, enabling private citizens to directly fund the types of research that the federal government has largely neglected. “My education was partly subsidized by my community, giving me not only the abilities to seek out and identify scientific truths, but also the duty to use these blessings to improve the lives and well-being of the people around me. By targeting relevant research questions, conveying the findings back to the public and training future researchers, we are creating a knowledge-generating system in its purest form—from the people, for the people,” he said.