A new study on cannabis research funding in the US, Canada, and the UK has found that out of the $1.56 billion directed to funding cannabis research between 2000 and 2018, around half of the money spent was to understand the potential harms of the drug.
The study was based on an analysis of a database collected by Jim Hudson, a consultant for medial research charities, from over 50 funders, including the US National Institutes of Health. In total, he included 3269 grants made during the period that included cannabis-related keywords.
In particular, the study notes that the US National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) invested over $1 billion to uncover cannabis misuse and how the drug negatively impacts health.
By contrast, the UK spent around $40 million on cannabis research over the same period, mainly looking at harmful effects, while Canada spent roughly $32.2 million, mainly focusing on how the endocannabinoid system works.
“The government’s budget is a political statement about what we value as a society,” says Daniel Mallinson, a cannabis policy researcher at Pennsylvania State University. “The fact that most of the cannabis money is going to drug abuse and probably to cannabis use disorder versus medical purposes—that says something.”
Meanwhile, Daniela Vergara, who researchers cannabis genomics at the University of Colorado, Boulder, said that the new data confirms ‘word on the street’ that the governments prefer research that focuses on studying the harmful effects of cannabis.
Although the analysis paints an interesting picture of the status of research in the US, Canada, and the UK, it should be used to generalize cannabis research globally. After all, Isreal, another major center of cannabis research, is not featured on the list. The authors of the study also note that their analysis of NIDA funding does not distinguish between funding for outside scientists and the institute's own.