Marijuana: Colorado Will Pay You to Prove MMJ Works -- and Here's How

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Our Marijuana archive features articles aplenty about the CDPHE's lack of enthusiasm about MMJ. Take this 2010 piece in which the department actively lobbied against a bill that would have listed post-traumatic stress disorder among the conditions approved for cannabis treatment. And then there was the department's 2011-2012 rejection of 4,200 patient applications because individuals had allegedly been seen by physician assistants as opposed to the doctors who employed them.

Since Larry Wolk took over as chief medical officer for the CDPHE in September 2013, the department hasn't suddenly become a big medical cannabis booster. An example from April: As William Breathes reported, the CDPHE "sent a notice to physicians and patients alike...letting them know that the state will no longer be able to officially register increased plant counts. Because there is no scientific data on effective medical marijuana dosing, the notice states, the state can't stand behind doctors who recommend increased plant counts for patients who often use the larger amounts to make concentrates or edibles."

The lack-of-data rationale inspired lawmakers to pass SB-155, a bill that authorized the aforementioned $10 million sum for MMJ research purposes. One result: the creation of Colorado's Medical Marijuana Research Grant Program. Text on its landing page warns that "the grant program shall be limited to providing for objective scientific research to ascertain the efficacy of marijuana as part of medical treatment and should not be construed as encouraging or sanctioning the social or recreational use of marijuana." But the tone in a document outlining the program -- it's included below in its entirety -- is considerably less snippy. Here's an excerpt:

Over 100,000 Coloradans currently use medical marijuana for relief from constitutionally authorized debilitating medical conditions that do not respond adequately to conventional treatments. More information is needed to further understand potential therapeutic uses of marijuana and its component parts. Research on the therapeutic effects of marijuana and its component parts could benefit thousands of Coloradans who suffer from additional debilitating medical conditions that do not respond to conventional treatments and are not currently permissible medical conditions for medical marijuana use.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) considers proposals to add additional debilitating medical conditions to the list of conditions for which a person may use medical marijuana through the medical marijuana program. CDPHE needs additional medical research on the potential therapeutic benefits of marijuana and its component parts to add new debilitating medical conditions to Colorado's medical marijuana program, and help physicians better understand the effects of medical marijuana.

Medical marijuana research programs funded by other states (e.g., California) have advanced the scientific knowledge about how marijuana works and methods to ensure appropriate dosing. Colorado can now advance that knowledge further. Colorado is a national leader in the development of new strains of marijuana and its component parts that appear to have promising therapeutic effects.
Elsewhere, the document outlines what kinds of studies could qualify for the grants. Here's another key passage:
Research proposals may include randomized controlled clinical trials and observational (i.e., non-randomized, non-controlled) studies that will help determine medical efficacy and/or appropriate administration of medical marijuana or its component parts. Research proposals may also include pre-clinical studies using animal models. Basic science (i.e., in vitro) studies (e.g., biochemical markers or inflammation markers) may only be proposed as adjuncts to clinical trials, observational studies, or animal model studies.

Priority will be given to clinical trials and observational studies in humans, especially studies that will clearly contribute to determining the general medical efficacy or appropriate administration of medical marijuana and its component parts.

Diseases or conditions that will be considered should be based on clear justification which includes promising published scientific evidence as well as potential benefit to Colorado patients. No more than $4.5 million will be awarded for studies regarding any one disease or condition unless there are insufficient numbers of proposed quality studies for other conditions.

Interested parties must submit a required letter of intent by Thursday, September 18, with the application as a whole due on Tuesday, October 14. We've included the assorted documents below; click here for more information.

Continue for application documents for the state's new medical marijuana research grant program.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts