The state of Michigan has awarded $7 million to Wayne State University to study the potential therapeutic use of cannabis to improve the quality of life and reduce the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression in military veterans.
The five-year study titled “Wayne State Warriors Marijuana Clinical Research Program: Investigating the Impact of Cannabinoids on Veteran’s Behavioral Health” is led by the School of Medicine’s Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences Leslie Lundahl, Ph.D. Dr. Lundahl is a research-educator in the Translational Neuroscience Graduate Program and Drug Lab Detroit, where a team of researchers focuses on understanding the development and treatment of substance abuse disorders.
“This project is timely and important because, despite increasing medicalization and legalization of cannabis use across the United States, the safety and effectiveness of therapeutic cannabis/cannabinoids are not yet well established,” Dr. Lundahl said. “Community support of legal cannabis and the perception that cannabis is safe indicates public opinion has outpaced science on cannabis use. There are risks to heavy and chronic use, including impairments in attention, learning and memory, as well as increased risk of mental health problems such as anxiety and depression, and medical issues such as heart attack and lung irritation. At the same time, cannabinoid science is rapidly expanding and it is likely that some of these compounds can help treat common conditions.”
In the first study, 200 veterans will be randomized into one of four different THC/CBD dose mixtures for a 12-week treatment phase. One week’s worth of cannabis will be delivered to participants by a mobile health unit that will also take blood and urine samples on site. The second study would consist of 150 veterans that will be randomized into two groups: one group would continue to use cannabis as they normally do, while the other would switch to a lower THC/higher CBD product.
The funds come from the Michigan Marijuana Regulatory Agency as part of the 2021 Veteran Marijuana Research Grant Program, which awarded $20 million in grants to study the effects of cannabis on veterans with mental health disorders. The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) received nearly $13 million to study the efficacy and safety of using cannabis to treat PTSD. Texas previously discussed expanding the state’s medical cannabis program to allow veterans with PTSD to be prescribed medical cannabis.
“Suicide among veterans is an urgent public health crisis, but it’s solvable if we invest in researching new treatments for pain, depression, and PTSD,” Dr. Sue Sisley, President of the Scottsdale Research Institute, said in a statement. “This grant enables more rigorous study, overseen by the FDA, which may lead to cannabis flower becoming prescribable medicine someday. Veterans are demanding objective cannabis drug development research, and the state of Michigan is fulfilling our collective obligation to our beloved Veteran community.”
The Michigan Regulatory Agency (MRA) received four applications for grants, including the two that were awarded funds. The other two applicants were from the University of Michigan and the Kairos Cannabis Research Foundation. The University of Michigan was deemed ineligible because it did not submit its proposal in time. The Kairos Cannabis Research Fund proposal was unsigned, uncertified and failed to show a history of working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for approval of clinical trials.
When Michigan voters initially passed the ballot measure to legalize recreational cannabis, they voted to save at least $40 million in tax revenue to be used for cannabis research grants toward studying veteran suicides. Until 2022 or at least two years, the MRA must allocate $20 million a year to one or more clinical trials approved by the FDA and sponsored by a non-profit organization or a researcher within an academic institution.