In an important step towards legalising medical marijuana in Australia, it was announced last week that Sydney University will lead research into the effectiveness of cannabis on a range of conditions.
The research will primarily be funded by a generous $33.7 million donation from Aussie businessman Barry Lambert and his wife Joy, who are passionate about investigating the use of marijuana for treating health problems such as cancer, chronic pain, and epilepsy. The centre will be aptly named the Lambert Institute.
Supplementing the Lambert’s donation is a $12 million grant from the state government to be spent over four years on establishing the centre.
For the Lamberts, the campaign to recognise medical marijuana has a personal touch – their young granddaughter, Katelyn, suffered epileptic seizures and found relief in cannabis-derived medicines. Now, the couple hopes that positive research findings may help other families who are struggling to find a way to treat complex health problems such as epilepsy.
International Cannabis Research Centres
The Lambert Institute will propel Australia to the forefront of medicinal cannabis research – an area which is currently being led by the United States.
The University of California already runs its own Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research (CMCR), which studies the safety of cannabis compounds in treating illnesses.
Since its inception, the CMCR has studied the effectiveness of marijuana in treating conditions such as multiple sclerosis, HIV, diabetes and spinal cord injury. It has also researched the impact that medicinal cannabis has on sleep and driving abilities.
What Will The Lambert Institute’s Research Involve?
Like overseas centres, the Lambert Institute will attempt to isolate a THC compound which is suitable for treating illnesses – and which minimises negative side effects.
Scientists have identified 10 different cannabinoid compounds which have scientific potential, out of a total of around 100. Trials in Sydney have already delivered promising results, finding that some of the compounds may even be used to treat conditions such as Alzheimer’s.
Ironically, the Institute will bring together some of the world’s leading scientific and medical minds to study the benefits of the drug despite it remaining illegal in NSW – at least for the time-being.
Given this apparent setback, some have questioned how the Institute will gain access to the marijuana required for the research. However, experts have hinted that the centre may be granted the rare opportunity to grow and harvest its own marijuana crops – a statement that has been backed by Premier Mike Baird.
Clinical Trials on the Horizon
Research conducted by the Lambert Institute will be bolstered by clinical trials of the drug, which are expected to begin in the near future. The state government announced the trials in December last year, allocating $9 million towards the program. It is expected that the individuals selected to take part in the trial will be announced shortly.
Other states, including Victoria, may follow in the footsteps of NSW and conduct their own trials.
The forthcoming trial provides hope for parents who have been praying for a legal means to treat childhood epilepsy. Cannabis-based tinctures have reportedly had an extraordinary effect on chronically ill children – but, as mentioned in one of our earlier blogs, adults who administer these unorthodox treatments could face criminal charges and even lose the right to see their kids.
Medical marijuana advocates hope that the approach taken by New South Wales will signify a move away from prohibition, and towards recognising the benefits of marijuana.
And for those suffering chronic health issues, the move represents an important step towards overcoming the hurdles currently faced in obtaining safe and effective natural treatments.