The Medical Cannabis Research Fund (MCRF) at the University of New Mexico was created by Associate Professor Jacob Vigil in the Department of Psychology to support wide-ranging scientific research on medical Cannabis across all areas of the social and biomedical sciences. The MCRF was designed as a publicly-generated funding mechanism, comprised of faculty, students, and researchers from a variety of disciplines at UNM, who are focused on conducting scientifically valid and unbiased research on medical Cannabis.

Vigil’s mission is to harness the vast intellectual and technological resources from UNM and the larger Central New Mexico community for conducting sound and ethical research that advances basic and clinical knowledge about medical Cannabis.

“The goal is to better inform patients and health providers about the safety and efficacy of using Cannabis as a therapeutic pharmacological agent,” said Vigil. “Findings from studies, supported by the MCRF, are also intended to generate basic knowledge for directing fair and effective legislation over the regulation and use of medical Cannabis and Cannabis-based products.”

Anecdotal evidence of the benefits of medical Cannabis is well-documented and physicians in the U.S. agree. A recent poll conducted by the New England Journal of Medicine showed the majority of physicians in the U.S. believe that medical Cannabis is a safe and effective pharmacological agent for certain mental and physical health conditions. However, clinically sound studies of the benefits and risks associated with the use of medical Cannabis are virtually non-existent.

“The reason for the current scarcity of quality medical Cannabis research in the U.S., ” explains Vigil, “is that researchers are forced to comply with unnecessary and inappropriate bureaucratic procedures and obtain approval from biased federal agencies whose vary missions are to eradicate Cannabis and other illicit drug use. Needless to say, obtaining federal funding to conduct research investigating any potential therapeutic properties of whole, natural Cannabis sativa is particularly challenging, further preventing significant progress in understanding the true benefits and side-effects of Cannabis use.”

Nonetheless, state health departments have approved a growing number of health conditions thought to be treatable with Cannabis sativa. “With increasing morbidity rates associated with currently available treatment options, such as prescribed narcotic abuse (particularly among non-Hispanic whites), there is a legitimate place for Cannabis sativa as an alternative and perhaps primary therapeutic option for patients with a broad-range and severity of negative health symptoms,” said Vigil. “The substitutability of Cannabis sativa for alcohol could also reduce the exorbitant number of deaths and costs associated with alcohol abuse and drunk driving.”

Vigil, and collaborator UNM Assistant Professor of Economics Sarah Stith, were recently cited experts advocating for federal policy changes in medical Cannabis research.

Their article titled, “Federal barriers to Cannabis research,” appeared in the publication Science earlier this year in July. It describes the myriad of regulations for medical Cannabis research in the United States. A related story can be found here.

The NIH and NIDA program officers recently testified to the U.S. Senate and cited the article by Vigil and Stith in a discussion of barriers to the current federal medical Cannabis research system. A federal policy change to allow more sites to help manage Cannabis research was announced one month later in August. 

“This is big news for UNM and more importantly, our community and local society,” Vigil said. “It shows that UNM scientists are directly improving the federal policies that manage our world.”

The MCRF supports wide-ranging research programs designed to generate scientific knowledge on medical Cannabis, and student assistantships and professional programs that advance research on medical Cannabis.

“Findings from these multidisciplinary investigations are intended to generate basic and clinical knowledge, educate patients and physicians, and inform the regulation of medical Cannabis,” Vigil said. 

Donations made to the MCRF support the direct costs of studies intending to measure the safety and efficacy of using medical Cannabis as a pharmacological agent.

To learn more about the initiative, visit Medical Cannabis Research.

To donate, visit: Medical Cannabis Research Fund.

How the Federal Government limits valid scientific research on Cannabis sativa