Oxford University is set to launch a £10 million research programme into medical cannabis. They will be investigating the role of cannabis medicines in treating pain, cancer and inflammatory diseases. The programme is being financially backed by private equity firm Kingsley Capital Partners, who invested the money in the hope of creating an international hub for cannabinoid research.

There have been a number of studies in recent years that have found significant evidence that cannabis can help treat conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis (MS), epilepsy, arthritis and nerve pain. However, most of these studies were conducted in the United States, and unfortunately often not given the same weight as those carried out by our own institutions. Sativex, a prescription drug used by patients to treat MS, is the only licenced cannabis-based product in the country, but is not offered on the NHS, as it was deemed not cost-effective.

Zameel Cader, an associate professor in clinical neuroscience at Oxford said on Radio 4’s Today show:

“We have endogenous cannabinoids in our system that modulate the way in which our synapses operate. They’re really important, they’re pervasive throughout our brain and our immune system, and therefore that’s a fantastic therapeutic opportunity for us. If we can understand better how we can achieve the beneficial effects of cannabinoids while we’re avoiding some of the harmful effects then that potentially could change the way we practice medicine”

These plans for research follow on from widespread calls for the legalisation of medical cannabis, including a report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Drug Reform (APPG), which contributed to 58% of MPs backing medical cannabis. It also has the backing of a number of well-known figures, including Sir Patrick Stewart, who has recently announced he uses medical cannabis daily to treat ortho-arthritis.

Gavin Sathianathan, CEO of Forma Holdings which trades legal medical cannabis in the US, said:

“There is a dearth of research from the UK and having the number one research university in the UK to commit to this is highly significant. And following on from the APPG report last and Mike Barnes’ medical review, this is another step on the path to legalising medical cannabis, or at least demonstrating the benefits of medical cannabis”

The proposed research has the potential to not only find out crucial information about the effects of medical cannabis, but to change the nature of the debate on medical cannabis in our country.

Words by Abbie Llewelyn. Tweets @Abbiemunch

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