Researchers at the University of British Columbia have begin recruiting patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to take part in a major clinical trial to test the effects of cannabis on soldiers, first-responders, victims of sexual assault and others afflicted with the debilitating condition.

Although based in Canada, the research project could have a major impact on the lives of people around the world. Right now, doctors rely mainly on anecdotal evidence to recommend using cannabis for PTSD and other conditions. This study could provide a firmer basis for recommending medical marijuana by equipping physicians with a better understanding of its benefits and side effects. 

“We know there continues to be significant unmet need in the treatment of PTSD in Canada and around the world,” UBC Professor Zach Walsh - a psychologist who will lead the study - said in a press release.

"This trial will allow us to build on the anecdotal evidence supporting the potential use of medical cannabis to treat PTSD and hopefully help those who struggle with this debilitating condition.”

The project is sponsored by Tilray, a Nanaimo, B.C. based company licensed by Health Canada to grow and sell medical marijuana to patients. Tilray says the study will take an in-depth approach by studying how different strains affect PTSD symptoms.

“This trial will help us hone in on whether medical cannabis with different cannabinoid profiles can help alleviate the symptoms of PTSD,” said Philippe Lucas, Vice President of Patient Research and Services.

“Tilray currently supplies product to a number of patients suffering from PTSD; we anticipate that this data will enhance our ability to help these patients, and will add to the global scientific discussion around medical cannabis as a treatment for the condition.”

Research could lead to American breakthrough

UBC's findings could also shape PTSD treatment south of the border - if American researchers follow Dr. Sanjay Gupta's advice. Last June, the neurosurgeon/CNN journalist lamented that biases against foreign research are stalling progress in America. 

"We do tend to have a bit of an ethnocentric point of view when it comes to our science," he said. "If it's not U.S.-based science, we often don't pay attention to it. When we say there's no good studies out there, What we're really saying is there's no good studies coming out of brand-name institutions in the United States."

And PTSD is one area where medical marijuana research is sorely lacking. Of the 26 states that have legalized medical marijuana, only 13 allow doctors to recommend it for PTSD.

Meanwhile, the federal government officially opposes the use of marijuana for PTSD and all other medical conditions. Cannabis is a Schedule I drug in the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), which means that the federal government considers it a substance that has no medical value. But pressure to recognize marijuana's medical benefits is mounting. Earlier this week, The American Legion joined activists calling on the DEA to reschedule cannabis so that it can be recognized as medicine.

“We’re not advocating the use of marijuana or any other drugs,” William Detweiler,  Chairman of the American Legion’s traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) committee, told The Guardian. "[But cannabis is] a tool in the toolbox. [And veterans] have a right to anything that may help them.”

But so far, the DEA has resisted pressure to reform America's marijuana laws. Just last month, a petition to reschedule cannabis was denied by DEA chief Chuck Rosenberg, who claimed "marijuana has a high potential for abuse, has no accepted medical use in the United States, and lacks an acceptable level of safety for use even under medical supervision." 

Perhaps pressure from the Legion combined with hard evidence from UBC will change their minds.

h/t The Guardian.