3OYS Investigates: The Right Dose Part 2

The National Center for Cannabis Research and Education was launched in January at Ole Miss
Published: Apr. 15, 2022 at 12:07 AM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - There is a new center at the University of Mississippi that focuses on patient and public safety.

The National Center for Cannabis Research and Education is another arm of the grow facility on the campus. It was approved in January by the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning.

We talked with Interim Director Dr. Larry Walker who answered our question on whether the cart was put before the horse with Mississippi’s medical marijuana law. He gives us an answer to that and other questions in Part Two of The Right Dose.

Dr. Larry Walker said, “The National Center for Cannabis Research and Education was launched recently, earlier this year here at Ole Miss, really building on the legacy we have of cannabis related research for several decades.”

Walker says now that medical marijuana is legal in this state and others, research is critical.

“There’s a great need, I think, for extended research and the medical benefits of marijuana and the risks that might be associated, how to minimize those, how to have to select doses, how to gauge outcomes, gauge progress and so it seemed like an opportunity and a need here and nationally to expand our education efforts and expand our research efforts to try to inform and help advance the beneficial use of marijuana for medical purposes,” said Dr. Walker.

One of the areas research will put under the microscope is the potency of medical marijuana.

”Like any medicine, dose matters. And in many states and in Mississippi there’s a wide range of products available with a wide range of doses depending on how you take them. And so we’re interested to kind of advance an understanding of this. How much do you need for a cancer patient to treat pain? How much do you need for migraine? What form is it best to deliver in?”

Dr. Walker explains questions like that have been difficult to work on under federal programs.

“With the rush with the state programs, there’s a greater need for it I think. Greater need state by state actually but nationally we need more research done on this.”

One of the concerns is that there is not enough information on how medical marijuana should be used and for what illnesses.

“Our interest is to try to see how we understand the relation of potency to outcome. Potency to risk. Root of administration. You know, many programs allow for smoking marijuana. Is that the best way to deliver a medicine if you want to treat whatever it might be migraine or autism? Or whatever it might be. Or a seizure? Seizure, yes.”

We asked Dr. Walker about other unknowns.

“Many states have approved this legislation based on medical need. We want to try to understand, how do you safely and wisely use these medicines in patients that might be vulnerable. In patients that might be taking other medications, how do they interact. In patients that might be at risk of abuse of marijuana. Patients that might have psychological conditions that we need to be cautious and understand how cannabis might impact that. Positively or negatively.”

For researchers and scientists like Dr. Walker, it boils down to this: Dose makes a difference.

“Side effects make a difference. All medicines have side effects, so you take too much you run the risk of encountering the side effects.”

Dr. Walker says there are already talks with UMMC in Jackson about a patient centered clinical research program.

“This is really an important point because the way you formulate or the way you ingest the cannabis makes a difference. There have been a number of cases over the years in states where medical marijuana has been approved, a number of cases where people take a dose or a serving you might say of a chocolate, they don’t feel anything. They take more. They take more because it acts slowly, typically and then all of a sudden they have too much.”

Edibles are a particular concern.

“Understanding what we’re giving, whose gonna get it. If you have chocolates or gummies, you know what happens when children are around if they have access so how do we package them, how do we label them, how do we give guidance or dose, how do we do the research that’s needed to understand what might be adverse outcomes. How do we gather the data on the patients that are using to understand.”

While Dr. Walker says findings from research are notoriously and painfully slow. He says it’s important to take that time to get answers.

”If we are able to focus on dose, frequency, conditions under which you may have to be cautious about use, if you’re.. impairment from driving, for operating heavy equipment or things like that to understand better what dose might lead to that and how do we structure a medical regimen that would allow patients to take advantage of the benefit but avoid those pitfalls that may be there.”

Dr. Walker adds while they were not able to do the research before, the pushes to legalize cannabis either medically or recreationally, we’re probably, in his words, ”not going to go back and dam up the river” but the research will go forward to improve the program, patient safety, and improve outcomes for those who use medical cannabis.

To read Part One of The Right Dose, click here.

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