As researchers continue with the study’s next step — conducting human trials — they’re heading to California, as Minnesota doesn’t easily allow testing cannabis on people. The state’s recently passed medical marijuana law doesn’t include sickle cell disease as a qualifying medical condition, but the University's current research could play a role in how that law changes in the future.
“We find that cannabinoids have good outcomes in treating pain ,” said chief researcher and associate professor of medicine Kalpna Gupta.
Gupta said the researchers are now ready to expand their study to patients. And in doing so, they will move to California, where medical marijuana became legal nearly two decades ago. Minnesota’s stricter version of that law will take effect next summer.
Right now, the Minnesota Department of Health is working to appoint members to a task force that will oversee medical cannabis therapeutic research in the coming months. The department is also fine-tuning the rules that outline patient access and qualifications.
The researchers are looking at marijuana for pain relief from sickle cell disease pain because opiates tend to depress the respiratory system and may be "overkill" for certain types of pain.
This is something others doing research into pain management have mentioned in relation to other illnesses and medications - it's better to use marijuana than an opiate whenever possible to avoid the problems associated with opiates. If someone finds the marijuana is not sufficient, a low dose of opiates can be added. Since marijuana helps to facilitate opiates, a smaller opiate dose may be sufficient in such cases.