In 2013, Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) caused 176,000 deaths around the world, a 64% increase from two decades ago. While this disease may not get as much attention or funding as viruses like ebola, it kills over forty times as many people every year. This makes SCD a serious threat, especially to individuals whose ancestors came from tropical areas, which increases the likelihood of a genetic mutation that protects against malaria in exchange for SCD. The populations with the highest rates of SCD are in sub-Saharan Africa and Jamaica.
The good news for anyone suffering from SCD is that cannabis appears to be a panacea for the negative impacts of the disease. One hypothesized reason for why rates of cannabis use are very high in Jamaica is that rates of SCD are also very high; with 10% of the population displaying the SCD gene, it is the most common genetic disorder in the country. The possibility that cannabis could be a treatment for SCD has prompted Dr. Donald Abrams to conduct a study testing the hypothesis at the University of San Francisco.
Dr. Abrams has long been an advocate of medical cannabis use for a variety of conditions, since he first saw its value in the 1980’s HIV/AIDS epidemic. In the two decades that have passed, he has authored numerous studies demonstrating the wide range of medical uses for cannabis. This current study is being conducted with help from researchers at the University of Minnesota and a $9.5 million grant they brought in from the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Kalpna Gupta, the head researcher from U of M, has developed a mouse model for how cannabis can help treat SCD and plans to use the 5% THC/5% CBD (1:1 ratio) strain of cannabis that NIDA has available.
The importance of this study cannot be overstated. It’s extremely difficult to get the federal government to give you cannabis for research, and it is nearly impossible to get the approval of a study that seeks to find benefits rather than harms. Talk to Sue Sisley if you doubt it; she was fired for pursuing a government and university approved study after they allowed her access to the cannabis to begin the study but before it could actually start. Thankfully, Dr. Sisley is continuing her research on her own terms after her university cut her loose. Dr. Abrams has done the impossible; he not only got his study approved and got access to NIDA grown cannabis; he even got to keep his job.
While Dr. Abrams’ study was recently profiled in Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s CNN special, Weed 3, that national TV coverage did not get them all the study participants they need. If you are interested in helping make cannabis history, while being paid to vaporize cannabis in a hospital by the federal government, then you should check out the flyer below for the requirements to be a part of the study.