Viewpoint: We can’t trust research about the benefits of marijuana if the studies are industry funded

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Credit: Adobe

Imagine that scientists charged with doing research on tobacco’s health implications were funded by tobacco companies. (In fact, the tobacco industry used this tactic for decades to cast doubt on the adverse health effects of smoking.) But today it would be an outrageous conflict of interest — research on addictive drugs shouldn’t be paid for by people who stand to profit from selling them. Yet this is exactly what is happening with cannabis.

variety of studies have shown that funding from industry can bias results. This holds true whether the studies are about pharmaceuticals, medical devices, or artificially-sweetened beverages. Industry funders can keep researchers focused on questions that may yield benefits for them, such as medicinal uses of cannabis, and away from unprofitable ideas, like reining in social media bots spreading unproven cannabis-related health claims.

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It comes as no surprise that academics funded by the cannabis industry have advocated for potential therapeutic benefits of the plant in medical journals and the media.

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Academic research on cannabis should be supported by disinterested public funding agencies, as the National Institutes of Health is doing, so researchers are not pressured or incentivized based on their ability to design industry-friendly studies.

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