UNM researchers solving gaps in cannabis, THC with help from app


From the legislature to the classroom, marijuana is the hot-button topic in New Mexico.

A group of University of New Mexico researchers says they are solving the gaps in cannabis findings, but the help is coming from an unlikely source.

Medical marijuana is one of the most talked-about topics in New Mexico.

“Cannabis is something unique in that it’s always variable, it’s not like a uniform pharmaceutical product,” said Jacob Vigil, an associate professor of psychology at UNM.

The unknown led UNM researchers to start looking into ways to help patients using the plant.

“We conducted the largest study of its kind,” said Vigil. “From one plant to the next, patients find it challenging to obtain the same product so this forces patients to engage in trial and error. It forces patients to interact with their medicine.”

Now, with a mobile app called Releaf, Vigil and Sarah Stith are using real-time cannabis effects on patients through observational research of the app’s data.

“Most of the existing research is only focused on a single chemical compound, it’s not really taking into account the breadth of products that people are using today,” said Stith, an assistant professor of economics at UNM.

Beyond looking into the products, they’re also examining the effects of the psychoactive chemical THC.

“What we find in our most recent research is really what’s important is THC and yet that seems to be the last frontier in terms of legalization,” said Stith. “At a federal level now, all the other compounds in the plant are legal for study except for THC, which our study suggests may be the most important for therapeutic effect.”

With this new observational study, UNM says it’s been able to solve gaps in previous scientific literature focused on cannabis — findings they say could further the issue here in New Mexico.

“We know there are a lot of people here in New Mexico using it medicinally and they need the information as much as anyone anywhere else in the country in terms of how these products affect their medical conditions,” said Stith.

Public donations to the UNM Medical Cannabis Research Fund support the study.

As a part of the study, UNM researchers looked at around 20,000 users and measured 27 symptoms. They hope to break up those symptoms and see if THC and CBD affect each symptom in different ways.

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