Clinical researchers have published nearly 4,000 scientific articles about cannabis in just eleven months, breaking last year's record of around 3,500 papers.
According to a keyword search of the National Library of Medicine's PubMed.gov website, peer-reviewed medical and scientific journals published 3,914 cannabis-related articles between January 1st and December 1st of this year. These articles include observational studies, meta-analyses of previous research, and clinical trials and address a dazzling array of topics ranging from the risks of prenatal cannabis use to anti-pot propaganda to the effects of cannabis intoxication on cats.
Weed research has exploded since individual states started legalizing adult-use and medical marijuana. Since 2010, researchers have published around 27,000 peer-reviewed articles about cannabis, and the total number of papers has been growing by at least 300 a year for over a decade. In fact, journals published more cannabis research in 2021 than in the entire decade of the 1990s, when under 3,000 pot-related papers were published.
A 2018 study found that researchers published nine times as many peer-reviewed medical marijuana articles in 2018 than they did in 2000. Over 60 percent of these new papers were classified as original research, rather than meta-analyses or reviews, and 66 percent of these articles were penned by authors in the US. The study authors concluded that this trend was driven by the growing interest in medical marijuana, in sharp contrast to 20th Century studies that often focused on propagating anti-cannabis myths.
"Despite claims by some that marijuana has yet to be subject to adequate scientific scrutiny, scientists' interest in studying cannabis has increased exponentially in recent years, as has our understanding of the plant, its active constituents, their mechanisms of action, and their effects on both the user and upon society," said NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano in a statement. "It is time for politicians and others to stop assessing cannabis through the lens of 'what we don't know' and instead start engaging in evidence-based discussions about marijuana and marijuana reform policies that are indicative of all that we do know."
Cannabis-related research is likely to grow exponentially throughout the 2020s, especially now that the US government is finally beginning to relax its restrictions against weed. For decades, researchers have been legally limited to using cannabis grown by the University of Mississippi, the sole institution authorized to grow weed for research in the US. This government grass is deliberately limited to 8 percent THC content, though, and is actually genetically closer to hemp than marijuana, resulting in low-grade schwag that has compromised several important clinical trials.
After dozens of angry letters from politicians and lawsuits by researchers, the DEA has finally agreed to license additional cannabis growers. The agency also authorized the production of 3.2 million grams of research weed in 2022, a 60 percent increase over this year's crop. So far, it's unclear if the DEA will get around to actually approving additional growers in time to meet the demand for research cannabis, but Democrats just added an amendment to Biden's recent infrastructure bill that allows scientists to study top-shelf pot purchased from state-legal medical or adult-use dispensaries.