Medical researchers wishing to test the safety and efficacy of drugs need people willing to participate in their clinical trials. Cannabis dispensaries serve people with a wide range of conditions, many of whom are ready, willing and able to take part in studies.
In February 2003, a doctoral candidate at the University of Victoria, Rachel Westfall, and Philippe Lucas, director of the Vancouver Island Compassion Society (VICS), developed a dispensary-based survey protocol to determine the effectiveness of cannabis in relieving “Morning Sickness,” the nausea and vomiting experienced by many pregnant women. (A very severe form called “hyperemesis gravidarum” is experienced by 1-2% of pregnant women.) The ensuing study became Westfall’s doctoral thesis and has been published in a peer-reviewed journal, Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice. Lucas (one of three co-authors) described the study in Santa Barbara.
Staff from VICS and the British Columbia Compassion Club Society distributed surveys to 142 women and got completed responses from 79 who had been pregnant. All were current users; all but four used by smoking; 59 reported suffering from nausea and/or vomiting while pregnant; 51 used cannabis while pregnant and 40 of them used it specifically to treat nausea and vomiting. 93% described cannabis as effective or very effective in relieving nauses; 75% reported it relieved vomiting; 95% reported appetite stimulation. Overall, 92% of those who used it during pregnancy found cannabis “effective” or “very effective” against morning sickness.
Lucas concluded, “I believe that medical cannabis dispensaries are just starting to prove their worth as research centers and that the move from simple distribution to scientific contribution will significantly add to the legitimacy of these indispensable organizations in the eyes of both the public and our respective federal governments.”