UI Conducting Several Cannabis Studies

IOWA CITY, IA (CBS2/FOX28)-- This morning, Sen. Chuck Grassley welcomed lawmakers and health care professionals into a discussion on Cannabidiol.

The Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, led, in part by Grassley, talked about the road blocks to research and medical benefits of the drug.

Lawmakers discussed the complexities involved with researching the Schedule 1 substance because federal money can't be spent on research.

Still, Grassley said some research is already being done to help patients, as CBS 2 news first reported in February. He praised a University of Iowa study in the works that's focusing on a Cannabidiol drug for pediatric epilepsy.

"So even though more research is needed, there is reason to hope that at least one FDA-approved CBD medicine may be more widely available soon," he says.

While the FDA has removed some protections from Cannabidiol, many lawmakers are still pushing to change its Schedule 1 designation so more research can be done.

"Epidiolex, which is the brand name is almost pure CBD," says University of Iowa Principal Researcher Dr. Charuta Joshi.

Some parents say the extract helps their children have fewer seizures and come off other medications.

The study is sponsored and funded by a British pharmaceutical company and approved by the FDA.

"It will be a multi-center, multi-national scientific study," says Joshi.

Meanwhile university researchers are also studying marijuana in different ways. They have just published results from another study about how marijuana and alcohol affect driving.

"Really what we're hoping is to do is fill the holes that exist in the current understanding of driving impairment," says Post Doctoral Research Fellow Andrew Spurgin, Pharm.D.

Researchers used studied participants who had used alcohol, marijuana and both together. They found that those intoxicated with alcohol swerved more than those who had vaporized cannabis.

"The combination of the two was not synergistic, or greater impairment than either one alone, but it was more additive in that they were adding to each other's effects," says Spurgin.

18 participants stepped into this complex driving simulator. It has 16 projectors to create a 360 degree view. Special equipment on the car helps give a realistic feel of different driving surfaces. The simulator is one of two like it in the world. The other is in Tokyo.

"Our machine is able to analyze, is able to collect over 200 different variables while a person is driving," he says.

As far as how long it will take to get results from the CBD research, Dr. Joshi says it will take several years to compile all the data from the multi-center study and submit it to the FDA for possible approval.

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