In an unusual turn, NIDA will pay researchers up to $100K per year to find out if smoking weed impacts COVID-19 symptoms.
Earlier this week, Canadian doctors announced their interest in researching whether properties found in the cannabis plant, including cannabinoids and terpenes, could cure COVID-19 symptoms. Now, the American government also wants scientists to study the relationship between marijuana and coronavirus, though not in the same way.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) issued a Notice of Special Interest last month that they would provide funding for research into how individuals with substance abuse disorders are affected by COVID-19. The letter specifically called for research into individuals who smoke tobacco, marijuana, and/or vapes and whether those behaviors poses a serious threat against the coronavirus.
“As people across the US and the rest of the world prepare for what could be a pandemic of the 2019 novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, the research community should be alert to the possibility that it could affect some populations with substance use disorders or HIV particularly hard,” NIDA wrote. “Because it attacks the lungs, COVID-19 could be an especially serious threat to those with histories of smoking tobacco or marijuana or of vaping.”
The letter also mentions those using opioids or methamphetamines, as those drugs compromise immune systems and impacts respiratory health. Other research requests include how homelessness, incarcerations, and other environmental factors, as well as if overcrowded hospitals could change how the treatment of pain patients and opioid use disorder.
NIDA will accept applications through March 31, 2021 and will give projects up to $100,000 per year in funding. One caveat exists: Studies must be able to be completed within two years. Though federal agencies have typically avoided drug research in the past, that has slowly been changing in recent years.
A federally backed study found that medical marijuana dispensaries attract less crime than tobacco or alcohol stores. In addition, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) will finally review 37 applications to grow more marijuana for medical research after a four-year wait.