In DepthBiomedical Research

Canadian registry to track thousands of pot smokers

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Science  22 May 2015:
Vol. 348, Issue 6237, pp. 846
DOI: 10.1126/science.348.6237.846

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Fifteen years after learning about the medical benefits of cannabis from patients in a sickle cell clinic in Kingston, Mark Ware is studying the drug on a grand scale. A pain management researcher at McGill University Health Centre in Montreal, Canada, he directs the Quebec Cannabis Registry, a new, one-of-a-kind database that aims to gather information on every patient prescribed marijuana in the province over the next 10 years—an estimated 3000 in all. By collecting data on symptoms, dosage, improvement, and side effects, the registry, launched on 11 May and funded by a grant from the nonprofit Canadian Consortium for the Investigation of Cannabinoids, aims to fill gaps in knowledge about the efficacy and safety of medical marijuana. Even as more and more states and countries legalize pot for medical purposes, clinical trials of smoked cannabis remain rare. "Decisions [about medical marijuana] are being made at the ballot box instead of in the laboratories," says Raul Gonzalez, a psychologist at Florida International University in Miami who studies cognitive effects of cannabis use in HIV/AIDS patients.

  • * in Montreal, Canada