Michael J. Fox Foundation optimistic that cannabis could treat Parkinson’s disease

Although some positive research into cannabis for Parkinson’s does exist, it is severely limited


Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

Did you know that Parkinson’s disease affects approximately one million people in the U.S.? The topic of “cannabis for Parkinson’s disease” has been discussed a lot over the past few years. However, the federal government still classes cannabis as a Schedule I drug, meaning that research into the plant’s medical benefits is severely limited.

Nonetheless, CBD (cannabidiol) – a cannabinoid derived from cannabis – has demonstrated anti-tremor effects in animal studies. Unfortunately for patients, solid evidence outlining the potential of using plant-derived compounds to treat the disease does not currently exist.

Fortunately, the Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF) is striving to discover whether or not cannabis for Parkinson’s disease is a worthwhile treatment option. MJFF, which has donated over $900 million into research programs to-date, recently announced that it will be supporting three separate bills to end cannabis prohibition in the U.S.

MJFF supports cannabis bills to stimulate cannabis research 

Among the bills that MJFF is in favor of, one would simplify the process of obtaining medical cannabis for patients. Another bill would grant veterans improved access to pharmaceutical-approved cannabis treatments, while the third bill would amend the plant’s federal classification. Ultimately, the passing of such bills would act as a catalyst for research into cannabis for Parkinson’s disease.

Although some positive research into cannabis for Parkinson’s does exist, it is severely limited. One such example was a study titled, “Epidemiological characteristics, safety and efficacy of medical cannabis in the elderly,” which saw 2,736 Parkinson’s sufferers aged 65 years and above participate. The patients were provided with medical cannabis that was sourced from Israel’s biggest pot supplier – Tikun Olam. Following six months of cannabis treatment, an impressive 94 percent of study subjects reported improvement in their symptoms.

Better access to medicinal-grade cannabis is prompting fresh research

Thanks to broader cannabis access worldwide, scientists are getting excited about exploring the cannabis plant’s therapeutic properties. Ted Thompson is a senior vice president of public policy for MJFF. He says that Congress can assist scientists in assessing the potential of using cannabis for Parkinson’s by lifting restrictions on medical research. 

“Our role in the public policy team is to work with Congress and the administration to ensure there is access and funding for research and care initiatives that can benefit people living with Parkinson’s and, right now, that includes access to medical cannabis for research,” said Thompson. 

Progress is being made, with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announcing in late August that – following a tedious wait – it would facilitate and expand medical cannabis research. Over in the United Kingdom, clinical trials into CBD for Parkinson’s disease CBD are currently underway.

“The study will also look at the effect of CBD on other symptoms, which will pave the way for scientists to investigate the potential of the compound in treating these in future studies,” said Sagnik Bhattacharyya, who is leading researchers for the U.K. trial on cannabis for Parkinson’s. “We hope this will progress to large-scale clinical trials—the final step towards becoming a new treatment that will improve the lives of people with Parkinson’s.”