UBC MEDIA RELEASE | JUNE 8, 2015
Medical cannabis company donates $1 million to explore plant’s healing potential
Medical marijuana start-up National Green Biomed Ltd. has committed $1 million to the University of British Columbia to allow researchers to study the therapeutic effects of cannabis. The company is awaiting approval from Health Canada to produce and sell medical marijuana.
The partnership resulting from National Green’s contribution forms part of UBC’s start an evolution campaign, the most ambitious fundraising and alumni engagement campaign in Canadian history.
“One of the great virtues of universities is their willingness and freedom to look for answers in unconventional places,” said Arvind Gupta, UBC’s president and vice chancellor. “Canadian attitudes on the issue of marijuana’s legality and availability are still very much in flux. But if marijuana can help reduce pain or nausea, or even treat disease, we have a duty to find out. We are grateful to National Green for supporting our efforts to help answer these questions.”
BACKGROUND | MEDICINAL MARIJUANA
A new venture: National Green Biomed was incorporated in 2014, founded by a group that included Dhaliwal and David Sidoo, a private investment banker and a member of the UBC Board of Governors. The Richmond, B.C. company is awaiting a license from Health Canada to cultivate marijuana at a site in the Fraser Valley Regional District. National Green has already contributed $200,000 to UBC researchers and the remaining funds will be given out over five years.
Promising signs: The medical role for cannabinoids is not definitive. Although laboratory-based studies have yielded positive results, the number of controlled studies using placebos in humans has been limited by the legal prohibition against marijuana. Clinical trials have demonstrated that THC, one of the active ingredients in marijuana, is effective in the treatment of cancer chemotherapy-induced nausea. A 2011 controlled animal study found that intravenously-administered THC led to lower levels of the simian version of HIV – and to increased life expectancy.
An evolving marketplace: Since April 2014, Canadians with a signed doctor’s recommendation can legally buy marijuana from one of 18 private, federally-licensed producers. The producers ship the product directly to consumers, after verifying the legitimacy of the medical document. (The U.S. federal government, meanwhile, still categorizes marijuana as having no proven medical value.) A large but unknown number of Canadians self- medicate with marijuana obtained illegally. Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Oregon and Washington, D.C. have legalized marijuana for non-medical use.
Oral sprays and capsules: An oral spray derived from marijuana has been available by prescription to treat pain in multiple sclerosis patients since
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2005. Another drug, an artificial version of THC in capsule form, is prescribed for nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy, and to treat appetite loss among people living with HIV.