Ruth Perry, M.D., is a CERI board member. Dr. Perry currently works for CityMD and is a former Executive Director of the Trenton Health Team.
Why did you make the decision to join the CERI board of directors?
The anecdotal reports showing that this ancient plant can provide people with relief from pain and also help with other chronic medical conditions are compelling. Yet we don’t have the strong research for cannabis that we have for other pharmaceutical drugs and medical devices. I think cannabis deserves the same kind of attention. Marijuana is a very old plant with numerous chemical compounds that are not fully understood: THC to CBD to terpenes (fragrant cannabis oils). It’s a very interesting plant botanically and yet there are a thousand things we don’t yet understand. CERI wants to advance objective cannabis research and I want to support that mission.
What holds back cannabis research?
First, marijuana is a classified substance. And there’s only one site where research laboratories can procure marijuana specimens for research. It’s not widely known or clear how those marijuana products are grown, hybridized, etc. The whole area is clouded. The classification of marijuana as a substance controlled by the Drug Enforcement Association hinders research. And there is still stigma around marijuana.
What are the barriers to physicians recommending cannabis, even in states where medicine cannabis is legal?
We get back to the stigma. Many physicians are not comfortable recommending marijuana because of how it’s classified federally. And even if it became de-classified, physicians would still have to get comfortable with understanding its properties. For instance, there’s a lack of understanding about the delivery method. Should it be smoked? Injected? For muscle pain, should it be applied to the skin in a topical preparation? So we need more understanding even if we know anecdotally that cannabis will work.
In what areas do you want to see CERI advance research?
Definitely in chronic pain — anything from pain caused by athletic injuries to people suffering with pain from sickle cell anemia. It would be interesting to see whether or not medical marijuana would provide benefits to people in chronic pain who are using or addicted to opioids, and if cannabis can help transition them off opioids. We have anecdotal reports that marijuana has been effective in the treatment of seizures when standard medical and prescription drugs don’t work. And we know it helps prevent nausea from cancer treatment. There are multiple areas where cannabis would be effective, even degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s Disease.
Are you concerned cannabis may be oversold — and that there’s a lot claims out there that are not backed up?
Yes, I am concerned about that. We may collect information that tells us, “Hey, marijuana is not the way to go here.” I think CERI is positioned to be a clearinghouse nationally to collect a lot of hard information. Right now there is no clearinghouse whatsoever. And we would like to partner with a university like Drexel University to conduct research. We’re not here to just promote cannabis. We need scientific rigor. Sometimes that means our hypotheses about cannabis are correct and people should use it — and in some cases we may find out that we are wrong. We must follow the science.