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5 Countries Leading the Way in Cannabis Research

by Andrew Ward

The global prohibition of cannabis disrupted countless lives. Millions were incarcerated or had their lives taken. Meanwhile, patients lost out on access to a possible solution to some of their pains and crippling ailments.

In recent years, the tide began to shift. A trickle of nations eventually turned into a flood as waves of legalization spread across the globe. Now, patients around the world are beginning to experience the power of the plant legally. As the popularity of cannabis continues to grow, medical research has to be a driving factor for the change in sentiment.

5 Countries Leading the Way in Cannabis Research

Whether it be lab studies or the availability of reliable product testing, scores of countries are on board thanks to a rise in tech advancements. These are some of the nations helping advance our cannabis understanding through groundbreaking studies, a wealth of product testing options, or housing of such critical research facilities. 

Israel

Israel and cannabis research go hand-in-hand. It was Israeli scientist Raphael Mechoulam who isolated the THC cannabinoid and unveiled its molecular structure in the early 1960s. In the decades since, Mechoulam continues to study the plant, with scores more joining him in the endeavor to understand cannabis. 

By 2017, some were calling Israel “The holy land” for medical cannabis. The country earned the designation thanks to its highly engaged attendees at conferences, and more so, its distinction as the home to the field’s elite researchers and scientists. The country has seen so much success, that even small towns are banking on cannabis incubators

With such success and information, countries with more restrictions on cannabis research, like the United States, often rely on Israeli produced data for its studies.    

The nation recently allowed for exports of its cannabis to other countries. Though many believe that Israel’s prime marijuana export is still data. This includes a 2019 study from Israeli company Tikun Olam centering on seniors and cannabis’ impact on a variety of common ailments.

Uruguay

Uruguay made headlines by becoming the first nation to federally legalize adult-use cannabis sales and possession in December 2013. Since then, the country is highly regarded as the kickstarter of the global cannabis legalization wave. Uruguay is also credited for making the first commercial export of medical cannabis from a Latin American nation in 2019.

While exporting took time, it didn’t take years for Uruguay to be pegged as a research leader. By 2014, some speculated the country would become a “hotbed” of research. 

This forecasting may not be as accurate as expected back then. However, companies are doing their part by cultivating and providing quality cannabis for research, which hopes to bring answers to the lingering, pressing questions about cannabis use.

Canada

As the second nation to legalize adult-use cannabis laws, Canada positioned itself as a leader in a variety of segments of the market. Lab studies are one of these areas where the country appears to be thriving. 

Canada is home to a range of authorized labs across its provinces. Federal government data list 80 labs currently approved to hold an analytical testing license. Labs offer a variety of tests for products, including cannabinoid content, contamination, analytical chromatography, and several others. 

Canada is home to some of the leading cannabis research facilities, including the Michael G. DeGroote Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research in Hamilton, Ontario. Those hoping to learn more can visit the centre’s website, which delves into insightful evidence briefs and research summaries conducted in recent years. 

In addition to its innovation and a wealth of labs, some believe Canada will be a research world leader. This has been forecasted due to studies like the University of Toronto’s 2018 genome mapping of the cannabis sativa plant.

The Netherlands

The Netherlands began its national medical cannabis program in 2003. Since then, the nation long associated with travelers getting lifted at cafes has developed a name as a leader in marijuana research and testing. 

Dutch testing initiatives include a range of studies, spanning terpene and cannabinoid profiling, documenting as well as trial studies on the medical applications of cannabis. Such facilities can be found in numerous cities across the country.

In the years since launching its program, the Netherlands received coverage for several lab studies. One of the more prominent studies centered on cannabis access and student’s academic performances. The research, filed in March 2015, found that restricting access to the plant did improve student achievements.

Although the Dutch medical market is thriving and well-established, the nation still has yet to advance adult-use legislation. As such, illicit market activity persists, which includes selling to legal coffeeshops. In August, the country rolled out its own “weed trials.” The studies aim to provide nationally grown pot to coffeeshops in ten mid-sized towns to determine if the approach curtails illegal activity in the area. 

Czech Republic

The Czech Republic is one of several European nations to legalize medical cannabis in the past decade, doing so in 2013. Since then, the Czech Republic became the home to one of the most prominent cannabis research destinations. 

Located in Prague, the International Cannabis and Cannabinoids Institute (ICCI) aims to advance global cannabis and cannabinoid research. The ICCI has experts spanning numerous fields. In December, some of the ICCI’s experts assisted with research in a country that may soon be emerging in research as well: Thailand

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